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G. T. Harrison
Critics Corner


Mormons are Peculiar People,
Chapter 2

For those who may not be acquainted with LDS history, the following narrative, though portrayed as history, is fiction and bears very little resemblance to actual facts.

We present the following as an example of the types of stories some anti-Mormons make up about Mormons (because we find this example particularly funny).  This example is presented without comment because it is so outrageous and contains many examples of the types of things specified in Dr. Hugh Nibley's How to Write an anti-Mormon Book.

Title Page and Reverse (with a quote from the Foreword)



Peculiar People


G.T. Harrison

Vantage Press, Inc., New York

Copyright, 1954, by G.T. Harrison

A quote from the Foreword:

"Religion's greatest tragedy is to have a beautiful, fictitious belief destroyed by an ugly hard-boiled fact."

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FROM THE TIME OF JOSEPH'S MOMENTOUS DREAM IN THE early summer of 1820, to September 1823, he continued his usual labors with his father on the farm, cutting wood, building fences, herding cows, digging wells, searching for hidden treasures with a "peep-stone," and helping around the family's cake and beer shop.   Not much of importance occurred during that interval except the visit, in 1822, of the Rev. Ethan Smith who was some kind of distant relative of Joseph's father.

     Ethan Smith was forty-two years old.   He was five feet nine, and had chestnut-brown hair and gray eyes.  He was nicely dressed and fairly well educated, as became a clergyman.  He had a pastorate with the Congregational Church of Poultney, Vermont, and was married and had a family.

     The Joseph Smiths cordially received Ethan, but it was evident that he was not welcome, mainly, it was supposed, because he was a Congregationalist.  The one most friendly to Ethan was Alvin, Joseph's oldest brother, a young man then of twenty-five, with an open mind and an inquiring spirit, but not very religious from the orthodox point of view.  Ethan was very friendly with Alvin and told him and young Joseph, who happened to be along, of a book he was writing called, The View of the Hebrews.  He also spoke of another book he contemplated writing, a history of the American aborigines, who he thought were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, and he mentioned to Alvin and Joseph that one of the characters of his new book was to be named "Moroni."

     By the time Joseph was eighteen he still had not mastered his sexual weakness, or as he himself later termed it, "weak-

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ness of youth and the foibles of human nature."   When he got to the nearby villages and saw lovely girls, his heart would beat unusually fast and his blood pressure would rise with his contemplations.  At such times he forgot all about religion and his otherwise pious teachings and leanings.   It was an appetite of youth and nature that he could not deny.  Years later he was known to have said:

     I do not, nor never have, pretended to be any other than a man subject to passion. (History of the Church, Vol. I, p. 10.)

One day in early fall, Joseph had walked to Manchester and back and was very tired.  That, together with his self-indulgence, which resulted in a guilty conscience, tended to upset him, so he went to bed.  He was exhausted, but his troubled spirit would not let him sleep at once and he prayed fervently to God for forgiveness of his sins, and while so praying fell into a troubled sleep.  He later explained his feelings and humility at the time when he wrote:

     In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when, on the evening of the above-mentioned twenty-first of September after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before Him. (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith, 2:29.)

Joseph continued to roll on his bed and, in his anguish, talked in his sleep.  He was in a state of somnambulism, but too tired and exhausted to walk.   The draft from his window had blown his room door open.  His sister Sophronia, in a room across the hall from Joseph, was awakened by his groanings and talking.   She got up and lighted her candle and came to his door.  As she approached his room her bare feet made no sound, but the candle threw light ahead of her into Joseph's room that increased in brilliance as she neared him, and the draft from the window fanned it till she got into the room itself.  The light glared into his eyes until he

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thought it was brighter than the noonday sun.   She called his name:

     "Joseph, what is making all that disturbance? Are you sick?"

     Her nightdress, a loose robe of exquisite whiteness in the candlelight, left her hands and her arms, a little above the wrists, naked; so also were her feet, as were her legs a little above the ankles.  Her head and neck were also bare.  And Joseph could see she had on no other clothing but that nightdress--no temple garment, as a good Mormon angel would have had, as it was open so that Joseph could see into her bosom.  From where Joseph lay upon the bed, she appeared as if her feet did not touch the floor, for all was dark beneath the shadow of her nightdress except her white feet that reflected the candlelight.  It was dark behind her and the candlelight, and to Joseph's eyes--practically blinded by the sudden appearance of a light to which they were not readily able to focus themselves, and being extremely superstitious and poorly informed--he thought she was an angel from God in answer to his prayer and he was afraid. He tried to hide under the covers.  Again she called his name:

     "Joseph, what is wrong?  Are you all right?  It is just Froni.  What are you making such a noise for?"

     But Joseph thought she said, "It's Moroni."  And then his fear left him, for was not Moroni the ancient American Ethan had told about?  And now he was come to help him!  But still in his semiconscious somnambulant state he assured her that he was all right, that "everything was now well."

     But she stood with the candle a few moments observing him and he seemed to quiet down.  While she stood near his bed with the light shining down on his face, Joseph thought Moroni had come to him with a message and a work to do.

     Sophronia thought he had quieted down and resumed his normal sleep, except for his restlessness, so she started to return to her own room.  As she took the candle in front of her with her back to Joseph, he thought the light in the room began to gather immediately around her and depart with her--as it shone out only from each side of her as she walked towards the door.  Then it seemed to Joseph as if a conduit opened right up into heaven, and she ascended till she entirely disappeared--which she did, right through the door-

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way.  As she shut the door, the room was left as it had been before Sophronia and her ghostly light, which to Joseph appeared heavenly, had made their appearance.  Years later Joseph made this incident into the Angel Moroni's visit to him, and the Mormons, being a peculiar people, believe it!

     Years having passed between this incident and Joseph's telling of it, Froni had no idea she played a part in the event.  That Joseph was being annually visited by an angel and viewing gold plates each time as he later claimed, was never announced to the world until years later.  By then Joseph had had sufficient time to make the story what he wanted the world to believe.  His mother in her book said:

     No one ever heard anything from us respecting the plates, except a confidential friend, whom my husband had spoken to some two or three years previous. (A.B.C. and History of Palmyra, by Bean, p. 36.)

     From September 1823 to September 1825, Joseph continued as usual to labor with his father, and nothing during that interval occurred of very great importance except the death of his brother Alvin on November 19, 1823.

     Alvin had made a trip to the top of a big hill near Manchester and found some odds and ends of Indian relics in a box.  Some arrow points, a stone tomahawk and a few other trinkets.  The box fell to pieces when he attempted to dislodge it from the ground.  Just before he suddenly died Alvin had reported all of that to Ethan, who was an amateur archeologist interested in Indian relics.

The Rev. Ethan Smith stopped at Palmyra in September 1825, to see Alvin's findings, only to learn that Alvin had died nearly two years before.  Joseph volunteered to guide Ethan to the "big hill," near Manchester.  Returning from the hill in the Smith wagon, they were accosted by four horsemen who threatened Ethan and ordered him out of the country before morning.  At the time there was a great conflict going on between Masons and anti-Masons and it is thought that that was the motive behind the incident between the four horsemen and Ethan.

     "It is not going to be healthy for the likes of you, preacher, if we ketch you around here any more," the man on the gray horse said to Ethan.  "Get going and don't let the sun rise

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on you around here, 'cause if you do, you won't be able to leave.

     "But why should I leave?" protested Ethan, and a frown wrinkled his forehead.  "I've done nothing unlawful or wrong.  I have molested no one, and have no intention of doing so.

     "If you would rather argue than take good advice, argue and make your own choice.  Only leaving will be more healthy.

     The four horsemen then rode on silently before and behind the Smith wagon.

     Ethan was frightened and obviously upset.   Joseph was nervous too, but angry and said under his breath:

     "If I had a gun, I'd fix those fellers."

     "I must leave here tonight," Ethan said.  "I must not wait till morning.  But how can I get my new manuscript and papers away?  If they should find them on me it might be as much as my life was worth."  He glanced behind him in the wagon towards a bean barrel where he had secreted the manuscript while they climbed the "big hill," and he asked, "What can I do?"

     Joseph, thinking that he would like to read the Indian stories, suggested:

     "You better leave them with me till you come again."

     But Ethan demurred.

     "I could not.  It is too valuable.  There is too much work and time put into it.  That is why I brought it with me so it would not be out of my sight.  But what can those men want?   Where are they taking us?  What have I done?"

     Ethan, evidently angered, said in a low voice:

     "Can't one minding his own affairs go about this country nowadays without being threatened by brigands?"

     They drove on in silence a few minutes, then Ethan continued:

     "If I leave the manuscript and papers with you, Joseph, will you promise me on oath that you will tell no one, not even your father and mother, that I have left them with you, and that you will show them to no one?   I shall return and get them soon as I can.  Do you promise?"

     "I promise, so help me God."

     "Then I leave them in Your care, and charge you with the

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responsibility of preserving them with your life.   I will hold you responsible for them.  If you lose them through carelessness or neglect you will rue the day.  But if you will be very careful of them and not mention them to a single soul, not even your father and mother, until I return for them, they will be safe and God will bless you and I shall reward you upon my return.

     And that is the true story of how Joseph Smith, the uneducated country adolescent came into possession of the manuscript of The Book of Mormon.

     Soon after Ethan left Palmyra, Joseph hired out to Josiah Stoal of Chenango County, New York, in October 1825, as a crystal gazer to help locate a buried treasure.  He went to Harmony, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, where Stoal had previously been digging to discover a mine which legend said had been worked by the early Spaniards.  Some of the holes dug under Joseph's direction are to be seen even to this day.  Joseph boarded with the Hales while working for Stoal, fell in love with Emma Hale and married her on January 27, 1827, against her father's wishes.  They eloped across the state line to get married.

     After Ethan's visit to the Smiths in Palmyra, he had trouble with his pastorate in Poultney.  It seems the trouble finally climaxed in a disagreement with one of his deacons, and Ethan asked to be dismissed.   That was granted to him on November 3, 1826, at which time he set out for Palmyra to recover his manuscript and papers from young Joseph Smith.  But he never arrived.   The exact facts concerning him were never fully established, but the body of a man who had been murdered was found in western New York shortly thereafter, and it was tentatively identified as Ethan.

     Whether the alleged Masons disposed of Ethan Smith, as they did of William Morgan at about the same time, or whether the Indians eliminated him, or whether he was killed in a robbery is not definitely known to this day.