FARMS Rushed to Defend the White Salamander

steve benson Aug 2013

If, in fact, the Book of Mormon gold plates were delivered to Joseph Smith not by an angel but by a white salamander (as Mark Hofmann's eventually exposed. forged Martin Harris letter claimed), then, back when that news broke, the Mormon Church had some big-time explainin' to do.

Never fear, FARMS is here.

Below are examples of the hilarious attempts by that "research wing" of the Mormon Church to, at all costs, sanctify the Salamander for Smith and his Saints.

The really pathetic part of all this is that FARMS actually believed Hofmann's forgery was, like, true. Seriously. Obviously, their Holy Ghost was on an extended vacation.

Oh, but at the time what a great prophet photo-op, complete with with fake prop, that it was:

First, a brief review is in order of relevant portions of Hofmann's phony "White Salamander" letter--supposedly written by Martin Harris to W. W. Phelps--and which served for a time to snooker the Lord's "prophets, seers and revelators":

"Palmyra Oct 23rd 1830

"Dear Sir

". . . Joseph Smith Jr. first come to my notice in the year 1824 in the summer of that year I contracted with his father to build a fence on my property . . . [Smith's father] . . . says Joseph can see any thing he wishes by looking at a stone Joseph often sees Spirits here with great kettles of coin money it was Spirits who brought up rock because Joseph made no attempt on their money I later dream I converse with spirits which let me count their money when I awake I have in my hand a dollar coin which I take for a sign Joseph describes what I seen in every particular says he the spirits are greived so I through back the dollar In the fall of the year 1827 I hear Joseph found a gold bible I take Joseph aside & he says it is true I found it 4 years ago with my stone but only just got it because of the enchantment the old spirit come to me 3 times in the same dream & says dig up the gold but when I take it up the next morning the spirit transfigured himself from a white salamander in the bottom of the hole and struck me 3 times & held the treasure & would not let me have it because I lay it down Joseph says when can I have it the spirit says one year from today if you obey me look to the stone after a few days he looks the spirit says bring your brother Alvin Joseph says he is dead shall I bring what remains but the spirit is gone Joseph looks but can not see who to bring the spirit says you did not bring your brother you can not have it look to the stone Joseph looks but can not see who to bring the spirit says I tricked you again look to the stone Joseph looks & sees his wife on the 22nd day of Sept 1827 they get the gold bible--" (1)

--To Arms! To Arms! Calling the Boys at FARMS

Oh, my heck!

How to dig the Mormon Cult out of this one--especially in light of the faith-promoting yarn that Joseph Smith got the gold plates from a Book of Mormon prophet-warrior-turned-angel-named-Moroni--not from some flaming toad?

Specializing in the art of the absurd, the FARMS manure ministry of LDS, Inc. offered (with all the due diligence and seriousness that they could bring to bear in their secret underwear) a bizarre hodgepodge of "explanations" as to why Joseph Smith may have really and truly encountered not the Angel Moroni but, rather, a Celestial Salamander.

FARMS did so in a phony-baloney document of its own, entitled "Moses, Moroni and the Salamander," published in completely and deadly seriousness in June 1985. (2)

It stands as the Keystone Cops of their religion--a burning testimony, if you will, of the lengths to which Mormon apologists are willing to go in proving just what toadies they, too, can be.

--Researching Righteous Reptiles

Let the FARMS spin begin:

"Martin Harris's letter of 23 October 1830 to Wm. W. Phelps (published in 'Church News,' 28 April 1985) has dismayed some people. . . .

"We may never know whether this description was an embellishment on the part of Harris, or an allegory employed by Joseph Smith, or whether Moroni somehow chose to appear to Joseph out of, or in the form of, a salamander. But since Phelps joined the Church after reading Harris' letter, he must not have found the allusion to a salamander very disconcerting.

"In fact, as new research is showing, the salamander has been thought for millennia to have supernatural and extraordinary powers." (3)

--Not to Worry: People Actually Once Thought Salamanders Lived in Fire.

The FARMS crew then offered the following "facts" to the faithful:

"Well into the 19th century, it was commonly believed that salamanders 'lived in, or were able to endure, fire.' . . . Long before, even Aristotle--of all people--reported [that the] '. . . salamander shows that certain animals are naturally proof against fires, for it is said to extinguish a flame by passing through it.' . . ." (4)

--Fanning the Flames: The Birthplace of the Salamander

FARMS' faithfully-fabulous fiction continued:

". . . [S]alamanders were thought to be 'generated in fire.' The great Rabbi Akiba held to this view . . . Other rabbis, including the noted Rashi, debated whether the fire had to be heated for seven days, seven years or seventy years to produce a salamander that would appear walking and flying in the midst of the fire. . . ." (5)

--I See Salamander Spirits

It got even better:

". . . [S]alamanders were often associated with spirits. In Germany, salamanders were thought to be . . . weather-prophets . . . and house-protector spirits. . . . In the Middle Ages, the salamander denoted 'a being possessing the shape of a man, whose element was the fire, or who at least could live in that element. . . . Earth, air, fire and water, each had a spirit--for fire, it was the salamander." (6)

--The Still Small Salamander's Voice to Earth: This Is God Calling

Please, tell us more:

". . . [S]alamanders were associated with the voice of God and with the Holy Ghost! . . . [W]e find that the rabbis of the 9th Century A.D. and before believed that . . .

"[O]ne of these things God showed Moses on Mt. Sinai was the salamander . . . ' In 1841, the baptistry of Winchester Cathedral in England bore the figure of a salamander, alluding to the words, 'He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.' . . ." (7)

--Salamander Garments as Fire Insurance

Can you feel the burning in the bosom?:

"Since the salamander was said to endure fire, it was thought to protect others against burning, including hell-fire. The rabbis remarked that hell could not harm scribes . . . [and] flames cannot hurt one who is anointed with salamander blood . . . ' A similar popular belief seems to stand behind Austrian lore relating the salamander to the atoning suffering of Christ. The Zohar . . . mentions protective garments of salamander skin." (8)

--Holy Flying Toad, Batman! You Mean Jesus Was a Salamander?

Now the FARMS fantastic voyage really took off:

"Not far removed from these ideas . . . are [those] depicted by the biblical phrase 'fiery flying serpents.' Were they 'salamanders'? A brass model of this reptile symbolized Jesus himself, who commanded Moses to put it up on a pole, so the people who had been bitten could look to it and live . . . ." (9)

--Behold, I Am the Resurrection and the Salamander

As man is now, God once was; As God is now, man may likewise become a salamander:

"Eternal life and resurrection were also symbolized by the salamander. The Arabic word for both the salamander and the phoenix, which could die and rise again out of its own ashes, was samandal. . . ." (10)

--Remember, People Are Salamanders, Too

FARMS then tried to give salamanders a human face:

"People too were sometimes called salamanders. Shakespeare calls a fiery-red face a 'salamander.' . . .

"[S]oldiers who courageously exposed themselves to fire in battle [were also called salamanders]. Thomas Brooks in 1670 wrote, 'God's people are true salamanders, that live best in the fire of afflictions.' . . ." (11)

--The Good, the Bad and the Salamanders

FARMS nevertheless then cautioned against reckless trusting of toads:

"Not all salamanders were good, however. The ['spectacularly colored'] poisonous ones . . . were linked with evil spirits. But the non-poisonous good ones were white or grey-brown." (12)

--I Saw A Salamander Flying in the Midst of Heaven

FARMS finally tried to make a purse out of an amphibian's ear, in a valiant flame-out attempt to throw a positive light on the notion of heavenly messengers descending to Earth as Kolobic reptilians bringing tidings of great joy:

"Some of us may wince at the suggestion that an angel of God should be associated with, or described as, a salamander.

"But to people then, no image or description would beter fit the apearnce of a brilliant white spiritual being, once a valiant soldier, now dwelling in a blazing pillar of light, shockingly pure and glorious, speaking with the voice of God while flying through the midst of Heaven, than the salamander! Moroni should be flattered. . . ." (13)

--Spinning for Salamanders: Stay Tuned, There's More to Come

FARMS researchers promised even more exciting discoveries:

"Further research is underway. . . . In the end, [it] may lead to a a less 'modern' view of many symbolically meaningfully events: a burning bush; a talking ass; a flaming sword; a tempting snake; the Lord with seven horns and seven eyes; a descending dove; and a salamandrine angel." (14)

--I Would Like to Bury You, My Salamander

What a beautiful thing the Mormon gospel is.

And, now, thanks to this kind of restoration research, so much more believable, too!


(1) "Typescript of Letter of Martin Harris to William W. Phelps, 23 October 1830," Attachment 1, in "Preliminary Report: Why Might a Person in 1830 Connect An Angel with a Salanmander?," STF-85b, FARMS Staff, Foundation for Ancient Research & Mormon Studies, P.O. Box 7113, University Station, Provo, Utah 84602, copyright 1985

(2) "Moses, Moroni, and the Salamander," FARMS Staff, in FARMS "UPDATE," transcript, copyright June 1985, p. 1. "The 'Preliminary Report'" (noted above in endnote #1), followed the UPDATE document.

(3) "UPDATE," p. 1

(4) ibid.

(5) ibid.

(6) ibid.

(7) ibid.

(8) ibid.

(9) ibid.

(10) ibid., p. 2

(11) ibid.

(12) ibid.

(13) ibid.

(14) ibid.

Re: No-Spoof Truth: FARMS Actually Rushed to Defend Smith's White Salamander
It is hilarious how far groups like FARMS will go to defend issues like this, especially considering they couldn't discern Hofmann's forgery

"Researching Righteous Reptiles" - love it, but salamanders are actually amphibians, so maybe you should put "Analyzing Angelic Amphibians" as the header instead ;)

steve benson
Don't worry . . .
I know the difference, but FARMS obviously doesn't. (Please play along, although I must say that I really do like your replacement suggestion).


Re: No-Spoof Truth: FARMS Actually Rushed to Defend Smith's White Salamander
steve benson Wrote:
> Below are examples of the hilarious attempts by
> that "research wing" of the Mormon Church to, at
> all costs, sanctify the Salamander for Smith and
> his Saints.

Just think, if it hadn't been a forgery perhaps a really interesting name change would have been in order: The Church of Jesus Smith of Salamander Saints. Then instead of LDS church they could just say "we're the SS church" and have license plates or bumper stickers that say "RUSS2?"

steve benson Wrote:
> --The Still Small Salamander's Voice to Earth:
> This Is God Calling

Help, I can't breathe, gasping and giggling! No more! No more!

So *that's* what an exalted body of flesh and bone is going to look like!

steve benson Wrote:
If you ask a salamander to shake your hand and it does so but you can't really feel his little webbed digits, might it be a satanic salamander?

This has been a delightfully funny part of my day, remembering all of this incredible horsepucky. Hard to believe things descended to such ridiculous farce...but there it all is, plain as day.

Thanks for a truly entertaining read!

Hold Your Tapirs
Re: No-Spoof Truth: FARMS Actually Rushed to Defend Smith's White Salamander
FARMS Wrote:
> In fact, as new research is showing, the salamander
> has been thought for millennia to have supernatural
> and extraordinary powers.

I am amazed at the lengths they go to *try* to make sense of nonsensical events.

steve benson
The Mormon Church's motto: "Invest in the Absurd"

Re: No-Spoof Truth: FARMS Actually Rushed to Defend Smith's White Salamander
This was a huge blow to FAIR/FARMS credibility to me: they'll defend ANYTHING, even completely false made up @#$%&.

steve benson
Truth in the Mormon Cult is not a particular priority . . .
. . . Controlling the chessboard is, even if it requires deliberate deceit and defending the indefensible in the name of power over hearts, minds and pocketbooks.

In the end, though, it comes back to bite them in the behind.


Isn't everything about Mo-ism made up!!! n

Re: No-Spoof Truth: FARMS Actually Rushed to Defend Smith's White Salamander
My favorite was when Dalin H. Oaks put forth similar arguments during a CES symposium.

Re: No-Spoof Truth: FARMS Actually Rushed to Defend Smith's White Salamander
But Steve, let us not forget, that the Salamander story was Hoffman's forgery, but there is an actual affidavit from the right time period, by a Palmyra citizen telling that Joseph Smith claimed to have been given the plates from a toad, who trans-morphed into the angel Moroni, where I guess makes him a weretoad. This story is told inside, "An Insider's View to Mormon Origins," and may have been an early Smith attempt to incorporate the common treasure guardian myth into his work. We also need to remember the claim that Joseph Smith was beat up by said treasure Toad, because that is just funny.

Hoffman may have been inspired by this earlier and collaborated tale, which he probably knew would reinforce the proof of his own BS document.

Re: No-Spoof Truth: FARMS Actually Rushed to Defend Smith's White Salamander
Interestingly, Jerald Tanner said it was a forgery right from the get-go. But he was an evil apostate so why listen to him.

It's a pity Hoffman lost his cool. The church would look much, much different today if he had been able to go on for, say, another 10 to 15 years.

Re: No-Spoof Truth: FARMS Actually Rushed to Defend Smith's White Salamander
Although I'm sure at some point in Gordon Hinckley's life he came to know the truth about the church and JS, I wonder if he was aware yet when all of this was going on. It amazes me the things that men are willing to rationalize to hold their belief systems intact.
wine country girl
I have a question
Prior to Mark Hofmann's great forgery, was there ever in any of the annals of church history a mention of this white salamander?

steve benson
Which makes the FARMS effort to peddle the salamander story . . .
. . . all the more bizarre and cold-blooded, like the salamanders that FARMS was trying so hard to sell in these unforseen and quickly-unfolding circumstances.

No one in their right mind would believe the clap-trap of magic toads to be genuine--including the leaders of the Mormon Church and their embedded-infrastructure bureaucrats who are bent on defending, protecting and extending the institution of the Mormon Cult in the name of power and purse.

The idea of building Zion wasn't for Mormonism's toadies to spread the folk-magic occultism of Joseph Smith's Everlasting Gospel of the Toad. It was, rather, to purchase the docs from Hofmann (at almost any price necessary) and then squirrel them away so that the magic-world view of Smith would remain essentiallly hidden from tithe-paying believers in order to keep the money coming in--based on a stock, toadless storyline, mingled with scripture, that the Mormon leadership banked on being much more saleable and legitimate-sounding to potential customers than tales of Smith wrestling with flame-retardant guardian amphibians over who gets dibs on the buried treasure.

Enter FARMS to minimize the harm with its calculated cover story long enough for the Mormon Cult to buy up those damnable docs and rebury them somewhere else.

It all blew up in Hofmann's face when Hofmann blew up his victims as well as blew off his own body parts, thus publicly exposing the forgeries and giving the Mormon Cult the out it so desperately needed to return, with a sigh of relief, to huckstering-as-usual.

Re: I have a question
Just the toad mentioned by Willard Chase and Benjamin Saunders (a much later reminiscence in Benjamin's case).

Webster's 1828 Dictionary gave me a chuckle, since the entry for salamander refers to the fire myth as "vulgar" and "a mistake":

An animal of the genus Lacerta or Lizard, one of the smaller species of the genus, not being more than six or seven inches in length. It has a short cylindrical tail, four toes on the four feet, and a naked body. The skin is furnished with small excrescences like teats, which are full of holes from which oozes a milky liquor that spreads over the skin, forming a kind of transparent varnish. The eyes are placed in the upper part of the head. The color is dark, with a bluish cast on the belly, intermixed with irregular yellow spots. This animal is oviparous, inhabits cold damp places among trees or hedges, avoiding the heat of the sun. The vulgar story of its being able to endure fire, is a mistake.

Re: No-Spoof Truth: FARMS Actually Rushed to Defend Smith's White Salamander
I fell out of my chair when Oaks didn't even miss a beat, but rather just smoothly explained the white salamander story like it made perfect sense.

I'm still sitting her shaking my head at the lengths they will go to protect their scheme.

Thanks Steve.

Re: No-Spoof Truth: FARMS Actually Rushed to Defend Smith's White Salamander
Nice photo in your link, Steve. Standing next to Hofmann were GA's N Eldon Tanner, Spencer Kimball, Marion Romney, Boyd Packer, and Gordon Hinckley. Notice that the "Prophet, Seer, & Revelator" Kimball had to use a MAGNIFYING GLASS to examine the document and be duped & fooled.......where is the Urimm and Thummim??? Amazing.....

"Recovery from Mormonism -"