This book is dedicated to the countless Latter Day Saints, from 1830 until the present, who have sincerely believed that Joseph Smith was a man ordained by the God of the Bible. I admire those first Saints who helped to settle the American West, enduring hardships and suffering for what they believed. For almost 200 years, people have tirelessly given of their time, their talents, and sometimes even their lives to promote Smith’s cause. They have striven to live their lives in accordance with the Christian values that he and his officers taught, but failed to live themselves.
As a direct descendant of one of the main founders of the Mormon church, I was a devout follower of Mormonism throughout my youth – up until my early 20’s. Though questions arose in my mind about doctrine even as a teen, my first real wake-up call occurred during my participation in the official temple ceremonies connected with my marriage at age twenty. During the rituals, and without prior warning, we were told we had to keep the secrets of the temple or “suffer our lives to be taken.” Instead of the peace and confirmation of truth that Mormon leaders promise, I felt disturbed and wanted to escape.
In addition, I was especially curious about polygamy because my father, Heber C. Kimball IV, had been raised in several of the break-off Mormon groups who continue to practice polygamy today. I began questioning whether or not polygamy was from God, because the issue had raised holy havoc in our family. One reason I wrote this book is because my heart goes out to those trapped in polygamy groups who are deceived into thinking that their eternal salvation depends on their submission to the “higher” law of polygamy. I embarked on a quest to scrutinize the foundations of my childhood faith, praying that God would lead me into truth.
My preliminary studies revealed that the Book of Mormon was not historical, that Smith’s Book of Abraham was not a translation but an invention, and that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy while publically denying it. After these and other troubling findings, my husband and I made a decision to leave Mormonism. Unfortunately, that meant that many of our extended family no longer extended their hand of friendship. Throughout a twenty year process, we explored many belief systems, including New Age, Buddhism, and secular humanism. My master’s thesis for Stanford focused on William’s James essay “The Will to Believe,” an exploration of the psychology of belief. During my search, I came to the sad realization that my life was centered around “me” and my own neediness. However, God heard my prayers. He rescued me – from both myself and the deception that had created confusion for so long. He took me through another lengthy process in which I realized the truth of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible.
I eventually came to see that the Bible has accomplished something that philosophers and self-proclaimed prophets could never do. It stands uniquely in a class of its own. Its 66 books were written over a 1600 year span by roughly forty different authors from every walk of life, across continents, in three different languages, by men who didn’t know each other – yet it is unified and cohesive. It goes beyond, but is supported by archeology, geography, and other historical documents. It has stood the test of time and within its pages are valuable revelations about the meaning of life.
Since becoming a Christian, my passion to know more about the truth of Mormonism and the early history of America has grown. In 2006, my quest took me to a new level. Lord Acton said, “History must stand on documents, not opinion.” I now had the advantage of modern technology and scholarship which enabled me to examine documents from a multitude of sources dating back to the early 1800’s. I traveled across the United States to historical sites, I collected a library of several hundred books, and I perused countless affidavits, court records, old newspapers, diaries, and various digital and photomechanical reprints of original historical documents. I have been blessed to receive invaluable guidance and support from other Mormon historians such as Sandra Tanner, Michael Marquardt, and Will Bagley.
Being trained in the Socratic method, I followed where the evidence led. Multiple references to counterfeiting in Mormon records piqued my curiosity. I questioned why it was usually treated in mere footnotes – as if it were of minimal importance. Could it be that it was a more central part of the story, rather than a peripheral side note? One by one, the pieces of the puzzle began to fall in place. I was disturbed to learn of the extent of the corruption in my childhood heroes. Yes, I can be proud that they braved the wilds of the frontier and helped to pioneer the American West. But the more I investigated, the stronger the case for early Mormon counterfeiting became.