By the summer of 1827, when newlyweds Joseph and Emma Smith1
were living with Joseph's family in Manchester, New York,
people began to hear from the Smith family about a treasure Joseph
had found. They told the story of a book written on plates of gold
which had been buried in the ground in a Manchester hill (later
called the Hill Cumorah) about two miles southeast from their home.
This glacial drumlin had been, according to one scholar, "the site
of treasure digging both before and after Joseph Smith's receiving
the golden plates."2
This chapter attempts to recover from available sources the earliest
versions of this saga. Certainly no single account gives a complete
picture of events pieced together years later. But important patterns
and similarities recur among the early accounts. In contrast to
the account which was latter told, the earliest versions linked
the finding of the plates with the practice of searching for buried
treasure. They also linked obtaining the plates with magical rituals
traditionally associated with winning treasure from its guardian
Willard Chase was a neighbor and friend of the Smith family. He
had known them since 1820 and later recalled that the family followed
the money-digging business "until the latter part of the season
of 1827." That June, Joseph Smith, Sr., told Chase a remarkable
story, whose beginnings went back more than three years:
"That some years ago, a spirit3 had
appeared to Joseph his son, in a vision, and informed him that in
a certain place there was a record on plates of gold, and that he
was the person that must obtain them,  and this he must do in
the following manner: On the 22d of September, he must repair to
the place where was deposited this manuscript, dressed in black
clothes, and riding a black horse with a switch tail, and demand
the book in a certain name, and after obtaining it, he must go directly
away, and neither lay it down nor look behind him.4
They accordingly fitted out Joseph with a suit of black clothes
and borrowed a black horse."
Chase reportedly was told that Smith in fact went to the stone
box in which the book of gold was deposited and removed the book:
"but fearing some one might discover where he got it,
he laid it down to place back the top stone, as he found it; and
turning round, to his surprise there was no book in sight. He again
opened the box, and in it saw the book, and attempted to take it
out, but was hindered. He saw in the box something like a toad,
which soon assumed the appearance of a man, and struck him on the
side of his head."
Smith tried to take the book again but was again struck by the
spirit. On asking "why he could not obtain the plates," he was told
that he had not obeyed the orders of the spirit. He was then instructed
to bring his oldest brother Alvin:
"come one year from this day, and bring with you your
oldest brother, and you shall have them. This spirit, he said, was
the spirit of the prophet who wrote this book, and who was sent
to Joseph Smith, to make known these things tq him. Before the expiration
of the year, his oldest brother died; which the old man said was
an accidental providence!"
When Smith returned a year later, the spirit asked about his brother.
Learning he was dead, the spirit "commanded him to come again, in
just one year, and bring a man with him. On asking who might be
the man, he was answered that he would know him when he saw him."
According to Chase's account, filtered through his and Joseph
Sr.'s perspectives, Joseph Jr. first decided that the next year
he should bring Samuel Lawrence, another treasure seeker and seer
in the Manchester area:
"Joseph believed that one Samuel T. Lawrence was the
man alluded to by the spirit, and went with him to a singular looking
hill, in Manchester, and shewed him where the treasure was. Lawrence
asked him if he had ever discovered any thing with the plates of
gold; he said no: he then asked him to look in his stone to see
if there was any thing with them. He looked, and said there was
nothing; he told him to look again, and see if there was not a large
pair of specks with the plates; he looked and soon saw a pair of
spectacles, the same with which Joseph says he translated the Book
"Lawrence told him it would not be prudent to let these plates
be seen for about two years, as it would make a great disturbance
in the neighborhood. Not long after this, Joseph altered his mind,
and said L[awrence]. was not the right man, nor had he told him
the right place."5
One hundred miles to the south, a resident of Colesville for whom
Smith worked briefly, recounted a very similar story. Joseph Knight,
whose recollections were written sometime between 1835 and 1847,
when Knight died, also told of the spirit requesting that Joseph
bring Alvin to the hill. Knight does not mention Lawrence, but his
account adds the identity of a third person Smith felt compelled
by the spirit personage to take to the hill in order to obtain the
treasure-his future wife Emma Hale:
"From thence he [Joseph Smith] went to the hill where
he was informed the Record was and found no trouble for it appear[e]d
plain as tho[ugh] he was acquainted with the place it was so plain
in the vision that he had of the place. He went and found the place
and opened it and found a plane Box. He oncovered it and found the
Book and took it out and laid [it] Down By his side and thot he
would Cover the place over again thinkinking [sic] there might be
something else here. But he was told to take the Book and go right
away. And after he had Covered the place he turned round to take
the Book and it was not there and he was astonished that the Book
was gone. He thot he would look in the place again and see if it
had not got Back again. He had heard people tell of such things.
And he opened the Box and Behold the Book was there. He took hold
of it to take it out again and Behold he Could not stur the Book
any more then he Could the mountain. He exclaimed "why Cant I stur
 this Book?" And he was answer[e]d, "you have not
Done rite; you should have took the Book and a gone right away.
You cant have it now. " Joseph says, "when can I have it?" The answer
was the 22nt Day of September next if you Bring the right person
with you. Joseph says, "who is the right Person?" The answer was
"your oldest Brother."
"But before September Came his oldest Brother Died. Then he
was Disap[po]inted and did not [k]now what to do. But when the
22nt Day of September Came he went to the place and the personage
appear[e]d and told him he Could not have it now. But the 22nt
Day of September nex[t] he mite have the Book if he Brot with
him the right person. Joseph says, "who is the right Person?"
The answer was you will know. Then he looked in his glass and
found it was Emma Hale, Daughter of old Mr Hail [Hale] of Pensylvany,
a girl that he had seen Before, for he had Bin Down there Before
About 1830 Fayette Lapham visited the Smith family with a friend,
Jacob Ramsdell, and talked with Joseph Sr. about finding the buried
record. Lapham's narrative, which was published in 1870, is very
similar to the versions related by Chase and Knight--including the
details about bringing Alvin and then Emma to the hill in order
to placate the guardian spirit:
"He [Joseph] then told his father that, in his dream,
a very large and tall man appeared to him, dressed in an ancient
suit of clothes, and the clothes were bloody. And the man said to
him that there was a valuable treasure, buried many years since,
and not far from that place; and that he had now arrived for it
to be brought to light, for the benefit of the world at large; and,
if he would strictly follow his directions, he would direct him
to the place where it was deposited, in such a manner that he could
obtain it. He then said to him, that he would have to get a certain
coverlid, which he described, and an old-fashioned suit of clothes,
of the same color, and a napkin to put the treasure in. ... when
he had obtained it, he must not lay it down until he placed it in
the napkin. ... Joseph mounted his horse. ... Taking up the first
article, he saw the others below: laying down the first, he endeavored
to secure the others; but before he could get hold of them, the
one he had taken up slid back to the place he had taken it from."
Smith was struck down and fell on his back. The personage then
told him that
"when the treasure was deposited there, he was sworn
to take charge of and protect that property, until the time should
arrive for it to be exhibited to the world of mankind; and, in order
to prevent his making a improper disclosure, he was murdered or
slain on the spot, and the treasure had been under his charge ever
since. He said to him [Joseph] that he had not followed his directions;
and, in consequence of laying the article down before putting it
in the napkin, he could not have the article now; but that if he
would come again one year from that time, he could have them.
"The year passed over before Joseph was aware of it, so the
time passed by; but he went to the place of deposit, where the
same man appeared again, and said he had not been punctual in
following his directions, and, in consequence, he could not have
the article yet. Joseph asked when he could have them; and the
answer was, "Come in one year from this time, and bring your oldest
brother with you; then you may have them." During that year, it
so happened that his oldest brother died; but, at the end of the
year, Joseph repaired to the place again, and was told by the
man who still guarded the treasure, that, inasmuch as he could
not bring his oldest brother, he could not have the treasure yet;
but there would be another person appointed to come with him in
one year from that time, when he could have it."
Smith was then told about an important person he soon would meet:
"Joseph asked, "How shall I know the person?" and was
told that the person would be known to him at sight. During that
year, Joseph went to the town of Harmony, in the State of Pennsylvania,
at the request of some one who wanted the assistance of his divining
rod and stone in finding hidden treasure, supposed to have been
deposited there by the Indians or others. While there, he fell in
company with a young woman; and, when he first saw her, he was satisfied
that she was the person appointed to go with him to get the treasure
he had so often failed to secure."7
In 1879 Hiel and Joseph Lewis, cousins of Emma Hale Smith, recorded
their recollections. According to the brothers, Joseph had 
told, probably in early 1828 in Harmony, Pennsylvania, how he discovered
the plates. In addition to other details, the brothers recalled
the importance of their cousin Emma to Smith's narrative:
"He [Joseph] 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, which 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 Smith 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 toward him, while he dug up the box, which he rolled
up in his frock."8
Smith's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, added her own recollections about
the gold record to her autobiography. She dates Joseph's first trip
to the nearby hill just before Alvin's death in 1823 and emphasizes
Alvin's place in these events. She thus indirectly suggests why
Joseph may have felt the guardian spirit required Alvin's presence
at the hill:
"<He vis[i]ted the place where the plates were laid
and> thinking he could keep every commandment given him <supposed>
that it would be possible for him to take them from their place
and carry them home. But said the divine messenger you must take
them into your hands and go straight to the house without delay
<and put them [in] immediately and lock them up>.
"Accordingly when the time arrived he went to the place ap-
 pointed and removed the moss and grass from the surface of
the rock and then pryed up the first stone according to the directions
which he had received. He then discovered the plates laying on
4 pillars in the inside of the box. He put forth his hand <and>
took them up <but> when he lifted them from their place
the thought flashed across his mind that there might be something
more in the box that would be a benefit to him in a pecuniary
point of view. In the excitement of the moment he laid the record
down in order to cover up the box least some one should come along
and take away whatever else might be deposited there. When he
turned again to take up the record it was gone but where he knew
not nor did he know by what means it was taken away. He was much
alarmed at this. <He> kneeled down <&> asked the
Lord why it was that the record was taken from him. The angel
appeared to him and told him that he had not done as he was commanded
in that he laid down the record in order to secure some imaginary
treasure that remained.
"After some further conversation Joseph was then permit[t]ed
to raise the stone again and there he beheld the plates the same
as before. He reached forth his hand to take them but was <thrown>
to the ground. When he recov<ered the angel was gone and he
arose and went to the house>."9
According to his mother, Joseph was instructed that "when you
get the record take it immediately into the house and lock it up
as soon as possible."10 She adds that Alvin told
Joseph that they would "have a fine long evening <and> all
set down and hear you talk." Joseph told the family about the plates
and asked them not to discuss what he said outside their She then
describes how in the teachings. They also heard Joseph tell stories
of the continent's former civilizations.11
Alvin, his mother remembers, was especially interested in the
record. On his death bed he told Joseph, "I want you to be a good
boy & do everything that lays in your power to obtain the record.
Be faithful in receiving instruction and keeping every commandment
that is given you.12 "According to Lucy," Alvin had ever
manifested a greater zeal and anxiety if it were possible than any
of the rest with regard to the record which had been shown to Joseph
and he always  showed the most intense interest concerning the
matter. With this before our minds we could not endure to hear or
say one word upon that subject, for the moment that Joseph spoke
of the record it would immediately bring Alvin to <our> minds."13
Lucy continues, "but none were more engaged than the one whom
we were doomed [to] part with, for Alvin was never so happy as when
he was contemplating the final suc[c]ess of his brother in obtaining
the record. And now I fancied I could hear him with his parting
breath conjureing his brother to continue faithful that he might
obtain the prize which the Lord had promised him."14
Clearly the gold plates story had been repeated outside the Smith
family before September 1827, and no doubt seemed familiar to those
who heard it and were acquainted with stories about the treasure-digging
activities of the Smith family. A number of accounts have survived
describing how Smith obtained possession of the gold plates. According
to his mother's detailed account, on 20 September 1827 Joseph Knight
and his friend Josiah Stowell arrived at the Smith family house.15
Knight had heard that Joseph was to get the record on 22 September.
This was why he was at the Smith home before Joseph went to get
the plates,16 and "they remained with us untill
Early on the morning of the 22nd, Joseph and Emma left the Smith
home "taking Mr. Knight's horse and wagon" without to travel to
the hill about two miles away.18 When they arrived
at the hill, Joseph left Emma with the wagon while he went to the
side of the hill. Joseph said he then took the plates out of a box
in the ground and hid them in a fallen treetop, concealing them
with the bark of the tree.19 He returned to Knight's
wagon, where Emma was waiting, and they started back to the house.
Meanwhile at the Smith home, according to Lucy, "When the male
part of the family sat down to breakfast Mr. Smith enquired for
Joseph, <for no one but myself knew where he was> as no one
knew where he had gone but myself. I told him that I thought I would
not call Joseph, that I would have him set down with his wife."
Lucy asked her husband to cover her son's absence--"do let him eat
with his wife this morning."20
Joseph Knight soon discovered his "horse and Carriage was 
gone."21 Lucy remembered that "Mr. Knight came
in quite disturbed, Why, Mr. Smith, said he, my horse is gone. I
can't find him on the premises and I want to start home in half
an hour. Never mind the horse, said I, Mr. Knight does not know
all the nooks and corners in the pasture. I will call William (this
<was> my 5th son), he will soon bring him. This
satisfied him for a little while but he soon made another discovery,
his waggon was go, & now he concluded that the Horse and waggon
had gone together and some rogue had gone with them both." Knight
evidently went out to look for them, and "while he was absent Joseph
returned."22 Knight recalled, "after a while he
[Joseph] Came home and he turned out the Horse. All Come into the
house to Brackfirst [breakfast]. But no thing said about where they
had Bin [been].23
The plates were now, according to Joseph,24 hidden
in a fallen treetop, but a better place to deposit them was needed.
According to Lucy, Joseph "asked my advice what it was best to do
about getting a chest." They decided to have one made but lacked
the money to pay for it until
"The next day <Mr. Warner> came to him and requested
<Joseph> to go with him to a widows house <in Macedon by
the name of Wells>, that she wanted <a wall in a well and
as she wanted some labor done>, would pay him the money for it.
<He accompanied> Mr. Warner to Macedon <according to>
Mrs. Wells <request. This> woman [n]one of the family had
ever seen or heard of before although she sent purposely for Joseph.
We considered it a provision of Providence to enable us to pay the
money we were owing the cabinet maker.25
The story now went abroad from the Smith family that Joseph had
obtained some gold plates which had been buried under the ground.
Since Joseph and his father had been involved with a treasure-seeking
group, his former partners wanted their share of the find. As Martin
Harris explained, "The money-diggers claimed that they had as much
right to the plates as Joseph had, as they were in the company together.
They claimed that Joseph had been [a] traitor, and had appropriated
to himself that which belonged to them. For this reason Joseph was
afraid of them."26
According to Lucy, Joseph Sr. was informed that a group of "10
or 12 men were club[b]ed together with one Willard Chase a Methodist
class leader at their head," and they had sent for an unnamed conjuror
"to divine the place where the record was deposited by magic art."
"Accordingly," she continued, "the morning after we heard of their
plans Mr. Smith went over a hill that <lay> east of <us>
to see what he could discover among the neighbors there. At the
first house he came to he found the conjurer, Willard Chase and
the company all together. This was the house of one Mr. Laurence."27
Joseph Knight later wrote: "I will say there [was] a man near By
the name Samuel Lawrance. He was a Seear [Seer] and had Bin [been]
to the hill and knew about the things in the hill and he was trying
to obtain them."28
While Joseph Jr. was working and living in Macedon, helping Mrs.
Wells with her well, Emma took a stray horse that had been on the
Smiths' premises two days (according to Lucy) and rode to Macedon.
Joseph came up out of the well because he had perceived that Emma
was coming to see him. She informed him that the money-diggers claimed
to have located where he had hidden his golden book. Joseph looked
in his peep-stone and said to Emma that the plates were safe. Joseph
promised Mrs. Wells that he would come back when he could, then
mounted a horse "in his linen frock" (smock or work apron), and
rode back home with Emma.29
Joseph then walked by himself to where he had hidden the gold
plates on or near the hill. Several people remember the story they
heard of how he brought the plates back to the Smith house. According
to Lucy's version,
"he took the plates from their [hiding] place and wrapping
them in his linen frock put them under his arm and started for the
house. After walking a short distance in the road, he concluded
it would be safer to go across through the woods. In a moment he
struck through the timber where there was a large windfall to cross.
He had not proceeded far in this direction till, as he was jumping
over a log, a man spran[g] up and gave him a heavy blow with a gun.
Joseph <leveled> him to the ground.30
Smith claimed he knocked down several men as he ran home, arriving
 out of breath. When all the commotion settled, Smith showed
those in attendance his dislocated thumb, which his father put back
in place.31 Smith then "related to our guests
[Joseph Knight and Josiah Stowell] the whole history of the record."
After this Smith went to Willard Chase's house and talked with
him. Chase recalled the story that Smith told him, which is similar
to the accounts of Smith's mother and his friend Joseph Knight
"That on the 22d of September, he arose early in the morning,
and took a one horse wagon, of some one that had stayed over night
at their house, without leave or license; and, together with his
wife, repaired to the hill which contained the book. He left his
wife in the wagon, by the road, and went alone to the hill, a distance
of thirty or forty rods from the road; he said he then took the
book out of the ground and hid it in a tree top, and returned home.
He then went to the town of Macedon to work. After about ten days,
it having been suggested that some one got his book, his wife went
after him; he hired a horse, and went home in the afternoon, staid
long enough to drink one cup of tea, and then went for his book,
found it safe, took off his frock, wrapt it round it, put it under
his arm and run all the way home, a distance of about two miles.
He said he should think it would weigh sixty pounds, and was sure
it would weigh forty. On his return home, he said he was attacked
by two men in the woods, and knocked them both down and made his
escape, arrived safe and secured his treasure. -- He then observed
that if it had not been for that stone, (which he acknowledged belonged
to me,) he would not have obtained the book."32
Martin Harris, a wealthy farmer of Palmyra who knew the Smiths
as money-diggers, heard about the find. Lucy Smith said that Harris
was aware of the existence of the gold plates for sometime: "here
let me mention that no one knew anything of this buisness [sic]
<from us> except one confidential friend of My Husband's to
whom he named it some 2 or 3 years before."33
However, Harris said he heard about the gold plates "about the first
of October, 1827." He remembered that
"The first time I heard of the matter, my brother Presarved
[Preserved] Harris, who had been in the village of Palmyra, asked
me if [I] had heard about Joseph Smith, jr., having a golden bible.
My  thoughts were that the money-diggers had probably dug up
an old brass kettle, or something of the kind. I thought no more
of it. This was about the first of October, 1827."
He also recalled being told by the Smith family how Joseph obtained
the gold plates. (The horse and wagon which Harris remembered belonging
to Stowell, as we know, belonged to Joseph Knight):
"After this, on the 22nd of September, 1827, before day,
Joseph took the horse and wagon of old Mr. Stowel[l], and taking
his wife, he went to the place where the plates were concealed,
and while he was obtaining them, she kneeled down and prayed. He
then took the plates and hid them in an old black tree top which
was hollow. Mr. Stowel[l] was at this time at old Mr. Smith's, digging
"When Joseph had obtained the plates he communicated the fact
to his father and mother. The plates remained concealed in the
tree top until he got the chest made. He then went after them
and brought them home. While on his way home with the plates,
he was met by what appeared to be a man, who demanded the plates,
and struck him with a club on his side, which was all black and
blue. Joseph knocked the man down, and then ran for home, and
was much out of breath. When he arrived home, he handed the plates
in at the window, and they were received from him by his mother.
They were then hidden under the hearth in his father's house.
But the wall being partly down, it was feared that certain ones,
who were trying to get possession of the plates, would get under
the house and dig them out."
Harris recalled that the above events occurred before he talked
"A day or so before I was ready to visit Joseph, his mother
came over to our house and wished to talk with me. I told her I
had no time to spare, she might talk with my wife, and, in the evening
when I had finished my work I would talk with her. When she commenced
talking with me, she told me respecting his bringing home the plates,
and many other things, and said that Joseph had sent her over and
wished me to come and see him."
Harris waited a day or two," had breakfast, and then "told my
 folks I was going to the village, but went directly to old
Mr. Smith's." While there Harris requested Smith "to tell me the
story, which he did as follows. He said: 'An angel had appeared
to him, and told him [Joseph] it was God's work.'" According to
Harris, the angel "told him he must quit the company of the money-diggers."34
Harris discussed Smith's story with the Reverend John A. Clark.
Clark later recalled, "According to Martin Harris, it was after
one of these night excursions, that Jo, while he lay upon his bed,
had a remarkable dream. An angel of God seemed to approach him,
clad in celestial splendor."35
Almost all who heard versions of the story remembered in particular
Smith's interaction with this messenger or spirit associated with
the gold records. Abigail Harris remembered a visit by Smith's parents,
"They told me that the report that Joseph, jun. had found golden
plates, was true, and that he was in Harmony, Pa. Translating them--that
such plates were in existence, and that Joseph, jun. was to obtain
them, was revealed to him by the spirit of one of the Saints that
was on this continent, previous to its being discovered by Columbus."36
Henry Harris heard about the gold plates from Joseph Smith and
remembered Smith's interaction with an angel and his use of the
"After he pretended to have found the gold plates, I had
a conversation with him, and asked him where he found them and how
he come [sic] to know where they were. He said he had a revelation
from God that told him they were hid in a certain hill and he looked
in his stone and saw them in the place of deposit; that an angel
appeared, and told him he could not get the plates until he was
married, and that when he saw the woman that was to be his wife,
he should know her, and she would know him."37
Benjamin Saunders, who was thirteen years old at the time, remembered
hearing the story at his home:
"I heard <Joe> tell my Mother and Sister how he
procured the plates. He said he was directed by an angel were it
was. He went in the night to get the plates. When he took the plates
there was something down near the box that looked some like a toad
that rose up into a  man which forbid him to take the plates.
He found a big pair of spectcles <also with the plates>. As
he went home someone tried to get the plates away from him. He said
he knock[ed] the man down and got away. He had two or three skirmishes
on the way. I saw his hand swel[l]ed up and he said it was done
hitting the enemy."38
During the time Smith reportedly had the gold plates in Manchester,
they were said to have been hidden in several places. Several accounts
have survived which detail the help of Alvah Beeman. Lucy Smith
remembered that Beeman "came from the village <of Livonia>,
a man in whom we reposed much confidence...it was resolved that
a portion of the hearth should be taken up and the plates buried
under the same." This was just before a "large company of men came
rushing up to the house armed with guns" looking for the gold plates.39
Martin Harris mentioned "old Mr. Beman" as one of the treasure seekers
who had been "digging for money supposed to have been hidden by
the ancients."40 The gold plates were eventually
"put into an old Ontario glass-box." Martin Harris, said, "Old Mr.
Beman sawed off the ends, making the box the right length to put
them in, and when they went in he said he heard them jink [clink],
but he was not permitted to see them. He told me so."41
Beeman's daughter Mary related what she heard about her father
and the gold plates:
"Father became acquainted with Father Joseph Smith, the
Father of the Prophet, he frequently would go to Palmira to see
Father Smiths and his family, during this time Brother Joseph Smith
came in possession of the plates which contained the Book of Mormon.
Soon as it was noised around that there was a golden Bible found
(for that was what it was called at that time) the minds of the
people became so excited and it arose at such a pitch that a mob
collected together to search the house of Father Smith to find the
records. My Father was there at the time and assisted in concealing
the plates in a box in a secluded place where no one could find
After being hidden under the hearth, they reportedly were placed
in the Smith's cooper's shop.43 Finally the plates
were "nailed up in a box and the box put into a strong cask made
for the purpose, the  cask was then filled with beans and headed
up."44 The barrel-making skills of the Smiths
may have been useful here.
Fearing the hostile money-diggers around Manchester, Emma's family
allowed her and her husband to move back home to Harmony, Pennsylvania.
Her brother Alva helped transport the couple and their barrel of
beans to the Hale property where Joseph started dictating the text
of his book. In 1829, after the dictation was completed and the
type was being set, Smith wrote a letter from Harmony to Oliver
Cowdery about their stay in southern New York and Pennsylvania:
"the people are all friendly to <us> except a few who are
in opposition to ev[e]ry thing unless it is some thing that is exactly
like themselves and two of our most formadable persacutors are now
under censure and are cited to a tryal [trial] in the church for
crimes which if true are worse than all the Gold Book business."45
Emma's father Isaac later remembered his daughter's and son-in-
law's stay at his home:
"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."46
In the spring of 1828 Martin Harris arrived at Harmony to assist
Smith as a scribe during the process of translating. Surviving accounts
of the translation process suggest that Smith worked without directly
using the plates--this despite all of the difficulty in obtaining,
hiding, and bringing the plates along. When it came to translating
the crucial plates, they were no more present in the room than was
John the Beloved's ancient "parchment," the words of which Joseph
also dictated at the time.47 The accounts emphasize
Smith's continued use of a seer stone.48
Isaac Hale's summary of the process suggests his incredulity:
"The manner in which he [Joseph] pretended to read and interpret,
was the same manner 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!"49
David Whitmer of Fayette, New  York, an early disciple of Joseph
Smith who became acquainted with him in 1829 while the book was
still being dictated, recalled in 1881: "He [Joseph] did not use
the plates in the translation, but would hold the interpreters to
his eyes and cover his face with a hat, excluding all light, and
before his eyes would appear what seemed to be parchment" on which
he would see the characters on the plates and the translation. Joseph
would then reed the words that he saw to his scribe.50
In an 1885 interview, Whitmer said that Joseph used a seer stone
"placed in a hat into which he buried his face, stating to me and
others that the original Character[s] appeared upon parchment and
under it the translation in english which [enabled him] to read
It is not clear from the early accounts whether Smith used a single
seer stone or, as in one tradition, a pair of stones or spectacles.
In Smith's 1832 account he mentions there were spectacles "to read
the Book."52 Joseph Knight, who visited Smith in Harmony,
"Now the way he translated was he put the urim and thummim
into his hat and Darkned his Eyes then he would take a sentance
and it would appe[a]r in Brite Roman Letters. Then he would tell
the writer and he would write it. Then that would go away [and]
the next sentance would Come and so on. But if it was not Spelt
rite it would not go away till it was rite, so we see it was marvelous.
Thus was the hol [whole] translated."53
The biblical term "Urim and Thummim" in Knight's account seems
to be a later term used to apply to the seer stone. Lucy Smith remarked,
"Joseph kept the urim and thum[m]im constantly about his person,"
even having it with him while he was working down in a well.54
It was by the "Urim and Thummim," according to Lucy, that Joseph
received a commandment that he should baptize Oliver Cowdery and
that Cowdery should baptize him.55 At one time
an intimation "was given though the urim and thum[m]im" as Joseph
"one morning applied the latter to his eyes to look upon the record,
instead of the words of the book [of Mormon] being given him, he
was commanded to write a letter to one David Whitmore [Whitmer].56
Accounts also differ about what supposedly happened to the 
gold plates.57 David Whitmer told an interviewer
in 1884 that the plates "were taken away by the angel to a cave,
which we saw by the power of God while we were yet in the Spirit."58
William Smith said in 1841 that Joseph "was directed by a vision
to bury the plates again in the same manner; which he accordingly
did."59 Brigham Young, who joined the Mormon church
in 1832, spoke of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery going to the Hill
Cumorah and "the hill opened, and they walked into a cave." Orson
Pratt referred to "the grand repository of all the numerous records
of the ancient nations of the western continent," which "was located
in another department of the hill."60
Taken together, these earliest accounts about the gold plates
place the even within the larger context of buried treasure hunting.
Smith reported that he obtained the gold plates from the ground
where they had been hidden for 1,400 years. Like his earlier attempts
to locate lost objects and valuable treasures in the earth, he located
the plates by looking in the stone.61 He removed
his find form its depository and laid it down. After laying it down,
however, it suddenly disappeared and went back into the box. This
is similar to another treasure dig he paricipated in, with the guardian
standing by and protecting the item.
The guardian spirit is a consistent focus of these earliest stories.
Whether the guardian of the plates was spirit or angel, its purpose
was to watch over the buried box and its contents. Smith went to
great lengths to obey the spirit's commands. He wore special clothes.
He was given a simple command not to lay the plates down. When he
did, the spirit, struck him and kept him from obtaining the treasure.
Because he did not do as he was instructed, Joseph was told to come
in another year and bring his brother Alvin with him. Later he looked
into the stone and learned he was to bring Emma Hale.
Many aspects of the story told in New York and Pennsylvania were
later revised, especially details which linked the gold plates and
treasure hunting.62 In the 1832 retelling of the
gold plates story, Smith was not given elaborate tasks to break
the spell but was simply informed by the angel that in "due time
thou shalt obtain them."63 By the time of Smith's
1838-39 account, he was instructed from the very start that there
would be a four-year waiting period: "I made an  attempt to
take them out but was forbidden by the messenger and was again informed
that the time <for> bringing them forth had not yet arrived,
neither would untill four years from that time."64
- Joseph Knight wrote that Joseph Smith "looked in his glass
and found it was Emma Hale" who was the right person to bring
to the hill to obtain the book (manuscript in archives, historical
department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt
Lake City, Utah (hereafter LDS archives); see Dean C. Jessee,
ed., "Joseph Knight's Recollection of Early Mormon History," Brigham
Young University Studies 17 [Autumn 1976]: 31; Jessee added
minimal punctuation and editing to facilitate reading).
Smith told Henry Harris "that an angel appeared, and told him
he could not get the plates until he was married" (E. D. Howe,
Mormonism Unvailed [Painesville (OH): Printed and Published
by the Author, 1834], 252). William R. Hine said, 'Jo told Emma
he had a revelation about the plates, but that he could not obtain
them until he had married her" (Naked Truths About Mormonism
1 [Jan. 1888]: 2, original in the Yale University Library; see
also Fayette Lapham, Historical Magazine 7 [May 1870]:
307; and Joseph and Hiel Lewis, The Amboy Journal 24 [30
Apr. 1879]: 1).
- Ronald W. Walker, "The Persisting Idea of American Treasure
Hunting," Brigham Young University Studies 24 (Fall 1984):
- Smith evidently did not give the messenger a name while he was
in New York. In his 1838-39 history he mentioned that the personage
who appeared to him stated "his name was Nephi" (Manuscript History,
Book A-1: 5; also in duplicate Book A-2: 6, both in LDS archives).
In other sources the person who buried the gold plates and appeared
to Smith is named "Moroni," son of Mormon. In the manuscript history
above the name "Nephi" has been added the name "Moroni" with a
footnote added after Smith's death giving three references where
the name was published as "Moroni" (Messenger and Advocate
1 [Apr. 1835]: 112; 1835 D&C 50:2 [p. 180], name added
to the 1830 text in 1835 [see LDS D&C 27:5 and RLDS D&C
26:2a]; Elders' Journal 1 [July 1838]: 42-43, Far West,
Missouri; Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words
of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses
of the Prophet Joseph [Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center,
Some historians consider this reference to "Nephi" as a scribal
"The contradictions in regard to the name of the angelic
messenger who appeared to Joseph Smith occurred probably through
the  mistakes of clerks in making or copying documents, and,
we think, should be corrected, and the corrections be published
for general information, at as early a date as may be found convenient.
From careful research we are fully convinced that Moroni is the
correct name. This also was the decision of the former historian,
George A. Smith" (Orson Pratt, Sr., and Joseph F. Smith to John
Taylor, 18 Dec. 1877, 4-5, LDS archives).
- It is noteworthy that no scriptural passages were cited
in Smith's 1832 account of the messenger's visit, unlike his later
account. In Oliver Cowdery's description published in the 1835
Messenger and Advocate, the angel quoted many biblical
verses. In Smith's 1838-39 narrative history, passages of scripture
appear but are revised with new emphasis.
- Affidavit of Willard Chase, Manchester, Ontario County, New
York, 11 Dec. 1833, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 240, 242-43.
- Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection," 30-31. Joseph Knight,
Jr., recalled the following: "I think it was in November 
he [Smith] made known to my Father and I, that he had seen a vision,
that a personage had appeared to him and told him where there
was a gold book of ancient date buried and if he would follow
the directions of the Angel he would get it. We were told it in
secret. I being the youngest son, my two elder brothers [Nahum
and Newel] did not believe in such things. my Father and I believed
what he told us" ('Joseph Knight's incidents of History from 1827
to 1844," comp. Thomas Bullock, from loose sheets in Joseph Knight
Jr.'s possession, 16 Aug. 1862, LDS archives, as cited in They
Are My Friends: A History of the Joseph Knight Family, 1825-1850
[Provo, UT: Grandin Book Co., 1986], 214).
- Historical Magazine7 (May 1870): 306-307.
- The Amboy Journal 24 (30 Apr. 1879): 1.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary Manuscript (MS), "History of Lucy
Smith," 50-51, LDS archives (page numbering corresponds with a
typed transcript in LDS archives and with the page numbers in
the photocopy of the manuscript); Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical
Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for
Many Generations (Liverpool: Published for Orson Pratt by
S. W. Richards, 1853), 85-86, hereafter Biographical Sketches;
Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith By His Mother, Lucy
Mack Smith (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), 83-84, hereafter
History of Joseph Smith.
William Smith remembered that Joseph had told the family concerning
his first attempt to receive the plates:
"When he went to get the plates he found them as he was
told he should. He took them from the stone box in which they were
found,  and placed them on the ground behind him, when the
thought came into his mind that there might be a treasure hidden
with them. While stooping forward to see, he was overpowered, so
that he could not look farther. Turning to get the plates, he found
they had gone; and on looking around found that they were in the
box again; but he could not get them" (Saints' Herald 31
[4 Oct. 1884]: 643).
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 47; not in Biographical
Sketches or History of Joseph Smith.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 47-50; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 83-85; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 81-83.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 52; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 88; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 87.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 55; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 89-90; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 89.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 115; not in Biographical
Sketches or History of Joseph Smith.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 66; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 99; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 102; and Jessee,
"Joseph Knight's Recollection," 32. Martin Harris said that Josiah
Stowell "was at this time at old Mr. Smith's digging for money"
(Tiffany's Monthly 5 [Aug. 1859]: 165). According to Knight,
it was Stowell who took Joseph and his new wife to Manchester
after their marriage (lessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection,"
- Joseph Knight wrote that "He [Joseph] had talked with me and
told me the Conversation he had with the personage which told
him if he would Do right according to the will of God he mite
obtain [the plates] the 22nt Day of Septem[b]er Next and if not
he never would have them" (Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection,"
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 66; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 99; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 102. Lucy's
narration later has Joseph Knight and Josiah Stowell still at
their home after Joseph locked up the plates in a chest. Knight
wrote, "I went to Rochester on Buisness [sic] and return[e]d By
Palmyra to be there about the 22nt of September. I was there several
Days" (lessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection," 32).
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 66; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 100; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 102.
- Here we follow Martin Harris (Tiffany's Monthly 5 [Aug.
1859]: 165) and Willard Chase (Mormonism Unvailed, 216)
that the hiding place was in a fallen tree top. As to the type
of tree, Lucy Smith said that Joseph hid the plates in a cavity
in a birch log" (Preliminary MS, 72), and Martin Harris 
mentioned that they were hidden "in an old black oak tree top"
(Tiffany's Monthly 5 [Aug. 1859]: 165, see also 166).
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 66-67; Biographical Sketches
(1853),100; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 103.
- Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection," 33.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 67; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 100-101; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 103.
- Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection," 33.
- Affidavit of Willard Chase, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed,
246. Joseph Sr. asked Emma "if she knew aught of the record, whether
Joseph had taken them out or where they were. She said She did
not know" (Lucy Mack Smith Preliminary MS, 69-70; Biographical
Sketches , 103; History of Joseph Smith ,
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 68; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 101; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 104. Lucy
stated, "there was not a shilling in the house."
- Tiffany's Monthly 5 (Aug. 1859): 167. David Whitmer in
a newspaper interview said: "I had conversations with several
young men who said that Joseph Smith had certainly golden plates,
and that before he attained them he had promised to share with
them, but had not done so, and they were very much incensed with
him" (Kansas City Daily Journal 5 June 1881; reprinted
in the Deseret Evening News, 11 June 1881; Saints' Herald,
28 [1 July 1881]: 197; and Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star
43 [4 July 1881]: 422). See also Milton V. Backman, Jr., Eyewitness
Accounts of the Restoration (Orem, UT: Grandin Book, 1983),
230, and Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration
Witness (Orem, UT: Grandin Book, 1991), 60.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 68-69; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 102; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 105.
- Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection," 32. Exactly when Joseph
Sr. went to the Lawrence home is not known. Lucy has the visit
after Joseph recovered the plates, and this is the account followed
in our reconstruction. Knight has the visit to ,the Lawrence home
occurring the night of 21 September. He wrote, "Now Joseph was
some affraid of him [Samuel Lawrence] that he mite [might] be
a trouble to him. He therefore sint [sent] his father up to Sams,
as he Called him, near night to see if there was any signs of
his going away that night" (Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection,"
32-33). This would make sense if the group meeting at the Lawrence
home knew about the 22 September date.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary Ms, 70-71; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 104; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 107. Lucy
makes a point that the stray horse  had "a large hickory
withe around his neck as it was ac[c]ording to law to put a withe
round the neck of a stray horse before turning him into an inclosure."
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 72; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 104-105; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 108. This
is the only account that mentions a gun. Martin Harris understood
that he was struck by a club (Tiffany's Monthly 5 [Aug.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 73; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 106; History of Joseph Smith(1958), 109. The story
at this point is taken from Lucy Smith's account. Benjamin Saunders
said, "I saw his hand all swel[l]ed up" (Benjamin Saunders interview,
1884, in the W. H. Kelley Collection, "Miscellany 1795-1948,"
23, Library-Archives, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
Day Saints, Independence, Missouri, hereafter RLDS archives).
During the scuffles Smith was struck on his side (Tiffany's
Monthly 5 [Aug. 1859]: 166; The Reflector 2 [14 Feb.
1831]: 101, Palmyra, New York; Historical Magazine 7 [May
Orson Pratt wrote in 1840 concerning this part of the story:
"And after having obtained those sacred things, while
proceeding home through the wilderness and fields, he was waylaid
by two ruffians, who had secreted themselves for the purpose of
robbing him of the records. One of them struck him with a club before
he perceived them; but being a strong man, and large in stature,
with great exertion he cleared himself from them, and ran towards
home, being closely pursued until he came near his father's house"
(Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith [Salt Lake
City: Deseret Book, 1989], 1:400).
Orson Hyde further stated when he published his German pamphlet
in 1842, on one occasion he [Joseph] was beaten by two men with
clubs so violently, that he still bears the scars on his body
to this day" (ibid., 1:425). In 1844 it was reported that "Joseph
Smith was knocked down with a handspike, and afterwards healed
almost instantly" (Times and Seasons 5 [2 Sept. 1844]:
635, emphasis in original).
Josiah Stowell was still at the Smith home at the end of September.
Martha L. Campbell wrote, referring to Stowell, "If I understood
him right he was the first person that took the plates out of
your hands the morning you brought them in" (letter dated 19 Dec.
1843, LDS archives; see Larry C. Porter, "A Study of the Origins
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States
of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816-1831," Ph.D. diss., Aug. 1971,
Brigham Young University, 365).
- Affidavit of Willard Chase, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed,245-46.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 68; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 102; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 104-105. Lucy
further stated, "The reader will notice, that on a preceeding
page I spoke of a confidential friend to whom Mr. Smith [Joseph
Sr.] mentioned the existence of the record 2 or 3 years before
it came forth. This was no other than Martin Harris" (Preliminary
MS, 76; Biographical Sketches , 109; History of
Joseph Smith , 114).
Norton Jacob heard Lucy speak in Nauvoo, Illinois: "mother Smith,
Joseph's mother, addressed the congregation about an hour, speaking
of the history of herself and family in bringing forth the Book
of Mormon. She said it was eighteen years ago last Monday since
she commenced preaching the gospel being called upon by Joseph
to go and tell Martin Harris and family that he had got the plates
and he wanted him to take an alphabet of the characters and carry
them to the learned men to decypher" ("The Life of Norton Jacob,"
8 Oct. 1845, typescript, 15, Utah State Historical Society, Salt
Lake City). See Times and Seasons 6 (1 Nov. 1845): 1,013-14;
B. H. Roberts, ed., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1959), 7:470-72;
and "Lucy Mack Smith Speaks to the Nauvoo Saints," Brigham
Young University Studies 32 (Winter/Spring 1992): 279.
Martin Harris mentioned that he knew members of the Smith family
as treasure seekers and that he (Harris) "had a revelation the
summer before, that God had a work for me to do" (Tiffany's
Monthly 5 [Aug. 1859]: 163).
- Tiffany's Monthly 5 (Aug. 1859): 164-69. In 1829, after
the text of the Book of Mormon had been written, Martin Harris
traveled to Rochester, New York, to try to obtain a printer and
binder. The Gem, a newspaper in Rochester', published the
following account of Harris and the story that he told.
"A man by the name of Martin Harris, was in this village a few
days since endeavouring to make a contract for printing a large
quantity of a work called the Golden Bible. He gave something
like the following account of it. "In the autumn of 1827 a man
named Joseph Smith of Manchester, in Ontario County, said that
he had been visited by the spirit of the Almighty in a dream,
and informed that in a certain hill in that town, was deposited
a Golden Bible, containing an ancient record of divine origin.
He states that after a third visit from the same spirit in a dream,
he proceeded to the spot, removed earth, and there found the Bible,
together with a large pair of spectacles. He had also been directed
to let no mortal see them under the penalty of immediate death,
which injunction he stead-  fastly adheres to. The treasure
consisted of a number of gold plates, about 8 inches long, 6 wide,
and one eighth of an inch thick, on which were engraved hieroglyphics.
By placing the spectacles in a hat and looking into it, Smith
interprets the characters into the English language" (The Gem,
of Literature and Science 1 [5 Sept. 1829]: 70; for a similar
account see the Rochester Daily Advertiser and Telegraph
3 [31 Aug. 1829], which reprinted the article from the Palmyra
Freeman, about Aug. 1829).
- The Episcopal Recorder 18 (5 Sept. 1840), Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, letter dated 24 Aug. 1840; cf. Gleanings by the
Way (Philadelphia: W. J. & J. K. Simon; New York: Robert
Carter, 1842), 225; Milton V. Backman, Jr., Eyewitness Accounts
of the Restoration, 211. Oliver Cowdery wrote to William W.
Phelps that Joseph had previously been acquainted with the place
where the record was deposited (Messenger and Advocate 1
[Feb. 1835]: 80, Kirtland, Ohio).
- Statement of Abigail Harris, 28 Nov. 1833, in Howe, Mormonism
- Statement of Henry Harris, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed,
- Benjamin Saunders interview (1884), 22-24, RLDS archives.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 74-75; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 108; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 112.
- Tiffany's Monthly 5 (Aug. 1859): 164. AIvah (or Alva)
Beeman (also spelled Beman and Beaman) was born on 22 May 1775.
Joseph Knight wrote, "Beeman took out his [divining] Rods and
hild [held] them up and they pointed Dow[n] to the h[e]arth whare
they ware hid. 'There,' says Beeman, 'it is under that h[e]arth"'
(Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection," 34). Since Lucy Smith
and Mary A. Noble said that Alvah Beeman helped hide the plates
in the hearth, perhaps he was just demonstrating the power of
- Tiffany's Monthly 5 (Aug. 1859), 167. Joseph B. Noble
(son-in-law of Alvah Beeman) wrote that Beeman "was permit[t]ed
to handle the Plates with a thin cloth covering over them" (Journal
of Joseph B. Noble, LDS archives).
- Journal of Mary Adeline Beeman Noble, written after Sept. 1834,
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 75; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 108; History of Joseph Smith(1958), 113.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 79; Biographical Sketches(1853),
113; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 118. Also Martin Harris
in Tiffany's Monthly 5 (Aug. 1859): 170. Orson Pratt wrote
in 1840 that the plates were put "into a barrel of beans" (Jessee,
Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:401). 
- Copy of letter of Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery, 22 Oct. 1829,
transcribed in 1832 into Joseph Smith's Letterbook 1, 9, LDS archives;
Dean C. Jessee, comp., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith
(Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984), 227.
- Affidavit of Isaac Hale, 20 Mar. 1834, in The Susquehanna
Register, and Northern Pennsylvanian 9 (1 May 1834): 1; reprinted
in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 264.
- BC 6 (Apr. 1829); LDS and RLDS D&C 7. A relatively recent
"The plates could not have been used directly in the
translation process. The Prophet, his face in a hat to exclude exterior
light, would have been unable to view the plates directly even if
they had been present during transcription. A mental picture of
the young Joseph, face buried in a hat, gazing into a seer stone,
plates out of sight, has not been a generally held view since the
early days of the Church. The view raises some difficult questions.
Why, for example, was such great care taken to preserve the plates
for thousands of years if they were not to be used directly in the
translation process?" (Richard Van Wagoner and Steven Walker, 'Joseph
Smith: 'The Gift of Seeing,'" Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought
15 [Summer 1982]: 53).
- On the method that the Book of Mormon was said to
have been translated, see, under various titles, James E. Lancaster
in Saints' Herald 109 (15 Nov. 1962): 798-802, 806, 817;
reprinted in John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 3
(1983): 51-61; Restoration Studies III (Independence,
MO: Herald Publishing House, 1986), 220-31; and Dan Vogel, ed.,
The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture (Salt Lake
City: Signature Books, 1990), 97-112. James Lancaster wrote, "An
examination of the eyewitness testimony produces the following
consensus on the method of translation of the Book of Mormon:
. . . the plates were not used in the translating process and
often were not even in sight during the translation" (Restoration
Studies III, 226).
- Susquehanna Register 9 (1 May 1834): 1; reprinted in
Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 265.
- Kansas City Daily Journal (5 June 1881), 1; reprinted
in the Deseret Evening News, 11 June 1881; Saints' Herald
28 (1 July 1881): 198; Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 43
(4 July 1881): 423; and Cook, David Whitmer Interviews,
- Interview of David Whitmer by Zenas H. Gurley, Jr., 14 Jan.
1885, typescript, LDS archives. The bracketed words "enabled him"
came from  Autumn Leaves 5 (1892): 453, Lamoni, Iowa.
See also Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 157-58.
- Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:9.
- Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection," 35. Regarding the Urim
and Thummim, see Kenneth Sowers, Jr., "The Mystery and History
of the Urim and Thummim," Restoration Studies II (Independence,
MO: Herald Publishing House, 1983), 75-79. Concerning the seer
stone in a hat, see J. L. Traughber, Jr., "Testimony of David
Whitmer," Saints' Herald 26 (15 Nov. 1879): 341; and David
Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ(Richmond,
MO: author, 1887), 12, 30, 37.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 71; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 103; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 107.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 101; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 131; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 142. See also
BC 15:6-7; LDS D&C 18:7; RLDS D&C 16:2b.
- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary MS, 105; Biographical Sketches
(1853), 135; History of Joseph Smith (1958), 147.
- Folklore has it that Joseph returned the gold plates into a
cave in the Hill Cumorah in Manchester, New York. For a collection
of these stories, see Paul Thomas Smith, "A Preliminary Draft
of the Hill Cumorah Cave Story Utilizing Seven Secondary Accounts
and Other Historical Witnesses," Mar. 1980, privately circulated.
- Interview of David Whitmer by Edmund C. Briggs, in Saints'
Herald 31 (21 June 1884): 396.
- William Smith interview, The Congregational Observer
2 (3 July 1841): 1.
- Brigham Young in Journal of Discourses 19:38, 17 June
1877; quoted in The Contributor 3 (Feb. 1882): 137; The
Juvenile Instructor 31(1 Sept. 1896): 514; and Daniel H. Ludlow,
ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism: The History, Scripture, Doctrine,
and Procedure of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1992), 3:1, 427-28. Young
remembered that "Joseph Smith said that Cave Contained tons of
Choice Treasures & records" (Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford
Woodruff's Journals [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1984],
6:509, entry of 11 Dec. 1869). Orson Pratt's comments are in the
Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 28 (7 July 1866): 417.
- Interview of Martin Harris, Tiffany's Monthly 5 (Aug.
1859): 163, 169.
- Rodger I. Anderson commented on why such details were omitted
from Smith's historical accounts:
"His earlier story of the mobile plates which vanished
and reap- peared so mysteriously was not mentioned because
of its similarity to the elusive treasures he was accused of hunting;
the spirit's command to bring Alvin to the hill and after Alvin's
death, Emma, was deleted because it smacked more of ritualistic
magic than religion "pure and undefiled"; and Joseph Knight's recollection
that Smith had "looked in his glass" to find the right person was
discarded because of its resemblance to the glass looking charge
he had been convicted of in 1826. Smith had learned from bitter
experience that not all regarded such activities as divine" ("Joseph
Smith's Early Reputation Revisited," Journal of Pastoral Practice
4 : 98; see also Rodger I. Anderson, Joseph Smith's New
York Reputation Reexamined [Salt Lake City: Signature Books,
- Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:8.
- Manuscript History, Book A-1:7, LDS archives; JS-H 1:53, PGP;
Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:281.