Fun Fact: Zelph on the Shelf Doesn’t Know What They Are Talking About

Pictured: Zelph on the Shelf’s latest mixtape (ft. Jeremy Runnells)

Zelph on the Shelf is the name of a blog run by Samantha Shelley and Tanner Gilliland,1 two millennial ex-Mormons who are, sadly, afflicted with the handicap of thinking that Twitter hot takes and edgy memes are suitable substitutes for sound historical scholarship and critical thinking.

Take, for instance, the “fun facts” which Zelph recently shared on Twitter, beginning with this one:

Zelph is presenting a garbled version of an incident reported by David Whitmer in his 1887 publication An Address to All Believers in Christ. “When the Book of Mormon was in the hands of the printer” sometime in the winter of 1829–1830, Whitmer remembered, “more money was needed to finish the printing of it. We were waiting on Martin Harris who was doing his best to sell a part of his farm, in order to raise the necessary funds.” Constrained by impatience, Hyrum Smith and others, Whitmer recalled, “suggested to [Joseph Smith] that some of the brethren might go to Toronto, Canada, and sell the copy-right of the Book of Mormon for considerable money.” So for starters, the purpose of the sale was, according to Whitmer, to raise funds for the printing of the Book of Mormon, not to fill Joseph Smith’s pockets.2

In any event, Hyrum “persuaded Joseph to inquire of the Lord about it. Joseph concluded to do so. He had not yet given up the stone. Joseph looked into the hat in which he placed the stone, and received a revelation that some of the brethren should go to Toronto, Canada, and that they would sell the copy-right of the Book of Mormon.” Whitmer continues:

Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery went to Toronto on this mission, but they failed entirely to sell the copy-right, returning without any money. Joseph was at my father’s house when they returned. I was there also, and am an eye witness to these facts. Jacob Whitmer and John Whitmer were also present when Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery returned from Canada. Well, we were all in great trouble; and we asked Joseph how it was that he had received a revelation from the Lord for some brethren to go to Toronto and sell the copy-right, and the brethren had utterly failed in their undertaking. Joseph did not know how it was, so he enquired of the Lord about it, and behold the following revelation came through the stone: “Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil.” So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copy-right was not of God, but was of the devil or of the heart of man.3

If all we had was Whitmer’s version of the story, then Zelph might have an argument. But, as it happens, we have more than just Whitmer’s retelling of the occasion. We actually possess the manuscript of the revelation behind the incident. It appears in Revelation Book 1 (“A Book of Commandments & Revelations”) and is datable to no earlier than “circa Early 1830.” The relevant passage reads:

Behold I say unto you that I have covenanted & it Pleaseth me that Oliver Cowderey Joseph Knight Hyram Page & Josiah Stowel shall do my work in this thing yea even in securing the <​Copy​> right & they shall do it with an eye single to my Glory that it may be the means of bringing souls unto me Salvation through mine only Begotten Behold I am God I have spoken it & it is expedient in me Wherefor I say unto you that ye shall go to Kingston seeking me continually through mine only Begotten & if ye do this ye shall have my spirit to go with you & ye shall have an addition of all things which is expedient in me & I grant unto my servent a privelige that he may sell <​a copyright​> through you speaking after the manner of men for the four Provinces if the People harden not their hearts against the enticeings of my spirit & my word for Behold it lieth in themselves to their condemnation & or to their salvation Behold my way is before you & the means I will prepare & the Blessing I hold in mine own hand & if ye are faithful I will pour out upon you even as much as ye are able to Bear & thus it shall be Behold I am the father & it is through mine only begotten which is Jesus Christ your Redeemer amen. [emphasis added]

At once the conditional aspect of the revelation is made clear. This fundamentally changes the dynamics of the revelation by introducing conditions which were prerequisite for its fulfillment. Contrary to the impression made by Whitmer, there is nothing in the revelation itself which demands exact, uncompromising fulfillment in order for the revelation to have been authentic. Hence Marlin K. Jensen’s perceptive observation: “Although we still do not know the whole story, particularly Joseph Smith’s own view of the situation, we do know that calling the divine communication a ‘failed revelation’ is not warranted. The Lord’s directive clearly conditions the successful sale of the copyright on the worthiness of those seeking to make the sale as well as on the spiritual receptivity of the potential purchasers.”4

What’s more, we also possess an 1848 letter written by Hiram Page (who, unlike Whitmer, was one of the immediate participants) to William McLellin wherein Page gives his own version of the story.5 Some aspects of Page’s version contradict Whitmer’s. For instance, Page understood that the “sum of money” to be had at selling the copyright was to be used “for the exclusive benefit” of the destitute Smith family “after the expenses [of the trip] were taken out,” whereas Whitmer understood that the money was to be used for printing the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, Page, as a participant, was privy to the revelation, whereas Whitmer evidently was not. This nicely explains why Page precisely reiterated the conditional nature of the revelation (“we were to go to Kingston where we were to sell [the copyright] if they would not harden their hearts“) whereas Whitmer did not (probably because he was unaware of or misremembered the revelation). Finally, and crucially, Page’s takeaway from the incident was drastically different from Whitmer’s. “By the above,” Page concluded, “we may learn how a revelation may be received and the person receiving it not be benefitted.” Nowhere does Page doubt the veracity of the revelation, only that expectations on the part of a revelation’s recipient might at times be subverted. This stands in marked contrast to Whitmer’s own conclusion, which was that the revelation “was not of God.”6

So to summarize:

  1. David Whitmer’s late recounting of the Canadian copyright incident as tweeted by Zelph represents just one perspective on the event; namely, David Whitmer’s.
  2. Whitmer’s negative assessment of the outcome of the incident is contradicted by the more favorable assessment of the incident by Hiram Page, an actual participant.
  3. We have no firsthand description from Joseph Smith himself as to the incident or its outcome or how the revelation directing the trip was received and understood. We thus lack any verification for the reaction Whitmer attributed to Joseph. This isn’t to say that Whitmer was necessarily lying, only that his late recollection lacks any immediate verification.
  4. The actual revelation itself, independent of how it was understood by Whitmer or Page or anyone else, clearly predicates the success of the outcome on the condition that the people of Kingston be receptive to the party and the members of the party themselves be faithful in the execution of their duties.

Whatever one personally believes about Joseph Smith’s claims to revelation (and clearly Zelph thinks very little of them), doing responsible history requires an evaluation of an event in light of all available evidence.7 It also requires understanding historical figures on their own terms in light of all available evidence. Zelph has failed to do any of this, and instead offers a particularly narrow, cynical, and, ultimately, misleading picture of the Canadian copyright incident. That this narrow and misleading picture of the affair just so happens to reinforce Zelph’s dogmatic belief that Joseph Smith was a swindling conman should, naturally, be noted with suspicion.

Next up is this “fun fact” about the identity of the angel who appeared to Joseph Smith in 1823.

The first incident of the angel being called “Nephi” is in Joseph Smith’s history begun in 1838–1839: “He called me by name and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me and that his name was Nephi <​Moroni​>”

This manuscript (in the handwriting of James Mulholland) was drafted in the summer of 1839 and is based in part on an earlier text prepared in April 1838 but which is no longer extant. So it is impossible to know if in the earlier history the name of the angel was “Moroni” or “Nephi” (or something else). What is clear is that, as is seen in the manuscript, an unidentified scribe inserted “Moroni” above the name Nephi with an asterisk directing attention to text at the bottom of the page: “Evidently a clerical error; see Book Doc & Cov., Sec 50, par 2; Sec 106, par 20; also Elder’s Journal Vol. 1, page 43. Should read Moroni.​”

This text, “the first of the six volumes of the ‘Manuscript History of the Church’,” served as the source for the narrative known as the “History of Joseph Smith” as published in the Times and Seasons, the Millennial Star, and other Mormon publications from the 1840s onward. Thus the name “Nephi” appears as the name of the angel in the 15 April 1842 Times and Seasons publication of the history:

Each subsequent reprinting of the name “Nephi” (in, for instance, the Millennial Star, Lucy Mack Smith’s 1844–45 history, and the 1851 Pearl of Great Price) is undoubtedly attributable to an uncritical reliance on the printed Times and Seasons article, not to a widespread understanding that Nephi, as opposed to Moroni, was the angel.8 Eventually the error was spotted and corrected:

A later redaction in the hand of Albert Carrington changed “Nephi” to “Moroni” and noted that the original attribution was a “clerical error.” Carrington probably made the note in 1871, at a time when he was Church Historian and Recorder. He and others at the Historian’s Office were assigned by Brigham Young to investigate the difference of the name of the angel in this source compared with other sources.

What, exactly, are these “other sources”?

Early sources often did not name the angelic visitor, but sources naming Moroni include Oliver Cowdery’s historical letter published in the April 1835 LDS Messenger and Advocate; an expanded version of a circa August 1830 revelation, as published in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants; and a JS editorial published in the Elders’ Journal in July 1838. The present history [the 1838-1839 history] is the earliest extant source to name Nephi as the messenger, and subsequent publications based on this history perpetuated the attribution during JS’s lifetime. [citations removed]

Sure enough, a survey of the mentioned sources before the 1838–1839 history reveals that the angel was clearly called Moroni:

  • “I believe that the angel Moroni, whose words I have been rehearsing, who communicated the knowledge of the record of the Nephites, in this age, saw also, before he hid up the same unto the Lord, great and marvellous things, which were to transpire when the same should come forth” (Oliver Cowdery, “Letter VI,” Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 1, no. 7 (April 1835): 112. This source was reprinted in Mormon newspapers, including the Times and Seasons, in the early 1840s).
  • “Behold this is wisdom in me: wherefore marvel not for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel” (Revelation, circa August 1835 [D&C 27] = D&C 27:5).
  • “Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon? Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County New York, being dead; and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them, and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which, I translated the plates; and thus came the book of Mormon” (Joseph Smith, Elders’ Journal (July 1838): 42–43).

This last source is especially important, since it: (1) was printed between the non-extant April 1838 history and the extant history prepared in the summer of 1839, (2) comes directly from Joseph Smith (who was the editor answering the questions raised in the article), and (3) is in direct response to the question of who revealed the Book of Mormon in 1823.

From the preceeding it is plainly obvious that Zelph’s tweet is both erroneous and, again, misleading. Speaking strictly in terms of chronology, Joseph Smith “originally” called the angel “Moroni” a full year before the error identifying him as “Nephi” was made in Mulholland’s 1839 manuscript. And while it’s true that the name did appear as “Nephi” in the Times and Seasons, an official LDS Church newspaper, such was simply perpetuating the error made in the manuscript source for the publication.9

Finally, although not presented as a “fun fact,” just for the heck of it, we’ll take a look at one final Zelph tweet.

It’s truly difficult for me to articulate just how stupid the argument being insinuated in this tweet is.

For starters, Joseph Smith was obliged to name himself as the “author and proprietor” of the work simply to comply “with federal law (see I Statutes 124, 1790, as amended by 2 Stat. 171, 1802), which dictated the words the district clerk had to write when a person was taking out a copyright on a book. It can be demonstrated historically that many translators, including those who produced the 1824 edition of the King James Version of the Bible, were listed as ‘Author’ to conform to this law.”10

Indeed, the copyright page of the 1830 Book of Mormon, which appears directly after the title page, explicitly uses this language:

In conformity to the act of the Congress of the United States, entitled, “An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned;” and also the act, entitled, “An act supplementary to an act, entitled, ‘An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned, and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching historical and other prints.” [emphasis added]

Beyond this, the preface that appears right after the title and copyright pages of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon clearly describes Joseph Smith as having translated the work even while calling him the “author.” Whence this conflation of terms? Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary lists the first definition of “author” as: “One who produces, creates, or brings into being; as, God is the author of the Universe.” The second definition follows the first, with an important caveat: “The beginner, former, or first mover of any thing; hence, the efficient cause of a thing. It is appropriately applied to one who composes or writes a book, or original work, and in a more general sense, to one whose occupation is to compose and write books; opposed to compiler or translator” (emphasis added).

Joseph Smith indisputably qualified as the “author” of the Book of Mormon by contemporary usage of the word. He was the one who produced or brought into being the English text of the Book of Mormon, which he made clear was a translation no less than six times in the 1830 preface to clear up any lingering ambiguity. Contemporary revelations, additionally, speak of Joseph and Oliver Cowdery as “translating” the Book of Mormon (Doctrine and Covenants 3:12; 5:4, 30; 8:11; 9:1–3, 5, 10; 10:1, 4, 10–11, 13, 15-17, 30–31, 41, 45; 21:1), never of writing or authoring it.

So it was simply to comply with a legal banality that Joseph Smith was first named as the “author and proprietor” of the Book of Mormon, and it was merely to avoid any potential confusion that Joseph then emended the title page of the 1837 Kirtland edition of the Book of Mormon to identify him as the “translator.” There is not one shred of evidence that Joseph made this change in an attempt to cook up some kind of conspiratorial scam or to revise his narrative or foundational truth claims.11 The only reasons I can imagine why Zelph might think otherwise is because they are either utterly ignorant of the relevant historical facts or they have chosen to deliberately ignore them to score easy retweets.

Whatever the cause of their ignorance, what’s abundantly clear from these tweets is that Zelph on the Shelf doesn’t know what they’re talking about. This is because, I’d be willing to wager, neither Samantha Shelley nor Tanner Gilliand have so much as ever lifted a Joseph Smith Papers volume, let alone spent any meaningful time using one to do careful historical analysis.

  1. Because these two are the primary personalities behind Zelph on the Shelf, I have opted to use plural pronouns for an otherwise singular antecedent.
  2. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, MO.: David Whitmer, 1887), 30–31.
  3. Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, 31, emphasis in original.
  4. Marlin K. Jensen, “The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books,” Ensign (July 2009), 11.
  5. Letter to William McLellin, 2 February, 1848, reproduced in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 2003), 5:257–259.
  6. Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 5:258–259, spelling and grammar standardized.
  7. I have omitted discussion of William McLellin’s 1872 account of this event to Joseph Smith III since it is little more than hearsay, and is contradicted by the evidence of the revelation. As such, it is of relatively little value in any reconstruction of the event. See William McLellin to Joseph Smith III, 8 September, 1872, in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 5:327–330.
  8. In fact, the 1851 Pearl of Great Price and the Millennial Star republications of the “History of Joseph Smith” both directly cite the Times and Seasons as their source, leaving no doubt as to the origin of the error’s perpetuation.
  9. Contrast the Times and Season‘s naming of the angel as Nephi with Joseph Smith’s 6 September 1842 signed letter identifying the same as Moroni. “And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, An Angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets— the book to be revealed.”
  10. Kenneth H. Godfrey, “Not Enough Trouble, review of Trouble Enough: Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon by Ernest H. Taves and Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon by David Persuitte,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19, no. 3 (Fall 1986): 143. See further Miriam A. Smith and John W. Welch, “Joseph Smith: ‘Author and Proprietor’,” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, ed. John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1992), 154–157.
  11. Royal Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, Part One: 1 Nephi – 2 Nephi 10 (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2014), 35–36.

23 thoughts on “Fun Fact: Zelph on the Shelf Doesn’t Know What They Are Talking About”

  1. I enjoyed your commentary. Very thoughtful. Coming from someone who has regretted a few arguments in his life I would just say tone it down a bit. If you are confident you have the truth just share the facts how they are and try to stay away from hyperbole or name calling. It might put off people who have sincere questions but are afraid to ask you. 😉

  2. Stephen Smoot, love how much history you know. Love your appearances on Saints Unscripted. Love that you can research and argue all these things without getting too discouraged or angry and quit. Keep it up!
    Although, don’t you sometimes feel like you’re arguing with idiots? Like it doesn’t actually matter what you say/do they aren’t going to change their minds? They are determined to believe what is convenient and socially/politically acceptable?

    • Thank you for the compliment!

      I write not to convince either Samantha or Tanner. They’re beyond hope. Instead, I write to hopefully prevent others from going down their same doleful path.

  3. As a non-Mormon (and never been, so not exmo either), I was happy to come across your article here. Specifically, your explanation of the failed attempt to sell copyright in Canada. Every time the Mormon Missionaries come by my house, I invite them in so I can explain why I haven’t taken a swim in their dunk-tank yet. I always explain to them — with examples — that I don’t want to follow their God because their God doesn’t seem to know much. Elohim, and his son Jehovah, were so anxious to BUILD the church that they authorized polygamy among the Saints to build-up raw numbers. But then, they didn’t know anything about the future, so they sent these faithful fellows all the way to Canada on what a truly omniscient God would have known was a wild goose chase! I totally agree with you assessment that the revelation given to the Prophet Joseph was “conditional”. I’ll add this article to my “Mormon God didn’t know David W Patton was going to die” article.

    • I think I’d prefer ignorant Mormon Elohim who wasn’t sure about the outcome of a copyright dispute over sadist Augustine-Calvin God who with his absolute foreknowledge of everything created billions of people knowing in advance that their destiny was to live miserable, wretched lives and then end up in hell to be tortured for all eternity.

      Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

    • Here we see the witty, gotcha, and smug critic in their classic style. Just remember kids, when you have nothing of substance to say just demonstrate your complete lack of LDS theology and declare yourself enlightened! One day the Church will finally collapse under the weight of such comments. The con will be exposed on enough blogs and the brethren will know the gist is up!

      • Mr. Stephen Smoot did not declare himself enlightened. He has never declared that he is equal to the Prophet and knows *exactly* what Heavenly Father has in mind. He has always presented himself as a normal (fallable) human, like all the rest of us. Just because he wrote this article EXPLAINING why he disagrees with the Zelph On The Shelf website does not make Mr. Smoot “…witty, gotcha, and smug”. In this article, Mr. Smoot plainly laid out Zelph-on-the-Shelf’s claim, then gave us Zelph-on-the-Shelf’s evidence that they used to come to their conclusion. Then Mr. Smoot laid out HIS position (based on his truly held beliefs), and he laid out HIS evidence that brings him to HIS conclusion. That is how discourse, and the search for the truth works. As an example, in the issue about the prophecy to go to Canada to sell a patent, Mr Smoot clearly lays-out Zelph on the Shelf’s evidence for seeing it the way they do. Them Mr. Smoot lays-out HIS evidence for seeing it the way HE does. And guess what? Mr Smoot openly, and clearly states that he believes that Zelph on the Shelf is not taking into account ALL of the information available that bears on this prophecy. Then Mr. Smoot actually PRESENTS the additional information (1848 letter written by Hiram Page, and a contemporary written recitation of the original prophecy) which clearly, and several times, includes CONDITIONS. Mr Smoot did NOT smugly conclude that, therefore, they are wrong and he is right. Instead, Mr. Smoot honestly wrote that “If all we had was Whitmer’s version of the story, then Zelph might have an argument.” That way of honestly presenting his opinion cannot be characterized as a “smug, witty, gotcha”.

        As far as your comments about the Church finally collapsing, and the con being exposed… maybe, maybe not. The Lord himself tells us that strait is the gate, and narrow the way, and that there are few that will find it. When you see reports that Church membership is falling, once packed churches are now near-empty, and that many people are being lead astray, do you don sackcloth and ash and roam the streets weeping and wailing, “woe is us, woe is us”? Or instead, do you instead, just knowingly nod your head and say, “yep, that’s what the scripture says it would be like. Jesus himself said ‘Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. ‘”

        The Church (any church – Mormon, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic) is not responsible for your salvation. YOU, alone, singularly are responsible for your own salvation. So, if the Church does finally collapse, what is that to you? On judgement day, will you say, “but Lord, I would have done right, and I would have kept my faith and belief if only my local church building had stayed in business! But Satan came along and ridiculed us, and convinced many people to follow him and I didn’t want to be the left alone as the only true believer, so I followed them. Don’t I get a pass Lord? Everybody else was falling-away, so how can you blame me for falling-away with them? Lord, it’s like driving in traffic — you’re supposed to stay with the flow of traffic regardless of what the speed limit is. And that’s all I did — I stayed with the flow of apostacy (regardless of what your rules were) because the Church collapsed, and everyone else was doing it. Now LET ME IN! I DESERVE to be at the table with you!”

        I close here, in brotherly love.

        • Thanks for your comments they were nice and well thought out. Now for my .2 cents. The LDS church has stood the test of time. For 190 years people have tried everything imaginable including murder to get rid of the church. The difference between then and now is that people have the internet to spew every bit of hatred And lies known to human kind to every corner of the earth with a few clicks of a keyboard. Unfortunately People believe these lies and half truths about the LDS church. I heard the church either opens a new church every day or ground breaks a new one daily. Temples are being built all over the world, and more missionaries are serving than ever before. I get to see first hand the money and assistance the church gives just on a local basis because I write the checks. We will help anyone that is sincere and honest let alone people in large numbers all over the world.

          The LDS church has made all reasonable attempts at being more transparent concerning doctrine and other parts of church history. The haters can’t stand it. Mormon haters love attacking the dead because the dead cannot defend themselves that’s why they spew lies about Joseph Smith. The LDS church has money because the leaders are smart and inspired. They have no debt and operate all aspects of the church with great care.

          I can go on all day. However, the bottom line is the church will never collapse, close, implode, or die. It has lasted the test of time and will continue to do so. Haters can just go on hating, while I will continue to have faith and believe in a loving God, eternal families, service to others, healthy living, temples, the atonement, etc.

  4. You side with Marlin K. Jensen on the point that we do not know how Joseph Smith felt about all this. Who exactly are you claiming wrote Revelation Book 1?

    The other source you like is “an 1848 letter written by Hiram Page,” who, as you pointed out, “was one of the immediate participants” You pointed out that, “Page’s version contradict[s] Whitmer’s.” Specifically, “Page understood that the ‘sum of money’ to be had at selling the copyright was to be used ‘for the exclusive benefit’ of the destitute Smith family.”

    [Record Scratch] What?!

    Your first criticism of Whitmer‘s account was that he never said the purpose of selling the copyright in Canada was to line Joseph Smith’s pockets. Yet, you tout the greater reliability of the Page letter, which states that the purpose was to line Joseph Smith’s pockets.

    Your purpose was to criticize the merit of the information contained in the Zelph Tweet, but everything in it is backed by at least one of the three sources you discussed. In your argument, you both criticized and bolstered Whitmer‘s account. Coincidently, you like it where it favors the points you are trying to make; and you do not like it where it does not. Text book confirmation bias.

    Finally, I want to address your statement that Samantha and Tanner are “afflicted with a handicap.” You claim to be speaking from a position of “sound historical scholarship and critical thinking,” and yet, you made the decision to include that childish comment in your argument?

    You have not presented an argument that is meritorious in any way. You have displayed an inability to avoid your own confirmation bias, and make an objective point. You also claimed superiority, while lobbying childish insults; and that just makes you look like an asshole.

    • You side with Marlin K. Jensen on the point that we do not know how Joseph Smith felt about all this. Who exactly are you claiming wrote Revelation Book 1?

      The revelation in RB1 was composed or received before the trip to Canada. We have no extant firsthand documentation, to my knowledge, about Joseph Smith’s reaction to the trip’s outcome. We have secondhand reports from Whitmer and Page. That’s what Jensen (and I) mean when we say we don’t know what Joseph Smith himself felt about the outcome of the trip.

      Your first criticism of Whitmer‘s account was that he never said the purpose of selling the copyright in Canada was to line Joseph Smith’s pockets. Yet, you tout the greater reliability of the Page letter, which states that the purpose was to line Joseph Smith’s pockets.

      Page specifically says, “Joseph thought this would be a good opertunity to get a handsom[e] Sum of money which was to be (after the expencis were taken out) for the exclusive benefit of the Smith famaly and was to be at the disposal of Joseph[.]” Assuming this was indeed the intention behind the sale (the revelation itself only specifies “temperal Blessing as well as the Spirit[u]al & also that my work be not destroyed by the workers of iniquity”), recall that at this time Joseph himself was reliant on others (the Whitmers and the Knights in particular) and his family was still comparatively destitute. Add to this the fact that Page says that after expenses Joseph would then have discretion over the funds “for the benefit of the Smith famaly,” not just himself. This is why historians who have looked at this episode (MacKay and Dirkmaat and Ehat in particular) agree that the financial motives behind the sale were: to secure funding for the printing of the Book of Mormon and/or to give the Smith family some kind of financial aid and/or to provide funds for the soon-to-be organized Church of Christ. The standard idiotic ExMo insinuation (including Tanner’s and Samantha’s) that this was some kind of get-rich-quick scheme for Joseph to make a buck is a shallow, simplistic, and cynical interpretation that is born out of the ExMo mantra that Seerstones Man Bad. Not even Page (the dude who made the “handsom[e] Sum of money” comment) himself ever makes this leap in his letter to McLellin, nor does he ever doubt the revelation was authentic. His takeaway from all of it? “[B]y the above we may learn how a revelation may be rece[i]ved and the person rece[i]ving it not be benefited.”

      Text book confirmation bias.

      It’s too bad Joseph Smith couldn’t get any money from how many times Internet ExMos toss around claims of cOnFiRMAtiOn BiAS without having the slightest clue what such actually is. Would’ve taken care of all his financial problems.

      Here’s the bottom line:

      Being the historical illiterates that they are, Tanner and Samantha took a garbled version of this episode, spun it into a snarky tweet, and (dare I say) used it to confirm their ExMo bias that Joseph Smith was rotten, nasty, greedy, and selfish, and that his revelations are a farce. Sure, one can spin this as the sizzling hot take from the episode if one desires (works great for Twitter and Reddit!), but that interpretation is stupid, and so are Tanner and Samantha and any other ExMo who holds to it.

      You also claimed superiority, while lobbying childish insults; and that just makes you look like an asshole.

      I’d much rather be an asshole (which I of course am) than whatever Tanner and Samantha have become.

  5. This article is some of the dumbest stuff I have ever read. You don’t even have counter claims, all you have is “nu-uh. You can’t know that.” and “But my source is *potentially* better.” Do you really get off on so ignorantly making excuses for a child-suicide cult?

    I would take 2 people who not-so-seriously criticize your church, than someone who takes fairy tales about talking donkeys and horses being on the North/South American continents in 0AD-1500AD very seriously.

    • than someone who takes fairy tales about talking donkeys and horses being on the North/South American continents

      Don’t forget Zombie Jewish carpenters and angels with golden plates!

  6. Holy shit. The brainwashing is so bad with these people. I can never tell whether to laugh at the ludicrousness and apologetics or cry because you really, truly think it’s true. The lack of self awareness is heartbreaking. Good luck, man.


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