Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet
by Dan Vogel
Early Life in Western New York,
[p. 25]Joseph Smith Sr. settled his family into a small, rented house that was owned by a local merchant, Samuel Jennings, at the west end of Main Street in Palmyra Village.1 Lucy remembered that the first order of business was to determine the family’s course. “We all now Sat down and maturely counseled together as to what course it was best to take how we should proceed to [do] business in our then destitute circumstances,” she recalled. “It was agreed by each one of us that it was most advisable to apply all our energies together and endeavor to obtain a piece of land as this was then raw country and land was low being in its rude state.”2 The Smiths were determined to make a new life for themselves and to reverse their nearly fifteen years of declining fortune.
Despite their unified decision to work toward procuring farmland, Joseph Sr. initially objected that the severe weather conditions of the previous year had driven up the market price of produce in western New York, that a bushel of wheat was $2.50, and that it would be impossible both to sustain the family and to save for land at the same time. Lucy believed that she could support the family with the proceeds of her home industry of painted cloth coverings for tables and stands and suggested that Joseph Sr. and the two oldest boys set out raising money to purchase land.3 Once again—as in Joseph’s departure from Norwich—Lucy overcame her husband’s objections and he ultimately followed her instructions. Lucy was no doubt a strong presence in the Smith household.
Outside their little home, the Smiths hung a signboard: “Cake and Beer Shop.” One could find, on visiting the Smiths’ store, an array of “gingerbread, pies, boiled eggs, root-beer, and other like notions of traffic,” according to one resident. Pomeroy Tucker remembered that the store “soon became popular with the juvenile people of the town and country, commanding brisk sales.”4 On special occasions such as [p. 26]Fourth of July celebrations, military training days, and religious revivals, the enterprising family took to the streets with a pushcart to peddle their goods. In addition to running their Main Street store, they also hired themselves out as common laborers to do gardening, help with the harvest, and dig wells. In 1818 Joseph Sr., Hyrum, and Joseph Jr. began working on a farm owned by Jeremiah Hurlburt that was located across the street from the Smiths, but this relationship soon disintegrated, each party suing the other.5
Around the time of the Palmyra revival of 1817, Joseph Sr. experienced several more remarkable dreams. The one Lucy remembered best concerned his fear of standing to be judged before God. In his dream, he walked briskly to church on judgement day until he saw that there were multitudes approaching the building and that there was no need to hurry. He slackened his pace only to find the door shut when he arrived. A porter responded to his knock and informed him that he was too late, then quickly closed the door. Feeling that he might soon perish, Joseph began to pray. His “flesh continued to wither on [his] bones,” Lucy remarked. At this point, an angel asked Joseph if he had done all in his power to gain entrance. He could not think of anything else that he could do. The angel said, “Justice must have its demands and then mercy has its claims.” Joseph cried out, “Oh lord I beseech thee in the name of Jesus Christ to forgive my sins.” Immediately his strength returned and his flesh began to restore itself. The angel instructed him to “plead the merits of Jesus for he is an advocate with the father and a mediator between God and man.” Joseph was healed and the door was opened. As he entered the church, he awoke.6
The dream reflects a feeling of sinfulness, undoubtedly intensified by the local revivalist preaching. Despite a belief in the ultimate salvation of all humankind, Joseph Sr. still felt that sinners would be destroyed at Jesus’ coming and feared that he might be among them. The angel’s words, “Justice must have its demands and then mercy has its claims,” conformed to the universal restorationist belief that sinners will be punished before they are saved. Universalists were divided over the deity of Jesus as well as over the necessity of an Atonement.7 At this point in his life, Joseph Sr.—like his father—was apparently the kind of universal restorationist who continued to believe in the atonement of Christ.8 He would eventually become swept up in the tide of Unitarianism that dominated Universalist thinking by the 1830s.9 Regardless, the immediate effect of the dream was probably to cause him to repent and undergo a brief period of spiritual renewal; but in the long run, his imagined last-minute repentance probably encouraged procrastination.
Also about this time, twelve-year-old Joseph Jr. was beginning to feel his own religious stirrings. He stated in his 1832 history that his mind had “become seriously impressed with regard to the all important concerns for the welfare of my immortal [p. 27]soul.” From his understanding of the Bible and an “intimate acquaintance with those [persons] of different denominations,” he concluded that the parishioners in various churches in his community were hypocrites. In his words, “they did not adorn their profession by a holy walk and godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository. This was a grief to my soul.”10 Evidently, no one escaped the teenager’s criticism.
It seems that Joseph Jr. was adversely affected by the sectarian strife that usually accompanied revivals. “Thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen,” he later recalled, “I pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world of mankind the contentions and divisions, the wickedness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind [and] my mind become exceedingly distressed for I [had] become convicted of my sins … and I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world.”11 His emotional sensitivity to religious squabbles and his subsequent psychological distress would have originated at home. As in Tunbridge in 1803, the Palmyra revival of 1817 would have brought the religious differences of his father and mother to the surface. By blaming Palmyra’s religious community for his plight, Joseph Jr. protected his family and minimized the proximity of the conflict. Nevertheless, by reading the Bible, he concluded—like his parents before—“that mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatized from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament.”12
Joseph was a contemplative youth with a somber demeanor. Lucy confirmed that he was “much less inclined to the perusal of books than any of the rest of our children, but far more given to meditation and deep study.”13 In a father’s blessing given to his son in 1834, Joseph Sr. remarked, “Thou hast sought to know his ways, and from thy childhood thou hast meditated much upon the great things of his law.”14 Pomeroy Tucker noted that Joseph was “proverbially good-natured, very rarely if ever indulging in any combative spirit toward any one, whatever might be the provocation, and yet was never known to laugh.”15 Even on rare occasions when he indulged in “a light, and too often, vain mind, exhibiting a foolish and trifling conversation,” it produced within him feelings of guilt and shame.16
If he was distressed by the sin and hypocrisy of local religionists, he must have been pained by his own father’s lack of attention to the commandments. In his father’s preface to blessings he gave the family in December 1834, Joseph Sr. confessed that it was “a source of grief to me that I have not been more fruitful to the Lord in days which are passed than I have: I have not always set that example before my family that I ought: I have not been diligent in teaching them the commandments of the Lord, but have rather manifested a light and trifling mind: But in all this I have [p. 28]never denied the Lord. Notwithstanding all this my folly, which has been a cause of grief to my family, the Lord has often visited me in visions and in dreams, and has brought me, with my family, through many afflictions, and I this day thank his holy name.”17 If his family was equally grieved by his behavior, they concealed this fact from outsiders.
For instance, none of the family mentioned his drinking problem. In an 1834 blessing on his son Hyrum, Joseph Sr. honored him for his enduring support, saying: “Thou has always stood by thy father, and reached forth the helping hand to lift him up when he was in affliction; and though he has been out of the way through wine, thou has never forsaken him nor laughed him to scorn.”18 His drinking was evidently excessive enough to have justified criticism had Hyrum expressed it. In later years, Joseph felt regret and embarrassment over his drinking habits and recognized the pain it caused his family, which would not have been an easy admission to make.19
If Hyrum was compassionate towards his father, others were not. In his 1834 blessing on his son Joseph, Joseph Sr. remarked: “Thou hast stood by thy father, and like Shem, would have covered his nakedness, rather than see him exposed to shame: when the daughters of the Gentiles laughed, thy heart has been moved with a just anger to avenge thy kindred.”20 His allusion to Shem covering the besotted Noah (Gen. 9:20-27) reveals shame concerning his drinking problem and a son’s willingness to conceal it. His drinking evidently brought him some public humiliation, probably in Palmyra, “when the daughters of the Gentiles laughed” and Joseph Jr. defended him.
In fact, he earned a reputation for drinking in Palmyra and Manchester. His Manchester neighbor Barton Stafford said that the senior Smith “was a noted drunkard”;21 Palmyra resident Isaac Butts said he had “frequently seen old Jo drunk”;22 and Lorenzo Saunders, who knew the Smiths well, remembered in 1884 how Joseph Sr. “was always telling yarns, he would go to turkey shoots and get tight [i.e., drunk] and he would pretend to put spells on their guns and would tell them they could not shoot a turkey.”23 Martin Harris told of an incident in the fall of 1827 when some Palmyra residents “put whiskey into the old man’s cider and got him half drunk” in order to get him to talk about the discovery of the gold plates.24
Although these accounts of over-drinking come from New York, it would be wrong to conclude that his problem began in his forties. Joseph Jr.’s refusal to drink any alcohol during his 1813 surgery may be explained as an internalization of his mother’s revulsion of alcoholism and for what it was doing to her family. If the son could undergo an operation without alcohol, he seems to have been saying to his father, then his father could go through life without it.25
Sometime in late 1819 or early 1820, the Smiths left Alvin to tend the family store and moved about two miles south of Palmyra Village to a small log cabin on Stafford [p. 29]Road. It was only yards from the border between Palmyra and Farmington, the latter township being renamed Manchester in April 1822. When the Smiths moved to the area, it was thickly forested and sparsely populated. Stafford Road had yet to be properly laid out and cleared. One could travel miles along the rutted dirt road before seeing a log cabin among the trees. The Stafford farm was located about a mile south of the Smiths and was probably the largest clearing within that radius. Orsamus Turner, who remembered seeing the Smiths in their cabin during the winter of 1819-20, described the structure as “a rude long house, with but a small spot underbrushed around it.”26 The family evidently rented the cabin from Samuel Jennings since it was on his land.27
Soon after their arrival in this rural setting, Joseph Jr. irritated one of his neighbors to the point that he provoked a nearly fatal response. As Lucy later recalled, fourteen-year-old Joseph was out “at play” or “on an errand” and was returning about “twilight” when someone fired at him with a rifle. Though they never learned who wanted to cause him harm, the thought that someone might make a second attempt stayed with them for many years.28 This violent act from a neighbor was likely due to Joseph’s mischievous, perhaps illegal, adventures—activities he later described as being “common to most, or all youths” and for which he would repent.29 Among the possible activities would be stealing property and ungentlemanly conduct with one of the farmer’s daughters. The latter possibility is implied in Joseph’s subsequent admission that, prior to 1823, he sometimes yielded “to the gratification of many appetites offensive in the sight of God.”30
About this time, according to Lucy, Joseph Sr. had his seventh and final dream vision. In this dream, he was approached by a man with a small peddler’s bag on his back, who stated: “Sir, will you trade with me to-day? I have now called upon you seven times, I have traded with you each time, and have always found you strictly honest in all your dealings. Your measures are always heaped, and your weights overbalance; and I have now come to tell you that this is the last time I shall ever call on you, and that there is but one thing which you lack, in order to secure your salvation.” Joseph asked the man if he would write down that one thing. The stranger agreed, but when Joseph jumped up to get some paper, he suddenly awoke.31 Similar to his previous dream, this episode dealt with Joseph’s concern about salvation. His father’s Universalism could not insulate him completely from his Puritan insecurities. The messenger’s remark that this was his last visit may have hinted that the end of the world was imminent, and if so, Joseph must have felt anxious. Barring additional contact with the messenger, how could he learn the one thing he needed for salvation? How much time was there in which he could still make this discovery?
This may very well have influenced Joseph Jr. as well. It was not long [p. 30]thereafter—one or two years—that the teenager announced to his family that he had had his own remarkable vision. While 1820 is often assigned as the date of this first vision experience, Joseph Jr.’s earliest account, written in 1832, dated the event to “the 16th year of my age,” or 1821.32 Owing to Joseph’s later differing and expanded accounts, determining the original core of the story is a challenge. Nevertheless, when his earliest narrative is given priority and anachronistic elements are stripped away—such as the Palmyra revival of 1824-25, the addition of God the Father in the vision, and Joseph’s prophetic calling—the experience emerges as a personal epiphany in which Jesus appeared, forgave Joseph’s sins, and declared that the sinful world would soon be destroyed. Indeed, Joseph’s 1832 account is typical of a conversion experience as described by many others in the early nineteenth century.33
In this earliest and least embellished account, Joseph’s first vision is preceded by Bible reading and a sudden awareness of his sins and “the sins of the world.” Troubled, Joseph goes into the “wilderness” to pray. As he is praying, “a pillar of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day came down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of God and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord.” The Lord, or Jesus, declares, “Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee. Go thy way, walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments. Behold, I am the Lord of glory I was crucified for the world that all those who believe on my name may have eternal life.”34 In an instant, Joseph knew that his father’s Unitarian-Universalism35 was false. Nevertheless, the vision confirmed what he and his father had suspected, that the world was spiritually dead. Jesus told Joseph Jr. that “the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned aside from the gospel and keep not my commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me.” This vision addressed a theme expressed in Joseph Sr.’s previous two dreams and tapped into an anxiety about the nearness of the world’s end. Jesus declares to Joseph Jr.: “Mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them according to their ungodliness and to bring to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and apostles. Behold and lo, I come quickly, as it [is] written of me, in the cloud clothed in the glory of my Father.”36
Based on passages in the Book of Mormon which appear to contain fragments of Joseph’s first vision experience,37 I suspect that the vision, or at least the claim to a vision, may be traced to 1820-21. I therefore reject the suggestion that Smith invented the vision in the 1830s.38 However, his subsequent alterations reflect an evolving theology—particularly the addition of the personage of the Father in his 1838 account—and cautions against an uncritical acceptance of even the 1832 account.39 In fact, one should be cautious, if for no other reason, because Smith himself freely modified his original account.
[p. 31]One might suggest that this narrative should be viewed through the lens of early American visionary culture which expressed, in the same terms, visions, dreams, mental impressions, and imagination.40 It is clear that Joseph distinguished among these various kinds of experiences while at the same time he confounded their distinctions. One example is the declaration in the Book of Mormon: “Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision” (1 Ne. 8:2). Joseph described some vision experiences as having come through the “eye of faith” (Alma 5:15; 32:40; Ether 12:19) or the “eyes of our understandings” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:12, 19; 110:1; hereafter D&C), which had counterparts in early Methodist narratives. Methodist founder John Wesley, for instance, reported in 1739: “I know several persons in whom this great change [the new birth] was wrought, in a dream, or during a strong representation to the eye of their mind, of Christ either on the cross or in glory.”41 Thus, it was not unusual for early American Methodist preachers Freeborn Garrettson and Eleazer Sherman to separately recount visions using similar terminology, the former describing a vision in which “Christ was exhibited to my mind” and the latter a “mental view [of] the dear Savior.”42 One might therefore suggest that although Smith’s vision had all the power and life-changing force of any mystical experience, it may have been less concrete to the senses than he would later imply. Perhaps it was similar to his and Sidney Rigdon’s 1832 vision of the “glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father” which occurred after “the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings” (D&C 76:18-23). In this view, Smith used visual language to describe an experience that was non-sensory.
Nevertheless, in declaring an open vision, young Joseph Smith rejected his father’s rationalism and sided with his mother’s religious tradition. Lucy was a believer in dreams, but she and others of her family experienced visions as well. Following her miraculous healing in about 1791, Lucy’s sister Lovisa addressed a congregation at her community church and recounted her illness, stating: “I seemed to be borne away to the world of spirits, where I saw the Savior, as through a veil, which appeared to me about as thick as a spider’s web, and he told me that I must return again to warn the people to prepare for death; that I must exhort them to be watchful as well as prayerful; that I must declare faithfully unto them their accountability before God, and the certainty of their being called to stand before the judgment seat of Christ; and if I would do this, my life should be spared.”43 Lucy’s father, Solomon, experienced strange phenomena in connection with his 1810 conversion. In his autobiography, he described a series of miraculous appearances of bright lights and voices that ultimately led to his reformation.44 At the height of her illness in Randolph in 1803, Lucy thought she could see a glimmer of eternal light through the veil.45
Joseph’s visionary experience echoed that of other contemporary Americans. For [p. 32]example, in 1800 young Anna Giles of Chenango, New York, was distressed over her father’s Universalism and rejection of Jesus. One night she experienced a “singular dream” in which she was transported to an “open space” where, on the left, appeared a “glorious being” who she discovered was “Jesus Christ the Savior” and, on the right, her father appeared with a handful of money. Eventually, her father held the money out to her and said, “Here, child, don’t go to heaven through Christ.” She was momentarily caught between her father’s worldly influence and her need for spiritual assurance. She finally rested her eyes on Jesus, who said, “I am the way.” Her dream vision prompted her father to convert, although he had been “a strong advocate for Universalism” for many years.46
In claiming an open vision in which Jesus himself spoke, Joseph Smith surpassed the authority of his father’s dreams while at the same time confirming their basic content. The message was clear: Unitarian-Universalism was false and the day of procrastination was past. Jesus himself declared that the unrepentant would soon be destroyed. But if Joseph’s first vision was an attempt to call his father to repentance, it failed. Joseph Sr. remained unconvinced and unchanged. In fact, in his 1832 account, Joseph said that he “could find none that would believe the heavenly vision.”47 Following his later interview with an angel about the gold plates, his mother remembered that he was especially concerned about his father’s reaction.48 Encouraged by Asael Smith, Joseph Sr. may have imbibed enough of Thomas Paine’s rationalism to reject miracles and open visions—even religious enthusiasm altogether—while still believing in dreams and the magical power of special stones and mineral rods. He could reject what he considered irrational or supernatural (that is, against the laws of nature, as he understood them) and at the same time maintain a belief in things that seemed to him to have a rational or scientific explanation such as dreams and magical devices.49 He would have been encouraged along these lines by his Universalist leanings, which depended on moral as well as scriptural arguments and a kind of populist rationalism.
Also about this time, Joseph Jr. partook of a little rationalism himself when he joined a juvenile debating club in Palmyra. Orsamus Turner, an apprentice printer who lived in Palmyra until about 1820, was another club member and remembered that Joseph’s “mother’s intellect occasionally shone out in him feebly, especially when he used to help us solve some portentous questions of moral or political ethics, in our juvenile debating club, which we moved down to the old red school house on Durfee street, to get rid of the annoyance of critics that used to drop in upon us in the village.”50 Joseph was barely a teenager and was acquainted with some of the religious and political issues of his day. If he did not hear them expressed by his parents, the debating club probably introduced him to topics that touched on issues of rationalism [p. 33]and conversion, deism and miracles, determinism and free-will, post- and pre-millennialism, Unitarianism and trinitarianism, and republicanism and democracy.
Amid a swirl of emotions, ideas, and visions, the Smith family was pressing forward to try to improve their worldly circumstances. Probably in the summer of 1820, Joseph Sr. and Alvin contracted with land agent Zachariah Seymour for 100 acres of uncleared land on Farmington Lot 1, south of the Jennings cabin and just across the township and county line.51 The land had been held by the non-resident heirs of Nicholas Evertson for more than twelve years when, on 21 June 1820, the executors of Evertson’s estate conveyed to Casper W. Eddy, a New York City physician, power of attorney to sell their Ontario County land holdings.52 This sudden interest in selling large tracts of land in western New York may have been precipitated by the drop in land prices in the Genesee Valley in 1819, an event that may have contributed to the Smiths’ ability to purchase the land.53 On 14 July 1820, in Canandaigua, Ontario County, Eddy transferred his power of attorney to local land agent Seymour, who then sold a portion to the Smiths.54
Lucy remembered that the contract called for payment in three installments, each due on the anniversary of the signing of the contract. Assuming that the Smiths contracted for the full value of the land, which was assessed at $700 in 1821 (the typical value of unimproved land), they would have been required to pay about $233.33 in each installment. A down payment of 5 percent of the total purchase price was common, in this case $35, with the balance of the first installment further divided into payments throughout the first year.55 The second installment was due in the summer of 1821 and the third in mid-1822.
Lucy explained that her husband and two oldest sons, Alvin and Hyrum, “set themselves about raising the means of paying for 100 acres of land for which Mr. Smith [and Alvin] contracted and which was then in the hands of the land agent.”56 She remembered that the family “made nearly all of the first [year’s] payment” but that “the second payment was now coming due and no means as yet of meeting it.” Alvin left home in search of work in order to raise “the second payment and the remainder of the first.” After some time, he returned exhausted with “the necessary amount of money for all except the last payment.”57 He was not the only child to leave home in search of work. Joseph Jr. and Samuel Harrison are absent from the 1820 enumeration, which suggests they were away for a significant part of the year. Indeed, Joseph Jr. mentioned that he was sometimes away from home working.58 Alvin’s contribution was nevertheless significant enough to be remembered by Lucy twenty-five years later. He was no doubt an invaluable asset if not the mainstay of the family.
Meanwhile, the Smiths continued to occupy the Jennings cabin where, on 18 July 1821, their youngest child, Lucy, was born.59 They spent a year clearing thirty acres of [p. 34]land for cultivation, according to Lucy, and delayed construction of their home until the following year. A cabin may have been under construction in April 1822 when Peter Ingersoll was given a commission to occupy and work the Jennings property.60 The cabin seems to have been completed and inhabited by the Smiths after June 1822 because the property was assessed at $700, indicating that no significant improvements had been made since its purchase.61 On 2 July 1822, land agent Seymour died, leaving the Smiths with no way to make their last payment due that summer. Nevertheless, the family was understandably proud of its accomplishment. This is evident in Lucy’s 1845 description of the cabin as “a snug comfortable though humble habitation built and neatly furnished by our own industry.”62 Reflecting on this period of her family’s history, she said further: “We began to rejoice in our prosperity and our hearts glowed with gratitude to God for the manifestations of his favor that surrounded us.”63 The Smiths had waded through eight years of misery, had found their “promised land,” and now looked to a future full of promise. They would learn that the land that flowed with “milk and honey” was also full of temptations, false gods, and Philistines.
6. See L. Smith, Preliminary Manuscript, Frag. 4 (back), and Frag. 2 (back); and Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool: S. W. Richards, 1853), 72 (EMD 1:283-84). A note under the heading on Frag. 4 reads: “I thought May the same year that Carlos was 2 years old.” This was in May 1818.
7. Although by 1830 the Universalist denomination was overwhelmingly unitarian, there was the odd Universalist church like the one in Charleston, South Carolina, that declared in 1829 its belief in trinitarianism (see The Evangelists’ Manual: or, A Guide to Trinitarian Universalists [Charleston, South Carolina, 1829]). On an individual level, the matter was still fluid, as is illustrated in a letter from M. Wing to his brother living in Montpelier, Vermont, dated 10 March 1827: “You should not blame me David, for not correctly representing the sentiments of the Universalists for there are hardly two societies that agree in every thing. Those in this neighborhood, and a majority, I believe, elsewhere, believe there is no other punishment than what takes place in this world. But that which gave me most pain, was your denial of the divinity of the Son of God. It is not necessarily connected with Universalism, and I did not suppose you had embraced it” (in Rick Grunder, Mormon List 23, Mar. 1987, 15).
8. In a 1799 letter to his family, Asael argued for universal salvation, stating that should his children decide “that sinners must be saved by the righteousness of Christ alone, without mixing any of their own righteousness with his, then you will see that he can as well save all as any” (in Richard L. Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage: Influences of Grandfathers Solomon Mack and Asael Smith, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo, UT: BYU Press, 2003], 161-62).
9. I base this conclusion primarily on the Book of Mormon’s preoccupation with establishing Jesus’ divine status and its sustained defense of the Atonement. In subsequent chapters, I suggest that the Book of Mormon contains rhetoric that is both anti-Universalist and anti-Unitarian.
19. Robert D. Anderson believes that Joseph Sr.’s “tendency toward drink … approached or reached actual alcoholism” (see Robert D. Anderson, Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith: Psychobiography and the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999], 16, 55-56, n. 4). There is no difference between “problem drinking” and “alcoholism,” as alcoholics exhibit “some” loss of consistent control whereas total loss is seen only in the late stages of the “disease” (see James E. Royce, Alcohol Problems and Alcoholism: A Comprehensive Survey [New York: Free Press, 1981], 8-13).
21. Barton Stafford, 3 Nov. 1833, in Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH: E. D. Howe, 1834), 250 (EMD 2:22). See also the statements of other Stafford family members: David Stafford, 5 Dec. 1833 (ibid., 249 [EMD 2:56]); Sylvia Walker, 20 Mar. 1885, in Naked Truths About Mormonism (Apr. 1888): 1 (EMD 2:191); and Christopher M. Stafford, 23 Mar. 1885 (ibid., [Apr. 1888]: 1 [EMD 2:193]).
23. Lorenzo Saunders, Interviewed by E. L. Kelley, 12 Nov. 1884, 12, E. L. Kelley Papers, “Miscellany,” Community of Christ Archives, Independence, MO (EMD 2:156). In a previous interview, Saunders said Joseph Sr. “would go to Turkey Shoots and get drunk; pretend to enchant their guns so that they could not kill the Turkey. … He would blow in the gun and feel around the lock then tell them it was charmed and they could not kill the turkey” (Lorenzo Saunders, interviewed by William H. Kelley, 17 Sept. 1884, 2, E. L. Kelley Papers, Community of Christ Archives [EMD 2:127]). Saunders described an incident in a Manchester tavern in which the senior Smith became inebriated and on request displayed his genitals for measurement (interview with E. L. Kelley, 12 Nov. 1884, 22 [EMD 2:164]).
25. Anderson concurs, suggesting that early in their marriage, Joseph Sr.’s drinking “had become a source of conflict between Lucy and Joseph. Where else but in family arguments would seven-year-old Joseph have learned to avoid alcohol, even as an emergency medication, so adamantly” (Anderson, Inside the Mind, 27).
28. L. Smith, Preliminary Manuscript, 58-59 (EMD 1:323-24). Regarding this incident, Fawn Brodie speculated, “Since the shooting happened at the door of his own home, one cannot help wondering if young Joseph thenceforth harbored unconscious or even conscious fantasies about the would-be murderer being one of his own brothers” (Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, 2nd ed. [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976], 414).
30. J. Smith, Manuscript History, 1839, Book A-1, 5, LDS Church Archives (EMD 1:63). The words “to the gratification of many appetites” are lined out in the original manuscript. I refer to the early portion of Smith’s history, begun in April 1838, as Smith’s 1838 history, although the present draft in the Manuscript History dates to 1839.
32. J. Smith, History, 1832, 1, 3 (EMD 1:28). Smith’s 1838 history dates the vision to “early in the spring of Eighteen hundred and twenty” or when Smith was “a little over fourteen years of age” (J. Smith, Manuscript History, 3, 4 [EMD 1:60, 62]).
35. Although the Unitarians and Universalists would not merge until the middle of the twentieth century, what can be called Unitarian-Universalism emerged largely from Hosea Ballou’s 1805 A Treatise on Atonement (Randolph, VT, 1805). See Russell E. Miller, The Larger Hope: The First Century of the Universalist Church in America, 1770-1870 (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 1979), 98-106. I therefore use the term Unitarian-Universalist throughout this work to refer to individuals who held both beliefs, whether or not they were members of either denomination.
38. See, e.g., Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946), 21-25; and Wesley P. Walters, “New Light on Mormon Origins from the Palmyra Revival,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4 (Spring 1969): 60-81.
39. Attempts have been made to minimize the differences between Smith’s various tellings of his first vision, particularly the 1832 and 1838 accounts (e.g., James B. Allen, “The Significance of Joseph Smith’s ‘First Vision’ in Mormon Thought,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 1 [Autumn 1966]: 42-43). While some variation in detail may be explained as minor due to emphasis and story function, the absence of God the Father in the 1832 account, which harmonizes with Smith’s theology of the godhead at that time, is not easily explained away. On his evolving theology regarding the first vision, see Dan Vogel, “The Earliest Mormon Concept of God,” in Gary James Bergera, ed., Line upon Line: Essays on Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 17-33.
46. This story is related in George Peck, Early Methodism within the Bounds of the Old Genesee Conference from 1788 to 1828 (New York: Carlton and Porter, 1860), 181-82, which extracts the account from Charles Giles, Pioneer: A Narrative of the Nativity, Experience, Travels, and Ministerial Labours of Rev. Charles Giles (New York, 1844).
49. Alan Taylor has written: “Like the nineteenth century’s spiritualists the treasure seekers were engaged in a quasi-science that through empirical experimentation sought to perfect practical techniques for understanding and exploiting the spirit world. These seekers sought to bring their spiritual beliefs into conformity with their notions of rational inquiry and logical proof. They meant to prove to themselves that they were canny investigators rather than credulous fools” (Alan Taylor, “The Early Republic’s Supernatural Economy: Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast, 1780-1830,” American Quarterly 38 [Spring 1986]: 17).
50. Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase, 214. There are also periodic newspaper notices to “the young people of the village of Palmyra and its vicinity” to attend “a debating school at the school house near Mr. [Benjamin] Billings” (see Western Farmer, 23 Jan. 1822; Palmyra Herald, 26 Feb. 1823). When the debating club began or when it was moved to the school house cannot be determined. Turner’s use of “us” indicates that Joseph was involved with the club before Turner left Palmyra in 1820, although he was in nearby Canandaigua until 1822.
51. The original “Articles of Agreement” have not been located and would not have been copied into county records until final payment, which as discussed later, never occurred. That such an “article” existed is proven by the record of Squire Stoddard’s purchase of lands to the south of the Smith property in November 1825. The record states that Stoddard’s new land was situated immediately south of “lands heretofore articled to Joseph and Alvin Smith” (Deeds, Liber 44, 220, Ontario County Records Center and Archives, Canandaigua, NY). For a discussion of the dating of the Smiths’ contract for their Farmington (Manchester) land, see H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters, Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record (San Francisco: Smith Research Associates, 1994), 4-8; and EMD 3:424-31.
53. Richard L. Bushman, following the traditional purchase date of 1818, suggested that the Smiths contracted for their land “a year too soon” since land prices in the Genesee Valley dropped in 1819 (Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984], 210, n. 75). Now that the purchase date has been narrowed to 1820, Bushman may have pointed to the reason why the Smiths were suddenly able to purchase the land.
60. Probate Records, 24:8-9, Wayne County Courthouse, Lyons, NY. Although Ingersoll testified in 1832 that he “went on to the 120 acre lot under a contract with the administration in April 1822,” both Joseph Sr. and Alvin were listed in the Palmyra road district No. 26 that same month, indicating that at least these two members of the Smith family were in the Jennings cabin. Ingersoll was listed in district No. 1 (see “A Copy of the Several Lists of the Mens Names Liable to Work on the Highways in the Town of Palmyra in the Year 1804, …” typescript by Doris Nesbitt, microfilm in LDS Family History Library, Salt Lake City, UT).