Joseph Smith’s Powerful Influence

“It is by no means improbable that some future textbook… will contain a question something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen? And it is by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written: Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet.” Josiah Quincy, Jr., Figures of the Past, 1883

The above quote is oft used in Mormondom to impress people with a notable non-Mormon’s positive opinion of Joseph Smith. It can be found in numerous Mormon videos shown at LDS Visitors Centers. It is included in books about the “Prophet.” Most recently it was highlighted at Mormon Times in an article titled “Joseph Smith ‘most influential’ 19th century American.”

I found that Josiah Quincy’s book, Figures of the Past, is available online, so I read Mr. Quincy’s entire chapter on Joseph Smith and did a little additional research.

Josiah Quincy, Jr. visited Nauvoo in mid-May, 1844. His travelling companion was Charles Francis Adams, Sr., son and grandson of two American presidents. Being deemed important visitors, these men were received and welcomed by Joseph Smith. Mr. Quincy wrote:

Intelligence of our arrival had in some mysterious manner reached General Smith, and the prophet’s own chariot, a comfortable carryall, drawn by two horses, soon made its appearance. It is probable that we owed the alacrity with which we were served to an odd blunder which had combined our names and personalities and set forth that no less a man than ex-President John Quincy Adams had arrived to visit Mr. Joseph Smith.

After spending a day with the Prophet, Josiah Quincy wrote his impressions in a journal. Later he wrote about the visit in letters to friends. Later still he compiled his impressions into a chapter for his book. The chapter began with the now-famous quote; Josiah Quincy was impressed by Joseph Smith. But if all that he wrote in his book is considered, Josiah Quincy was not favorably impressed.

Mr. Quincy referred to the religious system of Mormonism as being comprised of “monstrous claims” (383). He said the sect created by Joseph Smith was filled with “demoralizing doctrines” (377). Quincy noted several times that Joseph Smith apparently thought very highly of himself and thought himself quite clever. Speaking of himself as the militia commander of 3,000 men, Smith reportedly explained,

“I decided that the commander of my troops ought to be a lieutenant-general, and I was, of course, chosen to that position. I sent my certificate of election to Governor Ford, and received in return a commission of lieutenant-general of the Nauvoo Legion and of the militia of the State of Illinois. Now, on examining the Constitution of the United States, I find that an officer must be tried by a court-martial composed of his equals in rank; and as I am the only lieutenant-general in the country, I think they will find it pretty hard to try me.” (383-384)

When Joseph Smith talked about theology and his ability as Master of languages, Josiah Quincy wrote,

Smith was well versed in the letter of the Scriptures, though he had little comprehension of their spirit. He began by denying the doctrine of the Trinity, and supported his views by the glib recitation of a number of texts…The degrees and orders of ecclesiastical dignitaries he set forth with great precision, being careful to mention the interesting revelation which placed Joseph Smith supreme above them all…The prophet referred to his miraculous gift of understanding all languages, and took down a Bible in various tongues, for the purpose of exhibiting his accomplishments in this particular. Our position as guests prevented our testing his powers by a rigid examination, and the rendering of a few familiar texts seemed to be accepted by his followers as a triumphant demonstration of his abilities. It may have been an accident, but I observed that the bulk of his translations were from the Hebrew, which, presumably, his visitors did not understand, rather than from the classical languages, in which they might more easily have caught him tripping. (385-386)

Perhaps the most concise and clearly stated opinion Mr. Quincy formed of the Prophet Joseph Smith is found following Quincy’s praise of the beautiful city of Nauvoo. He wrote,

And all the diligent workers, who had reared these handsome stores and comfortable dwellings, bowed in subjection to the man to whose unexampled absurdities we had listened that morning. Not quite unexampled either. For many years I held a trusteeship which required me to be a frequent visitor at the McLean Asylum for the Insane. I had talked with some of its unhappy inmates, victims of the sad but not uncommon delusion that each had received the appointment of vicegerent of the Deity upon earth. It is well known that such unfortunates, if asked to explain their confinement, have a ready reply: ‘I am sane. The rest of the world is mad, and the majority is against me.’ It was like a dream to find one’s self moving through a prosperous community, where the repulsive claim of one of these pretenders was respectfully acknowledged. It was said that Prince Hamlet had no need to recover his wits when he was despatched [sic] to England, for the demented denizens of that island would never detect his infirmity. If the blasphemous assumptions of Smith seemed like the ravings of a lunatic, he had, at least, brought them to a market where ‘all the people were as mad as he.’ (388-389)

Josiah Quincy’s travelling companion also wrote of this 1844 visit with the Prophet. Though his recollections are not as detailed as Quincy’s, Charles Francis Adams wrote this in his diary:

There is a mixture of shrewdness and extravagant self-conceit, of knowledge and ignorance, of wisdom and folly in this whole system of this man that I am somewhat at a loss to find definitions for it. Yet it is undoubted that he has gained followers at home and abroad…On the whole I was glad I had been [to see Joseph Smith]. Such a man is a study not for himself, but as serving to show what turns the human mind will sometimes take. And herafter [sic] if I should live, I may compare the results of this delusion with the condition in which I saw it and its mountebank apostle.

Such was the “powerful influence” these respected visitors found in Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet.


Comments within the parameters of 1 Peter 3:15 are invited.


About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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141 Responses to Joseph Smith’s Powerful Influence

  1. HankSaint says:

    There you go guys and gals, a straight answer to a very unremarkable accusation. So what do we get, nothing more than sarcasm. Not bad for a man who has TEN YEAR, (Tenure). No contract renewals, just keep on teaching with out any obvious qualifications. Now I understand why our School system is lacking in educated children, TENURE. Interesting.

    R. 🙂

  2. Enki says:

    The idea that the SLC is the only true LDS faith, comes from the SLC. But that is another topic altogether. From a SLC perspective, any other church or religion does not operate with the ‘fullness of the gospel’. They do not deny however that god could influence people outside of the SLC.

  3. HankSaint says:

    I don’t think that my point makes yours. Loyalty is completely different then my being faithful to my testimony, which I received by revelation. You are stuck on using careless words to describe what and how I became all faithful to a Doctrine that was received by a Prophet as was revealed to him by God. You also assume that his character was flawed, something that has little evidence to support that criticism. Was he a man? did he sin? of course just like you and I, but not to the depth of the many malicious lies told about him. You see Michael, you have your many sources and many unqualified researchers that give you all the talking point you care to believe, and I have just as many sources which I believe are exceptionally qualified to fill in the distractions and criticisms you use for making invariable and useless claims.

    Another false claim you frustratingly continue to apply is my faith needs to prop up or support Joseph Smith and my allegiance to him.
    False good buddy, I have no allegiance to Joseph other than supporting him as a Servant of God, as you and I both do with Biblical Prophets.
    Do you owe an allegiance to Moses, or Abraham? and if so explain that allegiance clearly so we can compare the use of that word as it pertains to the Bible.

    I have re-read your post, and have a crystal clear knowledge of the what, and how of your accusations and find them lacking in any kind of
    accuracy as to my own personal knowledge of how I came to know that The Church of Jesus Christ has been restored again to the earth.
    You speculate to knowing how and why I’m bound by allegiance when the fact is that my use of Biblical Scriptures and comparing it to the Book of Mormon and testing it with prayer has been everything God has promised, — “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”.

    Regards, R.

  4. Franco40 says:

    Falcon, your response to Hank was hilarious.

    For some reason this reminds me of the 1960s when your radio stations banned the song ‘8 miles high’ by the Byrds…due to supposed drug connotations. It was pretty evident to anyone with half a brain that this song was about flying in a plane.
    While this furore was in full swing- the No 1 song at the time in the USA was ‘Pictures of Lilly’ which was about a teenager getting his jollies over an old poster on his bedroom wall! Ooops.

    Hank did the ‘who is McKeever’ thing really fly by you or were you being facetious?

  5. HankSaint says:

    McKeever, did he get his five minutes of fame on utube? just wondering what his credentials are? If he uses lame facts as posted by Falcon, how can anyone consider him creditable? Just wondering, and I suppose so are all the guest and visitors who never heard a rebuttal from Falcon. Interesting indeed.

    R. 🙂

  6. falcon says:

    Thank you Fanco40,
    I’m a 60s guy and a struggling guitar player knocking out all the old hits here in my man cave. I’ve been really good on MC lately but I just couldn’t let that one go by. Our Mormon poster and I have a history. He’s trying to insult and bait me BUT I’m staying above it all given to my new softer self responding to Bill McKeever’s (who?) article asking everyone to tone it down.

    The Falcon-soaring to new heights

  7. Ralph says:


    I believe the person who did the seminar you are referring to was Dr Reed Durham. He, himself, said this about the presentation – “I now wish I had presented some of my material differently.” “For instance, at the present time, after checking my data, I find no primary evidence that Joseph Smith ever possessed a Jupiter Talisman. The source for my comment was a second-hand, late source. It came from Wilford Wood, who was told it by Charlie Bidaman, who was told it by his father, Lewis Bidamon, who was Emma’s second husband and non-Mormon not too friendly to the LDS Church. So the idea that the Prophet had such a talisman is highly questionable.” [Gilbert W. Scharffs, The Truth About “The God Makers,” Second Edition (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1989), 180]

    If you go onto the MRM site and look at the rebuttal to Mormonism 201, Chapter 17 there is no extra evidence provided just a story about JS having the talisman being covered up and a confession that this cover-up story is just speculation. So the man (Dr Durham) who did all the investigation into the talisman admits that it is most likely false because there is no evidence at all that it was JS or that he owned a talisman.

    So unless you have other evidence that is more than hearsay and second hand state it’s you opinion when you make comments about the talisman, otherwise you are doing just what this article/blog is discussing against – not giving the full picture/details and lying by doing so.

    And I don’t care if you still want to claim cover-up, as I said, it’s up to you to prove it as all evidence points in opposition to you. And no I don’t hate it if someone uses that excuse against the church, it’s up to them to prove it, just like it’s up to us to prove our claims, isn’t it?

  8. HankSaint says:


    I don’t deal in what ifs. My answers come from the Holy Ghost, who testifies to me that Jesus is the Christ. I don’t need Salt Lake City GA’s to convince me of that. I read the Book of Mormon, and that testimony did not come from SLC, it came from the Holy Ghost. I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, that testimony did not come from SLC. Now what kind of point are you trying to get across, please skip with the what ifs.

    Of course there is always the what if the Book of Mormon is true, what would you do then? Interesting question isn’t it?

    regards, r.

  9. Michael P says:

    Hank, I’m really not sure how to respond…
    But I really fail to see how you do not understand that you are tied to Smith in an inseparable way. You accuse me of being careless with words, but I actually chose them very carefully. Maybe saying you are inseparable will help clarify my position, which still stands.

    I am really not even sure what it is you are trying to argue. You say this: “Loyalty is completely different then my being faithful to my testimony, which I received by revelation. You are stuck on using careless words to describe what and how I became all faithful to a Doctrine that was received by a Prophet as was revealed to him by God.”

    Loyalty is different than the revelation, but the revelation is possible because of what Smith revealed, right? So, how can you not be tied to him for giving you this possibility? Because it was revealed to you and how you came to your conclusion is irrelevant, because that’s not what is at issue. What is at issue is your tie to Smith.

    The only possibility I can see that would not bind you is if you said that you could receive this revelation without the work of Smith. Are you going to say that? If you do, doesn’t that mean Smith was not very important?

    You may answer yes, but look around you. Look at how much you revere him in your faith. To tell me that he’s not very important would be to disparage him, too, and to do that, as you said earlier, would be an act of rebellion.

    I’d emphasize that this has nothing to do with how you came to know your faith. I don’t know how you got that idea. If I was unclear, my apologies, but this is not about that. Its about how your faith is permanently tied to Smith, and about how you necessarilly must prop him up. Mike Rgave an excellent quote from BY regarding the role Smith plays. Do you care to comment on that?

  10. HankSaint says:

    Yep falcon, I’m baiting you, so do like Ralph said, prove it. 🙂

    You made the claim when you quoted somebody by the name of McKeever, so please explain to all the visitors, lurkers, and guest where you can prove your lame claim, LOL.


  11. Franco40 says:


    Didn’t this ‘McKeever’ fellow pen a little ditty called ‘Raising the bar’? One of my faves for sure!

  12. grindael says:

    1There are some remarks about Joseph’s seer stones. They are a fact go here for one, (this one was purchased in the 90’s for 75,000) As to the bidamon stone, it’s in the Wilford Woodruff Museum. Go here for a great page (all from Mormon-friendly sources on the seer stones of Joe Smith)
    The early Church members did not have a problem with Joe’s stones, he had them since before the “restoration” and they were used to it and felt it’s where he got power to translate. It is only in this century, where we deem this strange, that it becomes a controversy. The facts are out there, just open your eyes (use a stone and look into a hat if you have to like Smith did) but REALLY look at the facts, and you will see how strange mr. Smith really was. He made it up as he went along, adding doctrines, scripture, and rituals as it suited his ever changing religion. It still goes on today. Unlike the Bible and Jesus, who is the same today, yesterday and forever.

  13. Michael P says:

    Hank, you also said this: “You also assume that his character was flawed, something that has little evidence to support that criticism.”

    No, I don’t assume that he has a flawed character. I have reasonably come to that conclusion through a review of evidence before us. Notice I said us, not just me. This is because the evidence is available for all to see, and we all have access to it. By and large, we look at the same body of evidence.

    I have seen some of the things that are proposed to clear his name, if you will. However, for each of those, there is a counter claim that suggests something very different. Further, many of the sources come directly from the LDS themselves, both now and those who were contemporaries.

    Kind of like Setfree’s hypothetical court room above, I weighed evidence both for and against his character. When viewed in its entirety and the context of the times in which he lived, I have no problem coming to my conclusion, and it is not based on an assumption.

    Now, I know you will disagree with the conclusion, so please do not get angry or sarcastic or harsh. A plain truth, (I know you disagree with that claim alone), is that there is enough evidence to suggest he was a very flawed man.

    You do not agree because you are bound to prop him up, like I have been saying. This is understandable. I have no problem with the idea. I only wish to establish that you HAVE to do so.

    I am glad to hear you say he sinned, but do not feel comforted because it is tempered with the statement that he has not sinned to the depths of you or I. You are propping him up, friend. Like it or not, you are propping him up.

    Shall we go into my thoughts about the likes of David and Moses and any other prophet? David was an adulturer and a murderer, among others. Moses also a murdurer and a prideful man. Abraham lied. Jonah was a coward. Do you want me to go on?

  14. Michael P says:

    Enki, yeah. That’s essentially my point– how SLC views them. I know they view that any faith God can work through and all have some positive elements from him.

  15. Andy Watson says:

    Mike R & All:

    That’s a great quote you referenced above. You might be interested in reading this other one by Brigham Young:

    “I will now give my SCRIPTURE – Whosoever confesseth that Joseph Smith was sent of God to reveal the holy Gospel to the children of men, and lay the foundation for gathering Israel, and building up the kingdom of God on the earth, that spirit is of God; and every spirit that does not confess that God has sent Joseph Smith, and revealed the everlasting Gospel to and through him, is of Antichrist, no matter whether it is found in a pulpit or on a throne, nor how much divinity it may profess, nor what it professes with regard to revealed religion and the account that is given of the Saviour and his Father in the Bible. They may say that they acknowledge Him until doomsday, and he will never own them, nor bestow the Holy Spirit upon them, and they will never have visions of eternity opened to them, unless they acknowledge that Joseph Smith is sent of God. Such people I call unbelievers. They tell about believing in Jesus Christ, but they might as well talk about birds understanding the Hebrew language. This statement is no more positive than true.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.8. p.176-177)

    Now compare the one above of Brigham’s “scripture” in the JOD with the new, sanitized version in the remake known as “Discourses of Brigham Young”:

    “Whosoever confesseth that Joseph Smith was sent of God to reveal the holy Gospel to the children of men, and lay the foundation for gathering Israel, and building up the Kingdom of God on earth, that spirit is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that God has sent Joseph Smith, and revealed the everlasting Gospel to and through him, is of Antichrist, no matter whether it is found in a pulpit or on a throne.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 435)

    It appears that Mormons can’t have salvation/eternal life in Jesus Christ alone. It must also include Joseph Smith. So much for Acts 4:12 – right?

  16. Bill McKeever says:

    D. Michael Quinn discusses the mystery of the Jupiter Talisman in Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, pp.70ff (1987 ed):

    A recent article in Brigham Young University Studies has attempted to dispute Smith’s ownership of the Jupiter talisman. This study suggests Bidamon misrepresented the medallion as “sales talk” in order to sell it for fifty dollars to Wood, but the article does not make a similar claim about Bidamon’s sale to Wood a few months earlier of the Book of Abraham translation manuscripts for a larger amount of money (R. L. Anderson 1984, 541). In addition, Bidamon simply responded to the newspaper advertisement in which Wood offered to purchase early Mormon artifacts, and during the same year he sold the medallion and other Smith possessions to Wood who had offered to purchase them, Bidamon gave “the old letters once handled & treasured by my grandmother Emma Smith” as a gift to a granddaughter of Joseph Smith (M. A. Anderson 1937). The article then expresses doubt that Emma Smith’s stepson, rather than her own sons, “should have retained the coin [sic] if it meant that much to their father,” but again does not apply that same argument to the Book of Abraham manuscript which Bidamon, not Emma’s sons, possessed. The study also observes that the talisman did not appear in the inventory of Smith’s belongings which his lawyer provided to his widow a few days after the martyrdom. But the lawyer’s list was not exhaustive and did not include all of the personal items Smith had with him in the Carthage Jail on the day of his death. Even though the lawyer claimed he “received the effects from the body of Joe Smith and turned them over to his widow upon her giving me the following receipt,” his inventory did not itemize Smith’s clothing or list the revolver the martyr used for self-defense in the last desperate moments. (cont.)

  17. Bill McKeever says:

    (Cont.) More probably, the list was an inventory of personal effects Smith had previously given to his lawyer or to prison authorities rather than items on his person at the time of his death. The probability that this was an inventory of items given up when Joseph Smith entered Carthage Jail is supported by the fact that the list included “one penknife,” a weapon prison authorities would wish to confiscate, but did not include the gun that was smuggled to Smith by a Mormon visitor to the jail (R. L. Anderson 1984, 540-41, 558n181; HC 6:607, 617). As a list of items confiscated from Joseph Smith at the time of his entering Carthage Jail (traditionally a requirement for the prisoner to empty his pockets), it is therefore understandable why this inventory did not mention his clothing, the smuggled weapon, or the Jupiter talisman that would be concealed under his shirt next to the skin.
    It should not be surprising that no documents, either contemporary or reminiscent, exist describing Smith’s having displayed or used this talisman. Magic books instructed that the talisman should be “worn round the neck” and “carried on the breast.” Typical use of such an amulet was under the clothing next to the skin of the person seeking its protective [p.71] powers (Hibner 1698, 186; O. Morgan 1857, 88). Thus the Smith talisman, which (like its English counterpart published by the Royal Numismatic Society) has a hole at the edge opposite the astrological symbol of Jupiter, would have been suspended from a chain or ribbon around the neck and would have been intentionally concealed underneath Smith’s clothing from anyone’s observation. In like manner, no contemporary associate reported that the LDS church’s second president, Brigham Young, possessed or used the pendant amulet his niece later donated to a museum with a description of his use of the amulet (fig. 41; DUP 1076; chap. 7). (cont).

  18. Bill McKeever says:

    Independent evidence verifies Joseph Smith’s possession of every other item Bidamon claimed was the prophet’s. In view of the unquestioned provenance of every other artifact Bidamon sold to Wood, of his own sworn affidavit, of the fact that Bidamon did not know what the “silver pocket piece” actually was, and of the precise astrological connections between the Jupiter talisman and Joseph Smith’s own birth, it seems to strain the evidence to dispute Bidamon’s claims that Smith possessed and valued the Jupiter medallion. In fact, the managing editor of the LDS church’s Ensign magazine did not hesitate to affirm Joseph Smith’s ownership of this “silver piece” in a Deseret Book Company publication of 1969 (Todd 1969, 328, 330). There were no efforts to dispute Joseph Smith’s possession of this artifact until after April 1974, when Reed C. Durham, then director of the LDS institute of religion in Salt Lake City, publicly identified the medallion as a magic Jupiter talisman rather than a Masonic jewel (Durham 1974).

  19. Second attempt…

    Ralph quoted Gilbert W. Scharffs, The Truth About “The God Makers,” Second Edition (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1989), 180, with

    …Lewis Bidamon, who was Emma’s second husband and non-Mormon not too friendly to the LDS Church. So the idea that the Prophet had such a talisman is highly questionable.


    Well done for referencing your sources. I’m guessing this one’s pro-Mo, but its not too important if it is.

    I thought I recognised the name “Bidamon”. Lewis was Emma’s second husband (after Joseph Smith’s death).

    Why would Emma Smith marry outside her Church? In fact, was Lewis Bidamon a Mormon, or was it that later historians just didn’t like him, so they called him a non-Mormon.

    How was he involved with Joseph’s death? (PS Bill’s entry answers this one)

    The picture I get of Emma is that she grew progressively antagonistic toward her husband (following their elopement), though she appears to have wanted to believe that he was who he claimed he was, a true Prophet of God.

    Her “wanting to believe” comes across in the way she shifts the blame for the introduction of polygamy on to Brigham Young (though JS was the primary agent).

    Her antagonism comes from her selling the BoA originals, and insituting the RLDS Church with her grandson. Also, there are those monumental claims by Brigham that Emma tried to poison her husband on two occassions by spiking his coffee.

    I suggest that if you want to build up a intimate picture of the real Joseph Smith, you should look at his influence on his first wife.

    Emma, Joseph and Brigham – what fascinating characters! Someone should make a film about them.

  20. falcon says:

    Thank you Bill.
    You said it much better than I could….ahem…that’s a joke of course, me bowing to your superior knowledge, reasoning ability and scholarly approach. You indeed have set the bar high. Thank you for taking the time to make this contribution.

    The Falcon…..soaring to new heights.

  21. Enki says:

    I’m trying to understand how LDS church members function. You say you know that J.S. was a prophet and that the BOM is true, and you know those by the holy ghost. Its another teaching that the SLC church is currently lead by a prophet. Do you know this also by the holy ghost?

    How do you receive statements from SL in reguards to calls for social action, or any other action? Is there anything which GA could say that would make you question the truth of the organization? Or for that matter is there any evidence which could cause you to question the faith? What would that be, if anything?

    There is always the possibility that the BOM is true, but it seems very, very unlikely. Being raised LDS I was taught very early that its true, which of course I repeated largely without question. But there is a large number of problems with the book that are difficult to overlook or ‘suspend disbelief’.

    I did that while living under my parents roof, and while receiving any type of financial support. But I couldn’t do the suspending anymore once that wasn’t there. Interestingly enough my parents don’t talk to me, even if I make an effort to call or write. That is a difficult part for me. I realize now that its because from their point of view I am ‘apostate’ and they can’t keep contact with me and maintain temple worthiness. All these years I expected them to forget for a moment their religion and treat me like a family member that I am. They just can’t do it. They could never suspend LDS belief for any reason, and would rather hurt me than do that.

    The only way that LDS church members obtain a ‘testimony’ is by a spiritual confirmation. If its gained some other way, its not considered a real ‘testimony’. I was so suprised when I learned that is not necessarily how bible literalists came to believe what they believe.

    There are other religions out there, and I haven’t heard any other ones depend upon something as subjective as a spiritual impression as a c

  22. Enki says:

    cont…as a spiritual impression as a confirmation of truth. Christians especially are concerned that people can be spiritually deceived. For some reason the LDS prayer method is one which is very suspect, although on the surface it seems pretty safe.

    In my teen years I prayed the prayer to find out, but I did modify it, to make it more neutral, I was open to the possibility that there was something which was the truth which I had never even heard of. I was even open to the possibility that perhaps nobody even had the truth. Its interesting, because I although I prayed this way, I found myself ‘willing’ myself to believe the LDS faith, because that is the answer we are taught to expect. So, the very act of praying the LDS prayer suggests a particular outcome. Its interesting that I did seem to work, but I am investigating something which appears to be the truth, and it was a bit shocking for me.

  23. Andy Watson says:

    On Saturday, April 20, 1974 at the Mormon History Association Annual Meeting held at Nauvoo, Illinois, Dr. Reed C. Durham made the following announcement in a presentation entitled “Is There No Help For the Widow’s Son?”:

    “Now, I should like to initiate all of you into what is perhaps the strangest, the most mysterious, occult-like, esoteric, and yet Masonically oriented practice ever adopted by Joseph Smith. This may also be another fine example of our earlier explained principle of ‘grabbing on.’ All available evidence suggests that Joseph Smith the Prophet possessed a magical Masonic medallion, or talisman, which he worked during his lifetime and which was evidently on his person when he was martyred…the talisman, presently existing in Utah, (in the Wilford Wood Collection, D.C.M.) was originally purchased from the Emma Smith Bidamon family, fully notarized by that family to be authentic and to have belonged to Joseph Smith, can now be identified as a Jupiter Talisman.”

    “I wasn’t able to find what this was, for – as I said – two months; and finally, in a magic book printed in England in 1801, published in America in 1804, and I traced it to Manchester, and to New York. It was a magic book by Francis Barrett and, lo and behold, how thrilled I was when I saw in his list of magic seals the very talisman which Joseph Smith had in his possession at the time of his martyrdom.”

    “When properly invoked, with Jupiter being very powerful and ruling the heavens, these intelligences – by the power of ancient magic – guaranteed to the possessor of this talisman the gain of riches, and favors, and power, and love, and peace; and to confirm honors, and dignities, and councils. Talismatic magic further declared that any one who worked skillfully with this Jupiter Table would obtain the power of stimulating anyone to offer love to the possessor of the talisman…Where he [Smith] obtained his personal talisman is also not known.”

  24. Andy Watson says:

    On May 4, 1977, David Buerger of San Jose, California wrote to Dr. Durham stating:

    “Dear Brother Durham, I just read with great interest a speech you made in Nauvoo, Illinois on Saturday, April 20, 1974 entitled: ‘Is There No Help For The Widow’s Son?’ Unfortunately the compiler (Mr. Hogan) did not include many of your references. If it wouldn’t be too much of an imposition, could you please send me the following sources to these remarks: [list 1-10 given] I realize that I am asking a lot of you, but I would be extremely grateful if you could help me out. I’ve been an admirer of your ideas for some time now. Thanks again! I’ll be sure to send you a check for any cost involved in answering my request.”

    Dr. Dunham responds in a hand-written note [I have a copy of this]:

    “Dear David – Thank you so much for your kind letter & for the requests for further info about my address. I am sorry, but because of the nature of the subject matter, the Brethren have requested that I do no more with the subject again – I am not to release info or have any more to say on the subject. This hurt me very much – as I believe that nothing – no amount of study, exploration, nor research, will ever hurt the church or the cause of truth – ever! However, I will be obedient to my Brethren and be still. I am sorry I can’t help you – Sincerely Reed C. Durham Jr.”

    It appears that Dr. Durham became fearful of his brethren for speaking of something he should not have openly talked about. If only Dr. Durham would have read Hebrews 13:6 he would have been able to answer Mr. Buerger’s letter and ignored his LDS brethren’s demand to stop speaking.

  25. falcon says:

    Thanks Andy,
    Isn’t it just really sad how the SLC LDS must silence those who through scholarly work reveal the truth about Joseph Smith and Mormonism. The list is long of course and I’d put these folks in a truth hall of fame if one existed. We might start with Fawn Bode, Michael Quinn and Grant Palmer. I’m sure other names could be offered. Sharon’s article gets to the heart of the matter.
    I was just out on the Community of Christ’s website and went to their frequently asked questions portion. They discuss polygamy for one thing and also how their members should deal with the history of the Mormon church. You have to respect how these folks face things head-on and don’t try and paint happy faces on everything. Good to have you back posting on MC.

    The Falcon-soaring to new heights.

  26. Andy Watson says:

    I’d now like to call Richard Bushman (LDS historian) to the witness stand to see what he writes of Smith’s involvement in magic in his book “Rough Stone Rolling” which is a biography of Joseph Smith:

    “The firsthand accounts of treasure-seeking necessarily came from people who had gone on expeditions themselves and were participant observers. In exposing the Smith, 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 [Smith] 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 IN SMITH FAMILY CULTURE…Joseph Jr. NEVER repudiated the stones or denied their power to find treasure. REMNANTS OF THE MAGICAL CULTURE STAYED WITH HIM TO THE END.” (pp. 50-51)

    “He [Joseph Smith] 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 had served its purpose in his life. In a sense, IT WAS A PREPARATORY GOSPEL.” (p. 54)

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

  27. Andy Watson says:

    Richard Bushman: Part 2

    “Neither his [Joseph Smith] education nor his Christian upbringing prepared Joseph to translate a book, but THE MAGIC CULTURE MAY HAVE. Treasure-seeking taught Joseph to look for the unseen in a stone. His first reaction when he brought home the Urim and Thummim was delight with its divining powers. ‘I can see any thing,’ he told his friend Joseph Knight. He knew from working with his own seerstone what to expect from the Urim and Thummim: he would ‘see.’ Practice with his scrying stones carried over to translation of the gold plates. In fact, as work on the Book of Mormon proceeded, A SEERSTONE TOOK THE PLACE OF THE URIM AND THUMMIM as an aid in the work, BLENDING MAGIC WITH INSPIRED TRANSLATION.” (p. 131)

    “Joseph Still obviously relied on inspiration to make the changes, but he gave up the Urim and Thummim, as Orson Pratt later explained, because he had become acquainted with ‘the Spirit of Prophecy and Revelation’ and no longer needed it.” (p. 142)

    “In imitation of the true order of heaven whereby seers receive revelations from God through a Urim and Thummim, the devil gives his own revelations to some through peep stones or crystal balls.” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pp. 565-566)

    “This seer stone is now in the possession of the Church.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, page 225)

    Only the Mormon Church and its most devout followers of Smith could somehow explain all of this away when faced with what God says of anyone who practices magic (divination) in Deuteronomy 18:10-12. The Smith family should have followed the example of other magic practicioners in Acts 19:19 by burning their magic books and repenting.

    In light of the evidence, I say a Jupiter Talisman worn by Joseph Smith isn’t hard to fathom. Dr. Durham’s original findings were correct. He was silenced as any BYU professor today who said the same thing would also be silenced as well. I can’t believe that Richard Bushman got away with it!

    [email protected]

  28. Enki wrote

    I was open to the possibility that there was something which was the truth which I had never even heard of. I was even open to the possibility that perhaps nobody even had the truth.


    Thanks for sharing your thoughts as you “audit” your understanding of things. I think it requires a particular kind of spiritual discipline to, as it were, stand outside of yourself, and say “I have received such-and-such, but where did it come from?” Please keep going down this path. Wherever it leads, I hope you find the light you’re looking for.

    I have not forgotten your dark account of your earlier “spiritual” encounter/experience, and I still pray for you.

    When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

    (John 8:12)

  29. falcon says:

    It would seem that as far as Joseph Smith’s family is concerned, Joseph’s hocus pocus routine and also the strange Nauvoo doctrines and practices died with him. Here’s some facts presented in evidence pointing to the notion that Brigham Young SLC Mormonism had no attraction for Joseph Smith’s family.
    His son Joseph, became the seer, revelator and prophet of a rival group to that which was operating out of Salt Lake City. The son’s Mormon sect repudiated all of the aberrant teachings and doctrines of the SLC sect including polygamy. Joseph Smith’s son spent his life trying to prove that his father didn’t practice plural wifery and said if his father had, he was wrong in doing so. Joseph Smith’s wife Emma was a member of the RLDS group with it’s more conventional Christian beliefs.
    The SLC attempts to cover-up who Joseph Smith was and turn him into some icon of purity, goodness and wholesomeness is not only misguided by deceitful. To the SLC Mormons it’s all about Joseph all of the time. I think these folks would be better served by following the lead of the other Mormon sects, admit who Joseph Smith really was and quit the scam.

  30. falcon says:

    The elevation of Joseph Smith by SLC Mormonism to that of a near deity is not only misplaced but it causes the Smithies to cover-up the truth about their “prophet” and invent a personage that is as much a fantasy as Smith’s angelic visitors. When taken in its sum, Joseph Smith’s story does not paint a pretty picture. The line that is fed to possible recruits concerning who Joseph Smith was bears little resemblance to reality. It is more what the SLC sect would like to believe than that which actually existed. Mormons must suspend credulity and enter a fantasy world that rivals any thing that Walt Disney ever invented. The problem is that the ride Mormons are taken on, while promising thrills and chills, is a dark tunnel with no end.

  31. setfree says:

    Bill, Martin, Andy,
    These last few posts have been info-stuffed.

    In light of the “evidence”, I’d like to challenge any Mormon reading to please stop playing defense attorney for just a couple of seconds, and take just one moment to let it sink in… how many things must line up together against Joseph Smith’s honesty, against the church’s honesty, before you will dare wonder if maybe you are actually a victim of dishonesty?

    How many piles of evidence will you throw away, piece by piece, before you wonder how it happened to be that there were piles to worry about in the first place?

    For a church which claims to be the truth and have the most truth…

    you all have seen how much the church changes the stories…

    would THE TRUE CHURCH of the LORD JESUS CHRIST have to do this? why?

  32. setfree says:

    once again, it is a delight to hear your personal experiences. I’m glad you’re out here, glad to be a part of your journey to find God…
    praying for you as well
    in Him,

  33. Olsen Jim says:

    Andy Watson,

    Although the opinions of people you quoted in your posts will be instantly accepted by LDS critics here as absolute truth in the halls of knowledge, I ask you- where is the evidence?

    Bushman is thorough- I give him that. But there are many who disagree with his conclusions. You cite his opinions without the basis for those opinions. Do you know where his conclusions come from?

    As far as Durham- you are assuming that the “brethren” did not want him making such statements because they wanted to “conceal” information. Have you considered that they may not have wanted him saying those things because they are not true? Have you looked any deeper into the Talisman issue? The claims made by critics are very weak.

    Durham stated the talisman “was originally purchased from the Emma Smith Bidamon family, fully notarized by that family to be authentic and to have belonged to Joseph Smith, can now be identified as a Jupiter Talisman.”

    Do you know WHO in that “family” notorized the item? Does it matter to you that it was notorized by an illegitimate son of Lewis Bidamon who waited over 50 years after Emma died to notorize the thing? Does it matter that Charles Bidamon (who notorized the talisman) was attempting to sell the piece to a party extremely interested in anything having to do with Joseph? Does it matter that it is never ever mentioned by Joseph or those closest to him, including Emma? Does it matter that it was not on the list of items found on the person of Joseph after his martyrdom?

    You demonstrate very well the very consistent instinct and willingness among critics to accept second, third, and fourth-hand “evidence” over primary evidences and actual witnesses. You will believe what you want to believe.

  34. Enki says:

    Yes, that was a strange experience. I don’t know if it was a dream, or something else. I have heard of other people experiencing something similiar. Oddly enough, some people have expressed the idea that these ‘spooks’ are actually associated with the christian faith.

    On a better note, some years earlier I had a much better experience. I was moved to give ALL of my bus fair home to a homeless couple. It left me stranded without a way home. I could have walked home, but it would have taken me several hours. But somehow I was not concerned. After about 1/2 hour after giving my change, I felt something suddenly appear in my pocket. I felt my change purse, it was full again. It was also accompanied by a very refreshing feeling that is difficult to explain.

    I have told this a number of people. Most people thing it wasn’t a real experience, that I must have bought something and gotten change, and just forgot. A few other people were open that it actually happened. It doesn’t make me a saint, but it does really leave me with something difficult to just explain away. Today I encountered another homeless person who was very upset, dressed in a towl and without shoes and socks. I went to a thrift shop and bought him a pair of socks, but he was gone. I walked all over town looking for him, but I couldn’t find him. It just breaks my heart thinking about it.

    I am not sure, sometimes It makes me feel like I am going crazy. I also found myself wispering ‘see’ to a blind homeless woman. I was just overjoyed when she turned around, as if to try and ‘see’ who said that. I used to want to see or perform miracles for proof of something, but I honestly just wished her to see this time. If I see her again with vision, I would be just so overjoyed.

  35. Olsen Jim says:


    Again- my argument is not that the good works of the members of the church proves the church is the true church. Rather, I am arguing that there is a huge inconsistency in claims of church critics and the actual reality that is found in looking at the church and its members. I see good people doing good things with good intentions (again, no claim to perfection). This is hardly consistent with all the conpiracy theories here of huge cover-ups and secret designs of evil. An objective person has to look at the two sides and recognize that the outlandish claims are simply not reconcilable with what one sees. I cannot tell you how many non-members have said as much to me.

    And again- listen to what I am saying about the Pharisees- they were not wrong for obeying law. They were wrong for taking that law and using it to raise themselves up above others and judging others and condemning them to hell (sound familiar?). So my pointing out the good fruits and works of the church does not put such works on the same level as the Pharisees- are you understanding me?


  36. Andy Watson says:

    Jim Olsen,

    I’ll have to make this quick because I have a local Mormon here in my town that needs assistance this night with answers to his questions that the Mormon faithful in Salt Lake didn’t bother telling him about. The JW’s are also waiting on me. I’m sure you understand. I know you love them too, right?

    It’s all about opinions, eh? I was wondering how long it would take before the opinion “parachute” would be thrown. Really, this is getting so easy to predict. I’m amazed at how quickly you throw your own people “under the bus”. Bushman? Please, let’s get serious. It’s obvious you have no clue who Bushman is. Deseret Books has their racks filled with his books. His book “Rough Stone Rolling” (THE biography of Joseph Smith) has won awards and has been a best-seller for years. If we want to go with opinions, I’ll stick with Bushman’s before I stick with Jim Olsen’s if you don’t mind – no offense.

    Yes, I do know where Bushman’s conclusions came from and I’ll give you one source. The rest you will have to do what Bushman did – DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH.

    I personally know the man who aided Bushman in his research gathering for the book. He is an super-TBM so you should like that. He is the son of an LDS apostle. He has a doctorate. He teaches at the local university. He lives in my hometown. We’ve had discussions about Bushman’s book and he is proud of the work that he did for Bushman in gathering the EVIDENCE for the findings presented in that book.

    I’m out of time. Email me if you have any further questions. Thanks!

  37. setfree says:

    “… I am arguing that there is a huge inconsistency … I see good people doing good things with good intentions (again, no claim to perfection). This is hardly consistent with all the conpiracy theories here of huge cover-ups and secret designs of evil. An objective person has to look at the two sides and recognize that the outlandish claims are simply not reconcilable with what one sees…”

    …is much too funny. Can you see why?

    Don’t you believe in the Book of Mormon, which says that the Catholic Church, which spawned Mother Teresa, is the whore of the earth, and the devil’s own church? Don’t you also believe in a huge conspiracy where all the best Mormon stuff has been removed from the Bible?

    “An objective person has to look at the two sides and recognize that the outlandish claims are simply not reconcilable with what one sees”

  38. Enki,

    Thanks for sharing your more “positive” experiences. However you interpret them, I think one thing stands out – you care for people.

    Don’t ever lose that!


  39. Enki says:

    Thank you for that. My eyes were tearing up uncontrollably when I was typing that at the library. I felt kind of embarrased, but then I also felt like who really cares what other people think. I am still wondering what ever happend to that guy. I have the socks in the trunk of the car, I hope that I will eventually get to give it to him. I realized later that I think I was coming down with the cold or flu. I don’t think I was entirely rational, this man needed much more than a pair of socks. Even though it probably wasn’t enough, the part that made sense was to think of doing something to show some care.

  40. Michael P says:

    Jim, I think if I grant your point its not going to change much of the conclusion, really. OK, so it doesn’t mean your faith is evil, but it still does not prove it right. Further, if something is not right (theologiclaly) it does not have to be evil. In other words, there are many things that “good” but still not “right”.

    On the other end of that, there are indeed people and organizations that seem very good based on the work they do but are arguably very evil. So, doing good is not a good arbiter of whether something is evil or not.

    You, though, miss the point on my criticism. My criticism is not that the pharisees weren’t called out for following the law, but that they were called out for propping themselves up. Hey, wait a minute, this is exactly what you said! And I say it because that is what you have done. That long list you provided was only to say “Look at us! Look at what we do!” Even if you say it was to suggest you’re not evil, the effect is to suggest you indeed are good and that you follow the law, much like the Pharisees.

    BTW, I have a feeling you at best mispoke when I quoted you above.

    I guess the bottom line is that giving that does not help you at all, no matter how you slice it. Whether it is to prove your faith or to suggest that “all that good” precludes your faith being evil, it doesn’t help.

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