Fictionalizing Faith:
Popular Polemics and the Golden Plates

For six weeks in the summer of 2011, researchers convened at the Maxwell Institute to discuss the topic “The Cultural History of the Gold Plates.” The seminar was sponsored by the Mormon Scholars Foundation, hosted by the Maxwell Institute, and directed by Richard Bushman.The Summer Seminar Working Papers 2011 were presented at a BYU symposium on August 18, 2011. Working papers are unpublished, unedited, unpolished drafts. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the Maxwell Institute or BYU.

 

Judging from the titles they gave their nineteenth-century tracts, angry apostates, outraged ministers, and anxious editors felt that something had to be done about Mormonism. Eber Howe “Unvailed” it, Origen Bacheler “Exposed” it, and La Roy Sunderland “Refuted” it—and that was only the 1830s.1 Since then, other anti-Mormon publications promised in turn a Mormonism “Examined,” “Contrasted,” “Sifted,” “Dissected,” “Unraveled,” and “Unmasked.”2 Still other titles offered, more subtly, a Mormonism “Exhibited in its Own Mirror”; more caustically, a Mormonism “Exploded” and “Harpooned”; or more judiciously, a Mormonism “Weighed in the Balances . . . and Found Wanting.” 1 Still, based on the style and contents of many of the papers and pamphlets, books and broadsides published by a burgeoning nineteenth-century anti-Mormon press, other unused titles would have been equally appropriate: a tract called Mormonism Mocked; a newspaper headline, Latter-day Saints Lampooned; or perhaps a penny pamphlet entitled Mormonism Caricatured and Fictionalized through Humorous Emotional Appeal, Leaving it Delegitimized and therefore Easily Dismissed.

While that last cumbersome title never graced the cover of a nineteenth-century tract, it essentially provides the thesis of the study that follows, in which I will analyze some of the rhetorical strategies used in anti-Mormon treatments of the gold plates published during the lifetime of Joseph Smith. I will argue that as Mormonism began growing in the 1830s and 40s, anti-Mormon publications largely sought through their style to appeal to the emotions of the public, frequently through a comical rhetoric of ridicule. Their hope was to reduce Mormonism to the absurd, and thus to immunize their audience against the Mormon message by making their rejection of that message an emotional automatic—more reflexive than reflective. And originally, to create a caricature of the church that would secure the public’s dismissive scorn, they turned most frequently to the story of the gold plates.

Eventually, of course, polygamy became the caricature of choice, as evidenced by the rash of political cartoons meant to mock the practice.4 And even before that bombshell, concerns over communalism in Ohio, abolitionism in Missouri, or theocracy in Illinois drew public attention and ire—not to mention the ever-present theological concerns. However, these issues were mere symptoms of what critics considered the same original disease, exemplified in an 1873 cartoon that showed Brigham Young milking a mule (representing “the Great Mormon People”), that was only bound to such contemptible practices by a rope labeled “credulity” tied to a nose ring labeled “superstition.”5 Originally, the evidence for this unenlightened gullibility was Mormons’ acceptance of Joseph Smith’s “Gold Bible.”

After all, these writers assumed, who in their right mind would believe the story as Smith told it? As they explained, the tale of the Gold Bible was merely cover for a failed treasure hunt turned speculative scheme, superstition in scriptural camouflage, fraud masquerading as faith.6 To protect the public, Mormonism had to be exposed in its true light: the pretended prophet as an “unprincipled, villainous imposter,”7 the three and eight witnesses as deceitful “assistant wire-pullers,”8 and missionaries as “peddlers”9 whose “object [was] to promote the sale of [a] book.”10

Key to perpetuating what they considered Mormonism’s speculative origin, and central to seeing through its religious disguise, was the use of the term “Gold Bible.” Already common coinage by mid-1829, the Palmyra Reflector called the phrase a “cant cognomen . . . given it by the unbelievers . . . by way of derision.”11 Those who used it were not associating “gold” with spiritual value, but with Joseph’s money-digging past. Even before the book appeared in print the New-York Telescope concluded that it was “probably . . . a money-making speculation” and cautioned its readers “not to spend their money uselessly.”12 And sure enough, one curious onlooker only borrowed the book, since he “could not, in good conscience, purchase a copy, lest I should support a deception.”13 Although by Joseph’s own account there was a clear distinction between the material value of the plates and the spiritual value of the record they contained, critics conflated the two categories, juxtaposing the speculative with the sacred in one sardonic term. In the sarcastic words of an 1844 History of Illinois, it was impressive “to see religion and gold so admirably blended.”14 A New Orleans periodical made an even subtler jab in 1842, calling “Joe Smith” the “hero of the brazen plates”—a clever wordplay that not only downgraded the record’s purported material worth but pointed to the unabashed impudence of those who had put it forth.

Used in well over one hundred articles, pamphlets, and books during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, the term “Gold Bible” became synonymous with early Mormonism. One newspaper referred to Joseph’s associates as “the Gold Bible apostles,”15 and Orson Hyde recalled learning of the church when four missionaries came “preaching the ‘golden bible’ or ‘Mormonism’”16—synonymous terms at the time, in his mind. In the hands of antagonistic writers, the “Gold Bible” became a caricature of the early church—a comic metaphor used to symbolize all that was wrong about Mormonism: the money-digging materialism, the foolish superstition, the feigned religiosity. It was shorthand for a church that was scriptural on its surface, but fraudulent at its core. In a telling typographic move, when Eber D. Howe published the first book-length attack on the church in 1834, the volume’s lengthy title was arranged on the title page so that centered, bolded, and capitalized—in the largest typeface on the page—were the words “GOLDEN BIBLE.” The frontispiece then showed a first-of-its-kind anti-Mormon cartoon, depicting Joseph Smith, plates in hand, being kicked off his feet by the devil.17 The message was clear: the Gold Bible was the devil’s bait, being used to send the ignorant flying. Even without reading the book’s lengthy contents, opening the cover told most people all they needed to know.

Perhaps the most obvious evidence that the term “Gold Bible” carried a negative connotation is the almost absolute refusal of Mormons to use the term themselves. In their own publications they preferred the terms “Book of Mormon,” “record,” or “plates,” and used “Gold Bible” almost exclusively when referring to the mocking of their enemies.18 Unfortunately for the Mormons, however, no matter how hard they tried to dignify the story or diffuse the offending phrase, the “Gold Bible” was too effective a caricature to be dislodged by a fuller or more sympathetic portrait. It was a loaded image that stuck. An 1842 writer could therefore couple “the fable of a Golden Bible” with “the farce of Mormonism” and easily reject them both.19 By fictionalizing the one, anti-Mormon writers were able to delegitimize the other in a sort of metonymy of dismissal, doing so through the persuasive power of rhetoric.

When Aristotle studied the art of persuasion he identified three rhetorical appeals (logos, pathos, and ethos), which correspond to what he considered the three aims of persuasive argument (the mind, the heart, and the conscience) as well as its three component parts (the speaker, the hearer,and the argument itself). In simplest terms, logos is an appeal to reason, aiming at the intellect through the logical weight of the argument. Ethos is an appeal to conscience, based on the character of the person making those claims. Pathos is an appeal to the emotions, aiming at the audience in hopes of touching the heart, stirring the feelings, or as we will see, tickling the funny bone.20

In their attempts to shape public opinion, writers of anti-Mormon publications utilized all three rhetorical appeals to considerable effect. In the case of logos, men like Alexander Campbell wrote rational refutations of the Book of Mormon based on an analysis of its contents, appealing to Scripture and Reason to cast doubt on the story of the gold plates.21 In terms of ethos, a large number of publications came from well-credentialed ministers, reputable observers, and reliable

former “insiders,” effectively negating the testimonies of the three and eight witnesses, who were dismissed as not being “disinterested” sources. But as prevalent as were these appeals to logos and ethos, I suggest that pathos remained the anti-Mormons’ most effective rhetorical appeal. Based in “gut” reaction rather than intellectual assent, appeals to pathos largely circumvented the need for education, or even specific information regarding the object in question, making it particularly effective in immunizing Mormonism’s perceived target audience—the ignorant lower classes. Logos was best digested by an educated elite, more at home in what we might call “professional polemic.” Pathos, meanwhile, is most effective on the level of “popular polemic”; it is persuasion for the common man. By creating a pre-judgment of Mormonism based on the absurdity of the “Gold Bible” caricature explained earlier, critics could predispose their audience to reject the entire Mormon message sight-unseen, thus safeguarding those most susceptible to the fraud. Pathos could even offset Mormonism’s own appeals to logos and ethos, making it difficult for Mormons to ever speak a word in their own defense. And though other emotions certainly played a part (fear, for example), in early anti-Mormon publications one of the most common persuasive strategies was the rhetorical use of humor. Paradoxically, because these writers saw the Mormons as such a serious threat, they tried to keep the public from taking Mormonism seriously.

By placing humor’s appeal to pathos on the level of popular polemics, I am not saying that those writing to a general audience avoided logos or that those writing more sophisticated arguments avoided pathos. These are not mutually exclusive rhetorical appeals. What I do find striking, however, is the extent to which anti-Mormon reports on any level resorted to humorous dismissal to make their point. Thus “popular” polemics refers less to the content, audience, or author of the attack, and more to its tone. Alexander Campbell, for example, relied heavily on rational argumentation, but frequently drove home his points with sarcasm or clever cynicisms, exemplifying Aristotle’s oft-quoted definition of wit as “educated insolence.” Thus when I refer to this early anti-Mormon polemic as “popular,” I do so, not necessarily because it rested on the popularity of its originator or the “commonplaceness” of its audience, but because of its appeal to what is—or what is hoped to be—common within us all. And humor has a certain universal—or universalizing—effect, speaking to shared perceptions of what is acceptable as opposed to what is laughable, drawing in hearers who find themselves wanting to be “in” on the joke. Thus Freud could speak of the “far-reaching psychical conformity” that humor engenders, as “every joke calls for a public of its own.”22 If told effectively, anti-Mormon humor could make “co-hater[s] or co-despiser[s]” out of those who were ignorant or “indifferent to begin with.”23

As we will see, many anti-Mormon writers sought to universalize popular opinion by making Mormonism the butt of their jokes, and the “Gold Bible” was frequently their punch-line. For example, after ridiculing the Gold Bible mercilessly, Origin Bacheler concluded that anyone who still believed such a farce “must either have lost their wits, or never have had any to lose.” He joked that Smith’s scheme must have been an experiment to write the most preposterous book possible, and then “see how great fools he could make of some, by getting them to gulp it down in this condition.”24 “It is indeed a matter of mute astonishment,” wrote another, “that any body can be found, among civilized men, so credulous as to embrace such prima facia [sic] absurdities,”25 but sure enough, a Connecticut paper lamented, “multitudes of persons were found to be noodles enough to believe the absurd story.”26 James M’Chesney wrote, “It is not for us to laugh and make light of Mormonism,” but to cry instead, that “any person in this enlightened day [would] allow himself to be prostituted to a belief of such silly falsehood.” Were it to be accepted by “any people of intelligence,” he concluded, it would be “a disgrace to [them], both in time and eternity.”27

It was this feeling of “disgrace” that anti-Mormon writers hoped would dissuade the public from investigating the Book of Mormon, and it was the public’s assumed “intelligence” that would safeguard them. “Can candid, reflecting men,” asked one writer, “believe such an absurdity, such an utter impossibility?”28 Not in an enlightened age. Not, as an unnamed traveler recorded, “amid the full-orbed effulgence of the nineteenth century.” In such enlightened times, it was unfathomable that anyone would fall for what this traveler called the “chaos of nonsense—absurdity, nay madness,” that originated from “honest Joe Smith, priest of Mormon, finder of the golden plates.”29 As the Anti-Mormon Almanac for 1842 recorded, even the devil, after writing the Book of Mormon, “felt ashamed of his work” and buried it. “Jo Smith dug it up,” the report lamented, but the public would be much wiser to keep it out of sight.30

As can be seen, this humor was anything but innocent. At least as early as Plato, certain types of humor were seen as a form of aggression, a way of establishing one’s superiority over whomever was being laughed at. “The jest is a sort of abuse,” wrote Aristotle, “a psychical factor possessed of power,” according to Freud.31 But as James Hunt explained in 1844, it seemed fitting that Mormonism, being a joke itself, should be joked about. In his words, being “in its own nature ridiculous,” it deserved to be treated with “much harshness and levity”—or even mocked in song, as Hunt did, mimicking a popular hymn: “God moves in a mysterious way, / His wonders to perform. / He writes his will upon a plate, / His prophet reads it in a stone.”32

Still, there were legitimate fears hiding behind such humor, fueled not only by Mormonism’s unaccountable growth, but particularly by its exclusivist religious truth claims, leading some to worry that converts had simply been bullied into belief through “threats of endless misery.”33 A Cincinnati newspaper complained that because Mormons were “taught that the world, together with all professors of religion, are enmity with God; they are perfectly deaf to all reason that is against them.”34 Rational argument was therefore largely ineffective. Persecution, which some tried, only seemed to arouse sympathy,35 so what was left? As modern research has shown, “wisecracking humor may be the single most effective way to block indoctrination,”36 and whether or not anti-Mormon writers understood this when they began mocking Mormonism, it at least gave aghast observers another way to cope. As philosopher John Morreall has argued, in humor one experiences “a cognitive shift . . . that would be disturbing under normal conditions, that is, if we took it seriously.”37 But the pleasure of a joke is that we don’t have to take it seriously; in other words, we can laugh because we know we don’t have to cry. In Mormonism’s case, once concerned observers were able to laugh at the Gold Bible, they were freed from the anxiety of processing Mormonism’s disturbing claims. Worries over possible Christian apostasy and biblical insufficiency could be alleviated, threats to the religious and political order could be dismissed, and a comfortable distance could be established from those unwary fools who had actually fallen for the joke.

And to these critics, what a joke Mormonism was! The more creative among them were able to take Joseph Smith’s own story and make a mockery of it, in the process reducing Mormonism to the absurd. A Philadelphia newspaper ran a fanciful letter from one “Giovanni Smithini” (a play on “Joseph Smith”) who credited the Book of Mormon’s remarkable success to the fact that it was not written on a “comparatively worthless medium” like Moses’ “hard old stone laws,” but upon “plates of gold—an article highly valued in this western world.”38 An 1837 Illinois gazetteer (not a place one would expect to find humor) described the state’s Indian mounds and then referred those interested in ancient American history to “the ‘golden plates’ of that distinguished antiquarian Joe Smith!” The author praised the Book of Mormon for being “far superior” to other books on ancient America but couldn’t keep a straight face, concluding, “But, seriously,” and getting back to non-fiction.39 An 1841 “Letter on Mormonism” sarcastically spoke of the hill Cumorah as a pilgrimage site and expressed surprise that some “farmer carelessly ploughing, or the beast grazing upon it, is not struck dead by the power of God, for their sacrilege.”40 Moving from discovery to translation, a Christian periodical in 1831 joked that based on the contents of the Book of Mormon, God must have written it “in his younger days, before he had become much acquainted with the proper analogy of language!”41 Another suggested that the spirit that had inspired Smith could have benefitted from “a long training in Walker’s Dictionary and Murray’s Grammar, and the spelling book.”42 The Christian Watchman wondered about the angel’s involvement, worried that if he was “as defective in Egyptian grammar as he is in English, we can place very little confidence in the integrity of the translation.”43

Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni, the spirit, or God Himself—nothing seemed off-limits to the acerbic wit of these writers. They considered it no harm to slander the story, since they were convinced that it was nothing but “barefaced fabling” anyway.44 An 1835 article laughed at the book’s “extravagant fictions,” which, in this editor’s mind, “outd[id] the Arabian Night’s Entertainment, or the stories of Sinbad the Sailor.”45 A Methodist lecturer remarked that “Tom Thumb, Jack the Giant Killer, and Cock Robin, are gentlemen, when compared with this queer thing.”46 By removing Mormonism from the realm of faith to fiction, critics were able to excuse themselves from having to argue logically against it. As Origen Bacheler contended, there was no need to “make an earnest attack on Mormonism, as if it had any plausible pretensions to credibility.” Using reason to disprove the Gold Bible, he said, would be like logically arguing against the truthfulness of “the story of Tom Thumb, or like the attack of Don Quixote on the windmill.”47 Instead, he resorted to ridicule, making fun of the “Yankeeisms” that Smith let creep into the Book of Mormon, or laughing at Nephite words like “sheum” and “ziff.” “Come, Joseph, on with thy goggles,” he quipped, “and translate thy translation.” Such absurdity, according to Bacheler, “befits only those monstrous productions called ‘Stories for Children,’ such as Fairy Tales, Little Red Riding Hood, and the like.”48

If writers could successfully associate the Book of Mormon with mere fairy tales in the public mind, the book had little chance at being seriously investigated. Why pray over Tom Thumb? Why change faiths over a children’s story? And their attempts to fictionalize the story were enormously successful—to the point that even fairy tales themselves began appropriating the story. Consider the title page of a compilation of “Mother Goose’s Melodies” published in New York and Boston in 1833: “Mother Goose’s Melodies. The only Pure Edition. Containing all that have ever come to light of her memorable writings, together with those which have been discovered among the mss. of Herculaneum, likewise every one recently found in the same stone box which hold the golden plates of the Book of Mormon. The whole compared, revised, and sanctioned, by one of the annotators of the Goose Family. With many new engravings. (Entered, according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1833, by Munroe & Francis, In the Clerk’s office, of the District Court of Massachusetts.)”49

Of course it was a complete farce, but that the publisher would include the reference to the “stone box” and the “golden plates” offers a valuable glimpse at the public perception of the plates. It was all meant to be fiction—as if fairy tales merited the attention of district courts, acts of Congress, or the careful editing of imaginary experts. The American public was meant to see the gold plates in similar terms: its claims to the “only pure edition” of the gospel, its astonishing discovery as an ancient artifact, its miraculous translation supervised by a being not believed to exist—who in their right mind would waste the time of courts and congresses with such fantasy? The Book of Mormon had a better chance of being accepted into a corpus of nursery rhymes than it had being added to the biblical canon.50

Such emotional appeals would ideally have had an almost Pavlovian effect: upon hearing the Mormon message, one so immunized would either laugh, or scorn, or pity, but never investigate. Furthermore, by framing the Gold Bible as patently absurd, anti-Mormon writers made rejecting its claims an evidence of one’s intellect, a tempting offer for commoners who wanted to appear less common, especially in an age that increasingly valued rationality. All that was required to recognize the deception was, in the words of the Warsaw Signal, “half common sense,” or “one fiftieth part of grain of reason.”51 Ironically, this was pathos masquerading as logos—emotional confirmation of an intellectual investigation that never took place. Laughing at others excused people from the more difficult labor of thinking for themselves. For this reason, Freud ranked humor’s effect on pathos “psychologically . . . more effective” than reason’s effect on logos, since in his words, “where argument tries to draw the hearer’s criticism over on to its side, the joke endeavours to push the criticism out of sight.” It essentially “bribe[s] the hearer with its yield of pleasure into taking sides . . . without any very close investigation.”52

This was precisely what the anti-Mormon writers hoped for—a condemnation of Mormonism before it ever got to trial, a rejection that stood independent of the reality it ridiculed and was therefore immune to rational refutation.53 No wonder Mormon missionaries complained that they could not get a fair hearing, for “ridicule occupies the place of reason.”54 Orson Spencer challenged a Baptist friend to ignore what had been “riveted by the butt of ridicule upon every mind,” and only asked that he examine Mormonism with an “unprejudiced” spirit. Spencer recognized that “many consider that a hint from a pious Editor or a distinguished Reviewer against, Mormonism, is sufficient apology for them not to examine it,” leaving the “public mind . . . always forestalled.”55 Parley P. Pratt called such tactics “drown[ing] the voice of truth” and imagined his enemies plotting, “Let us keep the tracts and newspapers well filled with lies against the Saints, and above all let us persuade the people to judge them without hearing them or reading their books.”56

It may be worthwhile to conclude here with the insightful comment of John Russell, an anti-Mormon novelist writing in 1853. He noted that attacks on the miracles that underlay Mormonism “bore equally hard” on the miracles of Christianity itself—and, we might add, on any other religion.57 In other words, Mormonism’s story of the gold plates is not the only religious belief subject to ridicule. And sure enough, today Mormonism is not the only faith being fictionalized and lightly dismissed. As a modern philosopher has noted, “Humor’s play frame [still] allows prejudicial ideas to be slipped into people’s heads without being evaluated.”58 Sincere, empathetic evaluation is therefore required—of one’s own faith as well as everyone else’s. This may be all that religions can hope for, but it is certainly not too much to expect. “Truth,” wrote the Times and Seasons, “naked truth, is all we ask, and we are ready for trial at the bar of reason.”59

 

 

NOTES

1. Origen Bacheler, Mormonism Exposed Internally and Externally (New York: 1838); Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed . . . (Painesville, Ohio: E. D. Howe, 1834); La Roy Sunderland, Mormonism Exposed and Refuted . . . (New York: Piercy & Reed, 1838).

2. Mormonism Examined: a Few Kind Words to a Mormon (Birmingham: s.n., 1855); Mormonism Contrasted with the Word of God (London: Wertheim and Macintosh, 1857?); Edward B. Hickman, Mormonism Sifted; or the Question, Was Joseph Smith Sent by God? . . . (Norwich, England: Jarrold & Sons, 1850?); Mormonism Dissected, Or, Knavery ‘On Two Sticks,’ Exposed . . . (Bethania, PA: R. Chambers, 1841); J. Whitney, Mormonism Unravelled, Pseudo-Revelations . . . (London: SIMpkin, Marshall and Co., 1851); Richard Davies, Mormonism Unmasked.; Being a Statement of Facts Relating to the Self-styled ‘Latter-day Saints’ and the Book of Mormon: Compiled from Well Authenticated Records (Burnley: J. Clegg, 1841).

3. G. W. Wray, Mormonism Exhibited in its Own Mirror . . . (Middlesbrough, England: Chronicle, 1854); Andrew Balfour Hepburn, Mormonism Exploded, or, The Religion of the Latter-day Saints: proved to be a system of imposture, blasphemy, and immorality: with the autobiography and portrait of the author, in two parts (s.l.: s.n., 1855); J. Theobald, Mormonism Harpooned; or, The Blasphemies of Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Latter-day Saints, Exposed. Being the Substance of the Fourth Lecture of a Series, Delivered in Various Parts of the United Kingdom (London: W. Horsell, 185-); Samuel Haining, Mormonism weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, and found wanting. The substance of four lectures, by Samuel Haining(Douglas: R. Fargher, 1840).

4. See Gary L. Bunker and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Graphic Image, 1834–1914: Cartoons, Caricatures, and Illustrations (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1983).

5. Bunker and Bitton, Mormon Graphic Image,43.

6. See, for example, “Mormonites,” Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate (Utica, New York) 2, no. 15 (9 April 1831): 120; “Mormon Religion—Clerical Ambition—Western New York—The Mormonites Gone to Ohio,”Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer (New York, New York) 7, no. 1331 (1 September 1831).

7. Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate (Utica, New York) 2, no. 6 (5 February 1831): 47.

8. “Origin of Mormonism,” Wayne County (New York) Whig 3, no. 51 (14 September 1842).

9. Clericus, “Letter to the editor,” Brattleboro (Vermont) Messenger 9, no. 43 (20 November 1830).

10. “Book of Mormon,” The Enquirer (New York) 3, no. 51 (25 January 1831).

11. “Gold Bible,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York), 13 January 1830; italics in original.

12. C. C. Blatchley, “Caution Against the Golden Bible,” New-York Telescope 6, no. 38 (20 February 1830): 150.

13. David Marks, The Life of David Marks . . . (Limerick, ME: Printed at the Office of the Morning Star, 1831), 341.

14. Henry Brown, The History of Illinois, from its first discovery and settlement, to the present time (New York: J. Winchester, New World Press, 1844), 394.

15. The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 1, no. 4 (23 September 1829); 14.

16. Orson Hyde, “Autobiography and History of Orson Hyde, 1805–42,”The Latter-day Saints Millennial Star 26 (1864): 760.

17. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed: Or, a Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in which the Famous Golden Bible was Brought Before the World. To Which are Added, Inquiries Into the Probability that the Historical Part of the Said Bible was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More than Twenty Years Ago, and By Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance (Painesville, Ohio: E. D. Howe, 1834).

18. See The Latter-day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 1, no. 7 (April 1835): 97; 1, no. 10 (July 1835): 148-49; 2, no. 3 (December 1835): 232; 2, no. 4 (January 1836): 251-52; Times and Seasons 3, no. 12 (15 April 1842): 756; 3, no. 15 (1 June 1842): 808.

19. Daniel P. Kidder, Mormonism and the Mormons: A Historical View of the Rise and Progress of the Sect Self-Styled Latter-day Saints (New York: Lane and Sandford, 1842).

20. See Amélie Oksenberg Rorty, ed., Essays on Aristotle’s Rhetoric (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

21. Alexander Campbell, Delusions. An Analysis of the Book of Mormon; with an examination of its internal and external evidences, and a refutation of its pretences to divine authority (Boston: Benjamin H. Greene, 1832); also printed in Campbell’s Millennial Harbinger (Bethany, Virginia) 2, no. 2 (7 February 1831): 85–96.

22. Sigmund Freud, Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, trans. James Strachey (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1960), 151.

23. Freud, Jokes, 133.

24. Origen Bacheler, Mormonism Exposed Internally and Externally (New York, 1838).

25. “Mormonism,” Protestant Sentinel (Schenectady, New York) 5, no. 1 (4 June 1834): 5.

26. “Mormonism,” Supplement to the Connecticut Courant (Hartford) 5, no. 22 (15 December 1838): 175–76.

27. James M’Chesney, An Antidote to Mormonism; A Warning Voice to the Church and Nation; The Purity of Christian Principles Defended; and Truth Disentangled from Error and Delusion, revised by G. J. Bennet (New York: Burnett & Pollard, 1838).

28. Oliver Barr, “Mormonism No. iii,” Christian Palladium (Union Mills, New York) 5, no. 18 (16 January 1837): 273.

29. “Sketches of a Traveller [sic]—No. 25,” Missouri Republican (St. Louis) 15, no. 1205 (29 April 1837), 109–12; “Sketches of a Traveller [sic]—No. 23,” Missouri Republican (St. Louis) 15, no. 1231 (29 May 1837).

30. Anti-Mormon Almanac for 1842 . . . (New York, 1841).

31. Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, trans. David Ross, rev. with an introduction and notes by Lesley Brown (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 78. Freud, Jokes, 133.

32. See James H. Hunt, Mormonism: Embracing the Origin, Rise and progress of the Sect, with an Examination of the Book of Mormon; Also, their Troubles in Missouri, and Final Expulsion from the State (St. Louis, Ustick & Davies, 1844).

33. Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate (Utica, New York) 2, no. 6 (5 February 1831): 47.

34. “Mormonism,” The Standard (Cincinnati, Ohio), 1 June 1832, 4.

35. See Truman Coe, “Mormonism,” Cincinnati Journal and Western Luminary (25 August 1836); John A. Clark, “Gleanings by the Way. No. VI,” Episcopal Recorder (Philadelphia) 5 September 1840, 94; “Prevalence of Mormonism,” Christian Advocate and Journal (New York) 16, no. 17 (8 December 1841).

36. John Morreall, Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor (West Sussex, England: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 120.

37. Morreall, Comic Relief, xii.

38. Letters from Palmyra,” Pennsylvanian for the Country (Philadelphia: Mifflin & Parry, n.d.). See also Henry Brown, The History of Illinois, from its first discovery and settlement, to the present time (New York: J. Winchester, New World Press, 1844), 394.

39. John Mason Peck, A Gazetteer of Illinois . . ., 2d ed. (Philadelphia: Grigg & Elliot, 1837), 36.

40. “Letter on Mormonism, 26 July 1841,” Christian Advocate and Journal (New York) 15, no. 52 (11 August 1841).

41. Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate (Utica, New York) 2, no. 6 (5 February 1831): 47; see also “Complaints of a Mormonite,” Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate (Utica, New York), 5 September 1835, 285.

42. S. Williams, Mormonism Exposed, 1838.

43. Gimel, “Book of Mormon,” The Christian Watchman (Boston) 12, no. 40 (7 October 1831).

44. “Review of Parley P. Pratt, A Voice of Warning,” Christian Examiner (November 1838): 270–72.

45. “Mormonism,” New York Weekly Messenger and Young Men’s Advocate, 29 April 1835.

46. H. Stevenson, A Lecture on Mormonism (Newcastle: J. Blackwell and Co., 1839), 3–32.

47. Origen Bacheler, Mormonism Exposed Internally and Externally (New York, 1838).

48. Bacheler, Mormonism Exposed

49. Mother Goose’s Melodies (New York: C. S. Francis and Co., 1833).

50. Earlier in the nineteenth century, an American visiting Italy had lamented that the papyri found at Herculaneum produced no lost books of Tacitus, Livy, or Polybius. Meyer Reinhold, “American Visitors to Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Paestum in the Nineteenth Century,” Journal of Aesthetic Education 19, no. 1 (Spring 1985): 117. By contrast, how likely was it that a stone box in western New York had contained lost books of ancient Christian prophets?

51. “Mr. Editor,” Warsaw (Illinois) Signal, 11 August 1841.

52. Freud, Jokes, 103, 133.

53. Freud, Jokes, 200.

54. Times and Seasons 5, no. 8 (15 April 1844): 509.

55. Orson Spencer, “Correspondence,” Times and Seasons 4, no. 4 (2 January 1843): 50–54.

56. Parley P. Pratt, An Epistle of Demetrius, Junior, the silversmith, to the workmen of like occupation, and all others whom it may concern: greeting: showing the best way to preserve our pure craft, and to put down the Latter Day Saints (Manchester, 1840; reprint, Peterborough, New Hampshire, 1842).

57. John Russell, The Mormoness, or, The Trials of Mary Maverick (Alton, IL: Courier Steam Press, 1853), 38; quoted in Terryl Givens, The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 124.

58. Morreall, Comic Relief, 107.

59. “The Book of Mormon,” Times and Seasons 2, no. 7 (1 February 1841): 305.