Early Mormon Documents, Volume 3

Early Mormon Documents, Volume 3

by Dan Vogel
     
 

 In this collection of primary sources, editor Dan Vogel offers readers the pleasures and frustrations that greet professional historians. Raw and uncensored, all the documents upon which a history of Mormon origins could be based are here, with strengths and weaknesses inherent in any eyewitness account. They are colorful and detailed, opinionated and

Overview

 In this collection of primary sources, editor Dan Vogel offers readers the pleasures and frustrations that greet professional historians. Raw and uncensored, all the documents upon which a history of Mormon origins could be based are here, with strengths and weaknesses inherent in any eyewitness account. They are colorful and detailed, opinionated and inconsistent. In tone they range from ultra-devotional to antagonistic. Yet each also contributes an important piece to the overall puzzle.

Note the personal odyssey of Ezra Thayre (see below) which tells about the world view of that place and time. Yet what should readers make of Thayre’s claim that an angel taught him how to blow a trumpet? Similarly in Solomon Chamberlain’s frank admission that he did not know whether “some genie or good spirit” had led him to Palmyra, New York, should one read into this a literary metaphor or an actual belief in supernatural guidance?

In part, the value one places on a source is determined by the questions one hopes to have answered by it. If one wants to know how the public initially reacted to the Book of Mormon, then the Rochester Gem’s light, gossipy report is welcome, though it is not a fair representation of the Book of Mormon’s contents.

Compare this to the more thoughtful work of Palmyra native Orsamus Turner. Though not a Mormon, he nevertheless strove to understand what effect Joseph Smith’s religiously divided parentage had on his life and church, a topic that remains of interest today. However, Turner cannot provide the details offered by those who were more intimately acquainted with the Smith family.

Nor should one expect to find a witness who is uncontaminated by his or her environment or by the tug of folklore. For example, it was reported that two pranksters one night convinced Calvin Stoddard—husband of Joseph Smith’s sister, Sophronia—that God was speaking to him from their hiding place near his door. No doubt this happened: that is, the jokesters probably played this trick. What is not known without corroboration is exactly how Stoddard responded, and there is thereby a high probability of embellishment.

People interpret “facts” according to prior expectations. For example, rumors that circulated among church members included the claim that “pyrotechnics” lit the sky when Joseph Smith removed the gold plates from the Hill Cumorah. These reminiscences—despite the fact that they were remembered years after the fact—describe everything from what seems to be shooting stars to one man’s memory of the literal armies of heaven marching across the firmament.

Therefore readers will find themselves making judgments along with the editor about which details are most valid, aided by Vogel’s comprehensive annotation. It is his hope that readers will consult the sources in tandem rather than in isolation, because only out of this collective pool of information can a reliable reconstruction of events be made.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781560851332
Publisher:
Signature Books, Incorporated
Publication date:
04/28/2000
Series:
Early Mormon Documents Series
Edition description:
1
Pages:
650
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

 “When Hyrum Smith began to speak, every word touched me to the inmost soul. I thought every word was pointed to me. God punished me and riveted me to the spot. I could not help myself. The tears rolled down my cheeks. I was very proud and stubborn. There were many there who knew me, so I dare not look up. I sat until I recovered myself before I dare look up. They sung some hymns and that filled me with the Spirit. When Hyrum got through, he picked up a book and said, ‘Here is the Book of Mormon.’ I said, ‘Let me see it.’ I then opened the book, and I received a shock with such exquisite joy that no pen can write and no tongue can express. I shut the book and said, ‘What is the price of it?’ ‘Fourteen shillings’ was the reply. I said, ‘I’ll take the book.’ I opened it again, and I felt a double portion of the Spirit, that I did not know whether I was in the world or not. I felt as though I was truly in heaven.” —Ezra Thayre, reminiscence for 1830

Meet the Author

Dan Vogel is the editor of Early Mormon Documents, a five-volume series that won Best Documentary awards from both the Mormon History Association and the John Whitmer Historical Association. He is the editor of The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture; author of Indian Origins and the Book of MormonJoseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet and Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism; and co-editor of American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon. He is also a contributor to The Prophet Puzzle: Interpretive Essays on Joseph Smith and Differing Visions: Dissenters in Mormon History, among others. He has presented research papers at the annual Mormon History Association meetings, Sunstone Theological Symposium, and similar conferences. He is currently preparing a definitive edition of Joseph Smith’s multi-volume History of the Church. He and his wife live in Westerville, Ohio. 

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