Changes in Joseph Smith's History
In 1838 Joseph Smith started writing the account of his life which is now published by the church. Smith began publishing this history in the Times and Seasons in 1842. It was published in installments, and therefore only part of the history appeared in print before Joseph Smith's death. The church continued to publish the history in the Times and Seasons after his death until the Mormons were driven from Nauvoo. The remainder of the history was published in the Millennial Star and also in the Deseret News. After the turn of the century the History of the Church was reprinted in seven volumes. It has been republished several times since then.
Mormon leaders have claimed that Joseph Smith's History of the Church is the most accurate history in the world and that it has never been changed or falsified in any way. President Joseph Fielding Smith boasted: "The most important history in the world is the history of our Church, and it is the most accurate history in all the world, it must be so" (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, p. 199).
Apostle John A. Widtsoe claimed that "the History of the Church and the utterances therein contain, if read properly, a continued evidence that Joseph Smith told the truth.... There is in them no attempt to 'cover up' any act of his life.... Mormon history and doctrine have been carefully preserved in the published records of the Church—and all has been published" (Joseph Smith—Seeker After Truth, 1951, pp. 256-57).
Apostle Widtsoe also maintained that "The History of Joseph Smith, published by the Church, as to events and dates, may be accepted as an unusually accurate historical document.... The history is trustworthy. No flaws have been found in it" (p. 297).
In the preface to volume 1 of Joseph Smith's History of the Church, we find the claim that "no historical or doctrinal statement has been changed" (History of the Church, vol. 1, p. vi).
The material which follows will prove beyond all doubt that the statements quoted above are completely false. Actually, Mormon historians have broken almost all the rules of honesty in their publication of Joseph Smith's History of the Church. It is a well known fact that when an omission is made in a document it should be indicated by ellipses points. Mormon historians have almost completely ignored this rule; in many cases they have deleted thousands of words without any indication. They have also added thousands of words without any indication. They have changed spelling, grammar, punctuation, and rearranged the words. There can be no doubt that the changes were deliberate, although there may have been a few typographical errors. For instance, we have already shown that three important changes were made to cover up the fact that Joseph Smith broke the "Word of Wisdom" (see p. 387). Certainly, no one would argue that these changes happened by accident, for they bear unmistakable evidence of falsification.
Mormon historians have also changed some of Joseph Smith's prophecies that did not come to pass. Many exaggerated and contradictory statements were either changed or deleted without indication. Crude or indecent statements were also deleted. Joseph Smith quoted the enemies of the church as using the name of the Lord in vain many times in the history, but much of this profanity has been removed by Mormon leaders. In the first printed version of Joseph Smith's history he cursed his enemies, condemned other churches and beliefs, and called the President of the United States a fool. Many of these extreme statements were omitted or changed. Mormon leaders did not dare let their people see the real Joseph Smith. They would rather falsify the History of the Church than allow Joseph Smith's true character to be known. Mormon leaders have not only changed the History of the Church, but they have further deceived their people by making the claim that no historical or doctrinal statement has been changed.
Not only has the History of the Church been changed since it was first printed, but there is also evidence to prove that changes were made before it was first published. In other words, there is evidence that even the first printed version of the history is inaccurate. It does not agree with the handwritten manuscript.
When the history was first printed church historians George A. Smith and Wilford Woodruff (who later became president of the church) stated that "a history more correct in its details than this was never published," and that it was "one of the most authentic histories ever written" (History of the Church, vol. 1, Preface v-vi).
There is an abundance of evidence to show that this statement is absolutely false. Charles Wesley Wandell, who worked in the church historian's office after the death of Joseph Smith, must have been one of the first to accuse the leaders of the Mormon church of falsifying the history. When he saw the way that they were printing it in 1855, he commented in his journal:
I notice the interpolations because having been employed (myself) in the Historian's office at Nauvoo by Doctor Richards, and employed, too, in 1845, in compiling this very autobiography, I know that after Joseph's death his memoir was 'doctored' to suit the new order of things, and this, too, by the direct order of Brigham Young to Doctor Richards and systematically by Richards (Statement from the journal of Charles Wesley Wandell, as printed in the Reorganized Church's Journal of History, vol. 8, p. 76).
Written by Joseph Smith?
In 1965 we published a book entitled Changes in Joseph Smith's History. In this book we showed that thousands of words were added, deleted, or changed since Joseph Smith's History of the Church was first published. In this book we also cast serious doubt on the claim that Joseph Smith was really the author of such a large work:
On the title page to Vol. 1 of the History of the Church, this statement appears: "History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet BY HIMSELF"; this study, however, reveals that much of the history was not written by Joseph Smith. Only a small part of the history was printed during Joseph Smith's lifetime, and we are very suspicious that Joseph Smith did not finish writing the history before his death. Joseph Smith probably kept a journal which the historians used to write part of the history. The entries in the History of the Church for 1835 sound very much like a day-to-day journal. The Church Historians, no doubt, used Joseph Smith's journals, but they also interpolated material of their own and tried to make it appear that Joseph Smith had written it. An example is found in the Millennial Star, v. 19, p. 7:
"... on this evening JOSEPH THE SEER commenced giving instructions to the scribe concerning writing the proclamation to the kings of the earth...."
It is very obvious that Joseph Smith did not write this; when this was reprinted in the History of the Church, the words "JOSEPH THE SEER" were changed to the word "I." In the Millennial Star, v. 19, p. 630, Joseph Smith was referred to in the third person four different times, but when this was reprinted in the History of the Church it [was] changed to the first person to
make it appear that Joseph Smith was writing the history... The account of the "Kirtland Camp" was probably not written by Joseph Smith, but rather by someone who was with the camp....
In the Millennial Star, v. 23, pp. 737-739, the Mormon Historians included an article which was found in the Times and Seasons. Joseph Smith could not have included this article in the history as it was not published in the Times and Seasons until after his death. Later Mormon Historians evidently became aware of this and deleted it from the history ... in the year 1840 there seems ... to be an abundance of information concerning England but very little concerning incidents that were happening in Nauvoo (where Joseph Smith was). The interesting thing about this is that Brigham Young, George A. Smith and Heber C. Kimball (the men who 'revised' Joseph Smith's history after his death) were in England at this time. Could it be that they wrote this part of the history after Joseph Smith's death? See especially the History of the Church, v. 6, pp. 233-239....
The Mormon Historians evidently feel that more converts can be won to the church with a bogus history than with a true factual one. It is apparently felt that the truth will not bear its own weight and that a little forgery here and there is not wrong as long as it helps win converts to the Church.... Perhaps some day the members of the Church will demand an honest history and that the "secret manuscripts" be made available (Changes in Joseph Smith's History, pp. 7-9).
Since we published our book, Changes in Joseph Smith's History, a great deal of information has come to light that supports our conclusions concerning the falsification of Joseph Smith's history. For instance, a microfilm copy of the original handwritten manuscript of Joseph Smith's History, Book A-1 and part of B-1, was given to us. This manuscript is the basis for the History of the Church up to the year 1835. Mormon leaders were very upset about this matter because this film provided devastating evidence against Joseph Smith's history. Recently, we became aware of the fact that the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had traded microfilm copies of documents with the Mormon church and that they had films of all of the original handwritten manuscripts of Joseph Smith's history. Although we live within two miles of the historical department of the Mormon church, its restrictive policy forced us to travel to Independence, Missouri, the location of the headquarters of the RLDS church, to see the Joseph Smith collection. We had only a few days to examine the documents, but a preliminary examination clearly reveals the duplicity of the
early Mormon historians. Now that we have had a brief look at the entire manuscript of Joseph Smith's History—i.e., books A-1 through F-1—we must conclude that the history is in a deplorable state. Thousands of words—sometimes entire pages—have been crossed out so that they could be deleted from the printed version. On the other hand, the films show that many pages of material were interpolated after Joseph Smith's death.
In Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? pages 128 and 131, we tell how we were fortunate enough to obtain a microfilm of the newspaper published in Nauvoo by the Mormons. This newspaper was originally called The Wasp, but the name was later changed to The Nauvoo Neighbor. At any rate, the microfilm not only proves that the changes made in Joseph Smith's history were deliberate falsifications, but it provides evidence to show that Joseph Smith did not finish the History of the Church and that it was actually written after his death. In our study of the film we found articles that were slightly reworked and inserted in the History of the Church as if they were the very words of Joseph Smith himself. For example, in the Wasp for August 13, 1842, the following was written concerning Joseph Smith:
... Joseph Smith was arrested upon a requisition of Gov. Carlin, ... Mr. Rockwell was arrested at the same time as principal.... these officers ... left them in care of the Marshal, without the original writ by which they were arrested, and by which only they could be retained, and returned back to Gov. Carlin for further instruction,—and Messrs. Smith and Rockwell went about their business....
As to Mr. Smith, we have yet to learn by what rule of right he was arrested to be transported to Missouri for a trial of the kind stated (The Wasp, August 13, 1842).
The reader will notice that this same material was changed to the first person and inserted in the History of the Church as if it were part of Joseph Smith's personal narrative:
... I was arrested ... on a warrant issued by Governor Carlin .... Brother Rockwell was arrested at the same time as principal .... these officers ... left us in the care of the marshal, without the original writ by which we were arrested, and by which only we could be retained, and returned to Governor Carlin for further instructions, and myself and Rockwell went about our business.
I have yet to learn by what rule of right I was arrested to be transported to Missouri for a trial of the kind stated (History of the Church, vol. 5, pp. 86-87).
Over Sixty Percent After Joseph Smith's Death
As we did more research with regard to the History of the Church we saw that all evidence pointed to the unmistakable conclusion that Joseph Smith never finished his history. As early as 1965 we printed the evidence we had on this subject, but we were very skeptical as to whether Mormon writers would receive it because of the heavy blow it would deal to the foundation of the Mormon church. For a number of years there was complete silence, but in 1971 Dean C. Jessee, of the LDS church historian's office, published an article that contained some very startling admissions. We were very pleased that this article verified our contention that Joseph Smith did not finish his History of the Church and that it was actually completed after his death. Mr. Jessee stated:
Not until Willard Richards was appointed secretary to Joseph Smith in December 1842 was any significant progress made on the History. At the time he began writing, not more than 157 pages had been completed, covering events up to November 1, 1831. By May 8, 1843, he had written 114 pages beyond W. W. Phelps' last entry. At the time of Joseph Smith's death, the narrative was written to August 5, 1838....
By February 4, 1846, the day the books were packed for the journey west, the History had been completed to March 1, 1843.... resumption of work on the History occurred on "Dec. 1, 1853 [when] Dr. Willard Richards wrote one line of History being sick at the time—and was never able to do any more." ...
The remainder of Joseph Smith's History of the Church from March 1, 1843 to August 8, 1844, was completed under the direction of George A. Smith....
The Joseph Smith History was finished in August 1856, seventeen years after it was begun (Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1971, pp. 466, 469, 470, 472).
Dean C. Jessee frankly admits that the manuscript was only completed to page 812 at the time of Joseph Smith's death (Ibid., p. 457). Since there were almost 2,200 pages, this would mean that over sixty percent of Joseph Smith's history was not compiled during his lifetime!
As we had suspected, Willard Richards played a prominent part in making up this bogus history after Joseph Smith's death in June, 1844. Dean C. Jessee said that "Bullock became the chief scribe under Willard Richards when work resumed on the Joseph Smith History in 1845" (Ibid., p. 456).
In his diary Thomas Bullock admitted that he helped Willard Richards in "preparing Church History." In 1845 he made these
interesting entries in his diary: "March 15... finished the year 1839—wrote 56 pages last week.... May 3 Saturday Office—writing history finished July 1842 being the end of Vol. 3" (Thomas Bullock Diary, February 11, 1844—August 5, 1845, as cited in Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1971, p. 467).
Dean C. Jessee cites a letter from the Mormon historian George A. Smith which shows that he was still writing the last part of Joseph Smith's history many years after Smith's death:
On the 10th April 1854, I commenced to perform the duties of Historian by taking up the History of Joseph Smith where Dr. Willard Richards had left it when driven from Nauvoo on the 4th day of February 1846. I had to revise and compare two years of back history which he had compiled, filling up numerous spaces which had been marked as omissions on memoranda by Dr. Richards.
I commenced compiling the History of Joseph Smith from April 1st 1840 to his death on June 27th 1844. I have filled up all the reports of sermons by Prest. Joseph Smith and others from minutes of sketches taken at the time in long hand ... which was an immense labor, requiring the deepest thought and the closest application, as there were mostly only two or three words (about half written) to a sentence.... The severe application of thought to the principles of the History, the exercise of memory &c., have caused me to suffer much from a nervous headache or inflamation [sic] of the brain; and my application of mind being in exercise both day and night, deprived me of a great portion of necessary sleep (Letter from George A. Smith to Woodruff, April 21, 1856, as cited in Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1971, pp. 470-72).
This letter certainly provides irrefutable evidence against the authenticity of "Joseph Smith's history."
Rocky Mountain Prophecy
Important evidence concerning Joseph Smith's prophecy that the Mormons would come to the Rocky Mountains has recently come to light. This prophecy was reported to have been given in 1842 in Illinois. Joseph Smith himself was supposed to have said:
While the Deputy Grand-Master was engaged in giving the requisite instructions to the Master-elect, I had a conversation with a number of brethren in the shade of the building on the subject of our persecutions in Missouri and the constant annoyance which has followed us since we were driven from that state. I
prophesied that the Saints would continue to suffer much affliction and would be driven to the Rocky Mountains, many would apostatize, others would be put to death by our persecutors or lose their lives in consequence of exposure or disease, and some of you will live to go and assist in making settlements and build cities and see the Saints become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 85).
In our book Falsification of Joseph Smith's History, page 10, we stated concerning this prophecy:
There is some evidence that Joseph Smith considered going west to build his kingdom, but since we now know that the Mormon Historians actually compiled Joseph Smith's History after his death and that they drew from many sources, we cannot help being suspicious of the authorship of this prophecy. An examination of the original handwritten manuscript would probably help solve this problem, but the Mormon leaders are still suppressing this portion of the manuscript.
Just after we wrote this statement the situation changed and we were able to make this statement in the Appendix to the same book: "We are now happy to announce that a photograph of the portion of the original handwritten manuscript containing this 'prophecy' has been located at the Visitor Center in Nauvoo, Illinois. Wesley P. Walters of Marissa, Illinois, has sent us a photograph of this page.... This photograph is taken from 'Joseph Smith's Manuscript History,' Book D-1, page 1362."
An examination of the photograph revealed that the part concerning the Mormons becoming "a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains" was crammed in between the lines of the text in a much smaller handwriting. This indicated that the famous prophecy had been added to the manuscript sometime after this page had originally been written. When we published an enlarged edition of Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? we stated that "Dean C. Jessee's study proves that this prophecy could not have been written in 'Joseph Smith's Manuscript History' until at least a year after Joseph Smith's death. He shows that page 1362 of the Manuscript History—the page containing the prophecy—was not even written until July 4, 1845!"
We reasoned that if the page was not written until July 4, 1845, then it was likely that the interpolation containing the prophecy was not added until after the Mormons came to Utah. We have recently found new evidence which further undermines the authenticity of this prophecy. Fortunately, in 1845 Brigham Young had ordered the scribes to make a "duplicate handwritten copy of the History" (Brigham Young University
Documentary History of the Church Vol. D1, Page 1362
[Supplemental photo not in Changing World.]
Studies, Summer 1971, p. 469). We examined this second manuscript, Book D-2, p. 2, and found that the "Rocky Mountain Prophecy" was written in very small handwriting between the lines. In other words, it was obviously added at a later time to this manuscript.
The situation, then, boils down to the following: we have two handwritten manuscripts, books D-1 and D-2. Neither of these books were even started until after Joseph Smith's death. In both cases the prophecy concerning the Mormons coming to the Rocky Mountains was interpolated in a smaller handwriting. From this evidence we can reach only one conclusion: the famous "Rocky Mountain Prophecy" is not authentic. The church historical department has Joseph Smith's diary for 1842-43, but the first entry does not appear until December 21—some four months after the prophecy was supposed to have been given. Mormon scholars have been unable to come up with anything to support the authenticity of this prophecy. Davis Bitton, an assistant church historian, has written almost five pages concerning this matter. He frankly states that "there is no such prophecy in the handwriting of Joseph Smith or published during the Prophet's lifetime, but it was referred to in general terms in 1846 during the trek west. After the arrival in the Salt Lake Valley the prophecy was frequently cited and became more specific as time went on" ("Joseph Smith in the Mormon Folk Memory," The John Whitmer address, delivered at the Second Annual Meeting of the John Whitmer Historical Association, Lamoni, Iowa, September 28, 1974, unpublished manuscript, p. 16).
Davis Bitton goes on to state that "The manuscript history covering this period was written in 1845...." This is, of course, a year after Joseph Smith's death. Mr. Bitton then admits that the prophecy is an "insertion" which was added into the manuscript as "an afterthought" (p. 18). Although Davis Bitton cannot find any real evidence that Joseph Smith made the famous "Rocky Mountain Prophecy," he does feel that there was "a time when something like this might have been said by Joseph Smith with considerable plausibility. Anytime during the last four years of his life, ... the Prophet had good reason to consider possibilities for relocation. It can be demonstrated that he considered the possibility of settling in Oregon (or on Vancouver Island). He was attempting to negotiate some kind of colonization venture in Texas ..." (p. 17).
Mr. Bitton admits that other changes were made in Joseph Smith's documents to support the idea that he knew the Mormons would come to the Rocky Mountains:
And in February 1844 the Prophet was organizing an exploring expedition to go to the West. There are some interesting changes in the way the description of this expedition was written by Willard Richards, secretary of Joseph Smith at the time, and the later revisions. The original, handwritten version reads: "Met with the Twelve in the assembly room concerning the Oregon Expedition." This has been modified to read "the Oregon and California Exploring Expedition." Continuing, the Richards manuscript reads, "I told them I wanted an exposition of all that country, "—which has been changed to "exploration of all that mountain country." There are other such changes that make one suspect that the later compilers of the history, notably George A. Smith and his assistants in the 1850s, were determined to have Joseph Smith contemplating the precise location where the Saints had by then settled. Oregon would not do; Oregon and California as then defined at least included the Rocky Mountains. If the Prophet could be made to say "mountain country" instead of just "country," it would appear that he clearly had in mind the future history of his followers (pp. 17-18).
Although some Mormons would like us to believe that Brigham Young knew all along that he was going to lead the Mormons to "the midst of the Rocky Mountains," there is evidence to show that he was somewhat confused about the matter. In a letter dated December 17, 1845, Young stated: "...we expect to emigrate West of the mountains next season. If we should eventually settle on Vancouver's Island, according to our calculation we shall greatly desire to have a mail route.... if Oregon should be annexed to the United States.... and Vancouver's Island incorporated in the same by our promptly paying the national revenue, and taxes, we can live in peace with all men" (Photograph of letter in Prologue, Spring 1972, p. 29).
There is another important change in Joseph Smith's history that seems to be related to this matter. In the History as it was first published in the Millennial Star, volume 23, page 280, the following words were attributed to Joseph Smith: "The Lord had an established law in relation to the matter: there must be a particular spot for the salvation of our dead. I verily believe this will be the place ...."
In the History of the Church, volume 6, page 319, this has been changed to read: "The Lord has an established law in relation to the matter: there must be a particular spot for the salvation of our dead. I verily believe there will be a place...."
The reason for this change in wording is obvious: the Mormons were driven from Nauvoo in 1846, just two years after Joseph Smith was supposed to have said "this will be the
place." It is reported that when Brigham Young looked over the valley where Salt Lake City now stands he stated: "This is the place." A temple has been built at Salt Lake City and work for the dead is performed in this temple. The change in the location of the headquarters of the church seemed to make it necessary to change Joseph Smith's history.
Although we deal with some of the most important changes in Joseph Smith's history in other chapters, we will cite a few examples at this point.
One of the most interesting changes in the history is concerned with the name of the angel who was supposed to have appeared in Joseph Smith's room and told him about the Book of Mormon plates. In the history, as it was first published by Joseph Smith, we learn that the angel's name was Nephi: "He called me by name and said ... that his name was Nephi" (Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 753).
In modern printings of the History of the Church, this has been changed to read "Moroni": "He called me by name, and said ... that his name was Moroni ..." (History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 11).
The original handwritten manuscript shows that the name was originally written as "Nephi," but that someone at a later date wrote the word "Moroni" above the line (see photograph in Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? p. 136). In our book Falsification of Joseph Smith's History, page 13, we showed that this change was made after Joseph Smith's death. An examination of the duplicate copy of the handwritten manuscript, Book A-2, provides additional evidence that the change was not made during Joseph Smith's lifetime. This manuscript was not even started until about a year after Smith's death. Like the other manuscript (Book A-1), it has the name "Nephi" with the name "Moroni" interpolated above the line.
It is interesting to note that Joseph Smith lived for two years after the name "Nephi" was printed in Times and Seasons and he never published a retraction. In August, 1842, the Millennial Star, printed in England, also published Joseph Smith's story stating that the angel's name was "Nephi" (see Millennial Star, vol. 3, p. 53). On page 71 of the same volume we read that the 61 message of the angel Nephi ... opened a new dispensation to man...."
The name was also published in the 1851 edition of the Pearl of Great Price as "Nephi." Walter L. Whipple, in his thesis written at BYU, stated that Orson Pratt "published The Pearl of
A photograph of the Times and Seasons, vol. 3, page 753. Joseph Smith says that it was "Nephi" who appeared to him. This was changed to "Moroni" in later printings of the History of the Church.
Great Price in 1878, and removed the name of Nephi from the text entirely and inserted the name Moroni in its place" ("Textual Changes in the Pearl of Great Price," typed copy, p. 125).
At the bottom of page 120 of volume 1 of the History of the Church, there is nothing to indicate that a deletion has been made, but approximately 3,400 words which were printed in the Times and Seasons have been deleted. These words were very complimentary to Sidney Rigdon. Since Rigdon was excommunicated after Joseph Smith's death, it was apparently felt best to remove Joseph Smith's praise concerning him. An examination of the original handwritten manuscript reveals that these words have been crossed out, which proves that this was an intentional deletion. If Rigdon had remained faithful to the church, the Mormon historians would probably have left these 3,400 words concerning him in the History of the Church.
At another point in the history, speaking of a member of a mob who assaulted him, Joseph Smith stated: "... the fellow that I kicked came to me and thrust his hand into my face, all covered with blood, (for I hit him on the nose,) and with an exulting horse laugh, muttered...." (Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 611).
When this was reprinted in the History of the Church the words "for I hit him on the nose" were deleted without any indication: "...the fellow that I kicked came to me and thrust his hand, all covered with blood, into my face and with an exulting hoarse laugh, muttered..." (History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 262).
The original handwritten manuscript of Joseph Smith's history bears witness against the modern edition of the History of the Church, since it contains the words "for I hit him on the nose."
In the History of the Church, volume 1, pages 295-97, seventy-four words are added which were not in the Times and Seasons (see vol. 5, p. 673). This interpolation reads as follows: "About the 8th of November I received a visit from Elders Joseph Young, Brigham Young, and Heber C. Kimball of Mendon, Monroe county, New York. They spent four or five days at Kirtland, during which we had many interesting moments. At one of our interviews Brother Brigham Young and John P. Greene spoke in tongues, which was the first time I had heard this gift among the brethren; others also spoke, and I received the gift myself"
This interpolation was made after Joseph Smith's death in an obvious attempt to glorify Brigham Young. The interpolation was too large to be inserted into the handwritten manuscript at
its proper place ("Manuscript History," Book A-1, p. 240), therefore it was written in the "Addenda" which follows page 553. (The addenda contains a great deal of material which was to be inserted into Joseph Smith's history and was obviously written after his death.) In Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? page 138, we have a photograph from the addenda showing the words concerning Brigham Young which were to be added to the History of the Church. A close examination of this photograph reveals that although Mormon leaders added most of this interpolation into Joseph Smith's history in its printed form, they omitted two lines. These lines contain some very important information: "Brother Joseph Young is a great man, but Brigham is a greater, and the time will come when he will preside over the whole church."
Although Mormon historians added the part about Brigham Young speaking in tongues, they have never dared to add the rest, i.e., the prophecy about Brigham Young becoming the leader of the church. We must remember that many people questioned the leadership of Brigham Young. In fact, Apostle William Smith, Joseph Smith's brother, left the church and stated that he once heard Joseph say that if Brigham Young ever led the church "he would certainly lead it to destruction" (Warsaw Signal, October 29, 1845). However this may be, Mormon historians never dared to add in the "prophecy" found in the "Addenda." They probably realized that the dissenters would question such a statement in Joseph Smith's history and ask for proof. An examination of the original manuscript, however, would soon reveal that the prophecy is a forgery made after Brigham Young had become the leader of the church.
In the History of the Church, volume 5, page 67, 1,179 words have been deleted without any indication. These words are found in the Millennial Star, volume 19, pages 598-600. The words deleted contain the Phrenological Charts of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball. Phrenology is defined as "the theory that one's mental powers are indicated by the shape of the skull" (The American College Dictionary). A phrenologist had examined the heads of several prominent Mormons in Nauvoo, and his findings were originally a part of the history.
In the History of the Church, volume 5, page 212, nineteen words have been deleted which were printed in the Millennial Star, volume 20, page 263. These words are concerning Joseph Smith's cure for the cholera: "Salt, vinegar, and pepper, given internally, and plunging into the river when the paroxysms begin, will cure the cholera." Few Mormons today would recommend this "cure."
Some very important changes concerning Apostle Orson Pratt have been made in Joseph Smith's history. According to the way the History of the Church was first printed, Orson Pratt should have become the third president of the church. John Taylor, however, became president and the history was falsified to cover up this change in seniority. (For details concerning this matter see Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? p. 139.)
Joseph Smith's Diaries Discredit History
Since we now know that more than sixty percent of Joseph Smith's History of the Church was not compiled until after his death, the question arises as to what sources Mormon historians used to create the purported history. We know that they used newspapers and journals of other Mormon leaders and that much of the material came only from memory. It was, of course, written in the first person to make it appear that Joseph Smith was the author. We have always felt that Joseph Smith's private diaries were used in preparing the history, but we were denied access to them. Finally, in August, 1976, we were able to examine microfilm copies of these diaries; therefore, we are able to make some preliminary observations concerning them.
The first thing we notice is that there are large periods of Joseph Smith's life that are not covered by extant diaries unless the Mormon leaders are still suppressing some of his diaries. According to the information furnished in the Register of the Joseph Smith Collection in the Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, only a small percentage of Joseph Smith's thirty-eight years are covered by his diaries. As we indicated earlier, at the time of Joseph Smith's death, his History of the Church had only been completed to August 5, 1838. Since Smith died in June, 1844, this left a period of almost six years which the Mormon historians had to fill in from Joseph Smith's diaries and other sources. Now, there are a few brief diaries from 1838 and 1839, but for the next three years there are no extant diaries. The last period of Joseph Smith's life, December 21, 1842 — June 22, 1844, is covered by four diaries. If there were other diaries they were either lost, destroyed or suppressed. However this may be, only three of the last six years of Joseph Smith's lifetime as it appears in the History of the Church can be checked against his diaries.
Unfortunately, these diaries do not contain the important information that we would expect to find about Joseph Smith's life. Many pages are left blank or only contain information on the weather or other trivial matters. The value of the diaries decreases even more when we learn that a large part of the
entries were not written in the first person, but rather by Joseph Smith's scribe Willard Richards. For instance, under the date October 20, 1843, we read this entry in Joseph Smith's diary: "heard that Joseph went to Ramus yesterday has not returned." In the Register of the Joseph Smith Collection, page 4, Jeffery O. Johnson admitted that "Joseph Smith himself kept very little in his own hand. Under Joseph's direction, for example, Willard Richards wrote many of the daily entries in the prophet's journal, relating experiences they both shared in many cases, but this was done in the words as well as in the hand of the clerk."
Our brief examination of the diaries reveals that although they were used as one source for Joseph Smith's history, there was no attempt to follow them faithfully. Mormon leaders chose only the portions of the journals which served their purposes. For instance, in his diary Joseph Smith related a dream and its interpretation which tended to discredit his famous prophecy about the Civil War. This material was simply omitted in Joseph Smith's history. We will have more to say about this matter in the chapter on false prophecy.
Another portion Mormon leaders omitted was the passage where Joseph Smith boasted of his great strength. Under the date of January 1, 1843, the following appears in Joseph Smith's diary:
... while supper was preparing Joseph related an anecdote while young his father had a fine large watch dog. which bit off an ear from David Stafford hog, which Stafford had turned into Smiths corn field. Stafford shot the dog, & with six other fellows pitched upon him unawares & Joseph whipped the whole of them, & escaped unhurt. which they swore to as recorded in Hurlburt or Howes Book
While in Kirtland a Baptist Priest came in my house & abused my family—I turned him out of doors. he raised his cane to strike me & continued to abuse me. I whipped him till he begged.—he threatened to prosecute me—I sent Luke Johnson the constable after him & he run him out of the county into Mentor (Joseph Smith's Diary, January 1, 1843, pp. 34-35).
This portion was entirely omitted in Joseph Smith's history (see vol. 5, p. 216).
The early Mormon historians were not too sensitive about Joseph Smith's inability to observe the Word of Wisdom (see chapter 18). For example, in the first printing they included his statement about having "a glass of beer at Moessers." (As we have shown, it was later Mormon historians who deleted this from the History of the Church). Nevertheless, some material which related to Joseph Smith's attitude toward the Word of
Wisdom never made it into the printed text. Under the date of January 20, 1843, the following was recorded in Joseph Smith's diary:
"Elder Hyde told of the excellent white wine he drank in the east. Joseph prophesied in the name of the Lord—that he would drink wine with him in that country." These words were never placed in the printed History of the Church.
Under the date of March 11, 1843, the following is recorded in Joseph Smith's Diary: "... in the office Joseph said he had tea with his breakfast. his wife asked him if [it] was good. he said if it was a little stronger he should like it better. when Mother Granger remarked, 'It is so strong, and good, I should think it would answer Both for drink and food.' " This was entirely omitted in the History of the Church (see vol. 5, p. 302).
The following statement appears in Joseph Smith's diary under the date of May 19, 1844: "eve I talked a long time in the bar Room ..." In the History of the Church, volume 6, page 398, this has been changed to read: "In the evening I talked to the brethren at my house ..."
Our preliminary study of the diaries of Joseph Smith leads us to the conclusion that they were used as a source for the History of the Church. Unfortunately, however, there was no attempt to accurately follow the text of the diaries. Mormon leaders used only the parts that suited their purposes. Where a portion did not say what they wanted, they altered it or ignored it completely, sometimes using an entirely different source. The diaries of Joseph Smith, then, tend only to deal another heavy blow to the credibility of Joseph Smith's History of the Church. No wonder Mormon leaders suppressed these diaries for so long.
We do not have room to go into a detailed study of the changes that the Mormon leaders have made in Joseph Smith's history. Some of the more important ones are discussed in other chapters of this book. In the book Changes in Joseph Smith's History, we show that "more than 62,000 words" were either added or deleted. A thorough examination of the original handwritten manuscript would undoubtedly reveal thousands of changes which we have not discovered in our brief examination of the manuscripts. More important than this, however, is the evidence we uncovered that Joseph Smith did not finish his work. Dean C. Jessee, of the church historical department, admits that the greater part of the history was not written until after Joseph Smith's death. This portion therefore stands on a
very shaky foundation.
The Mormon leaders must face the serious implications of this whole matter. Less than forty percent of the history attributed to Joseph Smith was written during his lifetime, and this portion has had serious changes made in it. The remaining portion—more than sixty percent of the history—was not even compiled until after Joseph Smith's death. Since it was compiled by men who believed in falsification and deceit, it cannot be trusted as a reliable history of Joseph Smith.
The evidence concerning Joseph Smith's history is beginning to have an effect on some of the Mormon scholars. Davis Bitton, who now serves as an assistant church historian, frankly admitted that the History of the Church "does not come off well" when measured against a standard like "the monumental edition of Jefferson papers" (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Winter 1968, page 31). Dr. Bitton states that the "basic text" of Joseph Smith's history has "not been treated with proper respect," and goes on to concede that "hundreds of changes have been made." On page thirty-two of the same article, he makes the astonishing statement that "for researchers in early Mormon history Rule Number One is 'Do not reply on the DHC [the documentary History of the Church]; never use a quotation from it without comparing the earlier versions.' "
We were going to include a lengthy extract from this article, but Dr. Bitton refused to give his permission. Those who are interested in pursuing the matter further will have to consult Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Winter 1968, pages 30-32.
Marvin S. Hill, of the Brigham Young University history department, has now admitted that "large portions" of Joseph Smith's history were not written by him:
One reason that Brodie concluded that Joseph had veiled his personality behind a "perpetual flow of words" in his history may be that she assumed he had actually dictated most of it. We now know that large portions of that history were not dictated but were written by scribes and later transferred into the first person to read as though the words were Joseph's. That fact makes what few things Joseph Smith wrote himself of great significance (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Winter 1972, p. 76).
Mormon scholar Paul R. Cheesman has a very revealing notation concerning Joseph Smith's History of the Church. It is found in an unpublished manuscript at the Brigham Young University Library and reads as follows:
As of now, the original source of Joseph Smith's statement, under the date of May 1, 1843, concerning the Kinderhook Plate, cannot be found. Much of Volume V of the Documentary History of the Church was recorded by Leo Hawkins in 1853, after the saints were in Utah, and was collected by Willard Richards from journals. (Dean Jesse, Church Historian's office, Appendix #2) Liberty was taken by historians of those days to put the narrative in the first person, even though the source was not as such. Verification of the authenticity of Joseph Smith's statement is still under study. In examining the diary of Willard Richards, the compiler of Volume V, the Kinderhook story is not found there. Our research has taken us through numerous diaries and letters written at this particular time, and the Kinderhook story is not mentioned ("An Analysis Of The Kinderhook Plates," by Paul R. Cheesman, March, 1970, Brigham Young University Library).
Now that Mormon writers are willing to admit that Joseph Smith's history was not finished until after his death and that many sources not written by Joseph were put in "the first person" to make it appear that they were written by Smith, they will have to face the serious implications of this whole matter. Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley says that "a forgery is defined by specialists in ancient documents as 'any document which was not produced in the time, place, and manner claimed by it or its publishers" (Since Cumorah, p. 160). Under this definition the History of the Church must be classed as a forgery. While it does contain some very important information about Joseph Smith, most of it "was not produced in the time, place, and manner claimed by it or its publishers."