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Sale 2310 Lot 193
(MORMONS.) Archive of statements collected by Arthur B. Deming concerning Joseph Smith and the early Mormons. 48 manuscript items (202 pages on 93 sheets), including 15 formal notarized affidavits, many other statements witnessed by Deming or others, some manuscript copies, and related correspondence; various sizes and conditions, but generally in strong condition. Vp, 1884-88
Estimate $60,000 - 90,000
Any serious historical examination of Joseph Smith and the early years of the Latter Day Saints needs to grapple with the evidence published by Arthur B. Deming in 1888. Deming gathered statements from dozens of elderly people, most of them outside the church, who shared their memories of the formative 1830s and 1840s. These testimonies were published in two issues of Deming's magazine, "The Naked Truth About Mormonism." Although he was the son of a sheriff who was considered friendly to the Mormons, Deming intended to discredit the Mormon faith, and the information he presented was not flattering. Smith is depicted in many of the affidavits as a fraudulent schemer. Issues of the magazine are now extremely scarce, but the information he presented remains well-known to scholars today--both in the LDS community and among its critics. The debate continues: are these testimonies credible?
Offered here is a large archive of the original affidavits and statements, with the signatures of the various authors, their witnesses, and often a justice of the peace. Some of the testimony is explosive in character. In 1885, F.J. Goldsmith swore before a Justice of the Peace about Joseph Smith's effort to walk on water: "The night before the walking was to be, Jo Smith, Rigdon, Brigham Young, and William Aldrich worked half the night and drove forked stakes in the river in the form of a horse shoe . . . all together between two and three hundred feet long. After they left, I removed one of the slabs near the center. According to appointment, prophet Jo Smith came with several hundred Mormons and Jo addressed them. He said they could walk on the water if they only had faith. Jo, arrayed in a long white robe, walked some distance, turned and walked backward, and where the slab had been removed, went in all over. He got to shore by the aid of the limb of a tree." Other witnesses corroborated this story. 82-year-old Joseph Rogers testified in 1887: "I was often in Palmyra and was well acquainted with Jo Smith who became the Mormon Prophet. . . . Jo contrived in every way to obtain money without work. The farmers claimed not a week passed without Jo stole something." In 1887, 76-year-old Lorenzo Saunders stated that he "went to the Hill Comorah on the Sunday following the date that Joseph Smith claimed he found the plates, it being 3 miles from my home, and I tried to find the place where the earth had been broken by being dug up, but was unable to find any place where the ground had been disturbed."
Arthur B. Deming (born 1838) was raised in Illinois near the Mormon community at Nauvoo. He gathered most of these statements from November 1884 to May 1885 in and near Kirtland, OH, with a few others dated 1886 and 1887 in Salt Lake City and California. Here are original statements signed by people who claimed to know Joseph Smith. Whether they spoke the truth is for you to judge.
Anderson, Richard Lloyd. "Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reappraised," in Brigham Young University Studies 10:3 (Spring 1970), pages 299-304. A Mormon critique of the affidavits.
Anderson, Rodger I. Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined (Salt Lake City, 1996), pages 63-74 and 153-169. Defends Deming's evidence and publishes several of the statements; calls Deming one of the four main sources which "contain almost everything that is known about the young Joseph Smith from non-Mormon sources."
Vogel, Dan. Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, 1996), Volume II, pages 185-214. Includes the best biographical sketch of Deming, publishes several of the statements.