Peril of the Neophyte

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.

Notes:

  1. The Dan Judd talking to me was not Daniel K. Judd, a counselor in the General Sunday School Presidency some years ago.
  2. A situation that is excessively complex.
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.

7 thoughts on “Peril of the Neophyte

  1. There was a huge thread on this in Mormon dialogue in 2019. It sounds like an unlikely story to be the lost pages. It was be fascinating to see even if they are a forgery.

  2. I only hung out in the Mormon Dialogue forum for a brief period on 2017. During that time, I “printed” to pdf all the myriad branching threads related to my topic, attempting to have something I could search to respond. In order to create this PDF, I set the paper size to ledger (11”x17”) and set font size to 6 point. The PDF still ended up being 300 pages.

    By comparison, I’m not sure what “huge thread” means.

    Online opinions do not necessarily promote truth or compassion. But I imagine Dan Judd has managed to alienate key people in ways a more knowledgeable person might regret. Not counting being mocked by the hoi polloi.

  3. I’ve been reading that thread on LDSFF for a long time. Judd has been really thin-skinned about the whole enterprise since the beginning, with a lot of suggestions and innuendo.

    By the way, that place is a “wretched hive of scum and villainy,” and even more so lately with most active posters actively condemning the Church as apostate and led by false prophets, especially during the pandemic.

    Meg / Geoff, would someone on M* consider a review of the burgeoning movement that, for lack of a better term, I will call “The Cult of the Davidic Servant”? Hordes of LDSFF posters are absolutely convinced that some new pseudo-Messiah (not Christ but the One Mighty and Strong) will come from outside the “Babylonian” CoJCLDS to cast out the current apostles and reset the whole thing? I’ve seen too many people dive down this hole and become very antagonistic towards the Church as a result.

  4. I don’t know that modern folks attempting to right the ark of God’s Church can do (much) worse than those who rose up against Joseph Smith in 1838.

    Apostate beliefs and acts, no matter how sincerely held and performed, are still apostate beliefs and acts.

    One hopes those who have gone off the deep end (though never guilty in their own minds) will return, much as William Wine Phelps did after his murderous fomenting against Joseph Smith in 1838. W. W. Phelps was a master of repentance. And I am glad for that. We need more who will ask themselves, what would WW do? (W4D).

    At some point I may well post the post you ask for. But you might notice that I’ve been posting variants of that post for many years. A post by someone at M* is unlikely to retrieve someone who has gone hard core into weirdness. IMO.

  5. I’ve read several variations of alleged “lost 116 pages” manuscripts.

    All began, “I, Lehi.”

    Nice try. Thank you for playing.

  6. Geoff,
    There are no awards for a “comment of the day” on your blog, but I want to nominate Observer’s comment that LDSFF is a “wretched hive of scum and villainy,” for some sort of award. It will keep me laughing all morning.

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