Mormon History

Smith Family Members Testimonies - 1879

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune October 17, 1879


Mr. Isaac Hale, the prophet's father-in-law, testified, in 1834"

Joseph Smith, Jr., 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.

(In this connection read from the revelation given to Joseph and Martin, in Harmony, Pa., March, 1829, when Martin desired of the Lord to know whether Joseph had in his possession the record of the Nephites. In the Book of Commandments, of 1832, "the Lord" says: "And he has a gift to translate the book, and I have commanded him that he shall pretend to no other gift." As revised, and at present published, this passage reads: "And you have a gift to translate the plates and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you, and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose id fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished." The change of person is here immaterial, but note the artful twisting -- the "gift" which the Lord, in the first instance, refers to plainly meaning the gift of peeping for hid treasures. Is nit such jugglery with sacred matters abominable?

Mr. Hale's testimony continues:

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 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 N. Y., Emma wrote to me enquiring whether she could take her property, consisting of clothing, furniture, cows, etc. I replied that her property was safe, and at her disposal. In a short time they returned, bringing with them a Peter Ingersoll, and subsequently came to the conclusion that they would move out, and reside upon a place near my residence.

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 etc. 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 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 anything 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 116 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 Martin 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 suppose, the Book of Plates, and that "if the three did not go exactly according to the orders, the thing would be taken from them." I inquired 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 hid in the woods. After this, Martin Harris went away, and Oliver Cowdery came and wrote for Smith, while he interpreted as above described.

Joseph Smith jr. resided near me for some time after his marriage [Jan 1827,] 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 may live upon the spoils of those who swallow the deception.

Mrs. Bidamon, the prophet's wife, in her recent testimony says nothing about the plates having been hid in the woods. On the contrary, from her statement, they (or something), it would appear, lay around "on the table," in a very careless and indifferent manner, wrapped up in a linen table cloth, and Mrs. Emma is shockingly incurious about them.

The following is part of an affidavit of Messrs. Hiel and Joseph Lewis, of Amboy, Ills., recently taken. The brothers are cousins and old-time neighbors of the late Mrs. Bidamon and her prophet-husband. Hiel Lewis was a member of the M. E. Church for nearly forty years, and for the last seven years has been a member of the Church of the United Brethren. His older brother, Joseph Lewis, has been a member of the M. E. Church for fifty-five years.

First, we would add our testimony to the truthfulness of the statements of our uncle Isaac Hale, father of Mrs. Emma Smith Bidamon, Alva Hale, her brother, Rev. Nathaniel Lewis, our father, Levi Lewis, our brother, and Sophia Lewis, his wife, and Joshua McKune, husband of Elizabeth McKune, our sister. These, with the exception of Alva Hale and Elizabeth McKune, are dead. They were all living in Susquehanna county, Pa., at the time of Joe Smith's exploits, and their statements in the book, "Mormonism exposed by John C. Bennett," are prefectly reliable in every respect.

The statement that the prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., made in our hearing, at the commencement of his translating his book, in Harmony, Pa., as to the manner of his finding the plates, was as follows: Our recollection of the precise language may be faulty, but as to the substance, the following is correct:

He said that by a dream he was informed that at such a place in a certain hill, in an iron box, were some gold plates with curious engravings, which he must get and translate, and write a book; that the plates were to be kept concealed from every human being for a certain time -- some two or three years; that he went to the place and dug till he came to the stone that covered the box, when he was knocked down; that he again attempted to remove the stone, and was again knocked down; this attempt was made the third time, and the third time he was knocked down. Then he exclaimed, "Why can't I get it?" or words to that effect; and then he saw a man standing over the spot, who to him appeared like a Spaniard, having a long beard coming down over his breast to about here, (Smith putting his hand to the pit of his stomach) with his (the ghost's) throat cut from ear to ear, and the blood streaming down, who told him that he could not get it alone; that another person whom he (Smith) would know at first sight, must come with him, and then he could get it; and when he saw Miss Emma Hale, he knew that she was the person, and that after they were married, she went with him to near the place, and stood with her back towards hi while he dug up the box, which he rolled up in his frock and she helped carry it home; that in the same box with the plates were spectacles, with bows of gold and the eyes of stone, and by looking through these spectacles all the characters on the plates were translated into English.

In all this narrative, there was not one word about visions of God, or of angels, or heavenly revelations; all his information was by that dream and bleeding ghost. The heavenly visions and messages of angels, etc., contained in Mormon books, were after-thoughts revised to order.

(Signed)           JOSEPH LEWIS,
                        HIEL LEWIS.

                 Lee County.} ss.
I, Everett E. Chase, a justice of the peace in and for the county of Lee, State aforesaid, do hereby certify that the above named Joseph Lewis and Hiel Lewis, personally known to me to be reputable, truthful and honorable gentlemen, came before me and in my presence signed the above statement; and each of them before me made affidavit to each and all of the allegations therein set forth according to their best memory.
       EVERETT E. CHASE, J. P.
                       April 23d, 1879.    }

We the undersigned hereby certify that we are personally acquainted with Joseph Lewis and Hiel Lewis, that we know them to be in every way worthy of confidence, that they are truthful, honorable Christian gentlemen, and their statements entitled to the fullest credence.

J. B. Felker, M. D., Mayor of Amboy.
W. H. Haskell, Ed. and Pub. Amboy Journal.
R. H. Mellen, Post Master.
A. H. Merrifield, Druggist and Bookseller.
Wm. B. Andruss, J. P. and Alderman.
Alfred Tooker, Attorney at Law,
J. S. Briggs, Druggist and Grocer.
Has. A. Church, Jeweler.
Josiah Little, Banker.


In reference to the prophet Joseph having joined, or having essayed to join, in 1828, the Methodist Church in Harmony, Pa., Mr. Joseph Lewis addressed a letter to the Amboy Journal, June 11th, 1879. It appears that Mr. Morse, the prophet's brother-in-law, now of Amboy, Ill., informed Elder Cadwell, of the "Josephites," that he (Morse) was himself the very "class-leader" who took Joseph Smith's name on his book at the time (1828), and that the prophet remained as a "probationist" for six months. Elder Cadwell published this statement in the Amboy Journal, May 21st, 1879.

Mr. Joseph Lewis writes:

The facts are these: I, with Joshua McKune, a local preacher at that time, I think in June, 1828, heard on Saturday, that Joe Smith had joined the church on Wednesday afternoon, (as it was customary in those days to have circuit preaching at my father's house on week-days). We thought it was a disgrace to the church to have a practicing necromancer, a dealer in enchantments and bleeding ghosts, in it. So on Sunday we went to father's, the place of meeting that day, and got there in season to see Smith and talked with him some time before the meeting; told him that his occupation, habits, and moral character were at variance with the discipline, that his name would be a disgrace to the Church, that there should have been recantation, confession and at least promised reformation; that he could that day publicly ask that his name be stricken from the class book, or stand an investigation. He chose the former, and did that very day make the request that his name be taken off the class-book; and if Mr. Morse was leader at that time, and Smith's name remained on the class-book six months, the class leader neglected his duty.

This is of very great importance -- as it must be borne in mind that the prophet Joseph had already "translated" a considerable portion of his sacred plates, and that the "Father and Son" had some time before appeared to him and told him that all the sects were "an abomination" and that he was on no account to unite himself with any of them.

The following is from a letter dated Amboy, Illinois, Sept. 29, 1879:

I will give what I can from my own knowledge and memory and from what I heard at the time. When Emma Hale eloped with Joseph Smith, the Hale family was greatly exasperated, and perhaps it would not have been safe for Smith to have shown himself at his father-in-law's house. Emma was, or had been, the idol, or favorite, of the family, and they still felt a strong attachment for her. Permission to return and reconciliation were effected and accomplished by her, and perhaps her sister, Mrs. Wasson, who lived near Bainbridge, New York. The persuasions for Smith to return all came from the other side, not from Mr. Isaac Hale or his family in Harmony, Pa. The statement of Mr. Hale, made under oath before Esquire Dimon, was strictly true. * * * Reuben Hale is but little older than myself, was living with his father at the time of Smith's money-digging, and wrote for Smith when he first began to translate, before Harris came to Harmony. It is true that Alva Hale went with his team to Palmyra, N. Y., one hundred miles or more, and moved Smith and wife to Harmony. It was stated by Alva Hale, at the time, that the "Gold Bible" was in a barrel of beans in his wagon, and that he (Hale) slept in his wagon to guard that barrel of beams and its treasure. I remember hearing my older brother Joseph tell Alva that if he, Joeph Lewis, had been in your place (Alva Hale's) he would have known whether that barrel of beans contained any golden Bible or not, perfectly regardless of Smith's statement that it would be certain death for any one to see the plates. The Hales seemed, for a time, to be kept in awe by Smith's statements, but that awe did not last long. Alva Hale is over eighty and his memory has failed much in a few years past. Some things he remembers distinctly, and some things I have been able to help him recall; for example, I asked him if he remembered the letter he wrote to Smith and Emma when they eloped. He said, no, and had no recollection of writing a letter to them. When told the contents of the letter; which was as follows -- "My Creed! I believe in love-powder, in gun-powder and hell fire," he replied, I recollect it as plain as if but yesterday. I asked Alva, on one of our late visits, if he remembered weighing the gold Bible; but he did not. My brother tried to refresh his memory, but in vain. Joseph remembers hearing it stated by Alva that he (Hale) was permitted to weigh the gold Bible in a pillow case, and, according to our memory, it weighed thirteen pounds! There were many persons in Harmony who had from Joe Smith positive promises that they should see the plates and the spectacles, but all say that they never saw them. Alva Hale says he never saw them. I presume he saw that old glass-box that Isaac Hale spoke of, said to contain the plates. Smith's excuse for using his peepstone and hat to translate with, instead of those spectacles, was that he must keep the spectacles concealed; but any and all persons were permitted to inspect the peep-stone; and that he could translate just as well with the stone. My sister, Mrs. E. L. McKune, says,

"I worked in the families of Joseph Smith and uncle Isaac Hale for about nine months, during which time Mrs. Emma Smith had a child which was still-born and much deformed. The dwellings of Mr. Hale and Joseph Smith, jr., were near each other. I saw Smith translating his book by the aid of the stone and hat. Reuben Hale, younger son of Isaac Hale, acted as scribe, writing down the words from Joseph Smith's mouth, but after a short time Martin Harris did the writing. I heard Smith tell his wife Emma that he was nearly equal to Jesus Christ, and was as good to her as her Savior. The time when Smith told the story of the bleeding ghost was after the close of the money-digging, after Smith was married and had moved back to Harmony, and had commenced the translation of his book, I think either before or about the time that Mrs. Harris had abstracted the 130 pages of their manuscript. The date I cannot precisely recall. I have a distinct recollection about the bleeding ghost."

Your idea that the first start of the book was a money speculation, not a new church, is perfectly correct. Your general idea of Smith's plates is also correct. He had something which he would permit a select few to handle, as they were done up in a cloth, or in a box, but doubtless the plates were comething prepared for the occasion. Among the first of Smith's scribes was one Martin Harris, who operated in our immediate neighborhood. His residence was then, I, think, in Palmyra, N.Y. He was a man of some property, and his wife was very strongly opposed to his spending his time and money in Smith's speculation, and once, while Harris was writing for Smith, she came to Harmony township and got hold of the manuscript they were makingand carried it off, or destroyed it, and caused them considerable trouble.

I am able to get near the exact date of Smith's joining the Methodist Episcopal Church. My sister, Elizabeth L. McKune, says she was working in the family of Michael B. Morse the latter part of the winter and spring, and soon after that Joseph Smith, Jr., joined the Church, and while she was working for Mr. Morse he made her a chest and when he painted it put the date, 1828, in red paint on the inside of the chest. She has said chest and date now in her possession. Also my brother Joseph Lewis, from circumstances and business transactions, is able to fix the date to be Harmony, Susquehanna county, Pa., June __, 1828. The day of the month I am not able to ascertain. We have another witness to Smith's joining the Church, in Elder Cadwell's reply to my statement in the Amboy Journal.

Yours Truly,                

Says Goethe: "The phrases men are accustomed to repeat incessantly end by becoming convictions, and ossify the organs of intelligence." The craft of Mormonism is attempting to father itself upon Christianity, and in covering itself with this guise of Christian talk, ceremonial, etc., while rejecting the spirit of genuine religion, betrays its weakness and interaction. The two things, Mormonism and Christianity, cannot possibly amalgamate or coalesce. The nature and essence of the two are dismetrically opposed. But (as Garrison said of slavery) the exact amount of sin which will lie at the door of each individual who believes in -- or pretends to believe in -- Mormonism, in the majority of cases upholding the thing from mere bravado, or from a foolish pride of consistency (God save the mark!) will, of course, depend upon one's birth, training and light. This may not be settled here, but be sure it will have to be met somewhere and settled. Be sure our sin will not find us out. A continued and systematic denial, or ignoring of facts -- facts, too, involving the very existence of Mormonism -- cannot be counted as other than moral felinquency. We are responsible, and will be held responsible, for sinning a gainst light and knowledge. And shall we not be held responsible for shutting our eyes to (possibly unpleasant, possibly humiliating, but still unanswerable) facts in relation to the origin of Mormonism, and cleaving to it as true, when it is within our power to know that it is not true?

It is earnestly hoped from the articles which have been hastily prepared for The Tribune, after a very exhaustive examination, that a just and true insight may be had into the real origin and foundation steps of Mormonism; and that those who have clung so tenaciously but so unreasoningly and so stupidly to it, will be enabled to see that the thing can not possibly be defended and maintained -- that it is clearly something to be ashamed of. "Rid your mind of cant," said gruff old Sam Johnson, "talk as stupidly as you will, but don't think like a fool."

Note 1: Journalist James T. Cobb reveals a little of his efforts to refute Mormonism, in his saying: "It is earnestly hoped from the articles which have been hastily prepared for The Tribune, after a very exhaustive examination, that a just and true insight may be had into the real origin and foundation steps of Mormonism." The first of these Cobb articles in the Tribune was perhaps the one on "Early Mormonism," published Dec. 5, 1878; the last of this series of Cobb's articles was quite likely "A Lying Charge Refuted," published on Jan. 4, 1880.

Note 2: The April 23, 1879 "affidavit of Messrs. Hiel and Joseph Lewis" extracted by Cobb was also published at greater length in Wilhelm R. von Wymetal's 1886 book, Mormon Portraits. On page 81 of that book the author provides Justice of the Peace Everett E. Chase's certification. Allowing for the fact that in all three printings (in the Amboy paper, the Salt Lake paper, and in the 1886 book), that there is probably some editorial restatement of the words in the original document, probably a fairly accurate reconstruction of its contents can be articulated by combining the three published versions of the text. In his book Wilhelm R. von Wymetal names his "learned friend, James T. Cobb, Esq." as a "pathfinder in early Mormon history" and the source of various documents he published relating to early Mormonism, including the Hiel Lewis letter of Sept. 11, 1879 and the Lewis brothers' statement of Apr. 23, 1879, and an Oct. 14, 1879 letter from John. H. Gilbert of Palmyra. Cobb was also, no doubt, the owner of the May 2, 1879 Able D. Chase statement published in his friend's 1886 book.

Note 3: The Hiel Lewis letter to James T. Cobb, dated Sept. 29, 1879, is not known to have been printed by Amboy Journal with the Lewis brothers' 1879 series of statements on early Mormonism. Perhaps its only publication was in the Salt Lake Tribune. The document is missing from the lists compiled and published by researchers such as Dan Vogel, but it appears to provide some useful information concerning Joseph Smith, Jr.'s 1828 attempt to join the Methodist Episcopal church in Harmony township, Pennsylvania (where his wife and some of her family were also apparently attending as members).