Thursday, January 20, 2022

Lucy Mack Smith was solid except...

Lucy Mack Smith

Those Latter-day Saints who are familiar with Lucy Mack Smith universally admire her determination and faithfulness. She suffered tremendous losses and hardships. By the time she dictated her history in the fall of 1844, her husband and her sons Alvin, Hyrum, Joseph, Samuel and Don Carlos had all died, but her son William and daughters Sophronia, Katherine and Lucy were still living.

She deserves our respect.

Yet many LDS intellectuals are schizophrenic about Lucy Mack Smith. They think her history is credible and reliable about everything* except (i) Cumorah and (ii) the First Vision, which she didn't mention.

For example, in the Joseph Smith Papers, Translations and Revelations, Vol. 5, Original Manuscript, the Introduction cites or refers to Lucy 36 times.** But the editors carefully avoid what she said about Cumorah.

The Saints book, Volume 1, follows the same approach, citing Lucy's history dozens of times but omitting what she said about Cumorah.

And yet, there is nothing inherently suspect about Lucy's recollections regarding Cumorah. 

Lucy dictated her history in 1844-5. An 1845 second draft includes clarifications and insertions by others. 

Lucy explained that she dictated her history because she had recounted it so many times she was weary. 

People are often enquiring of me the particulars of Joseph’s getting the plates seeing the angels at first and many other thing which Joseph never wrote or published I have told over many things pertaining to these matters to different persons to gratify their curiosity indeed have almost destroyed my lungs giving these recitals to those who felt anxious to hear them I have now concluded to write down every particular as far as possible and if those who wish to read them will help me a little they can have it all in one piece to read at their leasure—


When she related what Joseph said about Moroni's visit, she recalled that Moroni told Joseph "the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place.

When Joseph was late returning home from Manchester in early 1827, he explained to his parents that he had encountered the angel as he "passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are." 

The intellectuals who reject (and censor) these accounts offer two justifications for their choice, both patently outcome-driven rationales designed to accommodate the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C).

- Some say Lucy's reference to Cumorah must be attributed to her erroneous adoption of a supposedly false tradition about Cumorah started by unknown early persons at an unknown time. 

- Others say Lucy wasn't credible because she didn't describe the First Vision in her original dictated account (the 1844/5 version).

Obviously, these two objections contradict one another.

While it's true that Lucy didn't mention the First Vision in her history, that is consistent with the actual history; i.e., Joseph didn't say he told anyone other than the Methodist minister about his vision (JS-H 1:21), and we don't know what he actually told the minister anyway.

Given that Joseph never told his mother contemporaneously about the First Vision, why would anyone fault Lucy for not relating a memory of something that didn't happen? [I.e., she didn't relate a false account that Joseph told tell her about the First Vision, which is not the same as saying the First Vision didn't happen.]

In Lucy's 1845 draft, someone inserted Joseph Smith's 1838 account of the First Vision, but Lucy did not say Joseph told her about it when it happened.

IOW, Lucy's omission of the First Vision in her dictated history is evidence that her memory was intact and accurately related, even when people expected her to relate something about the First Vision.

Yet the M2C scholars and the historians who accommodate their theories want us to believe that 

(i) because Lucy didn't relate a false retrospective memory of the First Vision, 

(ii) she did relate a false retrospective memory of what Joseph said about the hill Cumorah. 

If not for their obsession with accommodating M2C, no historian would propose such an analysis. 

This is the type of irrational thinking and deceptive presentation that occurs when people become apologists for a theory instead of unbiased historians seeking to relate accurate history.

A far better, more scholarly and honest approach would be to accurately report the entire historical record, without seeking to accommodate modern theories about Book of Mormon geography. 


*The Historical Introduction in the Joseph Smith Papers explains: "Though there are errors in the dating of some events and occasionally in place and individual names, overall her account is of inestimable value, providing a rarely heard woman’s voice as it traces JS’s life from beginning to end. She was present at many seminal events and offered insights no one else could provide."

**Excerpts from the Introduction below. In addition, the Introduction cites Lucy's history 23 times.

- Joseph Smith's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, recorded that her son acquired the plates in the early morning of 22 September 1827

Lucy Mack Smith, who remembered seeing the spectacles before her son's move to Harmony, gave a description of the instrument that is similar to Harris's

Lucy Mack Smith, who was still living in Manchester when the loss occurred, recalled in her 1845 history that her son returned to Harmony almost immediately after learning the manuscript had been lost: 

Lucy Mack Smith did not learn that her son had received the plates again until she and her husband, Joseph Smith Sr., visited Harmony in early September 1828.   

Lucy Mack Smith recorded that it was with delight that her son stated he had “commenced translating,” with Emma's assistance. 

Lucy Mack Smith recorded that when the angel returned the plates to Smith, he also promised “that the Lord would send [him) a scribe.”

- Given the antagonism of their neighbors, Lucy Mack Smith and her husband were reluctant to share their son's experiences with their new acquaintance. 

- According to Lucy Mack Smith's reminiscence, Cowdery eventually gained the trust of the Smiths.

- Cowdery told Lucy Mack Smith and her husband, “There is a work for me to do in this thing and I am determined if there is to attend to it.” 

Lucy Mack Smith stated later that “evil designing people were seeking to take away Joseph's life in order to prevent the work of God from going forth among the world.”

- When Lucy Mack Smith received word that the translation was complete, she, her husband, and Martin Harris traveled to the Whitmer home. 

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