Lachlan MacKay is one of the historians who helped authenticate the Joseph Smith daguerreotype that appears to be the prophet Joseph Smith. Lach is not only a descendant of Joseph Smith, but he is also an apostle for the Community of Christ. We’ll talk about how he authenticated the photo, whether it could be Hyrum, and what it would take to forge a photo. We’ll also discuss the Jeff Lundgren case. Back in 1987, Lundren justified the murder of a family of 5 in Kirtland, Ohio based on the story of Nephi killing Laban. What does Bill think of that story? Bill also tried to save Lundgren from capital punishment. Check out our conversation…
Forensic Analysis of Joseph Smith Photo
Copyright © 2022
All Rights Reserved
Except for book reviews, no content may be reproduced without written permission.
(Note this conversation was recorded on Aug 10, 2022. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.)
GT 00:59 Welcome to Gospel Tangents, everyone. I am really excited that I’ve got a Community of Christ apostle back on the show. Could you go ahead and tell us who you are?
Lachlan 01:10 My name is Lachlan Mackay, and I oversee the USA, Northeast Field, for Community of Christ, which is Michigan to Maine to Virginia. I also have functional assignments, which include Community of Christ historic sites, and our church history team.
GT 01:26 Well, that’s awesome. And so where are you currently?
Lachlan 01:28 I am at home in Nauvoo, Illinois.
GT 01:32 And you’ve been there for a while?
Lachlan 01:34 Yeah, I moved here in 2007. So, I’ve been here for 15 years, and that followed 15 years in Kirtland, Ohio. I was born and raised in eastern Jackson County, Missouri.
GT 01:44 Oh, wow. You’ve hit all the three main history sites, right?
Lachlan 01:48 Yep.
GT 01:50 Well, that’s exciting. I know, me and Steve Pynnaker, we came out there this summer with Paul DeBarthe and his archeological dig on the Times and Seasons building. We got a personalized tour of the Joseph Smith house, which was just fantastic.
Lachlan 02:06 It’s a lot of fun.
GT 02:07 So, I really appreciate that. For those of you who are LDS and you didn’t see my first interview with Lach and John Hamer, go back and watch that. It’s one of my top, I think, top five interviews still. We talked about the difference between RLDS and LDS temple worship, so, you’re kind of a celebrity here.
Lachlan 02:36 Scary.
GT 02:37 I know I’ve got a lot of new users or new subscribers here. So, we’re here to talk about this cool issue here with the John Whitmer Historical Journal. You were one of the people who helped identify that this really is Joseph Smith, or at least–I guess we can’t be 100% sure. But I heard an interview where you said you weren’t so sure when you first saw this. Tell us about the discovery of this and why you weren’t quite so sure if that was Joseph Smith.
Lachlan 03:07 My uncle, Dan Larsen, found this object among items given to him by his mother, my grandmother in 1992. He was also given a watch at the time, Joseph III’s pocket watch with his monograph. He thought this object was also a watch that he couldn’t open. So, he put these items away and found them 28 years later. This time he was able to get the watch/locket open, and it wasn’t a watch, but a locket. So, there was a daguerreotype inside. He gave me a photograph of the daguerreotype. I said to myself, “I don’t think that’s Joseph.” But with Dan’s permission, I reached out to Ron Romig who I’ve worked with for decades on Smith Family visual materials and daguerreotypes. Ron looked at it and said, “That’s Joseph,” and that kind of launched us into the two-year process.
GT 04:04 Oh, wow. Well, very cool. So, you said Ron was pretty sure, right off the bat. Is that right?
Lachlan 04:12 Ron is much more visually oriented than I am. So, he was. It was set in the locket, slightly off center. So, not quite straight up and down. That threw me a little bit on some of the things I would typically look for, to try and identify the image as Joseph.
GT 04:30 Very cool. So, I know there’s been a lot of people on the internet, especially when this first came out. People were like, “That’s not Joseph. That’s Hyrum or that’s Sam.” Hyrum was the most common, but could it have been a different Smith brother or even just a complete stranger?
Lachlan 04:49 Oh, sure. It could be. I don’t think it is. In both images of Hyrum done during his life that I know of, there’s probably a few more, he has major sideburns. All images of Hyrum showed those sideburns. People, I think, were caught up in the image of the death mask of Hyrum. It was broken off and replaced. I don’t know if we’re actually seeing Hyrum’s chin, because they’re already doing a facial recognition with a Hyrum’s death mask and the Smith-Larsen daguerreotype. It’s not a match. It’s not Hyrum. Sure it could be somebody else, but it matches really well with the death mask, with the oil portrait [of Joseph.]
Lachlan 05:34 It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that people like Emma J. (Joseph and Emma’s oldest grandchild,) Joseph III’s oldest child, would be wearing a photograph on her breasts for 35 years of somebody she’s never met and is not related to. People have said that it must be Mad’s Madison, her aunt, the stepmother’s dancer. People have said it must be Hyrum. Again, an uncle. Of course, she never met Joseph Smith, Jr., but felt some significant connections to him, carrying his name as well as Emma’s. So, I think, history is about probabilities, and it really, for me, is pretty convincing that this is Joseph.
GT 05:43 Well, very good. Can you tell us how you would go about even trying to identify, is this Joseph Smith? Or is it someone else? What were the procedures you went through?
Lachlan 06:34 So, we were hoping for an easy solution, which was to take the watch apart and discover Joseph Smith’s signature inside or even a maker’s mark on the [locket.] That was difficult to do, though, because it was in the height of the pandemic shutdown, and nobody wanted to meet with us. Nobody was in their office to answer their phone. But finally, we were able to connect with somebody with the expertise, who also happens to be somebody with the ability to take apart, a miniaturist who could take apart the object without damage. Under Dan’s watchful care, they got it apart. There’s no names, no dates, no maker’s marks. That was our first strategy.
Lachlan 07:25 We, also, then started thinking about facial recognition software. Of course, that works best where there are photographs of a person and you’re comparing a potential image to them. That’s not the case here. So, we have to use two pieces of art, a death mask and an 1840 oil portrait. So, that’s an objective approach. Though, we did some subjective things like a forensics artist, who did overlays and feature cutouts and feature tracing, etc. So, could we find written references to it? Joseph III says on a number of occasions that his father had a daguerreotype by, he thinks, Lucien Foster. He gets mixed up with a daguerreotype of the oil portrait at times. So that was difficult to untangle, and then we started finding photographs of women wearing what certainly looked to be the locket. So, provenance, objective approach, subjective analysis of documentary sources.
GT 08:37 Very good. So, you did say that there were two daguerreotypes. One was of the painting and one was of Joseph and those were kind of hard to disentangle in the written records, which was which?
Lachlan 08:50 Yeah, so it’s not as simple. When Joseph is referencing a daguerreotype of his father. It is clear that he, at times, is talking about a daguerreotype of the oil portrait, but he doesn’t know that. It’s hard to believe, but even today, people are finding photographs of the oil portrait in several forms. An 1879 Carson image and an 1885 Carter image, they believe that their photographs from life. They’re not. Joseph III had the same difficulty, and we talked about in the paper, why that might be. Daguerreotypes are surprisingly life-like because of the way they appear and disappear for an image. They’re also reversed, so that, just like the painting image reversed. Joseph, III has vision issues. Eventually he’s completely blind. I don’t think that’s the case. He is initially talking about it for years before his life is definitely completely blind.
GT 09:05 Okay. Well, very good. I know another piece of the puzzle was, because, I guess, you basically have three evidences. You had this locket. You had the Maudsley painting that everybody’s familiar with, and you had the death mask. Talk about what are the differences between the death mask and the Maudsley painting, first.
Lachlan 10:20 Yeah, so it’s not a Maudsley painting. There are Maudsley paintings, but the one we’re focusing on is David Rogers painting. Maudsley and Rogers is from New York City, the front views. Now people get really confused. Like that there is David Ross, a portrait painter, church member from New York City, who comes to Nauvoo in September 1842. Joseph records sitting for him for five days. Rogers goes home, eventually becomes a Strangite and lives out his days… He gets confused with Dwight Rogers, who is a member. He writes, he marries, he puts together the hymnal, he goes west. So, people confuse those two. The [artist] we’re talking about is David Rogers, New York City. When you compare it to the mask, there are many similarities, but some differences, although on the portrait, the nose is longer. We knew that that could be the case, because other people had already compared the portrait to the mask. So, we knew that if the daguerreotype was Joseph, would not match with the portrait, and sure enough, it’s a little off. So, the portrait painted noses longer, mouths a little smaller, made hair straighter, made skin whiter and smoother so you look younger. It was an attempt, apparently to make like you had never worked a day in your life.
Lachlan 11:53 When you look at Emma’s portrait compared to 1845 daguerreotype, you’ll see the same changes made. One of the next steps is to track down other David Rogers’ portraits, and then other photographs of those people and see if the same changes are being made. I’m pretty confident they are.
GT 12:13 Yeah, so it’s interesting that you brought up Emma, because when you compare the Emma painting versus the real Emma, you’re like, “These look really, really different.” So, I guess it shouldn’t surprise us that the Rogers painting, and the daguerreotype look very different, as well.
Lachlan 12:34 I have to throw a word of caution out, at this point, as well, because online I’m seeing people talking about the Emma painting, but the image they’re using is not the Emma painting. It’s a later Utah copy of the Emma painting. So, look at the real thing, not a later copy.
GT 12:57 Okay. Oh, that’s interesting. I hadn’t known that. Let’s talk a little bit about provenance. I think that’s probably the hardest thing to do. The first thought that came into my mind, because this was first discovered in 1992, right? We don’t have anything really further back than 1992. That’s kind of the Mark Hofmann era, and Hofmann forgeries are still coming up. There’s an Emily Dickinson poem that was sold in the 1990s that was a Hofmann forgery. Brent Ashworth mentioned that on my previous interview. Is there any way that we can know the provenance before 1992? Or is that just where we are and we’re going to have to be.
Lachlan 13:47 So, even though the locket was first discovered in 1992, he didn’t open it then. I don’t know if that it was 1992, or not.
GT 13:58 Right.
Lachlan 13:59 The watch/locket, yes. The daguerreotype, he didn’t realize what it was until 2020. So, there might be references to it. I think there probably are. Joseph III talks about Joseph, his dad, gave a daguerreotype to Julia, Joseph III’s portrait. But I think he’s likely conflating the two, because it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that Joseph would give his daughter a daguerreotype of the portrait, when he could give her, instead, a daguerreotype of himself. A daguerreotype in a locket is exactly the kind of thing that you would give to your wife or your daughter. They were wildly popular. They were viral, at the time, and you would give them to loved ones to remember you by.
Lachlan 14:50 So, I think that some of Joseph III’s statements are likely to this object, but again, it’s pretty hard to untangle. In the photographs of the women, or in one case, a painting of Emma, I’m pretty confident that’s what they’re seeing. But we can pull out not quite enough detail to know with certainty. So, I’m convinced that the locket that Bertha Madison Smith and Emma J. is wearing, is this watch/locket. I think I can see scrolling that matches along the edge of the locket. I think I can see the shoreline and some of the buildings that match. But I recognize that some people are not going to agree with that. It’s harder to see in the journal than it is to see on a computer screen, that the print process lost some of that detail. But I believe that there are similar details. There is a circa 1844 Emma Sutcliffe Maudsley profile, Emma with Alexander. It’s plate 18 in Stephen Buell’s book on Sutcliffe Maudsley and she is wearing what is either a watch or watch/locket in the pocket of her dress on a ribbon around her neck. It’s interesting to me that she would pick that object to feature in a painting. So, I think it shows up, but I wish we had better sources, and we’re still working on that.
Provenance, Forgery of JS Photo?
GT 16:25 Yeah, well, definitely. I think Ardis Parshall, do you know Ardis?
Lachlan 16:31 I do. Yeah.
GT 16:32 Yeah, she’s a wonderful historian and genealogist in her own right, a very talented amateur. But that’s been her biggest [issue] is provenance. There are pictures of lockets. You mentioned that several times in the journal article. But the idea is she’s like, “Well, it could be any round object.” So, that’s her biggest thing–not that it is or isn’t Joseph. It’s just we can’t be sure. Maybe you could talk about this, with the whole Hofmann saga, the LDS Church got burned pretty hard on that. So, they’re a little bit more cautious on saying this absolutely is Joseph. I mean, is it the same way too? Because you guys got burned, too, by Mark Hofmann, just as bad as the LDS Church.
Lachlan 17:27 Yeah. Let me start by saying, I’m a big fan of Ardis. I love her work. I appreciate the questions she’s asked. I think they’re helpful in moving the process forward. The Church of Jesus Christ had an opportunity to examine the object for several months, relatively early in the process. They also concluded it’s consistent with the mid-1840s. So, it’s tempting to talk about Hofmann, but I don’t think there’s any evidence that this is any kind of forgery. What it could be is, not Joseph. But I’ve not seen any suggestion from somebody who has examined that it is not an 1840s object. Having said that, I appreciate that the Church of Jesus Christ is very careful, because of their experience with Hofmann. My sense is that, because Church leaders came out so strongly in support of some of those documents that turned out to be forgeries, that that was pretty difficult for some members and caused consternation among some. So I understand the very cautious approach.
Lachlan 17:39 Community of Christ, for other reasons, doesn’t take positions on historical matters. We leave that to the historians, not because of Hofmann, because we think that’s the way you do good history, and that historical positions, our interpretations change with new information. So, the church will not take a position on is it or is it not? But, members of our historical community, including our church historians are welcome to take positions and I believe that all [of our historians] believe it is [Joseph Smith.] But again, we’re open to where the sources may lead us. That’s the way the process works.
GT 19:22 Well, and to go in the Hofmann direction a little bit, is this something that could be replicated in the current day? Could a person, such as Mark Hofmann, create a daguerreotype? Mark was notorious for tearing out pages out of old Bibles at the BYU, Utah, Utah State libraries so that when you did carbon dating, it matched to the time period. He was amazing at how well he could do that sort of stuff. He got caught when the aging process caused ink to crack, and that’s kind of what did him in. But I guess my question is, is there somebody very talented that could create a daguerreotype today, put it on 19th century paper and make such a forgery? Are you aware of anything like that?
Lachlan 20:21 Daguerreotypes aren’t on paper. They’re on metal plates. There are people making daguerreotypes today. So, I would guess that somebody could do that, and then would have to figure out how to artificially age it and get it sealed up in an 1840s locket. So, I don’t know anybody with that expertise. But there might well be somebody out there. But I guess in this case, I don’t know why my grandmother would have been involved in that. And Dan, I love him dearly, but he didn’t know how to say daguerreotype when he found this object. But then again, a lot of people I’m hearing talk about it online don’t know how to say it, either. I’m not sure I always say right.
GT 21:12 (Chuckling) So I know that brings up another thing, because you are related to Joseph Smith. Tell us how.
Lachlan 21:24 So I’d be a great-great-great-grandson through Joseph III, Joseph and Emma’s oldest surviving son. He was widowed twice, married three times, having kids in his 70s. One of those sons, the oldest surviving son, is Frederick Madison Smith. He has two daughters. Lois Smith Larsen is one of them. That is my Uncle Dan’s mother, my grandmother. My mom was the only girl in the family.
GT 21:49 Okay. I love that you’ve got you’ve got ties to David O. McKay, Joseph Smith…
Lachlan 21:58 Well, hundreds of years back in Scotland, but not close. [Ties to David O. McKay.]
GT 22:00 (Chuckling) Then, so, Dan Larsen, the son of, what was your grandmother’s [name.]
Lachlan 22:10 Lois.
GT 22:11 Lois. And then there’s a Dean Larson, he was the President of the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Lachlan 22:20 Oh, Fred.
GT 22:21 In Independence.
Lachlan 22:22 Fred.
GT 22:22 Oh, that was Fred.
Lachlan 22:23 Yeah.
GT 22:24 So, how are Fred and Dan related?
Lachlan 22:26 Fred and Dan are brothers, Fred was my uncle.
GT 22:31 Okay, so Fred is your Uncle. Fred was the prophet until just a few years ago when he was in his 90s, when he passed. I know, they kind of had a secession crisis after that. That was kind of interesting. I’ve been trying to get Jim Vun Cannon back on. I haven’t been able to work that out yet. But, there’s all these different ties.
Lachlan 22:51 Dan is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.
GT 22:55 Now, wasn’t he a member of the Community of Christ, before? Is that right?
Lachlan 23:00 He would have been raised RLDS I don’t believe he was active for decades.
GT 23:05 Okay.
Lachlan 23:05 Yeah. So probably never active after the name change [from RLDS to Community of Christ.]
GT 23:12 Okay. So, Dan’s mother died in 1992, and that’s when it became in his possession, pretty much?
Lachlan 23:21 Just before her death, yeah. And an important point is that his family, my grandmother and her husband, who was Danish, Ed Larsen, and all their kids, lived on Fred M’s farm. So, when Fred M. died, the farm passed to grandmother, as did many of his personal effects, so I’m guessing that it passed during that transition, without my grandmother even realizing it, that it was just among his personal effects. I don’t know that, but I think that’s one potential path.
GT 24:02 Okay. Yeah, so it sounds like it has been in the Smith family through Fred M. Smith, who was the son of Joseph Smith III, since 1840, whenever this was made. Does that sound right?
Lachlan 24:19 I think so. Now, I’m not positive that it went from Emma J, who’s the one seen wearing it for 35 or so years to Fred or to her father, Joseph III or my grandmother, Lois. It’s possible that it went to another Smith woman like maybe Inez Smith Davis or maybe Audentia Smith Anderson or prominent Smith women in other family lines, and then made its way to grandmother. I just don’t know for sure.
Reactions to Photo Recognition
GT 24:55 Okay, so what has been the reception since it’s been out for a month or two now, right?
Lachlan 25:03 I think it’s only been a few weeks.
GT 25:06 It seems like forever. I feel like I’m slow on the bandwagon here, talking to you so late here.
Lachlan 25:14 So, the reception, as we expected, was initially, “It’s Joseph,” or “It’s not Joseph,” based on nothing but gut feeling. Depending on how strongly you are imprinted on the oil portrait, which is what most people are imprinted on now. But as people had a chance to start reading the journal article, then I think the discussion got significantly more interesting with people either convinced or asking good questions and suggesting what they thought were problems. That’s been, I think, a lot of fun to try and track down some of those things.
GT 25:52 What are some of the biggest problems that you find that are legitimate questions?
Lachlan 25:58 So, I think Ardis Parshall asked a really good question, early, about, “Well, if the Smith family had this, surely they would have been trumpeting it, using it as a weapon against their cousins in Utah. In the journal article, we talk a little bit about how Emma was very protective of Joseph’s image. She would not allow his oil portrait to be copied. She kept it in her bedroom, so that she could control who saw it. We talked about some other reasons why it might not have been public. After the article was published, and Ardis asked that good question, it struck me that she’s right. The Smith family, in fact, did trumpet it to the world. Or at least they thought they did. So, in 1885 Joseph III is given a daguerreotype of his father, which he had forgotten existed, by Louis Bidamon. He goes on a mission to Utah a few months later. While there, he cuts a deal with Charles W. Carter, to photograph the daguerreotype. Carter then kind of touches it up with ink and starts selling it. Both Joseph III and Carter thought that this was an image of Joseph from life. So, Joseph III thought that he had already given to the world the image of his dad from life. As late as 1947, the graphics people in the Reorganized Church thought that they had, in their collection, images of Joseph and Emma from life that had been, again, released, but [in fact] they were images of the oil portraits.
Lachlan 27:35 So, Ardis is right, that had they had these things, they would have talked about it. It turns out, they did. They just were mistaken on what the image was. So, I guess it doesn’t make sense to me that they would say, “Ah-ha, here’s the second image.” In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t think it was one in the same. Because unless you have them right next to each other, I’m not sure you would pick out the differences, especially if they’re scattered in the family.
GT 28:04 Can you talk a little bit about how you use facial recognition software, to compare the death mask to the daguerreotype? Talk about that process.
Lachlan 28:16 So one of, I think, our strengths is we understand our weaknesses. We understand what we don’t know, and so we fairly quickly started trying to track down a facial recognition company who would have the expertise to do this. Again, it was very difficult because everybody shut down during the pandemic, but also because facial recognition software, the money is not in one-off daguerreotypes. It’s in Defense Department contracts and law enforcement. So, these are huge companies that would not even return our calls or emails. But we finally found one in New Hampshire that had the expertise and the willingness to take this project on. It’s called Anametrics. They guided me to make sure that I got the images that they could use. I had to send in multiple photographs. For example, I was trying to photograph the death mask. I have a copy at home that somebody gave me years ago. So, to make sure that it was a usable image for them, I had to take the image multiple times to get one that would work. It was easier to get a copy of the oil portrait, of course. So, we got them the materials they needed. They ran them and they came back saying that 19 of 21 points were a match, which is a moderate match and in the field of facial [recognition,] apparently, that’s a positive outcome.
GT 29:56 Okay, and that was between the death mask and the daguerreotype?
Lachlan 30:00 Yeah, I think it’s was between all three. I need to go look at the exact quote. But we asked him to look at all three, the death mask, the oil portrait and the daguerreotype.
GT 30:10 Okay. Because we know there were problems with the oil portrait, right?
Lachlan 30:17 Yeah, and that’s probably why they didn’t all match.
GT 30:23 I know you said that this was kind of cutting-edge or like on the borders of what the software can do. Is that right?
Lachlan 30:30 I don’t think that facial recognition is designed to work on art. I think it’s, again, it’s supposed to have multiple photographs of–known photographs of an individual, and then you’re testing one against the multiples. So, I do think that this is kind of on the edge of what facial recognition software can do.
GT 30:52 Well, and I know that there’s been a lot of in the news, especially, they train the software on white faces, and then when they get black faces or Hispanic faces or non-white faces, I’ll just say it that way, it doesn’t work as well.
Lachlin 31:09 Yep.
GT 31:10 Well, I guess the question is, “How reliable is the software?” You said it was a moderate match. So, is there a reasonable doubt–we’ll use that, that logic, that the software got it wrong, that it could be somebody else?
Lachlan 31:30 So, I think without question, it could be somebody else, and here’s how we know that. People have doppelgangers. So, online, somebody fed into software, the portraits of Joseph, and then searched online for matches. And not surprisingly, somebody popped up. Well, that doesn’t mean in any way, shape or form, it’s Joseph. It just means that their facial structure is similar to Joseph’s. I’m sure you’ve experienced, in your life, running into people who look exactly like people you know. So, yeah, that can happen. The facial recognition is one piece of the puzzle. It’s not the key.
Lachlan 32:22 But I also think that people are already running on their own. I’ve seen it online–without permission. They’re running their own analysis. I’ve seen, surely somebody has said [that] it’s not a match, but I’m not talking about people who just look at it. I’m talking about people who have some expertise and are running [software] to see if it’s a match. I don’t think I’ve seen any that are saying it’s not a match. Surely, there’s some out there. But this is something that that will be repeated with people doing it on their own.
GT 33:00 Have there been any other questions or objections that you thought were valid?
Lachlan 33:05 I think there’s some good questions about the shape of the lip, the top lip, compared to the death mask and the DAG. I think we need to keep looking at that. I don’t want to say that other questions are not valid. I just think that that’s the best question I’ve run across, I think, so far. There were some early questions about whether or not Foster the likely daguerreotypist had the equipment in town. I think that they’re not based on any source that we can find at this point. What are the good ones you’ve heard? What are the questions you’ve heard?
GT 33:48 For me, Ardis Parshall, she’s the one who who’s just like, “Oh, provenance, you know? Yeah, there’s a round thing on here. Do we know it’s the same locket? I don’t know.” To me, that’s been the biggest one. Then, I think you’ve answered quite well, it’s probably not Hyrum, because of the sideburns, right?
Lachlan 34:10 And there’s also people that are doing facial analysis that are discovering it’s not Hyrum. I would agree that Ardis has been the most thoughtful that I’ve run across so far. There are a few images of Hyrum that show a big, I’m not sure if it’s a mole. Have you seen some of those?
GT 34:30 I have not.
Lachlan 34:32 So, I’m trying to find sources on that. I don’t see it in the death mask, but it cuts off at some point. It would be helpful if we can establish that.
GT 34:45 Right.
Lachlan 34:45 It’s complicated. Complicating things with the mouth, Andrew Ehat had just mentioned that we know Joseph had at least a chipped tooth from being tarred and feathered. I’m not sure, yet, but that changed the shape of the lip. But then he had it repaired by Alexander Neibaur. I never say that right. Then Janetta Richards on July 8, writes a letter to her family in the UK, I think that’s where they are. Actually, I don’t know where they are. She writes a letter to her family and says that while Joseph was on the ground at Carthage, they hit him in the face. I almost wonder if it’s not with the butt of a gun kind of thing, which could, obviously, do some damage. So, those, I think, complicate trying to make sense of the lips and teeth.
GT 35:41 Okay. Now, going back to the daguerreotype, you said, basically, the image is on like a silver plate. is that right?
Lachlan 35:50 It’s a metal plate. I don’t know that it’s silver. I’ve read that it’s copper. But we’re getting outside of my area of expertise to use, but it’s metal.
GT 35:59 It’s some sort of metal.
Lachlan 36:00 Yeah, and then they use a mercury to kind of set the image. When you look at it, it looks like a mirror. As you move it around, the image appears and disappears.
GT 36:14 Oh, that’s interesting. So, the actual image was on some sort of a metal plate inside this locket, is that right?
Lachlan 36:22 Yes, it’s a 16th plate daguerreotype, cut into a circle to be inserted into the locket. Then, I found in the 1990s, what appears to be the first photograph of Lucy Mack Smith. It’s a carte de visite. A little card photograph on paper, but it’s of an earlier photograph. We thought it was a button, at the time. We now realize it’s a photograph of another Daguerrean locket insert, but not in the locket. And based on a painting of Lucy hanging in the Nauvoo Temple by December ’46, we believe that suggests that this technology is in Nauvoo and used by the Smith family by the mid-1840s. So, yet another piece of evidence that supports the likelihood that this is Joseph.
GT 37:12 Okay, so, this photo was likely taken between 1840-1844, because that’s when he died. It couldn’t have been taken any later than that.
Lachlan 37:20 Yeah. Based on Grant Romer, who’s if not the world’s expert, one of the world’s experts on archaic imaging, he thinks that the image dates to 1843 or later, and the best candidate to have taken it is Lucien Foster, who is in Nauvoo, arrives in Nauvoo, April 27, 1844. He’s here for maybe five weeks, maybe four weeks before he heads out on a mission, a campaign mission. Well, probably five. So, there’s probably five or six weeks where Lucien Foster could have taken it.
GT 37:59 Okay, so he’s the most likely photographer. There’s no way to carbon date metals, right?
Lachlan 38:09 I don’t know the answer to that. There was…
GT 38:13 I’m pretty sure that’s correct.
Lachlan 38:16 There might be some ways to do something like that. But the daguerreotype expert who looked at it for us, when disassembled, believed, based on the back of the plate, that it was consistent with the mid 1840s. It would have been really helpful to have the maker’s mark, but I’m sure if there was one, it got trimmed off when they cut it into a circle.
GT 38:40 Right, because these images are just tiny, right?
Lachlan 38:44 This one is one and a half inches. The locket is one and a half inches. Now, slightly complicating things, people took daguerreotypes of daguerreotypes and repeated the process. So, it’s possible to have an image on an 1850s plate–I’m not suggesting this is, but it would be possible to have an image on an 1850s plate, that originates in the 1840s, if that makes sense.
GT 39:16 Okay, yeah, that does. I’m trying to remember if there are any other questions to ask. I have other questions for you. Is there anything else on that locket that we should bring up?
Lachlan 39:28 I just think it’s fun that they are advertising in The Prophet, a church newspaper in New York City in May of 1844. there are two Daguerreotypists advertising their services, their lessons, their equipment, their supplies, and one of them, in the church newspaper, advertising Daguerrean lockets. So, it’s consistent. These things were available.
GT 39:54 Did they ever make larger images, or was that just too expensive?
Lachlan 40:00 Yeah, they did make larger ones and most of them–and I think another reason this one got overlooked, is most daguerreotypes are in rectangular cases that you open up. So, they’re, I’m going to guess, three by five. I haven’t measured one, but there is a subset of Daguerrean jewelry that most people don’t think about that. They’re focused on the cases. And that’s certainly what I was focused on, growing up in the family, especially once I started getting interested in the daguerreotypes in the 1990s. I thought there was one in the family of Joseph, but I always assumed it would be in one of those cases, not a small piece of jewelry.
GT 40:49 Very cool. All right. Anything else before we move on to something else here? On the photograph?
Lachlan 40:57 I think I’m good.
RLDS Version of Lafferty’s
GT 40:59 Okay. So the other thing that I wanted to talk to you about when you came out here–of course, Under the Banner of Heaven has been well talked about here in Utah, for sure. You guys have your own kind of Under the Banner of Heaven murder mystery.
Lachlan 41:17 There’s no mystery.
GT 41:18 So can you tell us a little bit about that? It’s not much of a mystery, I guess.
Lachlan 41:21 Yeah, it is tragic. [There was] a man by the name of Jeff Lundgren, who, in the 1980s, objected to things like women in the priesthood. He was from a traditional RLDS family, and he decided that he, somehow, could set the church in order single handedly. He ended up moving to Kirtland, Ohio. He was from the Independence, Missouri area. He moved to Kirtland, Ohio with his family to volunteer at the Kirtland Temple. He ended up developing a small cult following and ended up in conflict with then stake president, Dale Luffman. Some of your listeners might know Dale from his book on the Book of Mormon, the Book of Mormon’s Witness to its First Readers. But Jeff ended up being removed from his volunteer position at the Kirtland Temple, and removed from his role in teaching Book of Mormon Sunday school classes in the local congregation.
Lachlan 41:36 He moved off site. I’m going to get the timeline wrong, but, maybe a year or so later, and that he ended up killing a family of five, with the assistance of some of his followers, believing that these people, because of their lack of faith, we’re hindering the return of Christ. So Jeff was expecting…
GT 42:52 These were members of his own group, right?
Lachlan 42:54 These were members of his own group, but they were not living on the farm. The hardcore believers were living on a farm about four miles from the temple with Jeff and his family. These people were not living on the farm. But Jeff and his followers–so he had the help of four or five of the adult men who shot and buried this family, just horrific, horrific. The morning after they did it, police officers descended on the farm, searching for illegal guns. They didn’t find any and ended up leaving. That spooked, of course, Jeff and his followers who were planning on moving into the wilderness anyway, but they hurriedly left town. Then the community soon started coming apart. Jeff started sleeping with the wives of some of the men, taking them at least his own wife, even though he was already married. And not surprisingly, they took exception to that. One of them went to the police. The whole thing came apart. They tracked Jeff and his family down in San Diego and he was later executed in Ohio.
GT 44:09 Yeah, I’ve talked to Bill Russell. He’ll be coming up right after your interview. Bill’s a lawyer. He also taught at Graceland, but he tried to help defend Jeff from the death penalty.
Lachlan 44:23 Yeah, that was hard. I was at the Kirtland Temple for many years. People would ask me about Jeff, and I would explain that if anybody, in my opinion, deserved the death penalty, it’s Jeff. But I don’t know if anybody deserves the death penalty. But what a horrific act he committed, just tragic and heartbreaking.
GT 44:53 Definitely. It seems like, because you actually gave, we don’t give Sunday school classes about Under the Banner of Heaven, but you kind of did here in Salt Lake, and you mentioned–I can’t remember, there were one or two books and one of them had blood atonement in the name, I thought, or something like that.
Lachlan 45:12 Yeah.
GT 45:12 Do you remember what was the name of the book was?
Lachlan 45:14 Yeah, it’s Prophet of Death:, The Mormon Blood-Atonement Murders. That is by Pete Earley. So, as you well know, that when people outside of the Latter-Day Saint movement write about us, they have a real hard time getting things straight, but Pete did a decent job. But, the blood atonement part, that was never part of the reorganization. I’m not quite sure…
GT 45:39 Blood atonement was never part of [the RLDS Church.] Yeah,
Lachlan 45:41 Yeah, I’m not sure how that worked its way into the book.
GT 45:46 Because that was my question was, were these blood atonement killings, or it sounded like he just wanted these people to go away, and he killed them. Is that right?
Lachlan 45:54 He did think that their lack of faithfulness was hindering Christ’s return. So, I don’t think that sounds like blood atonement.
GT 46:06 Wasn’t he more using this as the story of Laban, better that one person should perish than a whole congregation?
Lachlan 46:13 Probably. He’s a huge, huge Book of Mormon fan, although it was going to be 10 of his followers originally that were going to perish. He also had a plan to take over the Kirtland Temple and do in church leaders in the area. Police showed up to talk with him, actually, one of his followers turned him in to the FBI in Buffalo. And the FBI didn’t take it seriously, apparently. But the local Kirtland police chief did. And when he showed up on the farm, that scared Jeff, so he didn’t carry that out.
GT 46:51 Okay, and remind me the name of the family that was killed.
Lachlan 46:55 Averys. Dennis and Cheryl Avery and their three girls.
GT 47:00 Yeah. So, they were the only ones that were killed, and they were buried on the farm?
Lachlan 47:07 They were buried on the farm, yes, in a mass grave.
GT 47:09 Such a terrible story. It seems like Bill had mentioned that Jeff’s justification was the story of Nephi killing Laban. And how he (Bill) thought that was a terrible part that we should even remove that from the Book of Mormon. I know Bill’s a little bit of a heretic, I think there, but I’m curious what you would think about that as well.
Lachlan 47:31 Bill knows the story much better than I. Most of what I know about it, I’ve learned from Bill. So, if that’s Bill’s take, I think I’d agree with him. I think the story of Laban is problematic. The reason we talked about it in Sunday school is we, not directly in response to Lundgren, but to have systems in place, now, to try and equip our members to ensure that something like that doesn’t happen again, the way that they process things. We look at revelation through multiple lenses. Jeff wouldn’t have passed the test. But he was extraordinarily gifted at using scripture, particularly the Book of Mormon and chiasms, and would use that to manipulate followers. I think we also hope that members might be scripturally literate enough to not quickly fall for something like that again.
GT 48:40 I mean, is that something you think can be prevented? Because I know in the LDS Church we have lots of breakoff groups, usually polygamists. And oh by the way, it sounds like Jeff embraced polygamy, which seems kind of odd because for all these years, the RLDS denied Joseph practiced polygamy. So, it’s weird that he would embrace that.
Lachlan 48:57 Well, most of what Lundgren embraced had nothing to do with RLDS-ism. So yes, I do think he embraced polygamy. So, can you prevent it ever happening? Probably not. But can you equip members with the tools to minimize the chance that will happen? I think so. And at least I feel like we need to try.
GT 49:23 So the Temple Lot Church had a mentally ill member that that burned down the church. So, I think these are the kinds of things that happen in every congregation. I love that you guys are trying to prevent this, because this is the kind of thing–LDS has a lot of break-offs, but I guess you guys kind of do too with the restoration branches. But can you talk a little bit more about the Temple Lot fire in about 1990?
Lachlan 49:53 Well, I was pretty young at the time, but I believe that the young person was joining maybe multiple congregations with the idea that he could reunite them. I know that he was mentally unwell. But beyond that, I don’t think I can remember the details. Yeah, I don’t remember beyond that.
GT 50:24 Okay. Well, I love that you guys are at least trying to minimize the damage that these sorts of people can do. What advice do you have for us to try to minimize that damage?
Lachlan 50:40 Well, I don’t know that I feel comfortable giving advice to you on that. But let me say that I do think that because we believe in continuing revelation, we are more vulnerable to those kinds of people. I think by simply recognizing that, that’s an important first step that allows us to be a little more cautious when somebody stands up and says, “God told me to” fill in the blank.
GT 51:13 Yeah, my favorite thing, Lindsay Hansen Park, I think you know Lindsay, yeah, she’s the executive director of Sunstone. She’s like, “Oh, I know so many prophets. They’re a dime a dozen.” And that is something pretty unique to Mormonism in general. You know, anybody can become a prophet I guess, right?
Lachlan 51:37 Apparently.
GT 51:41 I’m reminded that Steve Shields said that every prophet is a self-proclaimed prophet, even Joseph Smith. (Chuckling) Yeah, I love that you guys are trying to do that. I think we probably should worry about those extremists a little bit more, too. All right, well, is there anything else we need to talk about, Lach?
Lachlan 52:09 Certainly, but I don’t know what it is.
GT 52:13 I will just add one more memory of something that you said, hopefully this is okay, and if it’s not, I’ll cut it out. But when you were showing me and Steve the graves for Emma, Joseph and Hyrum, because they’re right next to each other, I think you said that they think they got Hyrum and Joseph mixed up when they buried them. Is that right?
Lachlan 52:34 Yeah. Ron Romig and I, as well as Henry Inouye, said that in, probably in the 1990s. We’ve had some pushback, but I’m pretty confident that they misidentified them. They identified Hyrum, based on a bullet hole. But what they thought was the bullet hole was on the wrong side of the nose. The other set of remains, and I apologize this is little graphic, but nothing survived from the chin to the eyebrow ridge. We concluded that was likely damage from the impact of the musket ball. So, I believe that we have Hyrum in the middle, marked as Joseph, Joseph on one side marked as Hyrum and Emma on the other side, next to Hyrum. Emma and Hyrum were dear friends. I’m sure they’re okay with it.
GT 53:27 So, Emma got over it when Hyrum brought the polygamy revelation and she supposedly threw it in the fire?
Lachlan 53:37 I think those are two different events. I think the throwing in the fire is later, versus what she did immediately. But what Hyrum said is, “I’ve never had a worse talking to in all my life.” There’s some confusion about whether it’s Emma putting it in the fire or Joseph putting it in the fire at Emma’s request. It’s complicated, like so much of our story.
GT 54:02 All right, well, yeah, that was a fun little story I remember. I wanted to share, there. Well, I’ve run out of questions. I don’t know what else we can ask you about the Joseph Smith daguerreotype. I do have an upcoming interview with Bill Russell, so, we can talk a little bit more about Jeff Lundgren, too. I just want to thank you, once again, Lach Mackay for being here on Gospel Tangents.
Lachlan 54:27 It’s great to be with you, Rick. I appreciate it.
GT 54:30 Thanks.
Check out our other interviews with Lach Mackay & John Hamer.
MacKay & Hamer – Community of Christ Perspective
John Hamer was ordained to the First Quorum of Seventy in October 2017. Lachlan MacKay is an apostle for the Community of Christ
120: Start of RLDS Church & Mormon Schisms Tour
119: Surprising Word of Wisdom Insights from an Apostle
118: Mormon Followers of the Prophet James Strang
117: Alice Cooper’s Roots in Lively Mormon Schisms
116: Different Succession Claims: Other Mormon Groups
115: Strange Kirtland Temple Ownership Problems
114: Comparing LDS & RLDS Temple Worship
113: A Seventy & Apostle discuss myths & Kirtland Temple
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 56:03 — 51.5MB) | Embed
Subscribe: Google Podcasts | Email | | More