185 years ago today - Dec 24, 1833

[Jesse Townsend]
... He has had a stone, into which, when placed in a hat, he pretended to look and see chests of money buried in the earth. He was also a fortune-teller, and he claimed to know where stolen goods went--probably too well.

Smith flattered a few of his peculiar fraternity to engage with him in digging for money. After a while, many of these got out of patience with his false pretensions and repeated failures; and, finally, to avoid the sneers of those who had been deceived by him, he pretended that he had found, in digging alone, a wonderful curiosity, which he [p. 288] kept closely secreted. After telling different stories about it, and applying to it different names, he at length called it the golden plates of the Book of Mormon. As he was questioned on the subject from time to time, his story assumed a more uniform statement, the term finally given to the marvellous treasure being the "Golden Bible."

In the mean time, Joe visited a visionary fanatic by the name of Martin Harris, and told him he had received some golden plates of ancient records from the Lord, with a "revelation" to call on him for fifty dollars to enable him to go to Pennsylvania and translate the contents of the plates; at the same time telling Harris that the Lord had revealed to him that they (Smith and Harris) were the only honest men in the world. ... and the fifty dollars was soon put into the hands of Smith ...

... it was assumed to the uninitiated that it would be "immediate death" for any except the translators to see the plates. Poor Martin's faith was apparently strengthened by this pretension, but afterward the "command" was modified, and he claimed to have seen the plates with "spiritual eyes."

... He [Martin Harris] has whipped his wife and beaten her so cruelly and frequently, that she was obliged to seek refuge in separation. ...

[Jesse Townsend to Phineas Stiles, 24 December 1833, Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1867), 288-91., as cited in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents: Jesse Townsend To Phineas Stiles]

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