Mormon History

The Fraud of Joe Smith - 1879

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune June 5, 1879


Another Chapter on Joe Smith and the Book of Mormon.

The following chapter, written by an eye and ear witness to the matter treated upon, we commend to the perusal, especially, of Apostle Orson Pratt, who is now in England supervising a new edition of the Book of Mormon; also to Appstle Geo. Q. Cannon, who, through the columns of his Juvenile Instructor, is guilty of the very grave offense of filling so many of the youthful minds of this Territory with false and pernicious ideas, by treating the Book of Mormon as if it were true; whereas, if he does not know that the thing is an utter humbug and fraud, he ought to know it, and has no excuse for not informing himself of the actual facts before leading innocent minds astray. Those children in a few years will discover how grossly they have been imposed upon -- and the what will be, what must be, their opinion of those who are now tutoring them in lies!

Rome was not built in a day, nor was this Mormon scheme. The revelations were "given" by spurts and piecemeal. By comparing them as at present put forth with the same revelations as they originally appeared in 1832, it will be seen what a clever and careful revisor their "Gid" is. A line or a word is added here, there a sentence or a paragraph; here and there a phrase is modified, a too bald sentence eliminated, or a too patent "track" artfully covered. That is the way the "God" of these revelations had of adapting himself to the comprehension of his credulous creatures. As Orson Pratt early discovered, and in his childlike simplicity freely admits, "line upon line, here a little and there a little," but to Orson 'tis all God's doings. "The Lord therefore," says Pratt, (The Seer, p. 229,) "adds in hus revelations whatever he thinks proper; but He has expressly forbidden man to make any additions. The high prerogative of adding to an inspired revelation belongs to the Lord only, hence the Lord added by the mouth of Joseph, line upon line, here a little and there a little, to some of the manuscript copies which were about to be published." Poor Orson, how wise, how stupid! Did he never discover the cloven hoof through it all -- not even a toe?

Cowdery says that he wrote the entire Book of Mormon, except a few pages, as it fell from the mouth of the Prophet, as he translated from the plates. Let us see how long he was about it.

According to their mutual statement he met Joseph Smith for the first time and "commenced to write the Book of Mormon" for him, less than two months before the copyright of the Book of Mormon was procured! They met "for the first time" about the middle of April, 1829. The copyright of the Book of Mormon was obtained June 11, 1829.

Says Mr. Tucker (pp. 50, 51, Origin and Progress of Mormonism) " In June, 1829, Smith and the prophet, his brother Hyrum, Cowdery the scribe, and Harris the believer, applied to Mr. Egbert B. Grandin, then publisher of the Wayne Sentinel (now deceased) for his price to do the work of one edition of 3,000 copies. Harris offered to pay or secure payment, if a bargain should be made. Only a few sheets of the manuscript, as a specimen, with the title-page, were exhibited at this time, though the whole number of folios was stated, whereby could be made a calculation of the cost." Mr. Tucker was the editor and founder of the Wayne Sentinel on whose press the Book of Mormon was originally printed.

Says Smith in his history, page 21, "The Title page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated, the language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writing in general."

Copyrights at that time were not granted until manuscripts were fully ready for the press. How long, then, is Cowdery in "writing the entire Book of Mormon, except a few pages, as it fell from the prophett's mouth"?

The long game, so artfully laid and so perseveringly played is about up. Messrs. Canon, Pratt & Company; your so-called religion is staken upon the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. By that are ye justified or by it shall ye be condemned.

The following is the chapter above alluded to, from


It is an interesting illustrative fact to be noticed in the history of Mormonism, that the origin of that extraordinary politico-religious institution is traceable to the insignificant "little stone" found in the digging of Mr. Chase's well. Such was the acorn of the Mormon oak. The fame of Smith's money-digging performances had been sounded far and near. The newspapers had heralded and ridiculed them. The pit-hole memorials of his treasure explorations were numerous in the surrounding fields and woodlands, attracting the inspection of the curious and the wonder of the superstitious. The outgivings of "spiritual demonstrations," in various forms and in different parts of the country, had perhaps contributed in preparing the fanatical mind for some extraordinary revelation. Notwithstanding the failure of seven or eight years' continued efforts for the attainment of the promised wealth from its hidden earthy deposit, yet "the fools were not all dead," and the time might have seemed opportune for the prediction of some marvelous discovery, and for the great "religious" event that was to follow in the career of Joe Smith!


This review comes down to the summer of 1827. A mysterious stranger now appears at Smith's residence, and holds private interviews with the far-famed money-digger. For a considerable length of time no intimation of the name or purpose of this personage transpired to the public, not even to Smith's nearest neighbors. It was observed by some of them that his visits were frequently repeated. The sequel of these private interviews between the stranger and the money-digger will sufficiently appear hereafter.

About this time Smith had a remarkable vision. He pretended that, while engaged in secret prayer, alone in the wilderness, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, with the glad tidings that "all his sins had been forgiven," and proclaiming further, that "all the religious denominations were believing in false doctrines, and consequently that none of them were accepted of God as His Church and Kingdom;" also that "he had received a promise that the true doctrine and the fulness of the Gospel should at some future time be revealed to him." Following this, soon came another angel, (or possibly the same one,) revealing to him that he was himself to be the favored instrument of the new revelation, "that the American Indians were a remnant of the Israelites, who, after coming to this country, had their prophets and inspired writings; that such of their writings as had not been destroyed were safely deposited in a certain place made known to him, and to him only; that they contained revelations in regard to the last days, and that, if he remained faithful, he would be the chosen prophet to translate them to the world."


In the fall of the same year Smith had yet a more miraculous and astonishing vision than any preceding one. He now arrogated to himself, by authority of the "spirit of revelation," and in accordance with the previous "promises" made to him, a far higher sphere in the scale of human existence, assuming to possess the gift and power of prophet, seer, and revelator. On this assumption he announced to his family, friends and the bigoted persons who had adhered to his supernaturalism, that he was commanded, upon a secretly fixed day and hour, to go alone to a certain spot revealed to him by the angel, and there take out of the earth a metallic book of great antiquity in its origin, and of immortal importance in its consequences to the world, which was a record, in mystic letters or characters, of the long-lost tribes of Israel before spoke of, who had primarily inhabited this continent, and which no human being besides himself could see and live; and the power to translate which to the nations of the earth was also given to him only, as the chosen servant of God! This was substantially, if not literally, the pretension of Smith, as related by himself, and repeatedly quoted by his credulous friends at the time.

Much pains were taken by the Smith family and the prophet's money-digging disciples to give wide circulation to the wonderful revelation, and in great gravity to predict its marvelous fulfilment. It is unknown, however, if the momentous announcement produced any sensation in the community, though it is fair to presume that the victims of Smith's former deceptive practices regarded it with some seriousness.

Accordingly, when the appointed hour came, the prophet, assuming his practised air of mystery, took in hand his money-digging spade and a large napkin, and went off in silence and alone in the solitude of the forest, and after an absence of some three hours, returned, apparently with the sacred charge concealed within the folds of the napkin. Reminding the family of the original injunction of non-intervention and non-inspection was given to them, under the same terrible penalty as before denounced for its violation. Conflicting stories were afterward told in regard to the manner of keeping the book in concealment and safety, which are not worth repeating, further than to mention that the first place of secretion was said to be under a heavy hearthstone in the Smith family mansion. Smith told a frightful story of the display of celestial pyrotechnics on the exposure to view of the sacred book -- the angel who had led him to the discovery again appearing as his guide and protector,and confronting ten thousand devils gathered there, with their menacing sulfurous flame and smoke, to deter him from his purpose! This story was repeated and magnified by the believers, and no doubt aided the experiment upon superstitious minds which eventuated so successfully. * * * The spot from which the book is alleged to have been taken, is the yet partially visible pit where the money speculators had previously dug for another kind of treasure, which is upon the summit of what has ever since been known as "Mormon Hill," now owned by Mr. Anson Robinson, in the town of Manchester, New York.

Mr. Willard Chase, a carpenter and joiner (the person from whose well the peep-stone had been obtained in 1822,) was called upon by Smith and requested to make a strong chest in which to keep the golden book under lock and key, in order to prevent the awful calamity that would follow against the person other than himself who should behold it with his natural eyes. He could not pay a shilling for the work, and therefore proposed to make Mr. Chase a sharer in the profits ultimately anticipated in some manner not definitely stated; but the proposition was rejected -- the work was refused on the terms offered. It was understood, however, that the custodian of the precious treasure afterward, in some way procured a chest for his purpose, which, with its sacred deposit, was kept in a dark garret of his father's house, where the translations were subsequently made, as will be explained. An anecdote touching this subject used to be related by William T. Hussey and Azel Vandruver. They were notorious wags, and were intimately acquainted with Smith. They called as his friends at his residence, and strongly importuned him for an inspection of the "golden book," offering to take upon themselves the risk of the death penalty denounced. Of course the request could not be complied with; but they were permitted to go to the chest with its owner, and see where the thing was, and observe its shape and size, concealed under a piece of thick canvas. Smith, with his accustomed solemnity of demeanor, positively persisting in his refusal to uncover it, Hussey became impetuous, and suiting [his] action to his word ejaculated, "Egad! I'll see the critter, live or die!" and stripping off the cover, a large tile-brick was exhibited. But Smith's fertile imagination was equal to the emergency. He claimed that his friends had been sold by a trick of his; and "treating" with the customary whisky hospitalities, the affair ended in good-nature.

With the book was also found, or so pretended, a huge pair of spectacles in a perfect state of preservation, or the Urim and Thummim, as afterward interpreted, whereby the mystic record was to be translated and the wonderful dealings of God revealed to man, by the superhuman power of Joe Smith. This spectacle pretension, however, is believed to have been purely an after-thought, for it was not heard of outside of the Smith family for a considerable period subsequent to the first story. So in regard to Smith's after-averment, that the "hidden records" had been revealed to him in 1823, before Rigdon's mysterious appearance at the scene, though they were not permitted to be taken until 1827. No such pretension was made until after Rigdon's connection with the imposture had become publicly known. This idea was also a secondary invention. It is only a piece of Mormon cunning.