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Raiders of the Lost Mormon Cave (Part 1 of 6)

We’re continuing our archaeological excavations of Joseph Smith Senior, this time in New York.  I’m excited to introduce KC Kern and Greg Pavone, a couple of accidental archaeologists.  We’ll find out how a Church history vacation turned into an archaeological expedition in search of the Mormon Cave!

Greg:  Of course, that brought us to Palmyra, New York. In Palmyra, one of the authors that we were reading his material, was Dan Vogel. He had done a lot of research on Joseph Smith’s early dig sites. So, we started reading this and we were wondering, hmm, I wonder if we can find some of these some of these locations.

KC:  Yeah, this article, it was a Dialogue article, I think, from 1994. He actually had maps in it and stuff.  The land plots aren’t that big, relatively speaking, and so it was like, well, we can at least make an effort to try to see where this could have been.

Greg:  So, in addition to the main [places] like the Smith farm and the Sacred Grove and the temple, I think one day, we were just reading and saying, “Hey, this looks like it’s about here.” It was right behind where the current temple is, to a local house. We said, “Hey, we’re going to have to go. Let’s knock on the door.” Let’s knock on the door, essentially, and see if he’ll let us look around.

KC:  There was a description of a hill. In the article, it was called Old Sharp, so we’re just like, “Okay, we got to find Old Sharp Hill.” We could kind of see there was a temple, and there was a residential house and it looked like the hill was somewhere in between. We just [thought,] “Well, how do we get there?”  There didn’t seem to be an access road or anything, so we were just like, “Yeah, let’s just go ring the doorbell and see if we can get some directions.”

Greg: It was a little intimidating, at first. He kind of came across as an old crotchety gentleman. I was a little intimidated. But he let us in, and he ended up being very friendly.

KC:  I should add that when we knocked on the door, he didn’t come to the door. He just yelled from the back and said, “Come in.” So, we just kind of start stepping into a stranger’s house.  We still couldn’t see his face. He was sitting in his chair with the newspaper and he kind of looked over it. We said, “Hey, we’re doing a little research.  We’re looking for this hill called Old Sharp.”  Then, he kind of looks up and he’s like, “Are you two Mormon?”

“Yes, we’re trying to follow the trail of Joseph Smith here.”

Then, he was quite a character. I said, “We’re looking for Old Sharp.”

He’s like, “I’ll tell you one thing, Joe Smith was digging back in those hills.”

Greg:  He actually ended up [being nice.] That hill we were on was Old Sharp, which is his property, and that Joseph Smith had dug on his property. He said, “I can prove it to you.”  We went out back and there were, indeed, impressions in the ground. Next to the impressions, there were large piles of dirt. He claimed those were dug by Joseph Smith.

Check out our conversation….

Greg Pavone & KC Kern talk about a sight-seeing trip in which they learned about the Lost Mormon Cave in New York.

If you missed our previous conversations with Dr. Mark Staker, don’t miss those discussions of his digging in Vermont.

537: Staker Weighs in on First Vision

536: Lucy’s Dreams, Joseph’s Rational Religion

535: Smith Farmers Were Spiritual, Not Religious

534: When Joseph Met Lucy

533: Smith Family Farm in Vermont

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*Staker Weighs in on First Vision (Part 5 of 5)

In a previous conversation with historian Dan Vogel, he indicated visions of Jesus were common among Methodists in Joseph Smith’s day and questioned why a Methodist minister would object to Joseph’s account of a vision.  I asked Dr. Mark Staker to weigh in on that issue, and Mark tells why he thinks a minister may have been upset.  BUt to hear this conversation, you need to be signed up for our newsletter at .

Mark:  Joseph goes to the woods and he begins to pray. What happens? Power falls on him. He says, “an unseen power comes to me that binds my tongue so I can’t speak.”  [This is] exactly what the ministers are telling him is going to happen, happens. And what does he do? He prays that God will release him from this power, and no sooner does he pray asking God to release him from this power, that he sees a light. Then he sees the Father. The Father introduces the Son to him, and tells him, “This is my beloved Son, hear him.” Well, the difference between Joseph and all those Methodists who had exactly that same experience was Joseph recognized that power was not what he wanted. It was not of God, and no sooner did he recognize that and asked to be delivered from that, that he has an experience, unlike any experience that anybody else has had. That’s what makes him different than everybody else.

Mark:  Imagine when he goes back and tells a Methodist minister, “I went out, began to pray, and you know that power you told me was going to fall on me, that’s the devil.” Is that Methodist minister going to like that? No, naturally he’s going to condemn that, because that’s critical of everything he’s been teaching people and telling him to go out and experience. Imagine that he then says, “And then God, the Father, and Jesus Christ came and appeared to me.”  That’s going to contradict all these others who’ve been saying that we don’t have visions like that these days. So, both of those extremes, Joseph’s experience counters, and contradicts, and that everybody is not going to like him, when he begins telling about those details, which is why he waits for so many years to do so because the initial experience was so negative.

GT:  So, you would agree with Steven Harper that it was a Methodist minister that condemned him?

Mark:  That’s the minister that he would know. That’s the one that he would go to, and we know some of those ministers that were in the area that spring in 1820 that he could possibly have gone to.

What do you think of this scenario?  Check out our conversation….

Was the First VIsion in 1820, 1823, or some other year?

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Mark!

36: Lucy’s Dreams, Joseph’s Rational Religion

535: Smith Farmers Were Spiritual, Not Religious

534: When Joseph Met Lucy

533: Smith Family Farm in Vermont

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Did Methodist Minister Scold Young Joseph?

As we mentioned in a previous conversation with Dan Vogel, Joseph Smith’s First Vision was quite similar to Methodist visions of Christ of the day.  Dan says it doesn’t make sense for a Methodist minister to question Joseph’s vision.  I asked Dr. Steven Harper, author of “First Vision: Memory and Mormon Origins” to weigh in on this issue.

GT:  I wonder about this other issue. Methodists were known for having visions, so, it seems a little strange that a Methodist minister would reject Joseph.  Could it have been a Presbyterian minister, because they weren’t as into ecstatic religious experiences, were they?

Steven:  You’re right about that, but it’s probably a Methodist minister. I don’t think Joseph is mistaken about that. Let me give you a potential interpretation of the facts that make sense. So, right now you’re feeling like there’s incongruity in Joseph’s story. If he had reported a vision…

GT:  I’m trying to give Dan’s view.

Steven:  Right. That’s what he’s saying, exactly.

Steven:  Joseph is not attuned to the fine points of debate, even inside the Methodist clergy. He doesn’t know, as a later author put it, that orthodoxy became Methodized, and then Methodism became orthodox. In other words, he’s not aware of what the Methodist ministers are aware of. That means that he thinks that going into the woods and having a vision is evidence of a Methodist conversion.  It finally worked. The Methodists told me that might work. It was a Methodist minister, who said, “If you lack wisdom, ask God. I did everything they said, and I tried it and tried it before and it never worked, and, finally, it worked.” So, Joseph’s initial interpretation of his experience is, “I have now a Methodist conversion.” What you do in that case, is you report it to the Minister. You get validated. He’s shocked when he gets anything but validated, and so that’s the point, right? You’re saying, “Well, wouldn’t a Methodist minister say, ‘Yeah, that was a great vision you had.'”  Not necessarily.

Steven: Right.  Think about reasons why that might not be the default response. This Methodist minister may be aware that Methodism is trending toward enthusiasm, which is not a positive term in those days. That means to be crazy, or it’s beginning to be [thought of as being crazy.]”  There are some in the Methodist ministry, who are trying to pull back from that over-enthusiastic response.  Lorenzo Dow is still going, and he’s still working people into frenzy, but some of the Methodist clergy are saying, “Oh, that’s just a little too weird for me.” It’s also the case that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, has prophesied, “Look. We’re going to grow like gangbusters, and the risk we run is becoming formalists.” We might grow exponentially and get to a point where we’re like everybody else where we speak of God with our mouths, but we deny the power thereof. We have a form of godliness, but we deny His power. “Don’t ever do that,” John Wesley says. So let’s say you’re a Methodist minister, and you’ve been influential in getting this feeling among the people that they can come to Christ. It’s all good until you see maybe some people getting a little excessive for your comfort level, maybe going a little too far. Then one of them comes to you and says, “Guess what? It worked. I saw God and Christ in the woods, and guess what they said? Everybody here, including you, sir, have a form of godliness, but you deny the power, thereof.” That’s the cue for the Methodist minister to say, “[No.]”

Were you aware that Methodists of the day had visions of Christ?  Did a Methodist minister scold Joseph about his vision? Check out our conversation….

Did a Methodist Minister really scold young Joseph Smith about the First Vision?

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Steve!

515: Were Revivals in Palmyra in 1820?

514: Memory Problems with First Vision