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Posted by: Uncle Dale ( )
Date: September 02, 2013 02:29AM

In a recent thread here, I wrote:

>Joe Smith's family dug a "cave" in Miner's
>Hill, a couple of miles north of Cumorah, and installed
>wooden beams to support the crumbly aggregate. It was
>more or less a copy of Captain Kidd's cave, near Albany.
>
>So, a "cave" might well have been excavated into Manchester's
>Gold Bible Hill, had Smith wanted to expend the effort.
>
>Brigham's tale of Cowdery in a Nephite cave is probably a
>conflation of two separate things -- (1) Cowdery, in his
>letter to Phelps, mentioned that the Nephite stone box
>with the plates had originally been located deep within
>Cumorah, but had eventually been partly exposed by ages
>of erosion, (2) Cowdery had indeed been inside the "cave"
>in Miner's Hill and he probably passed on a vague mention
>of that wonderful place to Brother Brigham. Brigham later
>merged these hill/cave stories into an embellished account
>meant to awe his auditors at Mormon conference.

Looking more deeply into this "cave" business, I see that
Elder Dame (of Mountain Meadows notoriety) made some
mention of Joe Smith's cave in his journal in the 1850s.
But that is not the earliest known reference. Here's one:


http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/NY/miscNYC2.htm#120041

>THE MORMONS.
>
>The delusion got up by Joe Smith, is one of the most
>remarkable, as well as one of the most successful of
>the age.... we see a miserable creature like Smith, all
>at once putting on the garb of sanctity, and guided by
>pretended inspiration, digging into the side of a hill,
>and there secluding himself for months, and then coming
>forth with the pretense that he has found a new revelation...

In my notes accompanying this transcription, I added:

>The writer of the article seems to assert that Joseph
>Smith constructed a tunnel into the side of a hill near
>the scene of his 1820s exploits -- (probably in the
>glacial drumlin later known as "Miner's Hill") where he
>worked on his compilation of the Book of Mormon. This
>same claim was reprinted in the Palmyra Wayne Sentinel
>of Dec. 15, 1841, without any editorial comment. Joseph
>Smith's "cave" was subsequently cited in various books
>on the Mormons and in numerous newspaper articles --
>culminating in a very fanciful story published in the
>Palmyra Journal of July 27, 1898. In the latter tale
>visitors passing "Prospect Hill," between Palmyra and
>Canandaigua are surprised to discover a hidden cave,
>and behind "a huge oaken door" the actual repository of
>"the original gold plates, from which Joseph Smith
>compiled the first Mormon bible," along with "many
>other curious and beautiful things..." The writer does
>not say whether this "Hill of Mormon" cave was located
>in Miner's Hill or in Gold Bible Hill, but the tale
>roughly parallels what Brigham related in 1877: "When
>Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry
>them back to the hill Cumorah... the hill opened, and
>they walked into a cave, in which there was a large
>and spacious room...They laid the plates on a table...
>Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as
>two feet high, and there were altogether in this room
>more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were
>piled up in the corners and along the walls."

So -- I don't think Brigham fabricated his account out of
thin air. Hints of the cave were appearing in the newspapers
when Smith was still alive, and a description of the cave
was given by Pomeroy Tucker in his 1867 book.

Even as far back as Peter Ingersoll's testimony, there
were hazy mentions of a secret spot where treasures were
deposited and Nephite camel saddles hung on cave walls.
Some of these early accounts mention Smith and Cowdery
in the artificial cave, compiling the Book of Mormon.

Anybody care to guess where in the early Mormon history
timeline this purported Book of Mormon "cave" work fits?

UD

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Posted by: spanner ( )
Date: September 02, 2013 03:30AM

Thanks Uncle Dale, I wasn't aware that they had constructed an actual cave earlier. that makes sense of a number of later statements. Brigham could easily have conflated the accounts later.

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Posted by: happyhollyhomemaker ( )
Date: September 02, 2013 03:38AM

Good read, thanks for posting. :) I always enjoy learning something new.

I was slightly disappointed that this wasn't an NY bar, though. Seems like such a good name!

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Posted by: Uncle Dale ( )
Date: September 03, 2013 01:53AM

Uncle Dale Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>...
> Anybody care to guess where in the early Mormon
> history timeline this purported Book of Mormon
>"cave" work fits?

After some lengthy study I'm convinced that the "cave" in
Miner's Hill was excavated by the Smith family during the
mid-1820s, and that its original function was a repository
for stolen goods, and perhaps for temporary storage of
butchered meat during the winter months.

I think that the "cave" was put to a different use late in
1829 and early in 1830, when Joe Smith was having Cowdery
put the final touches on the "printer's manuscript" of the
Book of Mormon. I'm guessing that copying effort began at
the Whitmer farm in Seneca County, but was finished up in
Manchester, with Oliver secreted in "the cave."

Here are some more of my notes on this subject:

http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/UT/utahmisc.htm#081577

Note 1: The account of the "hill Cumorah... cave, in which there was a large and spacious room" related at Farmington on June 17, 1877, did not originate with the Prophet Brigham Young -- even if that narrator added a few embellishments of his own. Bishop William H. Dame, (of Mountain Meadows notoriety) recorded in a Jan. 14, 1855 personal journal entry, that Wm. W. Phelps had "related a story told him by Hyrum Smith" in which "hill Cormorah" [sic] had a "door" that opened into an interior room containing "gold plates, Laban's sword, Aaron's brestplate," etc. In Phelps' version of the scene, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith and David (?) Whitmer all entered the cavity in the hill and that event occurred subsequent to the printing and binding of the Book of Mormon (a copy of which had been placed in the cave). Since some early Mormon accounts date the formal establishment of the Church to April 6, 1830, at Manchester, New York, that would have been a likely Mormon gathering that would have placed the Smith brothers, Cowdery and Whitmer in close proximity to "Gold Bible Hill" (which has no known artificial cave) and nearby "Miner's Hill" (which did have a man-made cavity, accessed through a wooden door).

Note 2: Palmyra editor Abner Cole was perhaps the first person to publicize Joseph Smith's excavation exploits south of Palmyra. According to Dan Vogel, Cole was particularly interested in Smith's activities around what later came to be called "Miner's Hill," because he had owned that piece of property a few years before the proto-Mormons dug a tunnel into the hillside -- see "The Locations of Joseph Smith's Early Treasure Quests," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27 (Fall 1994) pp. 204-207. In his Reflector for Jan. 18, 1831, Cole contrasted the prophetic careers of Smith and "the impostor of Mecca," noting that "Mahomet... retired to a cave in mount Hara, where he... [received] passages which he pretended had been revealed to him by the ministering angel." In his issue of Feb. 14, 1831 Mr. Cole said a little about the Smith family's money-digging and mentioned the money-diggers' claims that "great treasures" of the "Ancient inhabitants" of the region "remained secure" from theft "in large and spacious chambers" in the earth, in and around Ontario county, New York. In his 1830 "Book of Pukei" satires, Cole makes further mention of the local money-diggers' preoccupation with " treasures, hidden in the bowels of the earth," but he does not specifically refer to their activities at Miner's Hill. --- In Dec., 1833, the Smith family's old neighbor, Peter Ingersoll, recalled that "Joseph, Sen.... told me that the ancient inhabitants of this country used camels instead of horses" and "that in a certain hill on the farm of Mr. Cuyler, there was a cave containing an immense value of gold and silver, stands of arms, also, a saddle for a camel, hanging at one side of the cave." What Mr. Ingersoll meant by "the farm of Mr. Cuyler" remains unknown. William Howe Cuyler, Sr. once owned a large amount of property in and around Palmyra, including a large drumlin (Prospect Hill) located just east of his homestead. As late as 1840 the "heirs of William H. Cuyler" owned city lots on the east side of Palmyra, some of which may have then been farm land. However, by 1833 Prospect Hill had passed into the hands of Peleg Holmes and was not "on the farm of Mr. Cuyler." Mr. Cuyler's two sons, William Howe Cuyler, Jr. and George W. Cuyler, became prominent Palmyra residents. In 1833 William, Jr. would have been about 21 years old; he had earlier attended school with Joseph, Alvin and William Smith -- but he is not known to have owned a farm. In the early 1820s his brother George had a farm in Victor (two townships west of Manchester), but no substantial hill is known to have been located there. George later became President of the First National Bank in Palmyra. Ingersoll's allegations receive some support from another 1833 affidavit -- this one given by William Stafford, a Manchester resident who recalled that the Smith family members "would say, also, that nearly all the hills in this part of New York, were thrown up by human hands, and in them were large caves" and that in these hidden hill chambers were "large gold bars and silver plates."

Note 3: Oliver Cowdery published an article in the Kirtland Messenger and Advocate of July, 1835, in which he said: "At about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former, leaving a beautiful vale between. The soil is of the first quality for the country, and under a state of cultivation, which gives a prospect at once imposing, when one reflects on the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed." In the October issue of the same newspaper, Cowdery went on to describe the hill and the stone box containing the record of those same "destroyed" Nephites: "I must not forget to say that this box, containing the record, was covered with another stone, the bottom surface being fiat and the upper crowning. But those three pillars were not so lengthy as to cause the plates and the crowning stone to come in contact. I have now given you, according to my promise, the manner in which this record was deposited; though when it was first visited by our brother, in 1823, a part of the crowning stone was visible above the surface, while the edges were concealed by the soil and grass, from which circumstance you will see, that however deep this box might have been placed by Moroni at first, the time had been sufficient to wear the earth so that it was easily discovered, when once directed, and yet not enough to make a perceivable difference to the passer by." Although Cowdery does not specifically state that the stone box was originally deposited deep within Gold Bible Hill, in a cave, he appears to hint at that possibility. Still, he makes no reference to any door or other means of entrance to the hill's interior.

Note 4: The first known newspaper publication roughly matching Brigham Young's description of a cave in a Manchester hill appeared in an early December, 1841 issue of the New York Journal of Commerce, in which the writer said: "The delusion got up by Joe Smith, is one of the most remarkable, as well as one of the most successful of the age.... we see a miserable creature like Smith, all at once putting on the garb of sanctity, and guided by pretended inspiration, digging into the side of a hill, and there secluding himself for months, and then coming forth with the pretense that he has found a new revelation..." The problem that arises from this version of the hillside cavity, is that it is an excavation made by Smith himself -- and a secret spot in which he evidently fabricates his "new revelation" of the destroyed Nephites. These elements of the story are obviously incompatible with Brigham's account.

Note 5: There were other Mormon descriptions of the Manchester cave which were written down (and even published) before Brigham gave his 1877 lecture. Heber C. Kimball's Sept. 28, 1856 discourse mentioned that "Joseph and others... went into a cave in the hill Cumorah, and saw more records than ten men could carry... Those records this people will yet have..." In May of 1867 Kimball gave a talk in which he mentioned that "Father Smith, Cowdery, and others" entered inside the "hill Cumorah" and there saw Nephite "records upon records...that were piled up." Two years later Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal, a conversation in which Brigham Young said of Joseph Smith and the plates, that he "did not return them to the box... But He went [into] a Cave in the Hill Comoro [sic] with Oliver Cowdry & deposited those plates..." Brigham also recalled that "Joseph Smith said that Cave Contained tons of Choice Treasures & records." In 1873 non-Mormon Elizabeth Kane asked Brigham Young where the plates were, and he answered: "they were in a cave; that Oliver Cowdery... had been to the cave" with Joseph Smith and they saw that "round its sides were ranged boxes of treasure" and "a large stone table... piled with similar gold plates..." Two years later Elder Jesse N. Smith recorded something similar in his journal, when Brigham Young described "an apartment in the Hill Cumorah... there was great wealth in the room, in sacred implements, vestments, arms, precious metals and precious stones..."

Note 6: In late July or early August, 1878, Dr. P. W. Poulson visited David Whitmer in Missouri and forwarded this account to the Deseret News for publication in its issue of August 21, 1878: "I -- Where are the plates now? He -- In a cave where, the angel has hidden them up till the time arrives when the plates, which are sealed shall be translated.... I -- where is that cave? He -- In the State of New York. I -- In the hill of Comorah? He -- No but not far away from that place. I saw the place where the plates were found and a great many did so..." Here then is preserved a possible reconciliation between the "cave" Brigham spoke of, the "cave" mentioned by Peter Ingersoll, and the "digging into the side of a hill" related by the Journal of Commerce in 1841. Further clarification was provided by Pomeroy Tucker in 1867: "The work of translation this time had been done in the recess of a dark artificial cave, which Smith had caused to be dug in the east side of the forest-hill near his residence, now owned by Mr. Amos Miner. At least such was one account given out by the Mormon fraternity; though another version was, that the prophet continued to pursue his former mode of translating behind the curtain at his house, and only went into the cave to pay his spiritual devotions and seek the continued favor of Divine Wisdom. His stays in the cave varied from fifteen minutes to an hour or over -- the entrance meanwhile being guarded by one or more of his disciples... This excavation was at the time said to be one hundred and sixty feet in extent, though that is probably an exaggeration. It had a substantial door of two-inch plank, secured by a corresponding lock. From the lapse of time and natural causes the cave has been closed for years, very little mark of its former existence remaining to be seen."

Note 7: Joseph Smith's "cave" was subsequently cited in various books on the Mormons and in numerous newspaper articles -- culminating in a very fanciful story published in the Palmyra Journal of July 27, 1898. In the latter tale visitors passing Palmyra's "Prospect Hill" are surprised to discover a hidden cave, and behind "a huge oaken door" the actual repository of "the original gold plates, from which Joseph Smith compiled the first Mormon bible," along with "many other curious and beautiful things..." The writer does not say whether this "Hill of Mormon" cave was located in Miner's Hill or in Gold Bible Hill, but the tale roughly parallels what Brigham related in 1877. For more on the same topic see notes appended to the Rochester Times-Union article of April 25, 1974.

UD

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Posted by: Dawkins ( )
Date: September 03, 2013 05:49PM


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Posted by: Uncle Dale ( )
Date: September 03, 2013 06:00PM

Dawkins Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> ...Has the site of the cave described in Miners Hill
> been located today?



This is from about 40 years ago -- but I guess that's "today"

http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/NY/miscNYS4.htm#042574

PALMYRA -- A cave that may have been used by Mormon prophet Joseph Smith about 150 years ago is being uncovered by a local farmer. Smith, who was born in Palmyra founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). Children discovered the cave about 11 years ago, but eventually mud and dirt blocked the entrance. Bulldozers have cleared the cave opening after the farmer decided last week to investigate the 20-foot long cave,

"I really think I've got something here," said Andrew H. Kommer, the farmer on whose land the cave is located.

The cave is about 7 feet high and 8 feet wide and is carved into a rock-hard clay hillside. It is about a quarter mile off Miner Road south of Palmyra. Yesterday Kommer and two other men prepared to protect the cave from the public by installing 1 1/2 inch iron bars and locked doors. Kommer, 60, who is not a Mormon, said that "ever since my childhood I have heard rumors about a cave." Kommer purchased his Palmyra farm in 1952. Shortly afterward he hired a bulldozer operator to uproot bushes on the hill, he said.

"This was done in the fall," he said. "During the following spring the rains washed the soil down the hill and a small cavity developed on the east side of the hill. I became aware of the opening by some children in the neighborhood who had been scouting around on the slope of the hill."

The children walked through the hole and into the cave, They reported the discovery to their parents.

"It happened about 11 years ago," said Donald Nichols, father of one of the children involved. Nichols yesterday helped Kommer and Gerald Henderson at Palmyra fasten bars and doors to the cave. Over the past decade the hole leading to the cave filled with dirt.

"I have always hoped to learn what might exist underground at that particular spot," said Kommer yesterday. He said a bulldozer was hired to do work on his farm last week and that he decided to have the dozer dig near the cave site.

The cave was built so that water would drain away from it. The walls and ceiling of the cave appear to have been dug or picked by hand. According to Kommer, a few years ago a Mormon visiting Palmyra tried to reach the cave but was stymied by the concrete-like hillside.

An article in the New York Herald on June 25, 1893, told of the cave being located on the hill. A landslide had made the cave inaccessible to the public. The Mormon prophet had [evidently] constructed doors to the cave, which have since rotted, the article said. In digging this week some rotten door planks were uncovered.

The unearthing of the cave this week may clear up a mystery about the exact location of the cave. According to a book written in the 1920s by historian Thomas Cook, "no trace of the old Joe Smith cave can be found."

UD

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Posted by: Uncle Dale ( )
Date: September 03, 2013 06:50PM

Uncle Dale Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
...
> The unearthing of the cave this week may clear up
> a mystery about the exact location of the cave.
> According to a book written in the 1920s by
> historian Thomas Cook, "no trace of the old Joe
> Smith cave can be found."

Actually that is incorrect. A Mormon photographer had
the entrance (near the top of the hill, on the north face)
pointed out to him back in 1907.

http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/NY/Cave_Hill1.jpg

The hill was at that time a wheat field. With the harvest
just beginning, it was easy for a Manchester resident to
point out the bushy spot where the cave door had formerly
been located.

UD

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Posted by: Dawkins ( )
Date: September 04, 2013 01:56PM

Interesting that we could likely find the site of this cave, but no Nephite stone box or room full of artifacts and records.

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Posted by: Uncle Dale ( )
Date: September 04, 2013 04:40PM

Dawkins Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Interesting that we could likely find the site of
> this cave, but no Nephite stone box or room full
> of artifacts and records.

It seems that David Whitmer had been to both hills,
c. 1829-1830, and only recalled there being a cave
repository for the "plates" in one of the Manchester
drumlins. The other hill -- where the "plates" were
supposedly discovered -- was the one where Whitmer
said the stone box, after being unearthed, was soon
eroded from the hillside and tumbled to its foot.

If Joe Smith had the Miner's Hill cave dug (I doubt
he did the work himself) at an early date, then perhaps
it was in emulation of Captain Kidd's alleged treasure
cave, in a hill near Albany.

Later on, Joe may have used the cave as something like
a copy of the cavern where the Holy Koran was purportedly
dictated by an angel in far off Arabia.

Either way, Joe's cave survived, while his supposed
excavation(s) on Gold Bible Hill we find no trace of.

UD

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Posted by: 3X ( )
Date: September 04, 2013 08:35PM

-->I doubt he did the work himself<--


Possibly the understatement of the millennium ...

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Posted by: GQ Cannonball ( )
Date: September 04, 2013 09:33PM

This is good perspective on how mundane fact becomes epic myth in two generations. Readers of the New Testament, do take note.

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Posted by: Uncle Dale ( )
Date: September 04, 2013 11:57PM

GQ Cannonball Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This is good perspective on how mundane fact
> becomes epic myth in two generations. Readers of
> the New Testament, do take note.

I suppose that Porter Rockwell, Brigham Young, and others
realized that the two hills were being conflated when they
related their stories. And they were happy to have the
evident confusion in place, as a way of sanitizing Joe's
early history.

Something similar happened in the case of Joe's peepstone,
the original magic rock somehow got conflated with the
Nephite interpreters, and then with the Israelite Urim
and Thummim. Net result --> Joe's early money-digger
exploits got turned into re-worded, holy events.

But, both with the peepstone and the cave, David Whitmer
refused to go along with the Mormon leaders' sanitizing
of Joe's history. For David, there was no Urim & Thummim,
and the "plates" were eventually hidden away in another
hill than "Gold Bible Hill" -- a nearby place with a cave.

Joe's stories were being re-written, even before his death;
while the non-Mormon publishers kept resurrecting portions
of his actual, treasure-seer past. Joe and subsequent LDS
leaders simply assumed that the Mormon faithful would never
hear the real history -- and that seems a safe bet.

UD

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Posted by: DCM ( )
Date: August 31, 2015 08:59PM

My great grandmother's sister's husband's family (the Kommer's) owned the hill and cave...not sure when they acquired it. I remember Mr Andy Kommer selling tickets to the cave in the mid-1970s. The hill was much more wooded than the 1907 picture I saw on a related web site. My family owned the land at the base of the hill seen in the 1907 picture and almost all the land on both sides of the road until a few years ago. The road is now called Miner Road, though it was Mertz Road (my name) for a time.

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Posted by: Chicken N. Backpacks ( )
Date: September 01, 2015 12:19AM

Joe Smith's New York Cave

One of the hottest jazz clubs in the '50's; everyone played there: Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Paul H. Dunn.

It was hot, man...I mean it was sizzlin'....

Had to close in the '60's when that damn British Invasion ruined real music...

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Posted by: Exmoron ( )
Date: September 01, 2015 01:28PM

One this is for sure...them Smith's were the diggin'ist sons of bitches I've ever seen.

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Posted by: Why Are We Just Hearing About ( )
Date: September 01, 2015 02:00PM

We have a dept at BYU that teaches history and religion. We have institute classes. Why have we not heard of this before now? It seems that it has been well documented according to the posts.Surely at BYU someone must have talked about it. What does this say about their level of professionalism?

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Posted by: brandywine ( )
Date: September 01, 2015 02:03PM

Not much historical scholarship goes on at the Y, that's what it says to me.

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Posted by: brandywine ( )
Date: September 01, 2015 02:01PM

+1

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Posted by: cognitivedissonance ( )
Date: September 01, 2015 02:05PM

I heard that story in the 70's about the cave, piled high with all sorts of records.

Later attempts to dig up the hill, as it was told to me, caused all the machinery to break down.

I often wondered about that story. Nice info!

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Posted by: jojo ( )
Date: September 01, 2015 03:39PM

A couple of interesting reports about the stone box which were supposed to have contained the plates:

Martin harris:
"Three of us took some tools to go to the hill and hunt for more boxes of gold or something, and indeed we found a stone box. We got quite excited about it and dug carefully around it, and by some unseen power it slipped back into the hill. We stood there and looked at it and one of us took a crow-bar and tried to drive it through the lid and hold it, but the bar glanced off and broke off one of the corners of the box. Sometime that box will be found and you will see the corner broken off, and then you will know I have told you the truth" ("The Last Testimony of Martin Harris," by E. Cecil McGavin in The Instructor, October, 1930, Vol. 65, No. 10, pp. 587-589).

In a series of interviews a Mormon writer named Edward Stevenson, who was aquainted with Joseph Smith relates what he was told by an old man living near the Hill Cumorah:

"Questioning him closely he stated that he had seen some good-sized flat stones that had rolled down and lay near the bottom of the hill. This had occurred after the contents of the box had been removed and these stones were doubtless the ones that formerly composed the box. I felt a strong desire to see these ancient relics and told him I would be much pleased to have him inform me where they were to be found. He stated that they had long since been taken away."
(REMINISCENCES OF JOSEPH THE PROPHET, And the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon by Elder Edward Stevenson, 1893 Salt Lake City, Utah)

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