This past week I got an e-mail from a Dan Judd, suggesting he had documents I would be very interested to hear about.
Now, this sort of approach always intrigues me, as I am always interested in documents about plural marriage in Nauvoo. But I was afraid this Dan Judd might be one of several who have tried to convince me of Denver Snuffer’s interpretation of (not) plural marriage in Nauvoo.
Still, I e-mailed Mr. Judd and sat back, waiting to hear more.
Dan Judd wrote, saying he thought I would be interested in what he had to say because he thought we might have worked together during his engineering career, back before he joined the Church in 2013. But I still didn’t recognize the name. 1
Dan had two interesting claims. And I found him to be an earnest fellow. But I’m not sure either of his claims are correct.
First, Dan claims that his ancestors rescued 116 sheets from someone who had stolen them. These pages were passed down through the generations. Dan and others have seen the pages, but at this time the pages are in a safe place, known only to Dan.
Second, Dan claims the family stories identify the man who rescued the plates as Lamoni Judd, an Indian who was adopted by Zadoc Judd in the 1850s. The family legend is that Lamoni married Alice Fredericka Smith, grand-daughter of Joseph Smith Jr.
As far as I can tell, the two tales are severable, though Dan tends to convolve them, together with many details of his family and their situation between 1878 and now. But I want to focus on these two core tales of interest to a broader audience.
Joseph Smith Jr. – Dan’s second claim is that the family stories he was told suggest he is descended from Alice Fredericka Smith and therefore from Joseph Smith Jr. This claim is easy to either confirm or debunk. As members of the Smith family have profiles on Ancestry DNA and as Dan reportedly has a profile on Ancestry DNA, it’s a simple matter of minutes (seconds for fast typers) to match the profiles and determine if there is consanguinity. Being descended from Joseph Smith Jr. and a nickel is worth five cents. Cool, to be sure, but not of any extrinsic worth.
A challenge with the Judd family legend is that Alice Smith apparently died a spinster. So were Dan Judd to be descended from Joseph Smith Jr., that fact would challenge the history some have believed. The converse would challenge the history/legend Dan has believed. Either way, DNA is a great tool that could be reliably used to determine the answer to this matter. And it may be that the profile comparison has already been performed as of the time I write this post.
116 Sheets – Dan’s primary claim is more interesting, to me at least. But this is where being a Church neophyte has caused problems. For Dan didn’t know who to trust and who not to trust. And now the sheets are unavailable for at least another year or so for reasons that are a bit byzantine. 2
As we wait, there are three possibilities.
First, there are no sheets, or there may as well be no sheets. If the sheets are never made available for independent evaluation, then they might as well not exist. We’ve known since 1828 that the sheets were missing. So nothing will have changed.
Second, there are sheets, but they are not what the credible think they are. It doesn’t really matter if the sheets are an earnest mistake or a fraud perpetrated by someone. Given the thick skin document scholars developed in the wake of Mark Hofmann’s forgeries, it is unlikely that sheets would be accepted as authentic if they were in any way questionable.
Third, the sheets are authentic. Here’s the rub. Even if the sheets are authentic, I doubt they could ever be considered more than Book of Mormon apocrypha. That is, the writing on the sheets are unlikely to ever be canonized. Persons who had possession of the original stolen pages could theoretically have created a duplicate where key phrases or words were altered, as was suggested in the revelation now canonized as D&C 10:10-11. There would be no way to be utterly sure the writing on the sheets was actually written by Emma Hale Smith and Martin Harris (and any others who served as scribes). Anyone making a copy had ample examples of the scribes’ handwriting.
As for me, I would love it if there are sheets, whether or not the sheets are in any way authentic or provably free of alteration. Because if there are sheets, then that’s fascinating history.
If there are no sheets, then it will be as sad as any time one hopes for a great gift and instead receives nothing. There are many colorful terms for the intense disappointment people experience when they feel they’ve been toyed with. At the least there will be sorrow. At worst, there will be rage and active anger.
Ironically, I don’t really care too much about the 116 sheets Dan says he has in a safe place. But as Dan is a son of God, I wish him the best. And I hope he can survive the mistakes he may have made while a neophyte.