Why Did Joseph Smith Fail To Sell The Book Of Mormon Copyright?

“Joseph Smith received a revelation, through the peep stone in his hat, to send Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery to Toronto, Canada for the sole purpose of selling the copyright of the Book of Mormon…” (CES Letter)

The Revelation To Joseph Smith Came True – We have the original hand-written revelation so we know exactly what it said. It said they “may” sell the copyright to raise funds “if the people harden not their hearts against the enticings of my spirit.” It was conditional, never a promise that it would happen.

“…it Pleaseth me that Oliver Cowderey Joseph Knight Hyram Pagee & Josiah Stowel shall do my work in this thing yea even in securing the Copyright & they shall do it with an eye single to my Glory that it may be the means of bringing souls unto me Salvation through mine only Begotten. Behold I am God I have spoken it. Wherefor I say unto you that ye shall go seeking me continually through mine only Begotten & if ye do this ye shall have my spirit to go with you & ye shall have an addition of all things which is expedient in me. amen & I grant unto my servent a privelige that he may sell a copyright through you speaking after the manner of men for the four Provinces if the People harden not their hearts against the enticeings of my spirit & my word for Behold it lieth in themselves to their condemnation & their salvation.”

Recently discovered letters from Hiram Page confirm that the copyright would be sold “if they harden not their hearts.” These two accounts prove anti-Mormon David Whitmer a liar, when he claimed that the sale was foretold to be a success. It is strange that David Whitmer claimed the revelation would “promise success in selling the copyright,” considering he was the one who wrote the dictated revelation down, so he ought to know what it said; but we now have the original revelation and know David Whitmer was flat-out lying. It is also telling that Hiram Page and David Whitmer’s accounts conflict, considering Hiram Page turned against the church when David Whitmer was excommunicated.

According to Hiram Page, Joseph Smith wanted to sell the copyright long before seeking and receiving a revelation about it. He claims, “when we had assembled at Father Smiths, there was no revelation for us to go, but we were all anxious to get a revelation to go.” So it was Joseph Smith’s idea to begin with, and he simply get a revelation that it was alright to try. What’s wrong with that?

David Whitmer Lied – We know from Hiram Page’s witness account and the rediscovered original revelation that David Whitmer was lying. But CES Letter insists:

“The mission failed and the prophet was asked why his revelation was wrong. Joseph decided to inquire of the Lord regarding the question. The following is a quote from Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer’s testimony: ‘…and behold the following revelation came through the stone: ‘Some revelations are of God; and some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil.’ So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copyright was not of God, but was of the devil or of the heart of man.”

Why does CES Letter snippet out the part from David Whitmer’s account that was proven to be a lie?

As far as David Whitmer’s allegation, both Hiram Page and David Whitmer were anti-Mormons by this point, but it is interesting to compare it with what Hiram Page wrote: “It was told me we were to go by revelation” before receiving the conditional revelation. Who told him they were to go by revelation? Probably not Joseph Smith, or he would have said so, considering this letter was all about bashing Joseph Smith. So if David Whitmer’s allegation is correct and the Lord did indeed tell Joseph Smith that the original revelation to go to Toronoto was “of the devil,” it was in reference to a revelation someone else got–the revelation that gave them the idea to sell the copyright in the first place. As we know from the episode of the lost 116 pages, the Lord will not come down against a bad request if the person is persistantly asking and refusing to listen.

But they didn’t even consider it a bad request. They tried to raise some funds and it didn’t work out, simple as that. Nobody but David Whitmer ever claimed that they were upset about it or asked about the revelation. David Whitmer included this quote in his book (not testimony) in order to undercut Joseph Smith’s claim of receiving revelation.

Raise Funds, Expand ReadershipCES Letter asks, “why would God command to sell the copyright to His word?” The answer to that ought to be obvious. The church was desperate for funds, and a big-city publisher could deliver the Book of Mormon to millions of people. The biggest publishers of the time were based in Toronto, and they would have placed it in bookstores around the world.

If you read the actual revelation, it doesn’t say anything about raising funds, but says: “that it may be the means of bringing souls unto salvation.”

Personal Agency – Even though the publishers rejected the offer, Hiram Page wrote that the mission was a success, as those people had willingly chosen “their own destruction and damnation” by rejecting it, just as the revelation to Joseph Smith said they would. There was no reason to ask why the people rejected it. Why would they ask Joseph Smith to inquire of the Lord about it? The revelation already explained everything.

CES Letter‘s question relies on David Whitmer’s bold-faced lie to support the notion that the publishers in Toronto should have been destined or forced to accept the Book of Mormon. But Mormons believe in personal agency. People are free to choose their own beliefs, to accept whatever they want, and to choose their own fate. It is possible for the Lord to ask us to preach to people and then they end up rejecting us. This happens.

Essentially, it comes down to the question, why would God allow Satan to lead people astray? Why aren’t people given a free pass, universal salvation?

We read in the scriptures about people being commanded to preach to people and then those people reject the message. God told Alma to return to ofAmmonihah where he was already thrown out, and things turned out even worse for him. But remember what Alma did as he watched his converts being thrown into fires to be burned alive. Amulek asked him: “How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.”

This would have been like God forcing the publishers in Toronto to sign a contract for the Book of Mormon. But Alma replied that they must have their personal agency to accept or reject the message: ”

“The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.”

The people were presented with the gospel and were given a choice, and they chose to reject it and reap the consequences. That made the mission a success.

Sincerity Isn’t EnoughCES Letter complains:

“What kind of a god and method is this if Heavenly Father allows Satan to interfere with our direct line of communication to Him? Sincerely asking for answers?” (CES Letter)

Well, that’s kinda the point. Integrity is about a lot more than just asking sincere questions. It takes work, lots of effort to search for answers and demonstrate worthiness, through good works and tests of faith. The scriptures tell us this is why worldly difficulties happen and why the veil keeps us from seeing truth in the first place. What is so great about you that makes you deserve it? What, because you really want it?

Men like David Whitmer were sincere. But they demonstrated unworthiness through evil works, such as spreading bold-faced lies about the prophet. It is one thing to be a sincere seeker of truth; it is quite another to have the integrity to use truth to make yourself a godly person. The entire point is to tune our ears to hear the whisperings of the Holy Ghost over the enticings of Satan and stubborness of our pride.

CES Letter Logical Fallacies

Falsehood The entire premise of this argument is false. CES Letter snippets out the part of David Whitmer’s quote that proves he was lying, they were never promised success in selling the copyright.

David Whitmer did not say Joseph Smith got a revelation through a “peep” stone. He simply said “stone,” would could refer to the Urim and Thummim. There is no credible evidence that Joseph Smith used a “peep stone” to receive revelations or translate anything. CES Letter throws this falsehood in to undercut the Book of Mormon as a legitimate revelation.

David Whitmer didn’t make his allegations in a “testimony” but in a book that he wrote after he went apostate and was trying to smear Joseph Smith as a fallen prophet. CES Letter uses this word testimony to equate the allegations with a typical Mormon’s knowledge of the gospel, which is faulty logic.

Argument From Ignorance Hiram Page’s account indicates the original “revelation” to sell the copyright, if there was one, wasn’t received by Joseph Smith but by someone else.

We can’t go back in time and find out what Jospeh Smith did or didn’t do, but we can be sure none of the people involved thought the mission “was wrong” and there was no need to inquire of the Lord about it, as it was all already explained.

Shifting Goalposts Previously, CES Letter said revelation is just “feelings.” But now CES Letter calls it “our direct line of communication to Him.”
Hasty Generalization CES Letter acts like the trip to Toronto was some great journey, “to Toronto, Canada for the sole purpose…” Why point out that Toronto is in a different country? Why point out that this was the “sole” purpose of the expedition? Well, the truth is Toronto is only about 150 miles from Palmyra, just a day’s journey by carriage. New York city and other major American cities were much farther. The trip wasn’t really that big of a deal.
Guilt By
We are reminded of Nephi from CES Letter‘s language: “Joseph decided to inquire of the Lord regarding the question.” This reminds us of Nephi when his brothers sincerely asked him about their father’s vision: “Have ye inquired of the Lord.” I guess the message here is the scriptures tell us to inquire of the Lord while this episode supposedly proves we can’t rely on prayer.

This argument is supposed to cast further doubt on our ability to gain spiritual knowledge through revelation. We are supposed to have a direct line of communication to God but that becomes difficult because of Satan’s temptations, it is true. But what is the alternative? God forcing the publishers in Toronto to publish the Book of Mormon?

This question pushes a universal salvation narrative. The essence of Satan’s plan and today’s social justice ideology is two things: compulsion and universal salvation. Mormons believe people should be allowed to choose the wrong side, otherwise how do we know the depth of their sincere questions? If we get every little answer spoon-fed to us, salvation is universally applied and there is no path to progression and exaltation. Atheists complain about “God’s model and standard of efficiency,” but what do they propose as an alternative? It sounds like what they want is for no need to believe in anything, for no difference in belief to exist, no diversity of opinion.

It is like a father who forces his son to make all the choices he thinks is correct rather than the father who gives his son some direction but allows him to make choices for himself and learn from his mistakes. Knowing all truth from the start isn’t always a good thing. Even the prophet isn’t immune from making mistakes.

So there are really two possible solutions to human fallibility isn’t there? Either we have everything forced upon us or we work to improve our worthiness of truth which is held back from us. God’s plan of personal agency and freedom of conscience are not very efficient, it’s true. Satan’s Plan is extremely efficient, where everybody is compelled to fall in line and believe the exact same thing, but Satan’s plan does not make people godly. This is a basic concept of Mormonism, the need for free agency in God’s plan versus Satan’s plan. Those who follow social justice and seek universal salvation follow Satan’s plan, a model where we don’t get a period of probation, we are not reliant on faith, we do not prove our integrity, everything is force-fed to us, and we follow a supreme ruler who does not actually give us any way to progress.

Everybody gets frustrated when their questions go unanswered, like a father who wants his son to learn for himself by trying things out, and we hate it when we try so hard and seem to go nowhere. We all feel like that sometimes. But opposition is the nature of life’s test. Muscles become strong by lifting heavy weights. Likewise, knowledge and wisdom are learned by striving through darkness.

Are some revelations of the devil? Yes. The devil can even appear as an “angel of life,” but we know that a “bitter tree cannot produce good fruit.” Satan will not give revelations that lead to truth and happiness.

What about our own biases, hearing what we want to hear? That certainly happens too. This is just a matter of listening. Be a better listener. Clear the biases from your ego and your personal desires, and test to see if they will lead to truth and happiness. The message might be one we do not want to hear. Still, we must discern if it is a divine message and persistently ask as long as we need to–as long as it hasn’t already been answered. This is not easy to accomplish, certainly, but it is what is necessary to build integrity.