Friday, August 25, 2023

The Jonathan Hadley account and SITH


NOTE: Because of the interest in this topic, I posted an update here: 
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ORIGINAL POST

The first known published account about the Book of Mormon was published as "Golden Bible" in the Palmyra Freeman in August 1829 by Jonathan Hadley. This is the relevant section of Hadley's article. I've numbered the sentences for ease of reference.

1. Its proselytes give the following account of it:  In the fall of 1827, a person by the name of Joseph Smith, of Manchester, Ontario county, reported that he had been visited in a dream by the spirit of the Almighty, and informed that in a certain hill in that town, was deposited this Golden Bible, containing an ancient record of a divine nature and origin.

2. After having been thrice thus visited, as he states, he proceeded to the spot, and after having penetrating "mother earth" a short distance, the Bible was found, together with a huge pair of spectacles! 

3. He had been directed, however, not to let any mortal being examine them, "under no less penalty" than instant death! 

4. They were therefore nicely wrapped up, and excluded from the "vulgar gaze of poor wicked mortals!" 

5. It was said that the leaves of the Bible were plates, of gold about eight inches long, six wide, and one eighth of an inch thick, on which were engraved characters or hieroglyphics. 

6. By placing the spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so, at least,) interpret these characters.

Proponents of the stone-in-the-hat (SITH) narrative cite Hadley's article, particularly paragraph 6, as authoritative. This includes Stephen O. Smoot, writing in the Interpreter, and Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, authors of From Darkness Unto Light and Let's Talk about the Translation of the Book of Mormon.

However, Hadley was a staunch opponent of the "whole Mormon gang" (to use his phrase). He ridiculed the idea that Joseph translated ancient records. As we'll see below, Hadley's assertion that Joseph Smith translated by "placing the spectacles in a hat, and looking into it," was hearsay that Joseph denounced. 
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The Joseph Smith Papers cites the Hadley article as authoritative. In the Glossary entry for Urim and Thummim, the editors made this statement with an accompanying note:

JS later recounted that he found such a device deposited with the gold plates, which he described as “spectacles,” or “two stones in silver bows,” and which he used to translate the plates.4

Note 4: JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 5; “Golden Bible,” Palmyra (NY) Freeman, 11 Aug. 1829, 2; JS History, vol. A-1, 5–6.

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/topic/urim-and-thummim 

For a good overview of early publications about Mormons, see 
That article briefly discusses the Hadley account.

The Joseph Smith Papers listed several reprints of the Hadley article.

Newspapers as far away as Ohio reprinted this denunciation of the “Golden Bible.” (News item, Wayne Sentinel [Palmyra, NY], 26 June 1829, [3]; “Golden Bible,” Palmyra (NY) Freeman, 11 Aug. 1829, [2], italics in original; see also, for example, “Golden Bible,” Niagara Courier [Lockport, NY], 27 Aug. 1829, [2]; “Golden Bible,” Rochester [NY] Daily Advertiser and Telegraph, 31 Aug. 1829, [2]; “Golden Bible,” Painesville [OH] Telegraph, 22 Sept. 1829, [3]; and “Golden Bible,” Salem [MA] Gazette, 2 Oct. 1829, [1].)

See Note 1 at https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/letter-to-oliver-cowdery-22-october-1829/1

Hadley's "Golden Bible" article was widely circulated and was the source for much of the popular narrative about the Book of Mormon. For example, in February 1831, a month before Joseph recorded his observation, E.D. Howe published an article titled "The Golden Bible" in the Painesville Telegraph, stating that "some two or three years since, an account was given in the papers of a book purporting to contain new revelations..." Thus it is likely one of the sources of E.D. Howe's 1835 Mormonism Unvailed SITH narrative. The "Golden Bible" article remained a topic in the newspapers as late as 1842 when Hadley wrote about it.

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Smoot, MacKay and Dirkmaat are all fine people and careful scholars. Surely they have an explanation for why they omitted a relevant historical source here. It's difficult to imagine what such an explanation might be, but we give them the benefit of the doubt with the hope that they clarify and, perhaps, correct the record.

Unless and until they do clarify, it appears MacKay and Dirkmaat skewed the historical record for no discernable purpose other than to promote the SITH narrative.

Then, without bothering to read the original sources, Stephen O. Smoot further skews the MacKay/Dirkmaat version, again apparently in an effort to promote Joseph Smith as the source of SITH.

This is an important object lesson in the fallacy of relying on someone else's work just because you like what they say. IOW, always read the original sources before purporting to tell people what they say.

We'll discuss Smoot's review after we discuss the MacKay/Dirkmaat narrative.
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It's important to note that MacKay/Dirkmaat also wrote a book titled Let's Talk about the Translation of the Book of Mormon (Deseret Book Company, published February 13, 2023).

This book summarizes their conclusions in From Darkness Unto Light. 

Except this book opens on page 1 with their imaginative description of the Hadley account that contradicts what Hadley himself said.

Then, later in the book, MacKay/Dirkmaat attribute SITH to Joseph Smith because of the Hadley account. 

In this post, after we discuss Joseph Smith's reaction to the newspaper accounts, we'll focus on the Hadley account as MacKay/Dirkmaat describe it in their first book. Then we'll look at the Let's Talk About book before proceeding to discuss Smoot's review.
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When we look at the Hadley article, we see that it tracks the narrative provided by Joseph Smith with one major exception. 

The exception becomes obvious when we consider what Joseph Smith said about newspaper accounts. The Preface to the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon is the earliest known public statement Joseph made about the translation. (Prior revelations (D&C 2-19) were not published until 1833.)

To the Reader—

As many false reports have been circulated respecting the following work, and also many unlawful measures taken by evil designing persons to destroy me, and also the work, I would inform you that I translated, by the gift and power of God, and caused to be written, one hundred and sixteen pages, the which I took from the Book of Lehi, which was an account abridged from the plates of Lehi, by the hand of Mormon… thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi, until ye come to that which ye have translated, which ye have retained…

What were those “false reports” that were circulating even before the Book of Mormon was published in April 1830?

Joseph did not itemize the false reports, but his emphatic declaration that he translated 116 pages, which he took from the Book of Lehi, indicates he was responding to Hadley's account of SITH--specifically sentence number 6. 

From Joseph's statement we rationally infer that the “false reports” included claims that Joseph did not translate ancient records.

The “false reports” then circulating were reprints of the article first published in Palmyra by Jonathan Hadley in August 1829. Based on interviews with Martin Harris and/or other “proselytes,” the article claimed that “by placing the spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith interprets the characters into the English language.”

Joseph refuted this false claim by emphasizing that he translated 116 pages which he "took from the Book of Lehi." He further explained he had been commanded by God to "translate from the plates of Nephi."

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Later, on March 7, 1831, Joseph Smith was still complaining about false newspaper reports when he explained the background of D&C 45:

At this age of the church many false reports, lies, and foolish stories were published in the newspapers, and circulated in every direction, to prevent people from investigating the work, or embracing the faith. A great earth-quake in China, which destroyed from one to two hundred thousand inhabitants, was burlesqued in some papers, as “Mormonism in China.” But to the joy of the saints who had to struggle against every thing that prejudice and wickedness could invent, I received the following.


While Joseph gave just one ridiculous example, we can reasonably infer from this that Joseph Smith didn't embrace the mainstream journalism of his day. 

BTW, while he didn't specifically refer to the "Golden Bible" in this comment, a note in the Joseph Smith Papers suggests that Joseph had the article in mind when he wrote to Oliver Cowdery on October 22, 1829. See note 1 here: https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/letter-to-oliver-cowdery-22-october-1829/1
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Thus, in the Preface to the 1830 edition Joseph refuted SITH by emphasizing that he translated the plates "by the gift and power of God." While he did not mention the Urim and Thummim by name, his main focus was on translating the plates.

Contrast Joseph's view of these newspaper articles with the way modern historians accept these articles on their face to support SITH.
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Although people cite the article (“Golden Bible,” Palmyra Freeman, 11 August 1829), no one gives an online link or mentions a source. Unfortunately, this is the type of obfuscation that leads most readers to simply take the word of the authors.

Apparently there is no extant original copy of the publication. Those who cite it rely on reprints (in whole or in part) in other newspapers. A facsimile from the Rochester Advertiser is here: https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/BOMP/id/4264

A reconstruction of the original article from the Aug. 27, 1829 issue of the Niagara Courier is here (search on the page for Golden Bible): http://sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/NY/wayn1830.htm.

In 1842, Hadley wrote a letter to the editor of the Wayne County Whig, explaining the background of his article. In his letter, Hadley incorporated the Spalding theory from Mormonism Unvailed, along with affidavits from that book and other rumors. 


For convenience, I included both the 1829 article and the 1842 letter at the end of this post.
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The book From Darkness Unto Light refers to the Hadley account in the chapter "Negotiating with Printers." 

The follow excerpts from the book shows how this is done. Original in blue, my comments in red

Jonathan A. Hadley of the Palmyra Freeman

Rebuffed by Grandin, who not only refused to help with printing but aggressively sought to derail the entire project, Joseph and Martin appear to have next solicited the aid of Jonathan A. Hadley, editor of another Palmyra newspaper, the Palmyra Freeman....


Actually, in his 1842 letter, Hadley reported that it was only Martin Harris who approached him. There is no basis for claiming that it "appears" Joseph approached Hadley.


Barely twenty years old in the summer of 1829, Hadley was nevertheless apparently approached by Joseph Smith with the same proposal: a massive print run of a lengthy book. It is likely that Smith approached Hadley because the latter repeatedly advertised his abilities and facilities, including his acquisition of “a new and choice assortment of Job Type.” ...

Now the authors skew the record even more, to say it was Joseph Smith who approached Hadley (instead of Joseph and Martin together). 

In his 1842 letter, Hadley said that it was Martin Harris who approached him, not Joseph Smith. Nowhere did Hadley state, imply, or suggest that he met Joseph personally.

Soon after the translation was completed, I was one day waited upon by Harris, and offered the printing of the Book of Mormon. This was in the summer of 1829, at which time I was carrying on the printing business at Palmyra. Harris owned a good farm in that town, and offered to mortgage it to secure the expense of printing. Though he was a subscriber to my paper, and had frequently "labored" to convert me to the Mormon faith, I was so sceptical as to utterly refuse to have any "part or lot" in the imposition, telling him at the same time, that if he proceeded with the publication, I should feel it my duty, as the conductor of a faithful public journal, to expose him and the whole Mormon gang. He took the work, however, to the other office in the village, and it was soon put to press. It was then I wrote and published an article, which you may recollect, headed "THE GOLDEN BIBLE," giving a history of the humbug up to that time. This article was extensively copied, it having been the first ever published about the Mormons.

Hadley’s immediate reaction to Smith’s proposal can only be speculated, but his publication later that summer of a scornful diatribe against the impending publication of the Book of Mormon suggests that Hadley had extensive, very detailed discussions with Joseph Smith or one of his closest associates. 

It's difficult to understand why MacKay and Dirkmaat say that Hadley's reaction "can only be speculated." Hadley himself wrote, in the paragraph quoted above, that 

I was so sceptical as to utterly refuse to have any "part or lot" in the imposition, telling him at the same time, that if he proceeded with the publication, I should feel it my duty, as the conductor of a faithful public journal, to expose him and the whole Mormon gang.

Nor does the evidence "suggest" that Hadley had any discussions with Joseph Smith whatsoever. Hadley's original article explains that he learned this from the "proselytes" of the "Golden Bible."

"The greatest piece of superstition that has ever come within the sphere of our knowledge is one which has for sometime past, and still occupies the attention of a few superstitious and bigoted individuals of this quarter. It is generally known and spoken of as the "Golden Bible." Its proselytes give the following account of it:"

In his 1842 letter, Hadley explained that:

The story of the manner in which it is said the plates were found, I have often had from Martin Harris, (the only honest man, if there was one, among the original Mormons,) which is briefly as follows:

In fact, Hadley’s negative article on “the Gold Bible” contains the earliest surviving account of many of the foundational events in Joseph’s retrieval and translation of the plates, all of which Hadley indicated were told him by Joseph himself...

To the contrary, Hadley expressly said that he learned the account from "its proselytes." Here, "proselytes" could have meant Martin specifically (as he claimed in his 1842 letter) or others such as the Smith family or anyone who was spreading the story. Hadley said the account was "soon circulated," which suggests lots of people were talking about it.

After proceeding to explain to his readers that Smith was not allowed to let anyone look at the plates, Hadley gave the earliest surviving description of the plates. In that description, the dimensions of the plates as outlined by Hadley are almost identical to those later sent by Joseph Smith to newspaper editor John Wentworth in his famous 1842 letter....

This similar description is not evidence that Joseph Smith described the plates to Hadley. After all, Martin Harris was one of the three witnesses and had seen the plates only a few weeks before visiting Hadley. 

More than just the dimensions, Hadley gave the earliest published account of the translation process, stating that “by placing the Spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so, at least,) interpret these characters.” 

This description of the translation process is in the paragraph of the account Hadley said was given by "its proselytes." Whether Hadley meant Martin specifically or other proselytes, the parenthetical in no way indicates Joseph Smith told this to Hadley personally. First, Hadley never said he met Joseph. Second, the "proselytes" describing the event would naturally say Joseph said he could interpret the characters. That was common knowledge.

Hadley's version is obviously hearsay. Prior to describing SITH, Hadley had emphasized that the proselytes told him that Joseph "had been directed, however, not to let any mortal being examine them, "under no less penalty" than instant death!" Therefore, no observer could have watched Joseph place the "Spectacles" in the hat.

Whether it was Martin or another "proselyte" who related this account of the translation to Hadley, Hadley could have conflated alternative versions he had heard from the "proselytes" and critics, or he could have repeated his understanding of Martin's account. In either case, because no one could have seen Joseph place the spectacles in a hat, the account appears to be a combination of the seer stone demonstration Joseph conducted in Fayette and Joseph's explanation that he could interpret the engravings on the plates with the spectacles.  

Hadley was also familiar with Martin Harris’s trip to the East with characters from the plates, and even that Dr. Samuel Mitchell was one of the scholars visited.

Because it was Martin who visited Hadley, it's not surprising that he related this account. Hadley wrote this in the paragraph after the account related by the "proselytes." 

Despite the obvious contempt he held for the story of the gold plates by August 1829, it is very likely that Hadley was the principal reason Smith and Harris traveled the considerable distance to Rochester in search of a printer rather than in the much more convenient surrounding communities. Hadley likely told Joseph that, despite the expansive printing skills he advertised, he had no experience in book printing or binding. 

Even assuming it is "likely" that Hadley's response prompted Joseph and Martin to travel to Rochester, his response was nothing like what MacKay/Dirkmaat imagine here. As noted above, Hadley explained his response:

I was so sceptical as to utterly refuse to have any "part or lot" in the imposition, telling him at the same time, that if he proceeded with the publication, I should feel it my duty, as the conductor of a faithful public journal, to expose him and the whole Mormon gang.

Note that Hadley wrote "telling him," referring to Martin Harris. He did not write "them" or in any other way suggest or imply that Joseph was present.

But the master he apprenticed under in Rochester, Thurlow Weed, would be a better candidate. Given the connection between Hadley and Weed, the possibility that Smith just happened to approach both men by chance seems remote. Hadley’s referral of Weed also helps explain why, by Weed’s account at least, Smith and Harris came to him first rather than other printers in Rochester that were more famous and experienced.

Here we see MacKay/Dirkmaat compound their demonstrably false speculation by portraying Hadley as having referred "Smith and Harris" to Weed. To the contrary, Hadley didn't want the book published at all, and threatened to "expose.. the whole Mormon gang" if Harris did publish it.

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In their Let's Talk About book, MacKay/Dirkmaat repeat their false narrative about the Hadley account. Using the mind-reading tactic they frequently employ, they invent history out of whole cloth that contradicts the historical record, solely to promote SITH.

For example, on page 70 they write, 

Though Hadley's small-time operation could not accommodate the herculean project of printing the Book of Mormon, he went from amiable to incensed after Joseph eventually agreed to terms with the recalcitrant Grandin rather than Hadley's more well-positioned friend in Rochester. Joseph had described to Hadley many of the remarkable events that had let him to the plates and how they were translated. Now Hadley determined to undermine Joseph Smith by relating the fantastical events Joseph had told him.

We've already seen that according to Hadley's original article and his 1842 letter, he never met Joseph Smith. Nor was Hadley ever "amiable" about the project. Quite the contrary.

But then MacKay/Dirkmaat engage in an Orwellian argument on page 71.

While antagonistic sources can clearly make a believer uncomfortable, Hadley's account is unlike any of the others that would follow it... He could only have gotten these details from a conversation with Joseph Smith or one of the witnesses to the translation.

These details could have been provided by anyone who heard rumors circulating in town. Hadley explicitly stated that he got the information from the vague, unnamed "proselytes" and that Martin Harris came to his printing shop several times. Martin was not a witness to any of the translation of the text we have today, except possibly for part of the Book of Mosiah in Harmony (D&C 5:30). Again, Hadley never claimed he met Joseph Smith or ever had a conversation with him.  

Hadley averred he had talked to Joseph himself.

This is the MacKay/Dirkmaat inference, but it contradicts what Hadley actually said about his conversation with Martin Harris. When Hadley wrote “by placing the Spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so, at least,) interpret these characters,” he was relating what others said Joseph said. Hadley did not write "Smith told me" or anything close to that.   

Because Hadley did not think Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon would amount to anything, he did not feel the need to embellish or distort the story of the plates.

By now, we all know that Hadley did not hear it from Joseph himself. But even worse, look at how MacKay/Dirkmaat read Hadley's mind in the sentence I bolded.

We can see from Hadley's original article and his 1842 letter that he was highly antagonistic from the outset. But because MacKay/Dirkmaat want to persuade readers that SITH is authentic, they turn logic on its head and conclude that Hadley "did not feel the need to embellish or distort the story." 

Readers can decide for themselves whether Hadley's explicit animosity would make him more likely to distort the story to make it sound even more ridiculous.

Nevertheless, MacKay/Dirkmaat read Hadley's mind further.

He dismissed it, for sure, but did not think the story needed to be sunk by torpedoes that were more explosive than common sense and satire. The idea was fantastical enough that no sane person would believe it--at least, that's what he assumed.

Here, MacKay/Dirkmaat make a good point: SITH is difficult to believe, both on its face and because it directly contradicts what Joseph and Oliver always said. It's no wonder why Joseph Smith complained when "false reports, lies, and foolish stories were published in the newspapers."

He published his account of the translation of the Book of Mormon in August 1829, before even the first word of the book was typeset on Grandin's press.  

Hadley did exactly what he told Martin Harris he would do.
After relating Hadley's SITH account, MacKay/Dirkmaat write, 

Evidence that his knowledge came directly from Joseph Smith is further bolstered by Hadley's explanation of the gold plates, which provide the same dimensions that Joseph Smith would himself publish but in 1829 had not ever been publicly declared.

We dealt with that previously, but it's unbelievable that these two professional historians would misrepresent the historical record this blatantly.

The mind-reading and misrepresentation continues in their book, but no need to belabor the point. Anyone can read it and see for themselves. 

Sample pages from that book are shown at the bottom of this post.
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A review in the Interpreter by Stephen O. Smoot considers this "the most fascinating insight" in this section of the book. Original in blue, my comments in red.

But perhaps the most fascinating insight to be found in this section of the book is the discussion of Jonathan A. Hadley’s 1829 account of his visit with Joseph Smith. Printer of the Palmyra Freeman, Hadley reported in August 1829 that the Prophet had recently come to him seeking to contract the publication of the Book of Mormon.

This claim tells us that Smoot did not read the original source but instead merely relied on what MacKay/Dirkmaat falsely reported in their book. As we saw above, Hadley never said Joseph visited him. He never said he ever met Joseph at all. Instead, Hadley said Martin Harris visited him.

MacKay/Dirkmaat first imagined that Joseph and Martin visited Hadley together. Smoot skews that further by claiming it was Joseph who visited Hadley.  

Although he contemptuously dismissed his account of the recovery of the plates, Hadley nevertheless reported Joseph’s description to him of the physical dimensions thereof. 

MacKay/Dirkmaat merely noted that Hadley's description (which he heard from the "proselytes") matched Joseph's description in the Wentworth letter. Smoot skews that so that Hadley's description is now "Joseph's description."

“The leaves of the Bible were plates of gold, about eight inches long, six wide, and one eighth of an inch thick, on which were engraved characters or hieroglyphics,” Hadley conveyed. He likewise reported one of the earliest accounts of the translation method of the Book of Mormon, again as it was related to him by Joseph Smith: “By placing the Spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so, at least,) interpret these characters.” 

Smoot repeats the demonstrably false MacKay/Dirkmaat assertion that "Hadley’s negative article on “the Gold Bible” contains the earliest surviving account of many of the foundational events in Joseph’s retrieval and translation of the plates, all of which Hadley indicated were told him by Joseph himself..."  

Hadley’s early report is “almost identical” in these two regards to the accounts left by participants in later years, thus reinforcing the overall credibility of the eyewitnesses who were associated with Joseph in the production of the Book of Mormon (167–168).23

Smoot's logic is inverted. First, we can all see the claim that Joseph put the spectacles in the hat is necessarily hearsay. Second, the Hadley article was republished multiple times, thereby forming a narrative that contributed to the confusion about what, exactly, happened during the translation. Just as Hadley invoked the claims of Mormonism Unvailed in his 1842 letter, that book may have relied on Hadley's SITH narrative when it described the two alternative modes of translating without the plates; i.e., the "peep" stone vs. the Urim and Thummim or spectacles.

Witnesses who related these events 40-50 years later would naturally incorporate these earliest publications, particularly when they were trying to refute the Spalding theory.

Note 23. See also the discussion in Gerrit J. Dirkmaat and Michael Hubbard MacKay, “Joseph Smith’s Negotiations to Publish the Book of Mormon,” in The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon, 155–171.


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It's important to note that the MacKay/Dirkmaat narrative is embedded in the Joseph Smith Papers as well. In the Introduction to the Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, they provide this narrative:

[Joseph] may have provided some information to Jonathan Hadley, editor of the Palmyra Freeman, whom he and Martin Harris visited in 1829 when searching for someone to print the Book of Mormon. After the visit from Smith and Harris, Hadley wrote in his paper that a “huge pair of Spectacles” was found with the plates and that “by placing the Spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so, at least,) interpret these characters.”62


Of course, Hadley himself said it was Martin who visited. He never said or implied that Joseph Smith visited.

With misleading editorial content such as this, it's easy to see why Latter-day Saints and everyone else who reads the Joseph Smith Papers is persuaded to accept SITH, even though, as MacKay and Dirkmaat point out, "no sane person would believe it." 
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THE  PALMYRA  FREEMAN.

Vol. ?                             Palmyra, New-York, August 11, 1829.                             No. ?



"Golden Bible."

The greatest piece of superstition that has ever come within the sphere of our knowledge is one which has for sometime past, and still occupies the attention of a few superstitious and bigoted individuals of this quarter. It is generally known and spoken of as the "Golden Bible."  
Its proselytes give the following account of it:  In the fall of 1827, a person by the name of Joseph Smith, of Manchester, Ontario county, reported that he had been visited in a dream by the spirit of the Almighty, and informed that in a certain hill in that town, was deposited this Golden Bible, containing an ancient record of a divine nature and origin. After having been thrice thus visited, as he states, he proceeded to the spot, and after having penetrating "mother earth" a short distance, the Bible was found, together with a huge pair of spectacles! He had been directed, however, not to let any mortal being examine them, "under no less penalty" than instant death! They were therefore nicely wrapped up, and excluded from the "vulgar gaze of poor wicked mortals!" It was said that the leaves of the Bible were plates, of gold about eight inches long, six wide, and one eighth of an inch thick, on which were engraved characters or hieroglyphics. By placing the spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so, at least,) interpret these characters.

An account of this discovery was soon circulated. The subject was almost invariably treated as it should have been -- with contempt. A few however, believed the "golden" story, among whom was Martin Harris, an honest and industrious farmer of this town. So blindly enthusiastic was Harris, that he took some of the characters interpreted by Smith, and went in search of some one, besides the interpreter, who was learned enough to English them; but all to whom he applied (among the number was Professor Mitchell, of New York,) happened not to be possessed of sufficient knowledge to give satisfaction! Harris returned, and set Smith to work at interpreting the Bible. He has at length performed the task, and the work is soon to be put to press in this village!! Its language and doctrines are said to be far superior to those of the Book of Life!!!

Now it appears not a little strange that there should have been deposited in this western world, and in the secluded town of Manchester, too, a record of this description, and still more so, that a person like Smith (very illiterate) should have been gifted by inspiration to read and interpret it. It should be recorded as a "new thing under the sun." It is certainly a "new thing" in the history of superstition, bigotry, inconsistency, and foolishness. -- It should, and it doubtless will, be treated with the neglect it merits. The public should not be imposed upon by this work, pronounced as it is, by its proselytes, to be superior in style, and more advantageous to mankind, than the Holy Bible!

The following, it is said, will be the title page of the work:

"The Book of Mormon: an account written by the hand of Mormon, upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi:

"Wherefore it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi; and also of the Lamanites, written to the Lamanites, which are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile; written by way the commandment, and also by the spirit of prophesy and of revelation; written, and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed. -- to come forth by the gift and power of God; unto the interpretation thereof -- sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by the way of Gentile -- the interpretation thereof by the gift of God: an abridgement taken from the Book of Ether.

"Also, which is a Record of the people of Jared, which were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people when they were building a tower to get to Heaven; -- which is to shew unto the remnant of the house of Israel how great things the Lord hath done for their fathers: -- and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever; and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God; manifesting himself unto all nations. And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men; wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgement seat of Christ. -- By JOSEPH SMITH, Junior, Author and Proprietor."



Note 1: The above is thought to be a faithful reproduction of the text of the article appearing in Jonathan A. Hadley's Palmyra Freeman a few days before it was reprinted in the Aug. 27, 1829 issue of the Niagara Courier. A shortened version of the article was featured in the Aug. 31 issue of the Rochester Daily Advertiser and Telegraph. That edited version of the article was reprinted by Eber D. Howe in the Sep. 22, 1829 issue of his Painesville Telegraph and in the Oct. 2, 1829 issue of the Massachusetts Salem Gazette.

Note 2: An exhaustive search of old upstate and western New York newspapers has, so far, failed to uncover any earlier, specific published reference to the Book of Mormon. However, the July and August 1829 issues of the Rochester paper, Paul Pry's Bulletin, make some obscure references to Joseph Smith's "Golden Bible." No contemporary sources provide any indication that Joseph Smith, Jr. was being "persecuted" as early as 1823-27 for claims regarding a gold Bible (or even for his miracle-affirming, restorationist religious views). The picture which emerges from a close study of early sources, is that Smith first began to talk in public about the gold Bible in the year 1827, and that he did not proclaim it to be a divine revelation intended for modern Christians, until late 1827 or early 1828. For more details see Jonathan A. Hadley's 1842 letter, in which he refers to the 1829 Palmyra Freeman calls it "the first article on the Mormons."

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WAYNE  COUNTY   WHIG. 
NS Vol. 3.                           Lyons, N. Y., Wed., Sep. 14, 1842.                           No. 51.



ORIGIN  OF  MORMONISM.

We have the following letter in a late number of the Lowell (Mass.) Journal. It was not intended for the public eye, but giving as it does a history of the origin of Mormonism, it was solicited for publication by a number of gentlemen of that city. -- We copy it, believing that many of the facts it contains may be new to a large proportion of our readers.

                    Rochester, N. Y., July 14, 1842.

Dear Brother: -- Yours of the 10th inst., making inquiries about Jo Smith and the origin of Mormonism, I proceed to answer without delay.

I went to Palmyra, the residence of the Smiths and of the early dupes of Jo, in the Spring of 1828, a year or two after the pretended finding of the plates from which the book of Mormon was translated. The story of the manner in which it is said the plates were found, I have often had from Martin Harris, (the only honest man, if there was one, among the original Mormons,) which is briefly as follows:

Jo was one night visited by an angel, and told that in a certain hill in Manchester, a town adjoining Palmyra, was deposited a record of God' s ancient people, which he was commanded to disinter and cause to be translated, for the benefit of the present and future generations. In the morning, as Jo afterwards said, he supposed this "vision," as he used to call it, to be no more nor less than "the baseless fabric of a dream," and paid no attention to it. Soon afterward he was visited again, and told that through his agency, the Lord purposed to do wonderful things for fallen man; the locale of the record was distinctly brought before his mind's eye, and he was still more strongly urged to execute the command previously made. On awakening from his slumbers, Jo said the hair of his head stood on end, like the quills of "the fretful porcupine;" that he hardly knew what to think of his holy visitor; but still he hesitated, thinking, after all, that the matter must have been only the creature of a disordered imagination. A third time was Jo visited, and threatened with the most direful calamities in this world, and eternal damnation in the next, if he did not immediately enter upon the glorious task to which he had been appointed. As there appeared to be no longer any room for doubt in the mind of Jo, the next night he took a lantern and proceeded to the spot indicated and applying a crow-bar to the end of a flat stone which projected an inch or two from the surface of a small mound, the plates were revealed to his anxious eyes! They had been deposited in a miniature vault, and rested on a flat stone, and were preserved from contact with the earth above, by the first-mentioned stone being placed upon four small stone pillars, one at each corner of the vault.

Now, understand me; these are the circumstances under which it is claimed that the plates were found -- not that I credit a single word of the story; on the contrary, I have every reason for believing that this is only the first of the numerous humbugs hatched by Jo and his Mormon horde. Indeed, Mormonism originated in humbug, has ever since been a humbug, will continue a humbug until fully exploded, and will hereafter be remembered only as a humbug.

But to proceed: These plates were said to be some dozen in number, and of the purest gold, not in the least tarnished with age, about the thickness of tin, and some nine inches long and six wide. They were fastened on the back by gold wire, which enabled them readily to open like a book; and hence the name of the "Golden Bible." These plates were covered with hieroglyphics, the like of which man had never before seen, and probably will never see again.

Now it was that Jo noised abroad his precious discovery. At first, no one would listen to his absurd story; but he soon let some knowing ones into the secret, and by dint of their united efforts, a few of the unlearned and superstitious of their neighbors were made to gulp down the story. No one, however, was allowed to examine the plates, except three or four, to which the privilege was specially granted by the angel. These individuals, the more successfully to prosecute their imposition, signed a paper, (and I believe made affidavits to its correctness,) stating that they had seen and examined the plates, &c.

Fac similes of these pretended hieroglyphics were shown to some of the most learned in this section of the country, but they proved quite too ignorant to render them into English. Some lines of them were even sent to the late Dr. Mitchell, of New-York, but notwithstanding his profound literary researches, he was equally unsuccessful.

But, fortunately, a translator was soon found, believed to be in the person of a fellow of some learning, by the name of Cowdery. Now mark: An old manuscript historical novel, the property of a deceased clergyman in Pennsylvania, had previously fallen into Jo' s possession, by means best known to himself -- the novel having been written during the college days of the deceased, and preserved in the family as a relic by no means devoid of interest, showing as it did in its design, a genius of no ordinary stamp. It was never offered to the printer, for the reason that the writer became pious, soon after it was finished, and determined to devote the energies of his mind to divinity, instead of law, could not consent to lend the influence of his plan in multiplying the works of fiction then extant. The existence of this manuscript volume was known, however, to his neighbors, many of whom had read it with much interest, all the scenes being laid in America.

If I recollect right, it was about a year after Jo obtained possession of this volume, (he having spent a few months in the neighborhood of the widow,) that the Mormon plates were alledged to have been found. It is believed that the locality of its scenes, and the historical nature of its contents, first suggested to him the origin of this miserable humbug. Hence, the coined story of the angel's visits, the finding of the plates, their wonderful contents, &c.

The "translator," whether Cowdery or some other person, dressed up this old manuscript, merely adding to it whatever the Book of Mormon can be said to contain of a religious cast, and adapting its general phraseology as far as possible to that of the bible; but preserving the general original narrative as nearly, as to enable every one who read the manuscript, readily to detect the plagiarism on a perusal of the Book of Mormon. Affidavits to this effect are already before the public.

Soon after the translation was completed, I was one day waited upon by Harris, and offered the printing of the Book of Mormon. This was in the summer of 1829, at which time I was carrying on the printing business at Palmyra. Harris owned a good farm in that town, and offered to mortgage it to secure the expense of printing. Though he was a subscriber to my paper, and had frequently "labored" to convert me to the Mormon faith, I was so sceptical as to utterly refuse to have any "part or lot" in the imposition, telling him at the same time, that if he proceeded with the publication, I should feel it my duty, as the conductor of a faithful public journal, to expose him and the whole Mormon gang. He took the work, however, to the other office in the village, and it was soon put to press. It was then I wrote and published an article, which you may recollect, headed "THE GOLDEN BIBLE," giving a history of the humbug up to that time. This article was extensively copied, it having been the first ever published about the Mormons.

I have not the patience, nor do I consider it necessary, to trace all the movements of the Mormons up to the time of their emigration to the "Land of Promise" in the West.

The appearance of their Bible, (which by the way, cost Harris his farm,) seemed to inspire them with fresh hopes, and in the course of a few months they were able to muster for their Western tour, some hundred and fifty or two hundred souls, including women and children. Since that time their position has been sufficiently public to render anything farther from me in regard to it, an unnecessary task.

But you wish to know something about the earlier history of the Smiths. They were always considered by their own townsmen as a lazy, vicious, profane, unlearned, superstitious family. They lived "from hand to mouth," spending most of the time not required for the provision of their immediate wants, in digging in the hills of Manchester for money, under the belief often expressed by them, that Capt. Kidd or some other person of wealth, had there deposited their treasures. For many, many years to come, traces of these excavations will be visible -- monuments alike of the superstition and folly of the Smith family.

As for Jo, he is altogether too stupid to write an ordinary newspaper paragraph of common sense, as the columns of the Mormon paper will bear abundant testimony. Before he got up his humbug, he was so illiterate as scarcely to be able to write his name intelligibly or spell it correctly. -- He could have no farther agency in the preparation of the Book of Mormon for the press, than that which I have already awarded him.

I may here add, that Harris, disgusted with Mormonism, left the tribe nearly two years since, as have also all of the honest persons of ordinary intelligence, who had become the dupes of Jo and his assistant wire-pullers.

Thus have I complied with your request, though with great haste; but imperfect as this sketch is, I doubt not that you have not always thought so, you will now concur with me in the opinion, that, to say the least, Mormonism was "conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity."

                  Ever yours.       J. A. H.


Note 1: This is an important and greatly overlooked historical sketch by a person who was living in Palmyra at the time the Book of Mormon was published. In tone and content the reminiscence resembles somewhat the one supplied by another Palmyra newspaperman, Orsamus Turner, in 1851. The author probably chose to contribute the letter for publication in the Wayne County Whig due to his connections with the "newspaper people" in that town. The Wayne County Whig began its life at Palmyra in 1838 but was moved the next year to Lyons, where it was continued by William H. Cole until 1855.

Note 2: Jonathan A. Hadley was editor of the Palmyra Freeman and the Lyons Countryman. The 1830 New York Census shows a "John Hadley" living in Galen township, Wayne Co., just east of Lyons -- this may have been a relative. Milton W. Hamilton's 1836 book, The Country Printer, has the following entry on p. 275: Hadley, Jonathan A., appt. Rochester, 1825; pr. Palmyra Freeman; 1829; Lyons Countryman; 1831 (with Myron Holley, ed.); Penn Yan Yates Republican, 1835; Warsaw American Citizen, 1836-37; jrmn., foreman on Rochester Daily Democrat, 1837-1847..." This abbreviated resume does not disclose the detail of Hadley serving his apprentice with the famous Thurlow Weed at the Rochester Telegraph during 1825-26. At this time Benjamin Franklin Cowdery was employed Weed's foreman -- thus, Hadley went directly from his training under the Cowdery in Rochester (Franklin) to founding the Palmyra Freeman at the very time another Cowdery (Oliver) was active the same town, helping to get the Book of Mormon published. Mr. Hadley's Aug. 11, 1829 Palmyra Freeman article on the Book of Mormon is not extant today; its text is most easily consulted in a reprint published by the Niagara Courier of Aug. 27, 1829 -- see also the Painesville Telegraph's abriged version of Hadley's article in that paper's issue of Sept. 22, 1829.

Note 3: The "paper" of the Mormons that Mr. Hadley makes mention of in his letter was the Church's Nauvoo Times & Seasons.
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Pages from the MacKay/Dirkmaat book, Let's Talk About Book of Mormon Translation.
(click to enlarge)





the end 

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