Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet
Founding the Church of Christ,
The Church of Christ
When Smith and Knight greeted Martin Harris on Palmyra’s Main Street in late March 1830, they encountered a disgruntled man. His arms full of newly bound copies of the Book of Mormon, Harris expressed a dour view of the future. After all, his 16 January 1830 agreement with Joseph Smith Sr. required that the entire run of 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon be sold by 25 February 1831 in order to pay the bill that would be due to Grandin. Now that Palmyrans had vowed to boycott the book, it seemed inevitable that Harris would lose his farm. Not that his faith in Smith was shaken, but the situation was socially embarrassing and tended to validate the opinion of his wife and others that he was being cheated out of his money. He was clearly not ready to let go of his farm.
That day, Harris accompanied Smith and Knight to Hyrum Smith’s cabin where he remained overnight. Knight slept on the floor next to Harris and was suddenly awakened when Harris asked if he had felt anything on the bedding. “No,” Knight said, “Did you?” “Yes,” answered Harris, “I felt [that] something as big as a great dog sprang upon my breast.” “Was you not mistaken?” Knight asked. “No,” Harris insisted, “it was so.” Knight said he “sprang up and felt” around but “could see nor feel nothing.”1 Harris may have experienced what is known as sleep paralysis, which can occur during the transition between a deep sleep when dreaming occurs and when one becomes fully awake. However, it is associated with falling asleep more than with waking up. The effects can last a few seconds to a few minutes and include paralysis, difficulty in breathing, pressure on the chest, the feeling of a presence in the room (usually malevolent), a sensation of floating, and strange sounds. Many researchers attribute to sleep paralysis the folklore, extending back into ancient times, regarding nocturnal attacks by demons, incubi, succubi, witches, fairies, gremlins, and aliens.2
In the morning, Harris told Smith that he needed a commandment or else he would not sell his farm, and then left. Knight said that later the same day Smith dictated a revelation to Cowdery with a commandment to Harris: “And again, I command thee [Harris] that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:26; hereafter D&C).3 The Canadian revelation had failed, so Smith needed Harris’s financing. The revelation also seemed to allude to Harris’s behavior towards Mrs. Haggart: “I command thee that thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.”4
The revelation also defends Universalist doctrine, reversing the Book of Mormon’s teaching,5 and advances an unorthodox version of Jesus’ atonement.6 A close examination of the revelation reveals that Smith privately believed in Universalism. It also provides a glimpse at his pious rationalization. Despite scriptural references he himself had dictated and cited regarding the torment and suffering of the wicked, the revelation declared that “it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment” (D&C 19:6). “Eternal punishment” and “endless punishment,” the revelation explains, are “God’s punishment” and are simply a matter of semantics, where “eternal” and “endless” are synonyms for God’s name (vv. 10-12) and have nothing to do with the duration of the punishment.7
While one may conclude that Smith’s intent here was to placate Harris because of his Universalist beliefs or to cater to Joseph Knight Sr., who still described himself as a “Restorationer,” the revelation must also reflect Smith’s true theological leanings because of how he further developed the theme in his 1832 vision of three heavens (D&C 76). The revelation suggests a reason why the doctrines were in conflict: God purposely uses misleading language “that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men” (D&C 19:7). In other words, God deceives humans for their own good. Not surprisingly, the revelation invoked secrecy concerning its contents. Fearing that its teaching of a temporary hell would encourage sinners not to repent, the revelation instructs its recipients to “preach nought but repentance; and show not these things, neither speak these things unto the world, for they can not bear meat, but milk they must receive: Wherefore, they must not know these things lest they perish” (Book of Commandments 16:22-23, emphasis added; hereafter BofC; cf. D&C 19:21-22).8 Despite publicly posing as a believer in the traditional heaven and hell, Smith privately subscribed to the Universalist doctrine and did not himself fear an eternal, never-ending punishment.
Knight said he remained in Manchester “a few days waiting for some books to be bound” when Joseph said “there must be a church built up.” After being in Manchester “several days,” Knight saw “old Mr. Smith and Martin Harris come forward to be baptized.” According to Smith’s history, this was on 6 April 1830.9 Knight said “they found a place in a lot [where] a small stream ran through and they were baptized in the evening because of persecution.”10> The sixth of April was the first Tuesday of the month when many Palmyrans attended the town meeting. Knight’s memory that the baptisms took place in the “evening” is supported by a note in the first draft of Smith’s history which reads: “Father Smith, Martin Harris baptized this evening 6th April.”11
Knight witnessed Smith’s emotional outburst following his father’s baptism. “He was the most wrought upon that I ever saw any man,” Knight recalled. “He went out into the lot and appeared to want to get out of sight of every body and would sob and cry and seemed to be so full that he could not live.”12 Lucy described this scene as well: “Joseph stood on the shore when his father came out of the water and as he took him by the hand he cried out Oh! my God I have lived to see my father baptized into the true church of Jesus Christ and he covered his face in his father’s bosom and wept aloud for joy as did Joseph of old when he beheld his father coming up into the land of Egypt.”13 Smith’s outburst adds to the evidence that a primary goal in his religious endeavors was his father’s conversion.
There was nearly a third baptism that day. “I had some thoughts to go forward,” Knight recalled, “but I had not read the Book of Mormon and I wanted to examine a little more, I being a Restorationer and had not examined so much as I wanted to.” It was likely the Book of Mormon’s anti-Universalist rhetoric that caused Knight to hesitate. Within two months, he would reconcile his Universalism with Smith’s book, perhaps with the help of the revelation given to Martin Harris (D&C 19), and submit to baptism.
Knight was apparently present when the church was organized in Manchester on 6 April 1830. His account is generally ignored in favor of a tradition that persists about the church being founded in Fayette, a story that first surfaced in 1834.14 The error was propagated through Smith’s official history, which conflates elements from the 9 June 1830 conference in Fayette.15 Despite the persistence of the Fayette tradition, Knight’s account is consistent with other early sources placing the church’s organization in Manchester. Knight witnessed the baptisms of Joseph Smith Sr. and Martin Harris, an event Benjamin Saunders and Cornelius R. Stafford confirmed took place in Manchester.16 Six revelations dated 6 April 1830, one dealing with church organization and five others addressed to Knight and various other individuals, were dictated in Manchester, according to headings published in the 1833 Book of Commandments (see BofC 17-22; cf. D&C 21 and 23). William Smith said that he was present when the church was organized in Hyrum’s cabin in Manchester.17 These sources have led Michael Marquardt to observe: “Of the two traditions—one placing the organization in Manchester, the other in Fayette—the Manchester location occupies the earliest stratum of documentation and is reinforced by crucial eyewitness accounts from Mormons and non-Mormons alike.”18
Unfortunately, Knight’s account is elliptical and intended to harmonize his memory with Smith’s history: “On the sixth day of April 1830 [Smith] begun the church with six members and received the following revelation [D&C 21] … They all kneeled down and prayed and Joseph gave them instructions how to build up the church and exhorted them to be faithful in all things for this is the work of God. Now after he had set things in order and got a number of Mormon Books, we returned home.”19
The revelation that Knight mentioned begins by commanding the church to keep a record in which Smith should be acknowledged as “a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ” (D&C 21:1). Oliver Cowdery is referred to in the revelation simply as an “apostle” (v. 10). The church is told to “give heed unto all [Smith’s] words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; for his word ye shall receive as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith” (vv. 4-5). Even though the revelation commands strict obedience to Smith’s revelations, it does not exclude the possibility that others in the church may also be seers and revelators, an oversight that would leave Smith vulnerable to challengers.20 At the time of the revelation, Cowdery was Smith’s primary worry, and Smith resolved the issue by having God instruct Cowdery to ordain Smith as the prophet, seer, and revelator of the church (v. 10). Prior to this, Smith and Cowdery stood together as elders and apostles. Now Cowdery is made to aid Smith’s rise to leadership.
Smith receives revelations for five individuals on April 6: Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, Samuel Smith, Joseph Smith Sr., and Joseph Knight Sr. (BofC 17-21; cf. D&C 23), and each is told that he is “under no condemnation” and then given a specific calling. Cowdery is further warned to “beware of pride, lest thou shouldst enter into temptation” (v. 1). Through the Book of Mormon, Cowdery had been identified as Smith’s spokesman (2 Ne. 3:18). But lest the apostle give the wrong impression to others, he is directed to “make known thy calling unto the church, and also before the world, and thy heart shall be opened to preach the truth from henceforth and forever” (vv. 1-2).
Perhaps concerned that Hyrum retained too much Presbyterian doctrine, a May 1829 revelation had instructed him to delay preaching until the Book of Mormon was published and the church established (D&C 11:15-17, 21). Now, on 6 April, he is told that “thy heart is opened, and thy tongue loosed; and thy calling is to exhortation, and to strengthen the church continually. Wherefore thy duty is unto the church forever, and this because of thy family” (D&C 23:3). The last comment hints at the intended status of the Smith family, especially for Hyrum as the oldest son of Joseph Sr. In the Book of Mormon, the perpetuation of church leadership is by lineage, and Smith already may have had similar plans for his family. The statement that Hyrum’s duty would be unto the church “forever” recalls Alma’s discourse on the order of Melchizedek wherein he revealed that those called to the high priesthood, which office Alma passed on through his lineage, had been preordained to hold the office “forever” (Alma 13:9).
Samuel Smith is told in a revelation that “thy calling is to exhortation, and to strengthen the church; and thou art not as yet called to preach before the world” (D&C 23:4). When more copies of the Book of Mormon became available, Samuel would emerge as one of the most active missionaries in the early church.
Joseph Smith Sr. is told that “thy calling also is to exhortation, and to strengthen the church; this is thy duty from henceforth and forever” (D&C 23:5). In Kirtland, Ohio, Joseph Sr. would be called as the patriarch and as one of the presidents of the church.
Joseph Knight is instructed to “pray vocally before the world as well as in secret, and in your family, and among your friends, and in all places” (D&C 23:6). He had evidently interpreted the Bible’s criticism of those who pray in public to be a prohibition against all public prayers (Matt. 6:5-6). The revelation alludes to his hesitation to be baptized: “It is your duty to unite with the true church, and give your language to exhortation continually, that you may receive the reward of the laborer” (v. 7).
According to a note on an early draft of Joseph Smith’s history, Lucy Smith and Sarah Rockwell were baptized “2 or 3” days after the church was organized, although the text dates the event to 6 April 1830.21 That there was a delay is supported by the fact that Joseph Knight mentioned the baptisms of Joseph Sr. and Martin but not of Lucy and Sarah. Additionally, John Stafford, who said he attended the baptisms of Lucy and Sarah, did not mention having seen Joseph Sr. or Martin Harris baptized. Reporting Stafford’s reminiscence of the event, the Shortsville Enterprise for 18 March 1904 said: “Dr. Stafford … was present at the first baptism, when old Granny Smith and Sally Rockwell were ‘dipped’ and came up ‘white as snow.’” The women were apparently baptized by Cowdery, according to neighbor Benjamin Saunders who said he was present when “old Mrs Rockwell” was baptized.22
Willard Chase visited the Smith home at about this time to demand that Hyrum return his seer stone. As Chase recalled in 1833, Hyrum “told me I should not have it, for Joseph made use of it in translating his Bible. I [Chase] reminded him of his promise, and that he had pledged his honor to return it; but he gave me the lie, saying the stone was not mine nor never was.” Martin Harris was present and “flew in a rage, took me by the collar and said I was a liar, and he could prove it by twelve witnesses. After I had extricated myself from him, Hiram, in a rage shook his fist at me, and abused me in a most scandalous manner.”23 Evidently mortified at Hyrum’s and Martin’s behavior, Chase went immediately to Abner Cole to issue the following statement which appeared in the Palmyra Reflector on 19 April 1830: “Please advise Hyrum Smith, and some of his ill-bred associates, not to be quite so impertinent, when decent folks denounce the imposition of the ‘Gold-Bible.’ The anathemas of such ignorant wretches, although not feared, are not quite so well relished by some people—Apostles should keep cool.”
On 11 April, a meeting was held in the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. in Fayette, at which Cowdery delivered the first formal discourse in the newly organized church. Smith’s history reports that “large numbers attended” and that six people were baptized by Cowdery: Hiram Page and wife, Katharine, who was a daughter of Peter Whitmer Sr., and Christian and Jacob Whitmer and their wives, Anne and Elizabeth Ann (Schott), who were sisters.24
Five days later, on 16 April, Smith dictated a revelation (D&C 22) which, according to the heading in the 1833 Book of Commandments, was “Given in Fayette, New-York, … in consequence of some desiring to unite with the church without re-baptism, who had previously been baptized.”25 This probably refers to those who had been baptized as Christians rather than those who had been previously baptized by Smith and Cowdery. In 1873 Orson Pratt, who joined Smith’s church in September 1830, provided the following information:
In the early days of this Church there were certain persons, belonging to the Baptist denomination, very moral and no doubt as good people as you could find anywhere, who came, saying they believed in the Book of Mormon, and that they had been baptized into the Baptist Church, and they wished to come into our Church. The Prophet Joseph had not, at that time, particularly inquired in relation to this matter, but he did inquire, and receive a revelation from the Lord. … These Baptists had to be re-baptized: there was no other way to get into this Church.26
A minister of the German Reform Church, the Reverend Diedrich Willers, who served as pastor of Zion’s Church in Fayette where the Whitmer family attended, reported to his superiors on 18 June 1830 that Mormons were re-baptizing members of various sects and forming a new church. “With their baptism by immersion,” he said, “they are winning over many members of the Baptist Church—the general as well as the particular Baptists. … The majority of the current believers were likely [previously] general Baptists. … The Whitmers are known to me. Over the [past] nine years, they were adherents of the Methodists, the Reformers, the Presbyterians, Mennonites, and Baptists.”27 It is probable that the 16 April revelation was directed, in part, at the Whitmers, who did not submit to baptism until 18 April, namely: fifty-seven-year-old Peter Whitmer Sr.; his wife, Mary (Musselman); their fifteen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Ann, who in two years would marry Cowdery; fifty-three-year-old William Jolly; his wife, Elizabeth; their twenty-one-year-old son, Vincent; and Ziba Peterson, of whom little is known.28
As will be recalled, both Samuel and Hyrum had resisted re-baptism in May 1829, probably due in part to their previous baptisms as Presbyterians. After some discussion with Joseph and Oliver, Samuel agreed to be re-baptized; Hyrum followed several weeks later. It is not known what arguments were used to convince Samuel, but it is likely that the mode of baptism—immersion rather than sprinkling—was one factor. It may have been Nephi’s re-baptism in the Book of Mormon, by which Nephi was brought into a new covenant (3 Ne. 11:23-28; 19:10-11). If Pratt is correct that those who resisted re-baptism were Baptists, then the mode of baptism would not have been an issue in 1830. This would explain why the revelation emphasizes the establishment of a new covenant:
Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning. Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works. For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old. Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded and seek not to counsel your God. Amen.
Missing from this argument is a clear claim to priesthood authority and its restoration through angelic ordination. The revelation implies that baptisms performed before the new covenant were valid, that they were among the “old covenants” which would now be superseded by a “new and everlasting covenant”—that of Mormonism—just as Jesus’ gospel replaced the “law of Moses.” The last part of the revelation implies that baptism was one of the “dead works” performed by Protestant ministers—dead because the officiators lacked spiritual life. Authority in the Book of Mormon is derived from the spirit, and apostasy occurs when the spirit is withdrawn. Smith and Cowdery, as is true for many religious founders, emphasized the charismatic aspects of their authority at first and only later sought to bureaucratize it by stressing the more legalistic elements of priesthood.
A short historical sketch was published in April 1833 in The Evening and The Morning Star, apparently written by William W. Phelps with assistance from Oliver Cowdery. It states: “Twenty more were added to the church in Manchester and Fayette, in the month of April .”29 Smith’s own history gives the number of new members as seventeen. Two of the remaining three may have been Solomon Chamberlain, who said he was baptized by Joseph Smith in Seneca Lake “soon after” the church was organized, and his wife, Hope (Haskins).30 Chamberlain said that “in the spring of 1830 I was ordained a Priest, under the hands of Hyrum Smith,” who had been recently ordained to the same office.
During the last week of April 1830, Smith and Cowdery visited the Knight family in Colesville, Broome County, New York. Several meetings were held, which according to Smith’s history were “well attended.”31 As the Knights and many in the neighborhood were Universalists and the Book of Mormon was ostensibly anti-Universalist, Smith’s and Cowdery’s public addresses undoubtedly dwelt on that subject. Smith said that “Mr. Knight and his family were Universalists—but were … willing to reason on the subject of religion.” Smith mentioned that he and Knight’s son Newel “had frequent conversations on this important subject of the plan of man’s eternal salvation.”32
At one of the meetings in Colesville, an exchange between Smith and Knight resulted in the first miracle in the fledgling church.33 “We had got into the habit of praying much at our meetings,” Joseph reported, “and Newel had … promised me on a certain day, that he would that evening take up his cross and pray vocally in the meeting the same evening.” But that evening when Smith asked him to pray, Newel begged to be excused. Like his father, he may have considered prayer to be a private matter and found his first attempt at public prayer embarrassing and difficult. Despite Smith’s encouragement, Knight insisted on delaying his vocal prayer until morning when he could go into the woods.
The next day, Knight attempted several times to pray vocally but experienced great difficulty. He began to feel a flood of emotion: anxiety, guilt, confusion, and finally panic. By the time he returned to his house, “his appearance was such as to alarm his wife very much.” A desperate Newel anxiously asked his wife to bring Smith to him. “I went and found him suffering very much in his mind,” Smith recalled, “and his body acted upon in a most strange manner. His visage and limbs [were] distorted and twisted into every possible shape and appearances, and finally he was caught up off the floor of the apartment and tossed about most fearfully.” Based on information obtained from Martin Harris, the Palmyra Reflector reported on 30 June 1830 that Knight “had nigh demolished the frail tenement which had for a long time afforded him a comfortable shelter—the flesh was ‘about to cleave from the bones’—the muscles, tendons &c. could no longer perform their different functions.”
While Knight’s experience resembled the bodily agitations of those convicted of their sins at revivals,34 it was also consistent with cultural expectations for demonic possession. An example of these expectations comes from the Salem witch trials of 1692, which resulted in nineteen accused witches being hanged. Two of the executed, Mary Easty and Sarah Wilds, were sent to the gallows on the testimony of Joseph Smith’s great-great-grandfather, Samuel Smith.35 The Salem witch craze began with two young girls who had used a glass of water and egg whites to divine the identity of their future husbands. Soon after, guilt overtook them and they began to experience hysteria-induced convulsions. Other manifestations soon followed. One witness said he saw twelve-year-old Abigail Williams in a “grievous fit” and that she was “hurled with violence to and fro in the room.”36 Another witness testified that he saw a girl “in a convulsion fit, her limbs being twisted several ways, and very stiff.”37 Thomas Brattle described what he called “falling, tumbling fits,” stating that “when these persons were about first confessing, their mouths would be stopped, and their throats affected, as though there was danger of strangling, and afterward (it is true) came their tumbling fits.”38 Choking was sometimes observed when the accused was asked to recite the Lord’s Prayer.39 This choking sensation is referred to as bolus hystericus, a key symptom of hysteria-related seizures.40 Interestingly, Knight too was unable to speak during his convulsions, for Smith reports that when he took hold of Knight’s hand, “almost immediately he was able to speak.”41
Taking the victim’s hand was a procedure in Massachusetts, where it was believed that the possessed could be exorcized by “the touch of the most religious hand at Salem.”42 Newel earnestly requested Joseph to cast the devil out of him. In front of eight or nine people who had gathered to witness the scene, Joseph said, “If you know that I can, it shall be done.” Then Joseph rebuked the devil, commanding it “in the name of Jesus Christ” to depart from Newell, upon which the latter “saw the Devil leave him and vanish from his sight.”
Smith reported that as soon as the devil had departed, Knight’s “countenance became natural, his distortions of body ceased, and almost immediately the Spirit of God descended upon him, to such a degree that the visions of eternity were opened to his view and he beheld great and glorious things.” At this point, Smith’s history quotes Knight:
I now began to feel a most pleasing sensation resting upon me, and immediately the visions of heaven were opened to my view. I felt myself attracted upward and remained for some time enwrapped in contemplation insomuch that I knew not what was going on in the room. By and by I felt some weight pressing upon my shoulder and the side of my head; which served to recall me to a sense of my situation, and I found that the Spirit of the Lord had actually caught me up off the floor, and that my shoulder and head were pressing against the beams.43
There is more to Knight’s exorcism. When Smith is brought to trial in South Bainbridge and Colesville in July 1830,44 Knight testifies that Smith had cast the devil out of him, but is evasive when asked to describe what the devil looked like. Abram W. Benton, a physician living in South Bainbridge who attended the first trial, remembered in 1831 that Knight said “he saw the devil after it was out, but could not tell how it looked!”45> According to Knight’s own testimony, the reason he refrained from giving a description of the devil was because “it was a spiritual sight and spiritually discerned.”46 Apparently, he was less evasive in his home town, for Joel K. Noble, who presided over the trial in Colesville, remembered that Knight “swore in open court [that] Jo. Smith cast a devil out of him … and said how [the] devil looked. Said devil was a body of light and gave a relation of [the] whole process … [and] said an angel of light or some holy being direct from heaven told him [it was the devil].”47 Smith may have referred to this incident when he wrote in 1842: “What do we hear? … The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna River, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light!” (D&C 128:20). It is uncertain if Smith or Knight first identified the angel, but the identification was apropos in the context of Jude 1:9: “Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” In any case, the angel who identified the devil to Knight was evidently part of the vision that followed his exorcism.
Noble gave a sparse account of Knight’s description of the devil, but others remembered that Knight gave additional details. In the earliest account of the incident, Harris said to Abner Cole in June 1830 that the devil, whom Smith had cast out of Newel, was of “an uncommon size.”48 According to a later source, Joseph Knight Sr. and Josiah Stowell testified that they had seen the devil as well. One testified that he saw “a devil as large as a woodchuck leave the man and run across the floor,” while the other said he saw the devil leave the possessed and “run off like a yellow dog.”49 Neither witness said that Knight specifically described the devil’s appearance, only that he had given an approximation of its size. This was confirmed by William R. Hine, a resident of Colesville, who said that Knight’s testimony before Justice Noble was that “Smith had cast three devils out of him. … The first was as large as a woodchuck, the second was as large as a squirrel, the third about the size of a rat.” When the judge asked what became of them, “Knight said that they went out at the chimney.”50 In other later accounts, the devil takes on the form of an actual animal.51
While descriptions of the size and appearance of supernatural beings amused nineteenth-century skeptics, they met the cultural expectations of believers, especially those who had descended from seventeenth-century Puritans. When Cotton Mather and others visited the bed-ridden Mercy Short in Salem in 1692, some believed that they felt a small invisible creature on the pillow next to her head. Mather sensed the presence of “a living creature not altogether unlike a rat, which nimbly escaped from him.”52
Although there is an account of a possessed woman levitating in Salem,53 Knight’s experience was different from hers in that his levitation was part of his vision of heaven, not the result of his possession. Further, because there is no evidence from anyone, including Smith, that he actually, physically levitated in front of witnesses, this seems to have been something that Knight experienced internally. It might be better classified as an out-of-body experience or what is sometimes called an exosomatic experience similar to those reported by shamans and New-Age practitioners as astral projections.54
Smith reported that the exorcism “contributed much to make believers of those who witnessed it” and that “the greater part of them became members of the Church.” More importantly, the miracle contributed to Smith’s sense of his own mission, confirming a belief that God approved of his course.
Soon thereafter, Smith returned to Fayette. Evidently, he left without visiting Harmony, where on 1 May 1830 his second payment of $86 was due to Isaac Hale.55 He may have been in Colesville hoping to make converts and to sell enough copies of the Book of Mormon to make his final payment to Hale. However, despite the exorcism, no baptisms were performed at that time. Smith may have also thought that Stowell would make good his offer to buy $500 or $600 worth of copies of the Book of Mormon. But if Smith entertained the idea that either Stowell or Knight would lend him financial assistance, he was mistaken. He recalled that in Fayette “great opposition, and much persecution” arose against those who believed in the Book of Mormon.56 Still, Smith and Cowdery were able to attract crowds of anxious, interested listeners.
During the last week of May while Smith was visiting Fayette, Newel Knight became the first of his family to be baptized. David Whitmer, who may have been ordained an elder as early as June 1829, performed the ordinance.57
The Palmyra Reflector announced on 1 June that Cowdery—“the apostle to the NEPHITES”—“has started for the EAST, on board a boat, with a load of ‘GOLD bibles,’ under a command, (as he says) to declare the truth (according to JO SMITH,) ‘in all the principal cities in the Union.’” It is unknown where Cowdery was headed, but he was back home within eight days when he attended the first church conference in Fayette, New York, on 9 June.
Church records indicate that as of 9 June, there were twenty-seven members of the church.58 Smith’s history reports that many others, presumably serious investigators or unbaptized believers, joined this handful to crowd into Peter Whitmer’s small rural cabin for a church conference.59 The meeting was presided over by six elders: Joseph Smith Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer Jr., David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and Ziba Peterson.60 Joseph Smith began the meeting by reading Ezekiel 14. The chapter opens: “Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart and put a stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?”
Here, Smith may allude to the ongoing rivalry with Cowdery and the Whitmers over church government, which Smith might have seen paralleled in the prophet Ezekiel’s confrontation with the elders of Israel. The chapter warns those who reject the true prophets and seek out those who give answers they want to hear. Smith may have believed that verses 9 and 10 were analogous to Cowdery’s receipt of his own revelation regarding church government: “And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him.”
Smith prayed, then read the “Articles and Covenants” of the church, intended to replace Cowdery’s revelation.61 The document consists of four sections. The first section contains a preamble in four parts, including a statement regarding the authority by which a church can be organized (D&C 20:1-4), a review of the Book of Mormon’s translation (vv. 5-12), a declaration of belief (vv. 13-16), and articles of belief (vv. 17-36). The second section has a “commandment” concerning baptism and entrance into the church (v. 37). The third section covers the duties of the several officers of the church (vv. 38-67). The fourth part addresses matters of church discipline (vv. 68-84). Unlike Cowdery’s “Articles and Covenants,” Smith’s document is not a revelation through which God speaks directly to the church. If the early members considered it to be inspired, they also understood that it was essentially Smith’s own composition and hence subject to emendation.62
Smith chose not to undermine the June 1829 revelation (D&C 18), which assigned Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer the task of choosing twelve apostles, nor to disrupt the notion of a charismatic priesthood as contained in Cowdery’s revelation. Rather, the document represents a compromise with the Cowdery-Whitmer faction. Most notably, Smith eliminates the formal calling of apostles and, instead of creating an apostolic hierarchy, diffuses the issue by equating the apostleship with the office of an elder (D&C 20:38). In other words, the apostleship would remain charismatic, outside of ecclesiastical control, and not limited to twelve men. While Smith’s document presents duties for elders, priests, and teachers in a way that implies hierarchy, there is not a stratification among the elders and no concentration of authority in a governing body. This was more egalitarian than Smith had originally conceived the priesthood structure as being, but he undoubtedly found it expedient in appeasing Cowdery and the Whitmers.
In the preamble (BofC 24:1-28),63 Smith mentions the authority by which he has organized the church (vv. 1-5). If he and Cowdery had received authority through angelic ministration, this would have been the place to mention it. Instead, he declares that the church is being “organized and established … by the will and commandments of God … Which commandments were given to Joseph, who was called of God and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of this church; And to Oliver, who was also called of God an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of this church, and ordained under his hand” (vv. 2-4). Thus, the church’s founding document announces that the authority came from God’s command, presumably received in the chamber of Peter Whitmer’s home in early June 1829, and not by ordination, either by man or angel. In response to the command, Smith ordained Cowdery, and it is this authority by which Cowdery then ordained Smith.
In the second part of the preamble, Smith’s early history is outlined, particularly as it pertained to the Book of Mormon (24:6-12). It is through a “holy angel” that Smith received “commandments which inspired him from on high, and … power … that he should translate a book” (v. 7). Moreover, the book “is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels, and is declared unto the world by them” (v. 11). Smith’s leadership rests on charisma and spiritual gifts, his “power” having been derived from the implementation of the seer stone rather than from priesthood ordination. Cowdery’s revelation came otherwise, not through a seer stone. In addition, Smith’s ability to procure witnesses placed his revelations on a level above Cowdery’s or that of any other challenger. These facts tended to secure Smith’s leading position among the elders.
In the third part of the preamble, the “elders of the church” are made to declare that those who reject the Book of Mormon will be condemned (24:12). The elders know this to be true, “for the Lord God hath spoken it, for we … have heard and bear witness to the words of the glorious Majesty on high” (v. 12). This statement echoes the revelation of June 1829 in which the future apostles are told to bear witness to the world that they have heard God speak through Smith (D&C 18:34-36).
The next part of the preamble outlines some major tenets of the new church (BofC 24:13-28). After declaring that God is “unchangeable,” it proclaims that God “created man … after his own image” (v. 13). This subtle argument endorses modalism. As presented in the Book of Mormon, God is, and has always been, a corporeal being, whether as a pre-mortal spirit who appears in bodily form to Nephi and the brother of Jared or as Jesus on earth. When the pre-mortal Jesus appears to the brother of Jared, he declares: “Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image” (Ether 3:15). In this sense, God is unchanging. One should therefore interpret the preamble’s declaration that the “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is one God” (v. 18; emphasis added) literally rather than figuratively.
A belief in the fall of Adam, the atonement of Jesus, the necessity of baptism, and the oneness of godhead is further proclaimed (BofC 24:13-18), followed by a statement about the importance of good works over grace. Despite the fact that the document places an emphasis on charisma, Smith was no antinomian. He warns that “there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God; Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation” (vv. 21-22; cf. 2 Ne. 25:23). The preamble closes by stating that Smith’s revelations, past and future, neither add to nor diminish from John’s revelation, nor to or from the Bible (24:24-26; D&C 20:35; cf. Rev. 22:18-19).
The remainder of the document deals with various matters of church discipline. The first is the “commandment” concerning the “manner of baptism” and the prerequisites necessary before admittance into the church through baptism. Much like the Puritan tests of faith, prospective members are to “witness before the church that they have repented of all their sins, … and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins” (D&C 20:37; BofC 24:30). Not only is this a Book of Mormon practice, Smith borrows wording directly from Moroni 6:2-3.64 Cowdery’s revelation drew on Moroni’s discussion of church discipline as well but omitted the requirements for baptism and church membership.
In the next section, the duties of the elders, priests, and teachers are delineated.65 First are the charismatic leaders—the apostles—who are elders in the newly formed church:
An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize and to ordain other elders, priests, [and] teachers, … and to administer the flesh and blood of Christ according to the scriptures; And to teach, expound, exhort, baptize, and watch over the church; And to confirm the church by the laying on of the hands, and the giving of the Holy Ghost, and to take the lead of meetings. (BofC 24:32-34)
The duties Smith outlines for the elders are the same as were described for the twelve Nephite disciples (Moro. 2-6). However, unlike the June 1829 revelation (D&C 18) which subordinated the elders to the authority of a quorum of twelve apostles, the Articles and Covenants removes the apostles from the hierarchical structure; in other words, apostles may be elders, but their calling as apostles remains in God’s hands rather than at the discretion of the church. The elders themselves, according to this document, are to lead charismatically—hence, their authority derives from the Holy Spirit rather than by virtue of office. The leadership is therefore dispersed among all the elders, rather than concentrated in the leadership of twelve men, and subject to the confirmation of the Spirit.
Concerning the priests, the document states: “The priest’s duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort and baptize, and administer the sacrament; … And ordain other priests, [and] teachers … and take the lead of meetings; but none of these offices is he to do when there is an elder present, but in all cases is to assist the elder” (BofC 24:36-37).
The Book of Mormon’s priests hold authority to administer the sacrament (Moro. 4:1), but involvement in baptisms is not mentioned. However, the distinction between priests and elders was the ability to confer the Holy Ghost, so Smith may have assumed that a priest could perform all other functions.
“The teacher’s duty,” the document states, “is to watch over the church always; … And he is to take the lead of meetings in the absence of the elder or priest. … But [he can] neither … baptize nor administer the sacrament, but [is] to warn, expound, exhort and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ” (BofC 24:38-41). Teachers do not exist in the Old Testament portion of the Book of Mormon, where the function of teaching is part of the priest’s responsibilities (e.g., 2 Ne. 5:26; Jacob 1:18; Alma 15:13). But in Moroni’s writing, the office emerges. For instance, Moroni 4:1 implies that priests may administer the sacrament, while teachers may not. However, on the subject of baptism, it is unclear whether the authority extends to priests and teachers. When the teacher’s duties are further elaborated in the Articles and Covenants, they resemble those of a current ward clerk in assisting elders to update the membership records (24:61-65).
Borrowing from Moroni 3:4, Smith emphasizes the charismatic base of the church’s authority by declaring: “Every elder, priest, [and] teacher … is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him, by the power of the Holy Ghost which is in the one who ordains him” (24:42).
Similar to the major denominations of the day, Smith’s church will hold quarterly conferences whereby the “several elders” will “meet … to do church business” (24:43). The church, or rather the elders, are also to issue priesthood licenses. If a priest ordains a teacher or priest, he can issue a certificate of ordination, which is to be presented to an elder in exchange for a license (24:44).
In an attempt to fulfill Jesus’ teaching to not allow members to partake of the sacrament unworthily (3 Ne. 18:28), the Articles and Covenants outlines a system similar to the Puritan practice of closed communion or “fencing the table.” Under the heading “The duty of the members after they are received by baptism,” Smith’s document instructs:
The elders or priests are to have a sufficient time to expound all things concerning this church of Christ to their understanding, previous to their partaking of the sacrament, and being confirmed by the laying on of the hands of the elders; So that all things may be done in order. And the members shall manifest before the church, and also before the elders, by a godly walk and conversation, that they are worthy of it, that there may be works and faith agreeable to the holy scriptures, walking in holiness before the Lord. (24:46-48)
Cowdery’s revelation quoted Jesus’ instruction to the Nephites to “not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily” (cf. 3 Ne. 18:28). Cowdery had not anticipated a delay between baptism and confirmation, as suggested in Smith’s document. Nevertheless, Smith’s plan was largely ignored and confirmations would be performed immediately after baptism.
Reflecting Mormon’s instruction to Moroni that baptism is for “those who are accountable and capable of committing sin” (Moro. 8:10) and Smith’s June 1829 revelation to baptize only “children who have arrived at the years of accountability” (D&C 18:42), the Articles and Covenants declares: “There can not any one be received into this church of Christ, who has not arrived to the years of accountability before God, and is not capable of repentance” (24:50). A revelation dictated the following year will designate eight as the age of accountability (D&C 68:27). Instead, the elders are to bless children (24:49) as Jesus did in Jerusalem and America (Matt. 19:13-15; 3 Ne. 17:21).
Like Cowdery’s revelation, Smith’s document takes its instructions regarding baptism and baptismal prayer from 3 Nephi 11:23-25 (24:51-54). Both Cowdery and Smith repeat the sacramental prayers from Moroni 4:1-5:2 (vv. 55-59). Regarding excommunication and other disciplinary matters, Smith’s document states that “any member of this church of Christ, transgressing or being overtaken in a fault, shall be dealt with according as the scriptures direct” (v. 60). Cowdery’s revelation quoted those same scriptures directly (i.e., 3 Ne. 18:28-33).
The last item deals with church records. A record of the membership is to be kept by one of the elders and updated at each quarterly conference (24:61-63). Any member who transfered from one location to another is instructed to procure a certificate of membership from an elder, priest, or teacher (v. 64).
The record of this first church conference indicates that the Articles and Covenants were “received by unanimous voice of the whole congregation, which consisted of most of the male members of the Church.”66 Then Samuel H. Smith was ordained an elder by Oliver Cowdery; Joseph Smith Sr. and Hyrum Smith were ordained priests, and as recommended in the founding document, the new church officers were given their licenses. At this time, the church consisted of seven elders (Joseph Smith Jr., Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, Peter Whitmer Jr., Ziba Peterson, and Samuel H. Smith), three priests (Martin Harris, Hyrum Smith, and Joseph Smith Sr.), and two teachers (Hiram Page and Christian Whitmer)—in all, twelve officers as of 9 June 1830.
Except for Ziba Peterson, all the founding members had been witnesses to the Book of Mormon and were therefore, in a sense, considered to be apostles. On 23 September 1829, Abner Cole, perhaps referring to the Book of Mormon witnesses, wrote sarcastically: “The number of the Gold Bible Apostles is said to be complete. Jo Smith Jr. is about to assign to each, a mission to the heathen.”67 For some unknown reason, Peterson stands in place of Jacob Whitmer, the only Book of Mormon witness who was not among the founding leaders. In 1831, Ezra Booth mentioned that Peterson was “one of the twelve Apostles,” but because of some difficulty, he was subsequently “deprived of his Elder and Apostleship.”68
Reminiscent of his days as a Methodist exhorter, Joseph Smith now treated the conference to an “exhortation,” a sermon designed to admonish those present, followed by a sermon by Oliver Cowdery. The minutes of the meeting do not include the content of Smith’s and Cowdery’s sermons or the reaction of their audience, but the charismatic scene that followed, as described in Smith’s history, suggests that the preaching was powerful and emotional. After “much exhortation and instruction was given,” Smith recalled, “the Holy Ghost was poured out upon us in a miraculous manner; many of our number prophesied, whilst others had the heavens opened to their view, and were so over come that we had to lay them on beds, or other convenient places.” This scene was not unlike what Smith had witnessed at Methodist camp meetings. Smith’s history includes the account of how Newel Knight lost the ability to stand on his own, followed by a vision:
Among the rest was Brother Newel Knight who had to be placed on a bed, being unable to help himself. By his own account of the transaction, … He felt his heart filled with love, with glory and pleasure unspeakable, … when all of a sudden a vision of futurity burst upon him. He saw there represented, the great work which through my instrumentality was yet to be accomplished. He saw heaven opened and beheld the Lord Jesus Christ, seated at the right hand of the majesty on high, and had it made plain to his understanding that the time would come when he would be admitted into his presence to enjoy his society for ever and ever.69
When those who had felt the falling power regained their physical strength, they shouted “hosannas to God and the lamb” and rehearsed the remarkable things they had seen and felt.70 Prayer was given by “all the brethren present.” Then Cowdery, who had been appointed to keep the church record, adjourned the meeting until 26 September 1830 when the second church conference would be convened at the same place.
Afterward,71 David Whitmer baptized the following eleven people in nearby Seneca Lake: John Poorman, a forty-six-year-old neighbor of the Whitmers; three teenage children (John, Julia, and Harriot) of William and Elizabeth Jolly, who were previously baptized on 18 April; Jerusha Barden Smith, Hyrum’s twenty-five-year-old wife; three of Joseph Smith’s younger siblings (Katharine, Don Carlos, and William), the latter of whom had told Lorenzo Saunders that he would never join the Mormons;72 and three teenage children (Orrin Porter, Caroline, and Electa) of Sarah Rockwell, who had been baptized with Lucy Smith in early April.73 “The Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon us,” William Smith recalled, “and our hearts made to rejoice in the truth.”74
On the following day, Cowdery confirmed those who had been baptized. “Some of the brethren received marvelous manifestations during the evening,” William Smith said; “I did not, myself, receive any such manifestations, but felt the Spirit of God like a burning fire shut up in my bones.”75
“Immediately after conference,” Joseph Smith, accompanied by his wife, Emma, and by Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, and David Whitmer, returned to Harmony, Pennsylvania.76 With Cowdery and the two Whitmers, Smith would attempt to repeat in Colesville the success of the Fayette conference.
1. Joseph Knight’s account is taken from the “Manuscript of the History of Joseph Smith,” ca. 1835-47, 7, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, UT (see Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996-2003], 4:20-21; hereafter EMD]).
2. A reported 25-30 percent of the population have experienced sleep paralysis at least once and 5 percent experience it as a chronic condition. See David Hufford, The Terror that Comes in the Night: An Experience-Centered Study of Supernatural Assault Traditions (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982); and Robert C. Nees, “The Old Hag Phenomenon as Sleep Paralysis: A Biocultural Interpretation,” Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 2 (1978): 26-28.
5. Dan Vogel, “Anti-Universalist Rhetoric in the Book of Mormon,” in Brent Lee Metcalfe, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992), 21-52. The Book of Mormon’s attack on Universalism seems to focus on those who believe there will be no punishment after death. Only in one instance does it attack Restorationists (2 Ne. 28:8) and then not directly, but rather their attitude of taking punishment for sin too lightly. Alma speaks of the “punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul” (Alma 42:16). The revelation’s concept of atonement is at odds with the Book of Mormon’s teachings regarding the necessity of an “infinite” atonement (2 Ne. 9:7; Alma 34:10, 12), a concept Universalists rejected.
8. When published in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, this passage was altered to explain why its secrecy was being violated: “Show not these things unto the world until it is wisdom in me. For they cannot bear meat now” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:21-22; hereafter D&C). The phrase “neither speak these things” was deleted. Publication in 1833 and 1835 improved Smith’s position with those who had difficulty accepting his 1832 vision of three heavens because it provided a transition between the Book of Mormon and the vision.
14. The earliest known source to claim the “church was organized in the township of Fayette, Seneca county, New York, on the 6th of April, A.D. 1830,” appeared in The Evening and The Morning Star in May 1834 (cf. Joseph Smith Jr. et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 7 vols., 2nd ed. rev. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1948], 2:62-63), which printed the minutes of a meeting in Kirtland, Ohio, where the church’s name was changed from “The Church of Christ” to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints.” Michael Marquardt suggests that the church’s economic and legal difficulties in 1834 had something to do with the change in name and place of organization (H. Michael Marquardt, “An Appraisal of Manchester as Location for the Organization of the Church,” Sunstone 16 [Feb. 1992]: 54).
16. Naked Truths About Mormonism, Jan. 1888, 3 (EMD 2:196-98); Benjamin Saunders, interviewed by William H. Kelley, ca. Sept. 1884, 27, “Miscellany,” Community of Christ (formerly RLDS Church) Archives, Independence, MO (EMD 2:139).
24. J. Smith, Manuscript History, 39 (EMD 1:99). Smith’s history draft includes Mary Page as a seventh person baptized on 11 April. Her identity remains unknown (J. Smith, History Draft, 1839,  [EMD 1:100]).
25. Book of Commandments 23. According to William E. McLellin’s early copy of the revelation, Joseph Smith dictated it on 16 April 1830 (Manuscript Revelations, William E. McLellin Collection, LDS Church Archives; published in Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831-1836 [Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994], 236).
30. Solomon Chamberlain, “A Short Sketch of the Life of Solomon Chamberlin,” ca. 1858, 13, LDS Church Archives (EMD 3:45). See also Larry C. Porter, “A Study of the Origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816-1831,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1971, 260.
33. Unless otherwise indicated, the following account of Newel Knight’s exorcism is taken from Joseph Smith’s History Draft, 11-13; and J. Smith, Manuscript History, 39-41 (EMD 1:101-105). In dating Knight’s exorcism to late April, I follow both Smith’s History Draft and Manuscript History. However, D. Michael Quinn has argued for a June 1830 dating based on a strikeout in the History Draft. Quinn writes that “Smith’s manuscript history originally dated this first miracle as occurring after the 9 June 1830 conference” (D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994], 23). On the other hand, this may have been an error that was corrected as the draft was being composed, probably with the assistance of Knight himself. There are three errors that the compilers of Smith’s history made involving Newel Knight and his visionary experiences, each demonstrating the difficulty they had with the chronological placement of the 9 June 1830 conference, which they mistakenly believed to have occurred on 1 June 1830 (ms. pp. 10, 11, 13-14 [EMD 1:95, 100, 105]). On 4-5 July 1839, Smith mentioned that Knight assisted him in writing his history (see Scott H. Faulring, ed., An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith [Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1987], 238). Knight follows Smith’s history in dating his exorcism to April 1830 (see [Newel Knight], “Newel Knight Journal,” in Scraps of Biography. Tenth Book of the Faith-Promoting Series [Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1883], 49-50).
34. For convulsions at revivals, see Ann Taves, Fits, Trances, and Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 24, 28, 53, 57, 74, 82, 87, 93, 193.
35. Thomas S. Catherall, “Joseph Smith’s Progenitors and the Salem Witchcraft Trials,” paper presented at Sunstone Theological Symposium, 23 Aug. 1986, Salt Lake City, copy in H. Michael Marquardt Papers, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City; see also D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998), 31.
36. Deodat Lawson, A Brief and True Narrative of Some Remarkable Passages Relating to Sundry Persons Afflicted by Witchcraft at Salem Village, which Happened from the Nineteenth of March, to the fifth of April, 1692 (Boston, 1692), in George L. Burr, Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1914), 153.
49. Hamilton Child, Gazetteer and Business Directory of Chenango County, N.Y., for 1869-70 (Syracuse, NY: Journal Office, 1869), 83 (EMD 4:220-21). According to Lu B. Cake, a resident of South Bainbridge, Child took his account directly from the justice’s “Court Record” (Lu B. Cake, Susquehanna Stories [New York: L. B. Cake, 1912], 10 [EMD 4:195]).
51. See [Frederick G. Mather], “The Early Mormons. Joe Smith Operates at Susquehanna,” Binghamton Republican, 29 July 1880 (EMD 4:156); and Harvey Baker, “The Early Days of Mormonism,” Oneonta Herald (Oneonta, Otsego County, NY), 18 Jan. 1900, newspaper clipping, Jacob Morris Papers, John M. Olin Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (EMD 4:196).
53. See Burr, Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases, 337-38. Chadwick Hansen questions the perceptions of those who reported the levitation of Margaret Rule: “These statements might possibly describe an arc de cercle, a violently arched position of the body not uncommon in hysterical fits, which would raise the trunk of the body a considerable distance off the bed. Combined with the power of suggestion to affect the bystanders’ senses, this might account for their belief that they had witnessed levitation” (Witchcraft at Salem, 184-85). Indeed, in the midst of false accusations between rival families (e.g., Marc Mappen, Witches and Historians: Interpretations of Salem [Huntington, NY: R. E. Krieger Publishing co., 1980]), together with a coercive atmosphere in which some of the testimony was extracted, it should not be accepted at face value.
54. Out-of-body experiences occur in 14-25 percent of the population. For psychological interpretations of this phenomenon, see Julian Janes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976), 44-46; Neher, The Psychology of Transcendence, 125, 191-95; Leonard Zusne and Warren H. Jones, Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc., 1989), 122-27; Susan J. Blackmore, Beyond the Body: An Investigation of Out-of-the-Body Experiences (London: Heinemann, 1981); and Carlos S. Alvarado, “Out-of-Body Experiences,” in Etzel Cardena, Steven Jay Lynn, and Stanley Krippner, eds., Varieties of Anomalous Experience: Examining the Scientific Evidence (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2000), 183-218.
58. “The Conference Minutes, and Record Book, of Christ’s Church of Latter Day Saints Belonging to the High Council of said Church, or their successors in office, of Caldwell County Missouri; Far West: April 6, 1838,” 2, LDS Church Archives (EMD 5:351).
60. It is uncertain when others, besides Smith and Cowdery, were ordained elders. David Whitmer claimed to have been ordained as early as June 1829 (Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, 32 [EMD 5:200]). The record of the conference indicates that Samuel H. Smith was ordained on 9 June 1830, becoming the seventh elder of the church (“Far West Record,” 1 [EMD 5:349]).
62. Otherwise, Cowdery would not have demanded that Smith change one of the statements, as Smith later did. Neither would Smith labor at length with Cowdery and the Whitmers to prove that the passage in question was consistent with scripture (see Smith, Manuscript History, 51 [EMD 1:128]; and chapter 30 for a discussion of Smith’s exchange with Cowdery and the Whitmers).
65. Both the 1833 Book of Commandments and 1835 Doctrine and Covenants include the office of deacon. This office appears in the earliest printing of the revelation in the Painesville Telegraph, 19 April 1831. However, this was apparently an early addition to Smith’s document. See Dan Vogel, Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988), 149, 156-57, n. 67; and Gregory A. Prince, Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995), 69. Therefore, I have excluded this office from my discussion.
69. J. Smith, Manuscript History, 41-42 (EMD 1:107). Knight’s assistance in writing this portion of Smith’s history was recorded in Smith’s journal under 4-5 July 1839 (see Faulring, American Prophet’s Record, 238).
71. A crossed-out portion of Smith’s history draft dates this event to 10 June 1830, while the history says “shortly after this conference” (J. Smith, Manuscript History, 42; J. Smith, History Draft, 11 [EMD 1:100, 108]). But William Smith dated his baptism to 9 June (see William Smith, William Smith on Mormonism [Lamoni, IA: Herald Steam Book and Job Office, 1883], 16 [EMD 1:499-500]).
73. According to Smith’s history, David Whitmer baptized eleven people in Seneca Lake at the first church conference (J. Smith, Manuscript History, 42 [EMD 1:108]). William Smith was one of those baptized, and he lists only ten (W. Smith, On Mormonism, 16 [minus Katharine Smith] [EMD 1:500]). Whitmer probably referred to this event when he incorrectly stated that he had baptized fourteen people in Seneca Lake a few days before 6 April (Saints’ Herald 29 [15 June 1882]: 189 [EMD 5:94]).