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“Foolish Stories Were Published” - Insight Into D&C 45
Title“Foolish Stories Were Published” - Insight Into D&C 45
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsBlack, Susan Easton
Book TitleRestoration Voices Volume 2: Insights and Stories of the Doctrine and Covenants
Volume2
Number of Volumes2
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT

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“Foolish Stories Were Published”

D&C 45: Introduction

 

In prefacing this revelation, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated, “At this age of the Church many false reports and foolish stories were published and circulated, to prevent people from investigating the work or embracing the faith.”[1]

The first falsehoods printed by someone who had been a member of the Church and left the faith were the writings of Ezra Booth. In a series of articles printed in the Ohio Star in Ravenna, Ohio, Booth tried to justify his reasons for leaving the Church by claiming that Joseph Smith had received a false prophecy and there were inconsistencies in Church teachings. Booth also complained of Joseph Smith’s lack of sobriety, prudence, and stability.

Although the writings of Ezra Booth put into circulation false reports and foolish stories, it was the editorials of E. D. Howe in the Painesville Telegraph that caused the greatest damage. Howe printed more disparaging articles against the Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon than any other Ohio newspaperman. He personally authored only a few of the disparaging articles, but he willingly accepted for publication critical articles against the Church. Some of the articles were reprinted in other Ohio publications which caused even the honest in heart to avoid embracing the faith.

E. D. Howe began his publishing career in Painesville, Ohio, on July 16, 1822, when he founded the Painesville Telegraph. As the printer lifted the first sheet off the type in the dingy shop on Main Street in Painesville, Ohio, he turned to E. D. Howe and said, “Well, Eber, I guess we’ve started.” At the time, the paper had five paid subscribers and two advertisements. E. D. Howe was ambitious and before long he had hundreds of subscribers.

Howe was curious about Joseph Smith and the Church even before the prophet arrived in Kirtland, Ohio. On January 11, 1831, he wrote to William W. Phelps in Canandaigua, New York, requesting information about Mormonism. Two months later, on March 12, he published a letter from unidentified persons in Palmyra “on the subject of Bible imposture.” As time went on, E. D. Howe published more articles about what he called “Mormonism,” referring to members of the Church as “fanatics,” “a gang of deluded mortals,” “deluded beings,” the “dregs of this community,” and “profound believers in witchcraft, ghosts, and goblins.” He referred to the Prophet Joseph Smith as “Jo,” “Joe,” and “Joey” and the Book of Mormon as the “golden bible.” Revelations recorded by Joseph Smith, he called “volumes of … trash.”[2]

On January 31, 1834, E. D. Howe’s Painesville Telegraph printed a public notice to “take measures to avert the evils which threaten the Public by the location in this vicinity, of Joseph Smith Jun.” These measures included funding Doctor Hurlbut’s attempts to defame Joseph Smith and provide an alternative explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon. E. D. Howe denounced Joseph Smith and Mormonism in his 1834 publication Mormonism Unvailed.[3]

The following year, on January 30, 1835, E. D. Howe sold the Painesville Telegraph to his younger brother Asahel Howe for $600. He retained some financial interest in the newspaper until 1839, when the paper was sold to Lewis Rice and Philander Winchester.



[1] History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834], Document Transcript. Joseph Smith Papers.

[2] Taken from a series of articles printed between 1831–1834 in the Painesville Telegraph.

[3] See Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2015).

 

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Scripture Reference

Doctrine and Covenants 45:1

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