Saturday, September 22, 2007

On the Autumnal Equinox

An Angel Appears to Joseph--But Which One?

{These posts are from RfM}

[Yesterday], September 21, is the anniversary of the appearance of the angel Nephi to Joseph Smith, telling him of the existence of the sacred record buried in the Hill Cumorah. That was in 1823.


The earliest printed account was in the Times and Seasons (1842) volume 3, no 12 page 753, where Joseph Smith tells of Nephi's visit:

"When I first looked upon him I was afraid, but the fear soon left me. He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Nephi. That God has a work for me to do, ... He said there was a book deposited written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang."

Note that Joseph Smith was the editor of the Times and Seasons.

The Millennial Star also reported the angel's name soon afterward as "Nephi", and "Nephi" was his name in the first edition of the Pearl of Great Price (1851). Lucy Mack Smith's biography of JS also says his name was Nephi.

So, why is Moroni holding the trumpet on the top of Mormon temples? It should be Nephi!

And [today] it will be the 180th anniversary of the delivery of the plates to the prophet Joe (1827).

An interesting question - how is it that JS could remember the precise date of the angel's visit in 1823, but could not remember the precise date of God's appearance to him in 1820?

More bizarre but true Mormon History - starting 183 years ago yesterday...

September 22, 1823 - "The Angel" Moroni tells Smith to return to the Hill Cumorah in a Year with his oldest brother, Alvin

"Both early Mormon and non-Mormon sources agree that on 22 September 1823 Moroni required Smith to bring his oldest brother Alvin to the hill the following year in order to obtain the gold plates."

One of Smith's devout followers, Joseph Knight, recorded Smith's relating that the following dialog occurred on the hill in 1823:

"Joseph says, 'when can I have it?' The answer was the 22nt Day of September next if you Bring the right person with you. Joseph says, 'who is the right Person?' The answer was 'your oldest Brother.' But before September [1824] Came his oldest Brother Died. Then he was Disapointed and did not [k]now what to do." (Jessee 1976a, 31; also Hartley 1986, 20)

The Smiths' Palmyra neighbor Willard Chase reported:

"He then enquired when he could have them, and was answered thus: come one year from this day, and bring with you your oldest brother, and you shall have them. This spirit, he said was the spirit of the prophet who wrote this book, and who was sent to Joseph Smith, to make known these things to him. Before the expiration of the year, [Smith's] oldest brother died." (1833, 241-42, emphasis in original)

Smith family neigbor Fayette Lapham remembered that Joseph Smith's father told him in 1830 that "Joseph asked when he could have them; and the answer was, 'Come in one year from this time, and bring your oldest brother with you; then you may have them.' During that year, it so happened that his oldest brother died."

November 19, 1823 - Alvin dies suddenly

"The intensity of the Smith family's despair over Alvin's death less than two months after Joseph's visit the the Hill Cumorah is understandable. Alvin's last words to his brother Joseph were to "do everything that lies in your power to obtain the Record. Be faithful in receiving instruction, and in keeping every commandment that is given to you. Your brother Alvin must leave you." (L. M. Smith 1853, 88)

"Alvin's final charge underscored the dilemma Joseph now faced: he had been commanded to meet the angelic treasure-guardian at the hill the following 22 September 1824 and to bring Alvin with him."

"By some accounts, Smith had been violently jolted three times and severely chastised for disobeying instructions during his first visit, and Mormon convert Joseph Knight wrote that now Smith "did not [k]now what to do" (Jessee 1976a, 31). One can only imagine the turmoil Smith would have experienced during the ten months between the death of his eldest brother on 19 November 1823 and his next solitary visit to the hill."
- Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, p.135-136

September 22, 1824 - "God's Messenger" Moroni asks Joseph where his brother Alvin is

"Joseph hoped to obtain the plates on 22 September 1824 even though he did not bring Alvin. The day was a stinging disappointment. According to Smith's 1832 autobiography, the messenger told him "to come again in one year from that time [1823]. I did so [in 1824], but did not obtain them."

"His friend Joseph Knight wrote, "But when the 22nt Day of September Came he went to the place and the personage appeard [sic] and told him he Could not have it now" (Jessee 1976a, 31). Lorenzo Saunders remembered that Smith told him, "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." Fayette Lapham recalled the story as "Joseph repaired to the place again, and was told by the man who still guarded the treasure, that, inasmuch as he could not bring his oldest brother, he could not have the treasure yet" (L. Saunders 1884a, 10; Lapham 1870, 2:386).

"As Smith left the hill in disappointment on 22 September 1824, apparently the message he had received was: without your dead brother Alvin, you cannot have the gold lates."

"When Smith returned a year later, the spirit asked about his brother. Learning he was dead, the spirit "commanded him to come again, in just one year, and bring a man with him."
- Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, p.136

September 29, 1824 - Joseph Smith Sr. denies in local newspaper to dissecting Alvin's body

Wayne Sentinel 2 (29 Sept. 1824): Page 3, prints an advertisement placed by Joseph Sr. dated "Sept. 25th, 1824," denying "reports [that] have been industriously put in circulation, that my son, Alvin, had been removed from the place of his internment and dissected."

Smith chastised town gossips for disturbing the peace of mind of a still-grieving parent, and then made two comments that allude to his son Joseph as target of such gossip:

"[these rumors] deeply wound the feelings of relations [and] have been stimulated more by desire to injure the reputation of certain persons than a philanthropy for the peace and welfare of myself and friends."
- Wayne Sentinel, 29 Sept.-3 Nov. 1824; Kirkham 1951, 1:147; Rich 1970, 256

Not exactly faith-promoting. No wonder you don't hear this part of the story in Sunday School. This is not a testimony killer, but it sure is a bizarre story to explain away.

Why did the angel Moroni require Alvin to get the gold plates?

Why didn't the Angel Moroni know Alvin was dead?

***My Thoughts***

Joseph's upbringing was steeped in occultic ritual and magical thinking. Grant Palmer's book, "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins", contains a section comparing Joseph's 'alleged' adventures in obtaining the golden plates with E.T.A. Hoffman's "The Golden Pot". Judge for yourself here

Also worth mentioning is D. Michael Quinn's book, "Early Mormonism and the Magic World View." The author was a church historian who ultimately was excommunicated for revealing too much truth to the masses. Excerpts available here

I haven't been over to FAIR to find out what their take is on the switch in names, but if I had to venture a guess, it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of discounting the Times and Seasons article, even though Joseph was the editor, and discounting journal entries made by others, since they are not 'cannonized' scripture. And, let's face it: if all we could depend on for accurate history was 'cannonized' scripture, universities would become useless, and apologetics wouldn't be necessary to try to scrub out any opposing viewpoints. Oh, and we would all be Mormon.

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