"All My Endeavors to Preserve Them":
Protecting the Plates in Palmyra, 22 September–December 1827
On the evening of 21 September 1823, seventeen-year-old Joseph Smith retired to his bedroom in the loft of his parents’ log home on the family farm some two miles south of Palmyra, New York. Concerned about the “many foolish errors” into which his “native cheery temperament” had drawn him over the course of the past three years of his life (JS—H 1:28), Joseph poured out his heart in prayer. While asking the Lord 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” (JS—H 1:29), the angel Moroni appeared and informed Joseph of the existence of the Nephite record buried in the hill Cumorah.1 Several hours and three additional interviews with Moroni later, Joseph stood “on the west side of the hill” toward its north end, “not far from the top.” There he obtained his first view of the plates and received additional instructions.2 Relating his experiences to his family the following day, Joseph reported, “the angel of the Lord says that we must be careful not to proclaim these things or to mention them abroad, for we do not any of us know the weakness of the world, which is so sinful, and that when we get the plates they will want to kill us for the sake of the gold, if they know we have them.”3
This warning of Moroni’s was not an idle one. Word of the plates’ existence did manage to leak out, and even before Joseph received them four years later, various people were plotting how they might obtain them. Those plans took a violent turn when Joseph was physically attacked the day he brought the plates home. In following months several more attempts were made to wrest the plates from Joseph’s care. Keeping the sacred record out of harm’s way required his constant surveillance and the help and ingenuity of his family and closest friends and gave the young prophet relatively little time and safety in which he could translate. Relief came only after Joseph and Emma moved to Pennsylvania.
Joseph’s own record contains relatively little information on his efforts to keep the plates safe. In his 1839 recital of events, for example, Joseph noted that “the most strenuous exertions were used to get [the plates] from me,” and that every “stratagem that could be invented was resorted to for that purpose” (JS—H 1:60). He concluded his account of this period by noting that the “persecution . . . became so intolerable that I was under the necessity of leaving Manchester” (JS—H 1:61), having given no details as to the nature of these stratagems and the measures he took to counter them. The prophet’s silence on this point is curious but understandable. Writing this and other accounts years after the events they describe transpired, Joseph apparently felt that his brief overview of this persecution was sufficient for his purposes and that his time would be better spent discussing the first vision, Moroni’s visits, the restoration of the priesthood, and the organization of the church than it would be in detailing the activities of thieves.
Many who were associated with Joseph during this period, however—including Lucy Mack Smith, Martin Harris, Joseph Knight Sr., and others—have left us with a rich record detailing Joseph’s struggle to keep the plates out of the wrong hands. As with all historical sources, caution must be observed when trying to piece together from these various accounts all that Joseph experienced during this period. While some of these individuals were eyewitnesses to at least some of the events they describe, others were not, and it is clear that in many cases the authors of these sources were getting their information secondhand at best. A related problem is that all of these sources were recorded some time (even years, in some cases) after the events they describe transpired, introducing the possibility of error through faulty memory. That some of these accounts contradict one another at certain points indicates that somewhere in their transmission errors did indeed manage to creep in. For the most part, however, the records do corroborate one another on their major points, and one is able to reconstruct this period’s chain of events without doing major violence to any of the accounts.4 The story that emerges from these records is one of faith and perseverance on the part of the Prophet and his associates, and it constitutes one of the most interesting, yet often unappreciated, events of the restoration.
Obtaining the Plates Precisely how news of the plates leaked out is unclear. It is important to note, however, that the Smith family apparently did not take Moroni’s warning about discussing the plates “abroad” to mean that they could not mention them to trusted friends. Lucy reported that Joseph Sr. had mentioned them to one of his “confidential friends [Martin Harris] . . . some two or three years before” Joseph actually received them.5 Similarly, Joseph Knight Sr. and Joseph Knight Jr. claimed that Joseph had told them sometime within the year preceding his obtaining the plates when he was supposed to get them.6 That Josiah Stowell was at the Smith home with Joseph Knight the night Joseph and Emma went to the hill Cumorah to get the plates suggests that he, too, had been let in on the secret.7 No record exists of any of these men divulging the secret, but the possibility exists that, over the course of the several years they may have known about the Nephite record, one of them might have made a slip of the tongue.
Word of the plates’ existence might have gotten out through a more sinister source. According to Joseph Knight, one Samuel Lawrence in the neighborhood was a “Seear”8 who “had bin to the hill and knew about the things in the hill and . . . was trying to obtain them.” Joseph Smith apparently was concerned enough about Lawrence that “near nightfall” on 21 September he sent his father to Lawrence’s house “to see if there was any signs of his [Lawrence’s] going away that night.” Knight reported Joseph telling his father “to stay till near Dark and if he saw any signs of his going you till [tell] him if I find him there [at the hill Cumorah] I will thrash the stumps with him.” Lawrence, fortunately for himself, chose to stay home that night, and Joseph Sr. “came a way” from his vigil having seen no preparations on the “Seear’s” part for a midnight foray to Cumorah.9 If Knight’s account is accurate, it could be that Lawrence and perhaps others had learned of the plates’ existence through “revelation” from illegitimate sources.10
Whatever the story behind the leak, the fact remains that by 22 September 1827, several unsavory characters knew of the plates’ existence, knew roughly of their whereabouts, and knew that the time was approaching for Joseph to obtain them. Joseph, however, was apprised of those people’s knowledge and their determination to obtain the record for themselves and took precautions against such an event. According to Lucy, Joseph came to her about midnight on the night of 21 September 1827 and asked her if she had a chest with a lock and key. Aware that Moroni had instructed Joseph earlier to obtain “a chest or trunk having a good lock and key” where he could hide the plates once he got them, Lucy knew what Joseph’s question portended even though he did not tell her what he was about to do.11 On learning that Lucy did not have such a trunk, Joseph reassured her that all would be well. He and Emma then left the house with Joseph Knight’s horse and wagon, having told no one, including Joseph Sr., that they were going.12
No account exists detailing exactly what transpired that night at the hill Cumorah. From Joseph’s own record, we know that Moroni met Joseph there and “delivered” the plates to Joseph with the warning that he “should be responsible for them,” adding that “if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off; but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, . . . they should be protected” (JS—H 1:59). Lucy, no doubt getting her information from Joseph, recorded Moroni’s words in greater detail:
Now you have got the record into your own hands, and you are but a man, therefore you will have to be watchful and faithful to your trust, or you will be overpowered by wicked men, for they will lay every plan and scheme that is possible to get them away from you. And if you do not take heed continually, they will succeed. While they were in my hands I could keep them, and no man had power to take them away, but now I give them up to you. Beware, and look well to your ways, and you shall have power to retain them until the time for them to be translated.13
No other details about how Joseph obtained the plates exist.
After receiving the plates at the hill, Joseph hid them nearby14 in a hollow birch log whose tough bark had resisted the forces of decay better than the wood itself. Cutting a hole in the bark and peeling it back, he placed the plates in the cavity of the log thus exposed, then replaced the bark and “laid across the log in several places some old stuff that happened to lie near, in order to conceal, as much as possible, the place in which they were deposited.”15 All this—his receiving the plates from Moroni and his hiding them in the log—was apparently done in the absence of Emma, who presumably was waiting in the wagon nearby. Nor did Joseph apparently tell her all that he had done when he finally returned to her. If he did tell her, he must have told her to keep it all absolutely secret, for when Joseph Sr. asked her the next day “if she knew anything of the record—whether Joseph had taken them out of their place of deposit or where they were,” she answered that “she did not know.”16
The only thing we know for certain that Joseph brought back from the hill Cumorah that night was the Urim and Thummim, which, wrapped in a silk handkerchief, he allowed his mother to hold the next day. After handling the instrument, Lucy told Joseph to go to a cabinetmaker she knew and ask him to make a chest in which Joseph could hide the plates when he brought them home. Concerned about how he would pay the cabinetmaker, Joseph accepted employment the next day (23 September) to build a wall in the well of a widow living in Macedon. Although the job required Joseph to stay in Macedon for several days, he evidently felt secure enough about the plates in the log to leave them there for the time being.
Shortly after Joseph left for Macedon, Joseph Sr. learned of “ten or twelve men” who, under the direction of Willard Chase (a Methodist class leader in the neighborhood) and Samuel Lawrence, had sent sixty miles for a “conjuror” to help them find the plates.17 The following morning, Joseph Sr. went to Samuel Lawrence’s home where he found the men “devising many plans and schemes to find ‘Joe Smith’s gold bible,’ as they termed it.” Sitting down near the door and pretending to read a paper, Joseph Sr. overheard Lawrence’s wife caution the men to speak more quietly, at which the conjuror “bawled out at the top of his voice, ‘I am not afraid of anybody. We will have the plates in spite of Joe Smith or all the devils in hell.'”18
Satisfied that he had heard enough, Joseph Sr. slipped away. Reporting the whole affair to Emma, he asked her if she knew where the plates were, to which question, as we have seen, she gave a rather unsatisfactory answer. Emma then offered to ride to Macedon and tell Joseph of the men and the “conjuror,” to which Joseph Sr. consented. Emma subsequently met her husband at the widow’s well where she related everything to him and was no doubt relieved to hear him tell her that “the record was perfectly safe, for the present.” Joseph nevertheless accompanied his wife home to the Smith farm, where he made preparations to immediately retrieve the plates from the log. After reassuring his father”who was pacing back and forth by this time” that all was well, Joseph asked Hyrum to have a chest with a good lock “ready by the time I get home.”19 The time to bring the plates and the gospel they contained “out of the wilderness” had come.
Bringing the Plates Home
Joseph apparently went to retrieve the plates immediately after arranging for the chest. Considering all that had already transpired that day, it must have been well after noon by the time Joseph removed the plates from their hiding place in the log. Once they were out of the log, Joseph wrapped them in his linen frock20 and started for home along the Canandaigua road, the record tucked under his arm. Leaving the road after “a short distance”21 for the safety of the woods, he eventually came to a “large windfall” where several trees had blown down.
As he was jumping over a log [wrote his mother], a man sprang up from behind and gave him a heavy blow with a gun. Joseph turned around and knocked him to the ground, and then ran at the top of his speed. About half a mile further, he was attacked again in precisely the same way. He soon brought this one down also and ran on again, but before he got home, he was accosted the third time with a severe stroke with a gun.22
Joseph struck this third and final attacker with such force that he dislocated his own thumb. He continued running, “being closely pursued until he came near his father’s house,” at which time his assailants, “for fear of being detected,” broke off the chase.23 Reaching a fence corner, he “threw himself down . . . to recover his breath,” then rose and continued running until he reached the house.24
His mother and sister Catharine (or Katharine) were there when he came in. Catharine said he “entered the house running,” the plates “clasped to his side with his left hand and arm, . . . his right hand . . . badly bruised from knocking down at least three men who had leaped at him from behind bushes or fences as he ran.”25 “Speechless from fright and exhaustion,” Joseph reportedly allowed Catharine to take the plates from him and set them on the table. Then he lay on the couch while he recovered his breath. Catharine also helped revive him, and later treated his right hand “for the bruises on his knuckles.”26
Once Joseph regained his strength, he asked his mother to have his father, Joseph Knight, and Josiah Stowell pursue his attackers and also to have Hyrum bring the chest. Hyrum, as it turned out, had indeed located an appropriate chest but had neither emptied it of its contents nor remembered his appointment with Joseph. Reminded of his duty by Don Carlos, Hyrum dropped the cup of tea he was drinking, dumped the contents of the chest on the floor, and quickly went to find Joseph, the chest on his shoulder, leaving his house guests—two of his wife’s sisters—convinced by his sudden actions that he was “positively crazy.”27 After Hyrum arrived, Joseph immediately locked up the record and, after a further rest on the bed, met with his father and the others who had returned after an unsuccessful search for his assailants. Joseph told them all that had happened, then asked his father to put his dislocated thumb back in place.28
The chest Hyrum had found had initially belonged to Alvin. It had been used to store small tools, and, with the lid on, also functioned as a lap desk. It was 14 inches wide, 16 inches long, and 6 1/4 inches deep in the back, sloping to 4 inches deep in the front. The lid and bottom were made out of 3/4 inch walnut, and the sides out of 3â?”4 inch boxwood.29
Further Problems With the plates secured for the moment, Joseph Sr. asked his son if he and the family could see them. Joseph told them that his instructions were to show them to no one until they were translated, but he did allow his family to touch them and lift them as they were wrapped up.30 Sometime over the course of the next several days, Joseph also allowed his mother to handle the breastplate as it was wrapped in a “thin muslin handkerchief,” the material of which was so fine that Lucy could reportedly “see the glistening metal and ascertain its proportions without any difficulty.” Following her examination of the breastplate, Joseph placed it “in the chest with the Urim and Thummim.”31
With the arrival of the plates, life in the Smith home became increasingly difficult. Word quickly spread that Joseph had the plates in his possession, and numbers of people, some offering “Money and Property” to sweeten the deal, dropped by to see them.32 Joseph refused, of course, for which he and his family were “persecuted and abused.”33 Part of this unwanted attention may have stemmed from October 1825 when Joseph, in company with several other men, worked for Josiah Stowell as he looked for a purported lost Spanish silver mine in Harmony Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. At that time, according to one uncertain source, Joseph and eight others signed an “Articles of Agreement,” wherein they agreed to divide among themselves whatever they found of value while digging.34 The alleged “Agreement” was limited to “a certain place in Pennsylvania.” Although none of the other eight men who signed it were ever identified by name as being part of the mob in Palmyra that was trying to get the plates from Joseph,35 both David Whitmer and Martin Harris claimed that Joseph’s persecutors at this time were largely treasure hunters who felt that Joseph had agreed at some point to share with them whatever articles of value he obtained.36
It was under these conditions that Joseph rushed to the house one day and asked his mother if “a company of men” had been by in his absence. When his mother told him that no one had come, he told her that “a mob would be there that night, if not before, to search for the record, and that it must be removed immediately.”37 With the help of a trusted neighbor, Joseph “carefully and speedily” removed part of the hearth in the west room, buried the plates and the breastplate in a box,38 and reset the hearth over the box. Moments later “a large company of armed men came rushing up to the house,” at which Joseph opened the door and called out “as if he had a legion at hand, giving the word of command with great importance.” He, his father, eleven-year-old Don Carlos, and perhaps others rushed outside toward the mob at the same time. The ruse worked. Joseph’s authoritative call to arms and the aggressive appearance he and his family made apparently convinced the mob that the house was heavily guarded, and they “fled . . . away into the woods, where they dispersed themselves to their several homes.”39
It was probably shortly after this that Samuel Lawrence made yet another attempt to get the plates. Joseph Knight recorded that Lawrence and “one Beeman a grate Rodsman,”40 showed up at the Smith home, wanting to talk with Joseph. Joseph took them into the west room (the room in which the plates were hid), where they “Proposed to go shares with him and tried every way to Bargain with him But Could not.” Beeman then reportedly “took out his Rods and hild [held] them up and they pointed Dow[n] to the harth whare they ware hid,” at the same time exclaiming that he had found them.41 Knight did not record what happened next, but it is probably safe to assume that Joseph breathed a sigh of relief once the two men left the house.42
The plates’ hiding place having been discovered, Joseph did not keep them under the hearth for long. Martin Harris said that a compounding problem with the hearth hiding place was that the wall in that room was partly torn down, making it easier for someone on the outside to “get under the house and dig them out.”43 To make matters worse, the mob about this time enlisted the help of Willard Chase’s sister Sally in their efforts to obtain the plates. Sally Chase reportedly had a “green glass through which she could see many wonderful things” and had begun, as the Smiths soon learned, to apply her talents on behalf of her brother’s efforts to locate and obtain the plates. Thus, after “but a few days rest,” when Joseph “received another intimation of the approach of a mob and the necessity of removing the record and the breastplate again from their hiding place,” he dug them up.44
Accounts vary as to what Joseph did next, but it seems that he hid the plates and the breastplate, housed together in the same box, under the floor of a cooper’s shop located just across the road.45 After a “short time,” Joseph dug them up again, removed the plates and breastplate from their box, reburied the box, and hid the plates and breastplate, now wrapped in some clothing, in “a quantity of flax” being stored in the shop’s loft.46 The decoy worked. Following Sally Chase’s directions, the mob that night tore up the floor of the cooper’s shop and smashed the wooden box, but left the plates and breastplate undisturbed in the loft a few feet above their heads.47
After this harrowing experience, Joseph placed the plates in a third box. This one was made from an “old Ontario glass-box,” the ends of which an obliging neighbor cut off in order to “mak[e] the box the right length to put [the plates] in.”48 By this time the “excitement in the village upon the subject [of the plates] had become such,” Martin Harris reported, “that some had threatened to mob Joseph, and also to tar and feather him.”49 Several went a step further and actually took shots at Joseph, while his parents’ home “was frequently beset by mobs and evil designing persons” intent on getting the record.50 Realizing that he would never be able to translate the record while both he and the plates were in such jeopardy, Joseph wrote to Emma’s brother Alva, requesting him to come to New York to help him and Emma move to Harmony, Pennsylvania, where Emma’s parents lived. Alva quickly complied with Joseph’s request, while Martin Harris, in the meantime, gave the prophet some money with which he could pay his debts and finance the move to Pennsylvania.
When they learned that Joseph would shortly be moving to Pennsylvania, the mob in Palmyra and Manchester redoubled their efforts to obtain the plates. After threatening Joseph that “he should never leave until he had shown the plates,” some fifty men began laying plans for how they might follow Joseph and rob him on his way to Harmony.51 Seeking leadership for the enterprise, the mob approached the Smiths’ family doctor, one Dr. McIntyre, and requested him to “take the command of the company.” McIntyre, who had known and attended the Smith family for years, told the group that “they must be a pack of devilish fools” and refused their offer, thereby bringing the expedition to a close before it even got started.52
No doubt hearing rumors of the mob’s plans, Joseph and his associates went to great lengths to see that the plates would make it to Harmony safely. First, they nailed the plates and breastplate in a box.53 Then they placed the box in a “strong cask,” which they then filled “about one-third” full of beans to conceal the box. On the advice of Martin Harris, Joseph and Alva each armed themselves with stout clubs. As a final precaution, they apparently made it known that they would be leaving Manchester on a Monday, then left two days earlier, on Saturday.54
In spite of their precautions, the trip did not go without incident. Orson Pratt reported that Joseph, Emma, and Alva “had not gone far, before [they were] overtaken by an officer with a search-warrant, who flattered himself with the idea that he should surely obtain the plates.” When the search produced nothing, the three travelers were allowed to continue, only to be stopped a little later by another officer “on the same business.” After enduring another thorough but unsuccessful search of the wagon, Joseph and the others pressed on. They arrived at Emma’s parents’ home without further incident.55
Thus ended the first difficult phase of Joseph’s guardianship over the plates. Little, if anything, had been accomplished by way of translating the record, pressed as Joseph and his family had been by the mobs. Yet the record was safe, and in his struggles to preserve them Joseph no doubt had learned much about the ways of God and man that would serve him well in the time to come.
1. According to Oliver Cowdery, Joseph’s prayer this evening may have been several hours in length, which would place Moroni’s first visit in the early hours of 22 September rather than on 21 September. Oliver wrote of the incident to W. W. Phelps that “hours passed unnumbered—how many or how few I know not, neither is he [Joseph] able to inform me; but [he] supposes it must have been eleven or twelve, and perhaps later, as the noise and bustle of the family, in retiring, had long since ceased” when Moroni appeared. Oliver noted as well that Joseph had “others beside him” who were sleeping during his interview with the angel. Latter-day Saints Messenger and Advocate 1/5 (1835): 79.
4. In this article, I have generally followed Lucy Mack Smith’s well-known version of events when a discrepancy between accounts has arisen, unless there has been compelling evidence for rejecting it. Accounts that diverge widely from Lucy’s appear in the notes.
6. Dean C. Jessee, “Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History,” BYU Studies 17/1 (1976): 32; see William G. Hartley, “The Knight Family: Ever Faithful to the Prophet,” Ensign, January 1989, 44.
7. Proctor and Proctor, eds., History of Joseph Smith, 137. One might argue that Stowell and Knight, as friends of the family, just happened to be with the Smiths on the night of 21 September. Knight, however, recorded how, in “the forepart of September” of 1827, he “went to Rochester on Buisness and returnd By Palmyra to be there about the 22nt of September,” suggesting he knew the significance of the date (Jessee, “Joseph Knight’s Recollection,” 32, emphasis added; original spelling maintained).
10. Lucy herself felt that Satan was involved with such efforts, “stir[ring] up the hearts of those who had in any way gotten a hint of the matter, to search into it and make every possible move towards preventing the work.” Proctor and Proctor, eds., History of Joseph Smith, 140.
14. Lucy said Joseph hid the plates “about three miles from home” (ibid., 142), which was roughly how far the hill Cumorah itself was from the Smith’s home. This and the presumption that Emma was waiting for him in the wagon suggest that Joseph did not travel any appreciable distance before hiding the plates in the log.
15. Ibid., 142–44. Martin Harris said Joseph hid the plates in the hollow top of an oak tree. See Joel Tiffany, “Mormonism” No. 2, Tiffany’s Monthly 5 (1859): 165; see also Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 217 n. 5.
17. Ibid., 140-41. Brigham Young said that this conjuror “rode over sixty miles three times the same season they [the plates] were obtained by Joseph Smith,” and that “the last time he went to obtain the treasure he knew where it was, and told where it was, but did not know its value.” JD 2:180.
20. William Smith identified this garment as a “tow frock,” and said that Joseph had not brought it “especially to wrap the plates in,” but that it was “his every day frock such as young men used to wear then.” “The Old Soldier’s Testimony,” The Saints’ Herald 31/40, 1884, 643; “Another Testimony: Statement of William Smith Concerning Joseph, the Prophet,” Deseret Evening News, 20 January 1894.
22. Ibid. For a similar account by Joseph’s sister Catharine, see Saints’ Herald 60/41 (1913): 83. Catharine gave a second account of Joseph’s flight, as retold by her grandson, Mr. Salisbury, saying that at one point he was accosted by a would-be thief after jumping over a rail fence. When the man reached for the plates, Joseph “knocked him down with his right fist while carrying the plates under his left arm clasped to his body.” Dan Vogel, ed. and comp., Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996), 1:526. Martin Harris said, “While on his way home with the plates, he [Joseph] was met by what appeared to be a man, who demanded the plates, and struck him with a club on his side, which was all black and blue. Joseph knocked the man down, and then ran for home, and was much out of breath.” “Mormonism—No. 2,” 166. Orson Pratt reported that Joseph was “waylaid by two ruffians” together, one of whom “struck him with a club before he perceived them.” Orson Pratt, “An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records,” in The Papers of Joseph Smith, Volume 1: Autobiographical and Historical Writings, ed. Dean C. Jessee (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), 400.
26. Proctor and Proctor, eds., History of Joseph Smith, 144; Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 524. Martin Harris said that when Joseph reached the house, “he handed the plates in at the window, and they were received from him by his mother” (“Mormonism—No. II,” 166).
28. Ibid., 145. William Smith said that Joseph’s father placed the plates in a pillow case after Joseph’s arrival, but when, precisely, he might have done this is not clear. “Old Soldier’s Testimony,” 643.
31. Proctor and Proctor, eds., History of Joseph Smith, 148–49. Lucy described the breastplate as being “concave on one side and convex on the other, and extended from the neck downwards as far as the center of the stomach of a man of extraordinary size” (ibid.). It is doubtful such an object could have fit into the lap desk tool box in which Joseph had placed the plates, suggesting that the chest mentioned here was probably a separate container.
34. The only copy of the “Articles” comes from the 23 April 1880 edition of The Salt Lake Daily Tribune, a newspaper which was virulently anti-Mormon at the time. While researching this topic for his 1971 doctoral dissertation, Larry Porter was unable to locate any other copies of the “Agreement,” which makes the document’s actual existence somewhat suspect. See Larry C. Porter, “A Study of the Origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816-1831,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University (1971), 125 n.39.
36. Martin Harris reported that “the money-diggers claimed that they had as much right to the plates as Joseph had, as they were in company together. They claimed that Joseph had been traitor, and had appropriated to himself that which belonged to them.” “Mormonisn—No. II,” 167. David Whitmer claimed that Oliver Cowdery told him “that certain young men about Joseph’s age . . . were very angry against Joseph and complained against him bitterly, saying he had not kept his word with them, for he had promised to give them some of the golden plates when he obtained them, whereas he had got them and had not given them any as he had promised.” Oliver reportedly suggested to the young men that perhaps Joseph did not have the plates, at which they “replied angrily: We know he has, for we have seen the place on the hill where he got them.” Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book, 1993), 113–14.
37. Proctor and Proctor, eds., History of Joseph Smith, 149. Joseph may have learned of the mob through the Urim and Thummim, which, according to Lucy, he kept with him constantly, and through which he could “in a moment tell whether the plates were in any danger” (p. 142).
38. Joseph apparently transferred the plates from Alvin’s lap desk tool box to another box at this time, one large enough to hold both the breastplate and the plates; see note 31 above. This second, larger box may have been a ‘cherry box’ Martin said was made expressly for the purpose of hiding the plates” (“Mormonism—No. II,” 166).
39. Proctor and Proctor, eds., History of Joseph Smith, 149. Lucy’s father, Solomon Mack, had employed a similar ruse during the French and Indian War in 1757. While searching for three lost oxen, Solomon, who was traveling alone but was aware that another Englishman was walking behind him, came across four Indians armed for war. Seeing “that there was no way to escape unless I could do it by stratagem,” he recorded, “I rushed upon them, calling in the meantime at the top of my voice, ‘Rush on! rush on, my boys! We’ll have the devils.'” At that moment the other Englishman came into the view of the Indians, giving them a “terrible fright” and sending them off in another direction (p. 5; see pp. 3–5).
40. This may have been the “conjuror” Willard Chase and Samuel Lawrence had hired from 60 miles away; see note 17 above. A “Rodsman” was one who, through the use of a rod or rods, could locate things hidden from view (Jessee, “Joseph Knight’s Recollection,” 33).
42. Before we dismiss Beeman’s success at locating the plates as mere legend, we should note that Brigham Young said that the man hired by Lawrence and Chase “possessed as much talent as any man that walked on the American soil, and was one of the wickedest men I ever saw.” JD, 2:180.
46. Ibid.; see Proctor and Proctor, eds., History of Joseph Smith, 149. The sequence of events I present here is a combination of the accounts given by Lucy Smith and Martin Harris. Lucy did not mention Joseph’s hiding the plates for a time under the floor of the cooper’s shop.
52. Proctor and Proctor, eds., History of Joseph Smith, 154. McIntyre was the physician who tried to treat Alvin Smith after another doctor had poisoned him with calomel. When Alvin died, McIntyre was one of the doctors who performed the autopsy. Lucy described him as “the favorite of the family and a man of great skill and experience” (p. 115; see pp. 115–18).
53. This was probably the glass box mentioned earlier. Isaac Hale wrote that when Joseph and Emma arrived in Harmony with the plates, he “was shown a box in which it was said they [the plates] were contained, which had, to all appearances, been used as a glass box of the common size window-glass.” Susan Easton Black, “Isaac Hale: Antagonist of Joseph Smith,” in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History: New York, ed. Larry C. Porter, Milton V. Backman, Jr., and Susan Easton Black (Provo, Utah: BYU Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1992), 102.