Joseph Smith “carried off my daughter”

SLCTempleOver the years, much has been written about the heartbreak caused by Mormon weddings. The oft-cited cause of this heartbreak is the sacred, exclusive LDS temple wedding that necessarily excludes “unworthy” friends and family from attending. According to Mormonism, marriages must be performed and sealed in a Mormon temple by the proper priesthood authority so that the families subsequently formed will be together for eternity. Only “worthy” Mormons who hold current temple recommends may enter Mormon temples; therefore, non-Mormons, Mormon children, and “unworthy” Mormons (e.g., those who do not pay a full tithe to the Church) cannot attend the temple weddings of their loved-ones. This policy breaks a lot of hearts.

But there is another heartbreak associated with Mormon weddings that receives far less attention. This is the heartbreak of Christian parents watching a beloved son or daughter abandon the Christian faith of their upbringing to convert to the Mormon faith of a future spouse. I’ve talked with many Christian parents who face this heartbreak with grief filled tears – and eventually, ultimately, with grace born by the hope of Christ’s mercy.

As parents, we never know who our children will choose to marry. We often pray for our future sons- and daughters-in-law, even while our children are yet small. We know that a good marriage will bring blessings and happiness. And we know that a difficult marriage will bring heartache and trials. We long for our children to marry well.

JosephAndEmmaImagine, then, the heartbreak of Isaac and Elizabeth Hale when they learned that Joseph Smith the “money digger,” after twice being refused their daughter Emma’s hand in marriage, had “carried [her] off” to a different state to marry her against her parents’ wishes.**

Joseph and Emma eloped in January of 1827. Almost seven years later, Emma’s father, Isaac, was still upset over it; he presented his reasons in an affidavit that was printed in the Susquehanna Register on May 1, 1834. What follows is Isaac Hale’s statement, minimally edited for easier reading.

I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr. in November, 1825. He was at that time in the employ of a set of men who were called “money diggers;” and his occupation was that of seeing, or pretending to see by means of a stone placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face. In this way he pretended to discover minerals and hidden treasure. His appearance at this time, was that of a careless young man not very well educated, and very saucy and insolent to his father.

Smith, and his father, with several other ‘money diggers’ boarded at my house while they were employed in digging for a mine that they supposed had been opened and worked by the Spaniards, many years since. Young Smith gave the ‘money diggers’ great encouragement, at first, but when they had arrived in digging, to near the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found — he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see. They then became discouraged, and soon after dispersed. This took place about the 17th of November, 1825; and one of the company gave me his note for $12.68 for his board, which is still unpaid.

After these occurrences, young Smith made several visits at my house, and at length asked my consent to his marrying my daughter Emma. This I refused, and gave him my reasons for so doing; some of which were, that he was a stranger, and followed a business that I could not approve; he then left the place. Not long after this, he returned, and while I was absent from home, carried off my daughter, into the state of New York, where they were married without my approbation or consent.

After they had arrived at Palmyra [Manchester] N.Y., Emma wrote to me inquiring whether she could have her property, consisting of clothing, furniture, cows, &c. I replied that her property was safe, and at her disposal. In short time they returned, bringing with them a Peter Ingersoll, and subsequently came to the conclusion that they would move out, and resided upon a place near my residence.

© 1999 Institute for Religious Research

© 1999 Institute for Religious Research

Smith stated to me, that he had given up what he called “glass-looking,” and that he expected to work hard for a living, and was willing to do so. He also made arrangements with my son Alva Hale, to go to Palmyra, and move his (Smith’s) furniture &c. to this place. He then returned to Palmyra, and soon after, Alva, agreeable to the arrangement, went up and returned with Smith and his family.Soon after this, I was informed they had brought a wonderful book of Plates down with them. I was shown a box in which it is said they were contained, which had, to all appearances, been used as a glass box of the common sized window-glass. I was allowed to feel the weight of the box, and they gave me to understand, that the book of plates was then in the box — into which, however, I was not allowed to look.

I inquired of Joseph Smith Jr., who was to be the first who would be allowed to see the Book of Plates? He said it was a young child. After this, I became dissatisfied, and informed him that if there was any thing in my house of that description, which I could not be allowed to see, he must take it away; if he did not, I was determined to see it. After that, the Plates were said to be hid in the woods.

About this time, Martin Harris made his appearance upon the stage; and Smith began to interpret the characters or hieroglyphics which he said were engraven upon the plates, while Harris wrote down the interpretation. It was said, that Harris wrote down one hundred and sixteen pages, and lost them.

Soon after this happened, Martin Harris informed me that he must have a greater witness, and said that he had talked with Joseph about it –Joseph informed him that he could not, or durst not show him the plates, but that he (Joseph) would go into the woods where the Book of Plates was, and that after he came back, Harris should follow his track in the snow, and find the Book, and examine it for himself. Harris informed me afterwards, that he followed Smith’s directions, and could not find the Plates, and was still dissatisfied.

The next day after this happened, I went to the house where Joseph Smith Jr., lived, and where he and Harris were engaged in their translation of the Book. Each of them had a written piece of paper which they were comparing, and some of the words were “my servant seeketh a greater witness, but no greater witness can be given him.” There was also something said about “three that were to see the thing” –meaning I supposed, the Book of Plates, and that “if the three did not go exactly according to orders, the thing would be taken from them.” I enquired whose words they were, and was informed by Joseph or Emma, (I rather think it was the former) that they were the words of Jesus Christ. I told them then, that I considered the whole of it a delusion, and advised them to abandon it. The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time in the woods!

After this, Martin Harris went away, and Oliver Cowdery came and wrote for Smith, while he interpreted as above described. This is the same Oliver Cowdery, whose name may be found in the Book of Mormon. Cowdery continued a scribe for Smith until the Book of Mormon was completed as I supposed, and understood.

Joseph Smith Jr. resided near me for some time after this, and I had a good opportunity of becoming acquainted with him, and somewhat acquainted with his associates, and I conscientiously believe from the facts I have detailed, and from many other circumstances, which I do not deem it necessary to relate, that the whole “Book of Mormon” (so called) is a silly fabrication of falsehood and wickedness, got up for speculation, and with a design to dupe the credulous and unwary –and in order that its fabricators might live upon the spoils of those who swallowed the deception.  ISAAC HALE

Affirmed to and subscribed before me, March 20th, 1834.

CHARLES DIMON, Justice of the Peace.


** Is it true that Joseph and Emma eloped?

“Owing to my continuing to assert that I had seen a vision,” Joseph explained, “persecution still followed me, and my wife’s father’s family were very much opposed to our being married. I was, therefore, under the necessity of taking her elsewhere; so we went and were married at the house of Squire Tarbill, in South Bainbridge, Chenango county, New York. Immediately after my marriage, I left Mr. Stoal’s, and went to my father’s, and farmed with him that season” (Joseph Smith—History 1:58).

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

13 Responses to Joseph Smith “carried off my daughter”

  1. falcon says:

    So when faced with this information what would be the response of a dedicated member of the LDS church or any Mormon for that matter? I’m thinking denial of the veracity of the report would be the response.
    Having seen the movie about Joseph Smith which is shown at the visitors center of the Carthage Jail, I can attest to the fact that the above portrayal of Joseph Smith is not what the LDS church teaches. So it’s one more attempt by the LDS church to create for themselves a Joseph Smith myth which will be faith enhancing for the membership but has no basis in reality.

  2. falcon says:

    I think that the real benefit of an article like this is that perhaps it gets your average TBM or Chapel Mormon do pause a second and think. Now this is a very difficult thing for these folks to do because they are taught that doubting is Satan trying to lead you away from the “one true church”. But as we’ve seen by the testimony of former Mormons, sometimes it’s even a small thing that causes them to begin to wonder. I’ve talked about Lyndon Lamborn who was minding his own business at work one day when a colleague mentioned to him a book he was reading. The book “Under the Banner of Heaven” was by an author that Lyndon liked. The colleague said, “There’s some interesting things in the book about your religion.” So Lyndon picks-up the book and soon is researching Mormonism, a religion he was very comfortable with.
    “When Lamborn read Jon Krakauer’s book, “Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith,” it triggered more personal research. A work colleague asked him about the polygamous wives of Joseph Smith, some 33 by one account. Lamborn couldn’t answer her, but what he found in his research incensed him — that the Saints were woefully uninformed about the true history of the church and that information is manipulated to keep members in the dark.”
    What it came down to for Lyndon was his own integrity. There was no doubt that what he had found in his research was true. So now what was he going to do with it? As the story goes, eventually the LDS church decides to excommunicate him and they let it be known that it would be announced from the pulpit at his church. The local newspaper gets a hold of it and pretty soon a controversy develops.
    My point is that central to a Mormon’s response to uncomfortable information about the history of the church, is the personal integrity of the Mormon. Will they deny, rationalize and ignore the information or will they avoid the excuse making and get real.

  3. Mike R says:

    Those christian parents who know about Mormonism and then to see their son or daughter marry a Mormon surely must experience much heartache for them . Thankfully there are ministries like MRM available to people so that they can see what Mormonism is beyond what the Mormon church P.R. Dept publically advertises .

  4. falcon says:

    That’s the reason we have to “cult proof” people by giving them the low-down on Mormonism in general and the LDS church specifically. I had a chance to do that this past weekend with a friend of my daughter’s who’s a young adult. I gave her the Cliff-Notes version but enough to inoculate her in case she’s ever on some Mormon missionaries hit list.
    Mormonism can’t really compete with factual information. They use the “love bombing” technique and anything but the truth while recruiting prospects.

  5. Mike R says:


    True . There’s no substitute for parents educating their children about groups like Mormons and some other groups also ( i.e. Jw’s ) well in advance . The Mormon church policy that Sharon mentioned above where only those possessing a temple recommend will be allowed at a Temple marriage is one good example of a red flag that non Mormon parents should see , and will hopefully start them looking into Mormon beliefs deeper in order to warn a child who may be dating a Mormon and contemplating marriage . The control that the Mormon church occupies in the life of it’s members is something to be informed about .

  6. falcon says:

    I’m wondering who is more likely to marry a Mormon, a non-Mormon male or female? I don’t want to get my toes up to the out-of-bounce line here but one time my wife and I were on the Utah State campus. On Friday, as I came out of the workshop I was attending, I saw hoards of beautiful Barbie Dolls. I asked my wife what was up. She reported that it was some sort of LDS youth gathering.
    I’m telling you, if I were a teenage boy and encountered that scene it would be “prey meet bait”. I could see where these gals could pull some unsuspecting guy into the program. Lee Baker, former Mormon Bishop, talks about meeting his wife and she was Mormon and he was Catholic. Well he became a Mormon and was one for decades. He has some interesting insights and perspectives.

  7. historybuff says:

    In my experience, most of the non-Mormon men who convert to Mormonism in order to marry a Mormon girl do so as if they’re joining a club, albeit an expensive club. The men weren’t committed to a religion before, and that doesn’t change. Rarely do they become true believing Mormons unless they decide to sacrifice their integrity to keep peace in the family and they eventually get swept up in the dynamics of the organization.

    You can see why they don’t generally seem open to your message: they don’t really care about religion and don’t want to think about it, and you are threatening to upset their family life.

  8. falcon says:

    Joseph Smith went from “money digging” to religion as his source of income. Same type of scam but just applied to a different venue. Religion proved to be more lucrative for him and at the same time allowed him to pursue his other interests, namely the opposite sex. I think, given the customs of the time, Smith defrauded his father-in-law and the LDS try to sell it as “elopement”. It’s really an expansion of the Mormon scam, the way Smith is portrayed as this paragon of virtue and righteousness when the opposite is true. But in the mind of a TBM, the revelation of this truth is all an attempt to persecute the “prophet”.
    On-another-note, I’m wondering how many Mormons marry non-Mormons outside of the venue of the LDS religion? That would be the situation where the Mormon basically quits the church. What sort of impact does this have on the family structure. I talked to a woman from Utah once who told me that of her three siblings, not one practiced the LDS religion they were brought up in. Their parents felt like failures but it sounded like they hadn’t shunned their children.

  9. historybuff says:

    Interestingly, Joseph Smith’s reluctant father-in-law was not the only person to claim that a Mormon had seduced and run off with his daughter or wife. These allegations followed LDS missionaries all over the globe, and even today you’ll hear such accusations. Almost all the claims are false, of course.

    The charges were not, however, pulled completely out of thin air. Early on, shortly after the Church was established, one notorious case received a lot of public attention. One of the Church’s apostles, Parley P. Pratt, while on a mission for the Church, met and married Eleanor McLean as his twelfth polygamous wife. One problem: she was already married to non-Mormon Hector McLean. Hector pursued them to Arkansas, where he murdered Pratt.

    “As Pratt was bleeding to death, a farmer asked what he had done to provoke the attack. Pratt said, ‘He accused me of taking his wife and children. I did not do it. They were oppressed, and I did for them what I would do for the oppressed anywhere.’ ” Bagley, Blood of the Prophets, Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, p. 70.

    Of course, Pratt’s polygamous philanderings as a missionary were not the story that reached delicate Mormon ears. Growing up in the Church, I was told that Pratt had been murdered by a vicious mob of anti-Mormons in Arkansas in 1857. Even today, Mormon leaders still propagate this lie to Church members. For example, as recently as 2007 the Deseret Morning News, a newspaper owned by the Church, reported that “Pratt was killed near Van Buren, Ark., in May 1857, by a small Arkansas band antagonistic toward his teachings”. “LDS-Tied Events to Bisect in Arkansas”, Deseret Morning News. (Retrieved 2011-03-30)

    Not only were the Church’s 1847 news reports of Pratt’s death false, but they also inflamed passions among Utah Mormons to the point that they slaughtered an entire wagon train of Arkansas men, women, and children – children under the age of 8 were spared and kidnapped – in retaliation. This was known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. “LDS-Tied Events to Bisect in Arkansas”, Deseret Morning News. (Retrieved 2011-03-30)

    That lie by LDS Church leaders heaped suspicion on all future missionaries and led to generations of missionaries being threatened and labeled as “wife stealers.” And that particular lie led to the deaths of 120 innocent travelers on September 11, 1857. To this day, Mormon leaders refuse to accept accountability for those murders, blaming it “mostly” on Indians.

    If former Mormon missionaries wish to know why some people suspected them to be potential wife stealers, they need look no further than Joseph Smith and Parley P. Pratt.

  10. falcon says:

    But that doesn’t mean that the church isn’t true and that it does a lot of good.

  11. historybuff says:

    Falcon —
    I see you’ve become another victim of the Jedi Mind Grab. Live long and prosper…

    And to any BYU students reading this blog —
    Don’t even think about leaving the Church. They’ll expel you from BYU. No lie.

  12. falcon says:

    A hit from the past:
    Brigham Young University has yanked the diploma of a man who created a calendar featuring shirtless Mormon missionaries and was later excommunicated from the church.
    Chad Hardy of Las Vegas attended graduation ceremonies Aug. 15 after finishing up his last four units of study online in June. But on July 13, in between completing his studies and the graduation ceremony, he was excommunicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Maybe the guy should have “married” 33 women some married to other men and a couple of adolescent girls.

  13. historybuff says:

    In recounting the story of Joseph Smith’s youth as a magical money digger seeking buried treasure with divining rods and “seer stones”, it’s noteworthy that JOSEPH HIMSELF ADMITTED TO DOING SO.

    For example, Joseph openly admitted using folk magic to seek buried treasure in an interview printed in the “Elders’ Journal” (Vol. 1, Num. 2, pp. 28-29). Speaking of himself in the third person in a question-answer format, Joseph said:

    “Was not Joseph Smith a money digger? Yes, but it was never a very profitable job for him, as he only got fourteen dollars a month for it.”

    -Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 120; History of the Church 3:29; Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 271.

    Well before Joseph claimed to have uncovered the golden plates of the Book of Mormon, he was well known within the community for purportedly using astrology and the occult to interpret revelations, and he was proud of his ability to use magical incantations and formulas to discover buried gold and other treasure. He even used seer stones, placed in a hat, to later “translate” the Book of Mormon.

    Significantly, for all of his adult life Joseph wore a round protective magical talisman, referred to as a “Jupiter stone.” See D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View.

    Most LDS apologists familiar with Joseph Smith’s Jupiter Talisman, and his use of seer stones and folk magic for treasure hunting, explain the practices as vestiges of an earlier, more superstitious time, and of little consequence. The important question, though, is:

    “But Joseph used those same treasure-hunting seer stones to translate the Book of Mormon, and he wore an occult Jupiter Talisman his entire life: How many of Joseph Smith’s supposed discoveries and divine teachings – the Book of Abraham? the Book of Mormon? – are based on spurious vestiges of astrology, folk magic, and the occult?”

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