affidavit on the matter in the Susquehanna Register. In the affidavit, Isaac Hale summed up the Book of Mormon. Sometimes one's relatives can say it best:

"I conscientiously believe from the facts I have detailed, and from many other circumstances, which I do not deem it necessary to relate, that the whole 'Book of Mormon' (so called) is a silly fabrication of falsehood and wickedness, got up for speculation, and with a design to dupe the credulous and unwary—and in order that its fabricators may live upon the spoils of those who swallow the deception. ISAAC HALE." (Isaac Hale affidavit, Susquehanna Register, Montrose, PA, May 1, 1834).

The last writings of B. H. Roberts, who was a member of the Mormon "church's" First Council of the Seventy, also paint the Book of Mormon as a scam. Towards the end of his life Roberts became disillusioned with Mormonism. Regarded by Mormons as a top scholar, Robert's six-volume Comprehensive History of the Church is still used today. Roberts concluded that the "Nephites" and other protagonists in the Book of Mormon were most likely not actual historical personages, but were the inventions of Joe Smith's mind, and were from plagiarized sources (B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, University of Illinois Press, 1985, p. 250, 271).

Even Joe Smith's own mother acknowledged that he was a talented storyteller, fully capable of inventing a detailed history of a make-believe civilization. She wrote:

"During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and their animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly as if he had spend his whole life with them." (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, 1954 ed., p. 83).

Some of the first people to hear of Joe Smith's golden plates story remember Smith's telling of a bloody Spaniard ghost who guarded the plates (Marquardt and Walters, pp. 92, 94). After Fayette Lapham visited the Smith family with a friend in 1830, he reported Smith's dream of a blood-spurting ghost who guarded the plates. The tale was similar to the pirates' tales Joe Smith and his family relished:

"He [Joseph] 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. He then said to him, that he would have to get a certain coverlid, which he described, and an old-fashioned suit of clothes, of the same color, and a napkin to put the treasure in . . . when he had obtained it, he must not lay it down until he placed it in the napkin. . . ." (Historical Magazine 7, May 1870, 306-307).

Smith's early story of the plates, as related by those who heard it, had more in common with Halloween tales of hobgoblins and blood spurting ghosts than it did with anything "holy" or "Godly." When Smith first told the story, he had not learned to smooth out the rough edges. Hiel and Joseph Lewis, cousins of Smith's wife, recalled Smith's learning of the plates from a man who had his "throat cut from ear to ear, and the blood streaming down":

"He [Joe Smith] 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, which he must get and translate, and write a book; that the plates were to be kept concealed from every human being for a certain time, some two or three years; that he went to the place and dug till he came to the stone that covered the box, when he was knocked down; that he again attempted to remove the stone, and was again knocked down; this attempt was made the third time, and the third time he was knocked down. "Then he exclaimed, "Why can't I get it?" or words to that effect; and 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. And when Smith saw Miss Emma Hale, he knew that she was the person, and that after they were married, she went with him to near the place, and stood with her back toward him, while he dug up the box, which he rolled up in his frock" (Amboy Journal, Amboy, Illinois, 24, 30 Apr. 1879).

Joe Smith occasionally did some work for the Saunders family. When he told his tale to Benjamin Saunders, though, the guardian of the plates was an amphibian who transformed into a man:

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"I heard Joe tell my Mother and Sister how he procured the plates. He said he was directed by an angel where it was. He went in the night to get the plates. When he took the plates there was something down near the box that looked some like a toad that rose up into a man which forbid him to take the plates. . . . He told his story just as earnestly as any one could. He seemed to believe all he said" (Benjamin Saunders interview, Sept. 1884, 30, fd 44, box 2, pp. 22-23, "Miscellany 1795-1948," RLDS library-archives).

In an 1833 affidavit, Willard Chase corroborated the appearance of the amphibian: "He [Joe Smith] saw in the box something like a toad, which soon assumed the appearance of a man, and struck him on the side of his head" (Howe, p. 242).

In books on the occult, the toad is associated with Satanism, witchcraft and sorcery (Henry Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, London, Gregory, 1635, p. 472; Barrett, Magus, I:46).

Smith also became confused about whether he was visited by Moroni or Nephi. From 1835 to 1838 the Mormon leaders taught that "Moroni" visited Smith (Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?, Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1987, p. 137).

In 1842, though, when Joe Smith published his history in the Times and Seasons, he had changed his mind. He had decided that the messenger was "Nephi" instead of "Moroni." The first edition of the Pearl of Great Price also gave the messenger's name as "Nephi,"

"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 Nephi." (Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, vol. 3, April 15, 1842, p. 753; Joseph Smith, Pearl of Great Price, Liverpool, Eng., F. D. Richards, 1851, p. 41).

Later, when Mormon officials became embarrassed by Smith's discrepancy, they changed both the History of the Church and the Pearl of Great Price to read "Moroni." (Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism, Magic and Masonry, 2nd ed., Utah Lighthouse Ministry, Salt Lake City, 1988, p. 40).

As neighbor Parley Chase noted about Smith's golden plates story, "In regard to their Gold Bible speculation, they scarcely ever told two stories alike" (Howe, p. 248).

Just as he told inconsistent accounts of Moroni, he also told conflicting accounts of his first meeting with "God" and "Jesus." Former BYU history professor D. Michael Quinn notes that Joe Smith's early narratives of the first vision were less than satisfying: "'the 16th year of my age,' 'I was about 14 years old,' and 'my fifteenth year.' Smith even required Cowdery to change his age at the first vision from '15th year' to '17th' in the first published history" (Quinn, p. 141).

In 1977, Richard P. Howard, historian for the RLDS Church, acknowledged Smith's lack of credibility with the First Vision:

"One thing does seem certain: we cannot be certain about the First Vision. We cannot know that it occurred or, if it occurred, when or what Joseph experienced. . . . Neither Joseph Smith nor any other Latter Day Saint analyst has satisfactorily accounted for the discrepancies among the accounts on the point of the number and identity of the personage (s) appearing to him in the First Vision" ("An Analysis of Six Contemporary Accounts Touching Joseph Smith's First Vision," Restoration Studies I: Sesquicentennial Edition, p. 112).

The Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were offshoots and natural progressions of Smith's involvement with peepstones, money digging, Freemasonry, astrology, fortune telling, water witching, a Jupiter talisman, magic parchments, a ceremonial dagger, talking toads, magic circles of black lamb's and black dog's blood, hemlock juice, necromancy, blood spurting ghosts, wizardry, demonic possession, etc. The demon Moroni has its antecedent in occult books about ghosts who were thought to guard buried treasure. To Joe Smith, these enchantments needed to be broken. Appeasement through blood sacrifice to Satan was Joe Smith's method of choice to break the enchantment and to get at the treasure.

Smith's father influenced this belief. The newspaper Palmyra Reflector noted that Joe Smith's father "evinced a firm belief in the existence of hidden treasure, 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 of some EVIL spirit, which was supposed to be either the Devil himself, or some one of his most trusty favorites" (Palmyra Reflector, as cited in A Witness For Christ in America, vol. 2, pp. 68-69).

William Stafford, who lived about a mile and a half from the Smiths, corroborated Joe Smith Jr.'s blood sacrifices to Satan:

"Old Joseph and one of the boys came to me one day, and said that Joseph Jr. had discovered some very remarkable and valuable treasures, which could be procured only in one way. That way, was as follows: - That a black sheep should be taken to the ground where the treasures were concealed - that after cutting its throat, it should be led around in a circle while bleeding. This being done, the wrath of the evil spirit would be appeased: the treasures could then be obtained, and my share of them was to be four fold. To gratify my curiosity, I let them have a large fat sheep. They afterwards informed me, that the sheep was killed pursuant to commandment; but as there was some mistake in the process, it did not have the desired effect. This, I believe, is the only time they ever made money-digging a profitable business" (Howe, pp. 238-239; also reproduced in Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996, vol. 2, pp. 59-61).

BYU Professor M. Wilford Poulson noted Wallace Miner's saying, "I once asked Stafford if Smith did steal a sheep from him. He said no, not exactly. He said, he did miss a black sheep, but soon Joseph came and admitted he took it for sacrifice but he was willing to work for it. He made wooden sap buckets to fully pay for it" (Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1970, p. 249)

C. R. Stafford testified about the same incident: "Jo Smith, the prophet, told my uncle, William Stafford, he wanted a fat, black sheep. He said he wanted to cut its throat and make it walk in a circle three times around and it would prevent a pot of money from leaving" (Naked Truths About Mormonism, January 1888, page 3; also in Vogel, vol. 2, p. 197)

 To the right is a graphic of the actual dagger Joe Smith used for animal sacrifices to Satan. The Smith family dagger was listed in the inventory of Hyrum Smith's "relics." An authorized biography of Hyrum Smith described the artifact as "Dagger, Masonic [—] ten inch, stainless steel—wooden handle—Masonic symbols on blade" (Pearson Corbett, Hyrum Smith, Patriarch, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1963, p. 453). Slides of the dagger were screened at the Sunstone Theological Symposium, August 24, 1985, Salt Lake City, Utah. Symbols on the blade are not "Masonic," but they are used in ceremonial magic. One side of the blade has the seal of Mars