Joseph Smith and money-digging

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"If the young men bring up such subjects as Ouija boards, séances, spiritualism, or Satan worship, you should tell them that such things are tools of Satan and that we have been counseled to avoid them completely.(11 Satan and His Temptations 34821, AP 2, 11: Satan and His Temptations, Objective, 37 [LDS lesson plan])

For years the Mormon organization denied accounts of Joseph Smith's money-digging. It portrayed these as anti-Mormon lies. Few historians today, however, LDS or not, deny that Joseph Smith and his family were deeply involved in folk magic.

The relation of Joseph Smith and money-digging has been both a joy and burden to many. It has been a joy in that it has exposed the character of the founder of the Mormon religion. It has been a burden because LDS have had to explain these accusations, much of which can be proven historically and through many documents that actually show his "guilty" verdict within a courtroom. It becomes difficult in that despite how one feels, evidence demands to be heard and commands a reponse. This article seeks to use quotes rather than opinions to question Joseph Smith and his relationship to money-digging. Was he ever a money-digger? If he was, did it ever stop? Did he change? Did it effect his stories about Moroni, Heavenly Father, and Jesus?




[edit] What is money-digging?

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[edit] Quotes

Joseph Smith admitted himself to being a money digger. This is recorded in the History of the Church, volume 3 (1838-1839). Also recorded in the LDS publication, the Elder's Journal, vol. 1, num. 2, pp. 28-29, it reads as follows,

Question 10. Was not Jo Smith a money digger[?]
Answer. Yes, but it was never a very profitable job for him, as he only got fourteen dollars a month for it. [1]

Also from the History of the Church, Vol.1. Chapter 2:

"Joseph secured the services of a neighbor, Peter Ingersoll, to assist and accompany him in acquiring Emma's property. In August 1827, eight months after their marriage, Joseph and Emma returned with Ingersol to face Isaac. Ingersol reported that Isaac exclaimed in a flood of tears, You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to her grave. You spend your time digging for money--pretend to see in a stone, and thus try to deceive people."
"Yet on that visit there was an attempt to reconcile Joseph and his father-in-law, for an invitation was extended to Joseph and Emma to make their home in Harmony. Isaac, with evident paternal concern and with some compassion, indicated to Joseph that if he would move to Pennsylvania and work, giving up "his old practice of looking in the stone," Isaac would assist him in getting into business. Isaac claims, "Smith stated to me he had given up what he called `glass-looking,' and that he expected and was willing to work hard for a living." [2]

"[Of significance] are the affadavits and statements made by a number of Smith's neighbors in Palmyra, about Smith's lifestyle in the 1820's. Several neighbors have stated that Joseph Smiths Senior and Junior were both money-diggers, and that Jr. (i.e. the Mormon founder) was particularly good at it and was the head of a group of money-diggers.

"In late 1825 a wealthy Pennsylvania farmer named Josiah Stowell (sometimes spelled Stoal) came 150 miles to hire Smith because of Smith's reputation. Smith was hired to help Stowell locate a supposed old Spanish silver mine on Stowell's farm. During this time two significant things happened. First, Smith met his future wife, Emma Hale, and in later interviews her father explained how he didn't like Joseph Smith when he first met him because Smith was a money-digger, and Mr. Hale didn't want any criminals marrying his daughter! Perhaps even more damaging, however, was the fact that Smith was tried and convicted in court in March 1826 for 'glass-looking'. The charge had been brought up by Stowell's nephew, who saw through the con that his uncle didn't. Mormon historians now acknowledge that this trial happened and that Smith was convicted on this charge." [3]

Joseph Smith responds to "money digging" accusations:

"In the year 1823 my father’s family met with a great affliction by the death of my eldest brother, Alvin. In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stoal, who lived in Chenango county, State of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna county, State of Pennsylvania; and had, previous to my hiring to him, been digging, in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him, he took me, with the rest of his hands, to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money-digger." -Joseph Smith-History 1:56 [4]

Peter Ingersoll (family neighbor and friend of Joseph Smith) Affidavit, Palmyra, Wayne County. N. Y. Dec. 2, 1833:

"In the month of August, 1827, I was hired by Joseph Smith, Jr. to go to Pennsylvania, to move his wife's household furniture up to Manchester, where his wife then was. When we arrived at Mr. Hale's, in Harmony, Pa. from which place he had taken his wife, a scene presented itself, truly affecting. His father-in-law (Mr. Hale) addressed Joseph, in a flood of tears: "You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to her grave. You spend your time in digging for money -- pretend to see in a stone, and thus try to deceive people." Joseph wept, and acknowledged he could not see in a stone now, nor never could; and that his former pretensions in that respect, were all false. He then promised to give up his old habits of digging for money and looking into stones."
"Joseph told me on his return, that he intended to keep the promise which he had made to his father-in-law; "but," said he, "it will be hard for me, for they will all oppose, as they want me to look in the stone for them to dig money." And in fact it was as he predicted. They urged him, day after day, to resume his old practice of looking in the stone." [5]

Affidavit of Isaac Hale (Joseph Smith's father-in-law), given at Harmony Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania on 20 March 1834:

"Emma wrote to me inquiring whether she could have her property, consisting of clothing, furniture, cows, &c. I replied that her property was safe, and at her disposal. In short time they returned, bringing with them a Peter Ingersol[l], and subsequently came to the conclusion that they would move out, and resided 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." [6]

William Stafford, a neighbor and fellow treasure seeker:

"Joseph, Jr., could see, by placing a stone of singular appearance in his hat, in such a manner as to exclude all light; at which time they pretended he could see all things within and under the earth, — that he could see within the above mentioned caves, large gold bars and silver plates — that he could also discover the spirits in whose charge these treasures were, clothed in ancient dress." [7]

[edit] The 1826 Trial

Mormon scholar Marvin Hill says:

"There may be little doubt now, as I have indicated elsewhere, that Joseph Smith was brought to trial in 1826 on a charge, not exactly clear, associated with money digging." [8]

[edit] Other notable quotes

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Non-Mormon

[edit] Mormon

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