Joseph Smith Treasure Seeking Accounts:
Joseph Smith, the founding seer, revelator, and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is well known for discovering golden plates, but how many of us know about Smith’s history of treasure seeking? In this article we look into accounts of Joseph Smith as a seer, guiding money diggers in their quest for buried treasure.
Treasure Here, Treasure There:
“I, Peter Ingersoll, first became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. in the year of our Lord, 1822. — I lived in the neighborhood of said family, until about 1830; during which time the following facts came under my observation.
The general employment of the family, was digging for money.
Joseph, Sen. told me that the best time for digging money, was, in the heat of summer, when the heat of the sun caused the chests of money to rise near the top of the ground. You notice, said he, the large stones on the top of the ground — we call them rocks, and they truly appear so, but they are, in fact, most of them chests of money raised by the heat of the sun.” (Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, Painesville Ohio: Telegraph Press, 1834, pp. 232-237)
The rocks Joseph Sen. claimed were actually chests of money, are described in the same manner as the story of the stone box, that supposedly contained the golden plates of Mormon tradition:
“On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side; and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground; but the edges all around was covered with earth.” Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, Page 84 (josephsmithpapers.org) [edited to remove the words ages.]
William Stafford, who was also a neighbor of the Smith family, said:
“They [the Smiths] would say, for instance, that in such a place, in such a hill, on a certain man’s farm, there were deposited keys, barrels and hogsheads of coined silver and gold — bars of gold, golden images, brass kettles filled with gold and silver — gold candlesticks, swords, &c. &c. They would say, also, that nearly all the hills in this part of New York, were thrown up by human hands, and in them were large caves, which Joseph, Jr., could see, by placing a stone of singular appearance in his hat, in such a manner as to exclude all light; at which time they pretended he could see all things within and under the earth, — that he could see within the above mentioned caves, large gold bars and silver plates — that he [Joseph Jr.] could also discover the spirits in whose charge these treasures were, clothed in ancient dress.” — William Stafford (Mormonism Unvailed, E.D. Howe, pp. 237-238)
Treasure Seeking Rules to Follow:
Stafford was informed by Joseph Smith Sen. that he was the right person to bring to get the buried treasure Joseph Smith Jr. discovered while looking in his glass.
Bringing the right person was also necessary in the early golden plate’s accounts. (see Lucy Mack Smith Account)
People seeking treasure had to follow rules imposed by the spirits guarding the treasure. Speaking, muttering, or cursing, during a dig was not allowed. And the sacrifice of sheep was practiced at times.
William Stafford owned a black sheep, and to gratify his curiosity, he let the Smiths have it.
Joseph Smith walked the animal, bleeding from its neck, in a circle around the spot where the treasure supposedly was.
“But some new ‘mistake in the process’ again resulted in disappointment.”
1826 Glass Looking Trial Testimony:
William D. Purple Account:
In 1826, Joseph Smith was brought to court for deceiving people into believing he could see underground by looking into his stone and charging people money for his services. That court case is commonly called the Joseph Smith 1826 Glass Looking Trial.
Albert Neely was the judge presiding over the case. Justice Neely asked his friend William Purple to take notes:
“The following scene was described by this witness [Mr. Thompson], and carefully noted: Smith had told the Deacon that very many years before a band of robbers had buried on his flat a box of treasure, and as it was very valuable they had by a sacrifice placed a charm over it to protect it, so that it could not be obtained except by faith, accompanied by certain talismanic influences. So, after arming themselves with fasting and prayer, they sallied forth to the spot designated by Smith. Digging was commenced with fear and trembling, in the presence of this imaginary charm. In a few feet from the surface the box of treasure was struck by the shovel. on which they redoubled their energies, but it gradually receded from their grasp. One of the men placed his hand upon the box, but it gradually sunk from his reach, After some five feet in depth had been attained without success, a council of war, against this spirit of darkness was called, and they resolved that the lack of faith, or of some untoward mental emotions was the cause of their failure. 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 spot, 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.”
That testimony, which included another lamb being sacrificed to appease the supposed treasure guardian,
“… was declared under oath, in a Court of Justice, by one of the actors in the scene, and not disputed by his co-laborers.” (The Joseph Smith Papers, Appendix: Reminiscence of William D. Purple, 28 April 1877)
The Obvious Question:
Could Joseph Smith really see hidden treasure by looking in his seer stone?
If the answer is
■ Joseph Smith was misleading people for financial gain.
If the answer is
■ There really was a box of treasure on Josiah Stowell’s property as documented in the Joseph Smith 1826 Glass Looking Trial.
■ The treasure was actually being watched over by a spirit.
■ That spirit had the ability to move the treasure from here to there, just like in early versions of the golden plate’s stories.
Almost Seven Years of Treasure Seeking:
It turns out that after almost seven-years of treasure seeking, none of the men using Joseph Smith as their guide obtained any of the treasure they were seeking. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
The last great day of treasure seeking was on September 22nd, 1827, the Autumn Equinox. According to Martin Harris, Mr. Stowell was at the Smith family home digging for money, and Joseph Smith was obtaining the golden plates and then hiding them in an oak tree.
What Joseph Smith actually came home with on September 22nd, 1827, was another story.
Other Works & Articles of Interest:
■ Enchantment, Magic and Money Digging — Rich Kelsey
■ LDS Urim and Thummim — Rich Kelsey
■ The Golden Plates of Joseph Smith — Rich Kelsey
- Joseph Smith, Sen., came to me one night, and told me, that Joseph Jr. had been looking in his glass, and had seen, not many rods from his house, two or three kegs of gold and silver, some feet under the surface of the earth; and that none others but the elder Joseph and myself could get them. (Mormonism Unvailed p. 238)
- Lippincott’s Magazine, August 1880
- “… he had a certain stone, which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were.” (Joseph Smith 1826 Glass Looking Trial, Miss Pearsall Account)
- On the 22d of September 1824, Joseph again visited the place, where he found the plates the year before; and supposing, that the only thing required in order to possess them until the time for their translation, was, to be able to keep the commandments of God, and as he firmly believed that he could keep every commandment which had been given him, he fully expected to carry them home with him. Therefore, having arrived at the place and uncovered them, he put forth his hand and took them up; but, on starting off with them, the unhappy thought darted through his mind: that probably there were something else in the box besides the plates, which would be of some advantage in a precuniary point of view; So, in the moment of excitement; he laid them down very carefully to cover the box, lest some one might happen that way and get whatever there might be remaining in it; and, after covering it, he turned around to take the record again, but behold it was gone, and where he knew not, neither did he know by what means it had been taken from him. (Lucy Mack Smith History 1845 pp. 87-88)
- “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 Tiffany’s Monthly)
- Stephen Burnett’s 1838 letter to Lyman Johnson: “… when I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them [the plates] & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave way …” (Letterbook 2, Page 64 (josephsmithpapers.org)