Joseph Smith 1823 Bedroom Dream — Rich Kelsey

Joseph Smith 1823 bedroom dream / Half-moon photo taken by Rich Kelsey

Joseph Smith 1823 Bedroom Dream:

The 1823-bedroom dream in which Joseph Smith learned about the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, is a foundational teaching of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The 1838 account, which is the official Church version, has the messenger introducing himself to Joseph Smith in 1823, as Moroni:

“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 Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.

He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants.” (JOSEPH SMITH HISTORY, 1838, p.p. 1:33-34)

1823 Bedroom Dream, An Odd Admission:

Joseph’s 1832 history recounts that the Lord ‘shewed unto me a heavenly vision for behold an angel of the Lord came and stood before me.’ These and other early accounts referred to this messenger simply as ‘the angel.‘” (Church History / Angel Moroni,

The LDS Church admitted that in Joseph Smith’s 1832 history, as well as other early accounts of Smith’s 1823-bedroom dream, the messenger simply referred to himself as:

“… ‘the angel.'” (Church History / Angel Moroni)

If the messenger introduced himself as Moroni during Joseph Smith’s 1823-bedroom dream, it seems rather odd that there are no early accounts of Moroni being the angel.

Letter About the 1823-Bedroom Dream:

To make matters worse, there is a letter about the 1823-bedroom dream written by Joseph Smith in 1832,[1] in which the angel spoke of “Maroni” (Moroni), but he was clearly not referring to himself. Neither does the angel mention that Moroni is the name of the messenger watching over the golden plates:

“… when I was seventeen years of age I called again upon the Lord and he shewed unto me a heavenly vision for behold an angel of the Lord came and stood before me and it was by night and he called me by name and he said the Lord had forgiven me my sins and he revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester Ontario County N.Y. there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni & his fathers the servants of the living God in ancient days and deposited by th[e] commandments of God and kept by the power thereof and that I should go and get them …” (Letterbook 1, Joseph Smith Papers)

Obviously, the angel would not be talking about gold plates which were engraved by Moroni if he were Moroni! This indicates that the 1838 official Church History of Joseph Smith’s 1823-bedroom dream, and Joseph Smith’s hand-written account of the same dream, have irreconcilable differences.

Joseph Smith 1823 bedroom dream / irreconcilable difference
Oxford Dictionary

Fayette Lapham Bedroom Dream Account:

About 1830, Joseph Smith’s father told Palmyra businessman Fayette Lapham about his son Joseph Smith Jr., discovering some ancient records:

“I think it was in the year 1830, I heard that some ancient records [the golden plates] had been discovered that would throw some new light upon the subject of religion; being deeply interested in the matter, I concluded to go to the place and learn for myself the truth of the matter.

… he [Joseph Smith] had a very singular dream; but he did not tell his father of his dream, until about a year afterwards. He then told his father that, in his dream, a very large and tall man appeared to him, dressed in an ancient suit of clothes, and the clothes were bloody. And the man said to him that there was a valuable treasure, buried many years since, and not far from that place; and that he had now arrived for it to be brought to light, for the benefit of the world at large; and, if he would strictly follow his directions, he would direct him to the place where it was deposited, in such a manner that he could obtain it.” (The Fayette Lapham Account)

The Amboy Journal, Amboy, Illinois, Wednesday, April 30, 1879, page 1.

“Statements of Joseph and Hiel Lewis, sons of Rev. Nathaniel Lewis, concerning what they saw and heard of the sayings and doings of the prophet Joseph Smith, jr. while he was engaged in peeping for money and hidden treasures, and translating his gold bible in our neighborhood.

He said that by a dream he was informed that at such a place in a certain hill, in an iron box, were some gold plates with curious engravings, … then he saw a man standing over the spot, which to him appeared like a Spaniard, having a long beard coming down over his breast to about here. (Smith putting his hand to the pit of his stomach) with his (the ghost’s) throat cut from ear to ear, and the blood streaming down, who told him that he could not get it alone; that another person whom he, Smith, would know at first sight, must come with him, and then he could get it.” (The Amboy Journal, April 30, 1879, p. 1)

Joseph Smith 1838 History:

In 1838, Joseph Smith said the personage at his bedside, telling him of the golden plates, was wearing a brilliant white robe.

“While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.

He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. …

Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me.” (JOSEPH SMITH HISTORY, 1838, p.p. 1:30-32)

Setting the Record Straight:

During the rise of Mormonism, Joseph and Heil Lewis, sons of the Reverend Nathaniel Lewis, lived in the same neighborhood as Joseph Smith. The Lewis brothers were cousins of Joseph Smith’s wife, Emma Hale Smith. Joseph Lewis wrote about Smith, including his dream of a bleeding ghost and the early history of the Church:

“In all this narrative, there was not one word about ‘visions of God,’ or of angels, or heavenly revelations. All his information was by that dream, and that bleeding ghost. The heavenly visions and messages of angels, etc, contained in Mormon books, were after-thoughts, revised to order.” (The Amboy Journal, April 30, 1879, p. 1)

Joseph Smith’s neighbor Joseph Capron became acquainted with Joseph Smith Sr. in 1827; he said:

“While they were digging for money, they were daily harassed by the demands of creditors, which they never were able to pay. At length, Joseph pretended to find the Gold plates. This scheme, he believed, would relieve the family from all pecuniary embarrassment. His father told me, that when the book was published, they would be enabled, from the profits of the work, to carry into successful operation the money digging business. He gave me no intimation, at that time that the book was to be of a religious character, or that it had any thing to do with revelation.” (TESTIMONY OF JOSEPH CAPRON, Mormonism Unvailed — Eber Howe’s 1834 book, p. 260)

Smith Family Money Digging Business:

Book of Mormon witness Martin Harris said, on the night Joseph Smith Jr. obtained the golden plates, Josiah Stowell was:

“… at old Mr. Smith’s, digging for money.”[2]

A year earlier, in March 1826, Joseph Smith was brought to court by a nephew of Josiah Stowell, Peter Bridgeman. Josiah Stowell was paying Joseph Smith money to tell him where a trunk full of treasure could be found. Peter Bridgeman was concerned that Smith was bilking Stowell out of some of his money.

The transcripts from the 1826 Glass Looking Trial describe Joseph Smith using a seer stone to discover that the two Indians who buried the trunk, had a quarrel between them, and:

“… [one of the] Indians was killed by the other, and thrown into the hole beside of the trunk, to guard it, as he supposed.”[3]

In Smith’s mind, that was how people became spirit guardians over buried treasure. A similar account was given about the man watching over the golden plates.[4]

In 1831, the local newspaper published an article about the elder Smith’s belief that:

“… treasures were held in charge by some evil spirit …”[5]

This corresponded to what was brought out in the Joseph Smith 1826 Glass Looking trial:

Mr. Stowell went to his flock and selected a fine vigorous lamb, and resolved to sacrifice it to the demon spirit who guarded the coveted treasure. Shortly after the venerable Deacon might be seen on his knees at prayer near the pit, while Smith, with a lantern in one hand to dispel the midnight darkness, might be seen making a circuit around the pit, sprinkling the flowing blood from the lamb upon the ground, as a propitiation to the spirit that thwarted them.”[6]

As odd as that testimony may seem:

“… it was declared under oath, in a Court of Justice, by one of the actors in the scene, and not disputed by his co-laborers …”[7]

1823 Bedroom Dream Conclusion:

During the four-year period in which Joseph Smith was trying to obtain the golden plates from a treasure guardian, Smith and his father were in the money digging business.[8]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gone to great lengths to downplay Joseph Smith’s money digging history. And to maintain a sterilized, sugarcoated account, of Smith’s 1823-bedroom dream. Calling other accounts:

“… fanciful or sensationalized.”[9]

In reality, it is the bedroom dream account written in Joseph Smith’s 1838 history, 15 years after his 1823-bedroom dream supposedly took place, that lacks truth.[10]

Articles of interest:

■ Ten LDS Plot holes — Rich Kelsey

■ Book of Mormon Final Battles — Rich Kelsey

■ Book of Mormon Archeological Evidence? — Rich Kelsey

Full Article Index / LDS Articles


[1] (Copy of a letter written to W[illiam] W Phelps from Kirtland to Zion by Joseph Smith Jr— November 27— 1832)

[2] “After this, on the 22d of September, 1827, before day, Joseph took the horse and wagon of old Mr. Stowel, and taking his wife, he went to the place where the plates were concealed, and while he was obtaining them, she kneeled down and prayed. He then took the plates and hid them in an old black oak tree top which was hollow. Mr. Stowel was at this time at old Mr. Smith’s, digging for money.” (Interview With Martin Harris in Tiffanys Monthly)

[3] (1826 Glass Looking Trial Testimonies, Miss Pearsall Account)

[4] “… he was murdered or slain on the spot and the treasure [golden plates] had been under his charge ever since.” (Money Digging Folklore and the Beginnings of Mormonism: An Interpretive Suggestion —Marvin S. Hill, BYU Studies)

[5] 1831 Palmyra New York, newspaper article:
“We are not able to determine whether the elder Smith was ever concerned in money digging transactions previous to his emigration from Vermont, or not, but it is a well authenticated fact that soon after his arrival here, he evinced a firm belief in the existence of hidden treasures, and that this section of country abounded in them. — He also revived, or in other words, propagated the vulgar, yet popular belief that these treasures were held in charge by some evil spirit. …

It may not be amiss in this place to mention that the mania of money digging soon began rapidly to diffuse itself through many parts of this country; men and women without distinction of age or sex became marvellous wise in the occult sciences, many dreamed, and others saw visions disclosing to them, deep in the bowels of the earth, rich and shining treasures, and to facilitate those mighty mining operations, (money was usually if not always sought after in the night time,) divers devices and implements were invented, and although the spirit was always able to retain his precious charge, these discomfited as well as deluded beings, would on a succeeding night return to their toil, not in the least doubting that success would eventually attend their labors.

Mineral rods and balls, (as they were called by the imposter who made use of them,) were supposed to be infallible guides to these sources of wealth — ‘peep stones’ or pebbles, taken promiscuously from the brook or field, were placed in a hat or other situation excluded from the light, when some wizzard or witch (for these performances were not confined to either sex) applied their eyes, and … declared they saw all the wonders of nature, including of course, ample stores of silver and gold.” (THE REFLECTOR February 1, 1831)

[6] “In this emergency the fruitful mind of Smith was called on to devise a way to obtain the prize. Mr. Stowell went to his flock and selected a fine vigorous lamb, and resolved to sacrifice it to the demon spirit who guarded the coveted treasure. Shortly after the venerable Deacon might be seen on his knees at prayer near the pit, while Smith, with a lantern in one hand to dispel the midnight darkness, might be seen making a circuit around the pit, sprinkling the flowing blood from the lamb upon the ground, as a propitiation to the spirit that thwarted them. They then descended the excavation, but the treasure still receded from their grasp, and it was never obtained.” (1826 Glass Looking Trial / Jonathan Thompson Testimony)

[7] (The Joseph Smith Papers, Appendix: Reminiscence of William D. Purple, 28 April 1877)

[8] “I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr. in November, 1825. He was at that time in the employ of a set of men who were called ‘money diggers;’ and his occupation was that of seeing, or pretending to see by means of a stone placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face. …

Smith, and his father, with several other ‘money-diggers’ boarded at my house while they were employed in digging for a mine that they supposed had been opened and worked by the Spaniards, many years since. Young Smith gave the ‘money-diggers’ great encouragement, at first, but when they had arrived in digging, to near the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found — he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see.” (TESTIMONY OF ISAAC HALE, Mormonism Unvailed — Eber Howe’s 1834 book, p.p. 262-263)

[9] “Moroni, the last ancient record keeper to inscribe his teachings on the plates, appeared to Joseph on a number of occasions between 1823 and 1829, guiding and mentoring Joseph as he obtained the plates and translated them. Though others produced fanciful or sensationalized accounts of the angel’s visits, Joseph Smith’s own accounts are simple, sober, and consistent.” (Angel Moroni,

[10] “If we have truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not truth, it ought to be harmed.” (LDS Apostle, Joshua Reuben Clark)