Joseph Smith and Money Digging

A brief history of Joseph Smith's use of magic, and its connection to the Book of Mormon.

Reference Links

The Smith Family and Magic
Early Mormonism and Magic

Video Transcript

Numerous accounts from Smith supporters, detractors, and neighbors describe a family that was very involved in magical practices including soothsaying, rod divining, circle drawing, and most importantly, seer stones and money digging.

While digging a well in 1820, Joseph Smith found what he believed to be a seer stone, a magical rock that basically worked like a crystal ball. It would be placed in a hat, then the user would placed their face in the hat, and magically see things.

Using this method as a guide, money diggers would then hire themselves out to people to search for treasure buried by pirates or Spaniards on their land. Usually, however, the treasure was cursed and would sink back into the ground so that it could never quite be unearthed.

Joseph Smith was well known in his community as a money digger. In fact, he met his future wife, Emma Hale, while on a money digging job. Her father didn’t approve of their marriage because of his dubious profession, so they eloped.

LDS defenders used to contend that there was absolutely no credence in the accounts of Joseph Smith’s magical career, even though his own mother attested to it. Smith himself insisted that they were just rumors that sprang up because he once was hired to help locate and dig a silver mine by non-magical means.

But that changed in 1971 when documents from 1826 surfaced detailing Smith’s arrest as a ‘Glass Looker’. It turned out that the same man from the silver mine story that Smith had referred to actually testified in court that Smith had defrauded him at least three occasions in money digging schemes.

Now, LDS historians generally agree that Smith was involved in money digging, but defend him with the claim that this was culturally accepted and even respected at the time. This of course, begs the question as to why then Smith was arrested and brought to court for practicing it.

There are further claims that the Smith family did not consider these practices to be witchcraft, but rather as some kind of extension of their genuine Christian faith in the Bible. However, these dealings are nowhere to be found the in Bible as legitimate Christian practices.

One year after his arrest, in 1827, Joseph Smith claimed to have come into possession of golden plates which he dug out of a hillside. Using his seer stone, he then translated the writing on the plates, and three years later, published it as the Book of Mormon.

It is interesting to note that Smith never renounced any of the magic that he and his family performed. And although these accounts alone do not discredit Smith as a religious figure, they are compelling enough warrant some serious thought. Especially since this short video only covers a small fraction of the records connecting Smith with the occult.

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