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Historical Sources Related to Miner’s Hill Cave

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1830
The Book of Mormon

The translator of the Book of Mormon must hide up the book unto the Lord after translating and obtaining witnesses.  It will be revealed again in the future.

—Joseph Smith translating Nephi's report of a revelation from God
1831
Abner Cole (Jan 18)

Joseph Smith's career paralleled that of Muhammed's who met angels in a cave.

—Abner Cole commenting on his views about and interactions with early Mormons
1831
Abner Cole (Feb 14)

Joseph Smith's book would reveal the location of ancient costly furniture hidden in local large and spacious chambers.

—Abner Cole commenting on his views about and interactions with early Mormons
1833
Peter Ingersoll

Father Smith told Peter Ingersoll of a cave in a hill containing gold and silver.

—E. D. Howe publishing an affidavit by Peter Ingersol collected by D. Hurlbut
1833
William Stafford

Hills in New York contain man-made caves in which Joseph could see gold bars and silver plates.

—E. D. Howe publishing an affidavit by William Stafford collected by D. Hurlbut
1835
Oliver Cowdery

Regarding the plates, some places are dearer to Oliver Cowdery for what they now contain, rather than for what they once contained.

—Oliver Cowdery commenting on the location of the plates
1838
Joseph Smith, Jr.

Joseph Smith delivered the plates to the messenger, who has the plates in his charge.

—Joseph Smith dictating his own account to James Mullohand
1841
NY Journal of Commerce

Joseph Smith dug into the side of a hill, secluded himself for months, and pretended to find a new revelation.

—New York Journal of Commerce reporter relating local stories
1842
Henry Caswell

The angel showed Joseph Smith the cave where the golden plates were deposited.

—Henry Caswell reporting on Lucy Mack Smith retelling of Joseph's Story
1843
Frederick Marryat

Hyrum, Joseph and Rigdon spent time in a cave where Joseph had met the angel and had fabricated his bible.

—Frederick Marryat writing fiction inspired by what he had learned about Mormonism
1845
Lucy Mack Smith

The angel took the plates from Joseph immediately after the eight witnesses viewed them.

—Lucy Mack Smith retelling Joseph's Story
1855
William Dame

Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer met an angel and saw the plates in a 16sqft room inside the Hill Cumorah.

—William Dame reporting on a talk by W.W. Phelphs who related Hyrum Smith's experience
1856
Heber C. Kimball

Joseph Smith and others saw many books and records in the hill Cumorah in vision.

—Heber C. Kimball referring to a vision had by "Joseph and others"
1867
Pomeroy Tucker

Joseph Smith sought divine favor and translated in a 160 ft artificial cave dug into a hill on Amos Miner's land.

—Pomeroy Tucker writing on his own observations as an 1820s Palmyra resident
1867
Brigham Young

Father Smith, Oliver Cowdery and others walked from cell to cell inside the Hill Cumorah and saw many records.

—Brigham Young referring to Heber C. Kimball's recollections of Father Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and others' experiences
1869
Wilford Woodruff

Joseph and Oliver deposited the plates in a cave inside the Hill Cumorah. They saw many more records and the sword of Laban.

—Wilford Woodruf quoting Brigham Young speaking about Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery's experiences
1873
Orson Pratt

Records now slumbering in Cumorah will be brought to light and reveal much new information.

—Orson Pratt speaking on his own authority
1873
Elizabeth Kane

Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowedery saw the gold plates and the sword of Laban in a 15ft-hight treasure room inside a cave.

—Elizabeth Kane writing on Brigham Young's description of Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith's experiences
1873
George Q. Cannon

Brigham Young Jr. and George Q. Cannon learned from their Palmyra carriage driver that "Mormon Hill" and "Gold Bible Hill" are in fact separate hills.  "Mormon Hill" contains a cave.

—George Q. Cannon relating what he learned from a local Palmyra carriage driver
1874
Jesse Nathaniel Smith

Some brethen entered an "apartment" in the Hill Cumorah and saw many sacred and valuable items.

—Jesse Smith recording Brigham Young's retelling of the observations and experiences of "some of the brethren"
1875
Charles W. Brown

Mormons dug a 60ft long, 10ft high, 20sqft artificial cave into Miner's hill, guarded it with an iron door, and furnished it with a table and stools to hold public meetings.

—Charles Brown writing based on local recollections and earlier documents
1876
Broome Republican

A reporter visited the cave site, now overgrown and inaccessible. Here Joseph Smith translated the plates with Oliver Cowdery.  30 people could fit inside.  It was locked behind a plank door.

—Reporter describing a personal visit and relating oral history
1877
Brigham Young

Joseph and Oliver walked into a cave in the Hill Cumorah and saw the plates on a table, along with many other plates and the sword of Laban.

—Brigham Young speaking about the experiences of Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, Don Carlos, Samuel, Hyrum
1877
Edward Stevenson

Joseph Smith saw a treasure room containing the untranslated portion of the plates

—Edward Stevenson quoting David Whitmer quoting Oliver Cowdery quoting Joseph Smith
1878
David Whitmer

The angel hid the sealed plates in a cave in New York--not in the Hill Cumorah, but nearby.

—P. Wilhelm Poulson interviewing David Whitmer on his personal knowledge about the plates
1881
Abel Chase

Abel Chase never saw any digging and never saw the cave where the Smiths met.

—William Kelley interviewing Abel Chase about his knowledge of local accounts
1881
Ezra Pierce

Abel Chase has been in the cave where sheep bones were found, located not in "Mormon hill," but about 1 mile from it. The cave is now fallen in, Ezra Pierce never saw it.

—William Kelley interviewing Ezra Pierce about his knowledge of local accounts
1881
John Gilbert

John Gilbert only saw Joseph a few times, but saw Hyrum often.  The Book of Mormon was translated in a cave.

—William Kelley interviewing John Gilbert about his interactions with the Smiths
1882
Orson Pratt

The Hill Cumorah contains  many records that will one day be transfered to Zion's temple.

—Orson Pratt speaking on his own authority
1882
Ellen Dickinson

Joseph Smith and his followers deciphered the golden plates in the cave on the Miner Farm

—Ellen Dickinson writing on her observations
1884
Samantha Payne

Mormons dug a cave in Miner's Hill, and installed a door and padlock.  Neighbors broke in and found food and sheep pelts inside. Local woman Samantha Payne visits the cave. Wallace Miner dug out fallen-in the cave.

—Braden and Kelley citing Samantha Payne's local knowledge
1884
Lorenzo Saunders (via W.H. Kelley)

Joseph Smith dug into a hill reportedly for money. Through his peep stone he saw a tribal king trapped in the hill, sitting on a gold furniture.

—RLDS Apostle William Kelley interviewing Lorenzo Saunders about his personal knowledge
1884
Lorenzo Saunders (via E.L. Kelley)

The cave is on the east side of the hill. Lorenzo Saunders saw the Smiths dig a big hole, and later tore down the door and sealed up the cave at his father Enoch's order. 

—RLDS Apostle Edmund Kelley interviewing Lorenzo Saunders
1885
Christopher M. Stafford

Joseph Smith dug a 40-50 ft tunnel in a hill 2 miles north of "Gold Bible Hill." Local man Christopher Stafford visited the tunnel.

—Arthur Deming publishing C. M. Stafford's personal statement of knowledge
1885
Cornelius R. Stafford

Two years after finding the gold plates, Joseph Smith had a 50ft long tunnel dug two miles north of gold bible hill.

—Arthur Deming publishing C. R. Stafford's personal statement of knowledge
1886
Weekly News and Democrat

Jospeh and his friends dug a 40×16×7ft  cave in Miner's hill.  The hill was later cleared, giving way to briers and burrs and cave entrance fell in.  Few visitors ever visit Miner's hill.

—F. W. Morton reports on a visit to hill and relates local stories
1887
Joseph Rogers

Joseph and his follewers dug a cave in Manchester, NY, and installed a door and lock.  After Joseph left for Ohio, the sheriff broke in and found stolen property inside.

—Arthur Deming publishing Joseph Rogers' statement about his local knowledge
1888
Sylvia Walker

Joseph Smith dug 40ft into a hill north of Cumorah, thinking he would find gold furniture inside. Neighbor said Joseph kept sheep and flour in the cave, now abandoned.

—Arthur Deming publishing Sylvia Walker's statement about her local knowledge
1893
John Gilbert

During the printing of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith stayed in his cave, hiding the plates, and supposedly translating, but never went to the printer's office himself.

—New York Herald interviewing John Gilbert about dealing with Joseph Smith
1893
New York Herald

Orson Saunders and and John Gilbert have been inside the 8ft wide 7ft high cave, which is no longer accessible. Joseph had sometimes gone to the cave to both hide the plates and to translate them.

—A reporter visits the cave with locals
1893
Arcadian Gazette

No 100ft-long cave was ever seen, nor did any translation take place in one.

—A Gazette reporter relating local stories
1893
Evansville Courier & Press

Joseph and Oliver translated in a 18×8×8ft cave that they barricaded up to keep villagers out.

—Reporter writing on Mormonism
1893
Daniel Hendrix

The Book of Mormon was translated in a cave where many early Mormons congregated.

—Henry G. Tinsley interviewing Daniel Hendrix
1898
The Palmyra Journal

A stranger invited some journalists to "Mormon hill," where he took them underground through a large door, where they saw the gold plates and an old man, whom they interviewed.

—A reporter relating an experience had with other journalists
1899
The Post Standard

The copy for the Book of Mormon was prepared in a cave that Smith and others dug in the side of a hill on the farm now owned by the Miner family half way between the Mormon Hill and Palmyra

—Report on Mormonism
1901
Jason Esty

Joseph Smith translated the gold plates in Cave hill, 60-70ft long, and two miles south of Palmyra.  Pick marks were still visible, but the cave is now closed.

—Jason Etsy relating what John Gilbert told him about cave hill
1901
Admiral Sampson

A boy born of the Mormon Hill farm spent time in its cave, reminiscing about early Mormon accounts.

—Reporter retelling an account by Admiral Sampson
1907
Rochester Herald

Ezra Pierce scares Mormon cave diggers with a black sheep.

—The Wayne County Journal reprinting a story from the Rochester Herald
1932
Wallace Miner

Joseph Smith dug a 40 foot cave on the Miner farm.  The angel told hilm it was not holy ground.  Martin Harris later stayed at the Miner home, and considered the cave sacred.

—M. Wilford Poulson intervewing Wallace Miner about his local knowledge
1932
Thomas Cook

Joseph dug a 40ft cave into Miner's Hill, set up a door, and visited the cave in the evenings.  Wallace Miner restored the cave many years later.  It is now lost.

—Thomas cook compiling local accounts
1961
Hugh Nibley

Tucker and Howe have an imaginary and incredulous dialog about Joseph's cave and the production of the Book of Mormon. 

—Nibley synthesizing information taken provided by Tucker and Howe, who both wrote about Joseph's cave.
1974
Times Union

Andrew Kommer uncovered a 7ft high 8ft wide cave in Miner's hill after children discovered the opening 11 years previously.

—Lou Zeigler reporting on Andrew Kommer's experience and citing local stories
1974
Palmyra Courier

Andrew Kommer uncovered Miner's hill cave with a bulldozer, and installed metal bars.

—Courier Reporter tells about Andrew Kommer's experience and cites local stories
1974
The Post Standard

The LDS church denied any connection between Miner's hill cave and Joseph Smith.

—The Post Standard reporting on a statement from the LDS church in relation to Andy Kommer's cave rediscovery

Nephi is an ancient character in the Book of Mormon, who gave instructions about the release of the book to its future translator, who turned out to be Joseph Smith.

The Book of Mormon is the English text of an ancient record written on golden plates that Joseph Smith reported having found and translated. It was published in Palmyra, NY in 1830.

Joseph Smith translating Nephi's report of a revelation from God:

Wherefore, when thou hast read the words which I have commanded thee, and obtained the witnesses which I have promised unto thee, then shalt thou seal up the book again, and hide it up unto me, that I may preserve the words which thou hast not read, until I shall see fit in mine own wisdom to reveal all things unto the children of men.

The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 27:22
Notes / Commentary

The instructions to the record's custodian as found in the Book of Mormon text include the command to seal up and hide the book again, in anticipantion of its future re-discovery. Details about the circumstances of this future event are not included.

Long-form Source Text

2 Nephi 27

1 But, behold, in the last days, or in the days of the Gentiles—yea, behold all the nations of the Gentiles and also the Jews, both those who shall come upon this land and those who shall be upon other lands, yea, even upon all the lands of the earth, behold, they will be drunken with iniquity and all manner of abominations—

2 And when that day shall come they shall be visited of the Lord of Hosts, with thunder and with earthquake, and with a great noise, and with storm, and with tempest, and with the flame of devouring fire.

3 And all the nations that fight against Zion, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision; yea, it shall be unto them, even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite; yea, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion.

4 For behold, all ye that doeth iniquity, stay yourselves and wonder, for ye shall cry out, and cry; yea, ye shall be drunken but not with wine, ye shall stagger but not with strong drink.

5 For behold, the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep. For behold, ye have closed your eyes, and ye have rejected the prophets; and your rulers, and the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity.

6 And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall bring forth unto you the words of a book, and they shall be the words of them which have slumbered.

7 And behold the book shall be sealed; and in the book shall be a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof.

8 Wherefore, because of the things which are sealed up, the things which are sealed shall not be delivered in the day of the wickedness and abominations of the people. Wherefore the book shall be kept from them.

9 But the book shall be delivered unto a man, and he shall deliver the words of the book, which are the words of those who have slumbered in the dust, and he shall deliver these words unto another;

10 But the words which are sealed he shall not deliver, neither shall he deliver the book. For the book shall be sealed by the power of God, and the revelation which was sealed shall be kept in the book until the own due time of the Lord, that they may come forth; for behold, they reveal all things from the foundation of the world unto the end thereof.

11 And the day cometh that the words of the book which were sealed shall be read upon the house tops; and they shall be read by the power of Christ; and all things shall be revealed unto the children of men which ever have been among the children of men, and which ever will be even unto the end of the earth.

12 Wherefore, at that day when the book shall be delivered unto the man of whom I have spoken, the book shall be hid from the eyes of the world, that the eyes of none shall behold it save it be that three witnesses shall behold it, by the power of God, besides him to whom the book shall be delivered; and they shall testify to the truth of the book and the things therein.

13 And there is none other which shall view it, save it be a few according to the will of God, to bear testimony of his word unto the children of men; for the Lord God hath said that the words of the faithful should speak as if it were from the dead.

14 Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to bring forth the words of the book; and in the mouth of as many witnesses as seemeth him good will he establish his word; and wo be unto him that rejecteth the word of God!

15 But behold, it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall say unto him to whom he shall deliver the book: Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned, saying: Read this, I pray thee. And the learned shall say: Bring hither the book, and I will read them.

16 And now, because of the glory of the world and to get gain will they say this, and not for the glory of God.

17 And the man shall say: I cannot bring the book, for it is sealed.

18 Then shall the learned say: I cannot read it.

19 Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will deliver again the book and the words thereof to him that is not learned; and the man that is not learned shall say: I am not learned.

20 Then shall the Lord God say unto him: The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do mine own work; wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee.

21 Touch not the things which are sealed, for I will bring them forth in mine own due time; for I will show unto the children of men that I am able to do mine own work.

22 Wherefore, when thou hast read the words which I have commanded thee, and obtained the witnesses which I have promised unto thee, then shalt thou seal up the book again, and hide it up unto me, that I may preserve the words which thou hast not read, until I shall see fit in mine own wisdom to reveal all things unto the children of men.

23 For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.

24 And again it shall come to pass that the Lord shall say unto him that shall read the words that shall be delivered him:

25 Forasmuch as this people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precepts of men—

26 Therefore, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, yea, a marvelous work and a wonder, for the wisdom of their wise and learned shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid.

27 And wo unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord! And their works are in the dark; and they say: Who seeth us, and who knoweth us? And they also say: Surely, your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay. But behold, I will show unto them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that I know all their works. For shall the work say of him that made it, he made me not? Or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, he had no understanding?

28 But behold, saith the Lord of Hosts: I will show unto the children of men that it is yet a very little while and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field; and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest.

29 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.

30 And the meek also shall increase, and their joy shall be in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

31 For assuredly as the Lord liveth they shall see that the terrible one is brought to naught, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off;

32 And they that make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of naught.

33 Therefore, thus saith the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.

34 But when he seeth his children, the work of my hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.

35 They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.


Source: The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 27:22

Facsimile

Abner Cole was a Palmyra resident and the editor of the Palmyra Reflector, a local newspaper. He was one of the earliest critics of the spiritual claims of Joseph Smith, having commented on the "Golden Bible" before it was even published as the Book of Mormon.  Interestingly, Abner Cole seems to have been an early owner of the land that contained what would later be known as "Miner's hill".

Abner Cole commenting on his views about and interactions with early Mormons:

Jo Smith...can bear no comparison with the author of the Koran, and it is only in their ignorance and impudence that a parallel can be found.  Mahomet... retired to a cave in mount Hara, where he informed his wife that Gabriel had just appeared to him, and had made him an apostle of God.

Gold Bible no. 2. "The Reflector", Palmyra, January 18, 1831
Notes / Commentary

It seems quite unlikely that Abner Cole is here making a reference to Joseph Smith's cave in Miner's Hill.  The reference to a cave in relation to Joseph's prophetic work is nonetheless worth noting, particulatly given the early date of this source, and Abner's ownership of the cave hill property.

Long-form Source Text

GOLD BIBLE, NO. 2.

The page of history informs us, that from time immemorable, MAN has more or less been the dupe of superstitious error and imposition; so much so, that some writers in derision have called him "a religious animal," and it often happens that the more absurd the dogma, the more greedily will it be swallowed, and the more absurd or unnatural the tenet, the more eagerly will it be embraced. 

Where ignorance is found to prevail, superstition and bigotry will abound; hence we discover among the most rude and barbarous nations, objects the most disgusting and abhorrent, exhibited for the purpose of divine adoration and worship, and certain it is that untutored man has generally attributed to the divinities of his choice, passions and feelings like his own. 

The more ferocious and warlike tribes, worship deities, whose propensity for blood, is supposed to be in accordance with their own narrow views of the same subject; hence the origin of human sacrifices. The more mild and civilized (the Peruvians for instance) worshipped the sun and other heavenly bodies, believing them to possess the greatest good; their offerings were generally taken from the fruits of the earth, and blood seldom stained their altars. 

Man is as prone to be inconsistent, as he is to be superstitious; he will bestow thousands, under the idle pretense of assisting beings, of whom he has no certain knowledge, and with whom he can never be acquainted, while his next door neighbor may perish unheeded for lack of sustenance: and what may yet be considered a still greater anomaly in principle, is the conduct of the Hindoos, who believe in the transmigration of the soul, and consequently abstain from animal food, and the destruction of the brute creation, for fear of killing some of their kindred or friends, whose souls may have taken up a temporary abode in some animal; while they immolate human victims on their altars. 

Our present business, however, is not to discuss the tenets of the innumerable sects and denominations, of christians or pagans, which now cover the face of the habitable globe, but to throw some light on the "rise and progress" of a sect, (if they may be so called,) who profess to be governed by the pseudo prophet Jo Smith junior, who in addition to the precepts contained in the "Book of Mormon," issues his inspired commands daily to his devoted followers, and no mandate of Mohamet was ever more implicitly obeyed. 

Agreeable to the plan laid down in our last paper we shall commence, or in other words preface our subject by giving brief notices of some of the most notorious imposters that have figured either in ancient or modern times, and connecting such other matters as we may consider applicable to the subject, or interesting to our readers. We shall commence with the imposter of Mecca. 

Jo Smith, as a military chieftan, or as a man of natural abilities, can bear no comparison with the author of the Koran, and it is only in their ignorance and impudence that a parallel can be found. 

Mahomet was born in the sixth century of the christian era, while Anuhirwan, sur-named the Just, was emperor of Persia. His father died leaving him an infant, and in low circumstances -- he was maintained by his relations until he arrived at man's estate. His education is said to have been entirely neglected, so much so, that it has been affirmed, that he could neither read nor write. At an early age he entered the service of Khadijah, a rich widow, whom he afterwards married. 

By this match, Mahomet was enabled to live at ease, and formed the scheme of propagating a new religion, which he alleged should be the same as that professed by Adam, Noah, Abraham, and other patriarchs, which should destroy idolatry and superstition, and introduce the worship of one God. In the first place he attempted to convert his own household, which appears to have been a work of some trouble, and for this purpose he retired to a cave in mount Hara, where he informed his wife that Gabriel had just appeared to him, and had made him an apostle of God: he also repeated to her, passages which he pretended had been revealed to him by the ministering angel. 


Source: Gold Bible no. 2. "The Reflector", Palmyra, January 18, 1831

Abner Cole was a Palmyra resident and the editor of the Palmyra Reflector, a local newspaper. He was one of the earliest critics of the spiritual claims of Joseph Smith, having commented on the "Golden Bible" before it was even published as the Book of Mormon.  Interestingly, Abner Cole seems to have been an early owner of the land that contained what would later be known as "Miner's hill".

Abner Cole commenting on his views about and interactions with early Mormons:

(the spirit) would furnish him (Jo) with a book, which would give an account of the Ancient inhabitants...and where they had deposited their substance, consisting of costly furniture, &c.... in large and spacious chambers, in sundry places in this vicinity...

Gold Bible no. 4. "The Reflector", Palmyra, February 14, 1831
Notes / Commentary

It seems quite unlikely that Abner Cole is here making a reference to Joseph Smith's cave in Miner's Hill.  The reference to furniture in large chambers is still worth considering given that later descriptions of the cave included details about gold furniture.

Long-form Source Text

GOLD BIBLE, NO. 4.

Since we have any knowledge of the habits or propensities of the human species, we find that man has been prone to absurdities; and it too often happens that while we carefully attempt to detect them in others, we fondly cherish some gross inconsistencies within our own bosoms. The lust of power, doubtless stimulates the few, while ignorance binds the many, like passive slaves to the car of superstition. 

It is passing strange, that in all ages of the world, gross stupidity in an impostor should be considered among the vulgar, irrefragible proof of his divine mission, and the most bungling piece of legerdemain, will receive from them all the credit of a well attested miracle. 

Joanna Southcote published a book in the city of London, in 1804, in which her first prophecies were detailed. -- She declares that she did not understand the communications given her by the spirit, till they were afterwards explained to her. The spirit informed her how she could fortel the weather and other events. She declares that the death of Bishop Buller, was foretold her in a dream. One night she heard an iron ball roll three steps down stairs, which the spirit told her was a sign of three great evils, about to fall upon the land -- the sword, the plague, and famine. She relates that she foretold the extraordinary harvest, which happened in 1800. She was often ordered to read the bible, when the spirit would interpret its meaning. She informs her readers that Jacob's warning to his sons, is applicable to our times -- mentions frequent contests with various preachers, and talks much about the marriage of the Lamb. 

The following is from one of her communications. "As wrong as they are in saying thou hast children bro't up by the parish, and that thou art Bonaparte's brother, and that thou hast been in prison; so false is their sayings, thy writings come from the devil, or any spirit but the spirit of the LIVING GOD; and that every soul in this nation shall know before the FIVE YEARS I mentioned to the people in 1800 are expired, and then I will return as a DIADEM of beauty to the residence of my people, and they shall praise the GOD OF THEIR SALVATION." 

In 1805 Joanna published a pamphlet, attempting to confute the "five charges" which had been made against her and published in the newspapers. First, sealing her disciples. Second, on the invasion. Third, on famine. Fourth, her mission, and fifth, her death. Sealing is an important point among these people. -- Joanna gives those who profess a belief in her mission, and will subscribe to the things revealed in her "WARNING," a sealed paper with her signature, by which they are led to think, that they are sealed against the day of redemption, and that all those who possess these seals, would be signally honored by the Messiah when he should come in the spring (of 1807.) Her followers believed her to be the bride, the Lamb's wife, and that as man fell by a woman, he will be restored by a woman. Many of her followers pretended to have visions and revelations. At present it would appear that both warning, and sealing have subsided; and they are waiting in awful suspense for the commencement of the thousand years reign on earth, when peace will universally prevail. They now pretend that Christ will not come in person, but in spirit, and all the dead who have been sealed, will be raised from their graves to partake of this happy state. 

If an imposture, like the one we have so briefly noticed, could spring up in the great metropolis of England, and spread over a considerable portion of that kingdom, it is not surprising that one equally absurd, should have its origin in this neighborhood, where its dupes are not, or ever will be numerous. 

In the commencement, the imposture of the "book of Mormon," had no regular plan or features. At a time when the money digging ardor was somewhat abated, the elder Smith declared that his son Jo had seen the spirit, (which he then described as a little old man with a long beard,) and was informed that he (Jo) under certain circumstances, eventually should obtain great treasures, and that in due time he (the spirit) would furnish him (Jo) with a book, which would give an account of the Ancient inhabitants (antideluvians) of this country, and where they had deposited their substance, consisting of costly furniture, &c. at the approach of the great deluge, which had ever since that time remained secure in his (the spirits) charge, in large and spacious chambers, in sundry places in this vicinity, and these tidings corresponded precisely with revelations made to, and predictions made by the elder Smith a number of years before. 

The time at length arrived, when young Jo was to receive the book from the hand of the spirit, and he repaired accordingly, alone, and in the night time, to the woods in the rear of his father's house (in the town of Manchester  about two miles south of this village) and met the spirit as had been appointed. This rogue of a spirit who had baffled all the united efforts of the money diggers, (although they had tried many devices to gain his favor, and at one time sacrificed a barn yard fowl,) intended it would seem to play our prophet a similar trick on this occasion; for no sooner had he delivered the book according to promise, than he made a most desperate attempt to regain its possession. Our prophet however, like a lad of true metal, stuck to his prize, and attempted to gain his father's dwelling, which it appears, was near at hand. The father being alarmed at the long absence of his son, and probably fearing some trick of the spirit, having known him for many years; sallied forth in quest of the youthful adventurer. He had not however, proceeded far before he fell in with the object of his kind solicitude who appeared to be in the greatest peril. The spirit had become exasperated at the stubborn conduct of the young prophet, in wishing to keep possession of the book, and out of sheer spite, raised a whirlwind, which at that particular juncture, throwing trunks and limbs of trees about their ears, besides the "elfish sprite" had belabored Jo soundly with blows, -- had felled him once to the ground, and bruised him severely in the side. The rescue however, was timely, Jo retained his treasure, and returned to the house with his father, much fatigued and injured. This tale in substance, was told at the time the event was said to have happened by both father and son, and is well recollected by many of our citizens. It will be borne in mind that no divine interposition had been dreamed of at the period. 

BOOK OF MORMON. -- Our Painesville correspondent informs us, that about the first of Nov. last, Oliver Cowdery, (we shall notice this character in the course of our labors,) and three others arrived at that village with the "New Bible," on a mission to the notorious Sidney Rigdon, who resides in the adjoining town. Rigdon received them graciously -- took the book under advisement, and in a few days declared it to be of "Heavenly origin." Rigdon, with about 20 of his flock, were dipt immediately. They then proclaimed that there had been no religion in the world for 1500 years, -- that no one had been authorised to preach &c. for that period, -- that Joe Smith had now received a commission from God for that purpose, and that all such as did not submit to his authority would speedily be destroyed. The world (except the New Jerusalem) would come to an end in two or three years. The state of New York would (probably) be sunk. Smith (they affirmed) had seen God frequently and personally -- Cowdery and his friends had frequent interviews with angels, and had been directed to locate the site for the New Jerusalem, which they should know, the moment they should "step their feet" upon it. They pretend to heal the sick and work miracles, and had made a number of unsuccessful attempts to do so. The Indians were the ten lost tribes -- some of them had already been dipt. From 1 to 200 (whites) had already been in the water, and showed great zeal in this new religion -- many were converted before they saw the book. Smith was continually receiving new revelations, and it would probably take him 1000 years to complete them -- commissions and papers were exhibited, said to be signed by Christ himself!!! Cowdery authorised three persons to preach, &c.  and descended the Ohio River. The converts are forming "common stock" families, as most pleasing in the sight of God. They pretend to give the "Holy Spirit" and under its operations they fall upon the floor -- see visions, &c. Indians followed Cowdery daily, and finally saw him enter the promised land, where he placed a pole in the ground, with a light on its top, to designate the site of the New Jerusalem.


Source: Gold Bible no. 4. "The Reflector", Palmyra, February 14, 1831

Peter Ingersol lived near the Smiths from about 1822 to 1830. He had direct interactions with Joseph Smith, and was hired to move Emma's things from Pennsyvania to New York.

Doctor P. Hurlbut was an early Mormon defctor who travelled to New York to collect statements disparaging to the Smith name.

E. D. Howe was the author of "Mormonism Unvailed," an early anti-Mormon book.  In it, he published Hurlbut's affidafits, including the one by Peter Ingersol.

E. D. Howe publishing an affidavit by Peter Ingersol collected by D. Hurlbut:

At another time, [Father Smith] told me that the ancient inhabitants of this country used camels instead of horses. For proof of this fact, he stated that in a certain hill on the farm of Mr. Cuyler, there was a cave containing an immense value of gold and silver, stands of arms, also, a saddle for a camel, hanging on a peg at one side of the cave. I asked him, of what kind of wood the peg was. He could not tell, but said it had become similar to stone or iron. 

Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville Ohio: Telegraph Press, 1834) p 233
Notes / Commentary

It is unclear who Mr. Cuyler is, or whether this story about camel gear in a cave is in any way related to the cave in Miner's hill.

Long-form Source Text

I, Peter Ingersoll, first became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. in the year of our Lord, 1822. -- I lived in the neighborhood of said family, until about 1830; during which time the following facts came under my observation.  

The general employment of the family, was digging for money. I had frequent invitations to join the company, but always declined being one of their number. They used various arguments to induce me to accept of their invitations. I was once ploughing near the house of Joseph Smith, Sen. about noon, he requested me to walk with him a short distance from his house, for the purpose of seeing whether a mineral rod would work in my hand, saying at the same time he was confident it would. As my oxen were eating, and being myself at leisure, I accepted the invitation. -- When we arrived near the place at which he thought there was money, he cut a small witch hazle bush and gave me direction how to hold it.  He then went off some rods, and told me to say to the rod, "work to the money," which I did, in an audible voice. He rebuked me severely for speaking it loud, and said it must be spoken in a whisper. This was rare sport for me.

While the old man was standing off some rods, throwing himself into various shapes, I told him the rod did not work. He seemed much surprised at this, and said he thought he saw it move in my hand. It was now time for me to return to my labor. On my return, I picked up a small stone and was carelessly tossing it from one hand to the other. Said he, (looking very earnestly) what are you going to do with that stone? Throw it at the birds, I replied. No, said the old man, it is of great worth; and upon this I gave it to him. Now, says he, if you only knew the value there is back of my house (and pointing to a place near) -- there, exclaimed he, is one chest of gold and another of silver. He then put the stone which I had given him, into his hat, and stooping forward, he bowed and made sundry maneuvers, quite similar to those of a stool pigeon. At length he took down his hat, and being very much exhausted, said, in a faint voice, "if you knew what I had seen, you would believe." To see the old man thus try to impose upon me, I confess, rather had a tendency to excite contempt than pity. Yet I thought it best to conceal my feelings, preferring to appear the dupe of my credulity, than to expose myself to his resentment. His son Alvin then went through with the same performance, which was equally disgusting.  

Another time, the said Joseph, Sen. told me that the best time for digging money, was, in the heat of summer, when the heat of the sun caused the chests of money to rise near the top of the ground. You notice, said he, the large stones on the top of the ground -- we call them rocks, and they truly appear so, but they are, in fact, most of them chests of money raised by the heat of the sun.  

At another time, he told me that the ancient inhabitants of this country used camels instead of horses. For proof of this fact, he stated that in a certain hill on the farm of Mr. Cuyler, there was a cave containing an immense value of gold and silver, stands of arms, also, a saddle for a camel, hanging on a peg at one side of the cave. I asked him, of what kind of wood the peg was. He could not tell, but said it had become similar to stone or iron. 

The old man at last laid a plan which he thought would accomplish his design. His cows and mine had been gone for some time, and were not to be found, notwithstanding our diligent search for them. Day after day was spent in fruitless search, until at length he proposed to find them by his art of divination. So he took his stand near the corner of his house, with a small stick in his hand, and made several strange and peculiar motions, and then said he could go directly to the cows. So he started off, and went into the woods about one hundred rods distant and found the lost cows. But on finding out the secret of the mystery, Harrison had found the cows, and drove them to the above named place, and milked them.  So that this stratagem turned out rather more to his profit that it did to my edification. -- The old man finding that all his efforts to make me a money digger, had proved abortive, at length ceased his importunities. One circumstance, however, I will mention before leaving him. Some time before young Joseph found, or pretended to find, the gold plates, the old man told me that in Canada, there had been a book found, in a hollow tree, that gave an account of the first settlement of this country before it was discovered by Columbus.  

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. Mr. Hale told Joseph, if he would move to Pennsylvania and work for a living, he would assist him in getting into business. Joseph acceded to this proposition. I then returned with Joseph and his wife to Manchester. One circumstance occurred on the road, worthy of notice, and I believe this is the only instance where Jo ever exhibited true yankee wit. On our journey to Pennsylvania, we could not make the exact change at the toll gate near Ithaca. Joseph told the gate tender, that he would "hand" him the toll on his return, as he was coming back in a few days. On our return, Joseph tendered to him 25 cents, the toll being 12 1/2. He did not recognize Smith, so he accordingly gave him back the 12 1/2 cents. After we had passed the gate, I asked him if he did not agree to pay double gatage on our return? No, said he, I agreed to "hand" it to him, and I did, but he handed it back again.  

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. -- He seemed much perplexed as to the course he should pursue. In this dilemma, he made me his confident and told me what daily transpired in the family of Smiths. One day he came, and greeted me with a joyful countenance. -- Upon asking the cause of his unusual happiness, he replied in the following language: "As I was passing, yesterday, across the woods, after a heavy shower of rain, I found, in a hollow, some beautiful white sand, that had been washed up by the water. I took off my frock, and tied up several quarts of it, and then went home. On my entering the house, I found the family at the table eating dinner. They were all anxious to know the contents of my frock. At that moment, I happened to think of what I had heard about a history found in Canada, called the golden Bible; so I very gravely told them it was the golden Bible. To my surprise, they were credulous enough to believe what I said. Accordingly I told them that I had received a commandment to let no one see it, for, says I, no man can see it with the naked eye and live. However, I offered to take out the book and show it to them, but they refuse to see it, and left the room." Now, said Jo, "I have got the damned fools fixed, and will carry out the fun." Notwithstanding, he told me he had no such book, and believed there never was any such book, yet, he told me that he actually went to Willard Chase, to get him to make a chest, in which he might deposit his golden Bible. But, as Chase would not do it, he made a box himself, of clap-boards, and put it into a pillow case, and allowed people only to lift it, and feel of it through the case.  

In the fall of 1827, Joseph wanted to go to Pennsylvania. His brother-in-law had come to assist him in moving, but he himself was out of money. He wished to borrow the money of me, and he presented Mr. Hale as security. I told him in case he could obtain assistance from no other source, I would let him have some money. Joseph then went to Palmyra; and, said he, I there met that dam fool, Martin Harris, and told him that I had a command to ask the first honest man I met with, for fifty dollars in money, and he would let me have it. I saw at once, said Jo, that it took his notion, for he promptly gave me the fifty.  

Joseph thought this sum was sufficient to bear his expenses to Pennsylvania. So he immediately started off, and since that time I have not been much in his society. While the Smiths were living at Waterloo, William visited my neighborhood, and upon my inquiry how they came on, he replied, "we do better there than here; we were too well known here to do much.

PETER INGERSOLL.

State of New York, Wayne County, ss:

I certify, that on this 9th day of December, 1833, personally appeared before me the above named Peter Ingersoll, to me known, and made oath, according to law, to the truth of the above statement.

TH. P. BALDWIN, Judge of Wayne County Court.


Source: Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville Ohio: Telegraph Press, 1834) p 233

Facsimile

William Stafford was a neighbor of the Smith family in the 1820s, and had direct interactions with them. The Smith farm is located on Stafford road, named after the Stafford family.

Doctor P. Hurlbut was an early Mormon defctor who travelled to New York to collect statements disparaging to the Smith name.

E. D. Howe was the author of "Mormonism Unvailed," an early anti-Mormon book.  In it, he published Hurlbut's affidafits, including the one by William Stafford.

E. D. Howe publishing an affidavit by William Stafford collected by D. Hurlbut:

...hills in this part of New York, were thrown up by human hands, and in them were large caves, which Joseph, Jr., 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. 

Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville Ohio: Telegraph Press, 1834) p 237-240
Notes / Commentary

Stafford's description of treasure-filled artificial caves is intriguing, but he does not go so far as mentioning Miner's hill cave specifically.

Long-form Source Text

TESTIMONY  OF  WILLIAM  STAFFORD.

Manchester, Ontario Co. N. Y. Dec. 8th, 1833.    

I, William Stafford, having been called upon to give a true statement of my knowledge, concerning the character and conduct of the family of Smiths, known to the world as the founders of the Mormon sect, do say, that I first became acquainted with Joseph, Sen., and his family in the year 1820. They lived, at that time, in Palmyra, about one mile and a half from my residence. A great part of their time was devoted to digging for money: especially in the night time, when they said the money could be most easily obtained. I have heard them tell marvellous tales, respecting the discoveries they had made in their peculiar occupation of money digging.  They would say, for instance, that in such a place, in such a hill, on a certain man's farm, there were deposited keys, barrels and hogsheads of coined silver and gold -- bars of gold, golden images, brass kettles filled with gold and silver -- gold candlesticks, swords, &c. &c. They would say, also, that nearly all the hills in this part of New York, were thrown up by human hands, and in them were large caves, which 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. At certain times, these treasures could be obtained very easily; at others, the obtaining of them was difficult. The facility of approaching them, depended in a great measure on the state of the moon. New moon and good Friday, I believe, were regarded as the most favorable times for obtaining these treasures. These tales I regarded as visionary. However, being prompted by curiosity, I at length accepted of their invitations, to join them in their nocturnal excursions. I will now relate a few incidents attending these excursions.  

Joseph Smith, Sen., came to me one night, and told me, that Joseph Jr. had been looking in his glass, and had seen, not many rods from his house, two or three kegs of gold and silver, some feet under the surface of the earth: and that none others but the elder Joseph and myself could get them. I accordingly consented to go, and early in the evening repaired to the place of deposit. Joseph, Sen. first made a circle, twelve or fourteen feet in diameter. This circle, said he, contains the treasure. He then stuck in the ground a row of witch hazel sticks, around the said circle, for the purpose of keeping off the evil spirits.  Within this circle he made another, of about eight or ten feet in diameter. He walked around three times on the periphery of this last circle, muttering to himself something which I could not understand. He next stuck a steel rod in the centre of the circles, and then enjoined profound silence upon us, lest we should arouse the evil spirit who had the charge of these treasures. After we had dug a trench about five feet in depth around the rod, the old man by signs and motions, asked leave of absence, and went to the house to inquire of young Joseph the cause of our disappointment. He soon returned and said, that Joseph had remained all this time in the house, looking in his stone and watching the motions of the evil spirit--that he saw the spirit come up to the ring and as soon as it beheld the cone which we had formed around the rod, it caused the money to sink. We then went into the house, and the old man observed, that we had made a mistake in the commencemnt of the operation; if it had not been for that, said he, we should have got the money.  

At another time, they devised a scheme, by which they might satiate their hunger, with the mutton of one of my sheep. They had seen in my flock of sheep, a large, fat, black weather. Old Joseph and one of the boys came to me one day, and said that Joseph Jr. had discovered some very remarkable and valuable treasures, which could be procured only in one way. That way, was as follows: -- That a black sheep should be taken on to the ground where the treasures were concealed -- that after cutting its throat, it should be led around a circle while bleeding. This being done, the wrath of the evil spirit would be appeased: the treasures could then be obtained, and my share of them was to be four fold.  To gratify my curiosity, I let them have a large fat sheep. They afterwards informed me, that the sheep was killed pursuant to commandment; but as there was some mistake in the process, it did not have the desired effect. This, I believe, is the only time they ever made money-digging a profitable business. They, however, had around them constantly a worthless gang, whose employment it was to dig money nights, and who, day times, had more to do with mutton than money. 

When they found that the people of this vicinity would no longer put any faith in their schemes for digging money, they then pretended to find a gold bible, of which, they said, the book of Mormon was only an introduction. This latter book was at length fitted for the press. No means were taken by any individual to suppress its publication: No one apprehended any danger from a book, originating with individuals who had neither influence, honesty or honor. The two Josephs and Hiram, promised to show me the plates, after the book of Mormon was translated. But, afterwards, they pretended to have received an express commandment, forbidding them to show the plates. Respecting the manner of receiving and translating the book of Mormon, their statements were always discordant.  The elder Joseph would say that he had seen the plates, and that he knew them to be gold; at other times he would say that they looked like gold; and other times he would say he had not seen the plates at all. I have thus briefly stated a few of the facts, in relation to the conduct and character of this family of Smiths; probably sufficient has been stated without my going into detail.                

WILLIAM STAFFORD.

State of New York, Wayne County, ss:

I certify, that on this 9th day of December, 1833, personally appeared before me, William Stafford, to me known, and made oath to the truth of the above statement, and signed the same.

TH. P. BALDWIN, 
Judge of Wane County Court.      


Source: Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville Ohio: Telegraph Press, 1834) p 237-240

Facsimile

Oliver Cowdery was a very close associate of Joseph Smith, a witness to the gold plates and angel, and the scribe of the Book of Mormon.  He was directly involved in almost all of Mormonism's early events, and, according to many accounts, spent considerable time in the cave.

Oliver Cowdery commenting on the location of the plates:

I have now given sufficient on the subject of the hill Cumorah-it has a singular and imposing appearance for that country, and must excite the curious enquiry [inquiry] of every lover of the book of Mormon... In my estimation, certain places are dearer to me for what they now contain than for what they have contained...the plates...were sealed...and...shall be brought forth by the power of God...

Messenger and Advocate, Vol. II, No. 1. Kirtland, Ohio, October, 1835.
Notes / Commentary

This cryptic statement eludes to the possibility that the gold plates are hidden somewhere that Oliver is aware of, and further suggests that the location is not Cumorah.  While Oliver provides no further details, many accounts related by those who knew Oliver include details of he being in the cave with gold plates present.

Long-form Source Text

LETTER VIII.

Dear Brother,-

In my last I said I should give, partially, a "description of the place where, and the manner in which these records were deposited:" the first promise I have fulfilled, and must proceed to the latter:

The hill of which I have been speaking, at the time mentioned, presented a varied appearance: the north end rose suddenly from the plain, forming a promontory without timber, but covered with grass. As you passed to the south you soon came to scattering timber, the surface having been cleared by art or by wind; and a short distance further left, you are surrounded with the common forest of the country. It is necessary to observe, that even the part cleared was only occupied for pasturage, its steep ascent and narrow summit not admitting the plow of the husbandman, with any degree of ease or profit. It was at the second mentioned place where the record was found to be deposited, on the west side of the hill, not far from the top down its side; and when myself visited the place in the year 1830, there were several trees standing: enough to cause a shade in summer, but not so much as to prevent the surface being covered with grass-which was also the case when the record was first found.

Whatever may be the feeling of men on the reflection of past acts which have been performed on certain portions or spots of this earth, I know not, neither does it add or diminish to nor from the reality of my subject. When Moses heard the voice of God, at the foot of Horeb, out of the burning bush, he was commanded to take his shoes off his feet, for the ground on which he stood was holy. The same may be observed when Joshua beheld the "Captain of the Lord's host" by Jerico.-And I confess that my mind was filled with many reflections; and though I did not then loose my shoe, yet with gratitude to God did I offer up the sacrifice of my heart.

How far below the surface these records were placed by Moroni, I am unable to say; but from the fact that they had been some fourteen hundred years buried, and that too on the side of a hill so steep, one is ready to conclude that they were some feel below, as the earth would naturally wear more or less in that length of time. But they being placed toward the top of the hill, the ground would not remove as much as at two thirds, perhaps. Another circumstance would prevent a wearing of the earth: in all probability, as soon as timber had time to grow, the hill was covered, after the Nephites were destroyed, and the roots of the same would hold the surface. However, on this point I shall leave every man to draw his own conclusion, and form his own speculation, as I only promised to give a description of the place at the time the records were found in 1823.-It is sufficient for my present purpose, to know, that such is the fact: that in 1823, yes, 1823, a man with whom I have had the most intimate and personal acquaintance, for almost seven years actually discovered by the vision of God, the plates from which the book of Mormon, as much as it is disbelieved, was translated! Such is the case, though men rack their very brains to invent falsehoods, and then waft them upon every breeze, to the contrary notwithstanding.

I have now given sufficient on the subject of the hill Cumorah-it has a singular and imposing appearance for that country, and must excite the curious enquiry [inquiry] of every lover of the book of Mormon: though I hope never like Jerusalem, and the sepulchre [sepulcher] of our Lord the pilgrims. In my estimation, certain places are dearer to me for what they now contain than for what they have contained. For the satisfaction of such as believed I have been thus particular, and to avoid the question being a thousand times asked, more than any other cause, shall proceed and be as particular as heretofore. The manner in which the plates were deposited:

First, a hole of sufficient depth, (how deep I know not,) was dug. At the bottom of this was laid a stone of suitable size, the upper surface being smooth. At each edge was placed a large quantity of cement, and into this cement, at the four edges of this stone, were placed, erect, four others, their bottom edges resting in the cement at the outer edges of the first stone. The four last named, when placed erect, formed a box, the corners, or where the edges of the four came in contact, were also cemented so firmly that the moisture from without was prevented from entering. It is to be observed, also, that the inner surface of the four erect, or side stones was smooth. This box was sufficiently large to admit a breast plate, such as was used by the ancients to defend the chest, &c. from the arrows and weapons of their enemy. From the bottom of the box, or from the breast-plate, arose three small pillars composed of the same description of cement used on the edges; and upon these three pillars was placed the record of the children of Joseph, and of a people who left the tower far, far before the days of Joseph, or a sketch of each, which had it not ben [been] for this, and the never failing goodness of God, we might have perished in our sins, having been left to bow down before the altars of the Gentiles and to have paid homage to the priests of Baal! I must not forget to say that this box, containing the record was covered with another stone, the bottom surface being flat and the upper, crowning. But those three pillars were not so lengthy as to cause the plates and the crowning stone to come in contact. I have now given you, according to my promise, the manner in which this record was deposited; though when it was first visited by our brother, in 1823, a part of the crowning stone was visible above the surface while the edges were concealed by the soil and grass, from which circumstance you will see, that however deep this box might have been placed by Moroni at first, the time had been sufficient to wear the earth so that it was easily discovered, when once directed, and yet not enough to make a perceivable difference to the passer by. So wonderful are the works of the Almighty, and so far from our finding out are his ways, that one who trembles to take his holy name into his lips, is left to wonder at his exact providences, and the fulfilment [fulfillment] of his purposes in the event of times and seasons. A few years sooner might have found even the top stone concealed, and discouraged our brother from attempting to make a further trial to obtain this rich treasure, for fear of discovery; and a few later might have left the small box uncovered, and exposed its valuable contents to the rude calculations and vain speculations of those who neither understand common language nor fear God. But such would have been contrary to the words of the ancients and the promises made to them: and this is why I am left to admire the words and see the wisdom in the designs of the Lord in all things manifested to the eyes of the world: they who show that all human inventions are like the vapors, while his word endures forever and his promises to the last generation.

Having thus digressed from my main subject to give a few items for the special benefit of all, it will be necessary to return, and proceed as formerly.-And if any suppose I have indulged too freely in reflections, I will only say, that it is my opinion, were one to have a view of the glory of God which is to cover Israel in the last days, and know that these, though they may be thought small things, were the beginning to effect the same, they would be at a loss where to close, should they give a moment's vent to the imaginations of the heart.

You will have wondered, perhaps, that the mind of our brother should be so occupied with the thoughts of the good of this world, at the time of arriving at Cumorah, on the morning of the 22nd of September, 1823, after having been rapt in the visions of heaven during the night, and also seeing and hearing in open day; but the mind of man is easily turned, if it is not held by the power of God through the prayer of faith, and you will remember that I have said that two invisible powers were operating upon his mind during his walk from his residence to Cumorah, and that the one urging the certainly of wealth and ease in this life, had so powerfully wrought upon him, that the great object so carefully and impressively named by the angel, had entirely gone from his recollection that only a fixed determination to obtain now urged him forward. In this, which occasioned a failure to obtain, at that time, the record, do not understand me to attach blame to our brother: he was young, and his mind easily turned from correct principles, unless he could be favored with a certain round of experience. And yet, while young, untraditionated and untaught in the systems of the world, he was in a situation to be lead into the great work of God, and be qualified to perform it in due time.

After arriving at the repository, a little exertion in removing the soil from the edges of the top of the box, and a light pry, brought to his natural vision its contents. No sooner did he behold this sacred treasure than his hopes were renewed, and he supposed his success certain; and without first attempting to take it from its long place of deposit, he thought, perhaps, there might be something more equally as valuable, and to take only the plates, might give others an opportunity of obtaining the remainder, which could be secure, would still add to his store of wealth. These, in short, were his reflections, without once thinking of the solemn instruction of the heavenly messenger, that all must be done with an express view of glorying God.

On attempting to take possession of the record a shock was produced upon his system, by an invisible power which deprived him, in a measure, of his natural strength. He desisted for an instant, and then made another attempt, but was more sensibly shocked than before. What was the occasion of this he knew not-there was the pure unsullied record, as had been described-he had heard of the power of enchantment, and a thousand like stories, which held the hidden treasures of the earth, and supposed that physical exertion and personal strength was only necessary to enable him to yet obtain the object of his wish. He therefore made the third attempt with an increased exertion, when his strength failed him more than at either of the former times, and without premeditating he exclaimed, "Why can I not obtain this book?" "Because you have not kept the commandments of the Lord," answered a voice, within a seeming short distance. He looked, and to his astonishment, there stood the angel who had previously given him the directions concerning this matter. In an instant, all the former instructions, the great intelligence concerning Israel and the last days, were brought to his mind: he thought of the time when his heart was fervently engaged in prayer to the Lord, when his spirit was contrite, and when his holy messenger from the skies unfolded the wonderful things connected with this record. He had come, to be sure, and found the word of the angel fulfilled concerning the reality of the record, but he had failed to remember the great end for which they had been kept, and in consequence could not have power to take them into his possession and bear them away.

At that instant he looked to the Lord in prayer, and as he prayed darkness began to disperse from his mind and his soul was lit up as it was the evening before, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit; and again did the Lord manifest his condescension and mercy: the heavens were opened and the glory of the Lord shone round about and rested upon him. While he thus stood gazing and admiring, the angel said, "Look!" and as he thus spake he beheld the prince of darkness, surrounded by his innumerable train of associates. All this passed before him, and the heavenly messenger said, "All this is shown, the good and the evil, the holy and impure, the glory of God and the power of darkness, that you may know hereafter the two powers and never be influenced or overcome by that wicked one. Behold, whatever entices and leads to good and to do good, is of God, and whatever does not is of that wicked one: It is he that fills the hearts of men with evil, to walk in darkness and blaspheme God; and you may learn from henceforth, that his ways are to destruction, but the way of holiness is peace and rest. You now see why you could not obtain this record; that the commandment was strict, and that if ever these sacred things are obtained they must be by prayer and faithfulness in obeying the Lord. They are not deposited here for the sake of accumulating gain and wealth for the glory of this world: they were sealed by the prayer of faith, and because of the knowledge which they contain they are of no worth among the children of men, only for their knowledge. On them is contained the fulness [fullness] of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as it was given to his people on this land, and when it shall be brought forth by the power of God it shall be carried to the Gentiles, of whom many will receive it, and after will the seed of Israel be brought into the fold of their Redeemer by obeying it also. Those who keep the commandments of the Lord on this land, desired this at his hand, and through the prayer of faith obtained the promises, that if their descendants should transgress and fall away, that a record might be kept and in the last days come to their children. These things are sacred, and must be kept so, for the promise of the Lord concerning them, must be fulfilled. No man can obtain them if his heart is impure, because they contain that which is sacred; and besides, should they be entrusted in unholy hands the knowledge could not come to the world, because they cannot be interpreted by the learning of this generation; consequently, they would be considered of no worth, only as precious metal. Therefore, remember, that they are to be translated by the gift and power of God. By them will the Lord work a great and a marvelous work: the wisdom of the wise shall become as nought, and the understanding of the prudent shall be hid, and because the power of God shall be displayed those who profess to know the truth but walk in deceit, shall tremble with anger; but with signs and with wonders, with gifts and with healings, with the manifestations of the power of God, and with the Holy Ghost, shall the hearts of the faithful be comforted. You have now beheld the power of God manifested and the power of satan: you see that there is nothing that is desirable in the works of darkness; that they cannot bring happiness; that those who are overcome therewith are miserable, while on the other hand the righteous are blessed with a place in the kingdom of God where joy unspeakable surrounds them. There they rest beyond the power of the enemy of truth, where no evil can disturb them. The glory of God crowns them, and they continually feast upon his goodness and enjoy his smiles. Behold, notwithstanding you have seen this great display of power, by which you may ever be able to detect the evil one, yet I give unto you another sign, and when it comes to pass then know that the Lord is God and that he will fulfil [fulfill] his purposes, and that the knowledge which this record contains will go to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people under the whole heaven.-This is the sign: When these things begin to be known, that is, when it is known that the Lord has shown you these things, the workers of iniquity will seek your overthrow: they will circulate falsehoods to destroy your reputation, and also will seek to take your life; but remember this, if you are faithful, and shall hereafter continue to keep the commandments of the Lord, you shall be preserved to bring these things forth; for in due time he will again give you a commandment to come and take them. When they are interpreted the Lord will give the holy priesthood to some, and they shall begin to proclaim this gospel and baptize by water, and after that they shall have power to give the Holy Ghost by the laying on of their hands. Then will persecution rage more and more; for the iniquities of men shall be revealed, and those who are not built upon the Rock will seek to overthrow this church; but it will increase the more opposed, and spread farther and farther, increasing in knowledge till they shall be sanctified and receive an inheritance where the glory of God will rest upon them; and when this takes place, and all things are prepared, the ten tribes of Israel will be revealed in the north country, whither they have been for a long season; and when this is fulfilled will be brought to pass that saying of the prophet-'And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord'-But, notwithstanding the workers of iniquity shall seek your destruction the arm of the Lord will be extended, and you will be borne off conqueror, if you keep all his commandments. Your name shall be known among the nations, for the work which the Lord will perform by your hands shall cause the righteous to rejoice and the wicked to rage: with the one it shall be had in honor, and with the other in reproach; yet, with these it shall be a terror because of the great and marvelous work which shall follow the coming forth of this fulness [fullness] of the gospel. Now, go thy way, remembering what the Lord has done for thee, and be diligent in keeping his commandments, and he will deliver thee from temptations and all the arts and devices of the wicked one.-Forget not to pray, that thy mind may become strong, that when he shall manifest unto thee, thou mayest have power to escape the evil, and obtain these precious things."

Though I am unable to paint before the mind, a perfect description of the scenery which passed before our brother, I think I have said enough to give you a field for reflection which may not be unprofitable. You see the great wisdom in God in leading him thus far, that his mind might begin to be more matured, and thereby be able to judge correctly, the spirits. I do not say that he would not have obtained the record had he went according to the direction of the angel-I say that he would; but God knowing all things from the beginning, began thus to instruct his servant. And in this it is plainly to be seen that the adversary of truth is not sufficient to overthrow the work of God. You will remember that I said, two invisible powers were operating upon the mind of our brother while going to Cumorah. In this, then, I discover wisdom in the dealings of the Lord: it was impossible for any man to translate the book of Mormon by the gift of God, and endure the afflictions, and temptations, and devices of satan, without being overthrown, unless he had been previously benefitted [benefited] with a certain round of experience: and had our brother obtained the record the first time, not knowing how to detect the works of darkness, he might have been deprived of the blessing of sending forth the word of truth to this generation. Therefore, God knowing that satan would thus lead his mind astray, began at that early hour, that when the full time should arrive, he might have a servant prepared to fulfil [fulfill] his purpose. So, however afflicting to his feelings this repulse might have been, he had reason to rejoice before the Lord and be thankful for the favors and mercies shown; that whatever other instruction was necessary to the accomplishing this great work, he had learned, by experience, how to discern between the spirit of Christ and the spirit of the devil.

From this time to September, 1827, few occurrences worthy of note, transpired. As a fact to be expected, nothing of importance could be recorded concerning a generation in darkness.-In the mean time our brother of whom I have been speaking, passed the time as others, in laboring for his support. But in consequence of certain false and slanderous reports which have been circulated, justice would require me to say something upon the private life of one whose character has been so shamefully traduced. By some he is said to have been a lazy, idle, vicious, profligate fellow. These I am prepared to contradict, and that too by the testimony of many persons with whom I have been intimately acquainted, and know to be individuals of the strictest veracity, and unquestionable integrity. All these strictly and virtually agree in saying, that he was an honest, upright, virtuous, and faithfully industrious young man. And those who say to the contrary can be influenced by no other motive than to destroy the reputation of one who never injured any man in either property or person.

While young, I have been informed he was afflicted with sickness; but I have been told by those for whom he has labored, that he was a young man of truth and industrious habits. And I will add further that it is my conviction, if he never had been called to the exalted station in which he now occupies, he might have passed down the stream of time with ease and in respectability, without the foul and hellish tongue of slander ever being employed against him. It is no more than to be expected, I admit, that men of corrupt hearts will try to traduce his character and put a spot upon his name: indeed, this is according to the word of the angel; but this does not prohibit one from speaking freely of his merits, and contradicting those falsehoods-I feel myself bound so to do, and I know that my testimony, on this matter, will be received and believed while those who testify to the contrary are crumbled to dust, and their words swept away in the general mass of lies when God shall purify the earth!

Connected with this, is the character of the family: and on this I say as I said concerning the character of our brother -I feel myself bound to defend the innocent always when opportunity offers. Had not those who are notorious for lies and dishonesty, also assailed the character of the family I should pass over them here in silence; but now I shall not forbear. It has been industriously circulated that they were dishonest, deceitful and vile. On this I have the testimony of responsible persons, who have said and will say, that this is basely false; and besides, a personal acquaintance for seven years, has demonstrated that all the difficulty is, they were once poor, (yet industrious,) and have now, by the help of God, arisen to note, and their names are like to, (indeed they will,) be handed down to posterity, and had among the righteous.-They are industrious honest, virtuous and liberal to all. This is their character; and though many take advantage of their liberality, God will reward them; but this is the fact, and this testimony shall shine upon the records of the saints, and be recorded on the archives of heaven to be read in the day of eternity, when the wicked and perverse, who have vilely slandered them without cause or provocation, reap their reward with the unjust, where there is weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth!-if they do not repent.

Soon after this visit to Cumorah, a gentleman from the south part of the State, (Chenango County,) employed our brother as a common laborer, and accordingly he visited that section of the country; and had he not been accused of digging down all, or nearly so, the mountains of Susquehannah, or causing others to do it by some art of nicromancy, I should leave this, for the present, unnoticed. You will remember, in the mean time, that those who seek to vilify his character, say that he has always been notorious for his idleness. This gentleman, whose name is Stowel, resided in the town of Bainbridge, on or near the head waters of the Susquehannah river. Some forty miles south, or down the river, in the town of Harmony, Susquehannah county, Pa. is said to be a cave or subterraneous recess, whether entirely formed by art or not I am uninformed, neither does this matter; but such is said to be the case,-when a company of Spaniards, a long time since, when the country was uninhabited by white settlers, excavated from the bowels of the earth ore, and coined a large quantity of money; after which they secured the cavity and evacuated, leaving a part still in the cave, purposing to re-turn at some distant period. A long time elapsed and this account came from one of the individuals who was first engaged in this mining business. The country was pointed out and the spot minutely described. This, I believe, is the substance, so far as my memory serves, though I shall not pledge my veracity for the correctness of the account as I have given.-Enough however, was credited of the Spaniard's story, to excite the belief of many that there was a fine sum of the precious metal being coined in this subterraneous vault, among whom was our employer; and accordingly our brother was required to spend a few months with some others in excavating the earth, in pursuit of this treasure.

While employed here he became acquainted with the family of Isaac Hale, of whom you read in several of the productions of those who have sought to destroy the validity of the book of Mormon. It may be necessary hereafter, to refer you more particularly to the conduct of this family, as their influence has been considerably exerted to destroy the reputation of our brother, probably because he married a daughter of the same contrary to some of their wishes, and in connection with this to certain statements of some others of the inhabitants of that section of country. But in saying this I do not wish to be understood as uttering aught against Mrs. Smith, (formerly Emma Hale.) She has most certainly evinced a decidedly correct mind and uncommon ability of talent and judgement [judgment], in a manifest willingness to fulfil [fulfill], on her part, that passage in sacred writ,-"and they twain shall be one flesh."-by accompanying her husband, against the wishes and advice of her relatives, to a land of strangers: and however I may deprecate their actions, can say in justice, her character stands as fair for morality, piety and virtue, as any in the world. Though you may say, this is a digression from the subject proposed, I trust I shall be indulged, for the purpose of satisfying many, who have heard so many slanderous reports that they are lead to believe them true because they are not contradicted; and besides, this generation are determined to oppose every item in the form or under the pretence [pretense] of revelation, unless it comes through a man who has always been more pure than Michael the great prince; and as this is the fact, and my opposers have put me to the necessity, I shall be more prolix, and have no doubt, before I give up the point, shall prove to your satisfaction, and to that of every man, that the translator of the book of Mormon is worthy the appellation of a seer and a prophet of the Lord. In this I do not pretend that he is not a man subject to passion like other men, beset with infirmities and encompassed with weaknesses; but if he is, all men were so before him, and a pretence [pretense] to the contrary would argue a more than mortal, which would at once destroy the whole system of the religion of the Lord Jesus; for he anciently chose the weak to overcome the strong, the foolish to confound the wise, (I mean considered so by this world,) and by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.

On the private character of our brother I need add nothing further, at present, previous to his obtaining the records of the Nephites, only that while in that country, some very officious person complained of him as a disorderly person, and brought him before the authorities of the country; but there being no cause of action he was honorably acquited [acquitted]. From this time forward he continued to receive instructions concerning the coming forth of the fulness [fullness] of the gospel, from the mouth of the heavenly messenger, until he was directed to visit again the place where the records was deposited.

For the present I close, with a thankful heart that I am permitted to see thousands rejoicjng [rejoicing] in the assurance of the promises of the Lord, confirmed unto them through the obedience of the everlasting covenant.

As ever your brother in the Lord Jesus.

OLIVER COWDERY.


Source: Messenger and Advocate, Vol. II, No. 1. Kirtland, Ohio, October, 1835.

Facsimile

Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon in 1830, following 10 years of religious and spiritual preparation. In 1838 he wrote about these experiences, documentaring a direct encouter with God, several meetings with an angel who directed him to gold plates, and the process of miracularly translating these plates into what would become the english text of the Book of Mormon.

Joseph Smith dictating his own account to James Mullohand:

...when, according to arrangements, the messenger called for [the gold plates], I delivered them up to him; and he has them in his charge until this day, being the second day of May, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight.

Joseph Smith History, 1838
Notes / Commentary

Joseph described the fate of plates by sayinig that he delivered them to "the messenger," typically identified as Moroni.  He does mention what the messenger subsequently did with the plates.  David Whitmer, who has close association with Joseph at this time (and was both a witness of the plates and the angel) explained that the angel hid the plates in the cave near (but not in) the Hill Cumorah.

Long-form Source Text

As my father’s worldly circumstances were very limited, we were under the necessity of laboring with our hands, hiring out by day’s work and otherwise, as we could get opportunity. Sometimes we were at home, and sometimes abroad, and by continuous labor were enabled to get a comfortable maintenance.

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.

During the time that I was thus employed, I was put to board with a Mr. Isaac Hale, of that place; it was there I first saw my wife (his daughter), Emma Hale. On the 18th of January, 1827, we were married, while I was yet employed in the service of Mr. Stoal.

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

At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. On the twenty-second day of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge: that I should be responsible for them; that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off; but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he, the messenger, should call for them, they should be protected.

I soon found out the reason why I had received such strict charges to keep them safe, and why it was that the messenger had said that when I had done what was required at my hand, he would call for them. For no sooner was it known that I had them, than the most strenuous exertions were used to get them from me. Every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to for that purpose. The persecution became more bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were on the alert continually to get them from me if possible. But by the wisdom of God, they remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand. When, according to arrangements, the messenger called for them, I delivered them up to him; and he has them in his charge until this day, being the second day of May, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight.

The excitement, however, still continued, and rumor with her thousand tongues was all the time employed in circulating falsehoods about my father’s family, and about myself. If I were to relate a thousandth part of them, it would fill up volumes. The persecution, however, became so intolerable that I was under the necessity of leaving Manchester, and going with my wife to Susquehanna county, in the State of Pennsylvania. While preparing to start—being very poor, and the persecution so heavy upon us that there was no probability that we would ever be otherwise—in the midst of our afflictions we found a friend in a gentleman by the name of Martin Harris, who came to us and gave me fifty dollars to assist us on our journey. Mr. Harris was a resident of Palmyra township, Wayne county, in the State of New York, and a farmer of respectability.

By this timely aid was I enabled to reach the place of my destination in Pennsylvania; and immediately after my arrival there I commenced copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them, which I did between the time I arrived at the house of my wife’s father, in the month of December, and the February following.

Sometime in this month of February, the aforementioned Mr. Martin Harris came to our place, got the characters which I had drawn off the plates, and started with them to the city of New York. For what took place relative to him and the characters, I refer to his own account of the circumstances, as he related them to me after his return, which was as follows:

“I went to the city of New York, and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Charles Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those which were not yet translated, and he said that they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic; and he said they were true characters. He gave me a certificate, certifying to the people of Palmyra that they were true characters, and that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct. I took the certificate and put it into my pocket, and was just leaving the house, when Mr. Anthon called me back, and asked me how the young man found out that there were gold plates in the place where he found them. I answered that an angel of God had revealed it unto him.

“He then said to me, ‘Let me see that certificate.’ I accordingly took it out of my pocket and gave it to him, when he took it and tore it to pieces, saying that there was no such thing now as ministering of angels, and that if I would bring the plates to him he would translate them. I informed him that part of the plates were sealed, and that I was forbidden to bring them. He replied, ‘I cannot read a sealed book.’ I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation.”


Source: Joseph Smith History, 1838

Facsimile

The NY Journal of Commerce began in 1827 when Arthur Tappan and Samuel Morse decided that New York needed another newspaper. Publications in the 19th century took positions on political issues and were rarely concerned with being impartial.

New York Journal of Commerce reporter relating local stories:

...Smith...pretended inspiration, digging into the side of a hill, and there secluding himself for months, and then coming forth with the pretence that he has found a new revelation...

New York Journal of Commerce, New York, City, Monday, Dec. 13, 1841
Notes / Commentary

This appears to be the first clear reference to Joseph Smith (1) digging into a hill, (2) spending time in the dugout, and (3) excercising spiritual gifts in the dugout.  No details about which hill is being referred to (or where the hill is located) are included in this account. This article was reprinted two days later in the Wayne Sentinel  (Dec 15 1841.) 

Long-form Source Text

THE  MORMONS

The delusion got up by Joe Smith, is one of the most remarkable, as well as one of the most successful of the age. Its success in fact has placed the Mormons in a situation to excite a somewhat deeper interest than mere curiosity.

The Mormons are skillful in argument, so that they contend with no little success against all their opponents. They adopt the whole of our Bible, and claim that they have an additional revelation which was communicated to Joe Smith on the golden plate.

They say that the spirit of prophecy is an essential sign of the true church, and boldly state their pretensions on the possession of this gift. They say that no true church has existed on earth since prophesying ceased, at or near the apostles' time, and that the church has now been restored, with the new revelation and the returning gift of prophecy.

They claim of course that to the Saints belongs the earth, and seem to have no doubt that they shall possess it. They seem indeed to have some reason for their expectations, for their numbers in this country are already estimated at a hundred thousand and as many more in Europe.

Their converts comprise a large number of men of intelligence smartness, and not a few who have stood high in the Christian Churches of various denominations, as men of piety and excellence.

Their city of Nauvoo is growing in a manner unprecedented; men of property are constantly joining them, and adding their whole estates to the common stock.

They have acquired so much political importance as to procure of the Legislature of Illinois an act of incorporation, authorizing the Mormons to maintain a standing army of a thousand men.

Smith and Rigdon have ordained twelve apostles, who have been anointed for their work by a sight of the golden plates. One or two of them, we believe, have already deserted the standard and disclosed the designs of their Great Prophet.

When we see a miserable creature like Smith, all at once putting on the garb of sanctity, and guided by pretended inspiration, digging into the side of a hill, and there secluding himself for months, and then coming forth with the pretence that he has found a new revelation, which revelation is nothing more nor less than a piece of imaginative writing left in a manuscript by a deceased clergyman, and when we see such a fraud believed in, and adopted by enlightened men, and spreading more rapidly than any system of truth ever did, we are amazed.

What is man and all his boast of intelligence, and what has the knowledge of the present day made man, but a fool and the dupe of every knave! It is easy to see that if the Supreme Ruler should but withdraw his care from our world, delusions might spread abroad which would involve the human race in the deepest horrors. All that divines have said of the battle of Armageddon might be speedily realized. 


Source: New York Journal of Commerce, New York, City, Monday, Dec. 13, 1841

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Henry Caswell was an Episcopalian minister from St. Louis who visited Lucy Mack Smith in Nauvoo.

Lucy Mack Smith was Joseph's mother.  Shortly after his head, she wrote a history about his early days.

Henry Caswell reporting on Lucy Mack Smith retelling of Joseph's Story :

Joseph has had revelations from God since he was a boy...the angel of the Lord appeared to him fifteen years since; and showed him the cave where the original golden plates of the book of Mormon were deposited.

Lucy Mack Smith Interview, 1842. Henry Caswell, The City of the Mormons; or Three Days at Nauvoo in 1842 (London: Printed for J. G. F. & J. Rivington, 1842), 25-26. Reprinted in “The Mormons,” The Visitor, or Monthly Instructor, For 1842, v
Notes / Commentary

This seems to be a reference to Cumorah, not the Miner's Hill.  The mentioning of the cave is nonetheless worth noting.

Long-form Source Text

MORMONISM; OR, NEW  MOHAMMEDANISM  IN  ENGLAND  AND  AMERICA.

WE are accustomed to boast of the intelligence of the nineteenth century -- to laud ourselves on the march of mind in these modern days, and to speak of the popular delusions by which past generations were misled, as of the special shadows of "the long night now gone down the sky." Mormonism is a bitter reply to our self-laudation; it exhibits to us a convicted swindler received as a prophet by thousands in both hemispheres -- a literary forgery so thoroughly absurd and puerile, that its gross anachronisms may be depicted by a school-boy of the lowest form, recognized as a revelation, and placed on the same level of authority as the Bible itself; -- a creed full of the most palpable falsehoods and glaring inconsistencies, exercising an influence not inferior to that of Islamism at its first promulgation, not only in America, the place of its birth, but even in England, and especially in those parts of it where the arts and sciences seem to have received their greatest development.

Can such things be,

And overcome us like a summer cloud,

Without our special wonder?

Viewed merely as a social phenomenon, the history of such an imposture is no unworthy object of enlightened curiosity; but, unfortunately, it has a deeper interest: hundreds of our countrymen annually quit their homes to join the ranks of the impostor in the wilds of Illinois, taking with them their hoarded savings to swell his treasury. We have conversed with these deluded men; on all subjects, save religion, we have found them shrewd, clever, and well-informed; but, when a reference was made to Mormonism, they at once became insensible to reason and argument; neither clergyman nor layman could turn them from their error, or convince them of the absurdity of their proceedings. We have spoken with some who had returned from the "City of the Prophets," after having lost their little all, and suffered the most severe hardships in their double voyage across the Atlantic, and their perilous pilgrimages through the wildest parts of America, and, with only one exception, we found that the experience of their own sufferings, had not been quite sufficient to dispel the delusion. There lingered in the mind some reverence for the ravings of the pretended prophet and his artful apostles, united with a vague expectation of some inexplicable event, which would suddenly bring about "the reign of the saints upon earth," and raise them to the rank of nobles and princes. Such astonishing perseverance in detected error led us to examine closely a system which, for boldness of assertion and nullity of evidence, is without a parallel in the annals of human imposture. Our investigations have been kindly aided by numerous friends both in England and America. A perfect Mormonite library is piled upon our table, and forms a display which leaves the Abbe Dulauren's Bigarures de l' Espirit Humain far behind in the distance. It will, probably, be most convenient to our readers if we first state the account which the Mormonites themselves give of their pretended revelation, and then, from external and internal evidence, show what was the origin of the forgery, indicating, at the same time, some of the circumstances which have tended to give it currency in England and America. 

Joseph Smith, jun., "the prophet of the Nineteenth Century," was born in the State of Vermont in the year 1895, but before he reached his tenth year, his father and family removed to the village of Manchester in the State of New York. Between the years 1817 and 1827, several strange manifestations of extravagant fanaticism took place in America, particularly in Ohio, Missouri, and the State of New York. They commenced with the system of revivals and camp-meetings amongst the methodists, several of their preachers struck by the extraordinary accounts which Wesley has recorded in his journal 

of the wondrous workings of the Holy Spirit on congregations during his sermons, were tempted to try the experiment of producing similar effects by their own eloquence. Meetings were held in the open air, and lasted for several days in succession. During their continuance the people remained on the ground day and night -- some sleeping in tents, others in waggons, and not a few bivouacking in the open air. Exciting sermons, full of the most extravagant rant, were delivered by a series of preachers, who relieved each other; and the intervals were filled by alternate scenes of singing, shouting, and crying, accompanied by gesticulations of the most extraordinary character. Some fainted, others fell into convulsions; many ran round the field roaring like maniacs -- some rolled in the mud like swine, and whole multitudes practised a kind of jerking jump not unlike frogs, such as may be occasionally observed among the Welsh methodists. But the most favored of the manifestations among the Americans consisted in getting down on all fours, growling, snapping the teeth, and barking like dogs. It was not unusual for an entire congregation to assume this posture, and to continue more than an hour demurely looking and barking at the minister while he delivered to them a wild rhapsody of the visions with which he had been favored, of angels and heaven, and the holy city. It is very little to the credit of the American conference that no effort was made to check these scandalous scenes, which gave just offence to all sober-minded persons, until the consequences of applying such a stimulus to the passions began to manifest themselves in undeniable signs of gross immorality. 

Smith's predecessor, Matthias, may be considered the creature of these revivals. We might reasonably have doubted that in the nineteenth century an ignorant half-witted clown could have imposed himself on a multitude of followers, as our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ returned to earth, had not the madman Thoms, or Courtenay, successfully practised the same delusion on the peasantry of Kent, and Johanna Southcote established a sect, whose first article of faith stated that she was to be the mother of the Messiah at his second advent. Matthias, whose real name is said to have been Stone, preached doctrines too closely identified with those of the anabaptistsin the days of Luther for the resemblance to have been merely accidental: the impostor's attempts to imitate John of Leyden brought him, however, into awkward contact with the legal authorities, and the cowardice which he displayed on the occasion was fatal to his adherents. 

About the year 182[4] the mania for revivals spread from the methodists to the baptists. Mr. Campbell, a man of some learning and considerable wealth, began to teach that baptism, by total immersion, was absolutely necessary to salvation. Endowed with great boldness, pertinacity and zeal -- gifted with native eloquence, pure in his character, and respectable by his position, he was soon regarded by his followers as an inspired prophet. The sect of the Campbellites, which he founded, still maintains a lingering existence, but many of his converts apostatized to Mormonism. 

Manchester, the residence of Joseph Smith, was frequently visited by rival revivalists of various denominations, but principally methodists, presbyterians, and baptists: their leaders vied with each other in rant and extravagance, reflecting no artifice which seemed likely to increase the number of proselytes. Families became divided by sectarian controversy, and that of the Smiths seemed likely to contain as many denominations as it did members. Joseph, in his seventeenth year, began to feel, as he informs us, "the awakenings of conscience," and was at first disposed to join the methodists. Before taking a decisive step, he went into a grove at a short distance from his father's house, and besought God to inform him "which of the many hundred denominations under which Christians had ranged themselves, really constituted the true church." 

"While thus pouring out his soul," says the narrative published under his superintendence, and implicitly received by his followers, "anxiously desiring an answer from God, he, at length, saw a very bright and glorious light in the heavens above; which, at first, seemed to be at a considerable distance. He continued praying, while the light appeared to be gradually descending towards 

him; and, as it drew nearer, it increased in brightness, and magnitude, so that, by the time that it reached the tops of the trees, the whole wilderness, for some distance around, was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner." Into this cloud of glory, Smith, says the narrative, was received, and he met within it two angelic personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features; they informed him that all his sins were forgiven. They further declared, "that all the religious denominations as were believing were believing in incorrect doctrines, and consequently, that none of them was acknowledged of God, as his church and kingdom; and he was expressly commanded to go not after them, and he received a promise, that the true doctrine -- the fulness of the Gospel, "should, at some future time, be made known to him; after which, the vision withdrew, leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace, indescribable." 

Every particular of this tale is an obvious plagiarism from Mohammed's account of the first revelation made to him in the cave of Hira. Like Smith, the impostor of Mecca relates that Joe was placed in a state of doubt and perplexity by the number and variety of the religious denominations which divided the world -- that he retired into a solitary place to seek for divine illumination -- that he was visited by the archangel Gabriel, "who wrung the black drop of original sin" from his heart, and that he received a promise of a future revelation, to be given on "the night of power," that is to say, on the night when the archangel Gabriel mounted him on the celestial steed, or rather donkey, Al-Borak, and guided him through the seven heavens into the ineffable presence. Lives of Mohammed form a conspicuous portion of the popular literature of America; and we can feelingly testify, that some of their publishers reprinted English works on the subject, and given them an American nature. There are so many striking resemblances between Smith's conduct and that of Mohammed, as to have no room for doubting that the American impostor has taken his Arabian predecessor for his model and example. 

Smith's "night of power" was delayed until the 21st of Sept. 1823, and is thus described in the Mormonite narrative: -- 

"He had retired to rest, as usual, only that his mind was drawn out, in fervent prayer, and his soul was filled with the most earnest desire, 'to commune with some kind of messenger, who could communicate to him the desired information of his acceptance with God,' and also unfold the principles of the doctrine of Christ, according to the promise which he had received in the former vision. While he thus continued to pour out his desires before the Father of all good; endeavouring to exercise faith in his precious promises; 'on a sudden, a light like that of day, only of a purer and far more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room. Indeed, the first site was as though the house was filled with consuming fire. This sudden appearance of a light so bright, as must naturally be expected, occasioned a shock or sensation visible to the extremities of the body. It was, however, followed with a calmness and serenity of mind, and an overwhelming rapture of joy, that surpassed understanding, and, in a moment, a personage stood before him.' 

"Notwithstanding the brightness of the light which previously illuminated the room, 'yet there seemed to be an additional glory surrounding or accompanying this personage, which shone with an increased degree of brilliancy, of which he was in the midst; and though his countenance was as lightning, yet, it was of a pleasing, innocent, and glorious appearance; so much so, that every fear was banished from the heart, and nothing but calmness pervaded the soul.' 

"The stature of this personage was a little above the common size of men of this age; his garment was perfectly white, and had the appearance of being without seam. 

"This glorious being declared himself to be an Angel of God, sent forth, by commandment, to communicate to him that his sins were forgiven, and that his prayers were heard; and also, to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel, concerning their posterity, was at hand to be fulfilled; that the great preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah, was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel, in its fulness, to be preached in power unto all nations; that a people might be prepared with faith and righteousness, for the Millennial reign of universal peace and joy. 

He was informed, that he was called 

and chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God, to bring about some of his marvellous purposes in this glorious dispensation. It was also made manifest to him, that the "American Indians" were a remnant of Israel; that when they first emigrated to America, they were an enlightened people, possessing a knowledge of the true God, enjoying his favour, and peculiar blessing from his hand; that the prophets, and inspired writers among them, were required to keep a sacred history of the most important events transpiring among them: which history was handed down for many generations, till at length they fell into great wickedness: the most part of them were destroyed, and the records, (by commandment of God, to one if the last prophets among them,) were safely deposited, to preserve them from the hands of the wicked, who sought to destroy them. He was informed, that these records contained many sacred revelations pertaining to the gospel of the kingdom, as well as prophecies relating to the great events of the last days; and that to fulfill his promises to the ancients, who wrote the records, and to accomplish his purposes, in the restitution of their children, &c., they were to come forth to the knowledge of the people. If faithful, he was to be the instrument, who should be thus highly favoured in bringing these sacred things to light: at the same time, being expressly informed, that it must be done with an eye single to the glory of God, that no one could be entrusted with those sacred writings, who should endeavour to aggrandize himself, by converting sacred things to unrighteous and speculative purposes. After giving him many instructions concerning things past and to come, which would be foreign to our purpose to mention here, he disappeared, and the light and glory of God withdrew, leaving his mind in perfect peace, while a calmness and serenity indescribable pervaded the soul," 

This celestial vision was repeated twice in the night, and again on the following morning. On the last occasion, the angel led Smith to the place in which these precious relics were deposited, which, as we are informed with laudable particularity, was "in a large hill in the east side of the main road from Palmyra, Wayne county, to Canandaigua, Ontario county, state of New York, about four miles from Palmyra, and within one of the little village of Manchester." Here, according to the narrative, he found a square stone chest, containing plates like gold, "about seven by eight inches in width and length, being not quite so thick as common tin." The devil, according to the narrative, made his appearance when the box was opened, but did not condescend to explain the purpose of his coming. The following is the description given of the plates thus miraculously found: -- 

"They were filled on both sides with engravings in Egyptian characters, and bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book, and fastened at one edge with three rings running through the whole. This volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters or letters upon the unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, as well as much skill in the art of engraving. With the records was found "a curious instrument, called by the ancients the Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two transparent stones, clear as crystal, set in the two rims of a bow. This was in use, in ancient times, by persons called seers. It was an instrument, by the use which, they received revelation of things distant, or of things past or future." 

The narrative then relates that Smith accurately copied one of the plates, and sent it by a person named Martin Harris to New York, where this transcript was shown to Professor Anthon, who "was unable to decipher it correctly, but offered his assistance in translating the original record." 

It is a fact that Martin Harris of Palmyra waited on Professor Anthon with such a paper, and Anthon gave him a certificate stating in substance, that it contained only vague imitations of alphabetical signs, utterly destitute of meaning. Smith subsequently persuaded Harris that this declaration was only a proof of the professor's ignorance. Had Smith known that Anthon's literary reputation is mainly based on his unscrupulous plagiarisms from German and English scholars, to whom he never acknowledges his obligations, the professor's authority as a linguist might have been lowered to the standard of his editorial honesty. 

No one of the Mormonites records mentions the period when Smith received "the gift of interpretation," and the consequent power of translating these records. Three witnesses, however, 

bear testimony "to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people," in the following terms: -- "We know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a certainty that the work is true." These witnesses are Martin Harris, already mentioned; Oliver Cowdery, author of the official narrative which we have quoted; and David Whitmer, who further reported that the angel who appeared was "like a man in grey clothes, having his throat cut." Eight witnesses subsequently attested that "they had seen and hefted," that is, handled, so as to be conscious of the weight, these wonderous plates; but these are the father and the three brothers of the prophet, and three brothers of the David Whitmer who signed the first certificate, Smith's mother, also, bore testimony to the real existence when the Rev. Henry Caswell visited her last year at Nauvoo. 

"I am old," she said, "and I shall soon stand before the judgment seat of Christ; but what I say to you now, I would say on my death-bed. My son Joseph has had revelations from God since he was a boy, and he is indeed a true prophet of Jehovah. The angel of the Lord appeared to him fifteen years since; and showed him the cave where the original golden plates of the book of Mormon were deposited. He showed him, also, the Urim and Thummim, by which he might understand the meaning of the inscriptions on the plates, and he showed him the golden breast-plate if the high priesthood, My son received these precious gifts, he interpreted the holy record, and now the believers in that revelation are more than a hundred thousand in number. I have myself seen and handled the golden plates; they are about eight inches long, and six wide; some of them are sealed together and are not to be opened, and some of them are loose. They are all connected by a ring which passes through a hole at the end of each plate, and are covered with letters, beautifully engraved. I have seen and felt, also, the Urim and Thummim. They resembled two large, bright diamonds, set in a bow, like a pair of spectacles. My son puts these over his eyes when he reads unknown languages, and they enable him to interpret them in English. I have likewise carried in my hands the sacred breastplate. It is composed of pure gold, and is made to fit the breast very exactly." 

We have found the Mormonites very jealous when any inquiry was made respecting the existence of these plates; they generally declared that they were invisible to the profane, and could only be seen "by the eye of faith." Martin Harris made the same declaration to a gentleman of Palmyra, declaring that when shown to him, they were covered by a cloth, through which he saw them "just as distinctly as anything around," not indeed with his bodily eyes, but "with the eye of faith." 

Martin Harris acted as Smith's amanuensis, writing down the supposed translation of the plates from his dictation. But on those occasions the prophet was hidden from his secretary by a curtain or blanket. On one occasion, Harris' wife, who always looked upon Smith as an impostor, clandestinely abstracted more than a hundred pages of the translation, but the prophet published a revelation, expressly forbidding him to translate that portion a second time. Smith's account of this revelation is prefixed to the American edition of the Book of Mormon, but is omitted in the English re-publication. 

About the middle of the year 1830, the Book of Mormon was published, with the following singular title, which we copy in full length, 

"The Book of Mormon; an account written by the hand of Mormon, upon plates, taken from the Plates of Nephi." 

"Wherefore it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi and also of the Lamanites; written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the House of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile: written by way of commandment and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation. Written, and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed; to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile; the interpretation thereof by the gift and power of God. 

"An abridgment taken from the book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven; which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and 

that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever; and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God manifesting himself unto all nations. And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ. 

Translated by Joseph Smith, Jun" 

Immediately after the publication of their new Bible, the Mormonites regularly organized themselves into a society, and took the name of "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." The narrative gives the following account of the first outburst of this enthusiasm, and those who are acquainted with the religious (?) literature of America will at once recognize the phraseology as the ordinary cant used in the descriptions of Methodist and Baptist revivals. 

"Some few were called and ordained by the spirit of revelation and prophecy, and began to preach and bear testimony, as the spirit gave them utterance; and although they were the weak things of the earth, yet they were strengthened by the Holy Ghost, and gave forth their testimony in great power, by which means many were brought to repentance, and came forward with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and were immersed in water confessing their sins, and were filled with the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands; and saw visions and prophesied. Devils were cast out, and the sick were healed by the prayer of faith, and laying on of hands. Thus was the word confirmed unto the faithful by signs following. Thus the Lord raise up witnesses, to bear testimony of his name, and lay the foundations of his kingdom in the last days. And thus the hearts of the saints were comforted, and filled with great joy." 

The Book of Mormon, as the narrative with truth declares, "contains nearly as much reading as the Old Testament;" it is divided into several books, named after their supposed authors, Nephi, Mormon, &c., It professes to contain the history of the early settlement of America, and to connect its successive civilization with various events recorded in the sacred Scriptures. We need only give a brief summary of this history. 

It states that, soon after the Flood, the Jaredites, a religious people, "obtained favour in the sight of the Lord," and were miraculously led by a royal prophet, named Nephi [sic], "from the tower (of Babel) to the great ocean where they were commanded to build ships, in which they were marvelously brought across the great deep to the shores of North America. And the Lord God promised to give them America, which was a very choice land in his sight, for an inheritance." The Jaredites became a very great and powerful people; they built cities, anticipated many European discoveries in metallurgy and mechanical science, and established extensive factories. Having, however, fallen into wickedness, they were, after the lapse of fifteen centuries, swept from the face of the earth. Their sacred records, however, were left on plates of gold "by one of their last prophets, whose name was Ether, in such a situation that they were discovered by the remnant of Joseph, who soon afterwards were brought from Jerusalem to inherit the land." 

This remnant of Joseph consisted of the pious portion of the kingdom of Israel rescued from Assyrian bondage, and brought to America about the time of the prophet Jeremiah -- that is, in the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah. Here they were subsequently joined by a remnant of the Jews, similarly rescued from the Babylonish captivity; and the united people soon surpassed the ancient Jaredites in wealth intelligence, and civilization. After some time, a wicked man, named Laman, seduced a great body of the nation to forsake the paths of righteousness; and his followers, who took the name of Lamanites, drove the faithful remnant from their settlements in South America, across the Isthmus of Darien to the northern forests. Before this event, the Lamanites, like their brethren, were "white and exceedingly fair," but God "cursed them in their complexions, and they were changed to a dark colour; and they became a wild, savage, and ferocious people." The pious exiles assumed the name of Nephites, from the second Nephi, who was their leader, "and in the days of their righteousness, they were a civilized, enlightened, and happy people." After the lapse 

of time, however, many of the Nephites fell into gross wickedness, which was punished by earthquakes, and other convulsions of nature, about the time of our Saviour's birth. The next great event in the Nephite history is of such a nature, that instead of abridging it from the Book of Mormon, we shall extract the summary given in the authorized confession of faith issued by the Mormonite church. 

"Those who survived these terrible judgments, were favoured with the personal ministry of Christ. For after He arose from the dead, and finished his ministry at Jerusalem, and ascended to heaven, he descended in the presence of the Nephites, who were assembled round about their temple in the northern parts of South America. He exhibited to them his wounded hands, and side, and feet; and commanded the law of Moses to be abolished; and introduced and established the Gospel in its stead; and chose twelve disciples from among them to administer the same; and instituted the sacrament; and prayed for and blessed their little children; and healed their sick, and blind, and lame, and deaf, and those who were afflicted in any way, and raised a man from the dead, and showed forth his power in their midst; and expounded the Scriptures, which had been given from the beginning down to that time; and made known unto them all things which should take place down until He should come in his glory, and from that time down to the end, when all people, nations, and languages should stand before God to be judged, and the heaven and the earth should pass away, and there should be a new heaven and new earth. These teachings of Jesus were engraved upon plates, some of which are contained in the book of Mormon; but the more part are not revealed in that book, and are hereafter to be made manifest to the saints." 

In the fourth century after Christ, the Nephites had so far degenerated from the piety of their ancestors, that God delivered them over to their enemies, the Lamanites, by whom they were cruelly harassed for a long succession of years. The commander of their eventful history may be best told in the authorized summary, issued by the Mormonite missionaries in England: -- 

"At length, the Nephites were driven before their enemies, a great distance to the north, and north-east; and having gathered their whole nation together, both men, women, and children, they encamped on, and round about the hill Cumorah, where the records were found, which is in the State of New York, about two hundred miles west of the city of Albany. Here they were met by the numerous hosts of the Lamanites, and were slain, and hewn down, and slaughtered, both male and female -- the aged, middle aged, and children. Hundreds of thousands were slain on both sides; and the nation of the Nephites were destroyed, excepting a few who had deserted over to the Lamanites, and a few who escaped into the south country, and a few who fell wounded, and were left by the Lamanites on the field of battle for dead, among whom were Mormon and his son Moroni, who were righteous men." 

"Mormon had made an abridgment, from the records of his forefathers, upon plates, which abridgment he entitled the "Book of Mormon;" and, (being commanded of God,) he hid up in the hill Cumorah, all the sacred records of his forefathers which were in his possession, except the abridgment called the "Book of Mormon," which he gave to his son Moroni to finish. Moroni survived his nation a few years, and continued the writings, in which he informs us, that the Lamanites hunted those few Nephites who escaped the great and tremendous battle of Cumorah, until they were all destroyed, excepting those who were mingled with the Lamanites, and that he was left alone, and kept himself hid, for they sought to destroy every Nephite who would not deny the Christ. He furthermore states, that the Lamanites were at war one with another, and that the whole face of the land was one continual scene of murdering, robbing, and plundering. He continued the history until the four hundred and twentieth year of the Christian era, when, (by the commandment of God,) he hid up the records in the hill Cumorah, where they remained concealed, until by the ministry of an angel they were discovered to Mr. Smith, who, by the gift and power of God, translated them into the English language, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, as stated in the foregoing. " 

Such is a faithful abstract of the celebrated Book of Mormon, now before us in the shape of a substantial volume, containing six hundred and thirty-four closely-printed pages -- several thousand of which have been circulated in the north of England, and received by credulous multitudes 

as authentic records of inspiration. We have ourselves heard it read by a father of a family on a Sunday evening, as a substitute for the Bible, and have heard Mormonites prefer it to that sacred book, declaring that it contains a more plain and ample system of revelation. We shall now extract some passages from the work, which will sufficiently prove that it is not only an audacious, but a very clumsy forgery, and which will, in some degree, help us to trace its origin. Our first extract shall be a portion of the vision of Nephi the Jaredite [sic], the supposed cotemporary of the tower of Babel. It is designed to forshow the discovery of America by Europeans: -- 

"And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me saying, look! And I looked and beheld many nations and kingdoms. And the angel saith unto me, what beholdest thou? And I said I behold many nations and kingdoms, and he saith unto me, these are the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles. 

"And it came to pass that I saw among the nations of the Gentiles, the foundation of a great church. And the angel said unto me, Behold the foundation of a church, which is most abominable above all churches, which slayeth the saints of God, yea, and tortureth them and bindeth them down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity. 

"And it came to pass that I beheld this great and abominable church; and I saw the devil, that he was the foundation of it. And I also saw gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine twined linen, and all manner of precious clothing; and I saw many harlots. And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church: and also for the praise of the world, do they destroy the Saints of God, and bring them down into captivity. 

"And it came to pass that I looked and beheld many waters; and they divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren. And it came to pass that the angel said unto me, behold, the wrath of God is upon the seed of my brethren! And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, which were in the promised land. 

"And it came to pass that I beheld the spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters. 

"And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles, upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles, and they were smitten. And I beheld the spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles; that they did prosper, and obtain the land of their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceeding fair and beautiful, like unto my people, before they were slain." 

The broad allusion to the Church of Rome in a prophecy supposed to be more than three thousand years old, is so obvious a manifestation of forgery, that it at first sight seems inexplicable how an artful impostor could have ventured upon such gross deception. We have, however, learned from the Mormonites themselves, that this precious blunder has in no small degree contributed to the success of the imposture. From 1825 to 1832 there was a strong current of popular prejudice against the Romish Church in the state of New York, which was considerably strengthened by the publication of Maria Monk's pretended confessions. Some convents and chapels were destroyed by fanatical mobs, and these circumstances, no doubt, induced the author to court popular prejudice, to which, when at its full height, in America, no appeal can be too gross. Similar circumstances assisted the Mormonites in Lancashire. However wholesome the excitement produced by the eloquent appeals of such orators as Messrs. Stowell and M'Neile may have been, it is certain that some of their followers carried the anti-papal cry and feeling to a morbid excess, and that many of the dissenting bodies used it to seduce multitudes from the church of England, as "the daughter of the mother of harlots." The Mormonites profited greatly, and still continue to profit, by the circumstance. They have persuaded their followers that popery is on the point of being established in England, appealing to the 

exertions made to procure its diffusion in proof of the fact; and they declare that men anxious to ensure the salvation of themselves and their families must hasten to the new Jerusalem of the Latter-day Saints in America. 

A second and more flagrant blunder occurs in a subsequent page of this pretended revelation. Nephi relates that after the emigrant Jaredites [sic] had sailed, and had been tossed for several weeks on the pathless ocean, the crew rose against him, as the Spanish sailors did against Columbus, but a tempest ensuing, they were forced to release him, as he was the only person capable of working the ship. He is then declares: 

"And it came to pass that after they had loosed me, behold, I took the compass, and it did work whither I desired it. And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord; and after that I had prayed, the winds did cease, and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm!" 

We pointed out this gross anachronism to a Mormonite elder in Preston, who was about to emigrate with his family to America about three years ago, urging on him the fact that no mention was made of the mariner's compass in the authentic books of Scripture. To our great astonishment, and not a little to our amusement, he unwittingly explained the probable source of this palpable blunder. He averred that the compass was mentioned, quoting from the account of St. Paul's voyage, (Acts xxviii, 13,) "we fetched a compass, (that is, took a circuitous course) and came to Rhegium." It was in vain that we showed him that the declaration respecting "the compass working whither Nephi desired it," clearly proved the author to be utterly ignorant of the use of the implement; he replied that Nephi was speaking of a miracle, and that miracles were incomprehensible to carnal reason. 

Among other obvious marks of forgery, the constant use of the word Christ as a proper Hebrew name, while it is in reality a Greek title of office, "the Anointed One," being in fact the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah; deserves to be noticed, because the error is not confined to the Mormonites. The term. from inveterate custom, is used, indeed, like a proper name -- or rather, as an untranslatable designation, by western Christians, though not by many of the eastern churches; and we should be unwilling to abandon an epithet which has been hallowed by the reverence of centuries; but we cannot comprehend why the word should be left untranslated in the versions of the Bible into the modern language of Asia -- why, for instance, instead of using a Chinese equivalent, the sacred epithet should be travestied into the unmeaning form of Ki-li-tu-su! But the use of the Greek epithet, "Christ," as a Hebrew term, is not the only evidence which may be adduced of the clumsy and gross ignorance of some of the parties engaged in this imposture. The second Nephi, who takes up the pretended history at a time supposed to be cotemporary with the events recorded in the New Testament, introduces our Lord as thus addressing the assembled descendants of Joseph in America: -- 

"Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name. I came unto my own, and my own received me not. And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled. And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the Sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled. I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end." 

Here we have not only the former blunder of "Christ" repeated, but also the name "Jesus" appears in its Greek form, and not as the Hebrews would have called it, "Joshua;" and we have, furthermore the names of the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet given as a metaphorical description of continued existence to a nation which had never heard of the Greek language. It is quite clear the impostor mistook Alpha and Omega for some sacred and mystical sounds, to which particular sanctity was attached, -- an error by no means confined to the Mormonites -- and wrote them down without perceiving that they were an evidence of forgery so palpable as to be manifest to schoolboys. It may 

seem surprising that marks of falsehood so obvious and so decisive should for a moment escape detection and exposure; but unhappily we are forced to conclude, from the pamphlets before us, that the American methodists, who first undertook to expose the Mormonites, were not one whit less ignorant than those whom they assailed. Good, however, sometimes arises out of evil. We are informed that the American conference has begun to impress upon its preachers the importance of studying the Scriptures in the original languages, on the religious grounds that no one should begin to teach the Bible before he can read it. Had they, and the preachers of other denominations, adopted this principle earlier, Mormonism would not have attained its present strength, nor a clumsy forgery passed current as a divine revelation. 

We have now to explain the origin of the imposture, which is one of the most singular events in literary history. To understand it aright, we must bear in mind that there were two impostures, originally distinct; the discovery of the pretended gold plates by Smith, and the production of the alleged translation, or Book of Mormon, which was an after-thought, suggested by a worthy with whom we shall soon make our readers more intimately acquainted, denominated Sidney Rigdon. 

In the year 1822, Smith acquired some celebrity in his neighbourhood as "a money-digger." It is a common belief in America, that large sums of money were buried in the earth by the buccaneers, and by persons compelled to fly from their homes during the revolutionary war. Of this belief many impostors have taken advantage, declaring that they can discover the hidden treasure by spells and incantations. Joseph Smith, in his eighteenth year, professed to have found a mysterious stone -- the same that figures as the Urim and Thummim in his pretended revelations -- by which he could see the exact spot where money has been concealed, or where mines of gold existed. Several persons were duped and cheated by his arts, which were beginning to get stale, when he devised his notable scheme of the plates, designed in the first instance as a plot of pretended treasures and forged antiquities. As such he proposed to pledge them to Martin Harris, dwelling rather on their intrinsic value as gold, than on the importance of their inscriptions. 

We shall now see how this fraud was connected with 'The Book of Mormon.' An old clergyman of the Presbyterian persuasion [Spaulding], having quitted the ministry, entered into business in Cherry Vale, in the state of New York, where he failed in the year 1809. Thence he removed to the state of Ohio, where he established himself as a speculator in land, but again became bankrupt in 1812. About this time public attention was first directed to the antiquities of the "mounds," those unquestionable relics of a civilization which must have become extinct long before Columbus had passed the Atlantic. 

"The ancient remains of the United States," says Mr. Bradford, the latest and most intelligent writer on the subject, "bear evident marks of being the production of a people elevated far above the savage state. Many of them indicate great elegance of taste, and a high degree of dexterous workmanship and mechanical skill in their construction; others betoken the existence of a decided form of religious worship; while the size and extent of the earthen fortifications and mounds, demonstrate the former existence of populous nations, capable of executing works of enormous dimensions, requiring perseverance, time. and combination of labour for their erection." 

Long previous to this discovery, it had been a favorite theory with certain speculative writers, that the red Indians of North America are the descendants of the lost ten tribes of Israel; indeed the theory has still many advocates, both in the United States and in England. Spaulding hoped by combining this theory with recent discoveries to produce a kind of national romance, the sale of which would enable him to pay his debts. He resolved to call it 'Manuscript Found,' and to present it to the world as an historical record of the early colonization of America. As he advanced, he was so delighted with his success, that read portions of the work to his friends and neighbors. His brother, his partner, his wife, and six of his friends testify. "That they well remember many of the names and incidents mentioned in Spaulding's manuscript, and that they know them 

to be the same as those found in the 'Book of Mormon.'" In 1812, Spaulding took his manuscript to Pittsburgh, and placed it in the hands of Messrs. Patterson and Lambdin, printers; it remained in their hands when the unfortunate author died, a victim to disappointment and vexation. 

Mr. Caswall is of opinion that this manuscript came into Smith's hands without the intervention of Rigdon, and was prepared for the press by the arch-impostor himself, without any literary assistance. This, though possible, appears to us far from probable; small as the literary merit of the Book of Mormon is, it appears to us beyond Smith's powers. We have before us his Book of Doctrines and Covenants, containing a record of the special revelations vouchsafed to him as guides for the government of the church, and in it the following passage equally remarkable for its grammar, and for the evidence it affords of Smith's care of the money which he and his apostles wring from their dupes -- 

"Hearken unto me, saith the Lord your God, for my servant Oliver Cowdery's sake. It is not wisdom in me that he should be intrusted with the commandments and the monies, which he shall carry up unto the land of Zion, except one go with him who is true and faithful. Wherefore I, the Lord, willeth that my servant John Whitmer shall go with my servant Oliver Cowdery." -- sec. 44. 

We must now give some account of Sidney Rigdon, whose share in the propagation of Mormonism was scarcely inferior to that of Smith. He was originally a printer [sic], and was employed [sic] in the office of Patterson and Lambdin, where Spaulding's manuscript romance had been deposited. There is no decisive evidence that Rigdon obtained possession of the MS., but after Lambdin's death it disappeared from the office, and has never since been found. In 1827, Rigdon separated from the Baptists, and commenced preaching some points of doctrine, partly agreeing with the Campbellites and partly different. The new doctrines related to the literal fulfilment of the prophecies, the restoration of the lost tribes of Israel, the actual reign of the saints upon earth, and the restoration of miraculous gifts. He brought forward, but less prominently, that the saints should have a community of goods, but he strenuously insisted that baptism by total immersion was absolutely necessary to salvation. Every one of these doctrines have been introduced among the fundamentals of Mormonism. 

The only difficulty in ascribing to Rigdon the principal share in the deception of the Book of Mormon, is, that proof is wanting of his being acquainted with Smith previous to its publication. Rigdon himself, in one of his published letters, swells strongly on this circumstance; and Parley Pratt, who, up to last October, was the head of the Mormonite mission in England, avers that Rigdon was converted by him several months after the Mormon church was established. Against this, however, must be set the evidence, that Rigdon made frequent visits to the locality in which Smith resided -- that his former doctrines and those of Mormonism are precisely identical -- that he had so prepared his old flock as to induce more than one hundred of them to embrace Mormonism at the same time with himself -- and that Smith immediately after Rigdon's own profession, issued the following revelation, as coming express from God, which is thus given in the Book of Doctrines and Covenants: "It is meet that [my] servant Sidney Rigdon shall live as seemeth him good, inasmuch as he keepeth my commandments" -- sec. 64. And again, when Rigdon first visited Smith the additional revelation was made -- "Behold, verily, verily, I say unto my servant Sidney, I have looked upon thee and thy works; I have heard thy prayers and prepared the for a greater work. Thou art blessed, for thou shalt do great things. Behold thou wast sent forth even as John to prepare the way before me," This last passage appears to us decisive evidence of some previous concert between Smith and Rigdon. 

A revelation was soon received that Kirtland, Rigdon's residence in the State of Ohio, was to be the eastern boundary of the promised land, which was to extend westward to the Pacific Ocean, and that the new Jerusalem would be erected within its limits. A place for it was actually found in Jackson County, state of Missouri 

and here the first stone of the city of "Zion" was laid by Rigdon and Cowdery, under the authority of a pretended revelation from Smith. New revelations involving fresh demands for money, were now published, and their nature will be easily understood by the following extracts from the Book of Doctrines and Covenants -- 

"Let all the monies which can be spared, it mattereth not unto me whether it be little or much, be sent up unto the land of Zion, unto them whom I have appointed to receive.... Let all those who have not families, who receive money, send it up unto the bishop in Zion, or unto the bishop in Ohio, that it may be consecrated for the bringing forth of the revelations, and the printing thereof, and for establishing Zion." sec. 17. "He that sendeth up treasures unto the land of Zion shall receive an inheritance in this world. And his work shall follow him. And also a reward in the world to come.... It is meet that my servant Joseph Smith, jun., should have a house built in which to live and translate." 

Kirtland, the name of which was changed to Shinahar, was chosen as the place for the erection of the "Temple of the Lord;" a singular edifice with this name was begun in 1833 and finished in 1835; it was eighty feet long, sixty in breadth, and fifty-seven in height, being divided into two stories, each twenty-two feet high, with arched ceilings. In each room were eight pulpits, four at either end, each designed to hold three persons. These were intended for the twelve priests of the order of Melchisedec, and twelve of the order of Aaron, into which Smith divided his hierarchy. The most extravagant and shocking scenes of extravagance were exhibited in this building; "the unknown tongues," which Smith had at first discarded and denounced, were revived; convulsions and fits were exhibited to the wondering congregations as examples alternately of angelic and demonical possession; and some of the Mormonites ran through the country like lunatics, following, as they declared, supernatural beings visible to themselves alone. 

The crowds of poor Mormonites who flocked to Zion were unable to purchase lands, and therefore became "squatters." Some of them boldly declared that the "Lord had given them the land for an inheritance, and that the Missourians, like the Canaanites, ought to be dispossessed." This was but the revival of the three Massachusetts' resolutions, passed by an assembly of Puritans in the 17th century, previous to dispossessing some Indian tribes of their hunting grounds. The resolutions stood thus on the record: -- 

1. -- It was moved and seconded -- "That the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof" -- carried unanimously. 

2. -- It was resolved with equal unanimity: -- "That the Lord hath given the inheritance of the earth unto his saints." 

3. -- And finally, the meeting carried by acclamation -- "Resolved, that we are the saints." 

The Missourians took the alarm, and on the 20th of July, 1833, rose in their fury, demolished the printing-office in the Mormonite village of Independence, tarred and feathered several of their preachers, and threatened utter destruction to the rest, unless they immediately quitted the district. At first the Mormonites appealed to the law, but in the western states of America an appeal to legal authority was just as inefficacious as an appeal to the Grand Lama of Thibet, or the Pope of Rome, and not quite as rational. It so irritated the Missourians, who equally hated old law and new gospel, that they drove twelve hundred Mormonites from their huts, the greater part being women and children, on a dark wintery night, barefoot, and nearly naked, into the bleak prairies. Cruelties still more atrocious were exercised on obnoxious individuals: several were flogged to death [sic], and houses of all were burned to the ground. 

The intelligence of this persecution healed the divisions which threatened premature destruction to the church at Kirtland. Smith resolved to meet force with force, and led a body of well-armed Mormonites against the Missourites of Jackson county; but, on approaching "the Gentiles," his courage failed, and he entered into negotiations which led to a truce. About the same time a bank which Smith and Rigdon had established in Kirtland, and which, even on their own showing, had been most fraudulently conducted, failed. Legal process was commenced against the prophet and his vicar. Ohio became an unsafe state for them, and 

they came with their host of followers to Clay county in Missouri. Here Smith openly avowed his intention of propagating his religion by the sword; and not content with emulating Mohammed, he took a leaf out of the book of Hassan-ebn-Sihah, and like that "old man of the mountain," organized a body of sworn assassins, under the name of the "Danite Band." The Missourians, alarmed by the threats of vengeance for the late outrages loudly vented by the Mormonites, had again recourse to arms: the militia of the state was called out to keep the peace; but this body proved worse than useless -- indeed one entire company, commanded by one Bogard, a Methodist preacher, actually joined the mob in attacking the Mormonites. Limited as was the civil war which ensued, the most fearful atrocities were committed on both sides. At length Governor Boggs, who had just been elected on account of his known hostility to the Mormonites, assembled the militia and all the Missourians who would accompany him, marched against the Mormonites with overwhelming force, and compelled them, under a menace of immediate extermination, to surrender at discretion. A court-martial was then held under General Lucas, composed of nineteen officers of militia, and seventeen preachers of various sects, who had served as volunteers against the Mormonites; and this singular court commanded that the prophet and his principal comrades should be publicly shot in the square of the town of Far West, in the presence of their followers and families! Luckily for Smith, one of the generals happened to be a lawyer and a man of sense; de declared the proceedings of the court-martial illegal, and induced the Missourians to reserve their prisoners for trial by the civil power. These leaders after being several weeks in prison, contrived to make their escape, and, returning to their deluded followers, asserted that they had been miraculously delivered like Paul and Silas of old. 

This persecution was, on the whole, favourable to the purposes of Mormonism. The violence of the Missourian mobs, and the open connivance of the public authorities of Missouri in these outrages, were universally reprobated by the other states of America; and the rival state of Illinois offered a refuge to fifteen thousand Mormons who were about to be driven from the different counties of Missouri. 

Early in 1839 Smith found a new situation for the New Jerusalem in the state of Illinois, on the Upper Mississippi, at the head of the Des Moines Rapids. Here, on a semicircular curve, formed by the "father of rivers," he laid the foundations of a city denominated Nauvoo, a name which, he informed his readers, signified "beautiful" in Hebrew. During his imprisonment, however, suspicions had arisen in the minds of some of his followers, and they required of him some miracle as a sign of his mission. He had the blasphemy to reply in the words of our blessed Lord -- "A wicked and perverse generation seeketh after a sign," and with this answer his deluded followers were contented. 

Here we may remark that a slight error in the English authorized version was the source of Smith's triumph. The Jews did not ask "a sign" from Christ -- it would be absurd to have done so, for his miracles were notorious -- they sought for "the sign" -- namely, "The Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven," which sacerdotal popular tradition from the days of Daniel had taught them to be the only certain characteristic of the Messiah. We dwell on this the more particularly, as all the Mormonite publications before us set forward this mistranslation as an error for their prophet's working no miracles in public. 

Having re-established his community at Nauvoo, Smith had sufficient influence to obtain a charter for the new city from the legislature of Illinois, with liberty to raise a body of militia under the command of Smith, as lieutenant-general; he also obtained charters of incorporation for companies to build the temple, erect a hotel, conduct a manufactory of earthenware, and, to crown the whole, a charter for a Mormonite university. 

Mormonism was first introduced into England by two of Smith's elders, named Kimball and Fielding, in the year 1837, who came to Preston from America, immediately after the failure of the Mormonite bank in Kirtland. They obtained license to preach at the quarter sessions, and their success was perfectly astonishing. Circumstances, 

however, were greatly in their favour: the manufacturing distress, now in the sixth year of its pressure, was then commencing; emigration to America was recommended by high authorities, and artisans who had saved a little money, were eagerly inquiring where they could best invest their small capitals. The followers of Johanna Southcote and Edward Irving, disorganized and unchurched, had not recovered their senses, and only sought some new form for the indulgence of insane enthusiasm; and finally the Methodists, by their firmness in putting down all exhibitions of extravagant fanaticism, had alienated no small portion of the most ignorant among their followers, for men whose intelligence has not been developed, require to be excited by appeals to their passions. "They hooked on the whips and [str---] of every sect in Lancashire" said one who for a short time belonged to their body, speaking to us upon the subject; and as there are more varieties of sects in Lancashire than in any district of the same size under heaven, perplexed and straying sheep from the different flocks may always be had in abundance. About two years afterwards, Parley Pratt, having escaped miraculously as he said, from the Missouri prison, came to England, and assumed the superintendence of the Latter Day Saints. He established a printing office and bookseller's shop in Manchester, where he published a periodical called, the Millennial Star, now conducted by his successor, Ward. in Liverpool. Pratt is said to have raised a considerable sum of money from his deluded dupes; he seemed to us a man well calculated for the purpose; to the ignorant he dilated at extreme length on the superhuman learning of Smith, laying claim to no small share of similar acquirements himself; but to persons whom he suspected of a learned education, he was very reserved and uncommunicative. From Lancashire Mormonism spread into the mid-land counties, where it made numerous converts among the farmers. It reached London, but did not make much progress in the metropolis; but we have been credibly informed that it has been very successful in Wales and the south of Scotland. In the latter part of the year 1842, more than five thousand dupes emigrated from the port of Liverpool; and we must now turn back to Nauvoo, to see the nature of their probable reception. 

The Illinois legislature and state government, in a spirit of re-action against the ruffian violence of the Missourians, not only, as we have seen, incorporated the Mormonite city, but created the prophet a general in the army, and the provost of a university! The latter title would have been too ridiculous even for the Mormons, and Smith declined the presidency, under the pretext that it would interfere with his revelations. While at Kirtland, he undertook a new translation of the Bible, in which he was assisted by Sidney Rigdon. It has been published [sic] at Nauvoo, but good care has been taken to prevent its reaching this country. He also, with the assistance of his elders, produced a collection of Mormonite hymns, composed, as he asserts, under the direct influence of Divine inspiration and which really have been very efficient agents in the success that his system has attained. Greater balderdash than these productions can scarcely be conceived; they are devoid of grammar, sense, or rhyme; and yet they are compared by the deluded Mormonites with whom we have conversed, to the psalms of David; and triumphantly quoted to the Methodists as superior in unction and spirit. One specimen will suffice; it forms part of a contrast between the first and second advent of the Messiah: -- 

The first was persecuted

And into Egypt fled, --

A pilgrim and a stranger

Not where to lay his head. 

The second at his temple

Will suddenly appear,

And all his saints come with him

To reign a thousand year. 

The first a man of sorrows

Rejected by his own;

And Israel left in blindness

To wander forth forlorn. 

The second brings deliverance,

They crown him as their king,

The own him as their Saviour

And join his praise to sing.

Smith's last literary fraud is the most amazing of all, and far surpasses that which the Rev. Dr. Wall has 

fixed upon Champollion. By some means or another, he obtained possession of four Egyptian mummies, which he exhibited for a time for a time to his followers, as the bodies of an Egyptian king, his two wives, and daughter of another king. After some time he removed the papyrus rolls in which they were enveloped, by the application of no more delicate instruments than a backwoodsman's hatchet, and exhibited the fragments as the actual autographs of Abraham written with his own hand while in Egypt. Last summer, a little after he had quarrelled with Sidney Rigdon, he commenced to publish what he has been pleased to term a translation of these documents in his "Times and Seasons," a periodical which he edits at Nauvoo. The absence of his better genius, Rigdon, is singularly apparent in this miserable forgery; it is full of the grossest blunders. He makes the Ur of the Chaldees part of the territory of the Egyptian Pharaohs; not aware that the Egyptians mummified animals, he gives fanciful names of idols to the representations of animal mummies -- he makes sad havoc with the geography of Palestine, putting places for persons, and persons for places, and he favours his followers in Abraham;s name with a system of astronomy, geology, and cosmogony, compared with which that of Mahommed or the Ephrem Syrus may be regarded as the very perfection of wisdom. Within forty-eight hours from the time in which we write, two numbers of this palpable forgery, were placed in our hands by a Lancashire Mormonite, in every other respect a most respectable and intelligent man of his class, and particularly conspicuous for mechanical skill, in the full hope that it would lead to our conversion. 

Shortly after we met one of the returned Mormonites; he describes Smith as a man of middle size, very stoutly built, with something of a rakish and dis


Source: Lucy Mack Smith Interview, 1842. Henry Caswell, The City of the Mormons; or Three Days at Nauvoo in 1842 (London: Printed for J. G. F. & J. Rivington, 1842), 25-26. Reprinted in “The Mormons,” The Visitor, or Monthly Instructor, For 1842, v

Frederick Marryat (10 July 1792 – 9 August 1848)  was a British novelist who wrote The travels and romantic adventures of Monsieur Violet in which he adapted some details of the Joseph Smith story into his narrative.  It is unclear where or how he heard about Joseph Smith or where he learned about the details of a cave, or even why he chose to romantaize the story and include it in his novel.

Frederick Marryat writing fiction inspired by what he had learned about Mormonism:

Hyrum, McKnight, and Rigdon..spent their nights in a small cave near where Smith averred the angel had appeared to him...The furniture of the cave was peculiar. On one side was a large table covered with small elongated brass plates, "which had the appearance of gold. Each plate was not far from seven by eight inches in width and length, being not quite as thick as common tin."...They put their resources together, and established in the cave, to which they gave the name of Mormon, an atelier where Simon could forge notes, while Joseph Smith fabricated his bible.

The travels and romantic adventures of Monsieur Violet among the Snake Indians and wild tribes of the great western prairies, Author: Frederick Marryat Publisher: London, Longman, Brown, Green, & Longmans, 1843.
Notes / Commentary

Although this account was always presented as fiction, it indicates that ideas and stories about Joseph Smith and a cave, its furniture, and the plates may have reached England, possible by way of Mormon missionaries, by 1843 (still in Joseph Smith's lifetime.)

Long-form Source Text

CHAPTER IV.

Prophet and the people -- They refuse to believe in his mission -- They accuse him of crime -- They gather round his house -- Indications of violence -- The prophet pales before the danger -- He is urged by Rigdon to address them -- He in anger arms himself -- The Prophet on a wood pile -- His first sermon, wherein he relates wonders -- The hosts of heaven and redeemed souls -- The Prince of Darkness and his attendants -- They are routed by the Angel -- The Prophet receives the golden Bible -- Imposture triumphant.

THERE was comparative darkness on the earth even as late as our historian writes, for in that day the great luminaries that have since set the world on fire, had not arisen, and men were content to guide the helm of state through the channel that should bring the most good to the greatest numbers -- and women to beguile them from the cares which the peril of storms and tempest gathered around them, and fit their sons for the helm, when the sire yielded, as all must at last, to time and the tomb -- to mould the pliant mind, so that in future generations the land of their birth need not blush to own them, and the name of the traitor and coward be blotted from her page.

Twenty years make differences in other things as well as a woman's age, and this fact is probably the reason why Emma Smith, the disappointed bride, did not fall back on her dignity, espouse the cause of disappointed women, in general, and her own in particular, and go promulgating them through the country, in contradistinction to her lord, who now spent his days in proclaiming the visions he averred he had received through the night. Hyrum, McKnight, and Rigdon became as inseparable, and with him, spent their nights in a small cave near where Smith averred the angel had appeared to him. The neighbors became suspicions of the trio, and set the constable on the alert, but when they were questioned as to their doings they meekly replied they were watching and praying; for even then, the angel was hovering in the air around them. The official took his departure with the full belief that they were crazed; but not so the crowd that had gathered around them, and followed them to their abode, constantly increasing in numbers as they went, until when they disappeared beneath the low portal a hundred persons had collected around. They had been drawn together by the exciting rumors which said there had been other visions seen by Smith, and he had been commanded in them to bring to light creeds and revelations buried two thousand years ago by the patriarchs, in the hill of Cumora by the command of God. McKnight, Hyrum, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Sr., acknowledged implicit belief in the modern miracles, but Emma and Samuel treated them with the contempt which they were received by the people who were gathered around the door, calling in no gentle tones for the

Prophet to come out and substantiate his assertions or deny them.

"Now, Smith, is your time to strike a heavy blow for yourself," cried Rigdon, as he, panting, made his way into the house of his confederate who, pale and trembling, like the culprit lie was, began to think his plan not so feasible after all.

"What! -- how! -- for Heaven's sake, Rigdon, tell me what I shall do!"

"Face the crowd boldly, and fearlessly, as a man who is under the protection of the Almighty's hand. Preach them a powerful sermon, setting forth your mission and urge them to come and join you, or take eternal death as the penalty."

"Preach! Rigdon, you must be joking. I never spoke in public in my life. I should not know what to say! Hist! what is that?" he continued, as a volley of gravel rattled against the house amidst the shouts of merriment and derision of the people without, who were shouting: "bring forth your Prophet, we want to see what he can say for himself!"

"It is the people, who are becoming angry. You must go out and speak resolutely to them -- the fools are not all dead yet, and who knows but what you will make some converts -- do not hesitate, but go at once."

"What can I say! I do not know how to preach! Ho! the scoundrels are breaking the windows!"

"You must not undertake to make fine speeches; if you do, they will laugh at you; but speak what you think, what is in your heart -- and as for the windows, that is nothing to what you may expect, if you do not go out and pacify them."

"Then, I will go out and tell them they are a pack of cursed tyrants who will not enjoy their own belief in quiet, nor let anybody else enjoy theirs!"

"Tell them anything, Joe, only keep cool before them; for they will not know how to get over a dignified demeanor, when they would not hesitate to knock you down if you called them hard names. My God, they are prying the door from its hinges! do you hear those shouts?"

"Do I?" cried Smith, his eyes flashing as he concealed within his vest a pair of pistols, and a bowie knife. "I do, and by the hand that made me their more than equal, if they do not desist, I am their man for the work they are at!"

Remember, you are a Prophet, the chosen messenger of the Lord, and act accordingly!" -- said Rigdon, as he in affright at the roused demon in Smith's nature, ran after him, as he strode out of the room to the door already sprung from its hinges, and unbarring it, flung it back, and stepped boldly out among the people, who retreated a few paces as he advanced forward, and sprang upon a pile of cordwood at the right, and in a frightened rambling way began his first sermon.

"Get down, Joe, and go to some honest labour! you can never make a preacher!" shouted a sedate old farmer near [by].

"I say, Joe, preaching is tougher work than making bogus aint it?" cried the beau of the neighborhood, whose sally was greeted by a shout of laughter.

"Hallo, money-digger, I want to know if the angel found that bar of gold I gave you twenty dollars for? Because if he has not, I think you and your angel are a pack of swindlers," continued one of his old cronies.

"Go [to] it, Joe, and tell us about your gold Bible!" yelled another, who enjoyed the evident trepidation of the aspirant for oratorical honours.

"Yes, Smith, tell us about the gold Bible, what is in it, and what the angel told you to do with it, and how it came where you found it," shouted Rigdon encouragingly. "We rather doubt your sincerity, if you cannot tell us about it," he continued, as he saw Smith was still embarrassed and frightened.

"This is blasphemous impiety! How dare you, a strolling forger, thief and vagabond, raise pretensions to such a mission? Have we not known you from your youth up? and do we know one act of good or rectitude in all these long years? Take the advice of an old man, Joe; break away from the idle vagabond life, and become a man!"

"Who made you, frail mortals, judges over the actions of your Maker?" cried Smith passionately, as his chest heaved, and his eye flashed with the volcano of passion ignited by their taunts and bitter sarcasms. "If the great God who sees the hearts of all men, and measures the iniquity he sees therein, not by an erring eye, but meets out justice with a hand that cannot err -- with a decision that cannot be gainsayed, shall frail man raise his feeble hand against his Maker, because he has not been chosen to fulfill the mandates of Jehovah, instead of one he, in his short-sightedness, deemed less holy than himself? If God has forgiven all sin, and purified the soul, so that He deems it worthy to hold converse with him at the foot of his throne, does it become His creatures to turn from him with scorn as if they feared contamination from what their Creator had sanctified. Look into your own hearts and search out -- "

"Bah! Smith! you are getting into too deep water; tell us about the vision and Bible! we want facts, as we are capable of drawing our own deductions," said one of the audience near him.

Smith was now perfectly self-possessed, and looked down upon the crowd around him with a bold unquailing eye, from which shot looks of scorn and defiance, and he appeared the avenger to perfection. Many in the auditory he saw at glance he had subdued by his burning sarcasms, and he now changed his policy at the command of others.

"It is but little that I can tell you," he began in a subdued tone. "Four years ago, while alone, two singularly beautiful personages appeared to me, and announced themselves as messengers from the throne of God, sent to reveal to me that I had been chosen to make known to men the errors of their faith -- a faith which was offensive in the sight of God -- and teach them the truth of the plan of salvation, which had been lost for ages through the stubborn willfulness of man. I had long been troubled in my mind at the sinfulness of my own heart before that hour; but no sooner did these messengers announce to me the mission I was to fulfill, than all doubts ceased, and I felt, my heart, rising in adoration before my Maker. A few days passed, when I began to feel that I was past sinning -- pride entered my heart, and I gloried not at the good I should accomplish, but at the honour and fame my mission would bring me. Then I began to be again miserable, when the angels re-appeared, who chided me for the wickedness of my thoughts, forgave them, and then told me that the records of the Lost Tribes of Israel were buried in the hill of Cumorah, where they were deposited fourteen hundred years ago by Moroni, the son of the Prophet Mormon, having previously engraved them on plates of gold, the Prophet, Mormon assuring his son Moroni that, after the lapse of fourteen hundred years, a Gentile nation should recover them, and, through the truth of their prophecies, be turned to the true worship of God. The angel gave me the directions by which I could find the spot indicated, and with joy I hastened to lay bare the holy treasure. On the west side of the hill, where the storms of ages had beaten against it, I dug down by the side of an immense rock, where, below the surface about two feet, I laid bare a square marble box, so firmly cemented that water could not penetrate its interior. At the sight of the box, I knelt in prayer and adoration to the great Jehovah, and my heart was melted by divine love. With reverence, I laid my hand on the lid, when it flew open by an invisible hand, and beneath I saw plates of shining gold, covered over with strange characters, and on the tops of these lay two thick glasses set in a rim of gold. At the sight of the golden plates my heart became steeled by avarice, and I resolved to use the gold; but no sooner was the thought, born in my heart, than an invisible hand struck me to the earth, and the ground gathered over the box and its contents. The air became filled with whispering voices, while cloud-like forms flitted around me. Ever and anon balls of fire hissed above me, while fiery serpents shot athwart the sky, and the sun paled in their fiery light. These died away, when the hosts of heaven with their golden chariots and myriads of purified spirits, led on by the Patriarchs and Prophets, passed before me, among whom, Mormon, the last of the prophets, paused and addressed me thus:

"Take heart, Oh Joseph: for in thee shall the Prophecies be fulfilled; and thou shalt, if thou overcomest the evil in thine own heart, reign among us."

"The words of Mormon comforted me; and when this procession had passed, darkness fell around, and groans and shrieks filled the air. Trembling with affright, I looked around, and, approaching, I saw Satan and his fiends amidst clouds of flame, the smoke of which rolled high as the heavens. And as they drew near and encompassed me, while cries and blasphemies rent the air, I threw myself in the dust and besought aid from the great Jehovah. A moment passed, when a rushing sound, as of many winds was heard, and Satan fled before the angel who stood before me, crying:

'Arise, Oh, Joseph! chosen Prophet of the Lord who delighted in thee, inasmuch as thou hast turned to him, and scorned the evil! arise and go thy way, for, notwithstanding thou hast sinned in thy heart, when thine eyes beheld the word which was shown thee, thou shalt yet abide four more years in the world before thou shalt possess it. Go thy way and sin no more!' With these words he left me, and I returned sorrowing to my home. Did you know all the bitterness and sorrow I have borne during these four years, you would think more leniently of me now, for there was time enough for me to reflect upon the glorious mission I had delayed by the sinfulness of my heart and to fortify it against a repetition. Four years to a day, the angel appeared to me, while in the field at work and said:

"'Arise! beloved of the Lord! and bring forth the word of thy God, and proclaim it to the world!'

As I, at the command, went forth, the heavenly messenger went before me, and stood over the place where it was entombed, and when I had thrown out the earth, the lid of the marble casket flew open of itself, and there as I had seen it before, were the precious contents. At that moment my former sin rushed over my mind and with fear and trembling I prostrated myself in the dust, while drops of sweat wrung by the agony of fear that I should again sin, gathered over me, as I cried:

'Get hence, ye powers of darkness, I know ye not.' -- Then the angel fanned me with a wave of his wing, and smiling benignly, raised the treasure and placing it in my arms, said:

Go, proclaim it to the world for thou hast been found worthy, and He that sent thee, will fill thy mouth with wisdom, whereby thou shalt found a congregation of true worshippers here below!"

As he ceased speaking, he disappeared, find I was alone: but not alone in spirit, for the comforter was with me. The things I teach were given me to proclaim, and who among you will dare raise his voice against the command of Jehovah? Who shall dare dictate to his Maker. the instrument He shall use for the furtherance of the glory of His kingdom? He that has the hardihood, let him go up to battle against the host of heaven; as for me, I must do my Lord's bidding."

So saying, with a haughty wave of his hand, he sprang to the ground, and entered the house, while the wrapt, silent, abashed audience, with the exception of a few, quietly dispersed, astounded at the impious audacity of his harangue.

"I never, never heard such a sermon in my life," said Rigdon, as he followed him in. "Now, tell me in fact, Smith, did you ever have a vision in your life? -- ever see any of those things you said you did?"

Smith gave a glance of astonishment at his follower, but made no reply. He began to like the role he was playing. The wrapt attention with which his story had been received, the ease with which he had subdued a taunting sarcastic auditory, fed the love of power that was inherent in his nature.

"There was nothing in it of any importance that resembled the "Manuscript Found," and where you got the rest, I am at a loss to know," continued Rigdon, who was now really perplexed, it never entering into his dull brain that a fertile imagination could weave from its hoarded store such a chain of impostures.

"Rigdon," said Smith solemnly, as he turned his eye searchingly upon him to ascertain how such an assertion would be received. "The 'manuscript' I received from your hands, was found by Spaulding as it professes to be, and throws some light on what was shown to me, as have this day proclaimed. It is, however, of little importance to me; yet I propose to retain it yet for a season to compare with the records in my possession."

I believe so, myself" returned the dupe, "for it sounds too much like truth to be false. No human mind, without the aid of inspiration, could write like that. While you were preaching to-day, I felt in my heart you were inspired, for no one could, the first time, preach as you did, without the aid of ministering angels to put the words in his mouth!"

Flattered by the dupe, Smith became elated by his success, and assumed towards his family a bearing commensurate with his new-born dignity.

CHAPTER XLI. THE CAVE OF MORMON.

SHE was at the summit of a cascade, just where it poured clear off of a bed of rock into the mighty depths below. Just beneath was a narrow ledge, washed with eternal spray, but still admitting of passage by a bold human footstep. Across this path fell a vivid blaze of light, while every no and then, sparks and flashes could be distinguished. Emma was satisfied that she had penetrated her husband's secret.

At any other moment she might have hesitated, but now she had no compunction. The bear, for a moment dazzled by the pistol flash, would soon follow her. Sooner brave her husband's fearful passion, than to be torn to pieces by the king of the American forest.

With a trembling heart, she adventured on the ledge, but to her great delight found the track neither a difficult nor a dangerous one, and in a few minutes she was landed on the other side, and stood almost in the mouth of a deep excavation, once, no doubt, a channel for the seething waters. The cave was below her, and brilliantly lighted up. At the back was a large charcoal fire, while in the wall, were fixed several flaring pine torches.

The furniture of the cave was peculiar. On one side was a large table covered with small elongated brass plates, "which had the appearance of gold. Each plate was not far from seven by eight inches in width and length, being not quite as thick as common tin."

Before these sat Joseph Smith in his shirt sleeves. He was engraving on these plates the most mysterious series of signs. An eye witness says: "It was in fact a singular scroll. It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters, disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets, Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses, and flourishes. Roman letters inverted or placed sideways, were arranged and placed in perpendicular columns; and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle, divided into various compartments, decked with strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican calendar, given by Humboldt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the sources whence it was derived."

Before the future prophet and impostor, were several grammars and other books, with the alphabet open in all cases.

The man appeared to take a letter from one, a letter from the other, without any order of preconcerted rule. As far as Emma could see, the characters were small and beautifully engraved. Emma could not make it out. She little imagined that her husband was fabricating a Bible on which to found a new religion.

She then perceived that there was another person in the case, a thin, gaunt, little man, with heavy moustache, shaggy hair, and a rude set of habiliments, while his face was cadaverous, and his eyes hollow in the extreme. He was printing from a little hand-press, with great care, some narrow slips of paper. Then Emma Smith knew that she stood in the presence of forgers, driving their unhallowed and illegal trade in the depths of the wilderness.

"Well, how gets on, Joe?" said the printer, who was no less a personage than Simon Rigdon, the future right hand of the prophet. But before we record the answer of General Joe, let us explain how these worthies met.

The first real advantage which accrued to Joseph from his marriage with Emma Reardon, was learning to read. The young man unhesitatingly confessed his ignorance to his wife, and applied himself to supply the deficiency with the most unwearied industry.

Had he used one half the energies he wasted on imposture in a good cause, he might have been a great and good man. The only use he made of his learning was to shut himself up, and learn the manuscript he had stolen from Spaulding by heart.

He also studied hard at the Bible, and easily finding among his neighbours the wild theological works of certain of the more extravagant Puritans, his head became, in three years, a store of biblical knowledge.

Then it was that he resolved to have visions, and found a new religion on the Book of Mormon, which he had contrived to write out in a coarse but legible hand. A difficulty staggered him. His coarse and vulgar penmanship never would be received as inspired.

Dispirited, angry, full of prodigious designs, he went out into the forest. The cave he discovered when in chase of a wolf, but that was not the place of his meditations. He had selected a spot of calm and sequestered beauty, where a grove gave pleasant shade from the sun, and where a murmuring brook that swept past his feet made sweet music, while it also ministered to his wants.

Here on a pleasant bank, where grew fragrant flowers, would sit the nascent impostor, poring over the manuscript of the Book of Mormon, and committing whole pages of it to heart. And the place was called the Hill of Cumoral.

When he had learned whole passages, he would shout them out to the inanimate woods and forests.

One day he was seated, the book before him, ranting, raving, pouring fourth a mixed jargon, extracted partly from the romance, partly from passages of the Bible, twisted to suit his own meaning, when a loud laugh startled him from his employment.

"Thunder!" said a hilarious voice, "if this ar don't beat cockfighting. Preaching to the crows, eh! stranger?

Clutching his rifle, Joseph Smith, pale with rage, started to his feet, to confront the sneering face of a man of middle height and age, also armed with a rifle, and with pistols protruding from his belt.

"What do you mean?" said Joe, fiercely.

"Nuthin," replied the other, "only hearin' you a shoutin, I kim up and listened."

"Who, and what are you?" continued Joe, scarcely able to articulate with rage.

"My name is Simon Rigden, said the other, "printer, engraver, and minister of the Gospel -- and, stranger,I've got a copy of that 'ere book in my pocket."

And he pointed to the manuscript. Joseph felt as if shot. All his hopes, aspirations, were now cast to the ground. At first he determined to end all doubt by shooting the other, but he had sense enough to know that the struggle might be doubtful.

And then the magic words uttered by the other decided him more than anything.

Printer, engraver, and minister of the Gospel.

What a perspective did this not hold out.

"Can you shoot," said Joe, abruptly.

"Can't Im" replied Rigden, with a covert smile.

"Let me see you," continued Joseph, with that air of superiority which so often influenced his dupes.

Rigden looked around. In a rock about eighty yards distant stood a small, strait tree, the stem of which was not much more than a quarter of an inch thick.

I can hit that," said the printer, quietly.

"So can I," replied Joe, and with unerring aim, he poured forth his volley, and the spurting bark showed that he had succeeded. The other volley followed, and the same result ensued.

"Drove the pin, by heaven!" said Joe, using a favorite locution of target-shooters. And now sit down and tell me what you mean by saying you've seen that book before. I think, if we can be friends, I can show you a way to fortune."

Simon Rigden then explained that a very short time previously Solomon Spaulding had come to an employer of his, one Patterson, with his manuscript, which he wished published as a romance. But Patterson said that it would only sell if brought out as a true history. This Solomon Spaulding declined to authorise.

A long correspondence ensued. During the time Rigden, then an itinerate Campbellite preacher, thinking it might be useful to him in connection with his sermons, copied the book in secret. Then Solomon Spaulding died, and soon after, Patterson.

The relatives of Spaulding destroyed his copy as worthless.

"Ah!" said Joe Smith, with a deep sigh of relief, "Spaulding dead -- the manuscript destroyed -- all is well."

"What mean you?" cried Rigden.

Joe Smith took him by the button of his coat, and in a long and eloquent discourse displayed all his views. The other listened, first with awe, then with incredulity, and at last with admiration.

"Creation of God," he said, "if it could be, it would be prime."

"It shall be." cried Joseph, "I will teach a new dispenastion. I will earn a name before which that of Mahomet and every other prophet shall pale. I will found a new religion and a new people, who shall gather together from the uttermost ends of the earth. I tell you, stranger, that this book is but a means to an end. Let me breathe into your ears my real secret: I am inspired, but this history of the past will be my Koran. Now, Simon Rigden, are we friends, or shall we stand at ten paces and decide who is the better man?"

"Friend, admirer, disciple," said Rigden with considerable eagerness.

An these two consummate knaves shook hands. They thoroughly understood each other. They put their resources together, and established in the cave, to which they gave the name of Mormon, an atelier where Simon could forge notes, while Joseph Smith fabricated his bible. The border notes in those days were easily imitated and more easily passed with a rude and partly unlettered people.

Joe and Simon therefore reaped a rich crop in this way, raking care, however, to issue them at some distance from home.

"The plates are nearly finished. In four days they shall be buried on the Hill of Comoral. That will be a task of some labour, Master Simon, and of course we cannot touch them until the turf has grown again: then for fame and fortune."

"Or martyrdom," said Rigden gravely.

"What matters. Look you, Simon, I was brought up in ignorance and vice, but I feel that in me which says that if I had been educated and placed in a more fortunate position, I could have been anything I wished. Since I have read, thoughts burn within me which consume my soul. I am ambitious of fame, and rather than win it no no other way, I will obtain it by death."

"You're a wonder," said Rigden.

"Am I?" cried Joe, listlessly, "but I've done for to-night. Sleep you, while I go forth and pray on the Hill of Comoral."

Rigden looked strangely at him, as if he could not understand so odd an admixture of knavery and credulity. Joe Smith passed out without any further words, and so wrapped was he in his own thoughts that though he almost brushed past his terror-stricken wife, he did not see her.


Source: The travels and romantic adventures of Monsieur Violet among the Snake Indians and wild tribes of the great western prairies, Author: Frederick Marryat Publisher: London, Longman, Brown, Green, & Longmans, 1843.

Lucy Mack Smith was Joseph's mother.  Shortly after his head, she wrote a history about his early days.

Lucy Mack Smith retelling Joseph's Story:

After the witnesses returned to the house the Angel again  made his appearance to Joseph and received the plates from his hands.

Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, (Covenant Communications, Inc.; American Fork, 2000), p.155
Notes / Commentary

Lucy echoes Joseph description of the fate of plates by sayinig that he delivered them to "the Angel," typically identified as Moroni.  She does mention what the angel subsequently did with the plates.  David Whitmer, who had close association with Joseph at this time (and was both a witness of the plates and the angel) explained that the angel had hid the plates in the cave near (but not in) the Hill Cumorah.

Long-form Source Text

Martin Harris particularly seemed altogather unable to give  vent to his feelings in words he said I have now seen an  angel from Heaven who has of a surety testified of the truth  of all that I have heard concerning the record and my  eyes have beheld him I have also looked upon the  plates and handled them with my hands and can testify  of the same to the whole world. But I have received for  myself a witness that words cannot express that no tongue  can describe & I bless God in the sincerity of my soul that  he has condescended to make me even me a witness of  the greatness of his work and designs in behalf the child ren of men. Oliver [Cowdery] and David [Whitmer]. also joined with him in  solemn praises to God for his goodness and mercy. We re turned home the next day a happy cheerful rejoicing  little company In a few days we were follow by Joseph  and Oliver and the whitmers who came to make us a visit  and also to make some arrangements about getting the book prin ted soon after they came They all that is the male part  of the company repaired to a little grove where it was custom ary for the family to offer up their secret prayers— as Joseph  had been instructed that the plates would be carried there  by one of the ancient Nephites. Here was that those 8 witnesses  recorded in the Book of Mormon looked upon the plates and  handled them of which they bear witness in the follow ing words,

“Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues,  and people unto whom this work shall come that Joseph  Smith Jr. the translator of this work has shewn unto  us the plates of which hath been spoken which have  the appearance of Gold; and as many of the leaves as the  said smith has translated we did handle with our hands  and we also saw the engravings thereon all of which  has the appearance of ancient work and curious work manship. And this we bear record with words of sobern ness, that the said Smith has shewn unto us for we have  seen and hefted and know of as surety that the said  Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken [p. [1], bk. 9]and we give our names unto the world to witness unto  the world that which we have seen and we lie not  God bearing witness of it.

Christian Whitmer • Jacob Whitmer • Peter Whitmer Jr. • John Whitmer • Hyrum [Hiram] Page • Joseph Smith Sen • Hyrum Smith • Samuel H Smith

After the witnesses returned to the house the Angel again  made his appearance to Joseph and received the the  plates from his hands.  We commenced holding meetings  that night a in the which we declared those facts  that we knew to be true. These meetings were con tinued from time to time ever afterwards it  This was thursday The ensueing Monday the company went  to Palmira [Palmyra] for the purpose of contracting with Mr. E. B.  Grandin for printing of the book after they succeeded  well and expected to carry the work Straight forwa rd. without further But A revelation came to  Joseph commanding him to see that Oliver trans cribed the whole work as second time and never  take both transcripts to the office but leave one  and carry the other so that in case one was destroyed  the other would be left furthermore Peter  Whitmer [Jr.] was commanded to remain at our house  to assist in guarding the writings and also for the  purpose of to accompany Oliver to the Office and  back when no other person could be spared from the  place to go and come with him as it was necessary  that oliver should be accompanied by some one for  the purpose of protecting him in case of danger. that  if this was not the case taken his enemies would be likely  to to waylay him a in order to get the manuscript away from him— and also the house would be infest[ed] 


Source: Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, (Covenant Communications, Inc.; American Fork, 2000), p.155

Facsimile

William Dame converted to Mormonism in the 1840s and later became a local leader in Utah.  In 1857 he was directly involved in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

William W. Phelps was a close associate of Joseph Smith, and learned much about Mormonism's beginnings directly from him.  However, he was not involved in any activities with Joseph Smith until the 1831.

Hyrum Smith was Joseph Smith's older brother and was very closely involved in Mormonism's early events, including the publishing of the Book of Mormon.  He was also a witness of the gold plates.

William Dame reporting on a talk by W.W. Phelphs who related Hyrum Smith's experience:

Attended meeting a discourse from W. W. Phelps. He related a story told him by Hyrum Smith which was as follows:

Joseph, Hyrum, Cowdery & Whitmere went to the hill Cormorah. As they were walking up the hill, a door opened and they walked into a room about 16 ft square. In that room was an angel and a trunk. On that trunk lay a book of Mormon & gold plates, Laban’s sword, Aaron’s brestplate

William Horne Dame, Journal of the Southern Exploring Company, 1854
Notes / Commentary

This appears to be the first direct reference to a cave from LDS sources.   It is unclear under what circumstances Hyrum Smith told W. W. Phelps about the experience at the cave.  This is also the first instancethe hill Cumorah identified as the location of the cave, and the first mention of the sword of Laban.

Heber C. Kimball was a close associate of Joseph Smith, and learned much about Mormonism's beginnings directly from him.  However, he was not involved in any activities with Joseph Smith until the 1830s.

Heber C. Kimball referring to a vision had by "Joseph and others":

…the vision that Joseph and others had, when into a cave in the hill Cumorah, and saw more records than ten men could carry…. There were books piled up on tables, book upon book. …they are events that I heard Joseph speak of, time and time again.

Journal of Discourses Vol.4, Page 105 "Emigration
Notes / Commentary

It seems that Kimball is speaking to an audience that is already familiar with the account of the cave seen in vision and is reffering to it to make a point, rather than teaching about it as if it was new information.

Long-form Source Text

Emigration—The Saints Warned to Repent or Judgments Will Come Upon Them Heber C. Kimball

I feel very thankful to my Father and my God in regard to the two handcart companies that have just come in, led by brothers Ellsworth and McArthur.

I went out with brother Brigham to meet those companies, and when within a mile and a half of the foot of the Little Mountain we left the company that was with us, and drove on until we met Captain Ellsworth's company. I did not shed any tears, though I could have done so, but they would have been tears of joy; my heart was so full that it was impossible for a tear to pass it; that is the way I felt. Why did I have those feelings? Was it because the company were on foot, dusty, and pulling handcarts? No, for I was aware that they had come into these valleys easier than most, if not all, other companies. Their task was light in comparison with that of the pioneers in 1847, for they had to build bridges, cross deep and wide rivers upon rafts, and make hundreds of miles of road, digging up and throwing out stones and cutting down trees and thick brush.

Brother Mills mentioned in his song, that crossing the Plains with  handcarts was one of the greatest events that ever transpired in this Church. I will admit that it is an important event, successfully testing another method for gathering Israel, but its importance is small in comparison with the visitation of the angel of God to the Prophet Joseph, and with the reception of the sacred records from the hand of Moroni at the hill Cumorah.

How does it compare with the vision that Joseph and others had, when they went into a cave in the hill Cumorah, and saw more records than ten men could carry? There were books piled up on tables, book upon book. Those records this people will yet have, if they accept of the Book of Mormon and observe its precepts, and keep the commandments.

Again, how does it contrast with Joseph's being sent forth with his brethren to search out a location in Jackson County, where the New Jerusalem will be built, where our Father and our God planted the first garden on this earth, and where the New Jerusalem will come to when it comes down from heaven?

I mention these few things by way of contrast with the handcart operation; they are events that I have heard Joseph speak of, time and time again.

There will not one soul of you go to build up that holy city in Jackson County until you learn to keep the commandments of God, and listen to the counsel of brother Brigham and his counselors, of the Twelve Apostles, of the Bishops, and of every officer in the Church of God; until you are willing to keep what we call the celestial law.

What is the celestial law? A great many of you think that you have not come to it, but the fundamental principles of "Mormonism," faith in Jesus Christ, repentance for sins, and baptism for their remission, which is the door into the kingdom of God, are the first letters of the alphabet of the celestial law; and if you turn away from those principles, you turn away from everything that your salvation depends upon.

There is a reformation proposed; it has already commenced in the north, and the people there are repenting, that is, they say they repent; and many have gone forward and been baptized for the remission of their sins.

But, brethren and sisters, you may go forward and be baptized, and say you repent, and receive the laying on of hands, and if you do not repent and lay aside your wickedness, you will go to hell. I tell you that there is nothing that will turn away the wrath of God, and the chastenings that are to come on this people, if they do not repent indeed; now mark my words.

There has been too much said here, by brother Brigham and his brethren, to fall to the ground unnoticed, and you must observe every word of it.

I am very thankful that so many of the brethren have come in with handcarts; my soul rejoiced, my heart was  filled and grew as big as a two-bushel basket. Two companies have come through safe and sound. Is this the end of it? No; there will be millions on millions that will come much in the same way, only they will not have handcarts, for they will take their bundles under their arms, and their children on their backs, and under their arms, and flee; and Zion's people will have to send out relief to them, for they will come when the judgments come on the nations. And you will find that judgments will be more sore upon this people, if they do not repent and lay aside their pride and their animosities, their quarrelling and contentions, their disputations among themselves.

Those that have come in with the handcarts may wonder how this can be, for doubtless many of them thought that they were coming to where it was all peace and harmony, and so remain forever. So it would, were it not for the wicked ones that come here. You who come with the handcarts have brought nobody here but yourselves, and probably, as brother Ellsworth said, there are as good people among his company as ever were on the earth, according to their knowledge; and then he said there were some of the worst. I do not doubt it, for he never stopped to select them, but he brought all that happened to be in the net, and there were several kinds, I suppose.

Any man or woman that has got the Spirit of the Lord, may know that God is with those missionaries who have come in with these companies, and they have made a character for themselves that will live forever, and they will live forever; and God bless them forever, and they shall be blessed forever. And when brother Brigham, and Heber, and Jedediah, and the Twelve Apostles go through the straight gate into the kingdom, they shall go with us.

Your face looks good to me, brother McArthur; I sat beside you today, and it warmed my heart clear through. I have known him from his boyhood, and so I have the others. And Joseph A. Young, and William H. Kimball, they know nothing but "Mormonism;" they were born in it. They could not fully discern the difference until they went on a mission to the lower world, where they were under the necessity of depending upon their God, and now they know that God lives, that "Mormonism" is true, that Brigham Young is a Prophet of God, and that Joseph Smith was a Prophet.

No man or woman can have the spirit of Prophecy, and at the same time do evil and speak against their brethren; and you will find that man or that woman barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of God, and filled with disputations.

When you hear false statements from disaffected characters, do not circulate them; do not send them back to England, France, &c., to prevent those from coming here that otherwise would come. The Saints will gather, and handcart companies will become common; there will be more of them than there will be of ox or mule trains.

If brother Brigham should say to me, next spring, go back and bring up a handcart company, I am ready to do so. I can do it with less fatigue than the labor I perform every day of my life. Will twenty or twenty-five miles daily travel excuse me? No. I am never still, never idle, and I never expect to be, in heaven nor on earth.

I have often told you that all my lazy hairs were gone; and I have often told the young Elders, to encourage them, that the first mission I took, after I was ordained one of the Twelve, was through New England and into Nova Scotia, 1,500 miles travel on foot  with my valise on my back. Soon after I started I found that I was rather unlearned, though I knew that before, but I knew it better after I started.

I began to study the Scriptures, as brother McArthur did, and I had so little knowledge that the exercise of study began to swell my head and open my pores insomuch that the hairs dropped out; and if you will let your minds expand as mine did you will have no hair on your heads. I expected to lose all my hair, and my head too; but I am alive and in the house of Israel; and I expect to live to see this people prosper, the house of Israel gathered, and scattered Israel connected with this people; and we will bring about the purposes of God. My body may fail, but my spirit will never die, nor will the spirit of any good "Mormon." Let us "live our religion."

I presume there were as many devils after those handcart companies as ever followed any company of Saints that ever left the States, and their object was to defeat them in this attempt, but they have not been permitted to do it.

The Elders that go forth and preach the Gospel will have to lead the handcart companies over the Plains, and learn to go on foot. Am I not glad? Yes, I rejoice exceedingly. I have prayed for those companies night and day, and I never was more pleased to see any persons than I was to see those brethren and sisters, and the Elders that have brought them here. I baptized several of them eighteen years ago in Chatburn and Downham, England, and I thank God that they have come here. It proves that they were good Saints, to stand so long in that wicked country, and sustain "Mormonism" eighteen or nineteen years.

In Tithebarn I stood upon a barrel and preached, and a woman came and took hold of my coat; I said, "What is wanted, lady?" "I want to be baptized." I jumped from the barrel and baptized twenty-five persons, some of whom are here. That was nineteen years ago, when "Mormonism" was introduced into that nation; I went over about the time when the Church was broken up in Kirtland, and when there were not twenty persons on the earth that would declare that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God.

When we returned from England, we could report from two thousand to twenty-five hundred Saints added to the Church, after being away about eleven months. When we got back the Church was all driven from Ohio, and we went to Missouri. I arrived there in time to be sick three weeks; and then the mob prevailed and we were driven out.

And as fast as we could get well and get out of a place, I was taken sick and driven again. That is the way I have been kept going, and I expect to be kept going in that way, if this people do not do right and keep the commandments of God.

"Live your religion," keep the commandments of God, listen to the servants of God, and you will stand forever, and the world cannot trouble you.

Last Sabbath I referred to the conduct of the ancient inhabitants of this continent, and the dealings of the Lord with them; and it is the only way in which those who profess to be the people of God are kept humble. When they prospered in riches they were lifted up, and God sent famine and pestilence among them, and sickness and death, until He pretty much destroyed the nation, until they humbled themselves; and I wish to apply that experience to this people, and they will feel it if they do not repent.

Your ears may hear my words, but do my words enter your hearts?  Will you repent sincerely before God? If you will, we never will be afflicted, no, never. I do not know of any way for this people to appreciate their blessings, only by affliction and by being brought into sorrow. And if you do not repent, the little we saw night before last, when the handcart train came in, will be no comparison to the straitened circumstances you will be brought into; and people will look upon us and weep to see the suffering and affliction that we will be brought into.

Many of this people have broken their covenants by speaking evil of one another, by speaking against the servants of God, and by finding fault with the plurality of wives and trying to sink it out of existence. But you cannot do that, for God will cut you off and raise up another people that will carry out His purposes in righteousness, unless you walk up to the line of your duty. On the one hand there is glory and exaltation; and on the other no tongue can express the suffering and affliction this people will pass through, if they do not repent.

Brother Brigham is placed here, and he has chosen men to stand by him, holding the keys of life and salvation to this people; and we shall bear off the kingdom, even though there be but few that will stick to us. They cannot be shaken, for God says everything that can be shaken shall be shaken, and that which cannot be shaken shall remain.

Scores will shake, and the earth will be caused to shake, and the thunders will roll and the lightnings flash, and the desolation of famine and pestilence awaits the world and its inhabitants.

How many times I have told you to take care of your grain and not waste it, for before another harvest many of you will see such times as you did the past season. Some do not believe this, but a great many do, and they are laying up their grain. Much wheat has already been sold here, by those who were begging last year, for a dollar a bushel, and from that to a dollar and a quarter, and a dollar and a half. I had grain enough, last spring, to have sustained my family and lasted me another year, though it takes over a thousand bushels to feed my family one year; but I have fed it all out, and now I have not over two hundred bushels, and I shall have to buy eight hundred more to feed my family till another harvest.

I am going to live my religion; and if need be I will sell my furniture, my beds and bedding, and everything I have, for grain. I look for hard times, and this year is not going to end them.

There are from eight to ten thousand people coming here this year, and scarcely a man in all the valleys of the mountains has any old wheat; nearly all had to commence consuming the present crops; just look at it, and reflect.

I have not stopped rationing my family to half a pound a day, and do not mean to this year: though I would have added a little more to it if they had needed it, but they do not. Many are wasting their grain, and feeding it to their horses and cattle; and others are lavish with it. Do not lay out your means, your wheat, and your substance, for that which profiteth nothing, for ribbons, gewgaws, jewelry, artificials.

For God's sake cease this course; for your own sake, for my sake, and for Christ's sake, let us go to work and make our own shoes from our own leather, and make and produce all we need, and use it wisely.

If I would suffer it, I should have to lay out $500 yearly for morocco shoes and bootees at from three to five dollars a pair, for the women  could not wash without putting on a pair of fine shoes. How many times have I told you these things? And brother Brigham has told you. They are on my mind all the time, and I cannot get them off, but I must keep telling you until my mission is complete; I cannot help it. I foresee the consequences of an unwise course, as plainly as I see your faces today.

Let the men who are on the Public Works, if they get a pound of breadstuff a day, lay up one-third of it; I tell the men who are laboring for me to lay up their flour for a rainy day. Why? Because when I get my grainery full, I do not want to deal it out to you; for harder times are coming by and by, and there is going to be an awful famine. And if we do right, we shall take a course to lay up our surplus grain, and labor to cultivate the earth six years, and let it rest during the seventh. Brother Brigham taught us that when we first came into these valleys, and brother Woodruff has his prediction written, and by and by it will come out in the History.

I want you to repent and lay up wheat, corn, and everything else you save. I have handed out bread to some of the most industrious and saving people, until I have handed out every ounce, and had to borrow for six weeks. Why did I do it? That I might answer a good conscience before God and man, and not come under condemnation. Will I do it another year? If I do, you shall pay for it. Why? Because it will not answer for us to be dilatory and neglect our duties, when the servants of God are teaching us from Sabbath to Sabbath, and from day to day.

I hope that the Bishops will step forth and get places for those who have just come in; and I hope that the people will employ them, and not let them lay in their tents, for if they stay there idle they will become sick; but if you set them to work they will not be sick.

I will not tell you to do a thing that I will not do myself. I have spoken to a man that brother Ellsworth gave me an introduction to, and to his wife and child, and to his wife's mother, who is seventy-six years of age, and I am going to provide them a home and set them to work. I told the man that he need not make any calculation on receiving wages, for if I took care of them all, I thought I should have plenty to do to feed them and make them comfortable through the winter; for the winter is at hand, and it probably will be a hard one. I will use them as well as I was used when I was in England. I spent seven months in London, and established a Church there, brother Woodruff was with me, and did not do it with their purse and scrip. That is now a great Conference; it is the greatest Conference in the world, except this. Listen to what you hear, and tell your neighbors of it; and when it comes spring, do not have it to say that you are without bread.  When you get your full rations, save one-third of them. I feel for this people; my heart is good towards them; I feel kind and generous, and I do all that I can to do them good. But I cannot do everything, and set everybody to work. Every one of you extend the hand of kindness and benevolence to those that have come with the handcarts. They have shown their faith by their works, and it made the tears come out of your eyes to see them, and God bless them forever and ever; and I pray that not one of them may ever deny the faith. And I bless every one of you, and everything that is within the pale of the kingdom of God; and I curse everything that seeks to pull this people down and destroy them; I say, may the curse of God descend upon them, that they may go down and become powerless; and those that speak well of, and administer to Zion, they shall be blessed forever, and no enemy shall prevail against them from this time, henceforth and forever, and all who are in favor of this say amen. [All the congregation said amen.]

- Heber C. Kimball


Source: Journal of Discourses Vol.4, Page 105 "Emigration

Pomeroy Tucker was a journalist and New York politician who founded the Wayne Sentinel, a newspaper printed in the same shop as the Book of Mormon. He claims he was "well acquainted" with Joseph Smith, his family, and "most of the early followers of Smith," but was a skeptic.  He wrote an early anti-Mormon book entitled Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, documenting his observations and opinions.

Pomeroy Tucker writing on his own observations as an 1820s Palmyra resident:

The work of translation ... had been done in the recess of a dark artificial cave, which Smith had caused to be dug in the east side of the forest-hill near his residence, now owned by Mr. Amos Miner.

The prophet...went into the cave to pay his spiritual devotions and seek the continued favor of Divine Wisdom. His stays in the cave varied from fifteen minutes to an hour or over -- the entrance meanwhile being guarded by one or more of his disciples.

This excavation was at the time said to be one hundred and sixty feet in extent... It had a substantial door of two-inch plank...

Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, p 48-49
Notes / Commentary

This is the first statement that clearly identfies the cave in Miner hill (Amos Miner's property).  It also is the first time that it is identified as a translation site and a place where spiritual activities took place, and give the first description of the size of the cave (160ft long).  Tucker's account of the cave is referred to in a later retelling of the story, which further states that:

Hither was brought, in its season, the recently completed manuscript of the Book of Mormon; here was prepared the curious artificial cave mentioned by Pomeroy Tucker for the purpose of guarding that treasure from harm (Tucker. pp. 48-9); hence were carried from day to day that portion of the copy which Oliver Cowdery considered it would be safe to intrust to the printers of Mr. Egbert Grandin. The homestead is now said to be owned by Mr. Amos Miner (Tucker, p. 49), and is one of the most important scenes connected with Mormon history. 

Long-form Source Text

Chapter V

The loss of the first translations checked for a time the progress of Mormon events. But Smith, Harris, and their abiding associates were seemingly undismayed. Some six months passed when the announcement was given out that a new and complete translation of the Book of Mormon had been made by the prophet, which was ready for the press. In the interim the stranger before spoken of had again been seen at Smith's; and the prophet had been away from home, may-be to repay the former's visits.  The bearing of these circumstances upon any important question can only be left to reasonable conjecture in reference to the subsequent developments. The second manuscripts, like the first, were in Cowdery's handwriting. 

The work of translation this time had been done in the recess of a dark artificial cave, which Smith had caused to be dug in the east side of the forest-hill near his residence, now owned by Mr. Amos Miner. At least such was one account given out by the Mormon fraternity; though another version was, that the prophet continued to pursue his former mode of translating behind the curtain at his house, and only went into the cave to pay his spiritual devotions and seek the continued favor of Divine Wisdom. His stays in the cave varied from fifteen minutes to an hour or over -- the entrance meanwhile being guarded by one or more of his disciples. This ceremony scarcely attracted the curiosity of outsiders, though it was occasionally witnessed by men and boys living near the scene. 

This excavation was at the time said to be one hundred and sixty feet in extent, though that is probably an exaggeration. It had a substantial door of two-inch plank, secured by a corresponding lock. From the lapse of time and natural causes the cave has been closed for years, very little mark of its former existence remaining to be seen. 


Source: Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, p 48-49

Facsimile

Brigham Young was a close associate of Joseph Smith, and learned much about Mormonism's beginnings directly from him.  However, he was not involved in any activities with Joseph Smith until the 1830s, and at herein notes that he heard about the cave from Heber C. Kimball.

Brigham Young referring to Heber C. Kimball's recollections of Father Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and others' experiences:

President [Heber C.] Kimball talked familiarly to the brethren about Father Smith, [Oliver] Cowdery, and others walking into the hill Cumorah and seeing records upon records piled upon table[s,] they walked from cell to cell and saw the records that were piled up. . . .

Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 5 May 1867
Notes / Commentary

Brigham Young indicates that Heber C. Kimball is his source for information about the cave.  Brigham's later statements were widely circulated and repeated.

In the Manuscript History of the Church, 6 May 1849, Church Archives. The Quorum of the Twelve Minutes of this date record that the Brethren spent the "evening in conversation upon many little incidents connected with finding the Plates, preserving them from the hand of the wicked, & returning them again to Cumorah, who did it &c, also about the gift of seeing & how Joseph obtained his first seer stone. Treasures known to exist in the earth of money & records." 

Wilford Woodruff was a close associate of Joseph Smith, but learned about the cave from Brigham Young.

Brigham Young was a close associate of Joseph Smith, and learned much about Mormonism's beginnings directly from him.  However, he was not involved in any activities with Joseph Smith until the 1830s, and elsewhere noted that he heard about the cave from Heber C. Kimball.

Wilford Woodruf quoting Brigham Young speaking about Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery's experiences:

President Young said in relation to Joseph Smith returning the Plates of the Book of Mormon that He did not return them to the box from wh[ence?] He had Received [them]. But He went [into] a Cave in the Hill Comoro with Oliver Cowdry & deposited those plates upon a table or shelf. In that room were deposited a large amount of gold plates Containing sacred records & when they first visited that Room the sword of Laban was Hanging upon the wall & when they last visited it the sword was drawn from the scabbard and [laid?] upon a table and a Messenger who was the keeper of the room informed them that that sword would never be returned to its scabbard untill the Kingdom of God was Esstablished upon the Earth & untill it reigned triumphant over Evry Enemy. Joseph Smith said that Cave Contained tons of Choice Treasures & records.

Wilford Woodruff Journal, 11 December 1869
Notes / Commentary

Wilford Woodruff identifies Brigham Young as his source (who in turn identified Heber C. Kimball as his.) This statement describes the cave as being in the Hill Cumorah, and makes no mention of the angel in describing Joseph and Oliver depositing the plates in the cave.  

Orson Pratt was an early LDS convert and apostle, and was the brother of Parley P. Pratt.  He was aquainted with Joseph Smith starting in 1830, but was not involved with the Smiths in the 1820s.

Orson Pratt speaking on his own authority:

...will these things be brought to light? Yes. The records, now slumbering in the hill Cumorah, will be brought forth by the power of God, to fulfill the words of our text, that ‘the knowledge of God shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the great deep.

Journal of Discourses Volume 16 Discourse 8
Notes / Commentary

Orson Pratt offers no source for this statement, indicating it may have been conventional wisdom or a widely presumed idead.  He further described plates as "now hidden in the hill Cumorah" in a later discourse. (http://journalofdiscourses.com/19/33)

Long-form Source Text

Meeting of Adam With His Posterity in the Valley of Adam-Ondi-Ahman—Location of the Valley—The Covenant With Enoch—Records of God's Dealings With Men From the Period of the Creation—Method of Preserving the Records of Ancient Prophets—Christ's Advent Among the Nephites—Fufillment of God's Purposes and the Fullness of Times

Having been requested to speak this forenoon, and to continue the subject upon which we were addressed yesterday afternoon, I cheerfully do so, hoping that I may have the attention of the congregation, as far as possible, that I may be able to make all hear.

The subject upon which brother Taylor addressed the congregation yesterday afternoon, and upon which a few words were said by those who followed him, is one of very great importance in its bearings upon the present generation; for all things that have once been revealed, and which are now lost, will be revealed anew, in order to fulfill that passage of Scripture recorded in the 11th chap. of Isaiah and 9th verse, "The knowledge of God shall cover the  earth as the waters cover the sea." Things of all former dispensations will be made manifest and revealed anew in the great dispensation of the fullness of times. And in order to understand more clearly the things that are to be revealed and made manifest again to the inhabitants of the earth, it may not be amiss for me to refer to some of the past records of antiquity that were revealed from heaven for the benefit of past generations. The first one that occurs to my mind will be found in the Book of Covenants, page 79, paragraph 29:

"And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation, and notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest genera tion. These things were all written in the Book of Enoch, and are to be testified of in due time."

Adam was the first personage placed on the earth, in the Garden of Eden, and having transgressed, and having been cast out of the Garden of Eden, and having fulfilled a long probation, amounting to almost a thousand years, he concluded to gather together his children, which he did three years previously to his death. As recorded on the same page, he gathered Seth, Enos, Cainaan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch and Methuselah, who were successive descendants, making eight generations in all, including himself, into the valley of Adam-ondi-ahman. This was nearly a thousand years after Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden, seven generations of his children, or the righteous portion thereof, were gathered together in that valley. And here it may not be amiss for me to say a few words in relation to the location of that interesting meeting or conference.

The valley of Adam-ondi-ahman, according to the views and belief of the Latter-day Saints, was located on the western hemisphere of our globe. (I would here say, that as the greater portion of this congregation are Latter-day Saints, the proofs and evidences which I shall bring forth, in relation to the matters before me, will be selected from those books which are believed by them, which may not be particular evidence to strangers, but to the Latter-day Saints they will be undisputed evidence.) Adam-ondi-ahman, the Valley of God, where Adam dwelt, was located about fifty miles north of Jackson County, in the State of Missouri. The Lord has revealed to us that Adam dwelt there towards the latter period of his probation. Whether he had lived in that region  of country from the earliest period of his existence on the earth, we know not. He might have lived thousands of miles distant, in his early days. It might have been upon what we now term the great eastern hemisphere, for in those days the eastern and Western hemispheres were one, and were not divided asunder till the days of Peleg. Adam might have migrated from the great east, gathered up with the people of God in connection with the Church of Enoch, and formed a location in the western boundaries of Missouri. This is not revealed.

The object of this grand meeting of our great ancestors, was that Adam might bestow a great Patriarchal blessing upon his descendants. Hence the righteous of his posterity were gathered on that occasion. He pronounced upon them his last blessing. They were favored on that occasion, for the Lord appeared unto them. This meeting was very interesting in its nature, and the Lord was very much interested, as well as the people. He appeared to this vast congregation, and imparted comfort to Adam in his old age. And Adam was filled with the Holy Ghost. Notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being filled with the Holy Ghost, he predicted what should come to pass among his posterity to the latest generations. Hence he must have spoken concerning all the following dispensations, that were to be revealed from time to time to the children of men. He must have spoken concerning the spreading of his posterity after the days of Noah, and of the great work of God being established on the earth in the latter days, and concerning the second advent of the Son of God, concerning the great day of rest, the period when Satan should be bound. All these things were written in the Book of Enoch, who was present on that occasion. And this book is to be testified of, in due time, to the Saints of the last days. This will be one of the means by which God will fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah, that "the knowledge of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the great deep."

Saying nothing about the prophecies of Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel and Jared, we will next come down to the days of Enoch. Enoch prophesied of all things, as well as his great ancestor, Adam. A few of his words are translated, and brought to light by the Prophet Joseph Smith, and published in the various publications of this Church—in the "Evening and Morning Star," the "Pearl of Great Price," etc. This prophecy, though very short, as far as it has been revealed, unfolds marvelous principles, showing that his eyes were opened to see things that were past, and things in the future, all of which were recorded in the Book of Enoch, which is to be brought to light and revealed in the latter times. Among the things revealed to Enoch was the knowledge of the flood, which was to take place. And the Lord made a covenant with Enoch, that He would set His bow in the clouds—just as it afterwards was given to Noah—not as a mere token alone that the Lord would no more drown the world, but as a token of the new and everlasting covenant that the Lord made with Enoch. The words of this covenant I will repeat, as far as my memory will serve: "I will set my bow in the clouds, and I will look upon it, and remember the everlasting covenant I have made with you. That in the latter days, when men shall keep all my commandments, Zion shall look upwards and the Heavens shall look downwards," etc. The bow that was  set in the clouds was to be a token, between God and the inhabitants of the earth, of the bringing again of Zion, and of the assembling of the Saints of all dispensations. Therefore, when I have seen the bow in the clouds, it causes me to remember the covenant that God made in those early ages, and which is soon to be fulfilled in the last dispensation of the fulness of times. How great and how important is this covenant with the Zion which was built up by Enoch, which was to be taken up into heaven and remain sanctified as a place of the Lord's abode forever! Where he should dwell in the midst of his people, and where he should behold their faces, and they should behold his face. That this ancient Zion, and all the inhabitants thereof, should come from heaven and reign on the earth, and that Jesus should come with them. And for fear that the Saints should forget this, a beautiful bow was placed in the clouds, that they might remember that the Lord was looking upon them, and that he would remember his covenant with Enoch in regard to bringing his Zion again. This we find in the periodicals of the Church. When this time shall come that the Lord will bring again ancient Zion, this will assist in filling the earth with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the great deep; and will serve to put us in possession of the history of Zion, of the order of that ancient people, when they walked in righteousness three hundred and sixty-five years before they were prepared for a translation to heaven.

When we come to converse with Enoch and his city face to face, and hear from their own mouths the declaration of their own history, and the preaching of the Gospel in that age of the world, it will unfold a vast amount of knowledge in regard to the events before the flood.

We come down to the days of Noah. He was a righteous man, and called of God to preach the Gospel among the nations as it was revealed to his forefathers, and before the days of the flood, so great was the faith of many of the people, after the days that Enoch's city was caught up, that the Holy Ghost fell upon them, and they were caught up by the power of heaven into the midst of Zion—the Zion of Enoch. Thus we have further knowledge revealed to us.

Noah, after having preached the Gospel and published glad tidings among the nations, was commanded to build an ark. He had a Urim and Thummim by which he was enabled to discern all things pertaining to the ark, and its pattern. He was a great Prophet, and predicted many things, and his records, no doubt, were hidden up, and will come forth in due time, when the Lord shall cover the earth with his knowledge as the waters cover the great deep.

Many people have supposed that Moses was the first man, and the people of his day the first generation that knew anything about written characters, and that all the people, from the days of Adam down to Moses, did not know how to put their thoughts in the form of writing; but let me inform you how writing commenced. We read in the Book of Enoch, in the "Pearl of Great Price," that the Lord taught Adam how to write records by the inspiration of his Spirit. And it was given him concerning the mode of placing his thoughts in the form of writing. This is recorded in the Book of Enoch, and the "Pearl of Great Price."

The people before the flood did  not lose the art of writing, but they wrote their revelations, visions, etc., in the language of Adam—the first language given to man. This knowledge was retained through the flood.

We come down to the days of the building of the Tower of Babel, soon after the flood. About the time of Abraham the Tower of Babel was built. The people being of one language, gathered together to build a tower to reach, as they supposed, the crystalized heavens. They thought that the City of Enoch was caught up a little ways from the earth, and that the city was within the first sphere above the earth; and that if they could get a tower high enough, they might get to heaven, where the City of Enoch and the inhabitants thereof were located. They went to work and built a tower. They had this tradition, that there had been a translation of people from the earth, and they were anxious to become acquainted with them; but the Lord saw that they were one, and that they all had one language, and that nothing would be restrained from them which they imagined to do; and, as a curse, he sent a variety of tongues—took from them their own mother-tongue. The language of Adam was all forgotten in a moment; and independently of taking away from them the knowledge of their own tongue, he gave them a multitude of other tongues, so that they could not understand one another. In those days there were a few righteous individuals living at the Tower, among whom was Jared, a very good man, and his brother. When they understood, by the spirit of prophecy, that the Lord was about to scatter the people to the four corners of the earth, the brother of Jared called upon the Lord, by the request of Jared, that the Lord might lead them to a choice land. Did they come upon this great western hemisphere without a knowledge of God? No. Without any written record? No. Read the Book of Mormon, page 530, or, in other words, the Book of Ether, and you will find there recorded, several generations after the Israelites came from the Tower of Babel and landed upon this continent, that there was a certain woman, the daughter of one of the ancient men of note, that referred her father to those records which their fathers brought from the Tower of Babel; told her father what was recorded in them. "Hath my father not read the record which our fathers brought across the great deep? Behold, is there not an account concerning them of old; that they, by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory." She put it in the heart of her father, Jared, to follow those wicked acts which were entered into by Cain. It shows that the Jaredites did not come here without a record of the things from the days of Adam, down; they had it with them. They kept it with them, and multiplied copies in the midst of their nation. But you may ask, how do we know about this first colony that came to this continent? How came we in possession of this knowledge? It was by the records which they themselves kept. The Jaredites, acquainted with the art of writing, kept their records. And among the host of records kept by them, were twenty-four plates of pure gold, which were kept by the Prophet Ether, some 1,600 or 1,800 years after their colony came to this land, from the Tower of Babel. He kept a record. These records were carried by Ether from the hill Ramah, afterwards called Cumorah, where the Jaredites were destroyed, as well as the Nephites. He carried them forth towards South America,  and placed them in a position north of the Isthmus, where a portion of the people of King Limhi, about one hundred years before Christ, found them. I will read you a little description of their being found. On page 161, Book of Mormon, it appears that the people of Limhi were a certain colony that had left the main body of the Nephites, and had settled in the land where Nephi built and located his little colony, soon after their landing on the western coast of South America. After landing, and after the death of his father Lehi, Nephi was commanded of God to take those who would believe in the Most High, and flee out from his brethren. And they traveled many days' journey to the northward, and located in a land which they called the Land of Nephi, and dwelt there some four hundred years. And then because of the wickedness of the people they were threatened with a great destruction. The Lord led Mosiah out of the Land of Nephi, and led him still further north, some twenty days' journey, and they located on the river Sidon, now called Magdalena, which runs from the south to the north. And there they found a people called the people of Zarahemla. And some of the Nephites desired to return to the Land of Nephi, which they did. In about a century afterwards, there being no communication between the colonies, they sent out a number of men to see if they could find the people of Zarahemla. And they were lost, and came to a part of a country covered with bones. This is what I am going to read. And as a testimony that these things were true they brought twenty-four plates of gold, and breastplates of brass and copper, and swords, &c.

Book of Mormon, page 161:

"And it came to pass that after King Limhi had made an end of speaking to his people, for he spake many things unto them and only a few of them have I written in this book, he told his people all the things concerning their brethren who were in the land of Zarahemla. And he caused that Ammon should stand up before the multitude, and rehearse unto them all that had happened unto their brethren from the time that Zeniff went up out of the land. And he also rehearsed unto them the last words which King Benjamin had taught them, and explained them to the people of King Limhi, so that they might understand all the words which he spake. And it came to pass that after he had done all this, that King Limhi dismissed the multitude, and caused that they should return, every one unto his own house."

"And it came to pass that he caused that the plates which contained the record of his people from the time that they left the land of Zarahemla, should be brought before Ammon, that he might read them. Now, as soon as Ammon had read the record, the king inquired of him to know if he could interpret languages, and Ammon told him that he could not. And the king said unto him: Being grieved for the afflictions of my people, I caused that forty and three of my people should take a journey into the wilderness, that thereby they might find the land of Zarahemla, that we might appeal unto our brethren to deliver us out of bondage. And they were lost in the wilderness for the space of many days, yet they were diligent, and found not the land of Zarahemla but returned to this land, having traveled in a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered  with the ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel. And for a testimony that the things that they have said are true they have brought twenty-four plates which are filled with engravings, and they are of pure gold. And behold, also, they have brought breastplates, which are large, and they are of brass and of copper, and are perfectly sound. And again, they have brought swords, the hilts thereof have perished, and the blades thereof were cankered with rust; and there is no one in the land that is able to interpret the language or the engravings that are on the plates. Therefore I said unto thee: Canst thou translate? And I say unto thee again: Knowest thou of anyone that can translate? For I am desirous that these records should be translated into our language; for, perhaps, they will give us a knowledge of a remnant of the people who have been destroyed, from whence these records came; or, perhaps, they will give us a knowledge of this very people who have been destroyed; and I am desirous to know the cause of their destruction."

"Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not, and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer. And behold, the king of the people who is in the land of Zarahemla is the man who is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God."

I have read this to give you an idea how the Israelites that inhabited this continent, before the days of Christ, came to the knowledge of the first colony that came from the Tower of Babel. This company, that was lost in the wilderness, brought these plates, with breast plates and swords, the hilts thereof having perished, and the blades thereof having cankered with rust.

Now Mosiah, the king, that dwelt in the land of Zarahemla, was the man that was called of God to translate. He had the gift and power given to him to translate these twenty-four plates. We have an account, on another page of the Book of Mormon, of his translating these plates; and that it gave an account of the people from the days of Adam down to the flood—to the days of the Tower of Babel, and down to the days they were destroyed.

Now will this record ever be brought to light to help fill the earth with the knowledge of God? Let me refer you to what is recorded in the Book of Ether, page 516—

"And now I, Moroni, proceed to give an account of those ancient inhabitants who were destroyed by the hand of the Lord upon the face of this north country. And I take mine account from the twenty and four plates which were found by the people of Limhi, which is called the Book of Ether. And as I suppose that the first part of this record, which speaks concerning the creation of the world, and also of Adam, and an account from that time even to the great tower, and whatsoever things transpired among the children of men until that time, is had among the Jews—Therefore I do not write those things which transpired from the days of Adam until that time;" (Now notice the next sentence;) "but they are had upon the plates;  and whoso findeth them, the same will have power that he may get the full account."

They are not yet found. We have the Book of Ether, that is not one-hundredth part of the contents of those twenty-four plates. But a very short account. Whose findeth these twenty-four plates will have power to get the full account; for they give a history from the days of Adam through the various generations to the days of the flood, from the days of the flood down to the days of Peleg, and from the days of Peleg to the Tower, which was very nearly cotemporary with Peleg. And from that time for some sixteen or eighteen centuries after they landed on this continent. The prophecies of their Prophets in different generations, who published glad tidings of joy upon the face of all the northern portion of this continent. Their records and doings are all to come to light, and these will help to fulfill the words of our text that the knowledge of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the great deep.

But we will pass along and come to the second colony, that the Lord brought out of Jerusalem, six hundred years before Christ. Did they bring any records with them? Had they the art of writing? Yes. When they lived among the Jews the art of writing was extensively known among the Jews. It was their art to write in the Egyptian language, as Nephi testifies on the first page of the Book of Mormon. "Therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days; yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians." A language which their forefathers learned, while they dwelt in Egypt, and which they were familiar with, but probably lost it in some measure, but still re tained a portion of it, and wrote their records in the same.

Now if you will appeal to Biblical history you will find that the Israelites did write their records, in ancient times, upon metallic plates, and that these plates were connected together, with rings, passing through the leaves. Through the whole a stick was placed for carrying the record. This description we have given by those who have deeply studied concerning the Scriptures and the ancient doings of the Israelites. When Lehi left Jerusalem, there was a certain man that lived in Jerusalem, that had kept records upon brass plates. And these records, we are informed had been handed down from the early ages of the Israelites, until Lehi left Jerusalem. They contained a copy of the genealogy of the tribe of Joseph in the land of Palestine. Laban being a descendent of Joseph, the records had fallen into his hands. Lehi was commanded to send his sons to obtain these records; for he had pitched his tent on the eastern borders of the Red Sea. The history of his obtaining them you will find recorded in the Book of Mormon. On the 10th page it reads—"And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel. And after they had given thanks unto the God of Israel, my father, Lehi, took the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, and he did search them from the beginning. And he beheld that they did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents; And also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah;  And also the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah."

"And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the Son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father Jacob and all his household from perishing with famine. And they were also led out of captivity and out of the land of Egypt, by that same God who had preserved them. And thus my father Lehi did discover the genealogy of his fathers. And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records."

"And now when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed—That these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people who were of his seed. Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time. And he prophesied many things concerning his seed."

I have read this in order to come to another thing that has a bearing upon our text. These plates of brass, contained the prophecies of all the holy Prophets from the beginning—from the days of Adam; hence they must have contained the prophecies of Enoch, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph in Egypt. The prophecies of Isaiah and many others of the holy Prophets were contained upon these plates of brass.

Notwithstanding brass is a metallic substance capable of being dissolved and crumbling back, in a few years to the elements, yet there was a miracle wrought upon these plates of brass. The Prophet said that these plates of brass should not be dimmed by time, that God would preserve them to the latest generations. What for? In order that they might come forth and their contents be translated by the Urim and Thummim, that these contents might be declared to all nations, and kindreds, and tongues, and people, who were the descendants of Lehi upon the face of all this continent, from the frozen regions of the north to the very utmost extremities of South America. That all these nations should come to a knowledge of the things contained on those plates of brass.

Now the Lord did many things of this kind in ancient days. If there should be any strangers present let me show you how the Lord can do many wonderful things. Let me refer you to the pot of manna, the substance of which would not keep over twenty-four hours, except on Sunday, and then it was preserved from becoming nauseous. But on a certain occasion the children of Israel were to collect a pot of this manna, and it was placed in the Tabernacle of the congregation, and instead of becoming nauseous, it remained just as fresh in future generations, as on the morning it was gleaned up.

Certain rods were gathered up to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, and Aaron's rod budded and blossomed in one night; and that was handed down from generation to generation. And hence we see that God did work miracles for his people on the eastern continent. Is it any more marvelous that he should preserve the brass plates from being dimmed by time? No. They exist,  and in the own due time of the Lord, he will inspire a mighty seer, and give him the Urim and Thummim, and enable him to bring forth these sacred scriptures.

Now, to show you the value of the scripture of the brass plates, over the Jewish records, translated by King James, let me refer you to the Book of Mormon. On the 24th page, speaking of the coming forth of these records, the angel said to Nephi, "The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy Prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many." That is, there are not so many prophecies and revelations contained in the Jewish Bible of our day as there were upon the plates of brass. Nevertheless they contained the covenants of the Lord, which he has made with the House of Israel; therefore they are of great worth unto the children of men.

If you will turn to the Book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon, page 122, you will find a lengthy prophecy, or parable of the olive tree, quoted from the brass plates, by which the house of Israel is represented—a parable of their being planted in the Lord's vineyard; a parable of the great work of the Lord in the last days, when his servants should be called to labor and gather these young branches and graft them into their own olive tree. This parable was revealed to the Prophet Zenos, and gives great instruction. We could also refer you to some four or five other places where Zenos and Zenock prophesied concerning the restoration of all the house of Israel in the latter days; and concerning the descendants of Joseph. And Lehi, being of the seed of Joseph, was interested in relation to his future generations, and therefore understood the whole history of these remnants of Joseph, and prophesied concerning them; a few quotations being given in the Book of Mormon. They understood concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus in the flesh, his crucifixion and resurrection from the dead; and the signs shown forth to the remnants of Israel scattered to the four corners of the earth and the islands of the sea; and the great destruction which should come upon the people because of their wickedness.

I will refer you to the prophecies of Joseph in Egypt. In order to show you what is said concerning him, as a Prophet, I will refer you to page 62, Book of Mormon. "And now, I, Nephi, speak concerning the prophecies of which my father hath spoken, concerning Joseph, who was carried into Egypt. For behold, he truly prophesied concerning all his seed. And the prophecies which he wrote, there are not many greater. And he prophesied concerning us, and our future generations; and they are written upon the plates of brass."

Search all the records you can find, and you will find that Joseph has prophesied concerning as great things as any other prophet that ever lived. Now these plates of brass were handed down. We have an account of them by Alma, the Prophet. And concerning the Urim and Thummim, they were also handed down.

But we will now come down to the days of Jesus. From the time that Lehi left Jerusalem to the days of Jesus, there were a great many records kept by the remnant of Joseph, upon this land. The book of Mormon does not contain one hundredth  part of the records of these prophets. Now did they keep all of them on plates, or did they multiply them by thousands of copies on this land? Let me refer you to page 388, of the Book of Mormon. "Now behold, all those engravings which were in the possession of Helaman were written and sent forth among the children of men throughout all the land, save it were those parts which had been commanded by Alma should not go forth. Nevertheless, these things were to be kept sacred, and handed down from one generation to another." What period of time was this? Only fifty-two years before the birth of Christ. Fifty-four years before Christ as we find on page 387, (Book of Mormon), there was a large company of men, 5,400 with their wives and children, went out of the land of Zarahemla, to the land northward, and in a few years afterwards, as you will find on pages 393 and 394, they went forth by thousands, and also sent forth colonies by sea, and timber to build cities; and they built houses of cement; and many cities of timber. And the people became very numerous. Now to confine the sacred records in one place, and to keep the people in ignorance in regard to their contents, would not be reasonable. Hence we are informed that they were written and sent forth throughout all the land, and this will account for the extracts from the Scriptures written in ancient Hebrew, discovered in the mounds that have been opened in Ohio, among which were the ten commandments. The people of this land were well acquainted with the Scriptures.

Go to the City of Ammonihah in the northern part of South America. They had become wicked, yet they had the Holy Scriptures; and they brought them forth and burned them with fire, and all that believed in them were burned in the fire. (See Book of Mormon, page 249.) Showing that the people had many copies of the Scriptures. And, again we find that the Nephite missionaries who went among the Lamanites, carried with them copies of the Scriptures; and that by the means of these copies they convinced the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers.

When Jesus came to this continent he taught the people several days. And these things were written upon the plates of Nephi. But Mormon made an abridgement of these writings, and he states, on page 484: "And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people; but behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which he taught the people; and these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people, and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken. And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it so be that they shall believe these things, then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. Behold I was about to write them all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbid it, saying, I will try the faith of my people; therefore I, Mormon, do write the things which have been commanded me of the Lord. And now I, Mormon, make an end of my sayings, and proceed  to write the things that have been commanded me; therefore I would that ye should behold that the Lord did truly teach the people, for the space of three days; and after that, he did show himself unto them oft, and did break bread oft, and bless it, and give it unto them."

Thus we perceive that we have not the one-hundreth part of the teachings of the greatest of all prophets, even our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—the words that he delivered to the ancient Nephites. The Nephites understood all these marvelous things. No doubt there were many instructions—a vast amount of instructions—in regard to their property; for they had all things common, both in North and South America, among the millions of this land, for one hundred and sixty-seven years. After which, in the year two hundred and one after the birth of Christ, they began to withdraw from this order, and began to be divided into different classes, &c. Now, if we had all the teachings of Jesus, we would find the order of things that preserved equality upon this continent during all that period of time; which would give us a vast amount of knowledge concerning the things which we must enter into.

But will these things be brought to light? Yes. The records, now slumbering in the hill Cumorah, will be brought forth by the power of God, to fulfill the words of our text, that "the knowledge of God shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the great deep."

Again, Jesus, on the last visit to the Nephites, called up his twelve disciples and pronounced a certain blessing upon them, and especially upon three of them. Mormon says, concerning these three that were to tarry, that great works shall be wrought by them before the great day of the Lord shall come. Then he says, that if you had all the Scriptures, you would know that these things would be fulfilled. We would know a great many things if we only had these Scriptures and revelations. They are to be revealed to fill our earth with the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the great deep.

Not only the records of the ancient inhabitants of this land are to come forth, but the records of those who slept on the eastern hemisphere. The records of John, him who baptized the Lamb of God, are yet to be revealed. We are informed in the book of Doctrine and Covenants, page 245, that the fullness of the record of John, is to be revealed to the Latter-day Saints.

But shall we stop with these records? No. Let me repeat to you the words of the Lord. The Lord said to Nephi, speaking of the latter days, that the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews, and the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews; and I will gather the people from the four quarters of the earth; and my words shall be gathered in one, (See Book of Mormon, page 108), the records of the Nephites upon this land. And the numerous people that have been planted on the islands of the sea, are to be gathered in one; for they were righteous in some of their earlier generations; and that knowledge is yet to be brought forth; and when these islands shall deliver up their people, their records shall be gathered in one.

And again, concerning what the people say, "we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible." "Know ye not that I am the same God, yesterday and forever; and it shall come to pass, that I shall speak to the  Jews, and they shall write it. I shall speak to the lost tribes of Israel, and they shall write it. I will speak to all the nations of the earth, and they shall write it. And by my words that are spoken, shall the children of men be judged according to their deeds." All these things shall come forth to fill the earth with the knowledge of God.

We go to the book of Doctrine and Covenants, where we find that the Lord is to reveal many of his great and marvelous purposes, that have been kept hid from the foundation of the world; and things that have not been revealed to any former generation. It is not enough that these different records referred to should be revealed, and that the islands of the sea should deliver up their knowledge, but it is necessary that the heavens should give the knowledge which was before our earth was created. And you are students in this great university, which God has established, to study concerning God, and get a knowledge of things in the heavens and things that are past and present, and things that are to come—a knowledge that comes through the power and inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

But this is not all; God has said that he "will pour out his Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy." Young men and old men shall receive knowledge from the heavens. Again, it is written in Isaiah: "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord." It will not be necessary for one man to say to his neighbor, know ye the Lord, for all shall know him. Then it will not be necessary for us to preach so much, because the Lord our God will teach them from on high. Old and young, male and female, will receive knowledge; and our little children will  utter forth their voices, and speak forth that which is not now lawful to utter, but it will be uttered to the human family by the mouths of babes and sucklings. Amen.

- Orson Pratt


Source: Journal of Discourses Volume 16 Discourse 8

Elizabeth Kane was a non-Mormon resident of St. George, UT who sometimes entertained the company of Brigham Young.

Brigham Young was a close associate of Joseph Smith, and learned much about Mormonism's beginnings directly from him.  However, he was not involved in any activities with Joseph Smith until the 1830s, and at one point noted that he heard about the cave from Heber C. Kimball.

Elizabeth Kane writing on Brigham Young's description of Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith's experiences:

...when Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith were in the cave this third time, they could see its contents more distinctly than before. . . . It was about fifteen feet high and round its sides were ranged boxes of treasure. In the centre was a large stone table empty before, but now piled with similar gold plates, some of which lay scattered on the floor beneath. Formerly the sword of Laban hung on the walls sheathed, but it was now unsheathed and lying across the plates on the table; and One that was with them said it was never to be sheathed until the reign of Righteousness upon the earth.

Elizabeth Kane Journal, 15 January 1873
Notes / Commentary

Elizabeth Kane's description is notable because of her aquaintance with Brigham Young and her non-Mormon status.  Given that Brigham Young stated that he heard about the cave through Heber C. Kimball, this statement is still several steps removed from a firsthand account.

Long-form Source Text

I asked where the plates were now, and saw in a moment from the expression of the countenances around that I had blundered. But I was answered that they were in a cave; that Oliver Cowdery though now an apostate would not deny that he had seen them. He had been to the cave. . . . Brigham Young's tone was so solemn that I listened bewildered like a child to the evening witch stories of its nurse. . . .

Brigham Young said that when Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith were in the cave this third time, they could see its contents more distinctly than before. . . . It was about fifteen feet high and round its sides were ranged boxes of treasure. In the centre was a large stone table empty before, but now piled with similar gold plates, some of which lay scattered on the floor beneath. Formerly the sword of Laban hung on the walls sheathed, but it was now unsheathed and lying across the plates on the table; and One that was with them said it was never to be sheathed until the reign of Righteousness upon the earth.


Source: Elizabeth Kane Journal, 15 January 1873

George Q. Cannon was an early church leader who traveled to Palmyra in 1873 and visited both "Mormon Hill" and "Gold Bible Hill."

Brigham Young Jr. was the son of Brigham Young, an early church leader, and the travel companion of Geroge Q. Cannon.

The carriage driver was an unidentified local resident of the Palmyra/Manchester area who was aware of the local stories about Joseph Smith, the cave, and the hills.

The Juvenile Instructor was an LDS periodical published in Utah.

George Q. Cannon relating what he learned from a local Palmyra carriage driver:

We had proceeded a little over a mile on the road when the driver of the carriage pointed out a hill to us on our left, which he said was ‘Mormon Hill.We supposed that by this he meant Cumorah....   We road on for probably two miles further, when we saw... a hill that rose suddenly...The driver...turned to us and said: ‘Yes, this is Gold Bible Hill.’    We asked him what he meant by calling the other...‘Mormon Hill.’ He replied that there was a cave in that hill which the ‘Mormons’ had dug and some of them had lived in it, so the people said; and therefore, it was known by that name.

George Q. Cannon, "Visit to the Land and Hill of Cumorah", Juvenile Instructor 8 [5 July 1873]: 108
Notes / Commentary

This account is remarkable because (1) it comes from and LDS source who visited the area personally and (2) clearly disambiguates the two hills: one with a cave, and one from whence the plates came.  The majority of Mormon commentators conflate the two, but here the distinction is clear.

This visit seems to be referenced 3 years later by the Broome Republican newspaper, who reported: 

"A few years ago a prominent elder of the church from Salt Lake, stopped here and visited this hill, and while conversing with some of the citizens of this village, advanced the same theory [about the sealed portion coming forth], showing that it had become a fixed belief among the faithful adherents of Mormonism"

In 1893, John Gilbert also remembered having met Brigham Young Jr., and reported that he said about the Book of Mormon: "'If it is a humbug, it is the most successful humbug ever known."

Long-form Source Text

Visit to the Land and Hill of Cumorah

While on a recent visit to the States on business, brother Brigham Young, Jun. and the Editor of the Juvenile Instructor [who was Elder George Q. Cannon], arranged to make a visit to the hill Cumorah—the hill where Mormon and Moroni secreted the records, by the command of the Lord, which were revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and from which he translated the Book of Mormon. 

We had proceeded a little over a mile on the road when the driver of the carriage pointed out a hill to us on our left, which he said was ‘Mormon Hill.’ We supposed that by this he meant Cumorah. Though in its general appearance it resembled the descriptions we had had of Cumorah, yet we were somewhat disappointed in its size, as it was not so high a hill as many others which we saw in the neighborhood. In fact, as we road along, we saw several hills which we thought more like what we imagined Cumorah to be than the one pointed out to us.    We road on for probably two miles further, conversing but very little and each absorbed in his own reflections, when we saw, immediately in front of us, a hill that rose suddenly, almost precipitously, from the plain. Brother Brigham, Jun., remarked when he saw it: ‘There is a hill which agrees in appearance with my idea of Cumorah.’ In this opinion the Editor coincided. The driver, hearing our remarks, turned to us and said: ‘Yes, this is Gold Bible Hill.’    We asked him what he meant by calling the other, which he pointed out to us, ‘Mormon Hill.’ He replied that there was a cave in that hill which the ‘Mormons’ had dug and some of them had lived in it, so the people said; and therefore, it was known by that name.” 

Close at the foot of Cumorah there is a comfortable firm house. The driver got permission to leave his carriage in the barnyard while wo climbed the hill. The hill is fenced in and inclosed in a farm. The road runs on the west side of it, and is only a few hundred yards from its base. It presented a most remarkable appearance as one travels on the road from Palmyra as we did. No observing person could pass it without being struck by its singular appearauce. It rises so abruptly at its north end that it is somewhat difficult to climb. Its base is quite broad, but at the north eud the summit is quite narrow — almost a ridge, oa which a few trees aie growing. The view from the top of the hill was one of the finest the writer ever beheld, and we could not refrain from expressions of pleasure at the beauty of the scene and the extensive prospect which a view from the summit afforded. The hill seemed to be in the centre of what might be termed an extensive valley. On every side the horizon was bounded, at a distance of four or five miles from where we stood, by a range of hills. The intervening couutry was not a smooth, regular valley; but there were low hit's, and dales — fields and groves of timber, broken at intervals by water courses. We saw several villages and towns in the distance. Undoubtedly great changes had occurred in the appearauce of the surrounding country since the days when Mormon and Moroni had trod the spot where we stood; still we could readily understand, even now, how admirable a position this would be for a general to occupy in watching and directing the movements of armies an 1 i i scrutii izi ig the position of i n enemy. Around Cumorah is yet a land of many waters, rivers and fouutaius, as Mormon said it was in his day. Our emotions on treading on this sacred hill were of the most peculiar character. They were indescribable. This was the hill Ramah of the Jaredites, and it is probable, that, in this vicinity, Coriantumr and Shiz, with the people whom they led, fought their last battle. For this great battle they were four years preparing, gathering the people together from all parts of the land, and arming men and women, and even children. The battle lasted eight days, and the result was the complete extermination of the Jaredite nation, none being left but the prophet Ether — who warned the nation of the fate that awaited it unless the people repented, and who lived to record the fulfilment of his own warnings and predictions — and Coriantumr who succeeded in slaying his mortal enemy, Shiz. It is probable that the prophet Ether, when he emerged from his hiding-place to view the destruction of his race, which he had been inspired to fortell, had ascended this hill and from its summit had gazed with profound grief upon the thousands of slain which lay scattered unburied upon the surface of the earth around. He and Coriantumr alone of all that mighty race which had flourished for upwards of fifteen hundred years, were loft. Who can imagine the feelings which he must have had on such an occasion? From the summit of this hill, doubtless, Mormon and his great son Moroni had also wituessed the gathering of the hosts of the Nephites and the dusky and myriad legions of their deadly enemies, the Lamanites. Around this hill they had marshaled their forces — their twentythree divsions of ten thousand men each, commanded by the most skillful of their generals; all to be swept away, except Mormon and Moroni and twenty-two others, in one day's battle, by the fierce and relentless foe whom God permitted to execute his threatened judgment I Stealthily perhaps, for fear o r exciting the attentiou of the Lamanites, Mormon and Moroni and their companions may have ascended this hill and gazed on the dreadful scene around ihom. What a picture of desolation ami woe must have met their sight! How deep must have been their anguish at thus witnessing the destruction of the fair ones of their nation ! No wonder they cried out in anguish, and mourned with pathetic lamentations the rebellion against God which had brought this terrible destruction upon them. Mormon's feelings must have been very peculiar. 

At fifteen years of age chosen to be the commander-in-chief of the armies of his nation, he had fought battle after battle until now, at seventy-four years of age, he witnessed the complete blotting out of what had been tho most favored people on the earth. His reflections must have been peculiarly painful, because he knew that had they listened to him he could have saved them. It was here that he hid the abridgment which he made of the records, aDd which is now known by his name, and it was here, thirty-six years after this tremendous battle, that his son Moroni also hid his abridgment of the Book of Ether and the record which he had made from which we learn the fate of his father Mormon and his other companion?, that sixteen years after the battle of Cumorah Mormon and all the Nephites except Moroni had been killed by the Lamanites. It was to this spot that about fourteen hundred years after these events, Joseph Smith, the prophet, was led by Moroni in person aud here the records, engraved on plates, were committed to him for translation. Who could tread this ground and r. fleet upon these mighty events, and not be filled with indescribable emotion ? We were literally surrounded by the graves of two of the mightiest nations which had ever flourished on the earth. We stood in the centre of their burial place. They had rebelled against God, they had slain His prophets, disregarded His warnings and arrayed themselves against Him. His promise and covenant concerning this land are: "that whatsoever nation shall possess it, shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fullness of His wrath shall come upon them. And the fullness of His wrath, cometh upon them when they are ripened iu iniquity; for behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands ; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God, or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God." The Jaredites, a . great and a mighty race, the descendants of the most favored of men, had received the threatened penalty of disobedience and they were exterminated. The Nephites, too, than whom a more favored people never dwelt upon the earth of whom we have any account, when they became ripened in iniquity shared the same fate — they were blotted out. The inquiry arose, in reflecting upon the fate of those mighty empires, "How will it be with the American nation? Will its strength, the blessings which it enjoys, its numbers and prosperity, its liberty and boasted wisdom, and other great advantages, avail it anything in rescuing it from the same destruction if it persist in persecuting the Saints, in seeking to shed the blood of innocence and to destro}' the priesthood and the Church of God?" The surface of the hill is comparatively level and is narrow at its northern extremity. There is a tolerably clear space at the north end, there being but a few scattering trees standing there. In proceeding south the top of the hill becomes broader and the timber — beech, hickory, maple and other varieties — has quite a thick growth. Emerging from this timber, and less than half a mile from the north end of the hill, we came on a fenced field which is cleared of timber and cultivated. The surface of the hill from that point is rounding, and with the H sides, can easily be plowed. Beyond this field there are the stumps of the former forest of the country; aud still beyond, proceeding south, a clearing which has been made, as Oliver Cowdery says in his description of the hill, by wind or ai t. Beyond this the hill loses its distinctive character and falls, not abruptly, however, to the level of the surrounding country. From the hill we proceeded to Manchester, about three miles distant, the town where the Prophet Joseph Smith resided when he obtained the plates. The house in which he lived is no longer standing; but we thought of his trials and temptations, of the persecutions to which he had been subjected and how cruelly he had been treated; how often himself and his brothers and parents had traveled that road, with but scanty means and no friend but God. Then we contrasted those circumstances with those of the Saints and servants of God at the present time, and we felt thankful to the Almighty for the fulfilment of so many of His promises made through His servant Joseph. 


Source: George Q. Cannon, "Visit to the Land and Hill of Cumorah", Juvenile Instructor 8 [5 July 1873]: 108

Facsimile

Jesse Nathaniel Smith was a latter-day saint who heard Brigham Young speak in Cedar City, Utah.  He was also the first cousin of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

Brigham Young was a close associate of Jospeh Smith, and learned much about Mormonism's beginning directly from him.  However, he was not involved in any activities with Jospeh Smith until the 1830s.

Jesse Smith recording Brigham Young's retelling of the observations and experiences of "some of the brethren":

I heard him [Brigham Young] at an evening meeting in Cedar City describe an apartment in the Hill Cumorah that some of the brethren had been permitted to enter. He said there was great wealth in the room in sacred implements, vestments, arms, precious metals and precious stones, more than a six-mule team could draw.

Jesse Nathaniel Smith, The Journal of Jesse Nathaniel Smith: Six Decades in the Early West; Diaries and Papers of a Mormon Pioneer, 1834

Charles W. Brown, known by the pseudonym "Veritas," wrote a series of articles including "Manchester in the Early Days," published in the Canandaigua Ontario County Times between October 21, 1874 and July 14, 1875. He was  obviously born too late to have been an eye witness to the earliest days of Manchester, and thus had to rely upon preserved records and memories of the old settlers for the history he compiled. Among the sources he consulted would have been surviving members of the local Stafford family -- his own father-in-law, Dr. John Stafford (1805-1905) had lived immediately south of the Joseph Smith, Sr. family, on Stafford Road. 

Charles Brown writing based on local recollections and earlier documents:

Night after night had the father and sons, Alvah [Alvin?] and Joseph, delved and dug in different spots...the conspirators had excavated ... an artificial cave which they had dug in a side hill now owned by the Chauncey Miner heirs...the entrance to this cave was guarded by an iron-plated door. The cave itself was about sixty feet in length and ten feet high. From the door for a distance of forty feet, there was a hall fifteen feet wide which led to the chamber beyond. This chamber or audience room was twenty feet square, and was furnished with one rude table and half a dozen uncouth stools....It was here that ... they commenced holding public meetings for the purpose of making converts.

Charles W. Brown, "Manchester in the Early Days," Ontario County Times, Canandaigua, New York, Wednesday, June 23, 1875
Notes / Commentary

John Stafford being Brown's source would explain level of detail in this account. It identifies Miner's Hill, and mentions furniture: a feature that seems to be persistently included in descriptions.

Long-form Source Text

Manchester in the Early Days.

No. XXXIV. MORMONISM -- ITS  BIRTH  AND  THE  EVENTS  WHICH  PRECEDED  IT.

As was stated in the preceding article, the Smith family were firm believers in the truth of various legends which designated Mormon Hill as the depository of large amounts of untold treasure. --

Night after night had the father and sons, Alvah and Joseph, delved and dug in different spots, but so far as the outer world knew their search was never rewarded with success. Occasionally they would tell of important discoveries, but these stories were always related to some person whose pecuniary or other substantial assistance they desired, and so their marvelous tales soon came to be received with many grains of allowance, and finally were greeted with the cold stare of unbelief. They claimed to have in their possession a miraculous stone which although it was densly opaque to ordinary eyes, was still luminous and transparent to the orbs of Joseph, Jr. This stone was one of the common horn blende variety, some of which may be picked up any day on the shores of lake Ontario. It was kept in a mysterious box, carefully wrapped in cotton. As an illustration of the ludicrous manner in which this stone was made to innure to the physical prosperity of its owners, the following well authenticated anecdote is related: It was claimed that Joseph, Jr., by placing it in a hat could discover by looking into the hat the precise spot where the hidden treasure was buried. Among the many dupes which were victimized by this story, was one William Stafford. They repeated the tale to him time and time again, with such solemn asseverations of its truth, that at last he began to believe that there might be something in it, and so consented to join them in one of their midnight expeditions. When the evening which had been agreed upon came around, he hied him to the Smith domicile, and there awaited developments. Soon Joseph joined the circle before the hearth, bearing with him the stone carefully concealed in a well worn and antiquated beaver. Seating himself, he placed his face where his pate ought to have been, and after peering intently into the recesses thereof, made the encouraging announcement that he saw a pot full to overflowing with glittering shiners, and that he could lead the assembled coterie to the precise spot, where by a little dilligent digging combined with a strict observation of all the conditions imposed, they could speedily exhume the same, and make a pro rata division of the contents thereof. --

No time was now lost in getting under way, and arming themselves with shovels, pick axes and implements of a like nature, they started forth with Joseph and the magic stone at the head of the column. "Tramp, tramp, tramp" they went "marching on," through the forests and across the fields, until after a long and weary march their leader commanded a halt. Joseph, Sr. now came to the front and produced a piece of twine with a sharp pointed stake attached to each of its ends. A solemn injunction to preserve the strictest silence was now laid upon every one of the party, as it was said that the Evil One was around listening, that if he heard them, he too would then know where the buried gold was, and before they could dig down to it, would spirit it away to some other locality, and thus deprive them of the fruits of their nocturnal travels and labors. Joseph now advanced on tip toe to the spot he had selected, and taking one of the stakes from his father, forced the same into the soil, while his worthy sire unwound the string, and firmly grasping the other stake in his hand proceeded to strike out, and "swing around," the magic circle within which the treasure was to be found. Work was now commenced in earnest. Silently and mysteriously the delvers delved. Not a word was uttered, not even a whisper disturbed the profound and unearthly silence; the laborers hardly dared to breathe, and the only sound which was heard was that which was made by the instruments of excavation as they went deeper and deeper into the bowels of the earth. Time rolled on, the minutes lengthened into hours, the pile of disturbed earth grew larger and larger, the hole grew deeper and deeper, the laborers grew wearier and wearier, until they began to be doubtful of success. The advent of the coming morn was near at hand when the pseudo prophet with drew himself into a thicket, and after looking into the cavernous depths of the superannuated chapeau, dolorously announced to his followers, that some of the prescribed conditions had been violated, and that Satan had carried off the concentrated riches to some other locality. They dug no longer but went to their homes, where it is suspected that they did ample justice to the matutinal meals. Before separating however, Joseph took another look into the hat, and made the encouraging announcement that his precious pebble had revealed to him the precise spot where Le Diable had secreted his ill gotten and recently acquired wealth. He said further, that inasmuch as the father of lies had now got the lucre into his possession, it would be necessary when they dug again to use some extraordinary means of enchantment to drive him away; that he had a mortal aversion to blood drawn from any bleeding animal, and that the stone had revealed to him the important fact, that if a black bell wether should be led around the circle with its throat cut and bleeding, Satan would be completely outwitted, and their recovery of the treasure would be the certain result. Now it so happened that Mr. Stafford was the owner of an animal which fully answered to all the prescribed conditions, but of course Jo did not know this fact! Oh no, he was a prophet and a seer, and therefore could not burden his mind with such small matters, as to which particular one of all his neighbors was the owner of a lusty, black bell wether. But some of the party remembered the fact, and brought it to the attention of Joseph. Immediately Mr. Stafford was importuned by one and all to consent to the sacrifice of his sheep, which he finally did. What was one sheep in comparison to the untold wealth which had haunted his dreams, and which when acquired, was to bring to him comfort and ease luxury for the balance of his life? This little matter having been satisfactorily adjusted, and having agreed upon the time when the performance should take place, the party separated. The appointed night again came on and the same party was again assembled in the best room of the Smith mansion, but outside the door might have been heard the occasional jingling of a bell, which told that the black bell wether was on hand, prepared and ready for the sacrifice. The same performance of hat gazing was again gone through with, and once again they started forth. At length they arrived at the designated spot, far removed from the former one. Again the same cautions as to silence were uttered, again the stakes were planted and once again the magic circle was drawn. The wether led by the hand of his master was brought to the circle, and as his mild eyes rested confidingly upon the group, he received the death dealing stroke. --

His throat was severed, as per directions of the horn blende pebble, and as his life blood welled forth, he was led around the ring pouring it on the ground as he staggered and stumbled along. --

The single revolution was at length completed and poor bell wether was left to expire as best he might, while his cruel and avaricious executioners seizing their implements commenced eagerly to throw out the earth. Will you believe it, dear reader? They didn't find a dollar; there was no money there, nor no pot to put money in. How long they worked is unknown, but it was until the prophet in embryo had again consulted the stone, and so gave to his dupes some reason for their failure, which undoubtedly was as simple and foolish as the whole proceeding had been. But now a singular circumstance occurred; Mr. Stafford on looking for the carcass of his black bell wether, undoubtedly having in view a broiled leg of mutton, was somewhat nonplussed to find that it had disappeared as mysteriously as the coveted riches; he also made the farther discovery, and a singular coincidence it was, that the seer's paternal progenitor was also missing. The fact was that while Stafford had dug, Smith had dressed the carcass, and when its absence was discovered was far advanced on his homeward route. When Mr. Stafford learned, as learn he did, that for a few days the Smiths had regaled themselves on mutton chops, &c., he lost all faith in human nature, the scales fell from his eyes and he saw that he had been victimized. It may be that the investment of the black bell wether in the course of time proved to be a profitable one, as it assuredly did, if thereby he was saved from a belief in the Bible hoax. They might have made a Martin Harris of him, but knowing that a hooked fish is not apt to bite the second time, they never attempted to hoodwink him again. Many instances of a similar nature occurred, always resulting in some substantial gain to the exchequer or the cellar of the Smiths, but this one must suffice as an illustration of them all. --

Soon other stories of a more mysterious and uncanny nature still began to be put in circulation, the most notable of which was the following: They pretended that "while digging for money at Morman [sic] Hill they came across a chest, three by two feet in size, covered with a dark colored stone. In the center of the stone was a white spot about the size of a six-pence. Enlarging, the spot increased to the size of a twenty-four pound shot, and then exploded with a terrible noise. The chest vanished and all was utter darkness." This palpable fraud was whispered in the ears of the credulous, with what design cannot be told, but that they had some sinister object in view cannot be reasonably doubted. Among the other methods which the Smith family employed to "keep the wolf from the door," was that of manufacturing and selling oil cloths. This work was principally performed by Mrs. Smith. She wove the threads and painted the cloths herself, and when a sufficient stock was found to be on hand, it was her custom to start out herself and hawk her wares from door to door. This afforded a good opportunity for the dissemination of her doctrines and she improved it. It was while she was thus engaged that she commenced to prophesy the advent of a new religion of which her son was to be the prophet. By this means, a sense of expectation for the coming of some great event, was diffused thro the community, and so when it was announced that Joseph had actually found the massive golden tablets, there were some whose credulity led them to believe that the story was a truthful one, because it had been predicted, while still another class who had doubted the prophecy, began to have faith in it because of the seeming confirmation of it which was made by the discovery of the tablets. But by far the major portion of the community had sense enough to see that neither the prophecy nor the event had any proof of their verity, except what came from the Smiths, and to see that if their statements were to be unquestionably accepted as the truth, it was easy enough to manufacture any pretended event, to confirm the prophecies which had fell from their lips. While these mysterious hints were being circulated thro the community, the conspirators had excavated for their own use a hole in the ground. This was nothing more nor less than an artificial cave which they had dug in a side hill now owned by the Chauncey Miner heirs. This hill may be found at any time on lot 77 of the original survey, to the south of the highway running from the Palmyra Plank road to the residence of Mark Johnson. It is situated about equi-distance between the terminii of the road and faces to the north. The entrance to this cave was guarded by an iron-plated door. The cave itself was about sixty feet in length and ten feet high. From the door for a distance of forty feet, there was a hall fifteen feet wide which led to the chamber beyond. This chamber or audience room was twenty feet square, and was furnished with one rude table and half a dozen uncouth stools. It was here that the secret meetings of the plotters were held up to the time they commenced holding public meetings for the purpose of making converts. In this small recess, secure from any interference by skeptical persons, by the flaring light of a tallow candle, was the plan of operations fully discussed and decided upon. It is stated that Darius Pierce, one of the sons of Nathan, at the head of a party of his associates surprised the parties when they were assembled together in one of their nocturnal consultations and that a lively time ensued. And now the fulness of time had come, "all things had conspired together for good," and the incipient fraud was on the eve of its consummation. --

One morning as the settlers went to their daily work a strange rumor was passed from mouth to mouth that the night before, the Smiths in one of their midnight expeditions had commenced digging on the north-western spur of Mormon Hill, and had been rewarded by the discovery of several heavy golden tablets, which were covered with hieroglyphics. The rumor spread from house to house, but dilligent inquiry failed to discover any evidence beyond that of the Smiths themselves, which would serve in the least to verify the statement. But the seed had been implanted in the minds of the credulous, and for a brief time was left to grow of its own volition. Other rumors soon began to circulate, to the effect that Joseph, the prophet, was engaged in a translation of his discovered record of antiquity, which was soon to be printed in common English and submitted to the inspection of an unregenerated world.

VERITAS.         


Source: Charles W. Brown, "Manchester in the Early Days," Ontario County Times, Canandaigua, New York, Wednesday, June 23, 1875

This Broome Republican article communicated one of the few early reports on the artificial cave dug by Joseph Smith and his followers in "Miner's Hill." See the Auburn News & Democrat of Oct. 7, 1886 for a near-contemporary description reprinted from the Chicago Times. 

Reporter describing a personal visit and relating oral history:

About two miles south of the village of Palmyra...[lies] the location of "The Prophet's Cave." I was present on one of these occasions, a few years ago, and visited the place to find only such remams as forty years of time could not obliterate. The entrance was wholly closed by the yielding earth, which year after year has been dropping into it and hiding its inner walls from the prying eye of the hunter of curious relics of the past. It was here that Joe Smith pretended to interpret the golden plates of Camorah. Here he sat behind the screen and announced to Oliver Cowdrey, the village schoolmaster and scribe of the prophet, the translated word which was to be the scriptural guide of the church of Latter Day Saints, This cave was said to have been large enough to contain thirty persons, that it was strongly guarded by a plank door, three inches thick and provided with [locks]and bars within.

Broome Republican, Binghampton, N. Y., Wed., February 2, 1876
Notes / Commentary

The author ("Gilgal"?) reports having visited the cave, and introduces the idea that sheep sacrifice may have been an activity that took place in the cave.  Later sources corroborate the existance of sheep or mutton in the cave.

Long-form Source Text

JOE  SMITH. Some New Facts Respecting the Early Life of the Mormon Prophet in Western New York

An Interesting Letter from "Gilgal." 

About two miles south of the village of Palmyra, [on] the way [from] the direct road leading to Canandaigua, stands a [plain] [old-fashioned] farm house. To one side is a larg gate opening [upon] a lane which runs back over the farm to a piece of timber, or piece of woodland. Its eastern portion spreads over a broad level, covered with large trees, and here, beneath the thick-topped maples and beeches, the children of the Sabbath and other schools often congregate on summer afternoons, to feast on pic-nic pantry, play in games of childish fancy, or oscillate back and forth in the great swings suspended from the branches of the trees. The western portion of this wood reaches over a high hill or ridge running north and south, and the little voices are often heard calling attention to a mound of earth, overgrown with young trees, as the location of "The Prophet's Cave." I was present on one of these occasions, a few years ago, and visited the place to find only such remams as forty years of time could not obliterate. The entrance was wholly closed by the yielding earth, which year after year has been dropping into it and hiding its inner walls from the prying eye of the hunter of curious relics of the past. It was here that Joe Smith pretended to interpret the golden plates of Camorah. Here he sat behind the screen and announced to Oliver Cowdrey, the village schoolmaster and scribe of the prophet, the translated word which was to be the scriptural guide of the church of Latter Day Saints, This cave was said to have been large enough to contain thirty persons, that it was strongly guarded by a plank door, three inches thick and provided with [locks]and bars within. However, the story can hardly be true judging from the outward appearances as now seen. It was here that Joe used to slay the fat lambs of Calvin Stoddard's flock of sheep, and offer them to the Lord, as Calvin supposed, for he was one of the early converts to Joe's church and believed in the prophet to the letter, but somehow it always happened that Joe failed to get a communication with the Lord if any body was present, and when they were all gone, the father of the prophet would come down over the hill, shoulder be sheep, calf or pig -- It made but little difference which -- and carry it home, where it was offered up to the hungry mouths of the Smith family each day, as long as it lasted. This was one of the secret motives that compelled Joe to be a dutiful son to his parents, and at the same time demanded a corresponding amount of consideration from them. 

The hill Camorah, where Joe unearthed with his money-digging spade the plates of Nephi, rolled them up in a while napkin and carried them home, is located about two miles south of "cave hill," on the same road, that somewhat resembles the former, only that it is much larger. Though this hill has been searched many times, there has never been found any signs of the digging which Joe claimed to have done, and this partly corroborates the story he used to tell, how that having gained possession of the plates of the " first dispensation," he stepped upon a rock, and, holding the napkin above his head, commanded the obliteration of the mark be bad made, and immediately the soil was smoothed over and there rose above it an immense growth of fire-weed. At this time Joe had become possessed the power of prophecy, and had received a revelation to the effect that the first revelation was to him; that during some subsequent period, another revelation would be made, and that it would be dug from the same place in this hill, and in similar form as the first. A few years ago a prominent elder of the church from Salt Lake, stopped here and visited this hill, and while conversing with some of the citizens of this village, advanced the same theory, showing that it had become a fixed belief among the faithful adherents of Mormonism. 

Thougth it may be said of Joe Smith that he possesed a more than ordinary amount of native sagecity, he was nevertheless liable to make mistakes, just the same as common mortals do, as was shown when he used to work in haying, and harvest, among the farmers. This he sometimes, did, in order to replenish his scanty wardrobe, before he became a prophet though he never gained the reputation of being other than a shiftless fellow 


Source: Broome Republican, Binghampton, N. Y., Wed., February 2, 1876

Brigham Young was a close associate of Joseph Smith, and learned much about Mormonism's beginnings directly from him.  However, he was not involved in any activities with Joseph Smith until the 1830s, and at one point noted that he heard about the cave from Heber C. Kimball.

Brigham Young speaking about the experiences of Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, Don Carlos, Samuel, Hyrum:

...they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words:

"This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ."

Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 17 June 1877
Notes / Commentary

This remains the most widely circulated and well-known reference to cave in Cumorah.  The reference to sword appears as early as 1855.

Long-form Source Text

Trying to Be Saints—Treasures of the Everlasting Hills—The Hill Cumorah—Obedience to True Principle the Key to Knowledge—All Enjoyment Comes From God—Organization—Duties of Officers—Final Results Brigham Young

I esteem it a privilege to meet with the Latter-day Saints. I have visited Farmington many times, and I can say that, as a general thing in attending your meetings, I have felt much of the peace and blessings that flow from heaven to this people.

I have no doubt that the majority of the people called Latter-day Saints desire really to be Saints; were it not for this I might feel partially discouraged. The people who are honest, who are seeking to know and to understand the truth, they are the ones who, so far as their faith and good works, and their influence and ability are concerned, sustain the kingdom that God has commenced to establish on the earth. When we consider the condition of the Latter-day Saints, and see how many there are who seem to have their eyes fixed upon the things of this world, things that are not lasting, but that perish in the handling, and how anxious they are to obtain them, how do you think I feel about it? We see many of the Elders of Israel desirous of  becoming wealthy, and they adopt any course that they think will bring them riches, which to me is as unwise as anything can be—to see men of wisdom, men that seem to have an understanding of the world and of the things of God, searching after minerals throughout these mountains; they traverse the hills, and they dig here and there, and keep digging and picking, and rolling the rocks from morning till night. This chain of mountains has been followed from the north to the south, and its various spurs have been prospected, and what do they find? Just enough to allure them, and to finally lead them from the faith, and at last to make them miserable and poor. Ask the brethren why they do this, and the ready reply will be, "Is it not my privilege to find a gold mine, or a silver mine, as well as others?" As far as I am concerned I would say, "Yes, certainly it is your privilege, if you can find one." But do you know how to find such a mine? No, you do not. These treasures that are in the earth are carefully watched, they can be removed from place to place according to the good pleasure of Him who made them and owns them. He has his messengers at his service, and it is just as easy for an angel to remove the minerals from any part of one of these mountains to another, as it is for you and me to walk up and down this hall. This, however, is not understood by the Christian world, nor by us as a people. There are certain circumstances that a number of my brethren and sisters have heard me relate, that will demonstrate this so positively, that none need doubt the truth of what I say.

I presume there are some present who have heard me narrate a circumstance with regard to the discovery of a gold mine in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and I will here say that the specimens taken from it, which I have in my possession today, are as fine specimens of gold as ever were found on this continent. A man whom some of you will well know, brought to me a most beautiful nugget. I told him to let the mine alone.

When General Conner came here, he did considerable prospecting; and in hunting through the Cottonwoods, he had an inkling that there was gold there. Porter, as we generally call him, came to me one day, saying, "They have struck within four inches of my lode, what shall I do?" He was carried away with the idea that he must do something. I therefore told him to go with the other brethren interested, and make his claim. When he got through talking, I said to him, "Porter, you ought to know better; you have seen and heard things which I have not, and are a man of long experience in this Church. I want to tell you one thing; they  may strike within four inches of that lode as many times as they have a mind to, and they will not find it." They hunted and hunted, hundreds of them did; and I had the pleasure of laughing at him a little, for when he went there again, he could not find it himself. (Laughter.)

Sometimes I take the liberty of talking a little further with regard to such things. Orin P. Rockwell is an eyewitness to some powers of removing the treasures of the earth. He was with certain parties that lived nearby where the plates were found that contain the records of the Book of Mormon. There were a great many treasures hid up by the Nephites. Porter was with them one night where there were treasures, and they could find them easy enough, but they could not obtain them.

I will tell you a story which will be marvelous to most of you. It was told me by Porter, whom I would believe just as quickly as any man that lives. When he tells a thing he understands, he will tell it just as he knows it; he is a man that does not lie. He said that on this night, when they were engaged hunting for this old treasure, they dug around the end of a chest for some twenty inches. The chest was about three feet square. One man who was determined to have the contents of that chest, took his pick and struck into the lid of it, and split through into the chest. The blow took off a piece of the lid, which a certain lady kept in her possession until she died. That chest of money went into the bank. Porter describes it so [making a rumbling sound]; he says this is just as true as the heavens are. I have heard others tell the same story. I relate this because it is marvelous to you. But to those who understand these things, it is not marvelous.

You hear a great deal said about finding money. There is no difficulty at all in finding money, but there are a great many people who do not know what to do with it when they do find it. This is the great defect with the human family. I could relate many very singular circumstances. I lived right in the country where the plates were found from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and I know a great many things pertaining to that country. I believe I will take the liberty to tell you of another circumstance that will be as marvelous as anything can be. This is an incident in the life of Oliver Cowdery, but he did not take the liberty of telling such things in meeting as I take. I tell these things to you, and I have a motive for doing so. I want to carry them to the ears of my brethren and sisters, and to the children also, that they may grow to an understanding of some things that seem to be entirely hidden from the human family. Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates. Joseph did not translate all of the plates; there was a portion of them sealed, which you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it  was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: "This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ." I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering some things. So is it with other circumstances in life. I relate this to you, and I want you to understand it. I take this liberty of referring to those things so that they will not be forgotten and lost. Carlos Smith was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and he was a witness to these things. Samuel Smith saw some things, Hyrum saw a good many things, but Joseph was the leader.

Now, you may think I am unwise in publicly telling these things, thinking perhaps I should preserve them in my own breast; but such is not my mind. I would like the people called Latter-day Saints to understand some little things with regard to the workings and dealings of the Lord with his people here upon the earth. I could relate to you a great many more, all of which are familiar to many of our brethren and sisters.

Now, should you go prospecting for gold or silver, you will find just enough to allure you and to destroy you. But it might be said, "Are not the earth and the treasures the property of the Lord who created them, and will he not, according to the promise, give them to his faithful disciples?" O yes, this is strictly correct; but you mark this—the man who is faithful to his calling and to this holy Priesthood, never goes hunting for gold or silver unless he is sent. Such men are found following their legitimate pursuits, working in their fields, in their workshops and gardens, making beautiful their habitations; in other words, engaged building up and assisting to establish the Zion of God on the earth, with their minds centered on the true riches and not upon the things of this world. People do not know it, but I know there is a seal set upon the treasures of earth; men are allowed to go so far and no farther. I have known places where there were treasures in abundance; but could men get them? No. You can read in the Book of Mormon of the ancient Nephites holding their treasures, and of their becoming slippery; so that after they had privately hid their money, on going to the place again, lo and behold it was not there, but was somewhere else, but they knew not where. The people do not understand this; I wish they did, for they would then do as I do, pay attention to the legitimate business that God has given them to perform. Do I run after mines or digging holes in the ground? No, not at all. It is like the will-o'-the wisp, a jack-o'-lantern. You ask our businessmen, or go to California, and inquire there whether it pays to hunt for gold.  I will venture to say there never was a dollar taken from the mountains of California, neither from these mountains west, nor from out of this Territory, but what cost from ten to one hundred dollars. Do you believe that? It is said a great deal of money has been made here and there. Who has made it? Considerable lead has been taken from here, and a little silver; but when you count the time that has been spent, and after putting a fair valuation upon it, you will find what I say to be a fact, to say nothing of the lives and property that are lost. A little town directly west of here, some fifteen months ago, contained a certain number of men, who followed mining. We calculated their time at the rate of what was paid for common labor; and then we ascertained the amount realized from the treasure taken out of the earth, which was well known; and it was shown that they spent in the neighborhood of seven hundred dollars a day, and got in return about thirty. What they did get was just sufficient to allure them.

The Lord has permitted our enemies to come among us, who would destroy us if they could. They are only allowed to allure the minds of the foolish and those who lack judgment and who know not the things of God. But when we, as individuals and as a people, learn things as they are, we will find this fact—all truth is worthy and worth possessing, while all untruth is not worthy nor worth running after, nor working for, nor spending our lives for. The Gospel of life and salvation which God has revealed to us, incorporates all the systems there are. Every true principle and every true science, and every truth there is, are incorporated within the faith of the Latter-day Saints. This is something worth possessing, this is worth spending our time for; but the religions of the day, independent of their moral worth, are nothing but a myth, a shadow; there is no reality in them. But when you come to the philosophy of the religion of heaven, you have facts in your possession that are worth having, they are worthy the admiration of the wise, the prudent, the noble, the great and those that seek after the wisdom that comes from God, and the Latter-day Saints are in possession of this treasure! What are we doing? If we were the people of God, as we profess to be, there would not be a dissenting voice in all Israel in obeying the Priesthood. It was observed this morning by brother Cannon with regard to yielding obedience, that we were called upon to yield obedience because it was a command of God, and our faith demands obedience. To what? Why? Wherefore? Obedience to every principle of truth. What for? So that we may become possessors of all truth. Why should we do it? Because it gives us health, it gives us wealth, it gives us knowledge, it gives us power, it gives us beauty, it gives us excellency, it gives us treasures on the earth and treasures in heaven, it gives us a knowledge of God and of the love of God, it gives us fellowship with the Saints that are sanctified and glorified, and it gives us all things that will promote happiness and peace. These are the reasons why we do it. Should you take the other road, what do you get? Nothing. When persons turn away from the Gospel of the Son of God, what do they turn to? Nothing. And what do they turn from hereafter? All things worth possessing, everything that men  and the Gods can possess in time and in eternity. Take the other road, and you get a shadow for the time being, and you may think you have the substance, but sooner or later you are left as a feather floating in the air, or worse than a ship upon the ocean, without compass or rudder, deprived of the light of the sun, the moon and the stars, tossed hither and thither until it sinks to rise no more. In order to yield obedience to the truth, you must love the truth and have the fear of God in your hearts. All who feel the true spirit of this latter-day work delight in the truth, they delight to hear the truth, and they delight to obey the truth; it is their delight to know the mind and will of God, that they may render obedience to it. This is the experience of every faithful man and woman in this Church. But take the experience of the apostates, and the experience of those who have risen up in opposition to the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Gospel brought forth and contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants and in the Book of Mormon, and the revelations that he was the honored instrument in the hands of God of revealing to the people; those that rise up in opposition to this, who are they and what is their end? You will hear one fact from them—"Brother——, have you enjoyed yourself since resigning 'Mormonism?' Now speak the truth. Come, tell us just as it is. Have you experienced joy and happiness since leaving the kingdom of God? Come, now, don't lie!" Brother——answers, "I have not enjoyed one day's peace since I left the Church." This is the declaration of the apostates today, when they tell the truth about it. Look at their countenances—is there happiness depicted there? No, it is sorrow; they choose error instead of truth, they love darkness rather than light, and the end thereof, to use Scripture language, is death. The sorrow thereof they feel every day, for man's spirit is operated upon continually. We are as independent in our organization as the Gods are, but still we are creatures of circumstances, influenced by the spirits and by the powers of eternity that are here and round about us. We are here and are operated upon by them in our organizations. This is the place where every man commences to acquire the germ of the independence that is enjoyed in the heavens. These influences, in comparison, are like the cooling breezes from the mountains that are so grateful to us, that revive and refresh us, that give us life. But on the other hand, here comes the miasma from the swamp, bringing disease and death, and without knowing we inhale the poisonous air, we become conscious of weakness, we feel that we are taking fever, that we are getting sick—we become a prey to the enemy, and death ensues. That is the difference between the two influences that operate continually on mankind. It is either enjoyment or suffering. All are subject to these elements in which we live. Here is the good operating, all the time telling men and women, before passing the ordeals of redemption, that they must repent, that then the light of Christ will be upon them from time to time, to operate upon their minds, teaching them—you are doing wrong, you are saying that which is not right, you have renounced the Book of Mormon, you have renounced the Doctrine and Covenants, you have re nounced Joseph, your endowments, or Celestial Law. When they reveal the truth of their hearts, they will say, as Lyman E. Johnson said, at one of our Quorum meetings, after he had apostatized and tried to put Joseph out of the way. Lyman told the truth. He said, "Brethren—I will call you brethren—I will tell you the truth. If I could believe 'Mormonism'—it is no matter whether it is true or not—but if I could believe 'Mormonism' as I did when I traveled with you and preached, if I possessed the world I would give it. I would give anything, I would suffer my right hand to be cut off, if I could believe it again. Then I was full of joy and gladness. My dreams were pleasant. When I awoke in the morning my spirit was cheerful. I was happy by day and by night, full of peace and joy and thanksgiving. But now it is darkness, pain, sorrow, misery in the extreme. I have never since seen a happy moment."

Lyman E. Johnson belonged to the Quorum of the Twelve; he was the first man called when the Twelve were called; his name was first, Brigham Young's second, and Heber C. Kimball's third. The testimony that he gave of his bitter experience is the testimony that every apostate would give if they would tell the truth. But will they acknowledge it? No, because they do not want to tell the truth.

There is no enjoyment, no happiness, no comfort, there is no light to my path, for me there is no real pleasure or delight only in the observance of truth as it comes from God, obeying it in every sense of the word, and marching forward as a good faithful soldier in the discharge of every duty. The man or the woman—perhaps you may think it presumptuous in me, but I will pro mise you that what I am going to say is the truth—who has embraced what is called "Mormonism," but which is nothing more or less than the Everlasting Gospel of the Son of God, who when counseled by men of God holding the eternal Priesthood to do thus and so, and who will indulge in a spirit that will prompt him to say, "O yes, I think I will use my own judgment. I think I have discretion as well as you, and I will take my own course. I can attend to my own business as well and perhaps a little better than anyone else, and therefore I don't need anyone to advise me." I say the man or the woman that will do so, thereby taking to himself or to herself strength and wisdom to counsel themselves, unless they repent, turn round and do better, they will go into darkness, and sooner or later each person or persons will apostatize and go to destruction. Do you believe it? It is just as true as the sun that shines. Is it hard to believe? No, it is the easiest thing in the world to believe the truth. It is a great deal easier to believe truth than error. It is easier to defend the truth than to defend error. It is necessary that the religions and creeds of the Christian world be defended by the most able and learned students, in order to make them popular and to appear as true. But after these Christian students have been through academies and colleges; and the most famed seminaries in the world, and after they have studied and studied, spending a lifetime in the acquisition of a theological education, it takes but one of our boys, with the aid of the Bible and the little Catechism, to wind them up as you would an old clock. This has been the experience of many of our boys, and when they started out from their homes to preach the Gospel,  they did not know that they could say anything at all about its principles; but when they have come in contact with those who have professed much and who have undertaken to disprove the Gospel as taught by the Latter-day Saints, their minds have become enlightened and passages of Scripture have come to them and they have discomfited their opponents, so that they have had nothing to say. I have done so many times myself, and that too with a few words; and the conversation would be turned to something else. With all their study and learning, and with all the philosophy and science there is brought to the aid of false theories, how easy it is to believe the truth! It is much easier than to disbelieve it. Truth commends itself to every honest person, it matters not how simply it is told, and when it is received it seems as though we had been acquainted with it all our lives. It is the testimony of the majority of the Latter-day Saints that when they first heard the Gospel preached, as contained in the Bible and Doctrine and Covenants, although entirely new to them, it seemed as though they already understood it, and that they must have been "Mormons" from the beginning.

Well, before I sit down I will present to the congregation the names of three of our brethren whom I shall recommend to form the presidency of this Stake of Zion, which will comprise Davis County, and the name of which will probably be Farmington Stake of Zion. (Here Pres. Young proposed the names of Wm. R. Smith of Centerville as President, and Christopher Layton of Kaysville as his first and Anson Call of Bountiful as his second Counselors). I know some of you wish it otherwise, or that someone else was chosen for President; but as we cannot suit everybody's desire in a matter of this kind, we have to center on one, and I have felt to suggest the name of brother Smith. (Each name was put separately, and each vote was unanimous).

Before presenting the names of brethren to compose the High Council, which would be in order to do, I propose for President of the High Priests' Quorum the name of Thomas S. Smith, who was once Bishop of this place. (Brother Smith was unanimously sustained; and brothers Thomas Steele and Job Welling were elected as his Counselors, without a single dissenting vote. The names of the brethren to act as members of the High Council were also presented and sustained in a similar manner).

The Wards will be organized hereafter; Bishops will be placed over them, with their two Counselors, all of whom will be ordained High Priests, if not already so ordained, and then be set apart to act in their several offices. They then will form a court; and then all the other quorums of Priesthood will be set in order. For what? Paul says, "For the perfecting of the Saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." But whether this will be the result here I do not know. All I know is that it should be so, and if everyone does his duty and lives his religion, it will be so. (The brethren chosen and elected to fill the several offices herein named, were then set apart to act therein. The President then continued—)

Just a few words to the Presidency of this Stake of Zion. It is now their duty to see that the officers within their jurisdiction perform their several duties, it is sufficient work for them too if they will attend to it. The High Council I hope will not have much business to do. I am  told that there have only been three cases during the last twenty-three years, that have gone for trial before the High Council from Farmington. That is doing very well. To the now acting Bishops, who will be ordained Bishops, as well as to brother Hess, who I believe is the only ordained Bishop in the county, I will say that you will now be required to look after your several Wards more assiduously than heretofore; see that Teachers are diligent in the performance of their duties, and that all difficulties that may arise among the brethren of the Ward be settled, if possible, by the Teachers; and also see that all who claim membership in this Church observe the moral law of our religion. We shall not expect to hear of people breaking the Sabbath, and a hundred other things all of which are inconsistent with our holy callings, and opposed to the accomplishment of the work that the Father has given us to do. You are called upon now to make yourselves familiar with the revelations and commandments that have been given us of the Lord for our perfection, for our sanctification preparatory to our exaltation, and so live that our acts and conversations may conform to the same. We expect to see a radical change, a reformation, in the midst of this people, so that, when the proper authorities shall call upon you to do thus and so, everyone may be found willing and ready to respond, placing himself, with all he commands, for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God. This is in accordance with a revelation given to this Church before the law of Tithing was revealed; but in consequence of unbelief and imperfection on the part of the people it was not observed, and hence a law more adapted to their condition was given, namely, that of Tithing. You are called upon now to improve your ways, to seek with all earnestness for an increase of faith that you may live according to the higher laws, which is your privilege to do, and which is so necessary for our peace and comfort and for the good order of society and for the salvation of the Latter-day Saints. We shall look for this change, and I do not think we shall be disappointed; if at all, I believe it will prove a happy disappointment to all Israel, because of the great reformation that will be effected among the Latter-day Saints.

Brethren and sisters, we feel to bless you, we are blessing you all the time, and God is blessing you. See how he has tempered the elements; how he has held our enemies in check, and delivered us out of their grasp and power; how he has prospered us when we have confined our attention to our legitimate business; and I can say with all propriety that, if we had strictly followed the counsels that have been given from the commencement until today, instead of being in such poverty, as we are in one sense, we would be a self-sustaining, independent people, commanding millions just as easy as we now command thousands. But how unwise, how foolish some of our brethren are! I am ashamed of them, and their condition is deplorable. Instead of beautifying their homes and improving their farms, and helping to reclaim the community and build up the Zion of the latter days, they have done—what? Dug holes in the ground? and, I do not know how it is with you, but go to Salt Lake City, and you will find men whose experience and judgment should have taught them better reaping the results of their folly—their houses and lots mortgaged, their farm, also many are in this condition, and most of them will lose their property. They  wanted a little more money, they allowed themselves to be allured and they lose all. I myself was the means of making several brethren by employing them, letting them have business to attend to until they became wealthy; and now they are in poverty. Whereas, if they had taken my counsel they could have added to their wealth and been in good comfortable circumstances today, success and prosperity would have attended them, peace and blessing would have been their portion, and they in turn would have been in a position to bless others of their brethren. This I say, with all confidence and assurance; but no, selfishness and covetousness blinded them, they wanted more and they coveted that which was not their own; and if they have not already sensed it, I can tell them that weeping, mourning and lamentation will overtake them, and this they bring upon themselves.

Let us take the course pointed out and we will avoid trouble; if we pay attention to our calling we will be blessed abundantly, both temporally and spiritually; and when it shall be said to the people, Let us do this or that, it will be done. We require nothing more of the people than the Lord requires of us. And what is that? It is this, "Son, give me thine heart." Let us truly and in reality be servants of God, holding ourselves with all we have subject to the will of God, to be used, if necessary, for the building up of his kingdom on the earth. This is what the Lord requires, this is what the Priesthood require, and is the course I endeavor to pursue.

I say God bless you; I bless you. I say peace be with you. Brethren, one and all, be faithful, be diligent. We have all plenty to do; it remains for us to live so that by the light of the Holy Spirit, we can see the work before us. Do not let our minds run after gold and silver, nor upon houses and lands; what the Lord gives us take the very best care of, putting the same to a wise and proper use, or our hearts cannot be for the kingdom.

Never have I seen to so great an extent that willingness to labor for the cause of righteousness, as was witnessed in the Temple, at St. George, last winter. The Spirit of God pervaded the hearts of the brethren and sisters, and how willing they were to labor! This work will continue, and the brethren and sisters will go into the Temples of the Lord, to officiate for those who have died without the Gospel from the days of Father Adam to the winding-up scene, until every one is officiated for; who can or will receive the Gospel so that all may  have the opportunity and privileges of life and salvation.

Don't you think we have a work to perform? Yes, and it will take a thousand years to accomplish it. In the Temple last winter the brethren and sisters enjoyed themselves the best that they ever did in their lives. So they said. And our children, just old enough to work, how happy they were! They would exclaim, "I never knew anything about 'Mormonism' before!" If you were in the Temples of God working for the living and the dead, your eyes and hearts would not be after the fashions of the world, nor the wealth of the world. Yet the whole of this world's wealth belongs to the Lord, and he can give to whomsoever he pleases. Amen.

- Brigham Young


Source: Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 17 June 1877

Facsimile

Edward Stevenson was a prominent Mormon missionary of the 19th century. He also served as a general authority in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as one of the seven presidents of the Seventy.

Edward Stevenson quoting David Whitmer quoting Oliver Cowdery quoting Joseph Smith:

It was likewise stated to me by David Whitmer in the year 1877 that Oliver Cowdery told him that the Prophet Joseph and himself had seen this room and that it was filled with treasure, and on a table therein were the breastplate and the sword of Laban, as well as the portion of gold plates not yet translated, and that these plates were bound by three small gold rings, and would also be translated, as was the first portion in the days of Joseph. When they are translated much useful information will be brought to light. But till that day arrives, no Rochester adventurers shall ever see them or the treasures, although science and mineral rods testify that they are there.

Edward Stevenson, Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet, 1877
Notes / Commentary

Stevenson's source was David Whitmer, who mentioned the cave in an interview only a year later.

David Whitmer was a close associate of Joseph Smith and a personal witness of the gold plates and angel.  He was involved in many of the events of early Mormonism during the 1820s, and had primary knowledge of many aspects of Joseph Smith's activities.

P. Wilhelm Poulson was a reporter who submitted his work to the Deseret News.  He interviewed David Whitmer along with several other witnesses of the gold plates.

P. Wilhelm Poulson interviewing David Whitmer on his personal knowledge about the plates:

[Poulson]: Where are the plates now?

[Whitmer]: In a cave, where the angel has hidden them up till the time arrives when the plates, which are sealed, shall be translated. God will yet raise up a mighty one, who shall do his work till it is finished and Jesus comes again.

[Poulson]: Where is that cave?

[Whitmer]: In the State of New York

[Poulson]: In the Hill of Comorah?

[Whitmer]: No, but not far away from that place.

David Whitmer, Deseret Evening News, 16 August 1878
Notes / Commentary

By William Dame's 1855 account, David Whitmer himself visited the cave with Joseph Smith and others.  If true, this statement by David Whitmer is the only primary source by someone who had direct involvement with Joseph Smith during the 1920s. Although, according to the 1877 Edward Stevenson account, David Whitmer may only have learned about the cave from Oliver Cowdery, rather than from personal experience.

This source is also signficant because it ties together the religious accounts of the cave (the angel, the plates) with the local descriptions of Miner's Hill cave (in New York, not Cumorah, but not far away.)

Long-form Source Text

CORRESPONDENCE. Interview with David Whitmer. 

We publish the following, the chief portions of a letter received from Dr. Poulson containing particulars of an interview with David Whitmer. We cannot afford space for the whole of the communication but give those portions which are likely to prove interesting to our readers, without being responsible for any of the statements made therein: 

OGDEN CITY, August 13, 1878.    

Editors Deseret News: 

Several persons have inquired of me about David Whitmer, especially since the publication in the NEWS of the letter about the late John Whitmer. If the DESERET NEWS will give the space in its columns it will afford me pleasure to write what I know about him from my visit to Richmond, Mo., and also my personal conversation with him. 

He is now 73 years old but is a wonderfully well-preserved nan, tall and erect as a pinr, well proportioned, with a military bearing, Roman nose and dark eyes full of fire and expression. His forehead nearly bald, but well balanced. 

In company with a son and grandson, Mr. Whitmer keeps a livery and feed stable at Richmond, Mo., the old grandfather is principally relieved from business, but he makes his regular trips down to the stables, and to the minute as in olden time. David Whitmer's sister was married to Oliver Cowdery, whose remains rest in the graveyard at Richmond, and who practised law in that town from 1828 to 1849, when he died in full faith and bore testimony about his visions.On his death-bed he requested to be buried without any display or large attendance, and he wanted no gravestone to be erected over his ashes. David Whitmer said that his brother-in-law was, in many respects, a peculiar man. David's brother, Jacob Whitmer, one of the witnesses, lived and died in Richmond, and his grave is only a shirt distance from Cowdery's. On Jacob's grave is erected a fine marble stone. On the top of the stone appears his name and next we discover the cut of the Book of Mormon laid open, with a blooming rose resting on the divide, and the book resting on the closed up Bible. Jacob Whitmer died April 21, 1856, aged 56 years, 2 months and 26 days. 

After a self introduction to David Whitmer and some general conversation, I remarked to him: 

I—You are one of the three witnesses? 

He—I am one of them. 

I—And you saw the angel, and he showed you the plates? 

He—The Book of Mormon is true, as true as any record can be, I saw the angel, and I saw the sword of Laban, and the breast-plate, and the Urim and Thummin [sic], and the plates, and the director, and the angel stood before us, and he turned the leaves one by one. 

I—Did the angel turn all the leaves before you as you looked on it? 

He—No, not all, only that part of the book which was not sealed, and what there was sealed appeared as solid to my view as wood. 

I—How many of the plates were sealed? 

He—About half of the book was sealed. Those leaves which were not sealed, about the half of the first part of the book, were numerous, and the angel turned them over before our eyes. There is yet to be given a translation about Jared's people's doings and of Nephi, and many other records and books, which all has to be done, when the time comes. 

I—How large were the plates? 

He—About eight inches wide and six or seven inches long, as they appeared a little wider than long, and three rings kept the plates together; one above, one in the middle, and one below, so the angel could turn every leaf entirely over. The thickness was about of a common sheet of tin used by tinsmiths. 

I—How did the engravings look? 

He—They were characters. We copied some, and if you visit my brother John, one of the eight witnesses, who wrote for Joseph, John can show you some of the old manuscript which he borrowed from me. I must have it returned to me again, as it belongs to the Church, in connection with other records. 

I—Martin Harris, who died lately, in Smithfield, Utah, gave a testimony in Salt Lake City Tabernacle that he saw the plates by faith and power of God. 

He—Martin Harris is correct. He was not by us at all when we first saw the angel. Firstr when we told him what we had seen, and were the second time in prayer all together, and when the angel appeared for a second time, we saw Martin Harris by us, and he saw, and we saw it, and our testimony, which we give to the world, is true exactly as you read it, we saw by the gift and power of God. As we were praying the angel stood before us in his glory, and all things were before us, as they were laid before us on a table, and we heard the testimony about the plates, and we were commanded to bear that testimony to the world, and our testimony is true. And when the angel had finished his words, and shown us the plates, one by one, which were to be translated, then the vision was closed at once, and exactly as it came even so did the sight disappear. 

I—But these things which you saw were material things, how could they come and vanish away again? 

He—It is the power of God. He does those things, and his angels know how to do it. It was wonderful to us, but it was by the power of God. He had appointed his angels to be the guardians of the plates and the other things, and the angel knew how it was done. 

I—Did the eight witnesses not handle the plates as a material substance? 

He—We did not, but they did, because of the faith of Joseph became so great that the angel, the guardian of the plates, gave the plates up to Joseph for a time, that those eight witnesses could see and handle them. 

I—Did not Joseph, at an earlier period, have the full possession of those plates? 

He—Yes, he did so in the commencement, but the persecution grew so hot that the angel took possession of the records, and showed those things, as he did, to Cowdery, Harris and me, and in the presence of Joseph, and afterwards he was allowed to show the plates to the eight witnesses. 

I—Where are the plates now? 

He—In a cave, where the angel has hidden them up till the time arrives when the plates, which are sealed, shall be translated. God will yet raise up a mighty one, who shall do his work till it is finished and Jesus comes again. 

I—Where is that cave? 

He—In the state of New York. 

I—In the Hill Cumorah? 

He—No, but not far from that place. I saw the place where the plates were found, and a great many did so, and it awakened an excitement at the time, because the worst enemies of "Mormonism" stirred up the confusion by telling about the plates which Joseph found, and the "gold bible" which he was in possession of, so he was in constant danger of being robbed and killed. 

I—How did the place look? 

He—It was a stone box, and the stones looked to me as if they were cemented together. That was on the side of the hill, and a little down from the top. 

I—How did you know Joseph to be at that time? 

He—He was a very humble and meek man, and very simple minded indeed. He did the will of the Lord, and an arduous task it was to translate the Book of Mormon. 

I—Did Joseph use the Urim and Thummim when he translated? 

He—The Urim and Thummim were two white stones, each of them cased in as spectacles are, in a kind of silver casing, but the bow between the stones was more heavy, and longer apart between the stones, than we usually find in spectacles. Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, Emma and my brother John each at different times wrote for Joseph as he translated. 

I—When will the temple be built at Independence? 

He—Right after the great tribulation is over. 

I—What do you mean by that? 

He—A civil war more bloody and cruel than the rebellion. It will be a smashing up of this nation, about which time the second great work has to be done, a work like Joseph did, and the translation of the sealed plates, and peace all over. 

I—Will you live and see those things? 

He—It was said to us, that the second great work should commence when nearly all the witnesses to the first plates had passed away, so I may live and see those things take place. 

I—You are in good health? 

He—I am very well indeed for my age. I am not troubled with anything except a little rheumatism or what it is in my hips. I was thrown from a buggy, and feel ever since some weakness over my hips. 

This conversation was mostly written down word for word half an hour after the interview with David Whitmer, Esq., and I send it that the public may form a better idea about this truly remarkable man.  Yours truly,

P. WILHELM POULSON, M.[D].


Source: David Whitmer, Deseret Evening News, 16 August 1878

Facsimile

Abel Chase was a neighbor of the Smiths in Palmyra, and the brother of Willard Chase, on whose propety the seer stone was found.

Elder William Kelley was the President of the RLDS Council of Twelve Apostles who collected testimonies from Palmyrans in the 1860s. 

The Saint's Herald was the official publication of the RLDS church.

William Kelley interviewing Abel Chase about his knowledge of local accounts:

Did you ever see the Smiths dig for money; or did you ever see the cave where they say they met at? 

  "No. I never saw them dig, myself; I never saw the cave." 

Statement of Abel Chase to Wm. H. Kelley, “The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon,” Saints’ Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 162–68.
Notes / Commentary

Abel Chase doesn't provide any useful new information, but the fact that despite his proximity to the cave propety, he never saw it seems significant.  Perhaps it was not very prominent.  Either way, despite his denial, Ezra Pierce seemed to believe that Abel Chase had been in the cave.

Long-form Source Text

Mr. Saunders giving us the directions to the house of Abel Chase, we next called upon him and ascertained the following: 

Mr. Chase. -- "I am sixty-seven years old. Knew the Smiths; the old man was a cooper. I was young and don't remember only general character. They were poorly educated, ignorant and superstitious; were kind of shiftless, but would do a good day's work. They used to call Joe, `Lobby Joe.' He got a singular-looking stone, which was dug up out of my father's well; it belonged to my brother Willard, and he could never get it. His mother, old Mrs. Smith, got the stone from mother." 

How do you know Joe ever had it? 

"Oh, I don't know that; but my brother could never get it back." 

Your sister had a stone she could look through and see things, so they have told us; did you ever see that, Mr. Chase? 

"Yes, I have seen it; but that was not the one that old Mrs. Smith got." 

Well; could you see things through that? 

"I could not; it was a dark-looking stone; it was a peculiar stone." 

Do you really think your sister could see things by looking through that stone, Mr. Chase? 

"Well, she claimed to; and I must say there was something strange about it." 

Where is your sister now? 

"She is not living now: my brother Willard is dead, also. He would know more than I do about those things." 

How did the stone look, you say Mrs. Smith got? 

"I don't know; I never saw that." 

How do you know she got it? 

"They said she did; I was young, and don't remember myself." 

Did you ever see the Smiths dig for money; or did you ever see the cave where they say they met at? 

"No. I never saw them dig, myself; I never saw the cave." 

Well; you were a young man then, how did it come you lived so near, and never saw them do these things? 

"I was young, and never went where they were. Don't know anything about it but what I have heard. If you will see Mr. Gilbert at Palmyra, he can tell you more about it than any person else; he knows it all, and has been getting everything he could for years to publish against them; he was in with Tucker in getting out Tucker's work." 

All right, Mr. Chase, we will see him this evening if possible. Good day, sir. Much obliged for the trouble. 

"Oh! it is no trouble; I only wish I could tell you more." 


Source: Statement of Abel Chase to Wm. H. Kelley, “The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon,” Saints’ Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 162–68.

Ezra Pierce grew up with the Smiths in Manchester, and was only 1 year younger than Joseph.  

Abel Chase was a neighbor of the Smiths in Palmyra, and the brother of Willard Chase, on whose propety the seer stone was found.

Elder William Kelley was the President of the RLDS Council of Twelve Apostles who collected testimonies from Palmyrans in the 1860s. 

The Saint's Herald was the official publication of the RLDS church.

William Kelley interviewing Ezra Pierce about his knowledge of local accounts:

Abel Chase...has been in the cave with the Smiths where the sheep bones were found—people used to think they were making counterfeit money... The cave is over there in the hill now—a large cave... it is about a mile from [Mormon Hill]...I never saw it; besides it is all caved in now, so you could not see anything. There is no cave there now, it is all fallen in.

Statement of Ezra Pierce to Wm. H. Kelley, “The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon,” Saints’ Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 162–68.
Notes / Commentary

Although Ezra Pierce claims Abel Chase visited the cave, Abel himself denies every having visited or even seen the cave. He also claims that the cave is fallen in, contradicting some reports that Wallace Miner had cleared the cave and others had visited it around this time (early 1880s). 

Long-form Source Text

Following the directions of Mr. Booth, we re-passed the town of Manchester, and at one o'clock p.m., arrived at the house of Ezra Pierce, a very pleasant and hospitable New York farmer, quite well- informed in the political history of the country, especially on the Democratic side. Approaching the subject of the desired interview to him, he quickly answered by saying: 

"Well, gentlemen, I must first ask you a question; because I went on to give my statement to some parties once, and as it did not suit them, they got mad and began to abuse and insult me; said that I lied about it. Let me ask: Are you Mormons?" 

E. L.—I am a lawyer, myself; this other gentleman can speak for himself. We don't propose to be anything, especially during this interview; we are here to try to find out some facts, and we don't care who they hit; it is facts that we are after, and you may be sure there will be no abuse, no matter which side they are on. 

"All right; that's fair; go ahead." 

Were you acquainted with the Smith family? 

"Oh, yes; I pulled sticks with Joe for a gallon of brandy once at a log rolling; he was about my age. I was born in 1806. I lived about three miles from the Smiths. Was not very well acquainted with them; but knew them when I saw them. I knew young Joe, who claimed to have found the plates, and old Joe, his father." 

Did young Joe drink? 

"Everybody drank them times." 

Did you ever see young Joe drink? 

"No, I never did; it was customary in those early days for everybody to drink, more or less. They would have it at huskings, and in the harvest field, and places of gathering; the Smiths did not drink more than others." 

What about Joe's learning? 

"I know that he was ignorant; and he knew no more about hieroglyphics than that stove," pointing to the stove in the room. 

Well; go on and state what kind of a family they were—all about them. 

"They were poor, and got along by working by the day; the old man had a farm up there, and a log house upon it. The old man Smith and Hyrum were coopers; I never went to the same school that the boys did--they dug for money sometimes; young Joe, he had a stone that he could look through and see where the money was; there were a good many others who dug with them, and Joe used to play all kinds of tricks upon them." 

Who said they dug for money? 

"Oh, I have heard it lots of times. If my brother was living, he could tell you all about it." 

Others dug besides the Smiths, did they? 

"Yes; there were others who dug; but I always heard that the Smiths dug the most; one of the Chase's, a young lady, had a stone which she claimed she could look through and see money buried." 

Did anybody dig for her? 

"Yes; I guess they did. They said so." 

Then young Joe had some opposition in the seeing-money business? 

"That is what everybody said." 

Who was this Miss Chase? Where does she live? 

"She is dead now; she was a sister to Abel Chase, who lives upon the Palmyra Road. Have you seen him? He will know all about this. He has been in the cave with the Smiths where the sheep bones were found—people used to think they were making counterfeit money." 

Did you ever see any of it? 

"No." 

Did any of the neighbors? 

"No; I never heard any say they did." 

Did anyone ever catch them trying to pass counterfeit money? 

"No; oh! I don't say they made any; it was only talked around." 

Who talked it; their friends or enemies, and when was it talked? 

"Well; they were not their friends, of course; I never heard it while they lived here; after they went to Kirtland, Ohio, people were talking it." 

Young lady, a daughter of Mr. Pierce: 

"The sheets, the sheets, Pa; what was it about the sheets? Ma said old Mr. Smith come here with the sheets—and she told him to leave. How was it?" (looking to other members of the house). 

The sheets; what kind of sheets? (I began to think of ghosts and hobgoblins). 

"The sheets, or the leaves, he was carrying around in an old sack, or something." 

Our feelings were relieved somewhat when we learned, on further inquiry, that Mr. Smith had called upon them when the Book of Mormon was first published, with a few unbound volumes for sale, and was ordered out of the house by "Ma;" nothing like ghosts being connected with the event. 

Squire, did you really think they were in the counterfeit money business? 

"No; I never thought they did that." 

Tell us about the cave you spoke of. 

"The cave is over there in the hill now—a large cave." 

In what hill? The hill they call "Mormon" Hill? 

"No; it is about a mile from that; but what are you so particular about it for?" 

We want to go and see it—we want to see the thing itself. Now you have been there; give us the description, while we write it down, so that we can find it. 

"No; I never saw it; besides it is all caved in now, so you could not see anything. There is no cave there now, it is all fallen in." 

The young lady.—"Well, why are you so particular for, anyway; what good will it do?" 

We wish to know just how much truth there is to these stories; and get some facts that we can stand on. 

Y. L.—"But what good will it do?" 

Just this; there have been a great many stories told about these people, and the finding of the plates; some believe there is truth in the stories, and some believe they are lies. We are investigating the matter to satisfy ourselves what there is in it. 

Y. L.—"Now, you had better turn your backs upon it, and let it go; that is the way to do, there is no truth in it." 

That is just the thing at issue. Some say there is truth in it, some say there isn't. It is right to investigate and prove all things; and we wish to find what there is in this. 

Y. L.—"But what good will it do to find out the truth about the Book of Mormon?" 

If it is what it claims to be, we wish to know it; if false, we wish evidence to prove that. 

Y. L.—"What; you spending your time trying to find out about that? If I only knew where your wives are, I would write to them and let them know just what you are doing. 

All right; do so. (Here we gave our names and addresses.) 

Did you ever read that book? 

Y. L.—"No; I never saw one." 

Well, I have; and there is something strikingly strange about it. It is certain that no one, or multitude of men, ever possessed sufficient inventive genius to produce it, or one similar to it, and have it so perfect in its doctrinal teachings, history and general makeup, as to baffle the skill of learned critics to detect the error and deceptions. This book bids defiance to the whole learned world to prove it false; did you ever think of that? 

Y. L.—"No; but what good will it do, if it is true? 

If really true; Joseph Smith obtained the plates, and men are telling falsehoods about him; and there has been a divine communication from heaven in our own day, which is contrary to the whole of the traditionary religious belief of the age. It unites with the testimony given in the Bible concerning Jesus being the Christ; and that he is indeed, the Redeemer of the world; hence, another witness testifying in favor of His mission and work. Quite a necessary thing, when we take into consideration the unbelief and skepticism there is in the world at the present time, and it is on the increase. Then it is very gratifying and instructive to know about the ancient inhabitants of this country, their origin, habits of life, form of government, laws and religion. 

Y. L.—"But does this book teach the same as the Bible—our Bible?" 

The teachings of the two books are the same so far as religious duties and life are concerned. Besides it is urged that many prophecies of the Bible refer to the coming forth of this book, and we confess that we are not enabled to explain satisfactorily the passages referred to, in any other light. 

Y. L.—"Why, what are some of them? I never heard of that before." 

The twenty-ninth chapter of Isaiah is one directly in point, where the prophet speaks with reference to a sealed book coming forth, the words of which were to be delivered to a learned man, but he could not be able to read them, and the book itself was to be delivered to an unlearned man, and he would be enabled to read it. Also the stick of Joseph in the land of Ephraim, recorded in the thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel. It is interpreted by the learned that the stick of Judah, there mentioned is the Bible; and the Latter-day Saints hold the stick of Joseph referred to, is the Book of Mormon. Then in the tenth of John, where Jesus says: "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold," etc. relates to Israelitish people who had come to this continent, and were unknown to the Jews, but known to Jesus. It is held, too, that the fourteenth chapter of the book of Revelations refers to this event, where John saw an angel flying through the midst of heaven having the everlasting gospel to preach to all people, just previous to the hour of God's judgment; and many other passages. Did you never read them? 

Y. L.—"No; write some of them down, and I will examine them." (Here we wrote down some references.) 

Y. L.—"Doesn't this book teach polygamy?" 

Oh, no; it is much more outspoken and emphatic against that sin than the Bible (quoting a passage from the Book of Jacob). 

The people in Utah, known as Mormons, treat it as you would a last year's almanac. They say it was good in its time, but they have outgrown it. 

Y. L .-- "Are there any other people who believe in that book?" 

Yes, the Latter-day Saints, who may be found in almost every state and territory in the Union, and other parts of the world. An intelligent class of people, who have taken pains to examine all sides relating to this subject, and have become convinced that there is truth in it. They do not believe in going to Utah; neither are they more like them in faith and doctrine than are the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, etc. They have a publishing house at Plano, Illinois, about fifty-six miles from Chicago, and are an orderly class of people. It was very easy for people in the days of Jesus to say that He was an impostor—was possessed of the devil—born of fornication—a glutton and a wine bibber; an enemy of mankind generally, but He was true, and the Christ just the same. Sensible people examined into the facts, then, relating to Him, and his doctrine, and the foolish were moved by gossip, stories and popular rumor, until they raised their hands and rejected the best friend of the human race. It is just as easy for people to cry in this age "old Joe Smith—Gold Bible—Money digger, Impostor," etc. But what are the facts in the case? That is what we wish to know. I am a Latter-day Saint minister myself, not of choice, but from conviction, by force of evidence adduced on that side of the question; I expect to continue to be one until convinced that it is not right, and it will take something more than stories to do it. 

The Squire.—"Well, if he believes that Joe Smith was a prophet, that's enough; you can't do anything with him. I never knew one to change yet." 

No, Squire, what do you know about it? 

"I don't know anything about it." 

"Now, I am ready to affirm that the Book of Mormon is a work of divine authenticity, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God; and I say that I can prove it from the Bible and other evidences, and am willing to undertake to do it right here, or in Palmyra, or Manchester, where it is admitted the thing first started. 

Y. L.—"Why, I don't believe you would be safe to do that here." 

You don't? Have you such a class of people here, that they will break the laws of the country, and refuse liberty of speech and conscience? Don't dare to speak my sentiments in a country in which I have followed the flag, and bore arms for its defense, in order to continue a perpetual union? A country in which every ounce of powder and pound of lead is pledged to maintain human rights and religious equality and freedom? 

"Oh, I guess they would let you, too; I will take that back. It is right to let all have the privilege of speaking their minds." 

Of course, Squire, I should not expect you to believe in this, for it is difficult for anyone to believe a matter without evidence; and you say you never heard one of them preach; never attended their meetings; never read one of their books, and have read a great many things written against them. Now would any of us have ever believed in Jesus if we had never read anything that he and the apostles said; never read any of their books; but just took the stories their enemies circulated about them--read the books put out by the pretended pious Jews against them? And don't you know that it is from that standpoint that the Jews reject Jesus and the teachings of the apostles, unto this day? They say they have hundreds of witnesses to one that Jesus was a lawbreaker, and a deceiver; and the apostles false witnesses. 

"Yes, that is true." 

Y. L.—"Can you speak in tongues and prophesy?" 

Suppose I can't, what has that to do with the principle? Jesus says, "These signs shall follow them that believe." It is in the Bible. I am not responsible for it. 

"But can you speak in tongues? That is my question." 

I have heard a great many of the Saints speak in tongues and interpret. Have heard them speak in prophecy, and have seen the sick healed many times. 

"But can you prophesy and speak in tongues?" 

Well, what would you think, if I was to tell you that I can? 

"Why, I should say you was crazy." 

That is just what I thought. 

"We have institutions in which ministers are educated now, and we don't need such things." 

Yes, I know there are a good many who seem to think they know more than Paul and Peter did about Christ and his doctrine: have gone on to invent creeds and systems; but did you never think that this is the greatest evil of the age--the very thing that keeps men in fetters, ignorance and superstition. Here is a Roman Catholic institution, that educates its priests to teach Catholicism; and after they go through the training, they know nothing else; hence, start out in their little groove to make Catholics. They do not know anything else, nor will they listen to others, in order that they may become informed. It is the abominable system of training is the difficulty. Take the Methodist ministers, or Baptist, or Episcopalian, or Quakers, or Disciples, or Adventists, or others; and each has to pass through their respective institutions of training; and when through, they start out, not to preach what is in the Bible, for many of them are forbidden to talk doctrine, but to proselyte to their peculiar creeds; fortify and build them up. One to teach sprinkling for baptism; another pouring, or immersion; another no baptism at all, or only that of the Spirit; one that you must keep Sunday, and others, Saturday; another that you will be saved by works; another by faith and grace, without works; one sprinkles infants, and others don't; all owing to what school he was educated in. If any courageous spirit endeavors to break away from the creed, they will whip him into the traces, or throw him out. There is no genuine Christian unity and love between them, but each rejoices at the other's downfall, for the sake of the advantage; not because it is according to the Bible, but according to the Creed. 

"Well, I guess there is a good deal of truth in that." 

In this age of the conflict of ideas and investigation, people are getting tired of myths, and are digging deep and searching for facts in religion as well as everything else. If religion is a truth, the facts should show it; if false, the world ought to know that. We believe in discussion—"proving all things, and holding fast that which is good." Hearing everybody; investigating everything possible. But we must go. 

Mr. Pierce having referred us to Mr. Reed, Orlando Saunders, and Abel Chase, we took leave of him and his intelligent family, and called next at the residence of Mr. Orin Reed. 


Source: Statement of Ezra Pierce to Wm. H. Kelley, “The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon,” Saints’ Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 162–68.

John Gilbert was the typsetter of the Book of Mormon and a long-time Palmyra resident who collaborated closely with the Smiths during the years of the Book of Mormon's publication.

Elder William Kelley was the President of the RLDS Council of Twelve Apostles who collected testimonies from Palmyrans in the 1860s. 

The Saint's Herald was the official publication of the RLDS church.

William Kelley interviewing John Gilbert about his interactions with the Smiths:

I...have seen Joseph Smith a few times, but not acquainted with him. Saw Hyrum quite often. I am the party that set the type from the original manuscript for the Book of Mormon. They translated it in a cave. 

Statement of John Gilbert to Wm. H. Kelley, “The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon,” Saints’ Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 165–66.
Long-form Source Text

Early in the evening we called upon Mr. John H. Gilbert, at his residence, and made known our desire for an interview, etc. He seemed quite free to give us all the information he had upon the subject, and said he had been for the past forty-five or fifty years doing all he could to find out what he could about the Smiths and Book of Mormon. He is a man seventy-nine years of age, and quite active even in this time of life. 

What did you know about the Smiths, Mr. Gilbert. 

"I knew nothing myself; have seen Joseph Smith a few times, but not acquainted with him. Saw Hyrum quite often. I am the party that set the type from the original manuscript for the Book of Mormon. They translated it in a cave. I would know that manuscript today if I should see it. The most of it was in Oliver Cowdery's handwriting. Some in Joseph's wife's; a small part though. Hyrum Smith always brought the manuscript to the office; he would have it under his coat, and all buttoned up as carefully as though it was so much gold. He said at the time it was translated from plates by the power of God, and they were very particular about it. We had a great deal of trouble with it. It was not punctuated at all. They did not know anything about punctuation, and we had to do that ourselves." 

Well; did you change any part of it when you were setting the type? 

"No, sir; we never changed it at all." 

Why did you not change it and correct it? 

"Because they would not allow us to; they were very particular about that. We never changed it in the least. Oh, well there might have been one or two words that I changed the spelling of; I believe I did change the spelling of one, and perhaps two, but no more." 

Did you set all of the type, or did someone help you? 

"I did the whole of it myself, and helped to read the proof, too; there was no one who worked at that but myself. Did you ever see one of the first copies? I have one here that was never bound. Mr. Grandin, the printer, gave it to me. If you ever saw a Book of Mormon you will see that they changed it afterwards." 

They did! Well, let us see your copy; that is a good point. How is it changed now? 

"I will show you," (bringing out his copy). 

"Here on the title page it says," (reading) 

"'Joseph Smith, Jr., author and proprietor.' Afterwards, in getting out other editions they left that out, and only claimed that Joseph Smith translated it." 

Well, did they claim anything else than that he was the translator when they brought the manuscript to you? 

"On, no; they claimed that he was translating it by means of some instruments he got at the same time he did the plates, and that the Lord helped him." 

Was he educated, do you know? 

"Oh, not at all then; but I understand that afterwards he made great advancement, and was quite a scholar and orator." 

How do you account for the production of the Book of Mormon, Mr. Gilbert, then, if Joseph Smith was so illiterate? 

"Well, that is the difficult question. It must have been from the Spaulding romance -- you have heard of that, I suppose. The parties here then never could have been the authors of it, certainly. I have been for the last forty-five or fifty years trying to get the key to that thing; but we have never been able to make the connecting yet. For some years past I have been corresponding with a person in Salt Lake, by the name of Cobb, who is getting out a work against the Mormons; but we have never been able to find what we wanted." 

If you could only connect Sidney Rigdon with Smith some way, you could get up a theory? 

"Yes; that is just where the trouble lies; the manuscript was put in our hands in August 1829, and all printed by March 1830, and we cannot find that Rigdon was ever about here, or in this state, until sometime in the fall of 1830. But I think I have got a way out of the difficulty now. A fellow that used to be here, by the name of Saunders, Lorenzo Saunders, was back here some time ago, and I was asking him about it. At first he said he did not remember of ever seeing Rigdon until after 1830 sometime; but after studying it over awhile, he said it seemed to him that one time he was over to Smith's, and that there was a stranger there he never saw before, and that they said it was Rigdon. I told him about Cobb, of Utah, and asked him if he would send Cobb his affidavit that he saw Rigdon before the book was published, if he (Cobb), would write to him; he finally said he would, and I wrote to Cobb about it, and gave Saunders' address, and after a long time, I got a letter from him, saying he had written three letters to Saunders, and could get no answer. I then sat down and wrote Saunders a letter myself, reminding him of his promise, and wrote to Cobb also about it; and after a long time Cobb wrote me again, that Saunders had written to him; but I have never learned how satisfactory it was, or whether he made the affidavit or not." 

Is that Saunders a brother of the Saunders living down here, Orlando Saunders? 

"Yes, sir: they are brothers." 

Is he older or younger? 

Younger; about fifteen years younger." 

Then he must have been quite young before the Book of Mormon was published? 

"Yes, he was young." 

This Saunders down here don't talk like a great many people; he seems to think the Smiths were very good people; we have been there today. 

"Oh, I don't think the Smiths were as bad as people let on for. Now Tucker, in his work, told too many big things; nobody could believe his stories." 

Did the Smiths ever dig for money? 

"Yes; I can tell you where you can find persons who know all about that; can take you to the very place." 

Can you? All right, give us their names. 

"The Jackaway boys -- two old bachelors, and their sister, an old maid, live together, right up the street going north, near the north part of the town; they can tell you all about it, and show you the very places where they dug." 

What will you take for your copy of the Book of Mormon; or will you sell it? 

"Yes, I will sell it." 

How much for it? 

"I will take five hundred dollars for it, and no less; I have known them to sell for more than that." 

Well, I am not buying at those figures, thank you. 

What kind of a man was Martin Harris? 

"He was a very honest farmer, but very superstitious." 

What was he before his name was connected with the Book of Mormon? 

"Not anything, I believe; he was a kind of skeptic." 

What do you mean by his being superstitious? Was he religious? 

"Well, I don't know about that; but he pretended to see things." 

What do you think of the Book of Mormon, as a book; you are well-posted in it? 

"Oh, there is nothing taught in the book but what is good; there is no denying that; it is the claim of being from God that I strike at." 

Well, is it any more wonderful than that God gave the Bible? 

"No, not a bit; and there is a good deal more evidence to show that that is divine than there is for some of the books in the Bible. Why, it is all nonsense to think that Moses wrote some of the books attributed to him, in the Bible." 

Then you don't believe the "fish story," either, Mr. Gilbert? 

"No; nor that Jonah swallowed the whale." 

How about Sampson catching the three hundred foxes, and the firebrands? 

"Yes, that is a good one; you fellows will do." 

Much obliged, Mr. Gilbert. 

"You are quite welcome. I wish I could give you more than I have." 


Source: Statement of John Gilbert to Wm. H. Kelley, “The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon,” Saints’ Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 165–66.

Orson Pratt was an early LDS convert and apostle, and was the brother of Parley P. Pratt.  He was aquainted with Joseph Smith starting in 1830, but was not involved with the Smiths in the 1820s.

Orson Pratt speaking on his own authority:

But the grand repository of all the numerous records of the ancient nations of the western continent, was located in another department of the hill, and its contents put under the charge of holy angels, until the day should come for them to be transferred to the sacred temple of Zion.

Orson Pratt, "The Hill Cumorah", Millennial Star, Vol. 28, July 7, 1866, p. 417
Notes / Commentary

Orson Pratt is of the mind that the cave, or "another department" is also in Cumorah, but not the same spot where the plates were retreived.

He connects this with Mormon's large plate repository (mentioned in Mormon 6:6), and rightly notes that Moroni buried the records in a separate location, but surmizes with "no doubt" that Moroni's location was also in the hill Cumorah.  The notion that "Gold Bible Hill" in New York was always an entirely different hill from Mormon's Cumorah to begin with apparently is not even fathomable.

Long-form Source Text

The hill Cumorah is situated in western New York, between the villages of Palmyra and Canandaigua, about four miles from the former. It is celebrated as the ancient depository of the sacred gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. Cumorah was the name by which the hill was designated in the days of the prophet Moroni, who deposited the plates about 420 years after the birth of Christ. The prophet Mormon, the father of Moroni, had been entrusted with all the sacred records of his forefathers, engraved on metallic plates. New plates were made by Mormon on which he wrote, from the more ancient books, an abridged history of the nation, incorporating therewith many revelations, prophecies, the gospel, etc.

 These new plates were given to Moroni to finish the history, and all the ancient plates Mormon deposited in Cumorah, about 384 years after Christ. When Moroni, about thirty-six years after, made the deposit of the book entrusted to him, he was, without doubt, inspired to select a department of the hill separate from the great, sacred depository of the numerous volumes hid up by his father. The particular place in the hill, where Moroni secreted the book, was revealed by the angel to the Prophet Joseph Smith, to whom the volume was delivered in September, 1827. But the grand depository of all the numerous records of the ancient nations of the western continent, was located in another department of the hill, and its contents under the charge of holy angels, until the day should come for them to be transferred to the sacred temple of Zion.

 The hill Cumorah, with the surrounding vicinity, is distinguished as the great battle field on which two powerful nations were concentrated with all their forces, men, women, and children, and fought till hundreds of thousands on both sides were hewn down and left to moulder upon the ground. Both armies were Israelites; both had become awfully corrupt, having apostatized from God. The Nephites, as a nation, became extinct; the Lamanites alone were left. This happened, according to their faithful records, near the close of the fourth century of the Christian era. The American Indians are remnants of the once powerful nation of Lamanites.

The hill Cumorah is remarkable also as being the hill on which and around which a still more ancient nation perished, called Jaredites. This unparalleled destruction is recorded in the Book of Ether, and happened about six centuries before Christ. The Jaredites colonized America from the tower of Babel. After about sixteen centuries, during which they became exceedingly numerous, through their terrible wars they destroyed themselves. The hill Cumorah, by them, was called Ramah. Millions fought against millions, until the hill Ramah and the land round was soaked with blood, and their carcases were left in countless numbers to moulder back to Mother Earth.


Source: Orson Pratt, "The Hill Cumorah", Millennial Star, Vol. 28, July 7, 1866, p. 417

Ellen Dickinson was the grandniece of Solomon Spalding who investigated the Spalding authorship claims for the Book of Mormon.

Ellen Dickinson writing on her observations:

Just beyond the well, a quarter of a mile or so, is the " Miner Farm," on  which is shown a cave, or excavation, that was used by Smith and his close followers while engaged in deciphering the golden plates. It was originally boarded in.but is in a dilapidated condition at present. The same family own this farm now that owned it in Joe Smith's time. The elder members have passed away, but the pres ent occupants are quite familiar with the events. 

Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, p 247
Notes / Commentary

Ellen Dickerson's retelling seems to be based on previously heard stories, and is therefore not a strong first-hand account.

Long-form Source Text

Author's Letter from Palmyra. 

EARLY MORMON HAUNTS.

Palmyra, Wayne Co., N. Y., June, 1882. 

DEAR EVANGELIST: As is pretty widely known, this remarkably active and pretty town is connected with the early history of Mormonism. It was here that Joseph Smith, Jr., the first Prophet of  the "Church of the Latter-day Saints," lived when he was a dull-eyed, flaxen-haired boy, and long after he had entered upon his "mission" and received "the golden plates," whereon was written "the new faith." This story seems but a legend to those little interested in or acquainted with the facts -- one that has grown into present proportions by the accretions of many years. But not so. A little way up the main street, or rather in a side street leading from the principal thoroughfare of the town, resides John H. Gilbert (usually called Major Gilbert), a venerable, well-preserved man of eighty odd years, who in his youth was actively employed in the type setting and presswork incident to the issue of the first edition of the "Book of Mormon." He allowed the writer to handle a copy of this edition, which he has carefully preserved. His description of the manuscript of the book, brought to him by "Hyrum (as the Smiths spelled the name), brother of Joseph, is very interesting. The major got up from his chair, and taking a leaf or two of the book (unbound), he showed me how these early Mormons guarded their precious "translations" under their coats from a curious and unbelieving community, day by day, as they brought it, a few pages at a time, to be printed. The spelling and grammar were defective; and as for punctuation, there was none. The major pointed out these rather uninspired defects to the scribes employed by the Prophet, and he assures us that they kindly allowed him to make the necessary alterations, only, however, after they had become convinced of the necessity of something approaching literary accuracy -- a matter not at all apparent to them. 

A large number of modern Mormons have visited Major Gilbert, to whom he has related these and other recollections of their "Golden Bible." It would seem that they must leave him wiser if not better men, if they at all credit his very clear and positive statements, his memory and judgment being as yet untouched by age. 

Mr. Seth W. Chapman owns the former home of the Smiths, and the land they cultivated after their fashion. It is two or three miles out of Palmyra, and at the present time is very attractive in its vernal beauty. The portion of the present farmhouse which was once the humble dwelling of Joseph, Sr., and his numerous family is composed of a single room of fair dimensions, over a cellar, with two small garret rooms above. Later, and after the sons and daughters were grown, a small bedroom was added to the main apartment. Here the Smiths lived for twelve years, making baskets and brooms, and raising vegetables, when they were not peddling beer and gingerbread at general trainings, or robbing hen-roosts or clothes-lines, or engaged in some other nocturnal calling. It has been said that the Prophet Joseph once returned from Nauvoo to view the place where he had dwelt before he became rich and famous, and where he had taken his first lessons in craft and dissimulation; but this report rests on no sufficient basis. The present race of Mormons frequently visit the Chapman farm -- the room above described, and the held now so beautifully green, where "the diggers," as they were called, consisting of a band of genuine vagabonds, with Joe as their leader, turned up the soil to find gold. Only the day previous to the visit of the writer, James H. Hart, a Mormon from Bloomington, Idaho, had inspected the premises. He circulated a pamphlet in the interest of the "Saints" and their peculiar institution, polygamy, during his stay in Palmyra. Mr. Cannon, son of the well-known Mormon of that name, has also recently visited the early abiding-place of Joseph and his brethren. 

The spot where the famous "Peek Stone" was discovered on the property of Clark Chase, in the year 1819, is now marked by gray slab, which stands close to a well -- the well which was being dug when this white stone, in the shape of a child's foot, was turned up, and appropriated by the future "seer." The tradition is that Joseph ran home across lots, some two miles, to show his mother this new possession, which was like most, if not all, of his later possessions, unlawfully gained; and that from this date he saw wonders through the "Peeker," it being employed by himself, and perhaps others in the neighborhood, to find any or everything they desired. The slight elevation where Clark Chase resided, and for whom the well was excavated, is now bare of any tenement, the former dwelling having been either burned or torn down a long time ago. Just beyond the well, a quarter of a mile or so, is the "Miner Farm," on which is shown a cave, or excavation, that was used by Smith and his close followers while engaged in deciphering the golden plates. It was originally boarded in, but is in a dilapidated condition at present. The same family own this farm now that owned it in Joe Smith's time. The elder members have passed away, but the present occupants are quite familiar with the events. 

"Hill Cummorah," a conical elevation several hundred feet in height, and which, in its isolation and peculiar shape, bears a certain resemblance to an extinct volcano, is also of special interest. Just where Joseph found the box containing the golden plates is not known; but it was somewhere near the dizzy top of this hill, that an angel was standing over him while he examined the contents. An old picture represents him as kneeling on the steep incline of the hill, the wind blowing his long hair out in all directions, his eyes big with surprise, and the placid, winged creature above him in a cloud, but not so dense as to prevent a good view of the future Prophet eagerly taking his credentials (which had been buried some fourteen hundred years) from the cemented chest -- the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim (or spectacles), and the golden plates. Out of the cloud are zigzags of lightning playing around the angel and Joseph, which neither appears to notice. 

The "Hill Cummorah" is three miles from where Joseph lived when this remarkable incident occurred, and his return to his domicile must have been a weary journey, after the excitement consequent upon such a distinction. The true Mormon of to-day venerates this locality as a sacred spot, and travels from afar to see its quiet but not remarkable beauty. 

The farm owned by Martin Harris, the man who mortgaged his property to print the "Book of Mormon," is in an opposite direction to the "Hill" from Palmyra. A niece of Mrs. Harris resides in the town, and gives interesting remembrances of what she heard in her youth of the Mormons. It is but just to say that this lady has a more exalted estimation of the character of her relative than the world in general. 

Sidney Rigdon, the real instigator and brains of the original Mormon swindle -- the man who read and copied the romance called "Manuscript Found," written by the Rev. Solomon Spaulding, at Conneaut, Ohio, in 1812 -- is well remembered by a few of the older residents of Palmya. It was Rigdon who preached the first Mormon sermon in the third story of a building, in what is now called Exchange Row. He introduced himself as the "Messenger of God," to the very few people who attended this meeting, telling them that the Bible and the "Book of Mormon" should be equally precious to the true Christian. His "sermon" was not agreeable to those who heard it, or the Palmyrians in general, and he did not repeat it, nor did any other "Saint" give a regular discourse there afterward. He might have fared worse if his audience had been acquainted with Mr. Spaulding's romance, which he had plagiarized so freely, and copied verbatim in many instances, in the "Book" which he introduced to them. 

  


Source: Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, p 247

Facsimile

Clark Braden was a leader of the Church of Christ (Disciples) sect. E. L. Kelley was a leader of the RLDS Church.  They had a public debate about the origins of Mormonism.

Samantha Payne was Palmyra local aquainted with the Smiths.

Braden and Kelley citing Samantha Payne's local knowledge:

After Smith came back from Pennsylvania his followers dug a cave in a hillside not far from here. They conducted the work of getting up Mormonism in it. I was in it once. It can be seen to-day. The present owner of the farm, Mr. Miner, dug out the cave, which had fallen in. The cave had a large, heavy plate door and a padlock on it. The neighbors broke it open one night, and found in it a barrel of flour, some mutton, some sheep pelts, and two sides of leather

Samantha Payne, Statement in Clark Braden and E. L. Kelley, Public Discussion of the Issues Between the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Church of Christ (Disciples) Held in Kirtland, Ohio... (St. Louis: Clark Braden, [1884]
Notes / Commentary

Samantha's testimony is clearly antagonistic, but her details about Miner's hill cave seem consistent with other accounts.

Long-form Source Text

She was a schoolmate of Smith. His reputation was bad; he was regarded as a worthless, shiftless fellow, a braggadocio and a blackguard. The mother of Joseph Smith was regarded as a thief by her neighbors. She was exceedingly superstitious and addicted to lying, as were all of the family. She once came to my mother to get a stone the children had found, of curious shape. She wanted to use it as a peepstone. Mother would not trust her to look around the house for it. The Smith's dug for money on nearly every farm for miles around; their excavations can be seen to-day. Some are on the farm on which I now live. The digging was done at night with most absurd superstitious acts. It was done by a gang of men and women of low reputation. They told many absurd stories about it.

After Smith came back from Pennsylvania his followers dug a cave in a hillside not far from here. They conducted the work of getting up Mormonism in it. I was in it once. It can be seen to-day. The present owner of the farm, Mr. Miner, dug out the cave, which had fallen in. The cave had a large, heavy plate door and a padlock on it. The neighbors broke it open one night, and found in it a barrel of flour, some mutton, some sheep pelts, and two sides of leather" 


Source: Samantha Payne, Statement in Clark Braden and E. L. Kelley, Public Discussion of the Issues Between the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Church of Christ (Disciples) Held in Kirtland, Ohio... (St. Louis: Clark Braden, [1884]

Lorenzo Saunders was a Palmyra aquaintance of the Smiths.  He was the son of Enoch Saunders (d. 1825), who had three sons: Orlando (b. 1803) Lorenzo (b. 1811), and Benjamin (b. 1814).  The Saunders owned the land where the cave was.  Lorenzo has two nephews, Orson and Timothy, who continued to live in area through the 1890s.

Elder William Kelley was the President of the RLDS Council of Twelve Apostles who collected testimonies from Palmyrans in the 1860s and (along with his brother Edmund) interviewed Lorenzo Sunders in 1884.

RLDS Apostle William Kelley interviewing Lorenzo Saunders about his personal knowledge :

I saw them dig in a hill...Joe could look in his peep stone and see a man sitting in a gold chair. Old Joe said he was king i.e. the man in the chair; a king of one of the [tribes] who was shut in there in the time of one of their big battles. This digging was a mile from Smiths. Don't know as there was ever anything in the cave. The cave was on our place. This was in 1826. The cave had a door to it. We tore it off and sunk it in a pit of water where they got dirt to cover a cole pit....

Lorenzo Saunders, Interviewed by William H. Kelley, 17 September 1884, 1-18, E. L. Kelley Papers, RLDS Church Library-Archives, Independence, Missouri.
Notes / Commentary

Saunders reveals that "the cave was on our place," inidicating that the Saunders owned the property before the Miners did.  This is also one of the few sources that mentions using a stone to see ancient people who were (previously?) in the cave or hill.

Long-form Source Text

LORENZO SAUNDERS INTERVIEW, 17 SEPTEMBER 1884

Reading[,] Ind. [Michigan] Sep. 17[,] 1884

The following interview was had with Lorenzo Saunders by Wm. H. Kelley at Mr. L[orenzo]. Saunder's house September 17[,] 1884 at the above named place; which was read to and signed by Mr. Saunders as being correct.

Q. How old are you Mr. Saunders?

A. I was born in Palmyra[,] Wayne Co.[,] N[ew]. York June 7, 1811.

Q. What kind of a woman was old Mother Smith?

A. She was a poor simple thing, about 1/2 witted--could not tell a straight story. In 1828 or 30 the story was around the neighborhood that Catherine Smith was pregnant by [Sidney] Rigdon and there was a young Savior to be born, but at the birth it was a female child. This story was only hear say. [p. 1] The old lady was indus=trious but nasty. Used to paint chairs. Would take an old rag and rub them with lamp black, &c.

Q. Was you ever acquainted with young Joe Smith?

A. The first time I ever went to Sabbath School I went with young Joe Smith at the old Presbyterian Church.

Q. What kind of person was the old man Smith?

A. Oh! he would go to Turky Shoots and get drunk; pretend to enchant their guns so that they could not kill the Turky. would blow in Q. How would he do that?

A. He would blow in the gun and feel around the lock then tell them it was charmed and they could not kill the turky.

Q. Did you ever see Joe's peep stone? A. Yes. It looked like a babies foot. The old man and Joe came into our barn <> one day [p. 2] when it was rainy; and I asked young Joe if he would not look and see if he could not see look something <> Joe said he could not look into any holy thing. The old man had on the dirtyest and raggedest shirt I ever--saw all full of holes--and he <> cannot look into my shirt then.

Q. Did you ever see Sidney Rig=don in the neighborhood where you lived previous to 1830?

A. Yes. In March 1827. I went over to Joe Smith's to eat sugar, and as I went over I saw, about 20 rods from the road <>, five or six men <> talking. one was well dressed.

Q. Did you know their names? 

A. Yes. One <> was Peter Ingersol, Sam=uel Lawrence, George Proper, the old man [Orin] Rockwell, father of Porter Rockwell, and the well dressed man. They stood ten rods from the road. When I got to the house [Samuel] Harrison (Smith) told me [p. 3] that it was Sidney Rigdon, i.e. the well dressed man. That fall (1827) Peter Ingersol and I met him (Rigdon) in the road between Palmyra and Ingersols.

Q. Did you see him after that previous to 1830?

A. Yes. I saw him that same in <> fall <> (1827). Peter Ingersol and I met him (Rigdon) in the Road between Palmyra and Inger=sols. I never saw him any more until he came to Palmy=ra to preach the Mormon Bible.

Q. Are you acquainted with Maj. [John H.] Gilbert of Palmyra.

A. Yes. Four years ago I went to Palmyra to see my Brothers, and I met Gilbert. He wanted to know if I eve[r] remembered see=ing Sidney Rigdon in that neighbor=hood previous to 1830 when he come preaching the Mormon Bible. He said Abel Chase testified that he thought he saw Rigdon before that time, but was not certain. [p. 4] Says I to Gilbert[,] Sidney Rig=don was about Smiths before 1830 in my opinion. Gilbert asked if I would make aff=idavit that I saw Rigdon at Smiths before that time? I told him I would think the matter over. After a while I think I told him I would. After I got home a while I received a letter from [James T.] Cobb of Salt Lake [City]. Gilbert wrote to Cobb and gave him my ad=dress. I wrote to Cobb the next Spring. Gilbert wrote to me after I returned home from I think in Nov[ember]. after I returned home, asking why I did not answer Cobbs letter. While I was writing an answer to Cobb's first letter my house caught fire and burnt. Burnt <> every thing I had and there was no insurance. Lost a thousand dollars. It <> was some time thinking the matter over [p. 5] before writing to Cobb and during that time my house burnt. It had been a long time since those transactions and it was difficult to fix dates. But I have it now so that I can tell it right off. I have read the statements of Peter Ingersol and Samuel Lawrence relating to it.

Lorenzo Saunders [p. 6]

Q. How come you to go over to Smiths to eat sugar?

A. The Smiths were great sugar makers; they had a large bush and sugared off every day at their house and they wanted me to go over come over and eat sugar. They made seven thousand lbs. [pounds] one year and took the bounty in the County--of $50.00. They were pretty good fellows in their way, but they were shiftless and money diggers were in the money digging business.

Q. Did you ever see the Smiths dig yourself or [others?] for money?

A. I never saw them digging for money. I saw them dig in a hill, said to be for that purpose; that young Joe could look in his peep stone and see a man sitting in a gold chair. Old Joe said he was king i.e. the man in the chair; a king of [p. 7] one of the Nephites or Lamanites <> who was shut in there in the time of one of their big battles. This digging was a mile from Smiths. Don't know as there was ever anything in the cave. The cave was on our place. This was in 1826. The cave had a door to it. We tore it off and sunk it in a pit of water where they got dirt to cover a cole [coal] pit.

Q. How did you fix the date that you saw Sidney Rigdon at Smiths previous to 1830?

A. When I was talking with Gilbert and told him that I would think the matter over and see if I could make affidavit and I fixed the time in my mind by remembering that I had gone there to eat sugar.

Q. Was Peter Ingersol and Samuel <> acquainted with Sidney Rigdon?

A. Yes, they were both ac [p. 8] acquainted with Rigdon in 1827. Samuel Lawrence took Joe over into Pennsylvania and gave him <> better education. I saw Rigdon in 1830 preach with the Bible in one hand and the Book of Mormon in the other (as illustrated in Tuckers work opening the book and showing the picture) and he said the Bible was now fulfilled and done away and the Book of Mormon was to take its place. The meeting was held in Palmyra in the young mens Library Soci<>ty.

Q. Did you ever hear Joe give an account of finding the plates?

A. Yes. He made the statement in gave the account in my father's house. He said he was in the woods at prayer and the angel touched him on the shoulders and he arose, and the angel told him where the plates were and he [p. 9] could take his oldest Brother with him in a year from that time and go and get them. But his oldest Brother died before the year was out. At the end of the time he went to the place to get the plates the angel asked where his Brother was. I told him he was dead. The angel told him there would be an other appointed. Joseph chose Samuel Lawrence. But he did not go.

Q. What kind of a woman was Joseph's wife?

A. Joseph's wife was a pretty woman; as pretty a woman as I ever saw. When she came to the Smiths she was very much disappointed and used to come to our house and sit down and cry. Said she was deceived and got into a hard place. Joe said in our house to my mother, the angel said he must get married him a wife and take her and go and [p. 10] and get the plates. Sam Lawrence took him over into Pennsylvania and introduced him to Emma Hale. I dont know as Joe had ever been in Pennsylvania before, but him and Sam Lawrence was had been deviling around--no telling where they had gone. Joe told Sam Lawrence that there was a silver mine over in Pennsylvania--told him if he would he might share in it with him; but behold he wanted an introduction to Emma Hale is the way it turned out. Sam Lawrence told me so.After he was married and brought his wife home, the angel told him he must procure a black horse to go and get the plates. He come one night to get my Brothers black horse and went off and said he got the plates. He borrowed the horse. [p. 11]

Q. Did you know Martin Harris?

A. Yes, I was acquainted with Martin Harris. He was called a square toed upright man until after he got in with the Smiths. The picture in Tuckers Book looks just like him.

Q. What kind of woman was Martin's wife?

A. She was large on self esteem. Her face was on top of her head and her combativeness was large and her cautiousness was not large enough to over ballance control them. She had an irritable temper and was a hard piece to live with. Martin used to whale her. You find in that <> Hu[l]berts and Hows Mormons Unveiled.

When I was down to see my Brothers four years ago, in a conversation with Gilbert when I first got there he <> he said he did not know that Sidney Rigdon was ever here (at Palmyra) believed he was previous to 1830 <> Said they had been [p. 12] studying on it for 35 or 40 years, but they could not get the evidence. Said if they could only make that point the fraud would come out. He said he could come the nearest proving it by Able Chase, but Chase was not certain.

When I got ready to come home (I was there three weeks) Gilbert said he wanted to see me before I left. He was working down on the canal. He came to me as I was about to start home and it was then that I told him that I had thought the matter over and made up my mind that I could swear that I saw Rigdon in the neighborhood in the Spring of 1827. That is what [he] wanted I should write Cobb. This conversation was in Palmyra in front of John Sanders store, or Wm. Jarvis' block rather* [p. 13]

Q. Did you know Oliver Cowdery?

A. Yes. I was well acquainted with Cowdery. He took a school near us, taught three <> days, then got an other teacher to take his place and he went over to write for Joe. I never knew anything against Cowdery. He was a peaceable fellow. The first I knew he was baptizing.

Q. Do you know anything about Tucker?*

A. Yes. I knew him.

Q. Is he alive?

A. No, he is dead. At the time Tucker was publishing his Book, I was there at Tuckers house, and he said I had a better memory than he did, and he wanted me to help him on his Book and I did so. He promised to give me a Book, and he sent me this one (holding up Tuckers work) when the book was published. [p. 14]

Q. What kind of a fellow was Tucker?

A. He was a funn loving dairing fellow. All of the Tuckers were. Tucker was a good neighbor.


Source: Lorenzo Saunders, Interviewed by William H. Kelley, 17 September 1884, 1-18, E. L. Kelley Papers, RLDS Church Library-Archives, Independence, Missouri.

Lorenzo Saunders was a Palmyra aquaintance of the Smiths.  He was the son of Enoch Saunders (d. 1825), who had three sons: Orlando (b. 1803) Lorenzo (b. 1811), and Benjamin (b. 1814).  The Saunders owned the land where the cave was.  Lorenzo has two nephews, Orson and Timothy, who continued to live in area through the 1890s.

Elder Edmund L. Kelley was an Apostle of the RLDS Council of Twelve Apostles, and brother of Elder William Kelley.

RLDS Apostle Edmund Kelley interviewing Lorenzo Saunders:

...the big hole was dug in the hill ... I am one of them that saw digging...I am one of them that went & tore the door down to the cave...I seen the old man dig there day in and day out... I seen the old man dig there day in and day out... My Father...ordered us to break that door down & put the hole up...The cave was situated on the East side of the hill... It was in the summer before Alvin died he told it at our house. 

Lorenzo Saunders, Interviewed by E. L. Kelley, 12 November 1884, 1-22, E. L. Kelley Papers, "Miscellany," RLDS Church Library-Archives, Independence, Missouri.
Notes / Commentary

The cave had evidently been completed before the death of Enoch Saunders on 10 October 1825. (see Wayne Sentinel, 18 Oct. 1825.),  despite Saunders saying that the cave had been dug in 1826.

Long-form Source Text

LORENZO SAUNDERS INTERVIEW, 12 NOVEMBER 1884

No 1 Lorenzo Saunders interviewed,-- November, 12th 1884.

At the house of Lorenzo Saunders, in the Township of Reading, County of Hillsdale; 2 Miles East, & 1 1/2 miles South of Reading Village. Mr. Lorenzo Saunders was interviewed by Elder E. L. Kelley; Present Mr. Henry A. Fitzsimmons of Reading village, & reported by Lorenzo Fay, as Follows:--

"Your Brother came here one day with a little book; he wanted a statement. He said [that] he was a brother to the debater. I supposed he was the brother to Clark Braden. That is what I supposed; And I went on & give him a statement; He did not want an affidavit. And he went away & he was gone two days; and he came back again, & he wanted to take the statement over again; he claimed his book was not large enough, so he explained it. I went on & give him a statement in that book. He took it that day & he went away; and and I heard no more till two men came from Indianna; & they had the same statement that was given to them; and was drawn on paper.

(E. L. Kelley.--If you want to give your testimony, Mr. Fitzsimmons is <<here>> a disinterested party I never saw him until to day.) [p. 1]

Mr. Saunders) I think I would rather hear from Clark Braden, before I give any further testimony at all. I have not give[n] much of a statement at all to Braden; not yet. But he has written & he is waiting now for those fellows at the Bank to take it.

E. L. Kelly[.] If you want to take it before the Bank it will be just as well, and if you want an Attorney to act for Braden you can have one

Mr. S. I think I would rather not give any till I hear from <<Clark>> Braden.--Those two fellows from Indianna, are Mormons, & they denied it, & claimed they was not; that they belonged to the same church Braden did. I never asked their names; I was in a hurry.

E.L.K. If they belonged with our people, they were not Mormons, &c.

Mr. S. (Exhibiting a paper) Here is what Clark Braden sent me; for me to be on my guard.

I was born June 7--1811; which made me six years old when I first seen Sydney Rigdon & heard him preach his first sermon in Palmyra.

No, as I told your brother, I had nothing against the Smith family at all. Wm. Smith lived there some time & I suppose he does now.

E.L.K. He lives in Iowa now, &c [p. 2]

Mr. S. He must begin to look old? I think he was in Reading here, about a year ago. I heard about it. He was in the Telephone office here, & the printing office; because I saw it published. If I had have known him to have been there I would like to have seen him. He & I used to hunt, & fish, & sport, while we was boys together. I am older than he Wm. Smith.--

I tried to get your brother to go to the bank & give my statement; as I wanted to see Chapman; He is the man who Braden writes to & me.--Whether Joseph Smith was a Polygamist or not I am not able to say. I never knew anything about him after he come west. I think he was to my brothers once of or twice. I never saw any of the family after they left & came to Kirtland. Samuel Lawrence was a very intimate acquaintance with Joseph Smith about the time Joseph Smith got married. Living as close as I did at that time there appeared something very mysterious about Mormonism, Though I never could go with the inst[it]ution of the getting up of Mormonism, with what I knew. When this work was first brought forth by Joseph Smith it was not claimed to be a religious thing at all; it was a money making <<thing>> [p. 3]

Mr. S. Martin Harris when he fell out with his wife She could not agree with Mormonism & she said she was finding fault with him for wanting to make money. Lord bless you; I was as well acquainted with Martin Harris's wife, as well as I was with my own wife. & know what course she took, & when she burned up those papers. I heard her say she burned the papers. she was pretty high on combativeness

E.L.K. That is a question we would like to know about? It never has been fully proven, yet.

Mr. S. Well sir, (some excited) she says she burned them up. And there was no mistake, but she did. They never was found; never came to light. I lived till I was 43 years old right there; & she never denied of burning the papers. He brought them home to proselyte her & she burned them. He set her off 40 acres of land & I guess she lived there. Martin was a good citizen. Martin was a man that would do just as he agreed with you. But, he was a great man for seeing spooks & believed in all these things. I never knew or heard Martin talk infidelity. They claimed that he was an infidel; but I never heard him talk infidelity on matters of Religion or anything of that. [p. 4]

Mr. S. He was a hard working man, & if he had staid where he already lived he would have been the richest man in that part of the country. But after Mormonism came up he seemed to talk of that and nothing else & he was running the streets & talking everything. And sometimes he would seem as though he was beside himself. There cant anybody say a word against Martin Harris. In 1828, my brother & I was at work in a harvest field. & Hiram Smith was to work with us; & I was going to show how the ideas run on at that time. He was whetting his scythe, & he turns round to my brother; (His name is Orlando but we called him Orlin for to cut it short[)]. he says (H[yrum]. Smith) this is the last year I am going to Swing the Cradle. Why says he? I am going to take up this Mormonism, My brother Said: "Keep about your business as you have begun." his wifes name was Lucy. He said: "I would not take a thousand dollars in that thing & not go into that thing. Joseph Smith my brother will be the richest man in the United states. So they claimed it under a money making system. But when Sydney Rygdon came forth with the [Mormon] Bible in one hand & King Jamse's [Bible] in the other hand, he connected them together [p. 5]

In 1830, I think it was the time he preached the first sermon in Palmyra, I was present the first time that he preached it. He took the two books up, & showing the connection; that King Jam[e]s's translation had nearly expired, had nearly lived out its time, & that this new dispensation was to come & take its place

E.L.K. How soon after Joseph Smith claimed to have received the revelation did you see Rigdon?

M[r]. S. It was in the spring I went there to eat sugar. Samuel Lawrence went with me; There was 4 or 5 men making sugar; Their camp was right on the farm; They made several thousands pounds of sugar; You see there was a bounty in the state of New York & they was making a great deal of sugar & they had several boiling places & emploied some men; The men that was there stood down by the fence; There was Peter Ingersoll; Peter's now dead. he died near Pontiac [Michigan]. His land joined the Smith farm on the north. Well he was at work there, & he came there & he was in this group with them, & Samuel Lawrence & there was the old man [Orin] Rockwell; father to Port[er] Rockwell. And one George Proper. I do not know [p. 6] Whether he came to Kirtland or not. Della [Dolly] was baptized before they left.

E. L. Kelley How did they happen to be all together there?

Mr. S. There was George Proper & Rockwell I supposed there were men to work for them in the sugar bush; I never asked any questions about his help. Samuel Lawrence came along & I went to the house. And there was a man better dressed than the rest come along up to smiths & Stood out door. I says, to Hiram Smith what well dressed man is that that stood out there? And he said, it was Sidney Rigdon. This was in the time of making sugar along in march about the 10th or 15th, & they was in full blast & they used to invite us over to eat sugar. They made sugar every year.

E.L.K. How are you enabled to identify the time[?]

Mr. S. Because, I know it was before Jo. claimed to have taken the plates from the hill Cummorah. And there was some two or three of us traveled that ground over, & we could not find a hole. There was a great raft of them digging for money.

E.L.K. Who was at the head?

Mr. S. Jo. Smith with his peep Stone. I never saw Jo. Smith digging[.] I tell you Willard Chase could not have [p. 7] given his evidence at that time; He was a true Wesleyan Preacher (Well now how is it?) He [Pomeroy Tucker] took that from How[s]'s Book, Because that was all the place he could give his evidence

E.L.K. You see I have been up there and look after these Chases. His brother Able Chase says he never saw any digging there.

Mr. S. (Excited) I tell you, sir, I am one of them that saw digging there & I will Swear to it. I am one of them that went & tore the door down to the cave. My Father was in possession & he ordered us to break that door down & put the hole up.—

Benjamin Tabor owned the land at that time. The cave was situated on the East side of the hill. It was a farm of a hundred acres; He had it on <<on>> an article & his article run out & he was likely to lose it. I went to Albany & I sold it to Amos Macy. I never Saw young Jo. Smith there by the cave. I will tell you I take the evidence from what the old man said respecting that; The old man said: what: Jo. could see in his peep stone what there was in that cave. & the old man said that Joseph could see. [p. 8]

E.L.K. Was it not an account of the stories of there being treasure hidden there by old Spanish Buchaneers?

Mr. S. Well I will tell you they did dig; Willard Chase & Alvin, the one that died. Willard Chase told me about a place; He said he & alvin Smith went there to dig & there was a chest there; and he said it was so large, & so wide (measuring with a cane) It was an iron chest. And he said they dug down & it only lay a little under the ground. I says how did this shovel become broken up like that? Willard Chase then told me; He says Alvin & I went down & found that chest. Willard Chase claimed his sister Sally had a peep stone. The Lord bless you I have seen her peep stone a hundred times; It was a little bit of a stone & it was green & she would hold it before light. After I left there, it was thirty years ago:--after I left there I can not tell you whether the peep stone was used or not[.] When men will come to me & tell me that men can pick stones out of this Earth [sentence incomplete]. as I told Jo. Smith when he dug one out of a well on Chases Farm in the Shape of a baby's foot. They dug that hole for money. Chase's & Smiths altogether was digging it[.] [p. 9] I knew all about the stone; Edmund Chase told me all about it, He lives here now, this side of Kalamazoo. He is a man older than I am[.] his name is Edmund Chase[.] I tell you when a man will come <<tell>> me that any one can get a stone, & see knowledge of futurity, I say that he is a liar & the truth is not in him. Steve Mungou lost his pocket book in the road with some $50. in money in it. He went right to Sally Chase to get her to look & see where it was; She went & looked. He was drawing wood out of the woods. She said that pocket book lays right at the side of a log in the woods where you loaded that wood. It lays right at the side of the log well we went & hunted & raked the ground over where she said but could not find it. It past along & finally one night got a paper from Canadagua [Canandaigua, New York], & in it was that a pocket book was found & taken to an old Ontario Bank[.] Took it there & the owner could come & describe his book. And he went & found his pocket book at the bank. I lost [a] drag tooth out of my drag, dragging on my brothers premises there; I says: Sally, tell me where is that drag tooth? She told me "it lays in a log heap." She says I think it lays a little past you will find it [p. 10]

I went & hunted & hunted but could not find it there. I afterwards found it away over in one corner of the field. Well I was going to tell you about Jo. We went to Smiths one day, it was a rainy day; We went into the old mans shop, he was a cooper, and the old man had a shirt on it was the raggedest & dirtyest shirt, and all full of holes. & we got Jo. Smith to look & tell us what color our Girls hair was. well you see by & by some of them says go to Jo. says he Jo. come look into futurity & tell us how it is there? Jo. says I can not do that, I can not look into futurity I can not look into anything that is holy. The old man stood there and says: "I guess he can not look into my shirt then["]

E.L.K. Do you remember whether Joseph Smith's wife was there when you saw Rigdon?

M[r]. S. I think she was. she used to be frequently at our house but I cant tell certainly for Jo. went down & married her in Penn. she used to be an awful fine pretty girl; she was an intelegent woman. My oldest sister & she used to be very intimate after Joseph was married. Right away after they was married she used to come to our house. My Father died in 1825. [p. 11]

Speaking of the Smith family I gave them credit for everything except Mormonism; They were good neighbors; They were kind neighbors in sickness; & Hiram Smith in particular when my father died he was at our house all the time. He <<& I>> had a brother died and he was as attentive then. They was always ready to bestow anything. The old man was always telling yarns, he would go to turkey shoots & get tight & he would pretend to put spells on their guns & would tell them they could not shoot a turkey. At the time the big hole was dug in the hill they was duped by one Walters who pretended to be a conjurer, I heard Willard Chase say that he was duped. They could not be deceived in it after he had gone through with a certain movements & [-] charged them $7. I seen the old man dig there day in and day out; He was close by. I used to go there & see them work. Joseph Smith never did work. They claim there in that book that Jo. Smith was a great worker. he was a lazy dog, I tell you the truth. He never worked for my brother; because I was there all the time. & Jo. Smith never worked there, & Jo. Smith was a fellow that would not form any acquaintance with anybody [p. 12] much & if he did he would get have conflict. Them days people drank liquor everybody drank whiskey & the Smiths with the rest

E.L.K. By what train of circumstances, Mr. Saunders, can you tell the exact time, you first saw Sydney Rigdon there?

Mr. S At first I told him [John H. Gilbert] I could not remember exactly, but says I look here I will go back to my brother's house, (Orlan), & he will jog my memory & in this way I will be able to get at it. I talked with Able Chase & spoke to him about it. He finally says: you have got the book of Book of Mormon the first book in your brothers house. And I wanted it & tried to get the it I wanted to fetch it home with me but he said he wanted to keep it while he lived. And after taking the dates I had forgot what year the book was printed in till I got it[.] My brother could not remember anything. I says cant I tell you a circumstance? but his intelect seemed to be gone. I cited to him this case of Hiram Smith talking in the harvest field, & he says I do remember that now, but it was gone I would never have thought of it again. I says, it was in the spring of 1827 that I went there; He thought a minite & said: "I guess it was" [p. 13]

Says I you know father died in 1825 & says I he died in the fall & it was two years from that spring that I first saw Rigdon. Judging from the time that they made that large quantity of sugar in that year

E.L.K. Dont you think you might have been mistaken as to the date?

L.S. (Excited) No, sir, I am not mistaken I will tell you that if you are a Mormon I dont tolerate Mormonism, I say that I have nothing against that family at all: But say so far as Mormonism is concerned I do not tolerate it at all. The first that Mormonism was started there I investigated it from top to bottom & I found it out to be a humbug. I do not think Joseph Smith ever got any plates or ever had any plates. He got a glass box. I saw where the box was that was all. They claimed it was in that box. Now, if the plates was the thickness of tin the box could not hold one quarter of them.

E.L.K. you aided Tucker in getting out his book<<?>>

L.S. Why yes cited them to some dates. I was there & he had a sister that was very sick & died soon after that I came away & staied there 3 weeks, so I was into Tuckers out & in. So you see how far he had advanced in his book I could not tell. I never asked him one [p. 14] word about Sydney Rigdon being there. He wrote to Sidney Rigdon to try to get something out of him; It was generally said that the Mormons had shut his mouth by paying him a pension to keep him silent[.] We was coming from Palmyra I said I do not know Sidney Rigdon if that was sidney Rigdon down there I did not know him

E.L. In the house when you saw him afterwards & heard him preach could you identify <<him?>>

L.S. No, I could not I was not near enough to identify see his face before I heard him preach. Joseph Smith & this well dressed man stopped & talked with Peter Ingersoll. That was the time that Peter Ingersol[l] told Jo. Smith, he guessed he had not got any plates the neighbors say it is all a humbug. Jo. Smith said: "what if it is now I have got the fools caught.["] This man was with him at the time & after we past on, I asked Peter Ingersol[l] who that man was? & he said, it was Rigdon. That was in 1827 late in the fall

E.L.K. So you saw Rigdon in 1827? A[nswer]. Yes sir. Is not it possible that it was in 1830? [p. 15]

Mr. L.S. No. because it was when Jo. Smith claimed to get the plates. Jo. Smith told the story but he told so many stories, it was a hard thing to get the fact in any way or shape. Now I can tell you what he told to our house respecting this revelation that he had in the very commencement before Alvin died, his brother; Sometime before this he claimed that he saw the Angel & that he was notified of these plates & all that & the time would be made known to him but it was not at that time made known to him but he must take his oldest brother & go <<to>> the spot & he could obtain them. Before that time his oldest brother died. Jo. Smith got that revelation a year or two before that. I do not know as I can tell what year Alvin died in[.] It was in the summer before Alvin died he told it at our house. perhaps Mrs. Smith has got the date of Alvins death in her record. After that Alvin died; Then Joseph said that he saw the angel again; The Angel told him he must go & get him a wife & then he could take his wife & go & get the plates. & he pretended he must get a black horse or a mule to go & get the plates[.] We went there & we examined the hill [p. 16] all over where he claimed to got the plates & we could not find a place that was broke & there was no plates on the ground where the hill was not broke. Robinson said he tried many times to find the hole where he took them out, that is on the west hill it was C cleared off

E.L.K. He claimed he threw it into a brush heap there is trees on the top of the hill & timber on the South side.

L.S. Clear back opposite Jeremiah Sike's house was all cleared & cut off

E.L.K. Well if you do not want to give your evidence to day when Mr Braden comes notify me.

L.S. Let us see you commence a new debate the first part of next month. I want to see the statement I give your brother, that is coming out[.] I want to see how it comes out & see if it is altered

(Here he tells an obscene story)

But I never believed about this other matter that Tucker put in the book they claimed about Wm. Stafford's Black Sheep. I do not know William Stafford was a money digger[.] I have read the Book of Mormon pretty much through & read the Bible.

E.L.K. In your investigation you never thought they held to any other Saviour? [p. 17]

L.S. No, they never believed any such thing as that. Jo. Smiths revelations coming forth they could make up some new ones between there was a good deal of this stuff carried on[.] When I read the books against Mormonism in different news writing through out there are a a great many things that are not true. Now they had one up here to Mr. Cars; when I came to read this book, it is a forgery & it is a lie[.] I know enough in <<of>> the original of Mormonism. There is no such thing took place as that book tells about but they wanted to get up something. I do not want to tell no story about it that I do not that know. God knows I do not want to be guilty to the crime at all. Now Sidney Rigdon Rig was a very shrewd ingenious little devel [devil]; he was a good auctioneer; He was a painter by trade; He had a round Eye & he was a woman man. He was tall as you be, & rather thicker sot. I should think that Sidney Rigdon would weight as much as 165 or 170 pounds. His hair was not real black; his hair was curley & handsome on his head I see him in Canandaigua. He sold jewelry. I think it was on the day of training. He was there & sold jewelry at auction [p. 18]

I can not tell what year it was before Mormonism started. I was a boy 14 or 15 at that time

E.L.K. How do you <<know>> that was Sidney Rigdon?

L.S. Oh! Not Sidney Rigdon; I mean Brig[h]am Young.

E.L.K. Well what kind of man was Sidney Rigdon?

L.S. He was quite a tall man; I should think he would weight 180 pounds when he preached in 1830. I saw Sidney Rigdon several times after that. He was a man, when he spoke he had a good flow of words. Could talk flippant right off, but when he brought out an expression very sharp or loud of peeped. Cobb at Utah wrote three letters to me. I did not send him an affidavit. I wrote him off a statement with what I could remember throughout. I then lived a mile south of here. And just as I got it ready, I had not sealed it up, my house took fire & burned up & everything I had; And no insurance. And that burned up the papers. I had no chance & I thought I was not doing justice not to reply to matters, so I did, and set down & wrote a short list of my misfortunes; & why I had replied to him before, but not anything of amount to him or anybody els[e].

E.L.[K.] You sent it to Cobb[?] A[nswer]. Yes sir.

Finis [p. 19]

[L.S.] Well I will tell you if Joseph Smith had Poly[g]amous wives as it is represented, as I saw in that book that Herbert [Hurlbut] had & that he wan<<t>>ed Sydney Rigdons oldest daughter down there in Kirtland, Sealed to him. I read it in his book. Well now the amount of it is, if they will tell the truth, there is enough known whether he is in poly[g]amy or not. Well Wm. Smith knows whether he was or not.

E.L.K. And Wm. Smith says he was not. And Emma Smith says that he had not. She lived & died in Illinois. The present Joseph Smith was 14 years of age when his Father died & he never knew of his Father having but the one wife.

L.S. Port[er] Rockwell is a hard case. There was a fellow that lived around here he was from Salt Lake [City]; I told him I was opposed to the whole transaction. He said: "it would not do for me to go to Salt Lake[."]

E.L.K. I want to know if you are going to be as fair to me as you are to Braden?

L.S. As far as that is concerned I want to see the Statement that I give your Brother. That is going to come out. I want to see how it comes out to see if it is altered. Well sir that day that that man came [p. 20] here & took these statements from me he gave me a recommend that he was a good honest fair man that he represented things fair & right. He staied over and eat dinner with us; & I give him Tuckers work. Says I now when you get this next book out I want you to sent it to me. & I give him Tucke[r]s book & he was speaking to me about Catherine Smith; About the revelation that Joseph had that there was going to be a new Messiah brought into the world, I heard it intimated that Catherine was in a family way. I know nothing about it. I do not know anything about it, says I, this is a very delicate matter to meddle with female characters.

E.L.K. It is Catherine Saulbury now.

L.S. The time they lived there was 1830; She was quite a solid woman at that time. If you have read Tuckers book dont you know it is said that Martin Harris went through the streets claiming they had received a new [r]evelation there was coming out a new Jesus Christ Martin proclaimed one that would open the Eyes of the blind & cause the dum[b] to Speak. I never heard him say so. & on the way to Kirtland that child was born & it was a dead one & it was a she Jesus. It was implicated there at the time it Catherine & I told your brother so. says I it is intimated around that Sidney Rigdon was the origin of that [child][.] [p. 21] says I if you want to go into obscene matters I can tell somethings too. I went to Manchester at a Tavern. The old man Smith got tight there & Blue Brown. And they was always Contending to old Jo. that his Penis was 16 inches long. I told your brother that he climax was [once?][.] it was in a cold day & there their wives sat waiting outside for them & old Jo. & al measuring his drink. And then they had a square, & they measured; so old Jo. believed it was longer[.] so they pushed so hard they pushed it right through the seat of his breeches. I never believed about this there matter that Tucker put in the book, they claimed about the Wm Stafford black s[h]eep.


Source: Lorenzo Saunders, Interviewed by E. L. Kelley, 12 November 1884, 1-22, E. L. Kelley Papers, "Miscellany," RLDS Church Library-Archives, Independence, Missouri.

Christopher M. Stafford was a nephew of William Stafford and a Manchester resident aquainted with the Smiths. 

Arthur B. Deming was an ardent anti-Mormon journalist who labored to secure evidence proving the fraudulent origin of Mormonism.  He published "Naked Truths About Mormonism," including many statements from those who were aquainted with early Mormonism.

Arthur Deming publishing C. M. Stafford's personal statement of knowledge:

Some time after Jo had men dig on a tunnel forty or fifty feet long in a hill about two miles north of where he claimed to find the plates. I have been in it. Some people surmised it was intended for counterfeiting.

Christopher M. Stafford, Statement to Arthur B. Deming, 23 Mar. 1885 (Naked Truths About Mormonism, Apr. 1888, 1)
Notes / Commentary

C. M. Stafford probably visited the cave after it had been dug out by Wallace miner around 1880. Although he would have been a teenager when the cave was first dug, so maybe visited it then. His description of the size of the cave seems reliable.

Long-form Source Text

C. M. STAFFORD'S STATEMENT.

I was born in Manchester, Ontario Co., N.Y., May 26, 1808. I well remember about 1820, when old Jo Smith and family settled on one hundred acres one mile north of our house. The north line of his farm was the boundary line between Manchester, Ontario Co., and Palmyra, Wayne Co.; N.Y. The village of Palmyra was about two miles north of Jo's house. Old Jo claimed to be a cooper but worked very little at anything. He was intemperate. Hyrum worked at cooperage. Alvin was the oldest son and worked the farm and was the stay of the family. He died a few years after they came. I exchanged work with Jo but more with his brother Harrison, who was a good, industrous boy. I did not enjoy my meals at the Smith's, they were so filthy. Jo got drunk while we were haying for my uncle, Wm. Stafford; also at a husking at our house, and stayed overnight. I have often seen him drunk. Jo was the laziest one of the family, and a dull scholar, as were all the Smiths except Harrison and Catherine. I attended school with them, also Bill and Carlos. Oliver Cowdery taught one winter. Catherine's reputation for virtue was not good. Jo claimed he could tell where money was buried, with a witch hazel consisting of a forked stick of hazel. He held it one fork in each hand and claimed the upper end was attracted by the money. I heard my stepfather, Robert Orr, say he had been digging for money one night. Some of my neighbors also said they were digging for money nights. My mother-in-law, Mrs. Rockwell, said that Prophet Jo Smith told her there was money buried in the ground and she spent considerable time digging in various places for it. I never knew of her finding any. Jo Smith told me there was a peep-stone for me and many others if we could only find them. Jo claimed to have revelations and tell fortunes. He told mine by looking in the palm of my hand and said among other things that I would not live to be very old. When he claimed to find gold plates of the Mormon Bible no attention was paid to them or him by his neighbors. Some time after Jo had men dig on a tunnel forty or fifty feet long in a hill about two miles north of where he claimed to find the plates. I have been in it. Some people surmised it was intended for counterfeiting. Jo was away much of the time summers. He claimed to have a revelation that Manchester, N.Y., was to be destroyed and all the Mormons must leave for Kirkland, O. Orrin Rockwell and wife wanted my wife, their daughter, to go to Missouri. We came to Auburn, Geauga Co., O., Dec. 2, 1831, and have since resided here. Orrin Porter Rockwell made us a visit on a fine horse (I doubt if he owned it). Soon after Governor Boggs was shot. Prophet Jo told Mrs. Risley, of Manchester, a cripple, he could heal her and she joined the Mormons. Jo failed to heal her and she never walked.

[Signed] C. M. STAFFORD. Witnessed by: A. B. DEMING. Auburn, March 23, 1885.


Source: Christopher M. Stafford, Statement to Arthur B. Deming, 23 Mar. 1885 (Naked Truths About Mormonism, Apr. 1888, 1)

Cornelius R. Stafford was a member of the prominent Stafford family in Manchester and was aquainted with the Smiths. 

Arthur B. Deming was an ardent anti-Mormon journalist who labored to secure evidence proving the fraudulent origin of Mormonism.  He published "Naked Truths About Mormonism," including many statements from those who were aquainted with early Mormonism.

Arthur Deming publishing C. R. Stafford's personal statement of knowledge:

A year or two after Jo claimed to find the plates of the "Book of Mormon." He had men dig a tunnel near fifty feet long in a hill about two miles north of the hill where he claimed to find the plates. 

Arthur B. Deming's Naked Truths About Mormonism
Notes / Commentary

Stafford doesn't provie much new information, but corroborates other sources.

Long-form Source Text

C. R.  STAFFORD

I was born in Manchester, New York, Feb. 4, 1813. Our school district was called the Stafford District because of sixty scholars enrolled, forty were Staffords. The road on which they lived is now called Stafford Street. The Mormon Smith family lived near our house. I was well acquainted with them and attended school with the younger children. There was much digging for money on our farm and about the neighborhood. I saw Uncle John and Cousin Joshua Stafford dig a hole twenty feet long, eight broad and seven deep. They claimed that they were digging for money but were not successful in finding any. Jo Smith kept it up after our neighbors had abandoned it. A year or two after Jo claimed to find the plates of the "Book of Mormon." He had men dig a tunnel near fifty feet long in a hill about two miles north of the hill where he claimed to find the plates. I tried to look into a peep-stone in my hat in a dark room; I saw nothing, some claimed they could. I saw old Jo Smith, his wife and Mrs. Rockwell baptized by prophet Jo Smith. I have seen Jo in drunken fights; father and son were frequently drunk. I remember when a man (Hurlbut) came to our school house and took statements about the bad character of the Mormon Smith family, and saw them swear to them. Jo Smith, the prophet, told my uncle, William Stafford, he wanted a fat, black sheep. He said he wanted to cut its throat and make it walk in a circle three times around and it would prevent a pot of money from leaving. Jo's family ate the sheep; he duped many people in similar ways. He claimed to receive revelations from the Lord. The Smiths stole six hogs-heads from us; everything missing was claimed by our neighbors to be in possession of the Smiths. I would make oaths to my statement were not the Justice sick.

C. R. STAFFORD

Witnessed by:
R. M. STAFFORD (Son)
INA M. RICHARDS (G. daughter).
Auburn, O., March, 1885.  


Source: Arthur B. Deming's Naked Truths About Mormonism

F. W. Morton was a reported for the Chicago Times who was apparently syndicated in the Auburn NY "Weekly News and Democrat."

John Gilbert was the typsetter of the Book of Mormon and a long-time Palmyra resident who collaborated closely with the Smiths during the years of the Book of Mormon's publication.

F. W. Morton reports on a visit to hill and relates local stories:

[Joseph Smith] repaired to Miner's hill by night, and there dug a sort of cave on the east side of the hill. The dimensions of this cave were forty feet deep, sixteen feet wide, and seven feet high. The entrance was secured by a substantial door of two-inch oak plank. In this dark cave Smith set about producing a new manuscript...

Miner's hill is about two and a half miles south of Palmyra....We had little difficulty in finding what used to be the cave. It is situated just below the brow of the hill...Instead of a cave we found quite a depression where the earth had given way and fallen in. The door had long since disappeared. The door-frame, however, still stands there, buried more than half the way up in the earth...few ever wend their way through the burrs and briers of Miner's hill.

Weekly News and Democrat, Auburn, New York, Thursday, October 7, 1886.
Notes / Commentary

The reporter, presumably F.W. Morton, retells the story of the "other" hill of Mormonism.  He states that the cave shows 56 years of erostion, with the door burried half-way up in dirt.   Other sources indicate that Wallace Miner cleared the cave entrance in 1880, though.  Only 6 year prior to this visit.  John Gilbert, whom the reporter visits, spoke about the cave 5 years earlier, in 1881, and again 7 years later, in 1893. This article was widely reprinted.

Long-form Source Text

VISIT TO MINER'S HILL

ONE OF THE PLACES CELEBRATED IN THE HISTORY OF MORMONISM.

Joe Smith and His Bible—Dictating to an Amanuensis—One of the Dupes—Cave on Miner's Hill—Bringing Out the Book.

On returning to the village of Palmyra we visited another hill which is celebrated in the annals of Mormon history. In order that the reader may understand the significance of this hill we must go back to Joe Smith and his bible. The book, which, by the way, no one ever saw, was said to consist of metal plates, pierced on one edge, and fastened together by rings which passed through the holes. With the book was also found, or so pretended, a huge pair of spectacles, too large for any mortal eyes, which had the remarkable quality of turning the hieroglyphics on the metal plates into plain English. 

Smith's scheme required the publication of his bible. How was he to accomplish this? No one was allowed to see the metal plates, and yet Smith could not write a legible hand. An accomplice was necessary. But Smith was equal to the occasion. He engaged one Oliver Cowdery a school-teacher, to be his scribe, promising him part of the proceeds of the book. The Smiths were then living in a little, one-story log house. There were only two rooms on the ground floor, with a pointed garret in the roof. Across one corner of this garret Smith had a blanket-screen stretched. Behind this screen he ensconced himself with his magic spectacles and his golden book (or, as Hussey affirms, his tile brick). Cowdery sat on the other side of the blanket and wrote from Smith's dictation. 

ONE  OF  THE  DUPES

Martin Harris, a wealthy farmer, was induced to bear the expense of printing the manuscript. But Harris' wife was a woman of too much good sense to be Smith's dupe. So in the absence of her husband she pat the manuscript in the stove and burnt it up. Here was a check in the proceeding, and one, too, that filled Smith with dismay. He and Harris were morally certain that Mrs. Harris had taken the manuscript, but they did not know it was burned. Smith was unable to reproduce the book exactly, and he feared that the first manuscript would be produced to confound him. However, it wasn't a time to give up. He and his friends repaired to Miner's hill by night, and there dug a sort of cave on the east side of the hill. The dimensions of this cave were forty feet deep, sixteen feet wide, and seven feet high. The entrance was secured by a substantial door of two-inch oak plank. In this dark cave Smith set about producing a new manuscript, Cowdery still acting as an amanuensis. This copy was more securely guarded; it is that from which the Mormon bible was printed in 1829. 

Miner's hill is about two and a half miles south of Palmyra. In appearance it is similar to Mormon hill, and like it runs off to the south in a ridge. In the days of Smith it was heavily wooded. When we visited the hill the timber had been cut down, and the whole was a slashing filled with stumps, briers and burrs. We had little difficulty in finding what used to be the cave. It is situated just below the brow of the hill. Fifty-six years, however, have left their ravages. Instead of a cave we found quite a depression where the earth had given way and fallen in. The door had long since disappeared. The door-frame, however, still stands there, buried more than half the way up in the earth. The frame is roughly made, the sides not being mortised into the top, but simply secured by three large spikes driven through each end of the top piece. We took our knife and cut off a piece of the wood. It was as sound as when the frame was first made. Hundreds of people, we were told, annually visit Mormon hill; but few ever wend their way through the burrs and briers of Miner's hill. 

PRINTED  AT  LAST

After a good deal of demurring Mr. Egbert B. Grandin, the publisher of The Wayne Sentinel, contracted to do the printing. An edition of 5,000 copies was ordered. The price agreed upon was $8,000. Harris pledging himself to pay the money. It happened that at that time the leading compositor in Mr. Grandin's office was Mr. John H. Gilbert. Mr. Gilbert, or, as he is now called, Maj. Gilbert, is to-day a hale man of 85 years. It was our good fortune to meet him and have a long talk about the early days of Mormonism. He had the chief operative trust of the typesetting and presswork. He got out the first form. There were in all 568 pages of the bible, and of these Gilbert set up with his own hands over 500. The original instructions were that no alterations whatever from the copy were to be made. But under Gilbert's earnest protestations these instructions were rescinded. Cowdery, though a tolerable penman, was poor in syntax, orthography, punctuation. etc. The copy furnished him, Mr. Gilbert assured us, was a solid mass. There was no punctuation, very few capitals, no paragraphs. 

Joe Smith kept in the background. Gilbert only saw him twice -- once in the office for a few minutes and once on the street. Hyrum Smith, his brother, brought the copv to the office every morning, in installments of twenty-four pages, buttoned up in his vest, and came for them at night. But after much friendly expostulation Smith in about ten days relaxed his vigilance, and permitted Gilbert to take the manuscript home to correct and punctuate. This was on Gilbert's word that he would be responsible for the copy. Grandin read most of the proof; Gilbert read the rest. The contract price of the printing was faithfully paid by Harris. David Whitmer, who now lives in Richmond, Mo., has the original manuscript. A man living in Williamson, Wayne county, N. Y., has the press on which the book was printed. The book was seven months in printing— that is, from August, 1829, to March, 1830. 

Mr. Gilbert has one copy of the original edition of the Mormon Bible. It has never been bound, but is in [loose] leaves. He has been offered $100 for it, but wants $500. He thinks it ought to be procured for the library at Washington. In the Mormon Bibles now published Joe Smith is styled the "Translator." But the first edition bore on the title page, "By Joseph Smith, Jr., author and proprietor."


Source: Weekly News and Democrat, Auburn, New York, Thursday, October 7, 1886.

Facsimile

Joseph Rogers was a Palmyra local and an acquaintance of Joseph Smith.  He and Joseph were the same age.

Arthur B. Deming was an ardent anti-Mormon journalist who labored to secure evidence proving the fraudulent origin of Mormonism.  He published "Naked Truths About Mormonism," including many statements from those who were aquainted with early Mormonism.

Arthur Deming publishing Joseph Rogers' statement about his local knowledge:

 Jo Smith and his adherents dug a cave in a hill in Manchester, N.Y., and used to go there, he said, to consult with the Lord. He had a door at the entrance fastened with a padlock. The sheriff took possession and found much property which had been stolen from farmers about there. Jo had left for Ohio. It was believed that Jo intended to remove the property.  

Joseph Rogers, Statement to Arthur B. Deming, 20 Mar. 1885, in Naked Truths About Mormonism, Apr. 1888,1
Notes / Commentary

Rogers mentions others were involved in digging the cave, perhaps referring to Alvin and Father Smith.  He also states that the cave was used for hiding stolen goods.

Long-form Source Text

JOSEPH  ROGERS' STATEMENT

I was born in Wester, Oneida Co., N.Y., Feb. 10, 1805. Our family moved to Phelpstown a few miles south of Palmyra, N.Y., in 1815, where I resided until 1842. I was often in Palmyra, and was well acquainted with Jo Smith, who became the Mormon prophet. When a young man he claimed to receive revelations from the Lord where treasures were buried. He told Peter Rupert and Mr. Cunningham, a blacksmith (simple-minded old men), that there was a chest of gold buried on my brother-in-law, Henry Murphy's farm, under a beech tree. Henry's younger brother, Jack, said that must be stopped, and he obtained some filth in a sap bucket and got up in the beech tree before they arrived in the evening. They came and Mr. Rupert held the Bible open and a lighted candle as prophet Jo directed, while Peter dug for the chest of gold. Jack called Peter three times and he looked up and said, "Here am I, Lord," and received the filth in his face. Peter told me and others that the Lord chastised him and he had to stop his digging. He said he paid Jo for the information. I told him he ought not to believe Jo, for he was liar and imposter. He said Jo would put a spell on him and that he would have to stand still two weeks. He said Jo had perfect command over men. He believed he was a prophet. Jack was called Lord Murphy afterwards. There were many others similarly duped by Jo. Many of Jo's victims were from New Jersey and believed in witches and ghosts. He could not fool the New England or York State Yankees. Jo Smith and his adherents dug a cave in a hill in Manchester, N.Y., and used to go there, he said, to consult with the Lord. He had a door at the entrance fastened with a padlock. The sheriff took possession and found much property which had been stolen from farmers about there. Jo had left for Ohio. It was believed that Jo intended to remove the property.  

I had the affidavits of six creditable farmers who lived in Manchester, N.Y., that Jo Smith, who became the Mormon prophet, stole their chickens and sheep. I lost them moving. Farmers said he was a terror to the neighborhood and that he would either have to go to State prison, be hung, or leave the county, or he would be killed. Jo contrived in every way to obtain money without work. The farmers claimed that not a week passed without Jo stole something. I knew at least one hundred farmers in the towns of Phelps, Manchester and Palmyra, N.Y., who would make oath that Jo Smith the Mormon prophet was a liar, intemperate and a base imposter. His father, old Jo, was called a devil. He was very intemperate, profane and vulgar in conversation. Jo, the prophet, said much about his troubles with the devil and that he, the devil, got the better of him much of the time. Jo traveled about the country considerable and was well known.

While visiting my uncle, Jacob Wiggins, in Western, Oneida Co., N.Y., I attended a Mormon meeting in a schoolhouse about three miles north of Rome, N.Y. The preacher spoke about twenty minutes and then introduced a woman who would speak in the unknown tongue. She said, "Feel of me low, feel of me lee, feel of me li." A man by the door got up and said, "By --- I can interpret it: Feel of my toe, feel of my knee, feel of my thigh. That is what she means," and left the room. He was under the influence of liquor. It caused so much laughter it stopped the meeting. My uncle always laughed when I asked him about the unknown tongue. My uncle knew the interpreter. I was informed by three or four creditable parties who were at a public house in the town of Pittsford, Ontario Co., N.Y., that a stranger stayed over night and died as was supposed. A doctor was called and another stranger soon came. He said he was a Mormon and could bring the dead to life. The hotel keeper requested him to restore the man to life. The doctor inquired if he could if the man's head was cut off. The Mormon replied he could. The doctor took an ax and said he would cut off his head. The pretended dead man rose up and said, "For God's sake don't cut off my head." I have no doubt the above is true, knowing the persons well who informed me. But few persons about Palmyra and Manchester became Mormons. Jo, the prophet, pretended to tell fortunes for pay. He could read the character of men readily and could tell who he could dupe.

[Signed] JOSEPH ROGERS.

[Seal] 

Witnessed by:
HELEN ROGERS (Daughter).
Los Gatos, Cal, May 16, 1887. 

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 16th day of May, A.D., 1887.

JOHN F. TOBIN, Notary Public.

Mr. Rogers formerly lived at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Judge White, his son-in-law, is attorney for the Northern Pacific Railroad at Duluth. His son, W. H. Rogers, is a shipping merchant at 411 California Street, San Francisco.


Source: Joseph Rogers, Statement to Arthur B. Deming, 20 Mar. 1885, in Naked Truths About Mormonism, Apr. 1888,1

Sylvia Walker was a neighbor of the Smiths in Manchester, and was a student of Oliver Cowdery's.  

Arthur B. Deming was an ardent anti-Mormon journalist who labored to secure evidence proving the fraudulent origin of Mormonism.  He published "Naked Truths About Mormonism," including many statements from those who were aquainted with early Mormonism.

Arthur Deming publishing Sylvia Walker's statement about her local knowledge:

Jo [Smith] claimed to receive a revelation to dig forty feet into a hill about two miles north of where he pretended to find the gold plates of the 'Book of Mormon,' where he would find a cave that contained gold furniture, chairs and table. The Mormons dug into the hill horizontally over forty feet without finding any cave. The boys troubled them so they placed a door with lock at the entrance. The boys placed brush against it and destroyed it with fire. The Mormons abandoned it. I heard our neighbors say probably Jo Smith dug his fat sheep and barrels of flour out of it.

Sylvia Walker, Statement to Arthur B. Deming, 20 Mar. 1885, in Naked Truths About Mormonism, Apr. 1888,1
Notes / Commentary

Syvia Walker corroborates details about gold furniture in the cave.

Long-form Source Text

MRS.  SYLVIA  WALKER'S STATEMENT

I was born in Manchester, Ontario County, N.Y., Aug. 27, 1818, and lived there until 1852, when I came to Ohio. The Mormon Smith family lived in sight of my parents' house. I attended school to Oliver Cowdrey with Carlos, Sam, Bill, Catherine, and Lucy Smith, who were very poor scholars. Jo, Hyrum and Sophrona, the other children, were older. I have been at their house. They were the lowest family I ever knew. They worked very little and had the reputation of stealing everything they could lay their hands on. Old Jo was very intemperate. When Jo told his neighbors about finding gold plates no one believed him nor paid any attention to it, he had humbugged them so much. Much of the time he claimed he was in Pennsylvania. I attended a Mormon meeting in old Jo Smith's loghouse. Martin Harris spoke and Darius Pearse laughed at something he said. He reproved Pearse, who left the house, and when he was in the road began to denounce the Smith family and talked nearly one hour. The audience left the house and listened to him. He reviewed the character of them and said they stole six of his fat sheep. His talk greatly pleased his neighbors. He was one of our best citizens. The Mormons said the price of the "Book of Mormon" was established at $1.75 by revelation. It did not sell well and they claimed to receive another to sell it at $1.25. The people were amused that the Mormon Deity did not know what price to set upon the book. It was freely talked among the neighbors that Jo Smith said he had a revelation to go to Pennsylvania and get him a wife. Jo claimed to receive a revelation to dig forty feet into a hill about two miles north of where he pretended to find the gold plates of the "Book of Mormon," where he would find a cave that contained gold furniture, chairs and table. The Mormons dug into the hill horizontally over forty feet without finding any cave. The boys troubled them so they placed a door with lock at the entrance. The boys placed brush against it and destroyed it with fire. The Mormons abandoned it. I heard our neighbors say probably Jo Smith dug his fat sheep and barrels of flour out of it.

MRS. SYLVIA WALKER. 

Witnessed by:
MRS. ALBERT PHINNEY (Daughter).
MISS LULA PHINNEY (Granddaughter).
Chester, Ohio, March 20, 1885.  


Source: Sylvia Walker, Statement to Arthur B. Deming, 20 Mar. 1885, in Naked Truths About Mormonism, Apr. 1888,1

John Gilbert was the typsetter of the Book of Mormon and a long-time Palmyra resident who collaborated closely with the Smiths during the years of the Book of Mormon's publication.

New York Herald interviewing John Gilbert about dealing with Joseph Smith:

Joe Smith was not at the office at all...Joe Smith was in his cave or room where the translating had been done, getting new revelations, I suppose, from the angel. [Joseph] hid them for a day and then took them to his house. Later the alleged plates were carried to a cave for translation...In that cave it is supposed they really went over the manuscript which had been stolen by Rigdon from Spalding's house.

John H. Gilbert interview, 23 June 1893, in New York Herald, 25 June 1893, 12, quoted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 2:552
Notes / Commentary

John Gilbert is consistent in his statements that the Book of Mormon translation was prepared in the cave.  His proximity to the events surrounding the Book of Mormon's publication lends a good deal of credibility to his words.

Long-form Source Text

INTERVIEW WITH THE PRINTER OF THE BIBLE.

Major John H. Gilbert, who had formerly owned the printing office and subsequently sold it to Mr. Grandin, was an expert printer. He was asked if he would undertake the job of setting up the Mormon Bible, as they wished him to do the work, he to receive twenty-five cents a thousand ems. 

I asked the Major yesterday if he would give the Herald an interview on the subject. He would do it cheerfully.

"That was a long time ago, he said -- "sixty-three years -- yet I remember the incidents connected with the printing of that Bible as plainly as if they had happened yesterday. The Mormons first submitted the title page. I kept a copy of it, also the proof sheets of the book, which are now on exhibition at the World's Fair in Chicago. A peculiarity of this Mormon Bible of to-day is that it is nearly the same as it was when I printed it. In the first copy it was said, 'By Joseph Smith, Jr.; Author and Proprietor. In later editions the announcement was made that Joseph Smith, Jr., was the translator of the book. 

Continuing. Major Gilbert said; --

"It required seven months of hard work to set up that Bible. The manuscript was clearly written, but there were no capital letters and no punctuation marks of any kind in the entire book. At first Hyrum Smith and Harris, who brought the copy to the office, were very exacting. They gave only twenty-five pages at a time and would allow none of it to remain in the office over night. I told them it must be punctuated. Each chapter made a solid paragraph, without a break or anything to show the beginning or ending of a sentence. 

"Joe Smith was not at the office at all. I never saw him except once or twice during the preparation, seven months. All the business was done by proxy. Joe Smith was in his cave or room where the translating had been done, getting new revelations, I suppose, from the angel. When I explained to Harris that the matter should be punctuated and put in proper form he retired for consultation. The answer came back that the Old Testament was full of bad grammar and what was good enough for the Bible was good enough for them. One of Smith's literary assistants -- in fact, the only one he had except Rigdon -- was Cowdery. A large portion of the manuscript was in his handwriting. At times, however, it came in the handwriting of one of the Smith women. No corrections were made beyond typographical errors. They soon allowed me to punctuate, so I went over the manuscript with pencil as it was brought in, punctuating and paragraphing as I read. My pencil marks are on the original manuscript now in the keeping of a Mormon at Richmond, Mo. I understand the Mormons cannot get possession of that manuscript at any price. 

"I tried to learn something about the humbug, but they declared that everything they gave me was a direct translation from the golden plates. As I understood it, these golden plates were taken from the mountain to Smith's house and put in a bag. He was so frightened at first after he had recovered them from the guardianship of the angel, that he hid them for a day and then took them to his house. Later the alleged plates were carried to a cave for translation. 

"Nobody believes that there were any plates, unless Smith secured a few of the archaeological plates at a museum to show on extraordinary occasions to doubting friends. In that cave it is supposed they really went over the manuscript which had been stolen by Rigdon from Spalding's house, and, by incorporating it with Bible language, disguised it and made it the basis of their new gospel. 

"I knew that Harris was an honest man, and one day I asked him to tell me truly if he had ever seen those golden plates. Yes, he'd seen them, he said. 

"'Do you mean that you actually saw the plates with your naked eye?' 

"Harris' face fell and he was downcast for a moment. Then he said. 'I saw them with a spiritual eye.' 

"Some time ago Brigham Young's son called on me and said, 'I suppose. Major Gilbert, that you think our Mormon Bible a humbug.' 

"Yes," I replied, "a very big humbug. 

"Brigham replied with a smile, 'If it is a humbug, it is the most successful humbug ever known.'" 

"In printing the Bible did you do the presswork as well as the typesetting?" I asked of the Major. 

"Yes, I did most of the presswork also. I had learned my trade at Canandaigua and understood the business thoroughly. After Harris had promised to insure the payment for the printing Grandin went to New York and bought the type -- 500 pounds of new small pica. He brought it home and I laid the cases and went to work on the book. I don't think there was any delay during the seven months that I was at it. When the Bible was finished and neatly bound the Mormons were elated. It was the thing they needed to bring them followers, and Harris went about as a missionary, believing every word he uttered, that Smith was a man in daily communication with the Almighty."


Source: John H. Gilbert interview, 23 June 1893, in New York Herald, 25 June 1893, 12, quoted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 2:552

Facsimile

The New York Herald reporter visited Palmyra to learn about early Mormonism from the locals, and to visit the cave.

John Gilbert was the typsetter of the Book of Mormon and a long-time Palmyra resident who collaborated closely with the Smiths during the years of the Book of Mormon's publication.

Orson and Tim Saunders were the children of Orlando Saunders, and nephews of Lorenzo and Benjamin Saunders.

A reporter visits the cave with locals:

[Joseph] carried [the plates] home and afterward hid them in a cave...[The Saunders brothers and John Gilbert] visited the cave where the Mormon plates were translated. It is situated on the eastern brow of Cave Hill, a prominence about two-thirds as large as Mormon Hill and exactly half way between Mormon Hill and Palmyra.  The door jambs leading into the cave are still sound and partly visible, but the earth has been washed down by storms and the opening to the cave nearly filled, so that it cannot be entered at present...the mouth was choked by a small land slide... A few years ago it was dug out, the earth removed from the door and Orson Saunders, who went in, said that he found quite a large chamber...eight feet wide and seven feet high...

"Mormon Leaders at they Mecca," New York Herald, 25 June 1893
Notes / Commentary

This extensive article contains a great deal of details, including a description of a visit to the hill itself.  The opening is evidently filled in 1893, despite Wallace Miner having cleared it "a fear" years earlier, when Orson went in himself.

Long-form Source Text

A VISIT TO MORMON HILL.

My visit to Mormon Hill and the various caves where the prophet claimed to have held communion with the angels was of interest. Major Gilbert, who accompanied me, is a man of unfailing interest. He is a striking example of how well preserved a man can be at the age of ninety-one. Fire is in his eye, his countenance is animated, his mind fresh and active. He is a remarkable man for any country. He is passionately fond of anything relating to Napoleon, whom he considers the greatest general of history. He has rare books. His criticisms are keen. He is passionately fond of music; has heard the great violinists who have appeared in this country since Ole Bull's first visit. He has a violin that was made two hundred years ago. It is light as a feather; has crossed the Atlantic three times; has been broken in pieces, mended again, and is wonderfully preserved. It has a singing quality, and is sweet toned as a harp. For fifty years the Major taught dancing in this village. Although a printer by profession, and a good one too, he has found time to read the books and newspapers of the day. But this is not all. He is an expert mathematician, and he was one of the first to be employed on the Erie Canal to arrange toll tables and make difficult computations in regard to tariffs and toll rebates during those years of enormous business on the canal, sometimes reaching millions in a single year. During these ninety-one years of the Major's life the greatest events of modern history have transpired. The telegraph, the application of steam to motive power, the Atlantic cable, electricity, all the great steamships, were undreamed of when the Major was a boy. Grant, Sheridan. Lincolnm Gettysburg and the greatest wars of the world, the creation of now governments, the unification of Germany, the emancipation of the serfs and the freeing of the slaves in this country -- all happened in the afternoon of this man's life.

MAJOR GILBERT AT HOME.

When I called upon Major Gilbert at his modest home, just off the main street in Palmyra, he received me with unaffected cordiality, and said that having acted as historian for the Mormon visitors he would gladly give the Herald what facts he knew In regard to the rise of Mormonism in Palmyra. He exhibited piles of letters and pamphlets, extracts and newspaper clippings on the various phases of Mormonism which had been sent him for half a century. He is an authority on the subject.

At his suggestion a family of elderly bachelors was called on to accompany us on our visit to the places where Smith held his interviews with the various Mormon angels. The bachelor brothers are aged only in years. Both Orson Saunders and his brother Timothy are as frisky as young colts in a Kentucky meadow.

Their memory is remarkably accurate. They have never been married, but "keep house" together and live well on the old farm, but a short distance from the cave where the Mormon Bible was translated and but "across the way" from the well in which Joe Smith s brothers found the agate peep stone shaped like a girl's foot, and in which he saw the first of his wonderful visions. The Saunders brothers are familiar with many of the stories told about the Smiths, as their families were intimate and their farms adjoined.

When we reached the Saunders farmhouse the boys, as the Major called them, were busy cooking supper. Orson was frying eggs and his venerable, frisky bachelor brother Timothy was baking light biscuit and "setting" the table. In manner and intelligence they did not seem more than twenty years old. Orson brought a pitcher of genuine Wayne county cider from the cellar which must, have been connected with an ice cave. It is safe to say that no such cider is ever found in New York city. The Major said it was only surpassed in quality and effect by fifty-year-old New Jersey applejack.

AT MORMON HILL.

The first of the Mormon places visited was Mormon Hill, called in the sacred Scriptures as written by Joe Smith, "Camorah Hill." It is a notable mound of earth rising perhaps a hundred feet above the highway, against which it juts with almost overhanging abruptness. At a distance of half a mile it appears a thousand feet high. It looks like an Arizona butte, and in the West it would require an hour for a man to climb a mountain of its appearance.

It stands like a sentinel amid the most inviting scenery in the State. The region, by the way, is remarkably beautiful. It is like the finest parts of England, and one can easily imagine himself in Devonshire, or up in the Dukeries made famous by Robin Hood and his men. Joe Smith must have had a love for the picturesque. His operations, when not in a cave, were always on a hill.

On reaching the scene of his greatest exploits we found that the mountain had been fenced in and a part of the ground nearly to the brow of the sacred mount planted in corn. A cozy, sweet little farmhouse, half hidden by venerable trees nestled at the base of the hill, making a pleasing picture to the eye on that hot day. We had heard that the owner of the farm, Mr. George Sampson, had been overrun by curiosity seekers and had taken precautions to protect himself and his crops from intruders. He was not at home, but a very pretty girl was in charge of the place. She came to the door and with a modest smile said her father charged twenty-five cents a head for each visitor who wished to climb the mountain. The money was paid most cheerfully, and the Major with his ninety-one years was one of the first to reach the summit of the hill. The mercury on that day was 99 in the shade in New York city. It must have been at 140 up here in the glare of the open country.

The view from the summit was a picture. The landscape rolled away in glorious billows as green as a lawn, broken here and there by ploughed fields and promontories, interspersed with cooling groves and silvery streams.

What was there to see on the holy mount to prove that Joe Smith had discovered the Mormon gospel there? Nothing but a filled up hole just under the western apex, perhaps four or five feet below the summit. It had been mischievously stated in the village by someone who did not like the tradition of their fathers, disturbed by the payment of a twenty-five cent fee that Mr. Sampson had filled in and ploughed up the genuine cave on the east side of the mountain and had dug a "fake" cave in a place that could not be cultivated. The mountain had long been used as a sheep pasture. This planting corn on the sanctified spot where Joe Smith had fought devils, conversed with angels and rescued the golden pages of God's own Word was a modern innovation and the people did not like it.

HOW JOE SMITH FOUGHT DEVILS.

While on the hill Orson Saunders, the frisky bachelor farmer of Palmyra, gave the story that Smith had told his uncle of how he found the golden tablets. It is no doubt authentic, because the Saunders boys are trustworthy and their uncle was well acquainted with the Smith family. Their farms adjoined. The uncle's name is Benjamin Saunders. He is eighty years old and lives at Banker's Station, near Hillsdale, Mich. He repeated the narrative only a year or two ago to Orson. This is the story: --

Smith had received several communications from the archangel, and was told on a certain day to repair that night to the holy mountain and dig in a certain place, which he would recognize. It was shown him in the vision. Accordingly he went there at midnight with a shovel and crowbar. He recognized the spot and dug until he came to a large, flat stone. To use Smith's own words: --

"I forced the crowbar under the stone and raised it without difficulty. There I beheld a casket of golden plates, on which were inscribed the new gospels. The glory of heaven shone around them and upon them. The place seemed on fire. I was about to remove the plates when an enormous toad appeared, squatting upon the pages.

"Instantly it was revealed to me that I had forgotten to carry out some request made by the angel in digging for the plates. I had forgotten to give thanks to God, and I knew what was passing in the toad's mind. Instantly the beast arose and expanded as large as a dog, then as a bullock, then it rose far above me, a flaming monster with glittering eyes, until it seemed to fill the heavens, and with a blow like lightning it swept me from the mountain into the valley beneath.

ANOTHER VISITATION. "The sun was shining high in the heavens when I came to my senses. Again the angel of the Lord appeared and instructed me how I should further proceed. I acknowledged the mistake I had made and on that night I again repaired to the holy mountain. But the stone was not there, nor was there any sign that it had ever been there or that I had dug for it. But a revelation came to me on the spot. A new place to dig was pointed out and In a few moments I reached a big flat stone, and offering up thanks I removed it with the crowbar. The golden plates were flaming again in celestial splendor. The toad was not there. Then I knew it was all right.

"Again thanking the Almighty I removed the plates, but was so agitated I could hardly move. The moment I touched them a thousand devils sprang into light. They were all around the hill: the mountain seemed alive with them; they were in the air; they perched on my shoulders. They could do nothing, however. I was protected by the angel of God. But I had to fight for it. It was a struggle to get down from the mountain. Many a time I thought the holy plates would be taken from me, but I never let go of them until I found a place to hide, that I might rest and recover my strength. The country was heavily timbered in those days, but I was not afraid to go through the woods. On the following day I had the plates safely clasped to my breast and I carried them home and afterward hid them in a cave, where I began the first translation of the inspired pages.''

JOE SMITH AND HIS BIBLE.

This, in brief, is Joe Smith's own narrative of how he came to receive the sacred Bible from heaven on which he founded the Mormon Church. Many stories are related by friends of his family as to how the golden plates appeared when seen in Smith's house. At one time he kept them in a bag. Then he hired a carpenter to make a chest bound with iron and fastened with a hasp and strong lock. This was after the plates had been removed from the cave. The facts as believed by Palmyra people are that the Spalding manuscript was what Smith was translating in the cave with his newly found friend Rigdon, the apostate Campbellite exhorter, who had stolen the Spalding manuscript and brought it to Joe Smith to palm off on the world as a new gospel. The best people in Palmyra who were well acquainted with the Smith family made many attempts to see those golden plates. One woman, a particular friend of Mrs. Smith, was invited to take a peep at the metallic pages. She said they were beautiful to look at and shone with glory.

A man once attempted to use force and open the chest, in fact he threw the lid up but saw nothing. In explanation of this Smith said that the Lord would protect his own, that no unbeliever ever could see the holy plates even if they were in the chest. The sacred pages of the Mormon Bible had a way of vanishing at the opportune moment just as the sacrificial sheep had once vanished when the lights were put out at the gold digging seance, and re-appeared as mutton the next day on the dinner table at the Smith farm house.

The young lady in charge of the holy mountain said that a great many Mormons had visited the place of late and that an offer had been made to buy it. Her father, Mr. George Sampson, came in later and explained that he did not wish to cancel any privileges enjoyed by the inhabitants for half a century, but he was forced to protect his property. Unscrupulous visitors from neighboring counties had trampled his crops, thrown down the fences and rolled stones from the mountain against fences, and he thought that the small admission fee of twenty-five cents would afford protection, keep away rowdies and enable earnest students to inspect the mountain undisturbed.

It may be of interest to state that Mr. Sampson's brother. Captain Sampson, is a well known naval officer, formerly in charge of the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He went with the young cadets on their cruises, and later was commander of the war vessel San Francisco. He was the first to the family to have an interest in the Mormon mountain. He bought it of the Robinsons, but subsequently sold it to his brother, who now carries on extensive farming operations around the mountain, while, his pretty daughter manages household affairs, and her half dozen manly young brothers superintend the farm.

AT THE PROPHET'S CAVE.

Next we visited the cave where the Mormon plates were translated. It is situated on the eastern brow of Cave Hill, a prominence about two-thirds as large as Mormon Hill and exactly half way between Mormon Hill and Palmyra. It is four miles from Palmyra to Mormon Hill. The door jambs leading into the cave are still sound and partly visible, but the earth has been washed down by storms and the opening to the cave nearly filled, so that it cannot be entered at present. A few years ago it was dug out, the earth removed from the door and Orson Saunders, who went in, said that he found quite a large chamber many feet in extent, with the marks of the pick plainly visible in the light of his candles. The passageway within the chamber was eight feet wide and seven feet high. The Miner boys intended to keep the cave open for public inspection, but the mouth was choked by a small land slide during a heavy rain and since then Nature has been allowed its way. The door jamb is heavy plank of beech or maple, and the inscriptions, which had evidently been cut deeply by a sharp knife, were partially worn away.

This hill was one of the favorite places which Smith selected for his money digging exploits. In the old days half a dozen of these holes could be found on any of the hills of the neighborhood. It is quite a severe climb to reach the mouth of the cave, but Major Gilbert made the ascent without difficulty and rather gloried in the vigor of his ninety-one years.

A short drive brought us to the famous well on the Chase farm, where the agate peep stone was found and carried away by Joe Smith. It will be remembered that he claimed to see visions in this stone and by its frequent use he gained his fame for spiritual visions and they were really the beginning of the Mormon Church.

AT THE OLD WELL.

The well was dug about sixty-five years ago near the Chase farm house. The Homestead has disappeared. The garden and the yard in front of the house have been plowed up. All the family are dead. The dear child grew up, married and died. But the well remains and it was found nearly full of water in a field of corn with a lusty youth keeping down the weeds with a cultivator which a horse was drawing under the burning sun. In the furnace like atmosphere an old time black walnut tree as large and as widespreading as any of the trees in Bushy Park at Hampton Court cast its graceful shade for seventy feet around its trunk, nearly reaching the well.

A cover of ancient, weatherbeaten boards fastened with cleats and rusty nails covered the well and was held in place by a fence rail which the Major and his friend Orson Saunders estimated was at least sixty years old. We uncovered the well and found it heavily walled with large boulders which had remained undisturbed since the days they were laid in place by Joe Smith’s father and brothers. There seems to be more moisture in the soil now than in Smith's day, for it is only five or six feet down to the water. It looked dark and brackish and no doubt many a reptile has taken a bath in its depths. Then we proceeded to the homestead of Joe Smiths boyhood.

AT THE SMITH HOMESTEAD.

This historic place is situated a little to the west of Miner Hill, on another road running parallel with the Canandaigua road. It is a lower spot with the same beautiful landscape, rolling away like a panorama. Enormous apple trees with trunks as large as saw logs, cover the hills on every farm. The apple trees alone are worth a visit to Wayne county. It is a famous fruit country, as before stated, and many well known men have lived here besides Mormons. Singer, the father of sewing machines, after Elias Howe, had a little farm near here, though he was a carpenter, and helped build the very office in which Major Gilbert printed the Mormon Bible.

Within a few minutes' walk of the Smith estate lives Mr. Purdy, the propagator and proprietor of the famous small fruits which were a household word twenty years ago throughout the West. Another well to do farmer in the neighborhood was Wells, the founder of the great firm of Wells Fargo & Co., who ran the first stage coaches across the plains in Mormon days; who transported the bullion of the bonanza kings and many a time the bonanza kings themselves, and who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in protecting their drivers and passengers from Indians and highwaymen. Most of these men are dead, but not forgotten.

The Major took pride in pointing out the place where they had lived, and after half an hour's drive through clover scented lanes and across farms we reached the Smith homestead on what is known (although it is in the country, two miles from the village) as Strafford street. Why it is called a "street" nobody explains. It seems an English affectation, like "Broadway," a country lane in England, in the district where Abbey and Millet, the artists, spend their summers.

Well, we drove under the cooling shade of the big trees which hang over the road leading to the old Smith farm. We found the present proprietor at the house, and he greeted us warmly. He is a typical Massachusetts man, and be will tell you a volume about Worcester, where he used to live, and the great men who control the destiny of that part of New England. He was exceedingly hospitable and welcomed us in. He is known as plain "Will Chapman." The Smith house stands on a slight eminence sloping up from the road, perhaps ten or fifteen feet above the highway. It is what is known as a story and a half frame house, with very low upper windows, not more than a foot high -- four of them under the eaves.

IN JOE'S SANCTUM.

On your left hand as you enter the house is a large square corner room looking our upon the street. It is known as the parlor where Joe Smith completed the translation of the Bible plates after he brought them home from the cave. In this room he suspended a blanket across the corner and behind it he sat and delivered his oracles to his friends. They took down his dictations from the golden tablets Bible and sent them to the printer. In the smaller room directly back of it is Joe Smith s private room. Here he slept and held his holy conferences only with his most intimate friends.

The flooring is in good repair, and in the cellar, which is deep, spacious and cool, one may see that the boards which were put into floors in Smith's day were solid plank, supported by round timbers cut in the wood, hewed on one side, on which the floor was laid.

At each corner of each room the visitor may see the heavy square timbers (novv cased) which were used in framing a house seventy years ago. To raise the frame of a house in those days required the combined strength of all the men in the neighborhood, with a barrel or two of hard cider and the approving smiles of the women folks and the young daughters who came to peel apples, help cook the dinner, while the men folks raised the building. Joe Smith's house is of great interest to those who care for Yankee antiquity and Mormonism. Up a flight of stairs as solid as the hills are four large rooms, with the sloping roof back and front cutting off an angle from the ceiling. Every New England man remembers how such houses were built his dear boyhood days. It is true that the Smith house has been painted, renovated and and a small extension built, to the kitchen, but it is exactly the same house which the shiftless Smith family were many years in completing. It has been said that little of the old house remains. This is untrue.

THE MORMON'S JORDAN.

Across the road from the house is a big red barn which has been built since the Smiths departed from the country. Back of the barn, not more than sixty feet from the highway, is the first Mormon Jordan, a little creek which the Smith boys dammed at Joe's request and made a pool in which the first converts to Mormonism were baptized. It is a singing, meandering little brooklet about ten or fifteen feet wide, with two or three feet of water standing in the pools in the bends of the stream, but ordinarily the water is but a few inches deep. Swiftly darting fish of various kinds were seen flashing through the clear depths. If this little Jordan, the parent of the big Jordan out in Utah, could be transported thither it would be a source of much revenue to the Mormon business men, who should bottle it for the healing of sorrow and disease.

Mr. Chapman, who owns the estate produced a little book in which he showed the autograph and names of the Mormons who had most recently visited the place. He regrets now that there was so much talk about sinking Palmyra the Mormon Mecca, that he had not kept a register and asked every visiting Mormon to inscribe his name as a souvenir of his distinguished visitors. Chase spoke most respectfully of his visitors, and referred to the reverence and deep affection they had shown while examining the old homestead. They begged to see every room and closet. Mr. Chapman said that once in making repairs in roof he had found two old cannon balls, battered and rusted lying upon the heavy hewn [plate] timber on which the rafters rest. For the life of him he could not explain why the cannon balls were there. The only reason he could give was that the Smiths had placed them there to bring them good luck or to keep away evil spirits.


Source: "Mormon Leaders at they Mecca," New York Herald, 25 June 1893

Facsimile

The Arcadian Weekly Gazette was a newspaper that seemed to be publishing in reaction to other accounts in regional newspapers. The Weekly Gazette editor evidently once "met Smith, Cowdrey, Harris," etc., but neither he nor his anonymous Palmyra source add anything remarkable to the historical record. 

A Gazette reporter relating local stories:

...the manuscript was translated in a garret, not in a cave...Smith was not a translator, nor the original author, -- so the mysterious stranger appeared in the troubled camp, and a second translation was commenced. It was said to have been done in a cave, one hundred feet long; but no such cave was ever seen -- it never existed. It was done in that same dark garret, behind the same curtain, with Joe on one side and Cowdrey on the other. In six months a copy was ready for the printer, in Cowdrey's handwriting. 

The Arcadian Weekly Gazette, Vol VII No. 26, Newark, NY, Wednesday, July 26, 1893.
Notes / Commentary

The denial of a Joseph Smith cave in Miner's Hill is a strange attempt at refuting Tucker's claim for an "artificial cave... said to be one hundred and sixty feet in extent." The refutation was made all the more absurd by the 1886 publication of F. W. Morton's description of the artificial cave, in the Chicago Times, and by the New York Herald's June 25, 1893 report of a reporter's visit to the cave. The latter article relies upon information supplied by Palmyra residents Major John H. Gilbert and Orson Saunders -- witnesses easily accessible to the Weekly Gazette editor, had he cared to make any further investigation. 

Long-form Source Text

ABOUT MORMONISM.

HOW IT ORIGINATED IN THE TOWN OF PALMYRA.

Smith Was an Admirer of Capt. Kidd—How the Manuscript Was Translated in a Garret, Not in a Cave The Struggle to Get the Bible Printed.

There is being so much said at present in the press throughout the state and country in regard to Mormonism and its origin in Palmyra, that we asked an old resident of the town a few months ago to prepare us a story of the early days of the Mormons as he remembered them, and we take pleasure in printing his story below. He differs materially from some published accounts, but other stories have been written by men who are strangers [to us], while this man we know and know him to be truthful and reliable, and therefore feel sure this story, as far as it goes, is correct. It is well written and we shall be glad if the same writer will favor us with more of the same... He says:

Joseph Smith, the principle prophet and leader of Mormonism, was born in Sharon, Vermont, Dec. 23, 1806. He emigrated to Palmyra in 1816, a lazy, ragged youth. His conversation was of a visionary nature. He had heard and read of the notorious Capt. Kidd, the pirate, and his buried treasures, and he was overflowing with words and conceit in reference to his own magic skill in locating chests of jewels, gold and Silver.—He had a brilliant crystal opaque stone in his possession, which had been found in excavating a well, which when placed in a hat, enlarged his vision, that he could see buried treasure at a distance beneath the earth's surface. Smith thus became famous as a money digger, and for seven years a few faithful [men trusted in] his skill and threw up the ground where he promised success, but without unearthing a penny. Smith's followers now began to doubt, but he [proved] equal to the occasion. [He pretended he saw a mysterious] book. One day a stranger was seen in close conversation with him. Smith said a mission was given him that would shake the heavens and the earth: that the prophet's mantle now rested on him. As he ascended the hill that has gained notoriety as Mormon Hill, a soft, pure light flashed before him, as if fanned by angels' wings; its brightness: its brightness surpassed all earthly glory. He put down his spade, the ground flew as the lightest down before it. The opening thus made revealed shining plates all covered with mystic characters, which were the historical records of ancient and forgotten nations. Joe Smith at once pronounced these plates as pure gold: but the characters thereon he could not read—not a word. Here was a dilemma. Looking up, he asked what was to be done. A soft voice replied, "Look at the plates through the brilliant opaque." Now the mystery was apparently solved; he could read and interpret, but could not write a legible hand. This made an amanuensis necessary. Joe found his man soon, however,—Oliver Cowdery, a simple-minded young man of fair character and correct morals, who had been drawn to the place by curiosity. He had some reputation as a schoolmaster and accepted the situation. Joe claimed that a divine voice had commanded him to have the translation done quickly and published, so he drew a curtain across the corner of a dark room in a garret, and sitting behind the curtain, with his magic stone in one hand and the gold plates in the other, he commenced reading aloud, while Cowdery, on the other side of the curtain, wrote it down, word for word, as it came from Smith. They had words enough to publish, but not a dollar to pay for printing. The translation occupied two [sic] weeks. During that time, Joe met Martin Harris, a man of means, whom he approached by showing him the manuscript of a book which he said had but one faith and one practice: that it spoke with the voice of conscience, which gives life and light to the children of men. He represented the financial side as fifty per cent, and, if the Lord said so, it would reach seventy-five per cent. At this point Harris jumped to his feet, saying:—"It shall be printed, if it takes my farm to pay the printer." The manuscript was then given to Harris to make arrangements for its publication; but while Harris was asleep one night the first translation went up the chimney, in smoke and ashes. The Mormon camp was now in trouble: it had come to grief. Joe distrusted Harris: but the Gentiles said that Satan had only received his reward. Harris was alone the one to fully comprehend the situation. His wife was a Quaker, and had quietly remarked:—"The Devil and all his wicked works should be cast into the fire." It was now seen that a new translation might come in [conflict] with the first one,—It was not safe to proceed with such a possibility in the future,—Smith was not a translator, nor the original author,—so the mysterious stranger appeared in the troubled camp, and a second translation was commenced. It was said to have been done in a cave, one hundred feet long; but no such cave was ever seen—it never existed. It was done in that same dark garret, behind the same curtain, with Joe on one side and Cowdrey on the other. In six months a copy was ready for the printer, in Cowdrey's handwriting.

In June, 1830, Harris, Smith and Cowdrey applied to R. B. Granding, publisher of the Wayne Sentinel, to know If he would print the manuscript, but Mr. Granding declined. Then Thurlow Weed, of the Anti-Masonic Inquirer of Rochester, was asked to do the printing, but he also declined, saying that he wouldn't disgrace his type with such a silly book. Mr. Marshall, of Rochester, said he would print it if the pay was secured... [But this] proved too much for the patience of those Latter-day Saints, so, weary and care-worn, they applied a second time to Mr. Granding, to print the Book of Mormon, and save them repeated journeys to Rochester. Mr. Granding finally accepted a mortgage on 150 acres of Harris' farm land as security, and agreed to print and bind 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon for $3,000. The printing was done by John H. Gilbert, who set the type and did the press-work. The manuscript was so imperfect in grammar, syntax, capitalization and punctuation that Gilbert became thoroughly disgusted with the work. Harris, however, granted him the privilege of making all necessary corrections, in order to make the book readable. So the printing was done, the binding completed and the volumes handed over to Harris in the spring of 1830. Harris then sold his farm at private sale and settled his obligations for the work. Smith just at that time had a financial revelation, to the effect that the book must not be sold for less than $1.25 per copy.

Here I close this paper on "The Origin of Mormonism." May it not be sincerely hoped, that when the Anglo Saxon race draws its circle nearer and nearer to the great temple at Salt Lake, the delusive spell maybe broken, and that some Christian society will send from beneath its glorious arches the pure Gospel, with the power and meekness of Him who spake as never man spake?

P.S. The writer of this [sequel?] read several chapters in the Book of Mormon when it was first published. He has also seen Mormon Hill. The excavations made there are almost of a size that would be dug for a fox, woodchuck or pole cat. He has met Smith, Cowdrey, Harris and the rest of the conclave, as they paraded the streets of Palmyra, [a] considerable set of vagabonds. The book was written by Solomon Spalding and left with a publisher to be printed. Spalding died in 1827 [sic]. Sidney Rigdon was a printer, employed in the office, who purloined the manuscript, and he, Topsfield [sic] and Joe Smith concocted the whole scheme of Mormonism.


Source: The Arcadian Weekly Gazette, Vol VII No. 26, Newark, NY, Wednesday, July 26, 1893.

The Evansville Courier & Press is a local newspaper in Evansville, Indiana. The Evansville Courier & Press serves 58,098 daily and 86,201 Sunday readers in 30 counties in Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky.

Reporter writing on Mormonism:

[Smith's] translation of the plates was accomplished in a curious way. Going to the foot of the hill in which he claimed to have discovered them, he dug a cave into its side, perhaps 18 feet in length and 8 feet square. The locality was then wild woodland, but the timber has since been cleared away and the wooden uprights supporting the entrance to the cave are still visible. Across the centre of this cave Smith hung a heavy curtain. Behind this curtain he sat with his plates, while in front was [Oliver Cowdery.] The schoolmaster worked by the light of a small lantern, and once or twice it was necessary to barricade the entrance to the cave to keep out angry villagers who were scandalized by what they considered Smith's sacrilegious proceedings. The result of the schoolmaster's labors was a closely written manuscript of about 60,000 words, which after careful revision became the Book of Mormon.

"A Mormon Coincidence," Evansville Courier & Press, April 18, 1893
Notes / Commentary

Despite the false claim that John Gilbert never got paid, this article supports many of the details about the cave size, location, door, and mentions translation activities.

Long-form Source Text

A MORMON COINCIDENCE 

Their Bible's Wronged Printer Dying While They Celebrate. THE STORY OF MAJOR GILBERT How Joseph Smith Defrauded Him of His All -- New History.

While elaborate dedications for the great Mormon temple are in progress at Salt Lake City, Utah, the man who gave to Mormonism its religious guide book, lies ill almost unto death at Palmyra, N. Y., and wholly unrewarded by the church for which he once staked and lost his all. Major John H. Gilbert, when Joseph Smith first claimed to be prophet, lived in the same town with him -- Palmyra. Smith was the ne'er-do-well of the village. He was completely illiterate, being unable either to read or write, and his family, whose home was little better than a hut, bore a reputation none too good. But while Joseph was idling until his aversion to work became one of the hamlet's petty scandals, he was also thinking. The fruit of his thought came when he announced to incredulous townspeople that he had dug out of a neighboring hill a set of gold plates bearing strange signs. Divine inspiration, be said, had guided him to the spot and it was to divine inspiration, also, that he afterward attrlbuted his translation of the hieroglyphics on the tablets. So far as is known no one ever saw these plates and there could be found in Palmyra then only three people who believed that they existed. To-day not one person in the village has faith in the existence of the plates, the honesty of Smith or the Mormon doctrine. Smith s home gave no converts to the faith, which ho originated.

TRANSLATED THE PLATES IN A CAVE.

His translation of the plates was accomplished in a curious way. Going to the foot of the hill in which he claimed to have discovered them, he dug a cave into its side, perhaps 18 feet in length and 8 feet square. The locality was then wild woodland, but the timber has since been cleared away and the wooden uprights supporting the entrance to the cave are still visible. Across the centre of this cave Smith hung a heavy curtain. Behind this curtain he sat with his plates, while in front was stationed a man of some education who had once been a schoolmaster, but who had lost friends and position through drink. To this ex-schoolmaster Smith dictated the precepts which he claimed that God told him were written on the golden plates. The schoolmaster worked by the light of a small lantern, and once or twice it was necessary to barricade the entrance to the cave to keep out angry villagers who were scandalized by what they considered Smith's sacrilegious proceedings. The result of the schoolmaster's labors was a closely written manuscript of about 60,000 words, which after careful revision became the Book of Mormon.

NEVER PAID THEIR PRINTER.

The next thing to be done was to find a publisher for this Mormon Bible. For a long time Smith's efforts in this direction were unsuccessful. Finally he succeeded in interesting Major Gilbert, the town's only printer, in the venture, although he could not convert him to the new faith. To print so large a volume required greater capital than Gilbert had at his disposal, and he was forced to mortgage his home, his furniture, and in fact everything he had, in order to get sufficient funds. Finally the edition was struck off. Smith obtained possession of it (some say by stealth), and Major Gilbert was never paid for his work. The loss almost ruined him. He is now an old man, having passed his 87th birthday, but he still remembers with great bitterness his youthful experience with the originator of Mormonism...

THE CHURCH TO-DAY.

The adventures of Smith after he left Palmyra are familiar to most newspaper readers. His unholy church prospered despite public indignation. The temple which it is now in the midst of dedicating cost many millions of dollars, and is probably the most elaborately decorated building in America.


Source: "A Mormon Coincidence," Evansville Courier & Press, April 18, 1893

Facsimile

Daniel Hendrix is the fictional creation of Henry G. Tinsley.  

Henry G. Tinsley was a California reporter who visited New York and collected information about early Mormonism.



Henry G. Tinsley interviewing Daniel Hendrix:

The copy for the "Book of Mormon" was prepared in a cave that Smith and others dug near the scene of the finding of the golden plates on Gold Hill... Some one of the converts was constantly about the entrance to the cave, and no one but Smith and Alvin [i.e. Oliver] Cowdry, a school teacher there, who had proselyted that season, was allowed to go through the door of the cave....[Smith] read aloud, and Cowdery who was seated on the other side of a screen or partition in the cave, wrote down the words as pronounced by Joe. 

SF Chronicle, San Francisco, California, Sunday, May 14, 1893.
Notes / Commentary

The so-called recollections of "Daniel Hendrix" were an early 1890s forgery concocted by Henry G. Tinsley, then editor of the California Pomona Progress. Generally speaking, the Hendrix statement should not be relied upon, in any of its unique details, as providing an authentic account of events taking place in the Manchester-Palmyra area of the 1820s and early 1830s. The contents of the statement are a mixture of excerpts from various old historical souces, inflated with additions from Tinsley's imagination. While visiting his old Wayne Co., New York home in 1889, Tinsley no doubt had ample opportunity to take notes from local books and articles written on the subject of Mormon origins. Even at that late date he might have consulted a few living residents who had known the Smith family during the 1820s. From any number of these New York sources, Tinsley could have compiled his fabrication, but a close examination of its contents shows that the "Hendrix " account relies primarily upon genuine, eye-witness material, copied out of an obscure letter written by Joseph Franklin Peck in 1887

Another Hendrix's account appears in an 1897 edition of the Chicago Tribune, and another in the Springfield Republican.

Long-form Source Text

ORIGIN  OF  MORMONISM. 

Joe Smith and His Early Habits. How He Found the Golden Plates. A  Contemporary  of  the  Prophet Relates Some Interesting Facts. Correspondence of the Chronicle.

The completion of the great Mormon temple at Salt Lake city and the renewed interest taken all over America in the birth, growth and vicissitudes of Mormonism has made the reminiscences of Daniel Hendrix, a visitor in Rincon, in San Bernardino county, the more interesting. He is 82 years of age and is one of the four men now living who were actual witnesses of the very earliest days of Mormonism, and one of the two persons living who had an acquaintance with Joseph Smith previous to and at the time of the promulgation of the Mormon faith in Western New York. Mr. Hendrix has in his possesion some of the rough proof sheets that were taken in the work upon the famous "Book of Mormon," Smith's Bible, in Palmyra, N. Y. 

At one time he had a full Mormon Bible, as originally published by Major John Gilbert, but he sold the book to a man who acted as agent for the late Lord Beaconfield in 1873, for $300. He has since learned that two original Mormon Bibles have been sold in the past ten years for over $700 each. The Hon. William B. Gladstone has said to several American visitors, among them Chauncy M. Depew of New York, that he would prize very highly a copy of the famous Joseph Smith Bible as published in 1834 [sic]. 

Your correspondent found Mr. Hendrix a man of unusually clear memory and possessed of as vivid a recollection of events in his life sixty and seventy years ago as if they occurred a few months since. The old gentleman is now confined to his granddaughter's home by severe physical ailments. 

"I was a lad, or a very young man, in a store in Palmyra, N. Y., from 1822 until 1830," said Mr. Hendrix, "and among the daily visitors at the establishment was Joseph Smith Jr. Every one knew him as Joe Smith. He had lived in Palmyra a few years previous to my going there from Rochester. Joe was the most ragged, lazy fellow in the place, and that is saying a good deal. He was about 25 years old. I can see him now in my mind's eye, with his torn and patched trousers, held to his form by a pair of suspenders made out of sheeting, with his calico shirt as dirty and black as the earth, and his uncombed hair sticking through the holes in his old battered hat. In winter I used to pity him, for his shoes were so old and worn out that he must have suffered in the snow and slush, yet Joe had a jovial, easy, don't-care way about him that made him a lot of warm friends. He was a good talker and would have made a fine stump-speaker if he had had the training. He was known among the young men I associated with as a romancer of the first water. I never knew so ignorant a man as Joe was to have such a fertile imagination. He never could tell a common occurrence in his daily life without embellishing the story with his imagination, yet I remember that he was terribly grieved one day when old Parson Reed told Joe that he was going to hell for his lying habits. 

"Mrs. Smith, Joe's mother, was a staunch Presbyterian, and was a great admirer of her son, despite his shiftless and provoking ways. She always declared that he was born with a genius, and did not have to work. 'Never mind about my son Joseph,' said she one day, when my employer had rallied her upon her heir's useless ways, 'for the boy will be able some of these fine days to buy the whole of Palmyra and all the folks in it. You don't know what a brain my boy has under that old hat.' 

"For over two years Joe Smith's chief occupation was digging for gold at night and sleeping in the daytime. He was close-mouthed on the subject of his gold-seeking operations around on the farms of Wayne county, where not a speck of gold was ever mined, and when people joked him too severely concerning his progress in getting the precious metal, he would turn his back upon the jokers and bystanders and go home as fast as possible. With some of us young men, however, who were always serious with him and affected an interest in his work, he was more confidential. 

"Joe, in his excursions after gold, carried a divining-rod to tell him where there was hidden treasure, and he left many holes in the ground about that region, which testified that he could work if the spirit moved. He had all the superstitions of the money-diggers of the day, one of which was that the digging must be done at night and not a word must be spoken, for at the first utterance the gold would fly away to some other locality; in fact, Joe claimed that he had more than once been on the point of reaching some great treasure, when, in his eagerness, some unlucky exclamation would escape him and, presto! the treasure would vanish from under his feet. 

Finally In the fall -- in September, I believe -- of 1823 Joe went about the village of Palmyra telling people of the great bonanza he had at last found. I remember distinctly his sitting on some boxes in the store and telling a knot of men, who did not believe a word they heard, all about his vision and his find. But Joe went into such minute and careful details about the size, weight and beauty of the carvings on the golden tablets, the strange characters and the ancient adornments, that I confess he made some of the smartest men in Palmyra rub their eyes in wonder. The women were not so skeptical as the men and several of the leading ones in the place began to feel at once that Joe was a remarkable man after all. 

"Joe declared with tears in his eyes and the most earnest expression you can imgine that he had found the gold plates a hill six miles south of Palmyra, on the main road between that place and Canandaigua. Joe had dug and dug there for gold for four years, and from that time the hill has been known as Gold hill.

"For the first month or two at least Joe Smith did not say himself that the plates were any new revelation or that they had any religious significance, but simply said that he had found a valuable treasure in the shape of a record of some ancient peoples, which had been inscribed on imperishable gold for preservation. The pretended gold plates were never allowed to be seen, though I have heard Joe's mother say that she had lifted them when covered with a cloth, and they were very heavy, so heavy, in fact, that she could scarcely raise them, though she was a very robust woman. What Joe at that time expected to accomplish seems difficult to understand, but he soon began to exhibit what he claimed to be copies of the characters engraved on the plates, though the irreverent were disposed to think that he was more indebted to the characters found on China tea chests and in histories of the Egyptians and Babylonians than to any plates he had dug up near Palmyra. Before long, however, a new party appeared on the scene in the person on one Sidney Rigdon, and thenceforward a new aspect was put upon the whole matter. 

"I remember Rigdon as a man of about 40 years, smooth, sleek and with some means. He had a wonderful quantity of assurance, and in these days would be a good broker or speculator. He was a man of energy of contrivance, and would make a good living anywhere and in any business. He was distrusted by a large part of the people in Palmyra and Canandaigua, but had some sincere friends. He and Joe Smith fell in with each other, and were cronies for several months. It was after Rigdon and Smith were so intimate that the divine part of the finding of the golden plates began to be spread abroad. It was given out that the plates were a new revelation and were a part of the original Bible, while Joe Smith was a true prophet of the Lord, to whom it was given to publish among men. 

"Rigdon, who, from his first appearance, was regarded as the 'brains' of the movement, seemed satisfied to be the power behind the throne. Not only were pretended copies of the engraved plates exhibited, but whole chapters of what he called translations were shown; meetings were held at the Smith house and in the barns on the adjoining farms, which were addressed by Smith and Rigdon, and an active canvass for converts was inaugurated. Strange as it may appear from the absurdity of the claims set forth, and the well-known character of Joe Smith, these efforts were to quite a degree successful, particularly among the unsophisticated farmers of the vicinity, and a number of them who were regarded as equal in intelligence to the average rural population, became enthusiastic proselytes to the new faith. 

One feature of the claim in relation to the translation from the plates was quite in character with the claims that have been from time to time set up by the Mormon Church down to the present day. 

DANIEL  HENDRIX.

Joe Smith was, of course, an illiterate man and some way must be provided for the translation of his record. But Joe, or Rigdon, was equal to the emergency, for he claimed to have found with the 'Gold Bible,' as they then always called it, a wonderful pair of spectacles, which he described as having very large round glasses, larger than a silver dollar, and he asserted that by placing the plates in the bottom of a hat or other deep receptacle, like a wooden grain measure, he could put on those spectacles, and, looking down upon the plates, the engraved characters were all translated into good, plain English and he had only to read it off and have it recorded by a copyist. 

"This claim with all its absurdity was not more absurd than one that was made to me personally by Martin Harris, who was one of the early and most faithful proselytes. Harris was a farmer of good property, residing about a mile from the village, with whom I was well acquainted as a customer of a firm where I was employed. On one occasion I had been out on horseback on a collecting trip, and returning in the early evening as I passed the house of Mr. Harris, he came out, and joining me we rode together toward the village. It was a beautiful evening in October, and as we were on elevated ground sloping eastward toward the village in the same direction in which we were going, the full moon, which was just rising, made everything before us look most charming. 

As I made some remark on the beauty of the moon, he replied to the effect that if I could see it as he had done I might well call it beautiful. I was at once anxious to know what he meant, and plied him with questions; but beyond the assertion that he had actually visited the moon in his own proper person and seen its ttloriee face to face, he was not disposed to be communicative, remarking that it was only "the faithful that were permitted to visit the celestial regions," and with that he turned the conversation in less ethereal channels. 

"For three or four years Smith, Rigdon and Harris worked for converts to the new faith. They all became from constant practice and study good speakers, and Smith was at that time as diligent and earnest as he had previously been lazy and careless. The three men traveled all over New York State, particularly up and down the Erie canal. They were rotten-egged in some places, booed and howled into silence in others, and had some attention in a few communities. Their meetings were generally poorly attended, and people regarded the men as fools whose cause would soon die out. I attended several of the meetings in Wayne and Ontario counties. Smith would always tell with some effect how the angel had appeared to him, how he felt an irresistible desire to dig where he did, and how he heard celestial music and the chanting of a heavenly host as he drew the golden plates from the earth and bore them to his home. 

"He became so proficient in his description of that ecstatic joy in heaven when he found the plates that I have known a large audience to hold its breath as the sentences rolled from Smith's mouth. I have seen some farmer's wives become powerless and almost unconscious in the spell of religious enthusiasm that Smith and Rigdon had created. The latter told in scores of meetings, and to everyone with whom he came in contact how he was frequently transported to celestial spheres at night, while his body lay on his bed at home; how he had listened to counsels from Moses and Elisha, how he actually walked in flowery fields and down golden streets on some far off planet and he would repeat instructions that he pretended he had from Bible characters in the other world. 

"Of the printing of the 'Book of Mormon,' I have a particularly keen recollection. Smith and Rigdon had hard work to get funds togther for the new Bible. Smith told me himself that the world was so wicked and perverse that it was hard to win converts; that he had a vision to print the Bible and that as soon as that was done the work would be prospered wonderfully. A new convert named Andrews, a plain old farmer, in Auburn, New York, mortgaged his property for $3000 to start the printing. The Wayne Sentinel, published at Palmyra, did the work on a contract for 5000 copies for $5000. The printing office was on an upper floor, near the store where I worked, and I was one of the few persons who was allowed about the office while the publishing was going on. 

"I helped read proof on many pages of the book, and at odd times set some type. The copy was about half ready for the printer when there came a halt in the proceedings, for Mrs. Harris, wife of Martin Harris, had become so disgusted with her husband's conversion to the new religion and his abandonment of his fine farm for preaching Mormonism, that she one morning threw in the fire all the Bible manuscript that had been brought to him for review by Smith. It was weeks before Joe Smith and Rigdon recovered from their dismay at this act. Harris went down into his pockets for $300 to repay the loss caused by his wife's destruction of the manuscript. 

"The copy for the 'Book of Mormon' was prepared in a cave that Smith and others dug near the scene of the finding of the golden plates on Gold hill. I went out there frequently for a Sunday walk during the process of the translation of the plates and the printing of the book. Some one of the converts was constantly about the entrance to the cave, and no one but Smith and Alvin [sic] Cowdry, a school teacher there, who had proselyted that season, were allowed to go through the door to the cave. Rigdon had some hopes of converting me, and I was permitted to go near the door, but not so much as to peep inside. Smith told me later that no one had ever seen the golden plates but himself, and that he wore the glasses found with the plates, and was thus able to translate the new message from heaven to the people. He read aloud, and Cowdry, who was seated on the other side of a screen or partition in the cave, wrote down the words as pronounced by Joe. 

"The penmanship of the copy furnished was good, but the grammer, spelling and punctuation were done by John H. Gilbert, who was chief compositor in the office. I have heard him swear many a time at the syntax and orthography of Cowdry and declare that he would not set another line of type. The copy came in one conglomerate mass and there were no paragraphs, no punctuation and no capitals. All that was done in the printing office, and what a time there used to be in straightening sentences out, too! 

"During the work of printing the book I remember that Joe Smith kept in the background. He was wanted several times at the printing office to explain some obscure sentences and apparent blunders in composition, but he never came near the printers. He sent word by his brother Hiram that the work of translating absorbed his mind and functions so that he could not attend to mundane business. Every morning Hiram Smith appeared at the office with installments of copy of twenty-four pages buttoned up in his vest, and came regularly and punctually for them at night. 

"The publication of the book of Mormon was pushed with spirit, but until it was completed not a copy was allowed to leave the office, but every volume was packed in an upper room and the pile they made struck me at the time, and has since been vividly in my mind, as comparing in size and shape with a cord of wood, and I called it a cord of Mormon Bibles. The work was finished in the spring of 1830. Not long after the publication was completed Smith and his followers besgan their preparations for a removal, and ere long the parties, with their converts packed up all their belonings and left for Kirtland, O. 

"This removal was not 'on compulsion' from any complaints of their neighbors, like those they were subsequently compelled to make from Kirtland and Nauvoo, but all seemed to enter into it readily and with the utmost cheerfulness, though many abandoned homes of great comfort and comparative wealth. In the exodus there were farmers who were customers of the firm where I was employed, that sold their farms to the amount of $15,000, all of which was committed to the care and tender mercy of Joe Smith, and the votaries committed themselves to his care and guidance."  

HENRY G. TINSLEY.

POMONA. May 3, 1893. 


Source: SF Chronicle, San Francisco, California, Sunday, May 14, 1893.

Facsimile

The Palmyra Journal was a local newspaper that sometimes printed stories related to early Mormonism.

A reporter relating an experience had with other journalists:

A stranger ...  asked us if we would not take a walk with him to Mormon Hill, where he would show us some wonderful things if we would swear to secrecy...We climbed the west side and descended on the east side... we found ourselves enveloped in a dark, crooked passage...our Mormon friend opened a huge oaken door...There..were the original gold plates, from which Joseph Smith compiled the first Mormon bible. There were many other curious and beautiful things there...

The Palmyra Jounral Palmyra, N. Y., Wednesday, July 27, 1898
Notes / Commentary

This fanciful account, perhaps a journalist's dream or an imaginary event is not to be relied on.  It does, however, show that cave stories were still in the air as late as 1898.  The report may have been inspired by an article run in the New York Herald of June 25, 1893 

Long-form Source Text

A stranger came into our office the other night. He refused to give us his name, but said he was a Mormon... He seemed quite aggrieved that none of his friends were here to meet him and after saying good night, started to take his departure, when he turned and asked us if we would not take a walk with him to Mormon Hill, where he would show us some wonderful things if we would swear to secrecy. The night was beautiful and although very late, we decided to take the four mile walk. We started toward Canandaigua, as we thought, but our guide turned toward Prospect Hill, saying that would be our nearest way. We were surprised, but followed at his side. We climbed the west side and descended on the east side, where, after nearly reaching the bottom, the stranger insisted that we must be blinded. After some demur we consented, when we heard the crunching and sliding of a great stone and then felt an icy cold atmosphere. After closing the entrance, the bandage was removed, and we found ourselves enveloped in a dark, crooked passage, which we could not penetrate at first, but after some minutes there seemed to be a glow of light surrounding us which came from something our companion had ignited. The passage was quite filled with pools and seemed to be of limestone formation. We hurried along as fast as possible in the feeble glow of light. The path seemed quite smooth, the walls and covering were sparkling with satelites, showing that the water penetrated through to a large extent. After traveling what seemed many miles, the ground seemed to rise suddenly, and our Mormon friend opened a huge oaken door, when our eyes were almost dazzled by the magnificence we beheld. There suspended from the side of the wall by massive golden cords were the original gold plates, from which Joseph Smith compiled the first Mormon bible. There were many other curious and beautiful things there, and on a huge divan sat a very old man. He seemed to be as old as Smith would be himself at the present time. We were asked many questions about the early [struggle] and origin of Mormonism, which we answered as best we could from what we had heard and read; after this the old patriarch waved us out of the cave and my [guide] and myself returned as we had come. At the entrance we were not blindfolded as before, as he wanted our [------] to close [----], and he also said they did not fear discovery as it was so [peculiar], and had been used by the brethren of his sect in the [district] for years. The passage for the most was natural, although it had been [blasted] in a few spots. Had we room we would give more particulars incident to the strange [underground] trip to the Hill of Mormon. 


Source: The Palmyra Jounral Palmyra, N. Y., Wednesday, July 27, 1898

The Post Standard was a local New York newspaper that reported about early Mormonism, presumable from local oral histories.

Report on Mormonism:

The copy for the Book of Mormon was prepared in a cave that Smith and others dug in the side of a hill on the farm now owned by the Miner family half way between the Mormon Hill and Palmyra

"THE BIRTH OF MORMONISM," THE POST-STANDARD. Vol. LXXI. Syracuse, N. Y., Sunday, October 1, 1899.
Notes / Commentary

A brief sentence at the end gives us details about the location of the cave, the ownership of the Miner family, and an indication that the Book of Mormon manuscript was prepared there, possibly reporting information obtained from John Gilbert.

Long-form Source Text

THE  BIRTH  OF  MORMONISM.

Joseph Smith Its Founder, a Wayne County Man.

WONDERFUL  PAIR  OF  GOGGLES.

The "Book of Mormon" Written in a Cave Near Palmyra --First Published by the Wayne Sentinel Seventy-Six Years Ago -- The Farm Containing "Bible Hill" Recently Sold by Rear Admiral Sampson to His Brother, George Sampson.

Newark, N. Y., Sept. 30. -- (Special.) --

Seventy-six years ago this month Mormonism as a faith was given to the world by Joseph Smith, familiarly known in Palmyra, where he lived, as Joe Smith. Alderman Joseph Gilbert of this village, and a lawyer of note in Newark and Wayne County, lived for twenty-five years in sight of Mormon Hill, or "Bible" Hill as he calls it, and many times had occasion to direct pilgrims to this Mecca of Mormonism. 

Bible Hill is located about four miles south of Palmyra, in the town of Manchester. At the north end of the hill and near the top is a barren spot where it is claimed that Smith discovered the gold plates for the Mormon Bible. The hill is on the farm settled by one George Robinson. A few years ago the place was sold on a mortgage foreclosure, going from the hands of the Robinson family to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, U. S. N., who sold it recently to his brother, George Sampson. 

Mr. Gilbert often heard the story of the finding of the gold plates by Joseph Smith, from those who remembered Smith and were witnesses of his fruitless efforts to discover gold in the vicinity of Palmyra. As Mr. Gilbert heard the story,   Joe Smith was the most lazy fellow in Palmyra. He wore a pair of patched trousers held to his form by a pair of suspenders made out of sheeting, with his calico shirt as dirty and black as the earth, and his uncombed hair sticking through a hole in his battered hat. 

Mrs. Smith, Joe's mother, was a stanch Presbyterian and a great believer in her son. She declared that he was born with a genius, and did not have to work. "Never mind about my son Joseph," said she, when [railed] upon his ways, "for the boy will be able some of these fine days to buy the whole of Palmyra and all the folks in it. You don't know what a brain my boy has under that old hat." 

For over two years Joe Smith's chief occupation was digging for gold. In his excursions he carried a divining rod to tell him where there was hidden treasure, and he left many holes in the ground about that region, which testified that he could really work if the spirit moved. He claimed that he had more than once been on the point of reaching some great treasure when, in his eagerness, some unlucky exclamation would escape him, and the treasure would vanish under his feet, for he was full of superstition. 

Finally, in the fall, September, 1828, [sic] Smith went about the village of Palmyra telling people of the great bonanza he had at last found. He went into minute details about the size, weight, and beauty of the carvings on the golden tablets and the strange characters and the ancient adornments. The women were not so skeptical as the men, and several of the leading ones in the place began to feel that Joe was a remarkable man after all. Joe declared that he had found the gold plates on a hill six miles south of Palmyra, on the main road between that place and Canandaigua. 

For the first month or two at least Joe did not say himself that the plates had any any religious significance, but simply said that he had found a valuable treasure in the shape of a record of some ancient people. The plates were never allowed to be seen, although Joe's mother had lifted them when covered with a cloth, and they were very heavy 

Before long a new party appeared on the scene in the person on one Sidney Rigdon, and thenceforward a new aspect was put upon the whole matter. Rigdon as a man of about 40 years, smooth, sleek and with some means. He and Joe Smith fell in with each other, and were cronies for several months. It was after Rigdon and Smith were so intimate that the allegedly divine part of the finding of the golden plates began to be spread abroad. It was given out that the plates were a new revelation and were part of the original Bible, and that Joe Smith was a true prophet of the Lord, to whom it was given to publish among men. Not only were pretended copies of the engraved plates exhibited, but whole chapters of what were called translations were shown; meetings were held at the Smith house, and in the barns on the adjoining farms, which were addressed by Smith and Rigdon, and an active canvass for converts was inaugurated. Strange as it may appear from the absurdity of the claims set forth and the well-known character of Joe Smith, these efforts were to quite a degree successful 

Joe Smith was, of course, uneducated, and some way must be provided for the translation of his record. So he claimed to have found with the gold Bible a wonderful pair of spectacles, and he asserted that by placing the plates in the bottom of a hat or other deep receptacle he could put on those spectacles and look down upon the plates, when the engraved characters were all translated into plain English, and he had only to read it off and have it recorded. 

For three or four years Smith, Rigdon, and Harris worked for converts to the new faith. They all became from constant practice and study good speakers, and Smith was at that time as diligent and earnest as he had previously been lazy and careless. The three men traveled all over New York State, particularly up and down the Erie Canal. Their meetings were generally poorly attended. Smith would always tell with some effect how two angels had appeared to him. How he felt an irresistible desire to dig where he did, and how he heard celestial music and the chanting of a heavenly host as he drew the golden plates from the earth and bore them to his home. He became so proficient in his description of the esctatic joy in Heaven when he found the plates that some farmers' wives became powerless and almost unconscious in a spell of religious enthusiasm. Rigdon told in scores of meetings of meetings how he was frequently transported to celestial spheres at night, while his body lay on his bed at home; how he had listened to counsels from Moses and Elisha; how he actually walked in flowery fields and down golden streets on some far-off planet; and he would repeat instructions that he pretended he had from Bible characters in the other world. 

Smith and Rigdon had hard work to get funds together for the new Bible. Smith said that the world was so wicked and perverse that it was hard to win converts: that he had a vision to print the Bible and that as soon as that was done the work would be prospered wonderfully. A new convert named Andrews, a plain old farmer in Auburn, N. Y., mortgaged his property for $3,000 to start the printing, and the Wayne Sentinel, published at Palmyra, did the work on a contract for 5,000 copies for $5,000. The copy was about half ready for the printer when there came a halt in the preceedings for Mrs. Harris, wife of Martin Harris, had become so disgusted with her husband's conversion to the new religion and his abandonment of his fine farm for preaching Mormonism that she morning she threw in the fire all the Bible manuscript that had been brought to him for review by Smith. It was weeks before Joe Smith and Rigdon recovered from their dismay at this act. Harris went down into his pockets for $300 to repay the loss caused by his wife's destruction of the manuscript. 

The copy for the Book of Mormon was prepared in a cave that Smith and others dug in the side of a hill on the farm now owned by the Miner family half way between the Mormon Hill and Palmyra. 


Source: "THE BIRTH OF MORMONISM," THE POST-STANDARD. Vol. LXXI. Syracuse, N. Y., Sunday, October 1, 1899.

Jason Esty was a Palmyra resident who did not know the Smiths personally, but arrived after they left, and heard much about them.  He was related (by marriage) to the Miner family, and may have been interested in the cave.

John Gilbert was the typsetter of the Book of Mormon and a long-time Palmyra resident who collaborated closely with the Smiths during the years of the Book of Mormon's publication.

Jason Etsy relating what John Gilbert told him about cave hill:

...the first hill two miles south of Palmyra...was Cave hill. Half way up the hill can still be seen a depression, which marks the entrance to the cave in which Joseph Smith translated the gold plates from which the Book of Mormons [sic] was printed. The cave was entered by a tunnel from sixty to seventy feet long, conical in shape and high enough for a man to stand erect. At one time the entrance was laid up with stone. The inside of the tunnel was hard pan. The pick marks could be seen in walls and floor. Much has been said concerning the hill to the south and east where Smith claimed he found the plates, but I never have seen anything regarding Cave hill, and I have read everything on Mormon history. There has been some talk in and around Palmyra of opening up this tunnel.

THE SUNDAY HERALD. Syracuse, New York, Sunday, January 20, 1901. Vol. XXII No. 1,076Vol. XXII
Notes / Commentary

Jason Esty provides another source for John Gilberts words.  The details seem to be consistent with other accounts.  John Gilbert appears to know about the details of the inside of the cave, either from having visited it after Wallace Miner cleared it, or from hearing about it from others.

Long-form Source Text

JASON ESTY

Geneva, Jan. 19. -- The inhabitants of the three counties, Wayne, Ontario and Seneca all know Jason Esty, who makes his headquarters in Palmyra, but who spends much of his time traveling over the adjacent counties, always on foot and always carrying his violin. 

"The Professor," as he is called, receives a warm welcome at every house. He is beloved by the children, and the familiar old tunes which he plays waken tender memories and often bring a tear to the eye 

Though nearly 80 years old, he is remarkably agile and prefers walking to any other means of locomotioni. He has accumulated considerable means and during the last fifteen years has given much time to working out the history of the Esty family. 

On his father's side he is a direct descendant of the three Esty brothers, Jason, Mark and Abner. who in 1623 emigrated from England and settled in Massachusetts. On his mother's side he is a descendant of the French Hugenot family, De Sparr, who emigrated from France and settled in Canada in the sixteenth century. 

Mr. Esty was born in Vermont, in 1820, and when 17 years old he followed the trend of civilzation westward. He reached Albany by the way of Whitehall, and taking passage upon the packet boat Eliza arrived in Palmyra on September 8th, 1837, and he has since lived there. He remembers the Mormon excitement and relates some facts concerning Mormon history which he says have never been told. Mr. Estey says: 

"When I arrived in Palmyra I entered the collector's office and met a tall man with brown hair, fine features and an intellectual forehead. It was Maj. John Gilbert, the first man to print a Mormon Bible. Major Gilbert told me that the first hill two miles south of Palmyra, on the east side of Canandaigua pond, was Cave hill. Half way up the hill can still be seen a depression, which marks the entrance to the cave in which Joseph Smith translated the gold plates from which the Book of Mormons [sic] was printed. The cave was entered by a tunnel from sixty to seventy feet long, conical in shape and high enough for a man to stand erect. At one time the entrance was laid up with stone. The inside of the tunnel was hard pan. The pick marks could be seen in walls and floor. Much has been said concerning the hill to the south and east where Smith claimed he found the plates, but I never have seen anything regarding Cave hill, and I have read everything on Mormon history. There has been some talk in and around Palmyra of opening up this tunnel." 

Mr. Esty has been spending some time with friends and relatives in this city and is now in Seneca Falls.


Source: THE SUNDAY HERALD. Syracuse, New York, Sunday, January 20, 1901. Vol. XXII No. 1,076Vol. XXII

Admiral Sampson was a Palmyra/Manchester native who spent his youth frequenting "Mormon Hill" and the cave that was in it.

Reporter retelling an account by Admiral Sampson:

Admiral Sampson, in his boyhood, frequently explored the cave on Mormon Hill...It was a favorite game among the boys of the neighborhood to follow the lad Sampson to the mysterious grotto....Carving cabalistic signs on the edge of their sacred cavern they would enter and set sturdily to work digging.

Santa Cruz Sentinel, Santa Cruz, California Friday, September 13, 1901, p 2
Notes / Commentary

This article lacks the signs of an authentic account.  Its retelling of early Mormonism reads like a multi-generational rumor mill account, and the cave of Mormon Hill is stated as if it were common knowlege, making no distinction between Gold Bible Hill and Cave Hill. This article was reprinted in the Los Angeles Herald.

Long-form Source Text

Admiral Sampson was born on the celebrated Mormon Hill farm, near Palmyra Wayne county. N. Y., so called because Joseph Smith, obedient to the "revelations" of an angel which he claimed had appeared to him in a vision, went, so runs the legend, to the hill on the farm a few years later purchased by the admiral's father, and there excavated the golden plates whereon were graven the creed and commandments of Ihe Latter Day Saints, relates the Saturday Evening Post. Two transparent stones, rimmed with silver, and called by Smith the Urim and Thummim, were, it was claimed, found with these tablets. Through these stones the ancient record, written in forgotten hierglyphics, became intelligible, according to file belief of that sect. Admiral Sampson, in his boyhood, frequently explored the cave on Mormon Hill, in his lather's pastures. The admiral had more faith in the tradition of the golden plates in his early years than he has now. But the caves were there, and they exerted, he says, a great influence upon his credulous imagination. It was a favorite game among the boys of the neighborhood to follow the lad Sampson to the mysterious grotto. Being the son ot the owner of their Mecca he was unanimously regarded as their seer and leader. Carving cabalistic signs on the edge of their sacred cavern they would enter and set sturdily to work digging. With exclamations of joy the leader would presently pretend to unearth a latter day decalogue. Then bearing the venerable relic aloft (it was usually, the admiral says, a big clod or a field slone) the boy would lead the faithful to the brow of Ihe hill and there, as their prophet, would read the revelation. It was all quite solemn, but the boys relished the rites and mysteries hugely. The admiral has remarked jocularly that he might have become the founder of a religion had he not entered the navy.


Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, Santa Cruz, California Friday, September 13, 1901, p 2

Facsimile

C. P. Osgood was Ezra Pierce's grandson.

Ezra Pierce grew up with the Smiths in Manchester, and was only 1 year younger than Joseph.  

Rochester Herald and The Wayne County Journal were local newspapers that recounted early Mormon history.

The Wayne County Journal reprinting a story from the Rochester Herald:

As the digging for those supposed plates was usually carried on at night and at that time had been in progress for several evenings, a huge cave had been made on the side of the hill not far from the top.... Mr. Pierce and a companion...dropped a huge black sheep on the working Mormons...a circle was found around the cave in the morning made with the sheep's blood. 

"Some Early Mormon History," The Wayne County Journal. Vol. XXXVII. Palmyra, New York, Thursday, July 11, 1907
Notes / Commentary

This late retellling seems unlikely, but we do get hints of the "no yet holy ground" narrative told by Thomas Cook and Wallace Miner a few years later, and a fanciful retelling of the sheep story.  Ezra Pierce also claimed never to have seen the cave.

Long-form Source Text

SOME  EARLY  MORMON HISTORY. 

From the Rochester Herald.

Manchester, July 5. -- Since the recent pilgrimage of the Mormons to "Gold Bible Hill." two miles north of this village, to view the place where Joseph Smith claimed to have discovered the golden plates, upon which Mormonism was founded, the oldest residents of Manchester here been recalling incidents connected with the founding of this religious sect, many of which are of an interesting nature and to the outside world generally unknown. 

Joseph Smith, the founder, was born in Sharon, Windsor county, Vermont, on December 23, 1805. At the age of 10 years Smith removed with his parents to Palmyra, and four years later came to the town of Manchester. 

The reputatation of the family is said to have been of the worst, and it is reported that they avoided honest labor, were intemperate, untruthful and often suspected of sheep stealing and many such offences. These accusations are generally denied by Mormons to-day. The statement is handed down from the persons who were well acquainted with Smith at that time the he was often heard to say that even if they were true he had never done anything half so bad as King David did. 

It is said that from the earliest period in this town he was regarded as a visionary and a fanatic; a mere impostor, a person who in no sense partly believed in his own mission, but who, on the contrary, felt that he was the cheat that people of this vicinity generally suposed that he was, and it has been said that a man with less nerve would have broken down under such a tempest of oppositon and hate as his preaching excited in this community. 

Smith was often heard to remark that shortly after coming to this town he began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state, and that he had gone from one denomination to another and could find nothing but a great clash of religious sentiment. Then he began to go into secret places and spend hours in prayer. Finally an angel appeared to him; this fact not being made known to residents until the angel made its second appearance, which was on the evening of September 21, 1823, and on this occasion he often stated that it seemed as if his house were filled with a consuming fire, and a vision appeared before him with a countenance like lightning and who proclaimed himself to be an angel of God. 

This angel informed Smith that his prayers had been heard, that his sins were forgiven, and that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand and that he had been selected as an instrument in the hands of God to preach the gospel in iw power and fullness to all nations. He was also informed where the "golden plates" were deposited, which were records of ancient prophets that at one time existed on the American continent. 

The angel advised Smith to go and view those plates which were hidden in the ground. So Smith and a few followers spent many evenings on this great hill digging for those golden plates, but as Smith claimed, he was not yet holy enough to obtain possession of them. 

An amusing incident connected with his digging for those plates was recently related by C. P. Osgood, to whom it was told by his grandfather, Ezra Pierce, and who is known to be one of the young men of the early days who had an abundance of courage and was always ready to play a joke on friend or foe. As the digging for those supposed plates was usually carried on at night and at that time had been in progress for several evenings, a huge cave had been made on the side of the hill not far from the top. 

As they were unsuccessful, Smith explained to the men who were doing the digging that there were evil influences which were keeping them from finding the plates. As he made those remarks Mr. Pierce and a companion who had quietly crept up to the side of the cave, dropped a huge black sheep on the working Mormons, which caused consternation in the party, all supposing that it was his satanic majesty, and no more searching was done that night. 

Smith told his followers that the blood of a lamb would keep the devil away, and it is said that a neighboring farmer lost his bell wether that night, and a circle was found around the cave in the morning made with the sheep's blood. 

On the night of September 22, 1827, Smith claimed that an angel of the Lord placed the wonderful records in his hands. They were engraved on plates nearly eight inches long by seven wide, and bound together by rings. Each plate was a little thinner than ordinary tin, and found with them was a pair of stone spectacles, called by Smith "Urim and Thummim," consisting of two transparent stones set in a rim on a bow fastened to a breastplate by which Smith was enabled to read and translate the ancient records. 

When translating Smith sat behind a blanket hung across his room to keep the sacred records from profane eyes, while a neighbor sat outside and copied down the translations made by Smith. 

Undeterred by exposure, ridicule and hostility, Smith and his associates persevered in preaching their doctrine. The prophets' house was frequently beset by mobs and evil-designing; persons, and it is stated that on several occasions he claimed that he was shot at and narrowly escaped with his life. This fearless courage continued to bring him disciples and on April 6, 1830, the "Church of Latter Day Saints" was first organized in the town of Manchester. 

It is stated that about two months after the church was organized baptismal services were being held a short distance from Smith's home, each one of the disciples being led into a small brook and, after being plunged beneath the waters, the convert was told that he was now white as snow. After witnessing the operation for a while several young men bent on mischief proceeded to Smith's home and procured a pail of whitewash, and going to the hen house baptized the hens in the pail, and on leaving hung a card on the door stating that "all are now white as snow." 

Smith kept his ground stubbornly for a while, but the ministers of the gospel kept up such a ceasless fire that in January, 1831, Smith and his followers considered it prudent to remove to anoother state, and later, established themselves at Kirtland, Ohio, which. was then intended to be the seat of the New Jerusalem. 

Now, after many years, Mormons from far away visit the places where their religion was founded, and when in conversation with them one and all will remind you of the proverb, that a prophet receives no honor in his own country. 


Source: "Some Early Mormon History," The Wayne County Journal. Vol. XXXVII. Palmyra, New York, Thursday, July 11, 1907

Wallace Miner was the grandson of Amos Miner, and the son of Chauncey Miner.  He lived on, and owned the land where Miner's Hill is located, and interacted with Martin Harris in the 1850s.

M. Wilford Poulson was a BYU professor who interviewed people connected with the Palmyra area.

M. Wilford Poulson intervewing Wallace Miner about his local knowledge:

He [Smith] dug a 40 ft. cave right on this vary farm. . . . He dug in about 20 ft. and the angel told him this was not holy ground, but to move south [to Cumorah]. Martin Harris stayed at this home when I was about 13 yrs. of age [ca. 1856] and I used to go over to the diggings about 100 rods or a little less S.E. [southeast] of this house. It is near a clump of bushes. Martin Harris regarded it as fully as sacred as the Mormon Hill diggings

Miner, Wallace. Statement, 1932. Notebook, Folder 4, Box 6, M. Wilford Poulson Papers, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
Notes / Commentary

Wallace Miner knew the land well, he lived on it for a very long time.  He is unique in providing the details about Martin Harris.

Thomas Cook was a Palmyra historian who collected oral histories and many other accounts from residents.

Thomas cook compiling local accounts:

[Joseph Smith] repaired to the east side of Miner's Hill...after digging twenty feet it was made known to him that this was the accepted spot and to dig twenty feet more, making nearly forty feet.  After the cave had been dug a door was put up at the opening and fastened ...For several years this cave remained practically intact....Wallace W. Miner restored the old cave...but no trace of the old Joe Smith cave can be found. 

Palmyra and Vicinity 238
Notes / Commentary

Cook's account draws from numerous uncited account, including the more recent account of Wallace Miner regarding moving from one hill to the next.  His statement that "no trace of the old Joe Smith cave can be found" indicates that erosion tooks its toll quickly, even during Wallace Miner's lifetime as property owner.

Long-form Source Text

As we pass on south we come to the concrete post that marks the line between the towns of Palmyra and Manchester; also the county line of Wayne and Ontario counties. Looking to the southwest we can plainly see "Old Sharp," the hill on which Joseph Smith sacrificed the sheep, as before mentioned. After Joseph had found the golden plates on Mormon Hill, Thum [sic - Thummim?] Moroni, his guardian angel, told him to go east of the house and dig a cave. There he would nleet him and reveal to him the hieroglyphics on the golden plates, and following the command he commenced digging on the east side of "Old Sharp."

After digging about twenty feet Thum Moroni informed him it was not holy ground. From here he went to the next hill east, on the west side of Canandaigua Road, where he again commenced digging. After he had dug about twenty feet he was again told he was not yet on holy ground. He then repaired to the east side of Miner's Hill, which was at that time covered with forest, and after digging twenty feet it was made known to him that this was the accepted spot and to dig twenty feet more, making nearly forty feet. After the cave had been dug a door was put up at the opening and fastened, and every evening, just at twilight, for the next three months he visited the cave, always accompanied by two or more, but always entering the cave alone. For several years this cave remained practically intact. After it had commenced to fall in, Wallace W. Miner, a grandson of Amos Miner, the owner of the hill at that time, partly restored the old cave. The grandson, who is now over eighty six years of age, owns and occupies the farm, but no trace of the old Joe Smith cave can be found. "Old Sharp" was just across the town line going south, located on the Chase farm. Mr. Chase was one of the early settlers. As mentioned before, his log house was about thirty rods south of the town and county line and on the east side of the road or new highway. The well that supplied the family with water was dug by the Smiths shortly after they came here. This was the well from which the peep-stone came, as mentioned before. This well was kept open until the 80's when it was filled up. Here on this farm lived the parents of Durfee, Willard, Abel, Asa, Sally, Edwin, Parley and Mason Chase. The last three of those mentioned went to Michigan and died there. The rest of the family lived in this vicinity and were all first-class carpenters, except Durfee, who was a doctor. After living in the old log house several years, a new farm house and barn was built further south and across the road from the Taber house, now the Kommer house. After the death of Mr. Chase the farm was sold to a Mr. Morse, an old-time shoemaker. In the 40's the late Franklin Lakey bought the farm and in 1846 he sold it to a Mr. Richmond and around 1849 he sold out to Orlando Sanders and went West. After the death of Septimeous Sanders, as mentioned before, it came into the hands of Jacob Crookston, and a few years later the Chase house and barn were burned and never rebuilt. Thus has passed away the Chase family. Of that large family there is none bearing the name of Chase left except Lewis, a son of Abel, and a grandson by the name of Charles, Lewis living on Fayette Street and Charles on Charlotte A venue. 


Source: Palmyra and Vicinity 238

Facsimile

Hugh Nibley was a prolific author and professor of Biblical and Mormon scripture at BYU.

Nibley synthesizing information taken provided by Tucker and Howe, who both wrote about Joseph's cave.:

The story of the origin of the Book of Mormon attracted the curiosity of the nation, yet the melodramatic properties of the most secret cave where it was made interested nobody...and by whose permission was the cave guarded, anyway? Smith didn't own the land. Why wasn't he ordered off? 

Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales About Joseph Smith and Brigham Young p 164
Notes / Commentary

Nibley was skeptical of many early polemic works on Mormonism, and was quick to dismiss claims of folk-magic usage and the like.  He refers to Tucker's 1867 work and Howe's 1834 work to ridicule the idea that the cave existed and was used by Joseph Smith.  While Nibley's work related to antiquity is remarkable, his apologist work related to early Mormon history has not aged well.

Long-form Source Text

The wonder-cave

"The work of translation" on the Book of Mormon was carried out "in the recess of a dark artificial cave, which Smith had caused to be dug in the east side of the forest-hill near his residence, now owned by Mr. Amos Miner." 

Howe: There you have it! You asked for particulars, now you are getting them. The witness knows the very name of the man who owned the land!

Chairman: Yes, tricks like that do give the impression of intimate knowledge. But Mr. Tucker is merely giving us the name of the man who owned the land when he wrote his book in 1867—actually it has nothing to do with the story. It is not a contemporary or very relevant fact. So the Book of Mormon was translated in a cave, Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: That is correct, "a dark artificial cave. At least such was one account given out by the Mormon fraternity." 

Chairman: What, again? Already backing out?

Tucker: What do you mean?

Chairman: That you are trying to pass the buck. Is it you or the Mormons who are telling about this cave?

Tucker: Naturally my reports, being inside information, come from them. They told "another version that the prophet continued . . . at his house, and only went into the cave to pay his spiritual devotions and seek the continued favor of Divine Wisdom."

Chairman: By either account, the Mormons must have thought it a very holy place. Why do they never mention it? Why have they never sought to locate its remains? Was it secret?

Tucker: Not at all. Our local "men and boys" passing by used to see Smith at work in the cave translating the Book of Mormon. 

Chairman: Then there were plenty of non-Mormons who witnessed the cave business?

Tucker: That is what I reported.

Chairman: Then why don't you follow their reports instead of those of the Mormons, whom you obviously distrust? The clerk will please read your words.

Clerk (reads): "At least such was one account given out by the Mormon fraternity."

Chairman: Why bother with such dubious stuff, when you have a host of men and boys from the town who can tell you all about it? Confine yourself for the present to their accounts.

Tucker: According to them, "Joseph Smith's stays in the cave varied from fifteen minutes to an hour or over—the entrance meanwhile being guarded by one or more of his disciples. This ceremony scarcely attracted the curiosity of outsiders."

Chairman: Frankly, it is hard for me to imagine any "ceremony" more perfectly calculated to excite the wildest curiosity than mysterious comings and goings at a theatrical grotto placed under armed guard. What was the cave like?

Tucker: "This excavation was at the time said to be 160 feet in extent, though that is probably an exaggeration." 

Chairman: That is a pretty large cave, isn't it? It would require a great deal of hard work of somebody, and you said Smith caused it to be dug. The lazy Smiths really got things done, and there must have been a huge dump of tailings. Why did they need to make it so very deep?

Tucker: I didn't say it was that deep. I only said it "was at the time said to be" that deep, and that that was "probably an exaggeration."

Chairman: Are you sure it was an exaggeration?

Tucker: I said it was probably an exaggeration.

Chairman: Then it may have been an exaggeration, but you are not sure. Why didn't you go out and measure it yourself?

Tucker: That was impossible. Not only was there an armed guard placed at the cave, but it was closed by "a substantial door of two-inch plank, secured by a corresponding lock."

Chairman: These Smiths seem to have been immensely industrious and resourceful to run a show like that—which is totally out of keeping with their character as you have depicted it. But it is your behavior that amazes me.

Tucker: How so?

Chairman: Here this Smith, whose nefarious career has always attracted your most penetrating scrutiny, is at last doing something really spectacular, only two miles from your house (you said the cave was "near his residence"), and you are the editor of the local newspaper; yet from the nature of your report it is very clear that you neither walked out to inspect the cave yourself nor sent anyone else to. Didn't you think it would make a pretty good news story? You are willing to allow that the whole story of the translating in the cave may be a Mormon myth. But don't you know? Didn't you make any effort to find out? What kind of a newspaper man are you? Why did you never question Smith about it, since you claim he confided so much in you?

Tucker: I said the place was guarded.

Chairman: But you were Smith's old buddy; why didn't you ask him about it? And by whose permission was the cave guarded, anyway? Smith didn't own the land. Why wasn't he ordered off? You make a point of naming the later owner: if the owner of the land is so important to you, why don't you get in touch with him? You are completely vague and noncommittal about the dimensions and even the existence of this cave. Now, the Mormons deserted the place for good in 1830, just a few months at most after it had been used for the "ceremony" of translating the Book of Mormon. There was no guard then, and the sturdy door of two-inch plank, open or shut, would have most irresistibly invited inspection. Yet you ask us to believe that all the people of Palmyra, and you, their ever-inquiring editor, were so utterly devoid of normal human curiosity, at a time when the Book of Mormon was exciting the wildest speculation everywhere, that you did not even bother to take a short walk with a candle and tape measure after the Mormons had left, to see what was really out there. And in all the ensuing forty years during which you continued to live in Palmyra and discuss the Mormons you never so much as took an after-dinner stroll to look at the wonderful cave, nor did you ever delegate anyone to make a study of the fateful place, nor did you even interview anybody who had done so! You tax our credulity, sir.

Tucker: Well, as I said, the whole thing "scarcely attracted the curiosity of outsiders."

Chairman: The story of the origin of the Book of Mormon attracted the curiosity of the nation, yet the melodramatic properties of the most secret cave where it was made interested nobody! What kind of a story is that? Don't you see, sir, that the probability of your story can be checked at a dozen points and collapses at every one?

Tucker: You can't check it now. "From the lapse of time and natural causes the cave has been closed for years, very little mark of its former existence remaining to be seen.

Clerk: If you will excuse the interruption, sir. Mrs. Dickinson here has given a later account of the cave.

Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson: In 1885 I reported, "Just beyond the well . . . is shown a cave, or excavation, that was used by Smith and his close followers while engaged in deciphering the golden plates. It was originally boarded." 

Chairman: This is interesting. In 1867 Mr. Tucker says there was nothing left of the cave—"Very little mark of its former existence remaining," while almost twenty years later Mrs. Dickinson says it was still one of the sights. Did you ever see the cave, Mr. Tucker?

The wide-eyed innocents

I protest this badgering of the witness. Let him tell what he knows about the crimes of the Smiths!

Chairman: What about their crimes, Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: Many things were stolen and people began to guard their sheepfolds and suspect the Smiths. 

Chairman: With everybody suspecting them and watching them, the Smiths must have been at a terrible disadvantage. They lived, it would seem, in a goldfish bowl of public attention, yet, stupid and tactless as they were, nobody ever caught them at anything! Did they steal sheep, Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: "It is but common fairness to accompany this fact . . . "

Chairman: Which fact, Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: The fact that they were suspected.

Chairman: Thank you. You gave the impression that the fact in question was not that they were suspected but that they stole. Proceed.

Tucker: ". . . though it is but common fairness to accompany this fact by the statement, that it is not within the remembrance of the writer . . . if the popular inferences in this matter were ever sustained by judicial investigation." 

Chairman: Through the years, then, "popular inferences" burdened the Smiths with all kinds of crimes that could never be proven. If they were the stupid criminals that you make them out to be, the Smiths would certainly have been caught a hundred times over. All we have here is slander.

Tucker: Not a bit of it! "The whole idea of an attempt to harm Smith in any way . . . is purely a Mormon invention." 

Turner: That is correct. It was perfectly absurd for Smith to complain, as he often did, that he was persecuted for his opinions. 

Howe: He pretended he was being persecuted, simply because people wouldn't believe his wild stories. That's why he left Palmyra. 

Willard Chase: Yes. "His neighbors having become disgusted with his foolish stories, he determined to go back to Pennsylvania, to avoid what he called persecution."

Chairman: And when was that, sir?

Chase: At the end of September in the year 1827. 

Chairman: But according to you, Smith had been telling his foolish stories in Palmyra since early 1820, and in 1830 you and your fellows in Palmyra were still having intimate dealings with him. How long did it take you good people to discover that Smith's stories were foolish? Did Smith's opinions deserve censure, Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: "His interpretations of scriptural passages," when he was a child, "were always original and unique, and his deductions and conclusions often disgustingly blasphemous, according to the common apprehensions of Christian people." 

Chairman: "Original and unique" exegesis is hardly the business of adolescents noted only for indolence and dullness. And are you, Mr. Tucker, as a shrewd observer of human nature, so unaware of the normal reactions of "Christian people" to opinions which they consider "disgustingly blasphemous"? Persecution takes many forms. Are we to understand that this Joe Smith, whose mere memory inspires your impassioned invective a quarter of a century after his death, was never the object of severe treatment while he was alive?

Tucker: As I have said, "the whole idea of an attempt to harm Smith in any way . . . is purely a Mormon invention."

Chairman: And your own book is written only as a kindness to your old bosom friend? Come, now, Mr. Tucker! Don't you believe that spreading unsubstantiated criminal charges against a man constitutes an "attempt to harm" him? You have said that the Smiths were suspected of stealing many things, you have charged them "one and all" with the grossest atheism, and described young Joseph as brewing and executing one evil plot against society after another—and you meant him no harm by telling such stories?

Tucker: They were the truth.

Chairman: Then what kind of a community was Palmyra, and what kind of a man were you, to allow such monstrous goings-on to continue year after year without so much as raising a finger of protest? The Smiths, we are told, were the terror and torment of the neighborhood, "a pest to society," says Mr. Chase; theft, fraud, and "unspeakable lewdness" were the order of the day, but never an arrest or trial. Those who give the most lurid reports claim to have their knowledge from the most intimate and prolonged personal association with the Smiths: a day or a week of such association would disgust and sicken any normal person, yet these eminently respectable people, including yourself, go on month after month and year after year receiving and encouraging the confidences of Smith and his family.

Howe: Encouraging their confidences?

Chairman: Would Smith have continued to air his vices and expose his intrigues through the years to these intimates if they had showed any tendency to upbraid or discourage him? You all knew what he was up to—but none of you ever did anything about it. As his most intimate associate and public-spirited man, were you, Mr. Tucker, not under any obligation to society to check and expose his awful deeds? Why did you wait until the culprit was dead twenty-three years to expose him? Don't you know that makes you virtually an accessory to his crimes?

Howe: Oh, lots of people knew what Joe was up to. Joseph Capron here can tell you.

Joseph Capron: Joe Smith "would often . . . urge them [his neighbors] to embark in the money digging business" with him. 

Chairman: And you call that being secretive. Did any join up?

Capron: Yes, indeed. "Some of them were influenced by curiosity, others were sanguine in their expectations of immediate gain." 

Chairman: This is worse than I thought. Specifically, did any of our affidavit-swearers participate in Joe's activities?

Howe: Yes. Peter Ingersoll helped Joseph Smith, Sr., practice dowsing, and William Stafford and Willard Chase both assisted Smith in digging operations accompanied by magical rites. 

Chase and William Stafford: It was just out of curiosity! 

Chairman: Whatever their excuse, the fact is that all three of the witnesses just named claim to have enjoyed the intimate confidences of Joseph Smith from 1820 to 1830, a thing which would have been utterly impossible unless they had given him sympathy and encouragement--such intimacy cannot be wholly unilateral. So I ask again, Mr. Tucker, since you knew Smith so long and so well in all his wickedness, why you never took steps to put an end to it.

Pattengill: Mr. Tucker had no personal prejudice against Smith, sir. What motive could he possibly have for such?

Chairman: You yourself supplied the motive, sir, when you told how at seventeen Mr. Tucker was determined to make his mark in the world, to shine as a writer and publisher; driven by fierce ambition, at the age of twenty-one he was an editor and at twenty-three he owned his own newspaper. Cultivating the society of important people, he never stopped pushing himself, and in the end, what was his sole claim to fame? That he had known Joe Smith! Can you imagine anything more perfectly calculated to excite the jealous rage of a boundlessly ambitious, self-centered man—a frustrated prodigy, bachelor, and free-thinker, whose whole life and religion was his own career—than to see a nobody from the farm give Palmyra the only celebrity it ever had? Let me sum up a few points:

Twenty-three years after the death of Joseph Smith and thirty-seven years after Smith had left Palmyra, a citizen of that town brings out a book telling most intimately of the mind and doings of Smith at the time of the writing of the Book of Mormon. (1) Now, since the author of the book is an editor by profession, I find it very strange that he should have waited so long to tell the public what it had been clamoring to hear for decades. (2) He prefaces his book with a purely fanciful drawing depicting an angel and devils as neither Smith nor his followers ever described them, yet he labels the picture "Smith's account of the finding of the golden plates." Here is a plain fabrication. (3) Then he describes young Smith as a totally uninteresting tramp whose every characteristic disgusts him—and yet goes on to depict himself, an ambitious and important young man, as spending his days observing Smith's every move and receiving all his secret confidences. (4) He describes the Smith family as cynical and cunning, but makes them the simple dupes of a pewter-coin joke that could not have fooled the village idiot. (5) He describes them also as outspoken atheists constantly parading their atheism in public; yet none of the public in question, when requested to think of all the bad things they could about the Smiths, ever mentioned their atheism—far from it, superstition was their charge. (6) While Tucker was intimate with the Smiths for some fourteen years, he tells none of the countless firsthand experiences that he should have had with them, but instead offers as proof of their villainy their subsequent behavior, which he did not observe. (7) Tucker tells of a wonderful cave, but can give no certain information about it, though he lived very near to it for forty-two years. (8) True, he insists that nobody was particularly interested in the mysterious doings at the cave, but that only makes me more suspicious, since the whole country was then talking about Smith and his gold plates, and it is inconceivable that he, who took the pains to write a whole book about Joseph Smith, simply wasn't interested enough in the cave to look it over himself or have somebody else do it. (9) He has the lazy Smiths running a full-scale Army Command Post at the cave, with extensive digging and construction work, changes of guard and all the rest, on land that did not belong to them, but with never a word of protest from anybody. (10) In fact, he insists that no one opposed Smith's operations at any time or had the slightest intention of harming him, even while he reports the most vicious slanders and adds his own against the Smiths. (11) He describes Joseph Smith as brewing and executing one evil plot after another, while he, a public-spirited man and witness to all this depravity, raised no word of protest until forty years after. (12) Finally, we have seen in the career of Tucker and his unguarded expressions of passion what we think is ample indication of a motive and will to malign the Smiths. It would be instructive to examine Mr. Tucker's book page by page, but we have had time here only to consider the parts dealing with the Book of Mormon, and I think we have heard enough to form a pretty fair opinion of his trustworthiness.

This court is adjourned until tomorrow morning at ten o'clock.


Source: Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales About Joseph Smith and Brigham Young p 164

Lou Zeigler was a Times Union reporter who knew Andrew Kommer personally.

Andrew Kommer was the owner of Miner Hill lot from the 1950s to the late 1970s.  He excavated the opening in 1974.

Lou Zeigler reporting on Andrew Kommer's experience and citing local stories:

A cave that may have been used by Mormon prophet Joseph Smith about 150 years ago is being uncovered by a local farmer....the cave is about 7 feet high and 8 feet wide and is carved into a rock-hard clay hillside. It is about a quarter mile off Miner Road south of Palmyra

The Times Union, Rochester, N.Y., April 25, 1974.
Notes / Commentary

This is one of two articles that detail the re-discovery of the cave.  It indicates that even after 150 years, the cave itself still remained accessible.  Andrew Kommer had apparently heard about the cave growing up, and this discovery confirmed its existence.

Long-form Source Text

Palmyra Cave Mormon 'Holy Ground?' 

By LOU ZEIGLER

PALMYRA -- A cave that may have been used by Mormon prophet Joseph Smith about 150 years ago is being uncovered by a local farmer. Smith, who was born in Palmyra founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). Children discovered the cave about 11 years ago, but eventually mud and dirt blocked the entrance. Bulldozers have cleared the cave opening after the farmer decided last week to investigate the 20-foot long cave, 

"I really think I've got something here," said Andrew H. Kommer, the farmer on whose land the cave is located. 

The cave is about 7 feet high and 8 feet wide and is carved into a rock-hard clay hillside. It is about a quarter mile off Miner Road south of Palmyra. Yesterday Kommer and two other men prepared to protect the cave from the public by installing 1 1/2 inch iron bars and locked doors. Kommer, 60, who is not a Mormon, said that "ever since my childhood I have heard rumors about a cave." Kommer purchased his Palmyra farm in 1952. Shortly afterward he hired a bulldozer operator to uproot bushes on the hill, he said. 

"This was done in the fall," he said. "During the following spring the rains washed the soil down the hill and a small cavity developed on the east side of the hill. I became aware of the opening by some children in the neighborhood who had been scouting around on the slope of the hill." 

The children walked through the hole and into the cave, They reported the discovery to their parents. 

"It happened about 11 years ago," said Donald Nichols, father of one of the children involved. Nichols yesterday helped Kommer and Gerald Henderson at Palmyra fasten bars and doors to the cave. Over the past decade the hole leading to the cave filled with dirt. 

"I have always hoped to learn what might exist underground at that particular spot," said Kommer yesterday. He said a bulldozer was hired to do work on his farm last week and that he decided to have the dozer dig near the cave site. 

The cave was built so that water would drain away from it. The walls and ceiling of the cave appear to have been dug or picked by hand. According to Kommer, a few years ago a Mormon visiting Palmyra tried to reach the cave but was stymied by the concrete-like hillside. 

An article in the New York Herald on June 25, 1893, told of the cave being located on the hill. A landslide had made the cave inaccessible to the public. The Mormon prophet had [evidently] constructed doors to the cave, which have since rotted, the article said. In digging this week some rotten door planks were uncovered. 

The unearthing of the cave this week may clear up a mystery about the exact location of the cave. According to a book written in the 1920s by historian Thomas Cook, "no trace of the old Joe Smith cave can be found." 


Source: The Times Union, Rochester, N.Y., April 25, 1974.

Andrew Kommer was the owner of Miner Hill lot from the 1950s to the late 1970s.  He excavated the opening in 1974.

Jim Young and Dick Van Haneghan were local children who discovered the cave around 1960.

Courier Reporter tells about Andrew Kommer's experience and cites local stories:

...[Andrew] Kommer brought bulldozers to a site on Miner's Hill, on Miner Road, to uncover a cave that he says was dug by prophet and founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, 150 years ago... Jim Young, 26; 171 Canandaigua Road, Palmyra said when he was "12 or 13" he and another boy, Dick Van Haneghan, discovered the cave on Miner's Hill while exploring. ...Reporters inspected the cave shortly after supports had been added and bars erected at the mouth of the cave which is about six feet high at the largest point in the middle and 10-12 feet long

Palmyra Courier, Palmyra, N. Y., May 1, 1974. No. 18.
Notes / Commentary

This is one of two articles that detail the re-discovery of the cave. It references the extensive 1893 NY Herland Article, and the 1932 Thomas Cook book.  This article also tells the story of Jim Young and Dick Van Haneghan who discovered the cave on Kommer's property 14 years before he cleared it.

Long-form Source Text

Cave Dug by Mormon Prophet, Church Founder

PALMYRA -- Mormon leaders in Salt Lake City, Utah, are playing it down, but Palmyra dairy farmer Andrew Kommer says he thinks he's "got something" and has already begun taking measures to protect it. Last week Kommer brought bulldozers to a site on Miner's Hill, on Miner Road, to uncover a cave that he says was dug by prophet and founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, 150 years ago. 

A bulldozed path leads the way to the side of the hill where Kommer and two workers spent most of last week clearing the cave and erecting iron bars to "keep the sightseers from hurting themselves." 

An official in the Mormon historian's office in Utah said no records could be found to indicate that Joseph Smith dug the caves in Question. But a local history written by historian Thomas Cook in the 1920s said that Smith dug several caves in search of holy ground in which to translate the hieroglyphics found on golden plates containing the text of the Book of Mormon. According to Cook's account, Smith was told by a guardian angel that the first two caves he dug were not on holy ground. A third site, on the east side of Miner's Hill, was satisfactory to the Angel Moroni, so Smith dug a forty-foot cave. Doors were fastened and "every evening, just a twilight, for the next three months he visited the cave, always accompanied by two or more, but always entering the cave alone." 

"For several years this cave remained practically intact. After it had commenced to fall in, Wallace W. Miner, a grandson of Amos Miner, the owner of the hill at that time, partly restored the old cave. The grandson, who is now over eighty years of age, owns and occupies the farm, but no trace of the old Joe Smith cave can be found," the early 1920[s] account reports. 

A New York Herald newspaper article in June, 1893 also makes reference to the site. The reporter said he visited Cave Hill "where the Mormon plates were translated...exactly halfway between Mormon Hill and Palmyra." Miner's hill is about halfway between Hill Cumorah and Plamyra. 

He said the cave was still sound and partly visible, but the "earth has been washed down by storms and the opening to the cave nearly filled so that it cannot be entered at present." 

Jim Young, 26; 171 Canandaigua Road, Palmyra said when he was "12 or 13" he and another boy, Dick Van Haneghan, discovered the cave on Miner's Hill while exploring. He said they could crawl a "few feet" into the cave on their hands and knees, but could not stand up or penetrate further than that. 

Kommer said he had known about the cave "all along" and had wanted to uncover it, but had not had the chance until now. "The dairy business is a little slow, and I'm partially retired, so I thought I'd take a look under," he said. 

Reporters inspected the cave shortly after supports had been added and bars erected at the mouth of the cave which is about six feet high at the largest point in the middle and 10-12 feet long. 

Kommer said he may sell the land to the Mormons if they are interested or may allow tourists, who flock 200,000 strong along nearby Canandaigua Road to Hill Cumorah to see the annual "America's Witness For Christ" (Mormon Pageant), to view the site. Tourists will not be allowed into the cave. 


Source: Palmyra Courier, Palmyra, N. Y., May 1, 1974. No. 18.

Facsimile

The LDS Church is the Utah based churched tracing its authority and founding to Joseph Smith, and owns a great deal of the property related to Joseph Smith in Palmyra and Manchester.

The Post Standard reporting on a statement from the LDS church in relation to Andy Kommer's cave rediscovery:

[the] church's historian could not find any apparent record of Joseph Smith ever having dug such a [cave]. He said the only reference to such a cave in Church history was made in a speech by Brigham Young in 1877

The Post Standard, Syracuse, N.Y., May 1, 1974
Notes / Commentary

It is unclear how thoroughly the LDS church historian researched the cave, but current documentation indicates that references to the cave are far more extensive than Brigham Young's 1877 account.  The fact that Nibley wrote of the cave and was familiar with sources talking about a cave is perhaps significant.  The church history department may not have consulted Nibley or anyone else at BYU. The Syracuse Herald Journal ran the same story on Monday, May 6, 1974

Long-form Source Text

Mormons Find No Cave Link

PALMYRA -- Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City announce that no apparent record has been found to indicate a cave recently uncovered near Palmyra was dug by Mormon prophet Joseph founder of the Church. Hill Cumorah is two miles south of the cave uncovered on Miner's Hill by Andrew Kommer, a Palmyra farmer. A spokesman for the church -- [the] church's historian could not find any apparent record of Joseph Smith ever having dug such a [cave]. He said the only reference to such a cave in Church history was made in a speech by Brigham Young in 1877. Young said he was told that the gold plates on which the Book of Mormon was written were contained in a cave on Hill Cumorah, now the site of this church's annual pageant. A local history written in the 1920s and an article which appeared in the New York Herald in 1893 said there was a cave on holy ground on Miner's Hill. The reporter said he visited the cave. According to those reports, [the] Mormon angel Moroni instructed Smith to dig a cave at the hill and to translate the plates there. 

The cave found by Kommer is seven feet by eight, the approximate size of the cave referred to in the newspaper article. The newspaper article and book descriptions of the cave are considered legend rather than authenticated stories by the church. The Church spokesman said Smith translated the gold plates in many places throughout the area in the 1820s. 


Source: The Post Standard, Syracuse, N.Y., May 1, 1974

Facsimile