Fayette Lapham Account

Fayette Lapham Account Golden Plates

Fayette Lapham Golden Plates Account:

I think it was in the year 1830, I heard that some ancient records had been discovered that would throw some new light upon the subject of religion; being deeply interested in the matter, I concluded to go to the place and learn for myself the truth of the matter.

… he [Joseph Smith] had a very singular dream; but he did not tell his father of his dream, until about a year afterwards. He 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; and go to a certain tree, not far distant, and when there, he would see other objects that he would take or keep in range and follow, until he was directed to stop, and there he would find the treasure that he was in pursuit of; and when he had obtained it, he must not lay it down until he placed it in the napkin. “And,” says Smith, “in the course of a year, I succeeded in finding all the articles, as directed; and one dark night Joseph mounted his horse, and, aided by some supernatural light, he succeeded in finding the starting point and the objects in range.” Following these, as far as he could with the horse without being directed to stop, he proceeded on foot, keeping the range in view, until he arrived at a large boulder, of several tons weight, when he was immediately impressed with the idea that the object of his pursuit was under that rock. Feeling around the edge, he found that the under side was flat. Being a stout man, and aided by some super-natural power, he succeeded in turning the rock upon its edge, and under it he found a square block of masonry, in the centre of which were the articles referred to by the man seen in the dream. Taking up the first article, he saw others below; laying down the first, he endeavored to secure the others; but, before he could get hold of them, the one he had taken up slid back to the place he had taken it from, and, to his great surprize and terror, the rock immediately fell back to its former place, nearly crushing him in its descent. His first thought was that he had not properly secured the rock when it was turned up, and accordingly he again tried to lift it, but now in vain; he next tried with the aid of levers, but still without success. While thus engaged, he felt something strike him on the breast, which was repeated the third time, always with increased force, the last such as to lay him upon his back. As he lay there, he looked up and saw the same large man that had appeared in his dream, dressed in the same clothes. He said to him that, when the treasure was deposited there, he was sworn to take charge of and protect that property, until the time should arrive for it to be exhibited to the world of mankind; and, in order to prevent his making an improper disclosure, he was murdered or slain on the spot, and the treasure had been under his charge ever since. He said to him that he had not followed his directions; and, in consequence of laying the article down before

1870                         HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.                          307

putting it in the napkin, he could not have the article now; but that if he would come again, one year from that time, he could then have them. The year passed over before Joseph was aware of it, so time passed by; but he went to the place of deposit, where the same man appeared again, and said he had not been punctual in following his directions, and, in consequence, he could not have the article yet. Joseph asked when he could have them; and the answer was, ‘Come in one year from this time, and bring your oldest brother with you; then you may have them.’ During that year, it so happened that his oldest brother died; but, at the end of the year, Joseph repaired to the place again, and was told by the man who still guarded the treasure, that, inasmuch as he could not bring his oldest brother, he could not have the treasure yet; but there would be another person appointed to come with him in one year from that time, when he could have it. Joseph asked, “How shall I know the person?” and was told that the person would be known to him at sight. During that year, Joseph went to the town of Harmony, in the State of Pennsylvania, at the request of some one who wanted the assistance of his divining rod and stone in finding hidden treasure, supposed to have been deposited there by the Indians or others. While there, he fell in company with a young woman; and, when he first saw her, he was satisfied that she was the person appointed to go with him to get the treasure he had so often failed to secure. To insure success, he courted and married her. When his work was ended at Harmony, he returned with her to his father’s, in Wayne county; and, at the expiration of the year, he procured a horse and light wagon, with a small chest and a pillow-case, and proceeded, punctually, with his wife, to find the hidden treasure. When they had gone as far as they could with the wagon, Joseph took the pillow-case and started for the rock. Upon passing a fence, a host of devils began to screech and to scream, and made all sorts of hideous yells, for the purpose of terrifying him and preventing the attainment of his object; but Joseph was courageous, and pursued his way, in spite of them all. Arriving at the stone, he again lifted it, with the aid of superhuman power, as at first, and secured the first, or uppermost article, this time putting it carefully into the pillow-case, before laying it down. He now attempted to secure the remainder; but just then the same old man appeared, and said to him, that the time had not yet arrived for their exhibition to the world; but that when the proper time came he should have them, and exhibit them with the one he had now secured; until that time arrived, no one must be allowed to touch the one he had in his possession; for if they did, they would be knocked down by some superhuman power. Joseph ascertained that the remaining articles were a gold hilt and chain, and a gold ball with two pointers. The hilt and chain had once been part of a sword of unusual size; but the blade had rusted away and become useless. Joseph then turned the rock back, took the article in the pillow-case, and returned to the wagon; the devils, with more hideous yells than before, followed him to the fence; as he was getting over the fence, one of the devils struck him a blow on his side, where a black and blue spot remained three or four days; but Joseph persevered and brought the article safely home.  (Historical Magazine, p.p. 305-308)

The above account was quoted in Money-Digging Folklore and the Beginnings of Mormonism: An Interpretive Suggestion, Marvin S. Hill, BYU Studies:

“Chase’s recollection of what Joseph Smith, Sr., told him and the history by Knight both have a folklore tone to them. They both relate that Joseph must secure the plates on a certain day, 22 September; that he must take the book and “go directly away”; that for disobeying the orders he was prevented from obtaining the book; that the book appeared, disappeared, and reappeared after he violated orders by laying it down; that he subsequently had to bring the right person with him to secure the record, first his brother and then his wife; and that a stone or glass was effective in helping him secure the record at last. That the Chase account appears in a collection of testimonials published by an anti-Mormon while the Knight narrative comes from a faithful Latter-day Saint whose statement was not published until very recently suggests that the anti-Mormon material cannot be lightly dismissed because of its origin. The anti-Mormon statements have to be checked against what is admitted by the Mormons themselves. Willard Chase very likely heard his story from Joseph Smith, Sr., as he reported this is further evidenced by an independent account published by Fayette Lapham in 1870 of an earlier interview with Joseph Smith, Sr., as to the origin of the golden plates. This report corresponds closely in some respects to what Knight and Chase recounted.” (p. 479)

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