PART ONE: OUT OF THE FRYING PAN (New York, Ohio & Missouri)
Jo it seems, was always infatuated with the ladies. From a young age he admitted to having problems with "unchaste conversation" (1828 Dictionary meaning: lewd conduct) in relation to the opposite sex. We have Jo's own confession to this:
“During this time, as is common to most, or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies; but as my accusers are, and have been forward to accuse me of being guilty of gross and outrageous violations of the peace and good order of the community, I take the occasion to remark, that, though, as I have said above, “as is common to most, or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies,” I have not, neither can it be sustained, in truth, been guilty of wronging or injuring any man or society of men; and those imperfections to which I alude, and for which I have often had occasion to lament, were a light, and too often, vain mind, exhibiting a foolish and trifling conversation.
This being all, and the worst, that my accusers can substantiate against my moral character, I wish to add, that it is not with out a deep feeling of regret that I am thus called upon in answer to my own conscience, to fulfill a duty I owe to myself, as well as to the cause of truth, in making this public confession of my former uncircumspect walk, and unchaste conversation: and more particularly, as I often acted in violation of those holy precepts which I knew came from God. But as the “Articles and Covenants” of this church are plain upon this particular point, I do not deem it important to proceed further. I only add, that I do not, nor never have, pretended to be any other than a man “subject to passion,” and liable, without the assisting grace of the Savior, to deviate from that perfect path in which all men are commanded to walk!” (Letter to Oliver Cowdery, published in the Messenger & Advocate, 1834)
Jo mentions he did no harm or wrongdoing to any MAN or society of MEN, but he doesn't mention anything about WOMEN. Jo marries his first wife Emma at a young age, (22) but this doesn't seem to help.
Jo seems to be overly interested in his wife's lady friends, (like Eliza Winters) or the young daughters of acquaintances or friends. (The Stowell girls). Eliza Winters was born in Delaware in 1812 and was married in 1837 in Susquehanna County. She would have been thirteen when young Jo first came to Harmony and eighteen when Smith fled the area because of mounting legal actions against him.
“By now Joseph was a grown man, at the threshold of his majority. A lithe six feet in height, blonde hair darkened to light brown, his blue eyes curiously mild, even innocent, in his pale, expressionless face, he was a figure to bring a second glance from any woman. At Palmyra his name had not, so far as his contemporaries have left record, been coupled with that of any girl, but in Bainbridge there were curious eyes to note that he was keeping company with the Stowell girls, and malicious tongues to find fault with his association with Eliza Winters, to the point of saying, even, that he had attempted to seduce her. Presently it became apparent that it was not these girls but Issac Hale’s second daughter, the tall, dark, hazel-eyed Emma, who had caught his eye.” (Dale Morgan)
“LEVI LEWIS states, that he has "been acquainted with Joseph Smith Jr. and Martin Harris, and that he has heard them both say, adultery was no crime. Harris said he did not blame Smith for his (Smith's) attempt to seduce Eliza Winters &c.;"-- Mr. Lewis says that he "knows Smith to be a liar; -- that he saw him (Smith) intoxicated at three different times while he was composing the Book of Mormon, and also that he has heard Smith when driving oxen, use language of the greatest profanity. Mr. Lewis also testifies that he heard Smith say he (Smith) was as good as Jesus Christ; -- that it was as bad to injure him as it was to injure Jesus Christ." "With regard to the plates, Smith said God had deceived him -- which was the reason he (Smith) did not show them." (1834 Affidavit, quoted in Mormonism Unvailed)
Two years earlier, Martin Harris goes to the trouble of standing up in a meeting in Springville Township, Pennsylvania, pointing at Winters and proclaiming in a loud voice "She has had a bastard child!" Writing from Springville, Pennsylvania in May of 1833, Emer Harris (Martin's brother) notes that,
“The 24th of Last January Bro. Martin was taken a prisenor on a fals charge of standen [slander?] went to prison a few days until we got Bail to answer to Cort the Last Monday in April, or we should probably have been to the Ohio before this time. But it is now put over until the next September tirm; therefore we shall take up our journey Westward ere long & go as the Lord shall direct until we arive in the Ohio.”
Winters was peeved at Harris and sued him for slander, but lost the case because she could not prove any "special damages" in the case. In A Treastie on the Law of Slander and Libel, published in 1830 it states,
In Ogden v. Turner (d), Holt, C. J. observed, “To say of a young woman that she had a bastard, is a very great scandal, and for which, if I could, I would encourage and action; but it is not actionable because it is a spiritual defamanation, punishable in the spiritual court.” (page 199-200)
Eliza’s brief to the court did not include any “special damages”:
Nevertheless the said Martin Harris not being ignorant of the premises, but continuing[?] and maliciously intending, the said Eliza Ann Winters not only of her good name, credit and esteem to deprive, but also to render her infamous and scandalous among her neighbors aforesaid. And also the said Eliza Ann Winters into danger of the penalties of the law against fornicators made to induce & bring—the first day of November, in the year one thousand, eight hundred & thirty two, at the county aforesaid, (and having discourse then and there with divers persons of & concerning the said Ann Eliza these false, feigned, and scandalous English words, in substance as follows, of and concerning the said Eliza Ann Winters, in the [illegible words] hearing of those persons, falsely & unjustly did say, speak, and with a loud voice proclaim & publish to wit, “She” (the said Ann Eliza Winters [illegible]) has had a bastard child,” by means of the speaking and publishing of which said false and scandalous words, the said Ann Eliza Winters not only in her good name and fame aforesaid is greviously hurt and injured. To the damage of the said Ann Eliza Winters of one thousand dollars. And therefore she brings her suit, &c.” See. https://byustudies.byu.edu/PDFLibrary/4 ... c93563.pdf page 118
There was no immediate causes of damage claimed by Winters, only the apprehension of such, (to her credit) which could not be proved, therefore were of no weight to the court:
“A mere apprehension of ill consequences cannot constitute a special damage; so that it has been held to be insufficient for the plaintiff to allege, that in consequence of the words, discord happened to him and his wife (n), and he was in danger of a divorce.”
Or, to allege that the plaintiff (o) was exposed to her parents’ displeasure, and in danger of being put out of their house.
Or, to say he lost the affection of his mother (p), who intended him $100.(Slander & Libel, page 203)
To conclude that because Winters lost her libel suit because “she had no good character to sully” or that “Eliza was known for her low morals” (as Mormon Apologists do) is clearly done to paint her in a bad light, and that her later silence on the matter somehow spoke to her guilt. For a woman trying to collect damages for slander in the 19th Century, it was virtually impossible. For example,
In Byron v. Emes (e). A young unmarried woman had been charged with gross incontinency. After a verdict for the plaintiff, it was moved, in arrest of judgement, that the words were not actionable, because they were of spiritual cognizance, and that no temporal loss had accrued: that to say,”a woman has a bastard,” was never actionable before the statute for the provision of bastard children; and that, since the statute, it had never been held actionable but where the party had been brought within the penalty of the statute, which is only where the bastard becomes chargable to the parrish; that these words were most scandalous of a young woman; and that, had it been res nova, perhaps an action would have lain, but that there were many authorities to the contrary. (ibid, page 200)
Even though a woman was defamed by the accusation of fornication, or of having a bastard child, as explained below, this was considered a “spiritual offense” and so not actionable without suing for “special damages”:
In the above case also, the court said, that if it were res nova, it were reasonable to make the words actionable, for no greater misfortune can befal a young woman, whose well doing depends upon her having a good husband, than to be reputed a whore; but the authorities are too many and great to run counter to them, the reason of them is, that fornication is a spiritual offence, not punishable at Common Law, and an action shall not lie for charging one with an offence of which takes no notice, without special damages…” (ibid, page 201, Online here, http://archive.org/stream/atreatiseonla ... 1/mode/2up)
Coupling the Lewis account with Martin Harris’ public accusation, one must ask why Harris would go to such lengths to denounce Eliza Winters, and do so in a public meeting? Since the Harris/Winter confrontation took place before Levi Lewis’ published statement, the question of where Lewis got his information from is important. Lewis states that “he has heard them both say, [Smith & Harris] adultery was no crime,” and that “Harris said he did not blame Smith for his (Smith's) attempt to seduce Eliza Winters”. Dan Vogel brings up an interesting point to support that these allegations were in fact being made against Smith at the time, and that Smith responded to them. In a speech delivered in Nauvoo on May 26, 1844 Smith told his audience that,
“Another indictment has been got up against me. It appears a holy prophet has arisen up, [William Law] and he has testified against me: the reason is, he is so holy. The Lord knows I do not care how many churches are in the world. As many as believe me, may. If the doctrine that I preach is true, the tree must be good. I have prophesied things that have come to pass, and can still.
Inasmuch as there is a new church, this must be old, and of course we ought to be set down as orthodox. From henceforth let all the churches now no longer persecute orthodoxy. I never built upon any other man's ground. I never told the old Catholic that he was a fallen true prophet God knows, then. that the charges against me are false.
I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives. I mean to live and proclaim the truth as long as I can.” (Smith, History of the Church)
As Richard Van Wagoner relates,
“Despite Smith's explicit denials of plural marriage, stories of "spiritual wifery" had continued to spread. Oliver Olney, a Nauvoo Mormon, wrote in his 1842 journal of rumors that "an introduction of principles that would soon be, that the ancient order of God that was formerly, would again have its rounds, as it was in the days of old Solomon and David. They had wives and concubines in abundance, as many as they could support. The secret whispering was, that the same will eventually be again". (Mormon Polygamy)
But what about the statement attributed to Martin Harris? Levi Lewis’ saying that he heard Harris state that “adultery was no crime” has been challenged by Mormon Apologists, who write incredulously, “ We are to believe that Martin, who risked and defended a libel suit for reproving Eliza for fornication, thinks that adultery is "no crime"?
To answer this, one must ask if Smith’s followers in Nauvoo ever thought that Jo's Spiritual Wifeism really was adultery. And was there ever a double standard used against the women who rejected Smith’s polygamous proposals? We know by the historical record that there was. Consider the first claimed “revelation” on “plural marriage”, given in July of 1831 which reads in part:
“it is [Jesus Christ's] will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites [i.e., Native Americans], that their posterity may become white, delightsome, and Just, for even now their females are more virtuous than the gentiles.”
Harris supposedly knew about this “revelation”, for W. W. Phelps stated that Harris was there when Smith gave it. This “revelation” is important to Mormons, for without it, later events that took place between Smith and certain women in Kirtland would have to be portrayed in a wholly different light. But does it really make any difference? Not really.
Phelps would later relate that he approached Smith specifically with questions about adultery, and was told that taking additional wives was perfectly fine if it were done by “revelation”. Smith’s later pattern was to take additional “wives” by “revelation”. He would do so by going to a close relative, convincing them that it was “God’s will” that he take the particular woman as his “spiritual wife”, then have the close relative speak in confidence to the woman (or in many cases young girl) he had chosen. Many of the women that Smith “chose” either lived with him, or were close to him in some way, like his brother Don Carlos’ widow Anges Coolbrith Smith, who he took for a “spiritual wife” in January of 1842. Anges had joined the church in Kirtland in 1832 and boarded in the home of the Smith’s for a time before marrying Joseph’s younger brother.
After his 1826 “Examination” and subsequent guilty verdict, young Jo kept a low profile in the area of South Bainbridge, (Afton) New York. He would elope with Emma Hale and return to South Bainbridge to get married in January of 1827. Even his marriage to Emma had some significance to Smith in connection with his occult activities.  What we get from this period, is not young Jo touting his later, claimed “vision” of God the Father and Jesus in the spring of 1820, or even the nocturnal visits of the dead “Moroni”, but instead testifying at his examination that,
“he heard of a neighboring girl some three miles from him, who could look into a glass and see anything however hidden from others; that he was seized with a strong desire to see her and her glass; that after much effort he induced his parents to let him visit her. He did so, and was permitted to look in the glass, which was placed in a hat to exclude the light. He was greatly surprised to see but one thing, which was a small stone, a great way off. It soon became luminous, and dazzled his eyes, and after a short time it became as intense as the mid-day sun. He said that the stone was under the roots of a tree or shrub as large as his arm, situated about a mile up a small stream that puts in on the South side of Lake Erie, not far from the Now York and Pennsylvania line. He often had an opportunity to look in the glass, and with the same result. The luminous stone alone attracted his attention. This singular circumstance occupied his mind for some years, when he left his father's house, and with his youthful zeal traveled west in search of this luminous stone."
In a Blog Article titled “The Bainbridge Conspiracy” written in March 2008 “Keller” of F.A.I.R. states,
“It is clear to me that the Bainbridge conspirators were not really concerned about Joseph’s digging activities, given that they did not go after any of the leaders of their society that participated like Calvin and Asa Stowell. Instead they were more concerned at getting a conviction to discredit the religious claims Joseph Smith was making, even in 1826.” (F.A.I.R. Blog, March 27, 2008)
The problem with this reasoning is that according to contemporary accounts, young Jo Smith wasn’t making any religious claims while he was moneydigging in 1826. In addition, concerning the angel or ghost he claimed to see in 1823, he told his family “we must be careful not to proclaim these things or to mention them abroad”. Smith’s testimony at the 1826 examination, was all about his ability to “scry” with a peepstone, and he testified “that he had occasionally been in the habit of looking through this stone to find lost property for three years, but of late had pretty much given it up on account its injuring his health, especially his eyes - made them sore; that he did not solicit business of this kind, and had always rather declined having anything to do with this business." And yet later, Joseph would translate the entire Book of Mormon this way and never complain about his eyes.
When Smith Sr. is sworn in, he “confirmed, at great length all that his son had said in his examination. He delineated his characteristics in his youthful days -- his vision of the luminous stone in the glass -- his visit to Lake Erie in search of the stone -- and his wonderful triumphs as a seer. He described very many instances of his finding hidden and stolen goods.”
The only mention of God is by Smith Sr. was that he and Smith Jr. “were mortified that this wonderful power which God had so miraculously given him should be used only in search of filthy lucre, or its equivalent in earthly treasures.”
Instead of proudly testifying that his son was “chosen” by God, Smith Sr. “with a long-faced, sanctimonious seeming” display, tells the court that “his constant prayer to his Heavenly Father was to manifest His will concerning this marvelous power.” According to young Jo’s later History, he had already done so, on more than one occasion. Smith Sr. finished up his testimony with his hope that “the Son of Righteousness would some day illumine the heart of the boy, and enable him to see His will concerning him.”
Where is the mention of young Jo’s “first vision”, or “visitation of Moroni”? Smith Sr. instead confirms at great length “all his son said in his examination,” which has nothing to do with God and angels, but has everything to do with his father’s penchant for the occult or the more politically correct "folk magic", and young Jo’s involvement in it. For the “Bainbridge Conspirators”, Smith’s later admission that his peepstone was some kind of “urim and thummim” and that the “bleeding Spanish ghost” was an angel of God, would be sufficient to incite in them (and others) a desire to “go after” him again in 1830 for the “religious claims” Smith was then making after 1826. They thought it absolutely absurd that Jo was peeping and digging up slippery treasures (of which he was found guilty in an examination and then allowed to take "leg bail"), and subsequently making claims of being some kind of divine messenger but using the same means to communicate that message as he did when he was moneydigging. Though others may have been involved in some occult practices, they were not claiming to be divine instruments of God and declaring all other churches false.
As Martin Harris later related, this is exactly what young Jo was terrified of,
“"The money-diggers claimed that they had as much right to the plates as Joseph had, as they were in company together. They claimed that Joseph had been [a] traitor, and had appropriated to himself that which belonged to them. For this reason Joseph was afraid of them…” (Interview with Joel Tiffany, 1859)
Witnessing the metamorphosis of young Jo into “Joseph the Prophet”, with the publication of the Book of Mormon and the organization of the “Church of Christ” in Manchester, NY; Smith’s activities in and around the Bainbridge area came under greater scrutiny, as some of the locals of that area joined the Church, or were proselytized by the new members of Smith’s "restored" church. In July of 1830, Smith was again brought up on the same charges made in 1826, (being a “disorderly person”). As Justice Joel K. Noble wrote in 1832,
“The defendant was brought before me by virtue of a warrant on the 30th day of June, A. D. 1830, on a charge "that he, the said Joseph Smith, Jr., had been guilty of a breach of the peace, against the good people of the state of New York, by looking through a certain stone to find hid treasures, &c., within the Statute of Limitation.”
Since Smith had given up “moneydigging”, it was determined that “he had not looked in the glass for two years to find money,” and he was discharged. Smith instead, had used his peepstone to “translate” what he claimed was a record written on gold plates which he had dug up at the behest of an angel.
This was the only reason why Smith was not found guilty. The Statute of Limitations had run out. One of Smith’s recent converts, Newell Knight, was sworn and testified that
“"prisoner could see in a stone as stated by Stowel; that formerly he looked for money, &c., but latterly he had become holy, was a true preacher of the Gospel of Christ, possessed the power of casting out devils; he knew it to be a fact, that he, (Smith, the prisoner,) had cast a devil from him, (witness,) in manner following, viz. witness was in mind impressed; he and Smith did conclude and knew the devil was in witness; they joined hands, their faith became united, the devil went out of witness; witness knew it to be a fact, for he saw the devil as he departed; Smith did it by the power of God," &c.”
Abram Willard Benton of South Bainbridge, New York, would write shortly after the 1830 trial:
“This trial led to an investigation of his [Joseph Smith Jr.'s] character and conduct, which clearly evinced to the unprejudiced, whence the spirit came which dictated his inspirations. During the trial it was shown that the Book of Mormon was brought to light by the same magic power by which he pretended to tell fortunes, discover hidden treasures, &c. Oliver Cowdry, one of the three witnesses to the book, testified under oath, that said Smith found with the plates, from which he translated his book, two transparent stones, resembling glass, set in silver bows. That by looking through these, he was able to read in English, the reformed Egyptian characters, which were engraved on the plates.
So much for the gift and power of God, by which Smith says he translated his book. Two transparent stones, undoubtedly of the same properties, and the gift of the same spirit as the one in which he looked to find his neighbor's goods. It is reported, and probably true, that he commenced his juggling by stealing and hiding property belonging to his neighbors, and when inquiry was made, he would look in his stone, (his gift and power) and tell where it was. Josiah Stowell, a Mormonite, being sworn, testified that he positively knew that said Smith never had lied to, or deceived him, and did not believe he ever tried to deceive anybody else. The following questions were then asked him, to which he made the replies annexed.
Did Smith ever tell you there was money hid in a certain place which he mentioned? Yes. Did he tell you, you could find it by digging? Yes. Did you dig? Yes. Did you find any money? No. Did he not lie to you then, and deceive you? No! the money was there, but we did not get quite to it! How do you know it was there? Smith said it was! Addison Austin was next called upon, who testified, that at the very same time that Stowell was digging for money, he, Austin, was in company with said Smith alone, and asked him to tell him honestly whether he could see this money or not. Smith hesitated some time, but finally replied, "to be candid, between you and me, I cannot, any more than you or any body else; but any way to get a living." Here, then, we have his own confession, that he was a vile, dishonest impostor. As regards the testimony of Josiah Stowell, it needs no comment. He swore positively that Smith did not lie to him. So much for a Mormon witness. Paramount to this, in truth and consistency, was the testimony of Joseph Knight, another Mormonite. Newel Knight, son of the former, and also a Mormonite, testified, under oath, that he positively had a devil cast out of himself by the instrumentality of Joseph Smith, jr., and that he saw the devil after it was out, but could not tell how it looked!”
This was the probable reason those associated with (or part of) the “Bainbridge Conspirators” “went after” Smith. He might have made a profession of being religious (like some of them), but he was also saying that he was now a “prophet” and used the same means to bring forth the Book of Mormon (evidence of his “prophetic calling”) that he used in his moneydigging activities. This convinced many that he was still a fraud.
Smith himself would write later that,
“The court was detained for a time, in order that two young women (daughters to Mr. Stoal) [probably Rhoda and Miriam] with whom I had at times kept company; might be sent for, in order, if possible to elicit something from them which might be made a pretext against me. The young women arrived and were severally examined, touching my character, and conduct in general but particularly as to my behavior towards them both in public and private, when they both bore such testimony in my favor, as left my enemies without a pretext on their account.”
What would prompt the prosecutors to bring these two women to court? Could it have been over the allegations being made about his conduct with Eliza Winters? Rhamanthus M. Stocker would later write,
“Mrs. Eliza Winters Squires, now living in Oakland borough, was often at Smith’s house and much in Mrs. Smith’s company. The young women were on very intimate terms, and very many times did Mrs. Smith tell her young friend about the find of the “golden plates” or the “golden Bible””
As one defender of Smith put it,
“A fisherman may cast his hook into a pond whether he has seen fish in the pond or not. Therefore it would be incorrect to assume there is fish in a pond simply because someone is fishing there. Similarly, the Broome County prosecutor may have been fishing for “testimony” against Joseph Smith. Therefore to assert that “testimony” existed based upon the observation that the prosecutor questioned the two women is going beyond the evidence.”
Smith’s own statement years later, gives us some insight into what was behind this move by the prosecutors, that “it was reported I had seven wives”. Even if Smith was only making overtures to women at this point, what must be taken into account is Smith’s uncanny ability to persuade most of the women he approached of his “prophetic calling”, and that what he was suggesting was in no way “improper”.
In the case of Eliza Winters, we see a foreshadowing of the pattern of Smith’s behavior with women, approaching those in his service, or that were close to his wife or relatives or friends. We also see the result of her obvious rejection of Smith, in the subsequent attack on her character by one of Smith’s close associates. In the case of some of the women that Smith approached when he was younger, he would wait many years before approaching them again, as he did with Nancy Marinda Johnson, who it seems would play a central role in the attempt to castrate Smith in 1832.
(to be continued... in the next section on Ohio)