Magical Worldview

In order to truly understand the Book of Mormon witnesses and the issues with their claims, one must understand the magical worldview of many people in early 19th century New England. These are people who believed in folk magic, divining rods, visions, second sight, peep stones in hats, treasure hunting (money digging or glass looking), and so on.


CES Letter, Page 86

Newspapers in Joseph’s area contained multiple reports of successes:

"Digging for money hid in the earth is a very common thing and in this state it is even considered as honorable and profitable employment"

"One gentleman...digging...ten to twelve years, found a sufficient quantity of money to build him a commodious house.

". . .another...dug up...fifty thousand dollars!"See Palmyra Herald (24 July 1822); cited in Russell Anderson, "The 1826 Trial of Joseph Smith," (2002 FAIR Conference presentation.) Click here: FairMormon link

Money was found "by the help of a mineral stone, (which becomes transparent when placed in a hat and the light excluded by the face of him who looks into it)."

See "Wonderful Discovery," Wayne Sentinel [Palmyra, New York] (27 December 1825), page 2, col. 4. Reprinted from the Orleans Advocate of Orleans, New York; cited by Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 170–171. Click here


Additional References:

Was Joseph Smith's involvement with "money digging" a blot on his character?
Brief Summary: Did Joseph "retrofit" his "treasure seeking" to have a religious explanation? For example, was Moroni originally conceived of as a treasure guardian by Joseph, and only later came to be seen as a divine messenger, an angel? (Click here for full article)

Practitioner of occultism and magic?
Brief Summary: It is claimed that Joseph Smith's spiritual experiences began as products of "magic," the "occult," or "treasure seeking," and that only later did Joseph describe his experiences in Christian, religious terms: speaking of God, angels, and prophethood. (Click here for full article)

Moroni as Angel and as Treasure Guardian–  by Mark Ashurst-McGee

Seer Stones and Treasure Digging– Fair Mormon Podcast

Matthew B. Brown, “Revised or Unaltered?: Joseph Smith’s Foundational Stories,” 2006 FAIR Conference lecture.

o   pt 1 Revised or Unaltered? Joseph Smith’s Foundational Story

o   pt 2 Revised or Unaltered? Joseph Smith’s Foundational Story

o   pt 3 Revised or Unaltered? Joseph Smith’s Foundational Story

o   pt 4 Revised or Unaltered? Joseph Smith’s Foundational Story

o   pt 5 Revised or Unaltered? Joseph Smith’s Foundational Story

o   pt 6 Revised or Unaltered? Joseph Smith’s Foundational Story

Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reappraised," Brigham Young University Studies 10 no. 3 (1970), 285.

Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Review of Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined by Rodger I. Anderson," FARMS Review of Books 3/1 (1991): 52–80.

Richard Lloyd Anderson, "The Reliability of the Early History of Lucy and Joseph Smith," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4 no. 2 (Summer 1969), 16, 19.

Leonard J. Arrington, "The Human Qualities of Joseph Smith, the Prophet," Ensign 1 (January 1971), 35ff.

Richard L. Bushman, "Joseph Smith Miscellany," (Mesa, Arizona: FAIR, 2005 FAIR Conference).

o   pt 1 Joseph Smith Miscellany, 2005 FAIR Conference address

o   pt 2 Joseph Smith Miscellany, 2005 FAIR Conference address

o   pt 3 Joseph Smith Miscellany, 2005 Fair Conference address

o   pt 4 Joseph Smith Miscellany, 2005 FAIR Conference address

o   pt 5, Joseph Smith Miscellany, 2005 FAIR Conference address

o   pt 6 Joseph Smith Miscellany, 2005 FAIR Conference address

Richard L. Bushman, Dean C. Jessee and Truman G. Madsen, "Smith, Joseph," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 3:1331–1348.

Donald L. Enders, "The Joseph Smith, Sr., Family: Farmers of the Genesee," in Joseph Smith, The Prophet, The Man, edited by Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate, Jr., (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1993), 213—25.

Alan Goff, "Dan Vogel's Family Romance and the Book of Mormon as Smith Family Allegory (Review of: Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet)," FARMS Review 17/2 (2005): 321–400.

Alan Goff, "How Should We Then Read? Reading Mormon Scripture After the Fall," FARMS Review 21/1 (2009): 137–178.

Andrew H. Hedges and Dawson W. Hedges, "No, Dan, That's Still Not History (Review of: Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, by Dan Vogel)," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 205–222.

Louis Midgley, "Editor's Introduction: Knowing Brother Joseph Again," FARMS Review 18/1 (2006): xi–lxxiv.

Louis Midgley, "Two Stories—One Faith," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007): 55–79.

Larry E. Morris, "Joseph Smith and "Interpretive Biography", review of Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet by Dan Vogel," FARMS Review 18/1 (2006): 321–374.

Daniel C. Peterson and Donald L. Enders, "Can the 1834 Affidavits Attacking the Smith Family Be Trusted?," in Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon: The FARMS Updates of the 1990s, ed. John W. Welch and Melvin J. Thorne (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999), 286—87.

These articles contain useful background information. They were published prior to the disclosure of the Hofmann forgeries, so they may cite forged documents as genuine:

Ronald W. Walker, “The Persisting Idea of American Treasure Hunting,”  Brigham Young University Studies 24 no. 4 (1984): 429–460.

Marvin S. Hill, "Money-Digging Folklore and the Beginnings of Mormonism: An Interpretative Suggestion," Brigham Young University Studies 24 no. 4 (Fall 1984): 473–488.

Richard L. Anderson, "The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Searching," Brigham Young University Studies 24 no. 4 (1984): 489.