Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Reexamined
by Rodger I. Anderson
The Hurlbut Affidavits, Part Two
[p.43]Richard Anderson’s treatment of Philastus Hurlbut’s longer affidavits follows a pattern similar to his approach to the shorter ones. He rejects Willard Chase’s testimony because of Chase’s “nearly total lack of personal observation” and because Chase himself was a money digger. He rejects William Stafford’s affidavit because he finds Stafford’s “black sheep” story dubious. Anderson suggests that Hurlbut wrote the statement and merely had Stafford sign it. Anderson then dismisses Peter Ingersoll’s testimony because it mainly “consists not in observation, but supposed admissions in conversation” and because Anderson finds reason to doubt one of those reported confessions.1 Of these criticisms, some are based on entirely erroneous information and some reflect partial truth and partial error. But none justify Anderson’s conclusion that the affidavits are essentially “non-evidence.”
Anderson claims that of the three longer affidavits, Willard Chase’s is probably the most authentic. He finds less Hurlbut in the Chase affidavit and observes that [p.44] “the Chase statement contains more parallels to Mormon sources.” Chase was probably more careful in making his deposition, Anderson suggests, because of his standing in the Methodist church. But despite these strengths, Anderson still considers Chase essentially a non-witness. According to Anderson, Chase’s information was hearsay. Chase tells the “familiar story” of finding an unusual stone while digging a well with Alvin and Joseph Smith, and accuses Joseph and Hyrum of duplicity in keeping the object. Beyond that, according to Anderson, he discloses no direct knowledge that the stone was utilized in treasure digging, but only alleges that Joseph claimed to discover “wonders” by its use.2
A number of points should be made concerning this statement. First, the so-called “familiar story” recounted by Chase is familiar only because it is so well authenticated. Chase was in the well at the time the stone was discovered, and it was he, not Smith, who brought it to the surface in order to examine it more closely. According to Chase, “Joseph put it into his hat, and then his face into the top of his hat.… The next morning he came to me, and wished to obtain the stone, alledging that he could see in it; but I told him I did not wish to part with it on account of its being a curiosity, but would lend it. After obtaining the stone, he began to publish abroad what wonders he could discover by looking in it, and made so much disturbance among the credulous part of [the] community, that I ordered the stone to be returned to me again.”3 Chase, as Anderson observes, does not say explicitly what “wonders” Smith saw in the stone, but other witnesses have not been so reserved. Joseph Smith himself acknowledged in 1826 that he used the stone “to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were,” and Smith’s mother recorded that her son had in his possession a marvelous instrument “by which he could discern [p.45] things invisible to the naked eye” and that it was this which led Josiah Stowell to hire him as a money digger in 1825.4 Many other witnesses mention Smith’s stone and the “ghosts, infernal spirits, mountains of gold and silver” which he claimed to see within its depths.5
Anderson briefly mentions, but without comment, Chase’s accusation that Smith and his brother Hyrum were guilty of duplicity in keeping the stone without Chase’s permission. Chase asserts as a matter of personal observation that Smith borrowed the stone from him in 1822, returned it about two years later, and borrowed it again in 1825. In 1826 Chase asked Smith for the stone and was refused and in 1830 was refused again by Hyrum Smith, who would not return the object because “Joseph made use of it in translating his Bible.” When Chase reminded Smith of his promise to return the rock, Smith called him a liar and “in a rage shook his fist at me, and abused me in a most scandalous manner.”6 Since Joseph Smith acknowledged to others that the stone was borrowed,7 and since he never returned it to Chase despite repeated requests, the conclusion seems justified that, at least on this occasion, Smith retained possession of an object that was not lawfully his.
Anderson finds it necessary to discredit Chase’s description of Smith as a money digger by arguing that Chase claimed no firsthand knowledge of the fact and that since Chase was a money digger himself, “the conclusion follows that the Smiths did not have a connection with the money digging circles in the area.”8 Anderson’s conclusion would follow only if the various money-digging circles operating in the area were acting in concert, but all available evidence suggests that they were competitive rather than cooperative. Many contemporaries remarked on the secrecy which attended money-digging operations. The reason for this is not difficult to guess. A person who believes that he will shortly uncover a treasure of tremendous value is not [p.46] likely to tell too many others, fearing they will find it first. The trouble Joseph Smith had with other money diggers after he was said to have unearthed gold plates illustrates perfectly why each band of diggers was secretive in its operations, rarely consulting each other unless it was to their mutual advantage. Much of Smith’s attention for the next few years was devoted to concealing the location of the unearthed plates. Under such conditions it would be unlikely that Chase, whose sister was a seeress, would ever observe the operations of Smith’s company, although he would probably have heard of them indirectly.9
Anderson dismisses Chase’s secondhand descriptions of Smith’s money digging in Pennsylvania as “highly distorted” because Chase’s descriptions of known events in Smith’s life differ from later, Mormon sources. He lists as a typical example Chase’s “exaggerated, ridiculing details” about Smith’s first failure to obtain the plates.10 Anderson assumes what must first be proved, namely that other, later accounts are more accurate because they lack the “exaggerated” details remembered by Chase. It is equally reasonable to assume, however, that Smith himself later deleted such details so as to give no support to those who charged that his story of finding the gold plates was just another adaptation of the old money-digging theme.
To a considerable degree this can be shown to be the case. Smith’s official report of his first visit to the Hill Cumorah is spartan when compared with the more richly detailed accounts preserved by those who heard the story from Smith or his father before 1830. The descriptions of Smith’s mother, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Knight, Hiel and Joseph Lewis, Lorenzo Saunders, and Fayette Lapham confirm to an impressive degree the details remembered by Chase, including such specifics as Joseph Smith being struck or shocked when he attempted to touch the plates; the vanishing of the plates when Smith laid them on the ground [p.47] and their sudden reappearance in the buried box from which he had taken them; the exchange between Smith and the guardian spirit as to why the plates could not then be obtained; the spirit’s instructions to bring his eldest brother, Alvin, with him next time and Alvin’s premature death; and finally the spirit’s commandment to bring another person whom Smith would recognize on sight and who later turned out to be Emma Hale.
It is not difficult to guess why such “details” might reasonably be omitted from Smith’s official history many years later. It was illegal at the time to pretend “to tell fortunes, or to discover where lost good may be found.”11 Joseph Knight’s recollection that Smith “looked in his glass”12 to find the right person to bring with him to the hill would elicit memories of the glass-looking charge Joseph Smith was convicted of in 1826. Smith was learning from bitter experience that not everyone shared his enthusiasm for the supernatural.
If there is no ground for Anderson’s claim that Chase’s account of Smith’s visit to the Hill Cumorah is riddled with “exaggerated, ridiculing details,” then his assertion that “one would assume the same of his secondhand treasure stories” simply does not follow.13 Indeed, the man Chase named as his source for these details told the same account to Lorenzo Saunders. According to Saunders, “Sam Lawrence took him [Smith] over into Pennsylvania and introduced him to Emma Hale. I dont know as Joe had ever been in Pennsylvania before, but him and Sam Lawrence had been deviling around—no telling where they had gone. Joe told Sam Lawrence that there was a silver mine over in Pennsylvania told him he might share in it with him; but behold he wanted an introduction to Emma Hale is the way it turned out. Sam Lawrence told me so.”14 This is virtually the same story recounted by Chase “as related to me by Lawrence himself,” which seems to verify the [p.48] essential accuracy of Chase’s memory.15 Following Anderson’s reasoning, “one would assume the same” of his entire report.
The next deposition Anderson considers is that of William Stafford. Anderson’s first charge is that Hurlbut probably wrote Stafford’s affidavit and “merely had him sign it,”16 which even if true does not mean that Stafford’s statement is not a genuine reflection of his views. When he appeared before Judge Baldwin “and made oath to the truth of the above statement, and signed the same,” he legally and morally became responsible for its contents, which hardly justifies Anderson’s “merely.” There is, however, no real evidence that Hurlbut wrote Stafford’s affidavit. Anderson’s only reason is that “Pomeroy Tucker portrays Stafford as a former sailor without education.”17 But Tucker says nothing about Stafford’s education, only that he “had been for many years a sailor, and was largely prone to the vagaries and superstitions peculiar to his class.”18 Tucker’s comment may reveal something about Stafford’s “will to believe,” but it says nothing about whether he was capable of writing an affidavit.
Anderson seems uncomfortable to find in Stafford’s deposition an eyewitness account by someone participating with the Smiths in a treasure hunt. The extent of Anderson’s discomfort is dear from the lengths he goes to discredit Stafford, for nowhere else does he commit so many mistakes in so little space. If he cannot discredit Stafford, then he is left with a witness who actually participated with the Smiths in one dig, offered them support in another, and recounted at length “the marvellous tales” they told him “respecting the discoveries they had made in the peculiar occupation of money digging.”19 Stafford’s testimony, if allowed to pass unchallenged, would also lend an air of credence to reports offered by Hurlbut’s other witnesses; and since Anderson’s purpose is to prove Hurlbut’s witnesses incompetent, he is anxious to avoid [p.49] any statement which might reflect favorably on their collective testimony. It seems easier for Anderson to disagree with the collective neighborhood interpretation of these events than with the basic information supplied by the neighbors about what happened, when, and who was involved.
Nevertheless, Anderson mentions Stafford’s “one clear firsthand testimony” only to dismiss it because “the accompanying sheep story throws a great deal of doubt on the digging story as authentically coming from Stafford.”20 That story, as related by Stafford, is as follows: “At another time, they devised a scheme, by which they might satiate their hunger, with the mutton of one of my sheep. They had seen in my flock of sheep, a large, fat, black weather. Old Joseph and one of the boys came to me one day, and said that Joseph Jr. had discovered some very remarkable and valuable treasures, which could be procured only in one way. That way, was as follows:—That a black sheep should be taken on the ground where the treasures were concealed—that after cutting its throat, it should be led around a circle while bleeding. This being done, the wrath of the evil spirit would be appeased: the treasures could then be obtained, and my share of them was to be four fold. To gratify my curiosity, I let them have a large fat sheep. They afterwards informed me, that the sheep was killed pursuant to commandment; but as there was some mistake in the process, it did not have the desired effect. This, I believe, is the only time they ever made money-digging a profitable business.”21
Anderson argues that “Hurlbut evidently did not represent Stafford accurately.” His stated reason is that Wallace Miner, who was born in 1843, one year before Smith died, related in the early 1930s a story Stafford told him some time before Stafford’s death on 9 January 1863. According to Miner, Stafford told him that Smith took the sheep without Stafford’s knowledge but the next day [p.50] confessed the theft and offered to make restitution by making wooden sap buckets until the sheep was paid for. Anderson admits the “obvious limitations in recalling the details of what one had said almost seventy years earlier” about an event that occurred forty years before that, but he accepts the story because it “exonerates the Smiths of dishonesty, a reversal of Hurlbut reporting Stafford.”22
This appeal to Miner’s story is perhaps the most egregious of Anderson’s errors. The difficulty with Anderson’s witness cannot be avoided by candidly admitting his “obvious limitations” and then proceeding as if they did not exist. In addition, by accepting Miner’s testimony Anderson is forced to abandon one of his own most important criteria for competent reporting. If, as Anderson argues, the fallibility of human memory makes remembered conversations such as those collected by Hurlbut unreliable, how can he accept Miner’s report? Hurlbut collected his statements mostly from people who were remembering events which occurred on the average less than a decade earlier, whereas Miner was remembering a conversation that had taken place nearly two generations before.
Anderson’s approach to this particular story demonstrates an additional inadequacy: the problem of how he can consider Miner’s report “a reversal of Hurlbut reporting Stafford” when the statement collected by Hurlbut does not accuse Smith of stealing the sheep. Stafford says he “let them have a large fat sheep” as his investment in the digging enterprise. Stafford does allude vaguely to sheep stealing on the part of Smith’s associates,23 but nowhere does he accuse the family of taking the animal without his consent.24
Although Anderson wants to prove that Hurlbut “contaminated” Stafford’s report since Miner’s report of Stafford differs from Hurlbut’s report of Stafford, the evidence he adduces proves exactly the opposite. As has been shown, [p.51] Miner’s report, which depicts Smith as a thief stricken by a conscience, confirms rather than denies the allegation of dishonesty on the part of the Smiths. Hurlbut’s reporting of Stafford, on the other hand, pointedly states that there was nothing dishonest in the means used by the Smiths to procure the sheep. This is odd if Hurlbut’s purpose was to impugn the honesty of the Smiths, for why should Hurlbut have Stafford state that he let them have a sheep when Stafford actually accused them of stealing the animal? For Hurlbut to exonerate the Smiths and then imply their guilt by means of a veiled allusion to the habits of their companions is incomprehensible if Stafford in fact told Hurlbut what he allegedly told Miner, which if true would mean that the relentlessly vindictive Hurlbut had exercised his “evident editorializing talents” not to accuse the Smiths but to defend them. From this it is apparent that Anderson’s conclusion—”Miner’s recollection of Stafford exonerates the Smiths of dishonesty, a reversal of Hurlbut reporting Stafford”—needs itself to be reversed.
The attempt to prove that Hurlbut adversely influenced Stafford’s report is further discredited by comparing that account with other recollections of the sheep story which evidently do not depend on Hurlbut’s version. When Stephen S. Harding was visiting friends in Palmyra during the summer of 1829, he heard the same story Stafford would relate to Hurlbut in 1833 and corroborated Pomeroy Tucker’s version of the event as essentially the same story circulating in Palmyra over four years before Hurlbut ever visited the area.25 Tucker’s version is also in harmony with William Stafford’s account.26 The Miner report, if trustworthy at all, provides additional information, agreeing with the preceding statements, that the sheep was used as a sacrifice to secure buried treasure and that Smith traced “a circle within which the wether was placed and his throat cut; the blood saturated the ground.”27 There is thus evidence [p.52] that the story Stafford told Hurlbut in 1833 corresponded in nearly every particular with what he was saying both before and after that date, a conclusion hardly compatible with Anderson’s claim that Hurlbut twisted Stafford’s statement to make it appear worse than it actually was.28
Anderson’s final reason for doubting Stafford’s story is a reported conversation with Dr. John Stafford, who supposedly told the Kelleys in 1881, “I have heard that story, but don’t think my father was there at the time they say Smith got the sheep. I don’t know anything about it.”29 Despite Stafford’s “I don’t know anything about it,” he reportedly told the Kelleys, “I don’t think it is true. I would have heard more about it. That is true.” If the Kelleys are here accurately reporting Stafford’s words, he is simply confessing his ignorance of the event. “I don’t know anything about it,” he says. “I don’t think it is true.” This confession adds nothing to the question of the accuracy of his father William’s deposition. His “I don’t think it is true” is a conclusion based upon ignorance, not upon any facts which came under his observation.30
Still, it would be odd if William Stafford’s son should suspect the truthfulness of a story repeated so often by his father and sworn to before a judge if he did not have good reason for his opinion. It remains to be determined, however, if John Stafford harbored any of the doubts about the story attributed to him by the Kelleys. One ground for suspicion is that the Kelleys’ published report was challenged by some of their interviewees only days after it first appeared, the Kelleys being charged with gross and willful falsification in putting words into their witnesses’ mouths. Another cause for suspicion is that the notes from which William Kelley reconstructed these interviews contain nothing suggesting that John Stafford was less than confident about the story told by his father. According to those notes, all Stafford said about the incident was “My father is said [p.53] to have furnished a sheep—but I don’t think my father was there at [the] time they say [the] sheep was sacrificed.”31 In preparing this material for publication, William Kelley replaced the word “sacrificed” with “got the sheep,” and then added a lengthy question-and-answer section in which Stafford not only confessed his ignorance of the matter but also expressed suspicion that the whole story is a fabrication. Deleting this added material, Stafford’s report to the Kelleys contains only the information that he had heard the story but did not think his father was there at the time of the sheep’s sacrifice. This agrees perfectly with his father’s recollection that he was not present when the sheep was “killed pursuant to commandment.”32
If, as I have suggested, there is no good reason for doubting Stafford’s story of the slaughtered sheep, then Anderson’s argument that the episode can be used to cast suspicion on the integrity of other parts of Stafford’s report can be dismissed. As an authentic recollection, the sheep story not only adds to the evidence that Smith hunted for treasure by magical means but also lends support to that part of Stafford’s affidavit in which Stafford describes himself as actually joining the Smiths in a dig. Stafford recounts that story as follows: “Joseph Smith, Sen., came to me one night, and told me, that Joseph Jr. had been looking in his glass, and had seen, not many rods from his house, two or three kegs of gold and silver, some feet under the surface of the earth; and that none others but the elder Joseph and myself could get them. I accordingly consented to go, and early in the evening repaired to the place of deposit. Joseph, Sen. first made a circle, twelve or fourteen feet in diameter. This circle, said he, contains the treasure. He then stuck in the ground a row of witch hazel sticks, around the said circle, for the purpose of keeping off the evil spirits. Within this circle he made another, of about eight or ten feet in diameter. He walked around three times on the periphery [p.54] of this last circle, muttering to himself something which I could not understand. He next stuck a steel rod in the centre of the circles, and then enjoined profound silence upon us, lest we should arouse the evil spirit who had the charge of these treasures. After we had dug a trench about five feet in depth around the rod, the old man by signs and motions, asked leave of absence, and went to the house to inquire of young Joseph the cause of our disappointment. He soon returned and said, that Joseph had remained all this time in the house, looking in his stone and watching the motions of the evil spirit—that he saw the spirit come up to the ring and as soon as it beheld the cone which we had formed around the rod, it caused the money to sink. We then went into the house, and the old man observed, that we had made a mistake in the commencement of the operation; if it had not been for that, said he, we should have got the money.”33
The evidential strength of this recollection can best be appreciated by considering how inappropriate Anderson’s standard counter-explanations become when applied to it. For example, Anderson’s suggestion that the plethora of money-digging stories about the Smiths can be attributed to an “erroneous parallel” between the Mormon Smiths and another Smith family whose members were actually money diggers is untenable in light of the testimony of a witness like William Stafford, who lived next to the Smiths for more than a decade and who knew them both as money diggers and as founders of a church. Equally inapplicable is the suggestion that Stafford may have witnessed Joseph Smith, Sr., engaged in some legitimate digging project and misinterpreted the action because of rumors describing the activities of local money diggers. Stafford was not a casual observer but an active participant in the dig; he was specifically told that the digging was for treasure and witnessed the magical rituals used by the elder [p.55] Smith to immobilize the treasure and ward off evil spirits. Finally, there is no evidence that the Smiths were employees of someone else in this venture. It was they who took the initiative to invite Stafford, not he them, and the only evidence of a “boss” of the operation is Joseph Smith, who supervised from the house, “looking in his stone and watching the motions of the evil spirit.” Stafford’s affidavit thus provides an effective refutation of Anderson’s contention, “There is no solid evidence of Joseph Smith as the prime mover in any treasure seeking project.”34
The last of the Hurlbut affidavits Anderson considers is that of Peter Ingersoll. In his deposition, Ingersoll rehearses various efforts of the elder Smith to make him a money digger, recalls conversations with him about divination and money digging, and relates an episode in which Joseph Smith, Sr., found some lost cows by means of a witch hazel stick. Ingersoll dismisses this later accomplishment as a trick to test his credulity. Ingersoll tells of being hired by Joseph Smith, Jr., to go with him to Pennsylvania to help move Smith’s new wife Emma’s furniture back to Manchester, describes an episode along the way in which Smith supposedly displayed some Yankee ingenuity to avoid paying a toll, repeats an alleged confession that the business of the gold plates was nothing more than a ruse to deceive his parents, recounts Smith’s successful effort to get fifty dollars from Martin Harris, and narrates a number of other episodes said to have been drawn from his personal knowledge of the Smith family.
Anderson’s analysis of Ingersoll’s deposition is limited to the confession that the gold plates were a hoax. According to Ingersoll, Smith told him that he had discovered some white sand that had been washed out after a storm. Impressed with the beauty and purity of the sand, Smith tied several quarts of it up in his farmer’s smock and carried it home. His response when his parents expressed [p.56] curiosity about what he had in his smock, according to Ingersoll, was:” ‘[I] happened to think of what I had heard about a history found in Canada, called the golden Bible; so I very gravely told them it was the golden Bible. To my surprise, they were credulous enough to believe what I said. Accordingly I told them that I had received a commandment to let no one see it, for, says I, no man can see it with the naked eye and live. However, I offered to take out the book and show it to them, but they refused to see it, and left the room.’ Now, said Jo, ‘I have got the damned fools fixed, and will carry out the fun.'”35
Of all the information volunteered by Hurlbut’s witness, Ingersoll’s story is the most dubious for a number of reasons. First, Ingersoll represents the incident as unpremeditated deception on Smith’s part. Aside from all other considerations, there exists ample evidence that Smith had been talking about the gold plates some time before the date Ingersoll attaches to this prank. Second, Smith’s known regard for his parents makes it unlikely that he would deceive them for the sheer fun of it, call them “damned fools” and perpetrate the hoax for the rest of his life. Third, Ingersoll records that after this confession of duplicity he offered to loan Smith sufficient money to move to Pennsylvania, which is unlikely if Smith was in fact the knave Ingersoll knew him to be. Last—and perhaps the most significant consideration—Pomeroy Tucker remembered that Ingersoll “was at first inclined to put faith in his [Smith’s] ‘Golden Bible’ pretension.”36 If Tucker’s statement can be trusted, it seems likely that Ingersoll created the story as a way of striking back at Smith for his own gullibility in swallowing a story he later became convinced was a hoax.
The “white sand” story casts a shadow of suspicion over Ingersoll’s entire affidavit, but it does not follow that every part of his statement is false. For instance, according to Ingersoll Smith promised Isaac Hale “to give up [p.57] his old habits of digging for money and looking into stones” and gratefully accepted Hale’s offer of financial support if Smith “would move to Pennsylvania and work for a living.” According to Hale’s independent account of the same conversation, “Smith stated to me, that he had given up what he called ‘glass-looking,’ and that he expected to work hard for a living, and was willing to do so,” and Hale’s son Alva remembered Smith as saying “that he intended to quit the business, (of peeping) and labor for his livelihood.” Ingersoll also stated that on this same occasion, Smith “acknowledged he could not see in a stone now, nor ever could.” This was remembered by Alva Hale, who quoted Smith as saying “that this ‘peeping‘ was all d–d nonsense. He (Smith) was deceived himself but did not intend to deceive others.”37 These parallels do not substantiate Ingersoll’s “white sand” story, but they confirm that Smith publicly acknowledged his career as a “glass looker” and money digger.
Anderson asserts that Hurlbut purposely avoided collecting any information that would have been positive. “Obviously, the attempt was made only to discredit—not to gather authentic information. Because history is the art of seeing both sides of the balance sheet, Hurlbut produced mere propaganda.”38 Granting that Hurlbut was not impartial does not mean that an investigator less biased would have produced significantly different results.39 For example, when newspaper reporter James Gordon Bennett visited western New York in 1831 to find out the truth about Joseph Smith and the famous “gold Bible,” he was told that Smith was “a careless, indolent, idle, and shiftless” money digger and that the whole Smith family were “readier at inventing stories and tales than attending church or engaging in any industrious trade.”40 Similarly, when John S. Carter, a Mormon, visited the area in 1833, he found “The people greatly opposed to the work of God. Talked with [p.58] many of them & found them unable to make out anything against Joseph Smith, altho they talked hard against him.”41 The only real difference between Carter’s and Hurlbut’s experience was that the latter was apparently more successful in finding witnesses who could provide reasons for their opinion of Joseph Smith. [p.63]
9. Chase’s sources of information could have been his sister Sallie and Samuel Lawrence. After Smith returned the stone in 1824 and before he borrowed it again in 1825, he would ask Sallie to consult the stone regarding the best place to search for buried treasures (so Sallie told Mrs. S. F. Anderick. See her statement in Deming 1:2). Samuel T. Lawrence, a local farmer whom Chase names as the source for his description of Smith’s gold hunting in Pennsylvania, was one of Smith’s regular supporters until some time after Smith announced the existence of the gold plates. Apparently the two men were once quite intimate, for according to Chase it was Lawrence whom Smith first showed the spot where the plates were deposited. Later Smith claimed that he had not shown Lawrence the right place because, in the words of early Mormon Joseph Knight, Lawrence “was a Seear and he had Bin to the hill and knew the things in the hill and was trying to obtain them.” Dean Jessee, “Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History,” Brigham Young University Studies 17 (Autumn 1976): 32. Later Lawrence joined Willard and Sallie Chase in their efforts to locate Smith’s elusive treasure.
11. Laws of the State of New York, Revised and Passed … 2 vols. (1813), 1:114, in Wesley P. Walters, “From Occult to Cult with Joseph Smith, Jr.,” The Journal of Pastoral Practice 1 (Summer 1977): 124.
24. If Anderson were genuinely interested in answering the charge of sheep stealing, a more worthy candidate is David Stafford. According to him, “At different times I have seen them [the Smiths] come from the woods early in the morning, bringing meat which looked like mutton. I went into the woods one morning very early, shooting patridges and found Joseph Smith Sen. in company with two other men, with hoes, shovels and meat that looked like mutton. On seeing me they run like wild men to get out of sight—Seeing the old man a few day afterwards, I asked him why he run so the other day in the woods, ah said he, you know that circumstances alter cases; it will not do to be seen at all time” (Howe, 249-50). Anderson, however, does not attempt to answer this accusation, preferring instead to make the charge rest upon nothing more substantial than “intended implication.”
26. Deming 1:3. Anderson dismisses Cornelius Stafford’s retelling of the story as “exaggerated.” However, the only difference between the two versions is that William recorded that Smith led the sheep “around a circle while bleeding” while Cornelius recorded that Smith led the sheep around the circle three times. Since William did not state how many times the sheep made the circuit, only that it did so “while bleeding,” there exists no reason to accuse Cornelius of exaggerating even on this point.
27. Thomas L. Cook, Palmyra and Vicinity (Palmyra, NY: Press of the Palmyra Courier-Journal, 1930), 222. For still another recollection of the sheep story, see Andrew Jenson and Edward Stevenson, Infancy of the Church … (Salt Lake City: n.p., 1889), 40-41.
28. Anderson might respond that the witnesses all composed their statements years after the publication of Hurlbut’s affidavits and that reading Stafford’s report “contaminated” their memories. Harding’s lengthy letter, however, displays no sign of familiarity with Hurlbut’s statements. Neither is it certain that Tucker used them in writing his own book. In fact, the disparities between some of Hurlbut’s depositions and parts of Tucker’s book make it unlikely that he was using the affidavits at all. Tucker probably depended instead for his information upon his own memory and the verbal testimony of still living witnesses. Despite this, Anderson claims that “Tucker depicted superstitious and unscrupulous Smiths by merely requoting the 1833 statements” (p. 304).
30. As Anderson reminds us, “The rules of evidence in the United States insist that a witness tell specific experiences, and leave to the court or jury the function of forming opinions from them” (p. 290).
32. In his debate with E. L. Kelley in 1884, Clark Braden claimed that Stafford never told Kelley “his own father’s affidavit in regard to the black wether was false. I will furnish Dr. Stafford’s affidavit that it is true.” I have been unable to determine if Braden carried out his promise, but in view of Kelley’s own notes and the published interview based upon them, it does appear unlikely that Stafford denied the story as Kelley claimed he did. For Braden’s statement, see E. L. Kelley and Clark Braden, Public Discussion of the Issues Between the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Church of Christ (Disciples) … (St. Louis: Christian Publishing Co., 1884), 370-71.
37. Howe, 234-35, 264, 268. Other parts of Ingersoll’s affidavit can also be independently confirmed. His claim that he was hired by Smith to go to Pennsylvania and move Emma’s furniture back to Manchester was confirmed by Isaac Hale; his account of Smith’s unsuccessful attempt to get Willard Chase to make a box for the gold plates was confirmed by Chase; and his report that Smith approached Martin Harris with the remark, “I had a command to ask the first honest man I met with, for fifty dollars in money, and he would let me have it” was confirmed by both Chase and Jesse Townsend. More significant than these confirmations, however, is his claim that Joseph Smith, Sr., possessed a magical rod. This is significant not only because many others mention the elder Smith’s rod but also because it can now be shown that the report by no means originated with Ingersoll or even the vitriolic editorials of Abner Cole in 1831. On 17 June 1829, Jesse Smith, the brother of Joseph Smith, Sr., wrote a letter to Hyrum Smith in which he mentions a messenger sent by the elder Smith to tell his relatives of young Joseph’s wonderful “gold book.” This messenger “believes all to be a fact.… [H]e says your father has a wand or rod can tell the distance from India to Ethiopia.…” (copy in archives, historical department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah).
39. John A. Clark’s comment is typical of many others: “There are no Mormons in Manchester, or Palmyra, the place where this Book of Mormon was pretended to be found. You might as well go down into the Crater of Vesuvius and attempt to build an ice house amid its molten and boiling lava, as to convince any inhabitant of either of these towns, that Jo Smith’s pretensions are not the most gross and egregious falsehood. It was indeed a wise stroke of policy, for those who got up this imposture, and who calculated to make their fortune by it, to emigrate to a place where they were wholly unknown.” Gleanings by the Way (Philadelphia: W. J. & J. K. Simon, 1842), 346.