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Joseph Smith & The Bleeding Ghost

Rich Kelsey

 

"As a young man during the 1820s, Joseph Smith, like others in his day, used a seer stone to look for lost objects and buried treasure. As Joseph grew to understand his prophetic calling, he learned that he could use this stone for the higher purpose of translating scripture." (Book of Mormon Translation, LDS.org, retrieved June 2016) 

 

 

The Truth:

 

Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of Mormonism, took some of the common folklore of his day and incorporated it into his own stories:

 

Example:

 

Peter Ingersoll, who was a neighbor of the Smith's, described a visit with the Smith family in 1822; already there is mention of,

 

"... a book found, in a hollow tree, that gave an account of the first settlement of this country before it was discovered by Columbus." (Testimony of Peter Ingersoll)

 

Yet, this is a book that someone else supposedly found in Canada; Peter Ingersoll also described a story Smith's father told of a cave with treasure in it, chests of gold, and, he spoke of Smith's father looking into a hat with a stone in it to look for buried treasure. Several years later, all of these details became part of the golden plate's story / myth; then, it was given spiritual meaning. 

 

The sons of Rev. Nathaniel Lewis explained:

 

[In the early stories] "... there was not one word about 'visions of God,' or of angels, or heavenly revelations. All his [Joseph Smith's] information was by that dream, and that bleeding ghost. The heavenly visions and messages of angels, etc, contained in Mormon books, were after-thoughts, revised to order." (The Amboy Journal, June 11, 1879, p.1)

 

 

Magic World View:

 

In Joseph Smith's day, it was believed that spirits who had charge over buried treasure could, cause the treasure to move from here to there, sink deeper into the earth, or disappear. LDS scholars explain that, while trying to obtain buried treasure,

 

"... the treasure seekers staked out magical circles around the treasure. They used Bible passages and hymns, prayers and incantations, ritual swords and other magical items, or even propitiatory animal sacrifices to appease or fend off preternatural guardians of the treasure. Excavation usually commenced under a rule of silence. Should someone carelessly mutter or curse, the treasure guardian could penetrate the circle or carry the treasure away through the earth." (Mark Ashurst-McGee: Moroni: Angel or Treasure Guardian? LDS Maxwell Institute, 2006)

 

Witness Testimony From Joseph Smith's 1826 Glass Looking Trial:

 

"Mr. Thompson, an employee of Mr. Stowell, was the next witness. He and another man were employed in digging for treasure, and always attended the Deacon and Smith in their nocturnal labors. He could not assert that anything of value was ever obtained by them. The following scene was described by this witness, and carefully noted: Smith had told the Deacon that very many years before a band of robbers had buried on his flat a box of treasure, and as it was very valuable they had by a sacrifice placed a charm over it to protect it, so that it could not be obtained except by faith, accompanied by certain talismanic influences. So, after arming themselves with fasting and prayer, they sallied forth to the spot designated by Smith. Digging was commenced with fear and trembling, in the presence of this imaginary charm. In a few feet from the surface the box of treasure was struck by the shovel, on which they redoubled their energies, but it gradually receded from their grasp. One of the men placed his hand upon the box, but it gradually sunk from his reach. After some five feet in depth had been attained without success, a council of war against this spirit of darkness was called, and they resolved that the lack of faith, or some untoward mental emotion, was the cause of their failure.

In this emergency the fruitful mind of Smith was called on to devise a way to obtain the prize. Mr. Stowell went to his flock and selected a fine vigorous lamb, and resolved to sacrifice it to the demon spirit who guarded the coveted treasure. Shortly after the venerable Deacon might be seen on his knees at prayer near the pit, while Smith, with a lantern in one hand to dispel the midnight darkness might be seen making a circuit around the spot, sprinkling the flowing blood from the lamb upon the ground, as a propitiation to the spirit that thwarted them. They then descended the excavation, but the treasure still receded from their grasp, and it was never obtained.

What a picture for the pencil of a Hogarth! How difficult to believe it could have been enacted in the nineteenth century of the Christian era! It could have been done only by the halucination of deseased minds, that drew all their philosophy from the Arabian nights and other kindred literature of that period! But as it was declared under oath, in a Court of Justice, by one of the actors in the scene, and not disputed by his colaborers ... " (JOSEPH SMITH, THE ORIGINATOR OF MORMONISM HISTORICAL REMINISCENCES OF THE TOWN OF AFTON
by W. D. Purple
)

 

 

Joseph Smith’s mother spoke of the family drawing "magic circles," "abrac" — which is short for (abracadabra), and "sooth saying:"*

 

“Let not the reader suppose that because I shall pursue another topic for a season that we stopt (sic) our labor and went at trying to win the faculty of Abrac drawing Magic circles or sooth saying to the neglect of all kinds of business.” (Biographical Sketches… Smith, Lucy Mack, Liverpool, England: S. W. Richards. 1853)

 

*(Magic circles are used to form a space of magical protection from an evil spirit. Soothsaying is the supernatural ability to perceive things, including what may happen in the future)

 

 

Spirits of Dead Men Guarding Treasure:

 

Joseph Smith's father told Fayette Lapham about the dead man guarding the golden plates:

 

"... he was murdered or slain on the spot and the treasure had been under his charge ever since." (Money-Digging Folklore and the Beginnings of Mormonism: An Interpretive Suggestion, Marvin S. Hill, BYU Studies, p. 480) see image below:

 

 

he was murdered or slain on the spot and the treasure had been under his charge ever since

 

(HISTORICAL MAGAZINE, 1870, p. 307)


This was the same type of yarn which was recorded in Joseph Smith's 1826 Glass Looking Trial:

 

"… he [Joseph Smith] discovered distinctly the two Indians who buried the trunk; that a quarrel ensued between them, and that one of said Indians was killed by the other, and thrown into the hole beside of the trunk, to guard it, as he supposed." (1826 Glass Looking Trial, Jonathan Thompson testimony, Tuttle account)

 

The words,

 

"... as he supposed."

 

reveal that what Joseph Smith said about treasure guardians was a common theme in his day. Consider the implications: Early versions of the golden plates stories are along similar lines.

 

 Here is one more example:

 

"He said that by a dream he was informed that at such a place in a certain hill, in an iron box, were some gold plates with curious engravings, which he must get and translate, and write a book; that the plates were to be kept concealed from every human being for a certain time, some two or three years; that he went to the place and dug till he came to the stone that covered the box, when he was knocked down; that he again attempted to remove the stone, and was again knocked down; this attempt was made the third time, and the third time he was knocked down. Then he exclaimed, 'Why can't I get it?' or words to that effect; and then he saw a man standing over the spot, which to him appeared like a Spaniard, having a long beard coming down over his breast to about here. (Smith putting his hand to the pit of his stomach) with his (the ghost's) throat cut from ear to ear, and the blood streaming down, who told him that he could not get it alone; that another person whom he, Smith, would know at first sight, must come with him, and then he could get it." (The Amboy Journal, June 11, 1879, p.1)

 

That last quote was from Joseph and Hiel Lewis, who were neighbors of Joseph Smith and sons of the Rev. Nathaniel Lewis. Their account matches elements in the story Smith's mother told, it matches what Smith's father said, and what other relatives, neighbors and associates recounted back in the day. Yet, it doesn't come close to matching accounts of Moroni's visits with Joseph Smith published by the LDS Church today; and for good reason. If Joseph Smith's real history were ever made known, millions of Latter-Day Saints would abandon the faith.

 

Other articles of interest:

■  The Angel and the Gold Plates  < (bringing the right person / early versions of the gold plates stories) 
■  Joseph Smith Money Digging Accounts  < (The actual history of Joseph Smith)
■  Ask a Mormon: Cognitive Dissonance and the LDS Faith  < (accounts of visits with LDS elders and a LDS spokesman)
■  Preach My Gospel — A Guide to Missionary Service  < (account of a meeting with LDS elders on the Seattle Temple grounds)   

 

 

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