Joseph Smith and the Magical Autumnal Equinox

Anyone who regularly interacts with Mormons over Mormon history knows that “most members of [The LDS Church] in the twenty-first century know nothing of Joseph’s magical practices” (>>). I have been studying Mormonism for about ten years, and the depth to which the early Joseph Smith was immersed in a worldview of invoking magic and controlling spirits continues to amaze me. One thing that I recently learned was the significance of the Autumnal equinox to Joseph Smith’s worldview.

D. Michael Quinn writes in Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, p.120-121:

Smith’s prayer “to commune with some kind of messenger” on 21 September 1823 occurred once the moon had reached its maximum fullness the previous day and just before the autumnal equinox. The 1665 edition of Scot’s works (upon which the “Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah” Smith parchment depended) specified, “And in the composition of any Circle for Magical feats, the fittest time is the brightest Moon-light” (Scot 1665b, 215). An occult book published in New York in 1800 also stated, “Dreams are most to be depended on by men at the full of the moon” (Beverly Gipsy 1800, 19). Because the full moon was the preferred time for treasure digging (Dorson 1946, 174; Granger 1977, 225; R. Walker 1984b, 443), it is probably no coincidence that, according to Martin Harris, Smith acted as treasure-seer earlier that night (J. A. Clark 1842, 225). In fact, his prayer “to commune with some kind of messenger” may have been in response to an unsuccessful group effort earlier that evening to locate a treasure in the hill. That Smith’s experience occurred at the autumnal equinox was also significant. Because the planetary hours of invocation began at sunrise which occurred at different times, Sibly’s Occult Sciences had specified that the equinox was the time when the planetary hours of invocation corresponded most closely with the common hours of the clock (1784, 174; also deVore 1947, 179). In the magic world view, the equinox was a time when the earth could be expected to experience the introduction of “broad cultural movements and religious ideas” (Brau 1980, 194, 107).

In “Joseph Smith: America’s Hermetic Prophet”, Lance S. Owens writes:

In this light, the visit of the angel Moroni took on unusual aspects. The angel had appeared on the night of the Autumnal equinox, between midnight and dawn–hours auspicious for a magical invocation. On the day of the equinox Joseph had subsequently made his four annual visits to the hill. When finally he retrieved the plates, it was the eve of the equinox, in the first hour after midnight. Accounts suggested he had been required to take with him that night a consort (his wife), to ride a black horse, and to dress in black–all lending a further magical tenor to the operation.

As a prelude to Halloween, I suggest that the LDS Church put on a pageant during the Autumnal equinox of the story of Joseph Smith’s angelic visitations and retrieval of the plates. Only, of course, if they are willing to include the magic.

Further Reading

Comment Policy for This Post

Only those who have read Marquardt’s chapter are allowed to comment on this thread. By joining in the discussion you are promising to have already read it.

This entry was posted in Joseph Smith, Mormon History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

64 Responses to Joseph Smith and the Magical Autumnal Equinox

  1. Michael P says:

    I also found it interesting how, because of the popularity of the magic in and around the town, upon his mission to get the plates, he was famous from the get go. Everyone wanted his treasure, and it because instant folklore, if you will. All he needed was some time, creativity, and some family touch to make it believable.

  2. germit says:

    To all: Falcon said “Mormons are left to deny the folk magic of JS or to embrace it…”
    WAY too much history gaining steam to deny it, and then there’s that pesky internet thing…. much smarter to pretend that the whole folk magic and occult thing was widespread and mostly benign (a la “youthful foibles” as JS recollected this kind of thing). Bushman does a great job of even giving this stuff a positive twist and saying that it helped prepare JS to gain revelation (my Bushman books had to go back to the public library, or I’d reference that).
    Interesting how these tails take on a more “spiritial and biblical” feel to them as the years pass. The apparition with the Spanish look and beard, covered in blood, gradually becomes an angel….. this is marketing at its best, because no doubt the Spanish character helped hype the story and gain an audience (for awhile). As the audience becomes more mainstream, and not so connected to upstate NY (the burned over district), the message is put into a package that will sell to that audience, and all done smoothly and seamlessly. Brilliant. The magic thing certainly made the JS story and claims DISTINCTIVE, which I think is what he was after, and who can say that this was not successful???

    FoF and Cluff: is that cave that Cowdery and JS walkeded into in UPSTATE NY??? I thot the Hill Cumorah was in central america somewhere, or are there more than one Hill Cumorah ??? Or maybe Cluff holds to one theory, and FoF the other…

  3. Berean says:

    Mormons tell us (Christians) that we need to get our information from Mormons. I also think Mormons should get their information from Mormons. May I call Richard Bushman to the witness stand. He is a beloved Mormon historian and his books are top sellers at Deseret Books. In his exhaustive biography of Joseph Smith in “Rough Stone Rolling” he writes:

    “Emma Smith described one of them [seer stones] as ‘a small stone, not exactly black, but was rather a dark color.’ In 1841 Joseph showed his other, whitish stone to the Council of the Twelve in Nauvoo…For a time Joseph used a stone to help people find lost property and other hidden things…Later, Joseph was arrested for his activities…In exposing the Smiths, the neighbors inadvertently described a culture of magic in which they and many others in nineteenth-century New York were involved.” (p. 49)

    “The Smiths were as susceptible as their neighbors to treasure-seeking folklore. In addition to rod and stone divining, the Smiths probably believed in the rudimentary astrology found in the ubiquitous almanacs. Magical parchments handed down in the Hyrum Smith family may have originally belonged to Joseph Sr.” (p.50)

    “Lucy’s point was that the Smiths were not lazy – they had not stopped their labor to practice magic – but she showed her knowledge of formulas and rituals and associated them with ‘the welfare of our souls.’ Magic and religion melded the Smith family culture.” (pp.50-51)

    “Joseph Jr. never repudiated the stones or denied their power to find treasure. Remnants of the magical culture stayed with him to the end.” (p.51)

    “He [Joseph Jr.] may still have been involved in magic, but he was sincere when he told Emma’s father that his treasure-seeking days were over. Magic has served its purpose in his life. In a sense, it was a preparatory gospel.” (p.54)

  4. Berean says:

    Mormon historian, Richard Bushman in “Rough Stone Rolling” continues:

    “Joseph looked backward toward folk beliefs in divine power communicated through stones, visions, dreams, and angels.” (p. 57)

    “What is most interesting about Joseph Smith is that people believed him.” (p.58) [BUSHMAN SOUNDS LIKE HE IS HAVING A HARD TIME BELIEVING IN JOSEPH TOO THE MORE HE WRITES!]

    “Lucy said Joseph was put on probation. If he showed proper penitence, the interpreters would be returned on September 22, the day of his annual interview with Moroni for the past four years.” (p.68)

    “When Cowdery took up the job of scribe, he and Joseph translated in the same room where Emma was working. Joseph looked in the seerstone, and the plates lay covered on the table. Neither Joseph nor Oliver explained how translation worked, but Joseph did not pretend to look at the ‘reformed Egyptian’ words, the language on the plates, according to the book’s own description. The plates lay covered on the table, while Joseph’s head was in a hat looking a the seerstone…By any measure, transcription was a miraculous process, calling for a huge leap of faith to believe” (pp.71-72)

    “The boy who gazed into stones and saw treasure grew up to become a translator who looked in a stone and saw words.” (p.73)

    Joseph Smith was a practitioner of divination (magic), he consulted familiar spirits and was a necromancer. Deuteronomy 18:9-12 says that anyone that does these things is an abomination to God. For this reason and many more Joseph Smith is a false prophet. Almighty God doesn’t do business with the tools of Satan in delivering His revelations (words) to His people. His word has never needed to be hid in treetops and caves or not kept away from people seeing it. This non-Christian cult formed by Joseph Smith is an abomination in God’s sight and those that knowingly continue in it will end up in the same place as Joseph Smith – outer darkness. Christians try to warn Mormons so that won’t happen.

  5. faithoffathers says:

    The comments from Quinn and Owens are mere interpretations without evidence to support their arguments. I enjoyed Marquardt/Walters chapter and found nothing in the source material that was damaging to Joseph. The whole business of Joseph wearing black and riding a black horse is only provided by Willard Chase and is not corroborated by the others.

    It is quite easy to look back 190 years and laugh at culture and people. In the Palmyra Herald, July 24, 1822 it was stated:
    “digging for money hid in the earth is a very common thing and in this state it is even considered as honorable and profitable employment”
    “One gentleman…digging…ten to twelve years, found a sufficient quantity of money to build him a commodious house.
    “another…dug up…fifty thousand dollars!”
    At age 16, one might read this and consider pursuing such a living. It was a largely accepted part of their culture. What the record supports is that Joseph had a gift, and many people testified that he could find lost objects with the seer-stone. The whole 1826 “trial” is overblown. What we know about this is: 1. It was an examination, not a trial 2. It was initiated by Josiah Stowell’s nephew who within one month of the examination became a licensed exhorter for the Methodists (He was later very angry that Stowell joined the church formed by Joseph). 2. The seven witnesses all agreed that Joseph DID possess a gift of sight. 3. There was editing of the testimonies of the witnesses.
    Berean,
    You said, “His word has never needed to be hid in treetops and caves or not kept away from people seeing it.” What about the tablets containing the commandments delivered to Moses?
    A great many stories in the Bible could be dismissed as relying on “supernatural” or “magical” powers. Moses’ staff healing all those who gazed up it. Jacob used rods to cause Laban’s cattle to produce spotted, speckled offspring. Joseph’s (of Egypt) silver cup in which “he divineth.” I could go on.

  6. faithoffathers, you’ll need to specify what you think was mere baseless interpretation from Owens and Quinn. Quinn especially is riddled with substantiation.

    To so casually brush aside Willard Chase, who “was a neighbor and friend of the Smith family”, and who is providing information consistent with a larger established pattern of Smith’s participation in folk magic, seems unreasonable.

    The extent to which money-digging was “accepted” is exaggerated by defenders of Joseph Smith, as even at the outset people seemed concerned that Smith’s religious claims were so soiled by his “scrying” affairs. Calling Smith into question on account of his money digging and immersion in folk magic is not something that began in the 20th or 21st century. It was an immediate concern that began in the 19th century. Isaac Hale sure didn’t “accept” it when it came the matter of the marriage between Emma and Joseph. That’s why they had to elope.

    As I have said many times before, the problem with Joseph Smith’s fascination with and participation in folk magic is not that it involves supernaturalism (as though supernaturalism were inherently discounted). The problem, rather, is two-fold:

    1. The intimate tangling of Mormonism’s earliest events and folk magic / money-digging is sanitized to the degree that common Mormon knows nothing significant about it.

    2. This intimate tangling calls into question the nature of Smith’s earliest claims. The pretensions of guardian spirits and vast underground treasures seems to have a direct relationship with Mormonism’s earliest stories.

  7. Jeffrey says:

    [Snipped. See my comment below about clean-up.]

    That chapter was a long read, but good to know. I wonder how hard it would be to run through the forest as a 22 year old with what LDS sources deem as “50-60 pound gold plates” and stiff arming a couple men trying to assault him. I mean, if it could be slung over your shoulder like a backpack, thats a different story. But think about this. Joseph Smith would have to beat their heiny’s pretty bad to have them not get up and chase after him. Wasn’t his home 2 miles from this site? If they chose to pursue him, he would have to be running 2 straight miles with an extra 60 lbs in his hands.

    And you wonder why we question the validity of Joseph Smiths story? It is truly magical.

  8. observer says:

    None of us were there almost 200 years ago. Ours is an incomplete view of what really happened.

    [Snipped. See my comment below about clean-up.]

  9. GRCluff says:

    germit asked:
    “FoF and Cluff: is that cave that Cowdery and JS walkeded into in UPSTATE NY??? I thot the Hill Cumorah was in central america somewhere, or are there more than one Hill Cumorah ??? Or maybe Cluff holds to one theory, and FoF the other…”

    This is a magical thread, so maybe I WILL share my opinion. I could catch some real flack for this one, so please, hold on to your hat.

    The cave, with the table is not located in New York at all. Where is it then? I think it is found in Chalk Creek caynon above Fillmore Utah.

    You see, there was some engravings found on a cliff towards the top of the canyon. Brigham Young went up there and translated them. He said it was a note from Moroni. You see, that canyon was where Moroni hid from the Lamanites for so many years. He packed up the gold plates and took them east to New York before he died. And left a note for BY before he left.

    So- When Moroni (the angel) came to get the plates after they were translated, he did’nt take them back to heaven, he put them back in his private study. (The cave in the mountians)

    When JS needed witnesses, they were carried by the spirit to the cave. Magic? Sure why not. It works for me.

    At least the story is consistent.

  10. Ralph says:

    Well where can I start with this one? So much that can be said. May as well just leave it with a small simple defence (for want of a better word).

    Did anyone notice that there were a few people who were ‘witnesses’ outside of family to JS returning home from picking up the plates and running 2 miles with them? Question, if JS made it up why did he return home and ‘retrieve’ the plates as soon as he found out about the parties looking for them? Why didn’t he just say that they were protected by a very strong magical spirit who wouldn’t let anyone else find or get near them? That way people could look all they wanted and find nothing and JS would have been covered. His coming home and retrieving the plates adds more credence to them being real than not. NOTE: I am not saying it is irrefutable evidence.

    It says in the Bible that there are many gifts of the Spirit and all are given at least one. When I read it, I believe that it is not specifying just the believers but all on this earth. For instance one of these gifts is healing. There are people out there who have been miraculously healed by another person – who knows, the healer may have that gift. There is the gift of faith, to become converted one needs faith – it can be given to a non-believer which will then assist them to become a believer. JS could have been given some of these gifts which he discovered in his younger days and used them for what he has been accused of – ie money digging. If so, then he may have used them incorrectly, but it assisted his to develop them for his future as a prophet. He was young and impressionable and thus may have picked up the ideas of using his gifts from other sources. But remember he was told (according to the chapter) by the spirit guarding the plates that he had to stop doing it from then on.

    Just some musings from a poor, deluded mind.

    Falcon, I have caught an Ev use 2 IDs before too, so it’s not just us LDS.

  11. Michael P says:

    Ralph, I am sure there is more to rebut with, but part of the trouble with Smith’s use of magic is that he continued to use it to ‘translate’ the plates. Using a rock, putting your head in a hat, whatever he used, outside of prayer, is using magic.

    He evidently did not turn away from it.

  12. GB says:

    So we have a ONE time event, that’s timing may have been related to a full moon and an equinox, and that makes it MAGICAL and OCCULTIST. Throw in the visitation of one from the DEAD, or should we say one RAISED from the dead and the connection is complete and solid.

    There you have it, “proof” positive that Mormonism is related to magic and the occult.

    The only thing that could make it worse would be if it was an ANNUAL event timed directly by an EQUINOX AND A FULL MOON celebrating the rise from the DEAD. What more “PROOF” would we need that any group involved with such activity is connected completely and solidly to MAGIC and the OCCULT?

    Welcome to Christianity folks!

    Yes that is right!

    Ah those MAGICAL and OCCULTIST Christians have been celebrating the rise of the DEAD, EVERY year on Easter Sunday.

    And Easter Sunday is timed directly after the first FULL MOON on or after the Vernal EQUINOX.

    And to top it all off, those MAGICAL and OCCULTIST Christians use the instrument of the death of their God as their SYMBOL.

    SYMBOLS of DEATH, FULL MOONS, EQUINOXES, proof positive that Christianity is MAGICAL and OCCULTIST.

    This reminds me of Luke 6: 41 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
    42 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.

    Cheers!!

  13. Ralph, my short answer is that I think Joseph had a habit of telling exciting and fascinating stories to those around him. Being told a story by Smith, or being a part of Smith’s storytelling, doesn’t instantly make you a real “witness” to the plates.

    It says in the Bible that there are many gifts of the Spirit and all are given at least one. When I read it, I believe that it is not specifying just the believers but all on this earth.

    In the context of Ephesians and 1 Corinthians (where gifts of the Spirit are spoken of), it is only justified, regenerated believers who are sealed with the Spirit that have the gifts of the Spirit. They are giving for the building up of the body of Christ, with its many parts. In Paul’s writings he makes it very clear that you are either “in” Christ by faith or you are not. Needless to say, spreading the gifts of the Spirit (as spoken of by Paul) like peanut butter over all of humanity is not warranted by the inspired text.

    GB, Christians have celebrations on days that you could say were “baptized” from something pagan into something Christian. When Christians celebrate Easter it has nothing to do now with the alignment of the sun, moon, or stars, or with a tradition that guardian spirits are more easily invoked and magic more easily conjured. Nor do we attempt to speak with the dead, dress in black in accordance with occultic traditions, or look through magical stones. Hence, trying to parallel the annual Easter egg hunt and the Sunday morning sermon on the resurrection with Joseph Smith’s folk magic and occultism is not compelling.

  14. falcon says:

    [Snipped. See my comment below about clean-up.]

    GB,
    You Mormons pull this type of reasoning out when you can’t support your “prophet” and his occult connection. It’s the old equivalency argument. Try to make some goofy connection with Biblical Christianity and then jump up and down and scream “see it’s all the same”. That’s usually RALPH’s ploy but it must run through the DNA of Mormonism. Mormonism is occultic in it’s origin and practices and has no relationship to Biblical Christianity. In Acts 19:17-19 “…..and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

    [Snipped. See my comment below about clean-up.]

  15. GB says:

    Aaron “When Christians celebrate Easter it has nothing to do now with the alignment of the sun, moon,. . .”

    HELLO!!! Earth to Aaron!!!

    Easter Sunday is timed directly after the first FULL MOON on, or after, the Vernal EQUINOX, and has been since the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

    That has EVERYTHING to do with the SUN and the MOON!!!

    Your effort to tie the first appearance of Moroni to magic and occultism is NOT compelling.

    It is a shame to have to waste a post RESTATING the OBVIOUS!!!

    I also notice that the further your sources are away from the primary, the more magical and occultist they get. Coincidence?

    I think NOT!!

    Cheers!!!

  16. GB, I don’t think you quite understand. Take Christmas, for example. Christians do not celebrate December 25 because of Winter solstice (the original reason, from what I understand, that day was celebrated). The day has been, as I described with Easter, “baptized” / transformed from a pagan festival into something different.

    Joseph Smith didn’t just happen to pick the day of the Autumnal equinox for his occultic excursions. The magical traditions of the Autumnal equinox were wrapped up in the very meaning and tenor the event.

    I also notice that the further your sources are away from the primary, the more magical and occultist they get. Coincidence?

    From what I have observed, the earlier an account is regarding Smith’s experiences the more likely it includes aspects of occultism and folk magic. On the contrary, the further a source is from the original events, the more sanitized it is, cleansed of folk magic and occultism. Thus, my complaint that most Mormons today have very little idea of the depth of Joseph Smith’s involvement with folk magic and occultism.

    Take care,

    Aaron

  17. falcon says:

    GB,
    I also hate to waste my last post of the day on this but I’m thinking that this sun-moon phases business probably has something to do with marking time. Just maybe. I’m not much of a scientist but I think I remember this from general science. You see the earth rotates on it’s axis once every 24 hours and that’s a day. Now when this happens 365 times you get a year. We have the shortest day of the year and the longest day of the year. I think that has something to do with the seasons and marking time. If I practice lapidary or if I like collecting rocks, I’m not an occultist. However, if I start scrying with them, then I am. Same with using the sun and moon to mark time. I’m not looking for alignment as in astrology. You’re making a leap that would do a long jumper proud.
    You can keep trying, but Mormonism is founded in the occult and continues in occult practices to this day period. Keep flailing away but that’s just the way it is.

  18. Sharon Lindbloom says:

    This is a little late, responding to a comment posted yesterday, but here goes. FaithofFathers wrote: “It is quite easy to look back 190 years and laugh at culture and people. In the Palmyra Herald, July 24, 1822 it was stated: ‘digging for money hid in the earth is a very common thing and in this state it is even considered as honorable and profitable employment…'” The Palmyra Herald article was also laughing at the culture and people who practiced money digging. The article fof quoted was written tongue-in-cheek. An article in the Wayne Sentinel (Palmyra, NY) on February 16, 1825 provides a more serious look at the practice:

    “Money digging. — We are sorry to observe even in this enlightened age, so prevalent a disposition to credit the accounts of the marvellous. Even the frightful stories of money being hid under the surface of the earth, and enchanted by the Devil or Robert Kidd, are received by many of our respectable fellow citizens as truths. We had hoped that such a shameful undertaking would never have been acted over [again in] our country, till the following event occurred, not long ago in out vicinity.”

    The temptation to excuse Joseph Smith’s occult practices because ‘everybody was doing it’ seems ill advised. In today’s culture, for example, would we make excuses for an LDS apostle who lived for several years in an intimate relationship with a woman, without the benefit of marriage, after he’d been called by God to be a special witness? After all, this sort of living arrangement is an accepted part of our culture. How should we respond to such a man if he excuses himself, saying he was only guilty of “foolish errors” and “the weakness of youth” brought about by a “native cheery temperament”?

  19. faithoffathers says:

    Aaron,

    The baseless interpretation of both Quinn and Owens was their judgement that the timing of the visitation of the angel Moroni had a connection to the equinox, etc. There is nothing in the record that would suggest this. They are going down a path of conjecture and concluding things that others who want to will inevitably accept as truth. When you mix bias (which we all have) and conjecture about a topic about which most who are even aware of are emotional, the result is rarely anything but far from the truth.

    It is the race to judgment that is suspect and unfortunate. Too many of us hear something that fits in with what we want to believe and accept it because it adds security, even before hearing alternative perspectives or explanations.

    Quinn’s thesis for his book was largely based on the Salamander letters, which were shown to be forgeries. He had to make some big stretches and jumps to hold his thesis together after this revelation. I highly recommend a review of Quinn’s book from somebody with formal education in the history of magic. It is at the FARMS website and is entitled “Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, Revised and enlarged edition” by John Gee. I have read all the articles encouraged by MC- even watched videos from Mr. White. If you want the other side, Gee does what I think is a good job of presenting an alternative view. (It is a long piece).

    We maintain that Joseph operated by the power of God in the events surrounding the restoration and translation of the Book of Mormon. What do people know about the Urim and Thummim in ancient times? It has a biblical history consistent with Joseph’s description and use.

    The reason I keep trying to bring the conversation to the Book of Mormon is that IT is the most concrete thing we have as a result of the events surrounding Joseph. We have always claimed that it is his greatest witness. And I believe there is a mountain of ignored evidence within the Book of Mormon.

  20. Sharon Lindbloom says:

    Speaking of double identity on Mormon Coffee, Ralph mentioned another person (an Evangelical) who he recalls posted comments under two names. I’d just like to remind everyone that we are unhappy with anyone who tries to get around the comment policy rules. Please, let’s all be above board and honorable in our dealings with one another.

  21. faithoffathers,

    Are we correct in saying that you do not believe the event of the Autumnal equinox had anything whatsoever to do in connecting Joseph Smith’s magical worldview and his account of angelic visitations? Did Joseph Smith just coincidentally happen to pick the Autumnal equinox, and did this choice of an annual timing just happen to coincide with significant beliefs in occultism and folk magic, and did other aspects of the Smith family’s behavior just happen to coincide with occultism and folk magic?

    Quinn’s thesis for his book was largely based on the Salamander letters, which were shown to be forgeries.

    While the forgeries historically occasioned the writing of the book, so did they also occasion the justification given by other Mormon professors and historians (include Richard L Bushman) for Joseph Smith’s magical worldview. Rationale was given by “faith-promoting” Mormons at BYU even for the salamander story itself. That said, I’d challenge you to tell us one fundamental part of the thesis in Quinn’s book that was dependent on the Salamander letters. In fact, Quinn’s book

    in no way uses any of the documents so skillfully manufactured by Hofmann. Instead Quinn draws on a colossal amount of research to show that “the first generation of Mormons (especially the Joseph Smith family, the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, nearly half of the original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and some of the earliest converts from New York and New England) shared a magic world view that predated Mormonism.” Quinn specifically cites evidence of Joseph Smith’s participation in magical practices of treasure digging, his possession and use of instruments and emblems of folk magic, and his continued use of such implements for religious purposes during the establishment and early years of Mormonism. Among the sources of this evidence are members of Smith’s family, including his mother, the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, Brigham Young and other early church leaders. (>>)

    As for Gee, if you can think of anything specific in his coursework and academic research that challenges any of Quinn’s major theses, please do tell us. Otherwise, most everything you’ve said—no offense—gives me the impression that you’re blowing smoke. Perhaps you are unaware that the general idea that the magical worldview played an integral part of Joseph Smith’s early religiosity… is something Mormon historians like Richard Bushman aren’t entirely uncomfortable with.

    Remember, there are real, tangible seer stones in the LDS First Presidency vault. Critics aren’t making this stuff up.

    Please, reconsider your allegiances,

    Aaron

  22. GRCluff says:

    falcon said:
    ” I’m flabergasted-if that’s a word-that’s what I am at this moment. WHEW, my hair is blown straight back.”

    Berean said:
    “Unbelievable. I can’t respond seriously to anyone who patently makes excuses for JS’s practice of divination and necromancy which is condemned in the Bible.”

    I knew I could count on you. Did I not warn you to hold on to your hat? No I did NOT mean the black had with the stone in the bottom.

    Now how will you respond to this?

    Matt 4:8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

    Is this possible? Did they really go to a high mountain? He was fasting at the time, was it an out of body experience?

    I know what you will tell me. He was God, he could do anything he wants. Now wait– it wasn’t Jesus who did the taking.

    It Jesus could be carried to a mountain, the JS could be carried to a cave. If one is possible the the other is as well.

    Your problem is the Bible. If it is impossible and unbelievable, but in the Bible, then it can be ok, but if it is impossible and unbelievable but in our day? No way.

    Where is your faith man?

    If Christ can be carried to a mountian and see the kingdoms of the world, then JS can be carried to a cave and see the ancient artifacts of Moroni.

    If you reject one you must reject the other on principle. Do you still believe the Bible now?

  23. Berean says:

    [Snipped. See my comment below about clean-up.]

    No, I don’t have a hat with a stone in the bottom of it. The vault at LDS archives I think has enough to go around probably and I don’t engage in divination.

    Matthew 4:8? Is this it? What about it? Why are you making something more out of this verse than what it is? How will I respond?

    Cluff: “Is this possible?”
    Berean: Yes, the text says that it did. The Bible is God’s Word and He does not lie (Heb 6:18).

    Cluff: “Did they really go to a high mountain?”
    Berean: Yes, that is what the text says. Look at the geography of that area. Most of the mountains were less than 4,000 ft. in elevation. Mt. Hermon is the tallest mountain in Israel at 9,200 feet. Jesus taught in villages near Caesarea Philippi at the foot of Mt. Hermon in Mark 8:27. Is it possible they could have gone to the top of Mt. Hermon? Yes, but the Bible doesn’t say. Walking up Mt. Hermon isn’t a problem. It wasn’t like Satan & Jesus went up Mt. Everest for a talk.

  24. Berean says:

    Part 2

    Cluff: “He was fasting at the time”.
    Berean: Yes, so what? Do you have any idea of what the human body is capable of under stress and trial? I found out just a sampler myself going through Army Ranger training. Now Jesus was God and had divine attributes. If He wanted to walk up Mt. Herman and was hungry then I’m sure He could have done it. He willingly went to the cross and that is something nobody could do. I know I couldn’t do it no matter how much special ops training I had!

    Cluff: “Was it out of body experience?”
    Berean: No, and to assume it was is a faulty assumption on your part.

    Satan didn’t “carry” Jesus to or up the mountain. Where do you get that from? Satan “taketh him up”. Satan calls Jesus out for a walk – to go somewhere. HE LEADS JESUS UP TO THE MOUNTAIN. Don’t make something out of it that isn’t there. Jesus knew this was going to happen. Jesus is omniscient. After all, Jesus created Satan (Col 1:16). Jesus walked on water. Satan is a spirit being/fallen angel. If Jesus wanted to float up to the top of Mt. Herman or wherever He could do that because He is God.

    No, my problem isn’t the Bible. It’s your problem because it doesn’t support your baseless, ridiculous assumptions and arguments. Jesus had/has attributes that ole JS could only dream of and putting his name in the same sentence with Jesus makes me want to repent and scrub my hands.

    Where is my faith? It’s in the Word of God and the deity of Christ – not some half-pint, wannabe magician from New York with his head in his hat looking at a rock. I can fully reject JS because he was a false prophet and practiced divination and necromancy.

    Do I still believe the Bible? More than ever after having this conversation. Thank God my feet are on the foundation that Christ established (1 Cor 3:11) and not some 19th century American fairy tale.

    Back to Mosiah to finish reading more of the tall tale that is leading Mormons to outer darkness…to be continued.

  25. GRCluff says:

    Berean:
    I get a rant? You are on a roll.

    So he could have WALKED to an exceedingly high mountian after fasting for 40 days? Well, he is God.

    Matt 4:5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple

    Could he set himself on the pinnacle of the temple too?

    You did all that ranting, but you missed the best rant entirely. Being the good Mormon and all, I can be good enough to fill in the blanks. We all like to shoot ourselves in the foot.

    Here it is:

    Yes, Yeeesss. (Talk like a snake now. Think serpentine) The DEVIL took JS to the cave? He had the power to take Jesus. Now isn’t that the topic of this thread? His involvement in the occult?

    Now Cluff, you are agreeing that his source of his power was the devil? (End future quote)

    It is all part of my master plan. If I can get you to agree that JS needed SUPERNATURAL power to do all that he did, then it is a short jump to move the source of his power from one side to the other. (Can you see my evil grin?)

  26. Ralph says:

    Aaron,

    By your comment ”Ralph, my short answer is that I think Joseph had a habit of telling exciting and fascinating stories to those around him. Being told a story by Smith, or being a part of Smith’s storytelling, doesn’t instantly make you a real “witness” to the plates.” you completely remove all credence of the ‘witnesses’ who discuss the matter about JS trying to remove the plates from the box with the guardian angel/spirit. Let’s look at a few quotes from the Marquardt chapter to see what I mean –

    ”That June, Joseph Smith, Sr., told Chase a remarkable story…”

    ”…a resident of Colesville for whom Smith worked briefly, recounted a very similar story. Joseph Knight…”

    ”…Fayette Lapham visited the Smith family with a friend, Jacob Ramsdell, and talked with Joseph Sr. about finding the buried record…”

    ”…Hiel and Joseph Lewis, cousins of Emma Hale Smith, recorded their recollections. According to the brothers, Joseph had told, probably in early 1828 in Harmony, Pennsylvania, how he discovered the plates.”

    The all are relating a story told to them by JS or one of his family. Now if we look at the other people I was referring to who told the story about JS coming straight home from a paying job to go out at night and run 2 miles home through the woods and being waylaid by a few men, there were a few people at the Smith home, Josiah Stowell and Joseph Knight, when JS arrived with a dislocated finger and told the story.

    So if recounting a story that you heard is not a witness then we cannot take what these men said about JS first 4 trials at gaining the plates and the ‘magic’ involved with that event.

    But as I said, it is not conclusive evidence that the plates existed, but to me, it adds credence to their existence. JS could have stayed and finished the job and received a full pay and said that the same spirit he fought would keep the plates safe and hidden from from others.

  27. germit says:

    FoF: Just curious about you point with the Urimm and Thummim. Are you saying that JS use of scrying is consistent with the bible’s use of the U and T ?? I don’t want to rebut your comment until I know what your comment really is. I would be happy to check out John Gee’s stuff on the magic topic, but could you point out for our MC audience just one or two flaws in
    Quinn’s thesis? If you could show us where he went awry in his history, you could gain some traction in your argument. Are we misunderstanding what JS was involved in, or is it no big deal because folk magic was prevalent in the area ?? Just curious.
    GB: your points about Christmas and Easter are stretched to the max. No christian is under any obligation to even honor those days in order to be faithful to ANY gospel imperative. These are cultural add ons, some are turned off by the pagan history of the date thing and choose to avoid the ‘holiday’ altogether, which is fine. The comparison to early Mormon history couldn’t be weaker, but bang on this drum all you want if it makes you feel better.

  28. faithoffathers says:

    One of Quinn’s fundamental problems is his failure to use terms like “magic” and “occult” they way they were used in Palmyra in 1830. He ignores research on the history of these terms over the decade preceding his book. Its use in academic circles has largely been abandoned because it has been so uniformly manipulated by people seeking to tarnish those, from almost all walks of life, to whom it is applied. He uses a modern definition for magic from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, but excludes the 3rd definition in his book:

    3: the art of producing illusions by sleight of hand.

    He eliminated any notion of trickery or being a fraud in his definition. Yet it can be seen that the “neighbors” so frequently referred to in [filtered profanity or slur] literature used the word “magic” most often to mean a “deceiver” or “con-man,” consistent with Joseph’s description of the reaction to the first vision, etc.

    For example, Pomeroy Tucker, a frequently quoted early [filtered profanity or slur] uses the term magician to refer to a “young imposter” who led “his dupes,” a “selected audience of ignorant and superstitious persons,” through “mystic ceremonies” with “some sort of a wand in his hand,” and who played “tricks” that were “sufficiently artful” that they “were not too absurd for the credence of his fanatical followers” as part of a “long-continued and astonishingly successful career of vice and deception.” The one example of “magical” practice he gives is a “scheme” to obtain “fresh meat.” So Tucker used “magic” to mean exactly what Quinn left out in his definition.

    His definition of “magic” is so poor and loose that he even states that it is “difficult to distinguish between manifestations of magic and religion.” He includes “Jews, Christians, and Mormons” among those involved in magic. Quinn also argues that Jesus was involved in magic using techniques from the Greek Magical Papyri.

  29. faithoffathers says:

    Other “neighbors” are quoted in similar fashion to support Quinn’s thesis. The same equivocations of definition are applied to the word “occult” and “conjurer” as well with similar results. He claims Moby Dick contains “a hidden sub-text of complex occult meaning.” Oh, and Isaac Newton was “most involved in the occult.”

    Quinn relies heavily on the Hurlbut-Howe affidavits even though it has been demonstrated that the people who supposedly gave them lied- not just gave inaccurate reminiscences but told blatant falsehoods. (By the way these people accused Joseph of “digging for money,” not magic).

    [Snipped. This is not the place to attack Quinn for arguing something that isn't specifically covered in this blog post. Avoid red herrings. And since nearly everything you have said is a parroting of Gee, you need to provide proper citation to avoid plagiarism (a mere previous mention of his article doesn't suffice).]

  30. Ralph

    I think you have taken my words and have expanded their meaning beyond what is apparent. Being told a story by Smith does not instantly make one a naturalistic witness to the plates themselves (or to any event that Smith reports concerning a remote location), but it does make you a witness of what Smith (or his father, etc.) said, and that is still important, because it gives us a picture of what Smith believed, taught, and led people to believe.

    faithoffathers,

    It just sounds like you’re repeating a complaint given by Gee about an issue of terminology. You want a more sympathetic set of terms to refer to something that otherwise makes Smith look like a kook. No offense, but you are wasting my time. If you have an alternative terminology you would like to suggest we use that meaningfully and colloquially covers money-digging, scrying, seer stones, dividing rods, interacting with guardian spirits, etc., by all means, offer it up. I am far more interested in the substance of things here than squabbles over nomenclature.

    If you want to reject aspects of Joseph Smith’s behavior that are corroborated by multiple affidavits, signed before a judge, and give the impression that Smith’s money-digging was completely naturalistic and had nothing to do with something that can be meaningfully called magic., then go for it. I’m not sold.

    I am glad that you, like others, have a three-a-day comment limit, because comments like yours don’t seem to advance constructive dialog.

  31. Warning to all: I am cleaning up this thread in light of some new additions to our comment policy:

    # Comments that do not contribute satisfactory substance may be deleted without warning.

    # Comments should follow the same vein as the original post. For example, it is appropriate to add personal comments to a personal post, but comments following a post that focuses on history should avoid becoming too personal.

  32. GB says:

    Aaron: Take Christmas, for example.

    GB: Red herring!!

    A: Christians have celebrations on days that you could say were “baptized”

    GB: If that is all it takes, then, “you could say” that anything associated with Mormonism has been “baptized”.

    There fixed it for you. Now you no longer have to spend your time being critical of things Mormon, because they have all been “baptized”.

    Falcon: . . . this sun-moon . . . business . . . has . . . to do with marking time.

    GB: Ok.

    F: . . . the earth rotates on it’s axis once every 24 hours. . .

    GB: Technically inaccurate. To the nearest minute it takes 23 Hr. 56 min. for one earth rotation.

    F: when this happens 365 times you get a year.

    GB: Technically inaccurate. To the nearest rotation of the earth it takes 366 to get a year.

    Germit: GB, your points about Christmas . . .

    GB: NEVER mentioned Christmas, pay attention next time!

    Germit: No christian is under any obligation to even honor those days in order to be faithful to ANY gospel imperative.

    GB: Irrelevant! It doesn’t change how they are timed.

  33. FoF, it is you who seems focused on the power of rhetoric, because you, in passing, make some big assertions, each of which deserves a thread of its own. Rather, you should stick to the specific claims I have made in this thread. I have not supported the thesis of Smith’s involvement in folk magic with issues of birth dates or salamanders, etc.

    I want open discussion, but I want it structured so that it can be more constructive. It’s cheap to take a topic and expand it so widely that it becomes hard to center in on the specifics that have already been mentioned. Deal with the following or move on to another thread:

    Joseph Smith was deeply involved with folk magic, and it was an integral part of his worldview.

    – One reflection of Smith’s magic worldview was his choice of the Autumnal equinox.

    – Smith’s folk magic can be supported by his association with and involvement in scrying, money digging, seer stones, divining rods, and belief in guardian spirits over buried treasure underground.

    – Smith took a horse and his wife with him, and Chase reports that Smith was dressed in black and that the horse was dark, details that are consistent with the larger pattern of Smith’s fascination with folk magic.

    I’m deleting your comment to give you another opportunity to engage these issues directly without attempting to veer us off onto straw men.

  34. GB, a red herring is a “diversion intended to distract attention from the main issue” (WordWeb), whereas my appeal to the idea of Christmas was a means of engaging your point forthrightly. Christmas is an example of a Christian holiday that is celebrated on a day that was originally associated with something pagan. Your accusation that Christians are hypocritical for attacking Smith’s choice of the Autumnal equinox is not compelling because, whereas Christians don’t celebrate Easter for any reason associated with occultism or folk magic, Joseph Smith was deeply influenced by a worldview of folk magic and the Autumnal equinox was an significant part of that worldview.

    Unless you can show that Christians celebrate Easter out of the spirit of folk magic or occultism, etc. or that Smith’s choice of the Autumnal equinox had nothing to do with his magical worldview, then you are wasting everyone’s time.

  35. germit says:

    AARON: pulled the words right out of my keypad before I had time to post in your reply to GB. Add to that the reality that the celebration of BOTH days is somewhat of a cultural artifact: they are even celebrated on different days or even weeks (late into epiphany for Christmas for some groups) and not even celebrated at all by some groups that don’t care for the pagan connection. If there is some kind of occult carry over that besmirches orthodoxy, I’m not seeing it.
    FoF: we put forward a connection to scrying, seer stones, diving rods, guardian spirits, black dress and horse…..and what category suits you if OCCULT or MAGICAL doesn’t do the trick or the treat?? How are we left to describe all this, what are better descriptors ?? As to Moby Dick or Isaac Newton, who cares?? Do his (Quinn’s) statements about JS hold up or not, and if they don’t , show us why not. Look forward to getting your feedback on this. GERMIT

  36. LDS reviewer Benson Whittle in his review of Quinn writes (BYU Studies, vol. 27 (1987)):

    [C]an the reader really accept that Joseph is going to the hill to get the plates by magic? Quinn has been keen to make his readers surmise, on their own if possible, that the practice of magic can truly be fitted into a not disreputable tradition. However, the oft-recurring phrase “folk magic” tends to denigrate the status of Joseph Smith’s activities as magus. Did Joseph really “usher in”–nay, conjure–the last dispensation by folk magic? The golden plates, whose existence it is as pointless to question among believers as the resurrection, were buried in the earth, controlled by (a) spirit(s). The young seer, having ascertained the presence and the location of the record, must go to that place at the right time, divested of pecuniary motives and wearing black, and must be in the company of the right person. He must enter the magic circle, divine the trove, summon the spirit, break the spell.

    The time was 21 September 1827, the autumnal equinox. Quinn’s case at this point–resting on Joseph Smith’s reasonably well established knowledge of astrology, on the amulets of parchment, on precise pinpointing of times of invocation reported in friendly histories, on the literature of magic known to have been potentially accessible to Joseph, on the Prophet’s known involvement in magical treasure-seeking during that period, on at least one acceptable statement that the plates were located by means of Joseph’s “wonderful stone” (123)–effectively places the recovery of the plates in the thick of the magical tradition. As we follow the narrative, disjointed though it be, we realize that the story of the “coming forth” will never be the same again. We witness the magical, autochthonous birth of a new religion, or the first and only great find of the Palmyra area treasure-seeking fraternity, or the enactment by the young prophet of a retrieval rite undertaken to convince believers of the reality of the desired event–or some blend of the above. In any event, if we have been extremely attentive in following–and at some points in industriously ascertaining–the author’s case, I believe we are prepared for this major step in the argument and must conclude that it works. The case suddenly seems very strong. If much evidence is tenuous, it must be countered that much of it is very solid. It convinces when the whole, composed of diverse strands, is woven together into a fabric suddenly greater than the sum of its parts. I have hazarded elsewhere that an imaginative act is necessary if one is to appreciate a work of the imagination. Quinn has met the one with the other and has produced a case far from imaginary.

  37. germit says:

    FoF and others: I was rereading some posts and this stood out to me. You wrote:

    “the baseless interpretation of both Quinn and Owens was their judgment that the timing of the visitation of the angel Moroni had a connection to the equinox. There is nothing in the record to suggest this.”

    Am I missing something here? Help me out with the numbers and dates, but didn’t JS go to Hill Cumorah FIVE STRAIGHT YEARS ON THE SAME DATE ?? Do I have that right?? How then is stressing that the particular date in question was important to JS some kind of CONJECTURE?? You can argue that this was the date that God/the angel gave him, but there was certainly nothing random or ‘accidental’ about it, and begs the question ‘why all the big stuff happening on the autumnal equinox, a day with heavy magical and occult baggage??’. How can this be construed as an unfair question?? An interesting aside: I’d like to count the number of times that Joseph himself disavowed any kind of significant connection to magic or the occult arts. I haven’t read Mormon history in awhile, but I’ll be alert to that when I do.
    Not too many ‘John Gee’s ‘ out there, traffic on this thread has been light. Aaron has been a little strict lately, to one and all, and with reason: but he has asked some good questions. I’d like to hear the LDS response, maybe some are being researched today and tomorrow.
    An aside: go to any LDS sponsored web site that deals with Mormon origins and see how much of a “magic free zone” it is, similar in that respect to polygamy. LDS.BLOG seemed that way to me, but I’ll check out a few more before I give too much weight to that. GERMIT

  38. I asked FoF,

    “Do you believe Smith was involved in folk magic at all? If so, to what degree?”

    He answered,

    “I believe he searched for treasure, period. I do not think he was ‘magic’ was an important part of his life to any degree.”

    Did you see that? “to any degree” I can see why FoF opted to say this in an e-mail instead of forthrightly admitting it in this blog thread. It discredits him and even pits him against prominent Mormon historians and apologists.

  39. Don’t take it too personally but I have been deleting comments from both sides. Please again see the addition to the comment policy: “Comments that do not contribute satisfactory substance may be deleted without warning.”

    FoF, if you want to discuss birth dates and salamanders, start a blog and write a post. You will not be allowed to hijack this thread with comments that don’t fall under its immediate scope, particularly in a way that doesn’t engage the main specific points of the original post.

    Am I missing something here? Help me out with the numbers and dates, but didn’t JS go to Hill Cumorah FIVE STRAIGHT YEARS ON THE SAME DATE ?

    While there is question over whether Smith even went in 1826, many Mormons believe it nonetheless. To add to the pattern, however, it is noteworthy that Smith went again in 1828 (which would be a sixth straight year going on the same Equinox date) to re-retrieve the plates:

    Smith said that between July and September 1828, the angel Moroni took back both the plates and the Urim and Thummim as a penalty for his having delivered “the manuscript into the hands of a wicked man”.[113] The angel is said to have returned the objects to Smith on September 22, 1828, the autumn equinox and the anniversary of the day he first received the plates.[114]

    [113] Smith (1853, p. 125) (stating that the angel took back the Urim and Thummim, but referring to the revelation that stated the plates were taken too); Smith (1832, p. 5) (referring only to the plates); Phelps (1833, 9:1, p. 22) (a revelation referring only to the plates and to Smith’s “gift” to translate).

    [114] Smith (1853, p. 126).

  40. GB says:

    Aaron, gemit,

    The problem you have is that the autumn equinox wouldn’t occur on the same date 5 or 6 years in a row. In fact it can occur on Sept 21, 22, 23, or 24.

    Here is one source.
    http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/astronomy/AutumnalEquinox.html

    and here is another.
    http://www.hermetic.ch/cal_sw/ve/ve.htm

  41. If I’m reading the snippets correctly from Astronomical Tables of the Sun, Moon, and Planets, the Autumnal equinox would actually have been on the 23rd for all the years in question (1823-1828). But this is irrelevant, because Smith would have gone off the local almanacs of his time. According to what I read, September 22nd was listed as the equinox for 1823 in local almanacs. I’m not sure what the almanacs said for succeeding years, but that would be more relevant than the technically scientific links GB provides (which don’t provide data for the 1800’s). The historian Quinn does write, “The specific day continued to coincide with the autumn equinox.”

    Speaking of Quinn, in this same section in Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 1987, pp. 133-143, we are told:

    “And Lorenzo Saunders said that the requirement for blackness applied to the 1827 visit (W. Chase 1833, 242; L. Saunders 1884b, 11)… Contemporary evidence may support the neighbors’ claim that Smith used the color black to help obtain the gold plates in 1827. Dr. Gain Robinson, “an old friend” of the Smith family (L. M. Smith 1853, 95; L. Porter 1971, 74), owned a store in Palmyra, and his account books of the purchases by the Smiths from 1825 to 1829 show that the first time any of the Smiths purchased lampblack from his store was on 18 September 1827 – four days before Smith’s final visit to the hill – the entry for this particular purchase beginning “Joseph Smith for Son” (G. Robinson 1825; G. Robinson 1826; G. Robinson 1827). Lampblack was a common pigment used to paint objects a deep black color (Webster’s 1981).”

    Thus, the idea that the darkness issue is not corroborated would seem false. You have not only Chase, but also Saunders and the account books of Robinson.

  42. Pingback: Mormon Coffee » You didn’t bring your dead brother Alvin? Sorry, you can’t have the plates

  43. germit says:

    GB: you snuck a post in on me, must have been a moon less night….. I’m glad you weighed in over here, but you’re just teasing us; surely you have more to say than just “the dates are wrong”…. Any other comments on the alleged magic connection?? Is your position that there really is no connection, or that the connection that exists is benign for some reason? I’m not just baiting you, I’d like to know where at least some LDS go with this train of thought. Thanks. GERMIT

  44. GB says:

    Aaron,

    You quote: “The angel had appeared on the night of the Autumnal equinox, between midnight and dawn–hours auspicious for a magical invocation.” (Joseph Smith: America’s Hermetic Prophet, Lance S. Owens).

    Which has been proven FALSE! The Autumnal equinox was not on the night of the 21st or the 22nd, but on the night of the 23rd.

    In FACT, during Joseph’s ENTIRE life, the Autumnal equinox never occurred on the 21st or the 22nd.

    From 1799 until after his death the Autumnal equinox never occurred on the 21st, or the 22nd.

    [Snipped for irrelevance. Stay on topic.]

  45. Andrea says:

    This may be deleted as it’s not directly contributing to the topic, but traditionally -in paganism at least- the “night of the equinox” is the night before the actual day thereof. It’s parallel to how nobody wants to celebrate St Patrick on March 18th or Christmas on Dec 26th. For example, if autumn arrives at (let’s say) 12:38pm Sept 23rd, the night of the equinox would be Sept 22nd. It marks the passing of, not the welcoming. (In contrast, the opposite is true of solstices.) I have no literal documentation of this, it is simply from my experience/knowledge as a pagan/Wiccan for 10 years.

    Anyway. Sharon/Aaron thanks so much for this thread; I never knew ANY of this when I was Mormon!

  46. GB, perhaps you missed my above comment,

    If I’m reading the snippets correctly from Astronomical Tables of the Sun, Moon, and Planets, the Autumnal equinox would actually have been on the 23rd for all the years in question (1823-1828). But this is irrelevant, because Smith would have gone off the local almanacs of his time. According to what I read, September 22nd was listed as the equinox for 1823 in local almanacs. I’m not sure what the almanacs said for succeeding years, but that would be more relevant than the technically scientific links GB provides (which don’t provide data for the 1800’s).

    Andrea, good point on the significance of the “night before”. As Lance Owens said:

    When finally he retrieved the plates, it was the eve of the equinox, in the first hour after midnight.

    And in 1823, as the equinox was listed in the local almanacs as the 22nd, Joseph Smith received a visit from Moroni (while his brothers were asleep in the same room) on the night before the sunrise of the 22nd (“between midnight and dawn”). As a sidenote, people seem to use the phrase “night of” in two different ways, but the context clarifies the meaning.

  47. germit says:

    GB: How likely is it that JS was up to speed on all the best scientific data?? More likely that he went on the data he had, the almanac, or am I missing something? Rather than fuss about ANY of these dates, why not give us plausible reasons why the fascination with anything ON or ALMOST on, the big witching day?? You haven’t even begun to offer any kind of theory….are you stalling ? You get credit for at least venturing over to the thread…..give us at least a little more. GERMIT
    PS to Andrea: thanks for that bit about the “eve of…”….I’ll keep that in mind.

  48. GB says:

    Aaron: According to what I read, September 22nd was listed as the equinox for 1823 in local almanacs.

    GB: Why don’t you provide your sources?

    A: (which don’t provide data for the 1800’s).

    GB: Ah, but they do.

    Germit: How likely is it that JS was up to speed on all the best scientific data??

    GB: About as likely as him being up to speed on the almanacs.

    G: More likely that he went on the data he had, the almanac, or am I missing something?

    GB: Due to the financial situation neither he nor his family were likely to have had an almanac. Although they may very well have known someone who did. It seems to me that anyone who was REALLY into the magic stuff WOULD NOT have depended on the almanac for equinox information. I suspect that they would have had much more “reliable” (in the magical sort of way) sources.

    G: Rather than fuss about ANY of these dates,. . .

    GB: Yea, ignore the evidence if it doesn’t fit your template.

    G: . . . why not give us plausible reasons why the fascination with anything ON or ALMOST on, the big witching day??

    GB: So far, it hasn’t been shown conclusively that JS himself had a fascination with “the big witching day”. It is ridicules to believe that he was fascinated with the stuff, yet didn’t write about it, or have it permeate the doctrine he taught.

    G: You haven’t even begun to offer any kind of theory….

    GB: The angel Moroni appeared in response to prayer. The timing was inconsequential.

    PS Are you still wearing that itchy stuff?

  49. germit says:

    GB: thanks for your concern for my comfort, I’ve changed back to my favorite orange fleece top, so I’ll avoid connecting PROPHET and OFFICE, at least till my rash clears up.
    Well, I guess one can hold to the date as being important to Moroni, or to God HIMSELF…. or one could say that making that EXACT date required for five years (at least) running shows nothing at all…I would call that a ‘stretch’, the same odds as pulling the same card out of 7 blended decks FIVE TIMES RUNNING. At least I think that’s an approximate probability. God is certainly not constrained by probability, so maybe it was HIM, but you can see why a person might wonder.
    As for JS and almanacs, I think his was a ‘reading family’, not saying they were MENSA candidates, but access to an almanac (as you have noted) does not seem far fetched. GERMIT

  50. GB,

    Sally Denton, in setting the stage for early Mormon history in her book, American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857 , writes on page 5:

    Almanacs published near Smith’s home reported the date was “both the autumnal equinox and a new moon, an excellent time to commence new projects.”

    A: (which don’t provide data for the 1800’s).

    GB: Ah, but they do.

    Which link you provided specifies Autumnal equinox dates for the 1800’s? Please specify, and quote, etc.

    Germit: How likely is it that JS was up to speed on all the best scientific data??

    GB: About as likely as him being up to speed on the almanacs.

    Can you provide an example of a text accessible to Smith providing more accurate data on the equinoxes, and then demonstrate that he, a farm boy, was more likely to have read it?

    It seems to me that anyone who was REALLY into the magic stuff WOULD NOT have depended on the almanac for equinox information. I suspect that they would have had much more “reliable” (in the magical sort of way) sources.

    Are you implying that Smith discerned the more exact date of the equinox by using a magical method?

    So the timing with the equinox date was merely coincidental? I have seen a host of published sources that draw the connection between Smith’s early activity and the Autumnal equinox. Instead of merely providing your opinion and feelings, GB, why not appeal to a published source coming from the Mormon perspective that disputes this connection, explaining the basis given by the author for the disputation?

Comments are closed.