Questions and Answers, 8 May 1838

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

In obedience to our promise, we give the following answers to questions, which were asked in the last number of the Journal.
Question 1st. Do you believe the b[i]ble?
Answer. If we do, we are the only people under heaven that does. For there are none of the religious sects of the day that do.
Question 2nd. Wherein do you differ from other sects?
Answer. Because we believe the bible, and all other sects profess to believe their interpretations of the bible, and their creeds.
Question 3rd. Will every body be damned but Mormons?
Answer. Yes, and a great portion of them, unless they repent and work righteousness.
Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon?
Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the , from whence the book of Mormon [p. 42] was translated, in a hill in , Ontario County New York, being dead, and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them, and the with them; by the means of which, I translated the ; and thus came the book of Mormon.
Question 5th. Do you believe Joseph Smith Jr. to be a prophet?
Answer. Yes, and every other man who has the testimony of Jesus. “For the testimony of Jesus, is the spirit of prophecy.”— Rev. 19:10.
Question 6th. Do the Mormons believe in having all things common?
Answer. No.
Question 7th. Do the Mormons believe in having more wives than one.
Answer. No, not at the same time. But they believe, that if their companion dies, they have a right to marry again. But we do disapprove of the custom which has gained in the world, and has been practised among us, to our great mortification, of marrying in five or six weeks, or even in two or three months after the death of their companion.
We believe that due respect ought to be had, to the memory of the dead, and the feelings of both friends and children.
Question 8th. Can they raise the dead.
Answer. No, nor any other people that now lives or ever did live. But God can raise the dead through man, as an instrument.
Question 9th. What signs do Jo Smith give of his divine mission.
Answer. The signs which God is pleased to let him give: according as his wisdom thinks best: in order that he may judge the world agreably to his own plan.
Question 10. Was not Jo Smith a money digger.
Answer. Yes, but it was never a very profitable job to him, as he only got fourteen dollars a month for it.
Question 11th. Did not Jo Smith steal his .
Answer. Ask her; she was of age, she can answer for herself.
Question 12th. Do the people have to give up their money, when they join his church.
Answer. No other requirement than to bear their proportion of the expenses of the church, and support the poor.
Question 13th. Are the Mormons abolitionists.
Answer. No, unless delivering the people from , and the priests from the prower of satan, should be considered such.— But we do not believe in setting the Negroes free.
Question 14th. Do they not stir up the Indians to war and to commit depredations.
Answer. No, and those who reported the story, knew it was false when they put it into circulation. These and similar reports, are pawned upon the people by the priests, and this is the reason why we ever thought of answering them.
Question 15th. Do the Mormons in the name of Jo Smith.
Answer. No, but if they did, it would be as valid as the baptism administered by the sectarian priests.
Question 16th. If the Mormon doctrine is true what has become of all those who have died since the days of the apostles.
Answer. All those who have not had an opportunity of hearing the gospel, and being administered to by an inspired man in the flesh, must have it hereafter, before they can be finally judged.
Question 17th. Does not Jo Smith profess to be Jesus Christ.
Answer. No, but he professes to be his brother, as all other saints have done, and now do.— Matthew, 12:49, 50— And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples and said, Behold my mother and my brethren: For whosoever shall do the will of my father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Question 18th. Is there any thing in the Bible which lisences you to believe in revelation now a days.
Answer. Is there any thing that does not authorize us to believe so; if there is, we have, as yet, not been able to find it.
Question 19th. Is not the cannon of the Scriptures full. [p. 43]
Answer. If it is, there is a great defect in the book, or else it would have said so.
Question 20th. What are the fundamental principles of your religion.
Answer. The fundamental principles of our religion is the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, “that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended up into heaven;” and all other things are only appendages to these, which pertain to our religion.
But in connection with these, we believe in the , the power of faith, the enjoyment of the spiritual gifts according to the will of God, the restoration of the house of Israel, and the final triumph of truth. [p. 44]


  1. 1

    See Travel Account and Questions, Nov. 1837.  

  2. 2

    In the antebellum United States, many Americans believed that creeds, or statements of official denominational belief, constricted rather than illuminated interpretation of the Bible. JS employed anticreedal rhetoric in an 1835 letter to Latter-day Saint elders, arguing that creeds impeded true understanding of scripture. Around the time that JS prepared the answers featured here, he described in his history the confusion he experienced as a teenager because “the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passage of Scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.” JS recalled that after praying for guidance, he received a visitation from God the Father and Jesus Christ in 1820, during which Christ stated that the creeds of contemporary churches “were an abomination in his sight.” (Hatch, Democratization of American Christianity, 81, 169, 215; Letter to the Elders of the Church, 30 Nov.–1 Dec. 1835; JS History, vol. A-1, 2–3; see also Welch, “All Their Creeds Were an Abomination,” 228–249.)  

    Hatch, Nathan O. The Democratization of American Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.

    Welch, John W. “‘All Their Creeds Were an Abomination’: A Brief Look at Creeds as Part of the Apostasy.” In Prelude to the Restoration: From Apostasy to the Restored Church: The 33rd Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, 228–249. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004.

  3. 3

    In November 1831, JS dictated a revelation declaring that “this Church . . . [is] the only true & living Church upon the face of the whole Earth with which I the Lord am well pleased.” Baptism by the proper authority was required for membership in the church. The Book of Mormon also used the phrase “repent and work righteousness” to refer to those who entered into the “high priesthood.” (Revelation, 1 Nov. 1831–B [D&C 1:30]; Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 259 [Alma 13:10].)  

  4. 4

    JS recounted that Moroni, the last prophet to write in the Book of Mormon, visited JS on the night of 21–22 September 1823. Moroni summarized the plates’ contents and provided instructions regarding where to locate them. After visiting the location annually for four years, JS obtained the plates on 22 September 1827. (JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 4–5; JS History, 1834–1836, 62, 78–79; Revelation, ca. Aug. 1835 [D&C 27:5].)  

  5. 5

    The Book of Mormon describes revelatory stones, or “interpreters,” that could be used to “translate all records that are of ancient date.”a JS recounted finding such instruments with the plates and using them to translate the record on the plates into English.b Extant documents suggest that the biblical term Urim and Thummim was first applied to the interpreters by William W. Phelps in 1833 and that JS adopted the term thereafter.c JS also used other seer stones to translate the plates.d After 1833, JS at times referred to seer stones as Urim and Thummim.e  

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Historian’s Office. Brigham Young History Drafts, 1856–1858. CHL. CR 100 475, box 1, fd. 5.

    (aBook of Mormon, 1830 ed., 172–173 [Mosiah 8:13].b“Urim and Thummim,” in the glossary.c“The Book of Mormon,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Jan. 1833, [2]; Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:21; “Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon;”; JS, Journal, 9–11 Nov. 1835.dSee “Urim and Thummim,” in the glossary.eWoodruff, Journal, 27 Dec. 1841; Historian’s Office, Brigham Young History Drafts, 60.)
  6. 6

    “All things common” is a phrase in the Bible and the Book of Mormon that refers to communal arrangements among early Christians. Allegations frequently arose in the 1830s that the church’s financial program constituted a “common stock” organization, in which property was owned jointly. Church members repeatedly denied this claim. (Acts 2:44; 4:32; Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 514 [4 Nephi 1:3]; JS, Journal, 30 Oct. 1835; JS History, vol. A-1, 93.)  

  7. 7

    The question about plural marriage may have derived from rumors of an early plural marriage. However, monogamous marriage was still the general church rule and practice. (Historical Introduction to Letter from Thomas B. Marsh, 15 Feb. 1838; Statement on Marriage, ca. Aug. 1835.)  

  8. 8

    The 1835 “Statement on Marriage” indicated that “in case of death,” the surviving spouse was “at liberty to marry again.” (Statement on Marriage, ca. Aug. 1835.)  

  9. 9

    In nineteenth-century America, relatives were expected to mourn for set periods of time after the death of a spouse, parent, or child; the length of mourning varied depending on a relative’s age, gender, class, region, and relationship to the deceased individual. (Faust, This Republic of Suffering, 148; Hall, Social Customs, 255–264.)  

    Faust, Drew Gilpin. This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. New York: Knopf, 2008.

    Hall, Florence Howe. Social Customs. Boston: Dana Estes, 1887.

  10. 10

    Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon state that disciples of Christ are empowered to raise the dead. Early Latter-day Saints believed that raising the dead was among the spiritual gifts that were restored in the last days. When Brigham Young was ordained an apostle in 1835, for example, his ordination blessing indicated that “the Holy Priesthood [was] confirmed upon [him], that he may do wonders in the name of Jesus,” including “rais[ing] the dead.” (Minutes, Discourse, and Blessings, 14–15 Feb. 1835; see also Matthew 10:8; Luke 7:22; John chap. 11; Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 493, 514 [3 Nephi 19:4; 4 Nephi 1:5]; and Bowman, “Raising the Dead,” 79–83.)  

    Bowman, Matthew. “Raising the Dead: Mormons, Evangelicals, and Miracles in America.” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 27 (2007): 75–97.

  11. 11

    Several of JS’s contemporaries recounted his participation in treasure-seeking activities in the 1820s in locations ranging from the area of Manchester, New York, to the area of Harmony, Pennsylvania. (Trial Proceedings, Bainbridge, NY, 20 Mar. 1826, State of New York v. JS [J.P. Ct. 1826], in “The Original Prophet,” Fraser’s Magazine, Feb. 1873, 229–230; “A Document Discovered,” Utah Christian Advocate, Jan. 1886, 1; see also JS History, vol. A-1, 7–8; Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 48–52; and Vogel, “Locations of Joseph Smith’s Early Treasure Quests,” 197–231.)  

    “The Original Prophet. By a Visitor to Salt Lake City.” Fraser’s Magazine 7, no. 28 (Feb. 1873): 225–235.

    Bushman, Richard Lyman. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. With the assistance of Jed Woodworth. New York: Knopf, 2005.

    Vogel, Dan. “The Locations of Joseph Smith’s Early Treasure Quests.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27, no. 3 (Fall 1994): 197–231.

  12. 12

    JS was probably referring to his employment with Josiah Stowell in 1825, which involved searching for a rumored Spanish silver mine in Harmony, Pennsylvania. JS’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, recalled that Stowell sought out JS because “he was in possession of certain means, by which he could discern things, that could not be seen by the natural eye.” These “means” included seer stones. JS’s monthly wage of fourteen dollars was comparable to that of contemporary unskilled adult male laborers in the Harmony area, who earned about fifty cents a day. (JS History, vol. A-1, 7–8; Agreement of Josiah Stowell and Others, 1 Nov. 1825; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 95; Staker and Jensen, “David Hale’s Store Ledger,” 104.)  

    Staker, Mark L., and Robin Scott Jensen. “David Hale’s Store Ledger: New Details about Joseph and Emma Smith, the Hale Family, and the Book of Mormon.” BYU Studies 53, no. 3 (2014): 77–112.

  13. 13

    Emma Hale was twenty-two years old when she married JS in South Bainbridge (later Afton), New York, on 18 January 1827. Because her father, Isaac Hale, opposed the union, the claim arose that JS “stole” Emma. She stated in a February 1879 interview with her son Joseph Smith III, “I had no intention of marrying when I left home; but, during my visit at Mr. Stowell’s, your father visited me there. My folks were bitterly opposed to him; and, being importuned by your father, aided by Mr. Stowell, who urged me to marry him, and preferring to marry him to any other man I knew, I consented. We went to Squire [Zachariah] Tarbell’s and were married.” (Isaac Hale, Affidavit, Harmony, PA, 20 Mar. 1834, in “Mormonism,” Susquehanna Register, and Northern Pennsylvanian [Montrose, PA], 1 May 1834, [1]; Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, 289.)  

    Susquehanna Register, and Northern Pennsylvanian. Montrose, PA. 1831–1836.

    Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

  14. 14

    In February 1831, a JS revelation outlined the “Laws of the Church of Christ,” which included the principle of consecration, or donation, of personal and real property to the church. Latter-day Saints who consecrated their property were to receive a stewardship over property that met their needs. Consecrated property was intended to be used to support church financial programs and “to administer to the poor and needy.” (Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:34]; see also Cook, Joseph Smith and the Law of Consecration, 29–42.)  

    Cook, Lyndon W. Joseph Smith and the Law of Consecration. Provo, UT: Grandin Book, 1985.

  15. 15

    See “Priestcraft,” in American Dictionary.  

    An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to Exhibit, I. the Origin, Affinities and Primary Signification of English Words, as far as They Have Been Ascertained. . . . Edited by Noah Webster. New York: S. Converse, 1828.

  16. 16

    Although many early Latter-day Saints came from northern states, where opposition to slavery was gaining ground, church leaders during the mid-1830s tended to favor the status quo on slavery and to oppose abolitionism. This approach partly stemmed from the July 1833 eruption of violence in Jackson County, Missouri, after vigilantes misunderstood an article in the church newspaper The Evening and the Morning Star that addressed the status of free blacks under Missouri law.a Further complicating the church’s relationship with the institution of slavery, missionaries converted hundreds of individuals—including some slave owners—in Kentucky, Tennessee, and other southern states during the 1830s.b The declaration on government and law published in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants contained a clause stating that missionaries should not baptize slaves without the master’s consent.c In 1836, in response to a recent lecture by abolitionist John W. Alvord in Kirtland, JS published an editorial in the church periodical Messenger and Advocate disavowing abolitionism and even citing biblical references in defense of the institution of slavery.d  

    Berrett, LaMar C. “History of the Southern States Mission, 1831–1861.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1960.

    Reeve, W. Paul. Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

    (aLetter from John Whitmer, 29 July 1833.bBerrett, “History of the Southern States Mission,” 68–123.cDeclaration on Government and Law, ca. Aug. 1835 [D&C 134:12].dLetter to Oliver Cowdery, ca. 9 Apr. 1836; see also Reeve, Religion of a Different Color, 122–126.)
  17. 17

    As early as 1831, allegations arose that Latter-day Saint missionaries were seeking to convert Indians and instigate Indian attacks on non-Mormons. These claims were based on Book of Mormon prophecies (echoing language in the biblical book of Micah) that the “remnant of the House of Jacob,” which some Latter-day Saints interpreted as meaning converted Native Americans, would be “as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through, both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.”a In 1832 JS cautioned church members against discussing these prophecies, fearing that people outside of the church would believe that the Latter-day Saints were “putting up the Indians to slay” whites and that this conclusion would endanger “the lives of the Saints evry where.”b Fears that the Saints were “tampering” with Indians contributed to opposition toward Latter-day Saint settlements in Jackson County, Missouri, in 1833 and Clay County, Missouri, in 1836, prompting church leaders to deny having any connection with Native Americans and stating that the Saints feared “the barbarous cruelty of rude savages” as other frontier whites did.c  

    Ohio Star. Ravenna. 1830–1854.

    Missouri Republican. St. Louis. 1822–1919.

    Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.

    Reeve, W. Paul. Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

    (aEzra Booth, “Mormonism—No. VI,” Ohio Star [Ravenna], 17 Nov. 1831, [3]; Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 496–497, 500 [3 Nephi 20:15–16; 21:11–12]; Micah 5:8.bLetter to William W. Phelps, 31 July 1832.cIsaac McCoy, “The Disturbances in Jackson County,” Missouri Republican [St. Louis], 20 Dec. 1833, [2]–[3]; “Public Meeting,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Aug. 1836, 2:353–355; Letter to John Thornton et al., 25 July 1836; see also Reeve, Religion of a Different Color, 59–69.)
  18. 18

    Passages in the Book of Mormon emphasize that baptism must be administered by proper authority. Soon after the church was organized in April 1830, JS dictated a revelation declaring that “old covenants”—meaning baptisms administered by officials in other churches—were invalid. Converts were therefore instructed to receive baptism into this “last covenant and this church,” which God had caused “to be built up . . . even as in days of old.” (Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 200–201, 477–478, 479 [Mosiah 21:33–35; 3 Nephi 11:21–22; 12:1]; Revelation, 16 Apr. 1830 [D&C 22:1–3].)  

  19. 19

    In 1832 JS and Sidney Rigdon reported receiving a vision of the afterlife. In this vision, they saw those “who died with out Law” and “the spirits of men kept in prison whom the son visited and preached the gospel” so that they “might be judged according to men in the flesh,” a reference to 1 Peter 3:18–19 and 4:6. Four years later, JS reported that he received a vision of the “celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof,” wherein he saw his deceased brother Alvin. JS recounted his amazement upon learning that Alvin was in that kingdom, even though Alvin had not been baptized. According to JS’s account of the vision, the Lord declared, “All who have died with[out] a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it, if they had been permited to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.” These visions indicated that salvation would ultimately be made available for all of humanity. (Vision, 16 Feb. 1832 [D&C 76:73]; JS, Journal, 21 Jan. 1836; see also Givens, Wrestling the Angel, 245–255.)  

    Givens, Terryl L. Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

  20. 20

    Questions 18 and 19 and their answers reflect the complex debate over the biblical canon—that is, the authoritative list of divinely inspired scriptural books. Many nineteenth-century Protestants advocated the belief in a closed canon, whereas some other groups, such as the Latter-day Saints, contended that revelation was still possible and that the canon was open. The church’s 1830 Articles and Covenants addressed this ongoing controversy with an allusion to Revelation 22:17–18. This commonly cited passage prohibits adding to or taking away from “the words of the prophecy of this book,” which commentators interpreted variously as referring to the book of Revelation alone or the Bible as a whole. The Articles and Covenants stated that JS’s revelations contained divine truth and neither added to nor diminished the book of Revelation or the Bible. (Bruce, Canon of Scripture, 17–24; Holland, Sacred Borders, 1–15, 26–29; Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830 [D&C 20:35].)  

    Bruce, Frederick F. The Canon of Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1988.

    Holland, David F. Sacred Borders: Continuing Revelation and Canonical Restraint in Early America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

  21. 21

    See Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830 [D&C 20:23–24].  

  22. 22

    See Revelation, Oct. 1830–B [D&C 33:15]; and Revelation, 5 Jan. 1831 [D&C 39:23].  

  23. 23

    See Revelation, ca. 8 Mar. 1831–A [D&C 46].  

  24. 24

    See Revelation, 5 Jan. 1831 [D&C 39:11].