The Quincy Account

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Ryan Larsen
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The Quincy Account

Post by Ryan Larsen »

Hi guys, new to this forum and all. I look forward to politely discussing the issues with you.

Many data points to cover. I'd like to start with offering some of my perspective on the Josiah Quincy account, and explain why, from a Bayesian view, it's not as reliable as we might have expected.

The following is an excerpt from this post of mine: https://meditationsandmeaning.blogspot. ... leged.html
"And now come with me," said the prophet, “and I will show you the curiosities." So saying. he led the way to a lower room, where sat a venerable and respectable-looking lady “This is my mother, gentlemen. The curiosities we shall see belong to her. They were purchased with her own money, at a cost of six thousand dollars.” and then, with deep feeling, were added the words, "And that woman was turned out upon the prairie in the dead of night by a mob " There were some pine presses fixed against the wall of the room. These receptacles Smith opened, and disclosed four human bodies, shrunken and black with age. “These are mummies" said the exhibitor “I want you to look at that little runt of a fellow over there. He was a great man in his day. Why, that was Pharaoh Necho, King of Egypt!” Some parchments inscribed with hieroglyphics were then offered us. They were preserved under glass and handled with great respect. “That is the handwriting of Abraham, the Father of the Faithful" said the prophet "This is the autograph of Moses, and these lines were written by his brother Aaron. Here we have the earliest account of the creation, from which Moses composed the first book of Genesis." The parchment last referred to showed a rude drawing of 2 man and woman, and a serpent walking upon a pair of legs. 1 ventured to doubt the propriety of providing the reptile in question with this unusual means of locomotion…
Quincy's account of his visit to Nauvoo, which took place shortly before Joseph's Martyrdom, was published in 1881 and 1883 and compiled from Quincy’s journal entries and letters written in 1844. Quincy was certainly not acting as a scribe for Joseph during the visit, and it seems doubtful that, by the time Quincy sat down to compose his journal entries and letters concerning the variety of experiences he had at Nauvoo, that be actually would have recalled the exact words which Joseph had said. Rather, he seems to be caricaturing the types of things which were said in order to convey the general spirit of his experience. For instance, he says Joseph Smith's mother purchased the papyri, which is not true, and that the price was 6,000 dollars, which is also not true. Here it looks like Quincy combined two separate ideas - that the papyri had been purchased and that Joseph's mother owned them - into a single claim. And he did so without attention to the finer details.

Based on that false understanding, words were invented and put into the mouth of Joseph, i.e. “they were purchased with her own money…” Obviously, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the account.

Quoting Joseph's exact words was evidently not Quincy’s concern. Since, in his words, “the blasphemous assumptions of Smith seemed like the ravings of a lunatic."

Are the “ravings of a lunatic” significant enough to remember word-for-word? He even compared Smith to inmates at an insane asylum: “victims of the sad but not uncommon delusion that each had received the appointment of vicegerent of the Deity upon earth." Quincy does not seem to hold this against Smith personally. but rather is taking pity on him while at the same time marveling that such a man could accomplish all that Joseph Smith had accomplished.

Moreover, Quincy’s journal entry is less reliable because it was apparently rewritten decades later to make it more suitable for publication.

In his introduction, Quincy states:
... a friend, who had read my journals with interest, offered me his most valuable aid in what may be called the literary responsibilities of the undertaking. My narratives have gained in grace of expression as they passed beneath the correcting pen of my obliging critic, and I am confident that a stern exercise of his right of curtailing reflections and omitting incidents has been no less for the reader's advantage.
This may help explain why the name “Onitas,” which other witnesses consistently identified as the name of the male mummy, does not appear but is replaced with the name of Pharaoh Necho. We might note that “O” and “N” are the most prominently pronounced sounds in both names, which may have either prompted a change geared more toward the interest of the audience, or may have caused Quincy to incorrectly recall. In any event, no other account has Joseph speaking and behaving the way he is depicted in this account.

We might reasonably suppose that any of Joseph Smith's detailed, clarifying remarks, which Quincy may conceivably have originally written down, would have been edited out as part of that "stem exercise of his right of curtailing reflections and omitting incidents."

In further support of this view is the included statement, “This is the autograph of Moses, and these lines were written by his brother Aaron. Here we have the earliest account of the creation, from which Moses composed the first book of Genesis." Since this was May of 1844, Joseph had long since already translated both the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham. But Quincy and his friend appear not to realize that the Book of Moses had in fact come from a translation of the Bible, not from translation of the papyri. So in print, it ended up in a narrative of the papyri - and this is perhaps the type of liberty which Quincy calls the “grace of expression” in the introductory excerpt to his book, cited above.

——————————————Addendum———————————————

Bayesian Aids:

Why would Joseph tell Quincy things which contradicted the consistent narrative he told others?

Especially in front of his mom? And in reference to things which townspeople could have easily contradicted if Quincy had spoken with them?

Would that not put Joseph’s narrative in jeopardy?

Are we to believe he did not know, or did not care that he was putting his narrative in jeopardy?

If Joseph did indeed say those things, it would make sense if he was joking around and jovial, in which case the statements should not reflect his actual claims about Abraham.

The fact is, the Quincy account contradicts Joseph’s usual narrative on a number of points.

If Quincy’s account is to be seen as evidence of anything, we must acknowledge that the evidence was tampered with. The conceptual chain of custody of the account was poorly kept, as Quincy himself conceded - i.e. his letters and journals were altered so as to “gain in grace of expression,” etc.

It would not be allowed as evidence in a court of law.

Moreover, Quincy admitted his letters and journals had been altered nearly 40 years after the events in question, before publication.

And, the person who altered them was someone who presumably had not been present during the encounter with Joseph Smith and would have had no personal knowledge of the events.

A couple questions now, to aid your Bayesian analysis regarding the reliability of the Quincy account:

Question 1: Would the Quincy account have been more reliable if it did not contradict the consistent narrative elements found in other eyewitness accounts?

Question 2: Would the Quincy account have been more reliable if it had not been altered?

Question Second Amendment: Would it have been more reliable if it had been altered only one year after being written, rather than almost 40 years after being written?

Question 2b: Would it have been more reliable if it had been altered by someone who had personal knowledge of the events, rather than someone with no personal knowledge of the events?
Last edited by Ryan Larsen on Thu Mar 10, 2022 10:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Moksha
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Re: The Quincy Account

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Is it possible that Joseph could be considered a teller of tall tales, with details changing upon the telling, rather than being an accurate historian?
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Ryan Larsen
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Re: The Quincy Account

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Moksha wrote:
Wed Mar 09, 2022 4:50 pm
Is it possible that Joseph could be considered a teller of tall tales, with details changing upon the telling, rather than being an accurate historian?
Are you suggesting that, in front of his mom, he told Quincy a different story than he had told her, which she had passed on to many others? And using details which could easily be contradicted by townspeople which Quincy may have decided to chat with?

A much better explanation is the one Quincy himself conceded - i.e. his letters and journals were altered so as to “gain in grace of expression,” etc.

What is your Bayesian breakdown?
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Shulem
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Re: The Quincy Account

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Ryan Larsen wrote:Many data points to cover.

Yes, your post is packed with a lot of data and there is a great deal of ground to cover in unpacking all that.

Ryan Larsen wrote:. . . it's not as reliable as we might have expected.

It may not seem reliable because it’s not what *you* want to hear. A faithful Latter-day Saint of that same era may have said the EXACT SAME THINGS including the discrepancies you point out that need further explanation to shed more light on what was intended and expressed between the parties involved. The fact is, this account is coming from a non-believer, someone who did not accept the prophet as an Egyptian translator, so automatically a defensive Mormon today will tread lightly and consider the source and certainly look for any way to discredit the witness and call into question the entire testimonial based on certain parts that are seemingly controversial for one reason or another. Thus throw the bath out with the baby!

For me, it’s no more difficult to believe that Smith pointed his finger at hieroglyphs and said that is the very name of Abraham to when he pointed his fingers at hieroglyphs in the Facsimile No. 3 Vignette and said *there* is the king’s name and that says, “Shulem”.

1. Papyrus – there is the name of Abraham
2. Facsimile – there is the name of the King of Egypt and that says Shulem

Clearly, I can see a pattern and both claims above pretty much carry equal weight in my eyes. If Smith can point at Egyptian hieroglyphs in Facsimile No. 3 and say they say such and such then he can point at hieroglyphs on the ABRAHAMIC papyrus that was written by his own hand and say that’s the signature of Abraham. To me, they are both fantastic claims and are equal in audacity in trying to convince others that Smith was the only person on earth that can read the dead language and do so by the power of God.
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Re: The Quincy Account

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Ryan Larsen wrote: Quincy's account of his visit to Nauvoo

Indeed, a nobleman of high esteem personally visited Nauvoo to pay particular attention to Joseph Smith and his claims as a prophet to the Mormon people. Smith was more than honored to have a former congressman, former mayor of the city of Boston, and the current President of one of the most prestigious universities America would ever produce, HARVARD.

Ryan Larsen wrote: compiled from Quincy’s journal entries and letters written in 1844

I happen to think that whatever Quincy wrote in his personal journal was an accurate reflection of what he witnessed and saw in Nauvoo. Quincy was an educator of the highest caliber and I cannot imagine his personal writings being anything less than that. I have to think that what he wrote in his personal journal was from his mind and heart combined and that his letters were astute and perfectly written as would be expected from the President of America’s greatest university.

Ryan Larsen wrote: Quincy was certainly not acting as a scribe for Joseph during the visit

Quincy certainly was NOT acting as Joseph’s scribe. Smith had his own scribes and plenty of them. Josiah Quincy was his own man and knew perfectly how to be scribe for himself and to perfectly record whatever he might witness. He was a man with pen in hand and the ability to write, record, and calculate anything on a moment’s notice with accuracy and precision.

Ryan Larsen wrote: and it seems doubtful that, by the time Quincy sat down to compose his journal entries and letters concerning the variety of experiences he had at Nauvoo, that be actually would have recalled the exact words which Joseph had said.

You underestimate one of the finest minds of the day. You underestimate Josiah Quincy’s ability to record, calculate, and report what he personally witnessed. He had a mind that was sharper than a blade and mental reflexes that were faster than a whip. He was the President of the finest university in the United States of America. And you question his ability to remember to accurately write down his testimonial in the most sacred of all writings, his personal journal? You question that? That is way off base on your part, sir. You have no right to question Quincy’s ability to recall and accurately record his thoughts of what he heard and saw. I submit to you, that you are doing this only to downplay what he said and discredit his testimony as an apologetic trick often employed by Mormon apologists. I seriously wonder if you’d do that if he was your great relative and a highly esteemed ancestor in your family line. I do believe you are discrediting this man in a most unfair manner in questioning his basic intelligence and ability to recall important events in his life.

I think I can see your apologetics quite clearly, Ryan. I don’t like what I see. It seems like assignation of someone’s intelligence from someone who doesn’t deserve being belittled in that manner. You owe Josiah Quincy an apology. He was a brilliant man and an accomplished one at that.
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Re: The Quincy Account

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Ryan Larsen wrote: Rather, he seems to be caricaturing the types of things which were said in order to convey the general spirit of his experience.

I have no reason to believe or think that Quincy reported anything that was less than accurate to what he was told and what he witnessed. In my view, to think otherwise is unjustified speculation. Josiah Quincy was a professional of the highest caliber.

Ryan Larsen wrote: For instance, he says Joseph Smith's mother purchased the papyri, which is not true, and that the price was 6,000 dollars, which is also not true.

First of all, this wouldn’t be the first time the price of the mummies & papyri was misreported. But with that said, I have no reason to doubt Quincy’s accuracy in reporting! If Quincy said $6,000 dollars, which he did, then that is what he was told! And who might that had been other than Joseph Smith’s crazy mother who is known to have said all kinds of ridiculous things about the papyrus and its translation. Doesn’t it make sense that mother Smith is the one that told Quincy the wrong dollar amount and boasting how she owned the papyrus? It makes more sense to me knowing what I know about other things mother Smith was known to have said. How about she is the one making things up or reporting wrong numbers? Mother Smith was also known to have collected fees for showing the papyrus. One who collects fees for property is one who appears to be the owner of that property.

I can only imagine what other tales and nonsense mother Smith may have told Mr. Quincy. Bottom line, I believe Quincy reporting exactly what he was told.
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Re: The Quincy Account

Post by fannyalger »

hmmm... there is a lot covered here.
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Re: The Quincy Account

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Ryan Larsen wrote: Here it looks like Quincy combined two separate ideas - that the papyri had been purchased and that Joseph's mother owned them - into a single claim. And he did so without attention to the finer details.

The President of America’s finest university not paying attention to details? You have to be kidding me. A former mayor of one of America’s greatest cities not paying attention to detail? Take into consideration the nonsense mother Smith played in pretending to be able to read the papyrus herself and making money for doing it. And need I say anything about Joseph Smith the money digger? The Smith family had a long history of swindling others.

Look, I believe Josiah Quincy before I’d ever believe mother Smith’s claims about the papyrus and mummies. The woman was crazy.
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Re: The Quincy Account

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Ryan Larsen wrote:Based on that false understanding, words were invented and put into the mouth of Joseph, i.e. “they were purchased with her own money…” Obviously, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the account.

Based on “that false understanding”, WHAT? You have no right to come to the conclusion that Josiah Quincy had a false understanding as if it was his fault. You’ve not even considered the idea that he may have been fed false information or flat out lied to by mother Smith or other associates in attendance. I think rather it’s her reputation that is on the line! Josiah Quincy was no dummy as I think you are trying to make him out to be in your apologetic character assassination. You have taken your half-baked idea and hastily conclude that the rest of Quincy’s account is probably worth spit because he reported a $6,000 figure and that the mother of the Mormon prophet was the financier which seems reasonable on its face since she is collecting fees.

Ryan, your apologetics is not good.
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Re: The Quincy Account

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Ryan Larsen wrote: Quoting Joseph's exact words was evidently not Quincy’s concern. Since, in his words, “the blasphemous assumptions of Smith seemed like the ravings of a lunatic."

So, now that you’ve discredited Josiah Quincy and blamed him for the misinformation, are you going to move into the direction of placing him into the category of a liar because he didn’t believe Joseph Smith could really translate Egyptian? Are you going to move in that direction, Ryan? I get that sense because you state that Josiah wasn’t interested in exact words but may have been willing to bend them to fit his own design or prejudice.

The translations of Joseph Smith as we see in the Facsimiles are the ravings of a lunatic! Joseph Smith was wrong. Josiah Quincy was no fool and he was there on sight and able to judge the character of the prophet and witness firsthand the wild and crazy claims Smith was making. And they were blasphemous because Smith was slamming the Egyptians in a manner never seen before in a world that was greatly appreciating Egyptian art at that time.

Look, Quincy was on to Joseph and could see through his fakery. He may have even noticed how the nose was chopped off the face of Anubis the dog-star god of the Masonic order.
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