Talk:Early life of Joseph Smith

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Featured article Early life of Joseph Smith is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
Main Page trophy This article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page as Today's featured article on December 23, 2005.
Article milestones
Date Process Result
November 29, 2005 Peer review Reviewed
December 7, 2005 Featured article candidate Promoted
Current status: Featured article

Peer review[edit]

I'm listing this article for peer review. This article is particularly controversial, and needs a few good eyes to ensure that all notable points of view are represented. COGDEN 08:36, 15 November 2005 (UTC)

Featured article candidate[edit]

Since time is growing short, I'm listing this article as a featured article candidate. COGDEN 04:52, 29 November 2005 (UTC)

Parenthetical Citation[edit]

I would like to commend whoever was the first to put Parenthetical Citation in this article. I think this should be how all of our references are kept. Good Job. RENTASTRAWBERRY FOR LET? röck 04:15, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

ok. i see now.

Date of First Vision[edit]

I have twice reverted a specific date for the first vision from a anon using an AOL IP. Left them the following message.

Thanks for the recent edits on this article, but please keep in mind that Joseph Smith gave several accounts of the first vision during his lifetime, with relatively minor variations. One of these accounts was adopted as the official version by the largest LDS schism, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since the LDS project group here tries to present a balanced view of all offshoots of Mormonism, as well as presenting opposing points of view (via Wikipedia's NPOV policy), articles about Mormonism have to be carefully written to incorporate as many viewpoints as possible. As there is some minor disagreement on the actual date of the first vision, a less than precise date has been selected for this article. We encourage people interested in LDS/Mormon issues to become involved in our project group. Please see: Wikipedia:WikiProject Latter Day Saint movement Hope to work with you soon. WBardwin 23:38, 15 December 2005 (UTC)

Howe's work[edit]

Accounts given by Howe seem to be given a heavy amount of credence in the "Moroni and the Golden Plates" section. A cursory reading of the work strikes me as having very poor historiography. Perhaps more qualifiers could be added that his findings are highly questionable? The Jade Knight 10:04, 23 December 2005 (UTC)

I don't think this article cites Howe himself. The only things cited in the work are the affidavits of people who knew Smith, which are interspersed in Howe's book. Some of the affidavits are considered unreliable, but the ones quoted, those of Isaac Hale and Willard Chase, are generally considered fairly reliable on matters of fact. COGDEN 16:01, 23 December 2005 (UTC)

So you "don't think" this article cites Howe himself. Look, this is supposed to be an encyclopedia which only provides information that's been checked and rechecked through as many credible sources as possible. It's not a forum for anti-mormon literature or anti-any religion for that matter. It also shouldn't be a forum for so-called "Academics" who might have a propensity towards revisionist history. E.D. Howe's book, Mormonism Unveiled, is not a credible source. It's also the origin of the famous lie that the Book of Mormon was based on a Solomon Spaulding manuscript. When the Spaulding's manuscript was found, some 30 years after Howe's book was published, it was easily discovered that everything thing Howe claimed was completely false and had now foundation in truth whatsoever. The fact that you would use quotes from a book that is known to have falsehoods and written by a man who's credibility is highly questionable is a complete shame for Wikipedia altogether. Article for this encyclopedia should be written with complete unbais and without prejudice. Strong alligations such as the ones in this articles should be thoroughly investigated before being published. If the encyclopedia writer can't or is unwilling to do that, they should chose other things to write about.--Evanpete 09:11, 23 December 2005 (UTC)

Howe's research is truly quite poor. I really think, if it is to be included, a qualifier should be included as well stating something like "Howe makes the questionable claim that..." Anyone object if I do this myself? The Jade Knight 21:40, 23 December 2005 (UTC)
I have done so. The fact that such erroneous claims have been left in the article and presented as history worries me that many of the other sources may be as erroneous and that much of the article may be incorrect. The Jade Knight 00:49, 24 December 2005 (UTC)
You need to be careful here about throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Howe's book in general is a bit of anti-Mormon propaganda, but many of its affidavits are considered generally truthful and reliable. These affidavits are cited by both secular and apologetic scholars alike. There isn't anything cited in this article that hasn't been cited, for example, in BYU Studies. I'm reverting some of the "qualifiers" because they are simply incorrect. For example, the part about Moroni appearing as a toad was from an affidavit by Willard Chase, who says he heard the story from Joseph Smith, Sr. in about 1827, and therefore is not "unsupported". Willard Chase's version of the story, one of the earliest, is critically important to the history, and failure to cite it would leave a prominent hole, which both secularists and apologists would recognize. COGDEN 01:39, 24 December 2005 (UTC)
Even though this account comes through those sympathetic to the cause of Joseph Smith, Jr., doesn't is cast some of it in doubt that it was (at least) third-hand? Val42 02:23, 24 December 2005 (UTC)
I had looked at the citation in question, and it was nothing but Howe reporting Chase's word that he had been told this. A single uncollaborated story is hardly "supported", particularly in a field where so many lies had been generated. If we're going to keep these citations unqualified, we had better get citations from other more accurate sources to collaborate them. The Jade Knight 02:28, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

Readability[edit]

I find this section difficult to read, is there some way we can get this to read a little more fluidly. I would prefer the FAC version, until it reads a little better Trödeltalk 03:24, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

That is the difficulty you face when you're using questionable or disputed sources; COgden (and likely others) would never let us omit the phrases in question, but context requires that we attach qualifiers to make it clear that, historically, Howe has little credibility on his own (or else we are engaging in spurious historiography and misleading our readers).
If you can think of a way to rephrase this section while retaining all of the current information (including qualifiers), please do so. However, I don't think readability should trump accuracy. The Jade Knight 04:22, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

Reference[edit]

Building The Nation. Charles Carleton Coffin. ~1882. Chapter 32, "The Mormons", ten pages.

Removing section heading[edit]

Because the section about early experiences with visions, et. al. is only one sentence, I incorporated that sentence into the First Vision section and got moved the subsections up one. I think it reads a little better this way since the entire article is about his early life - no reason to keep repeat it in the section heading usig early experiences. Comments? Trödeltalk 23:48, 23 December 2005 (UTC)

Post Featured Article AAR[edit]

The vandalism was not as bad as I expected, 128 edits, I think, and only a few where offensive pics or information was put in. This is much better than usual - I don't know what could explain that - other than the 23rd being a holiday for many people, and a lot of students gone for the Christmas Break. Personally, I am somewhat disappointed, but maybe I shouldn't be because of the overall high quality of the article, but I expected more improvements to the article, as has happened with some of the other featured articles when they are put on the main page.

Here is a before and after diff we should probably review the edits to see if any useful suggestions were deleted as vandalism. Does anyone want to volunteer - **Warning there will be explicit pictures in the history** - if no one can do it right away I will be happy to review them after Christmas.

Thanks to all those who helped watch this article today - especially the admins who quickly reverted nonsense and explicit pics - it is amazing how fast they catch stuff - I was sitting her clicking refresh but by the time I could revert - it was already done. Great job everyone! Trödeltalk 00:20, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

I've actually gone post-by-post (as far as I am aware, at least), and reviewed 90% of edits. I think this is what we're stuck with. The Jade Knight 00:27, 24 December 2005 (UTC)
First of all, I'd like to congratulate the people who got this article up to Feature Article status. Second, I'd like to thank whomever got it featured on the 200th anniversary of his birth. Third, I'd like to thank all of the editors who monitored the feature status. All of this was people besides me. While I was watching today, I found one edit that needed revering but hadn't yet been revereted. By the time I got it reverted, someone else had already done so. Thanks to everyone. Val42 01:27, 24 December 2005 (UTC)
I wasn't able to get to the computer, and it slipped my mind anyway - sorry I couldn't help at all. --Trevdna 02:54, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

Category - Articles lacking sources?????[edit]

On my browser, this article shows that, under categories, it is under "articles lacking sources". I go to change this (it's obviously wrong), and I cannot find it anywhere? Is this only happening to me, or does anyone else see it? Why would it be there in the firsdt place??? --Trevdna 23:26, 13 January 2006 (UTC)

I notice the same. The Jade Knight 23:33, 13 January 2006 (UTC)
I guess this has been taken care of by now, but I assume someone had put a {{fact}} tag somewhere, which used to add an article to that category. (Now it adds it to Category:Articles with unsourced statements.) User:Angr 15:25, 11 July 2006 (UTC)

Stable versions[edit]

{{Nomstable|Early_life_of_Joseph_Smith,_Jr.|32743070}} -- Trevdna 23:39, 23 January 2006 (UTC) {{Certstabletrue|Trevdna}}

The nomination is complete. It is now a Stable Review Version on the Early life of Joseph Smith, Jr./Stable sub page. -- Zondor 11:21, 9 February 2006 (UTC)
Where was the voting? The Jade Knight 05:46, 10 February 2006 (UTC)
I rushed it. -- Zondor 06:42, 10 February 2006 (UTC)
Why? The Jade Knight 07:58, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

I am nominating this article for a "stable version". It has been unedited for nearly a month, seems completely accurate, and I feel that it is as good as it is going to get. The stable versions concept is realitively new, and so this is a very new thing, but I don't think that there's a better article to try this out on. Please support.

Also, if there are any difficulties, roll with it - this is still pretty new.--Trevdna 23:39, 23 January 2006 (UTC)

What's the purpose of having a "stable version"? The Jade Knight 03:49, 24 January 2006 (UTC)
In short, it means its ready to be printed to millions and millions of people to read. -- Zondor 07:15, 6 February 2006 (UTC)
I don't really think it is, personally. I think it still needs a lot of work—I think the sources should be checked and analysed historiographically before we consider calling this article stable. But that's a lot of work which requires access to the sources. I've done it for a few, but there are many, many more. The Jade Knight 07:55, 6 February 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, that's not what I really meant. Actually, what you describe is a perfect candidate for a "preprint" version prior to the stable version. It's complete but just needs to be verified. -- Zondor 13:05, 8 February 2006 (UTC)
Shouldn't be verification be part of the nomination procedure? Markus Schmaus 17:49, 8 February 2006 (UTC)
Perhaps, the nomination procedure can include "alpha testing" (verification) as a hurdle to have it good enough. However, after this nomination it has to undergo "beta testing" (verification) for a Stable Release Version. -- Zondor 01:26, 9 February 2006 (UTC)

Should the Stable Review Version (Early life of Joseph Smith, Jr./Stable) be the default view? This can be done by putting the wiki version on the /Wiki sub page and redirecting the main article page to the stable review version page. The stable page would also need to link to the wiki version. -- Zondor 11:21, 9 February 2006 (UTC)

Definitely not. I doubt the article is accurate, and I think it's important that it remain open to corrections, particularly if people can review the sources and ensure that they are accurate and supported. As it is, the Howe references remain in the article when they are completely unsupported. The Jade Knight 05:46, 10 February 2006 (UTC)
It is open to corrections. Hence it was called Stable Review Version. -- Zondor 06:42, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Blockquote from the surgery[edit]

I removed the VERY long blockquote from the part on his surgery, because it did little for the article, was tedious, and can be accessed from the references. If you want to add it back in, please at least provide a rationale for it on this talk page. --Trevdna 06:26, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

I think it can be there, but it should be a footnote. It is important not to bog down the narrative flow. Footnotes are beautiful! I was going to get around to it. Tom Haws 17:41, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

I moved to footnote. But I don't know how to do paragraphs in footnotes, so it is ugly. Can anybody help me? Tom Haws 17:55, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

Thanks, Trodel, for formatting. Tom Haws 19:21, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

New footnote system[edit]

I converted the footnotes to the new <ref name="note name>Information for note</ref> system. I think it is more useful since it puts the note right next to the information being notated. Trödel 03:13, 17 March 2006 (UTC)

Separate articles on particularly controversial events[edit]

I was thinking of starting an article about the 1826 "trial," as this event is particularly controversial in the JS's history. I'd imagine that other events would be addressed similarly in the future. Sound like a good idea? uriah923(talk) 16:54, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

yes Trödel 11:39, 24 March 2006 (UTC)
I look forward to reading that article. ErinHowarth 08:07, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

NPOV & the Moroni and the Golden Plates section[edit]

User:Reswobslc put an NPOV tag on the above noted section. I went back and skimmed the article and found there are a number of clarifiers, such as claimed or purportedly, used to ensure that readers will understand that the article is not viewed as fact, but as reported by a plethora of references regarding the events recorded.

The section in question has no less than five instances of use of the word claimed. I find it difficutl that a reader would not understand that WIKI is not taking a position as to veracity of the subject matter. I also think that subjects of faith necessarily are presented from the position of topic. Exactly how can the section/article be written with any more qualifiers? If the editor would please offer some specific points let's see if we can't met their standards. Of course, I would also invite User:Reswobslc to pursue the same standard on every other topic of faith on WIKI. Storm Rider (talk) 22:34, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

I would concur -- we have plenty of "weasel" words in this section and in other sections of the article as well. Faith based articles have this inherent difficulty. Today, no one -- believer or not -- can factually prove the plates did or did not exist. It is all opinion. WBardwin 22:42, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
Here is an example of the NPOV violations I am talking about (bolded by me):
The narrative, by making statements of what Joseph did with the plates, is an implicit assertion of their existence. They are blatant NPOV violations until, at the very least, it's changed to say that he said he did things with the plates, rather than simply just did them. The assertion that it is a "faith based" article does not permit it to contain factual assertions of faith-based concepts. WP:NPOV is an "absolute and non-negotiable" policy. Reswobslc 22:49, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
As an editor on WIKI when making a claim violation of NPOV, you have taken the step of stating what you think is wrong with the article. Thank you. It now allows us to see you thought process. The next step in moving forward, do you have a specfic recommendation on how to improve the section, i.e. how do you think it should be written? It would be important to take the section in context of the entire article. Although I feel I have already provided ample evidence of qualifiers, I am open to suggestions to improve the article. Storm Rider (talk) 22:57, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, I can't say I do, other than to remove the NPOV problems. I came to the article with an interest in browsing it, no so much an interest in editing in it, and simply came across an instance of "aha, this is a concrete problem". Simply fixing the entire section to always refer to Joseph Smith's account of what he did, rather than directly to his "Plates" is more than plenty satisfactory to erase my objections to it. Reswobslc 23:01, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

I think Reswobslc's concerns are valid, and I attempted to address them. It looks like a few POV-on-their-face statements had slipped through the cracks. COGDEN 23:46, 31 July 2006 (UTC).

COGDEN, my question now would be with so many "claims" and "reportedly", have you changed the tone so that it now reads as if, "Well, if you believe this I have some beach front property to sell in Arizona to sell"? When you write an article with near constant statements of qualification you necessarily take a POV stand.
I prefer to take a look at other articles and use them as a standard. Check out the Jesus article and you will find a good example of a neutral article, but still allows for recounting of "history" from referenced sources. I think we have bent too far backwards. Thoughts? Storm Rider (talk) 23:54, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
I agree with Storm Rider. "As the name suggests, the neutral point of view is a point of view, not the absence or elimination of viewpoints. It is a point of view that is neutral - that is neither sympathetic nor in opposition to its subject."WP:NPOV The current presentation presents a view in opposition to the subject. --Trödel 02:47, 1 August 2006 (UTC)
The practice of using "claimed," "stated," "reportedly," etc., is no different than that commonly used in mainstream journalism. Qualifying every unprovable or disputed thing as "what somebody says" is perfectly natural and neutral, and I think the audience understands that. It's not opposition to say somebody "claimed" to do something. You simply can't say that something "happened" consistently with NPOV policy, if that thing is disputed. COGDEN 07:04, 2 August 2006 (UTC)
Well, you ARE talking about a guy who said he was talking to angels in his bedroom and claimed to translate a book many people believe is a hoax. People are entitled to believe that. That's what NPOV is all about - stating the facts and letting the reader decide if he buys it. That Jesus lived as a person is relatively undisputed. That Joseph Smith saw an angel and dug golden plates out of the ground, is something most people simply don't believe. It's a bite of religious dogma and must be stated as such.
However, I might suggest that it is possible to say the same thing without using the words "claims" and "reportedly". Those are weasel words to begin with. How about simply in place of "Joseph Smith did X", just "Joseph Smith said he did X". The word "claims" carries a connotation of disbelief (e.g. "the defendant claims he is innocent") which isn't necessary to get into neutral POV territory.Reswobslc 02:34, 1 August 2006 (UTC)
These are only weasel words when they don't have citations to back them up. Every "reportedly" or "claims" in this article, as far as I know, has a citation that makes it clear who is "claiming" or "reporting." The alternative would be to say something like "Joseph Knight wrote .... Willard Chase wrote .... Lucy Mack Smith wrote ...., etc.," which can makes for choppy and inelegant writing. COGDEN 07:04, 2 August 2006 (UTC)
You have said a mouthful. I would agree that most people do not deny that Jesus lived, but whether Jesus was the Son of God would garner a significant dispute worldwide. Even within Christianity there is not unanimity regarding this very issue. To start questioning miracles we do not have to go far: Jesus actually saw Moses and Elijah on the Mt. of transfiguration? He turned water into wine and then raised the dead? What about Gabriel appearing to Muhammad? Is that so outlandish? We tend to choke on gnats and swallow camels. You have to be careful when you draw standards; what is good for the goose will be good for the gander. Before you know it your own sacred cow gets gored.
As I have already stated there were already a number of qualifiers in the article that easily signified to a reader this is history according to Joseph Smith. However, it also gives opposing information and was certainly not one-sided.
When you come in a slap an NPOV tag on a article and then state, "Hey, I am not going to edit, just state what is a problem", it is similar to negotiating with one person. We end up with corrections like COGDEN who bends over too far to pacify a standard that no one knows. If you are going to expend the effort to tag an article, please expend the effort to assist in correcting the article.
In addition, you bet those are weasel words, but they are weasel words we gladly accepted because of the large number of fly-by-night editors, most of them ANONs, who come by after they have heard their preacher talk about those evil Mormons and their "non-Christian" doctrine. They are going to make certain the whole world understands the "truth" about Mormons. The problem is the vast majority don't have a clue about the history of Joseph Smith or the church. Most only have a passing understanding of Christian history or the scriptures. Most of us have spent years in study of religion and we end up answering the same problems/questions over, and over, and over again. I am getting on one of my many soap boxes. It is tiresome. I despise arguing about religion and I really dislike people with axes that need grinding.
I will reread the article tomorrow and I will be deleting a majority of the weasel words. I will retain qualifiers such as the ones you suggested above, but I want a good, readable article without a constant reminder this is a history according to Joseph Smith. How many times do we have to state that? As I edit numerous other articles centered on religious topics, this is seldom a problem and I am frustrated it is a problem here. Storm Rider (talk) 06:36, 1 August 2006 (UTC)
I would think twice about this, Storm Rider. This article has been remarkably stable for over a half-year, in part, I think, because there are very few statements that, taken alone, are not verifiably true and nobody can reasonably argue about them. You can easily argue with the idea that Smith kept the plates in a wooden box, but you can't argue with the statement "Smith claimed he kept the plates in a wooden box." Editors often see sentences they don't agree with and change them. We need to give them something they can't change. COGDEN 07:04, 2 August 2006 (UTC)
You're welcome to edit the article to your heart's content. Questioning my motives for slapping NPOV on the article does not create an exception to the NPOV policy. Have a look at the Jesus article like you suggested I do. You won't read that Jesus was born of a virgin, but rather, that Christians believe it happened that way. You won't read that Jesus turned water into wine, but rather that the Gospels state that he did so. As for Gabriel visiting Muhammad, you'll read how Muslims believe that happened in the year 610 (in the Muhammad article, of course). The Jesus article is awash with phrases like "Christians believe" and "According to Luke" and "the Gospel of John records" as it is necessary to comply with the NPOV policy. Take your own advice and have a look at the article. You will find dozens of ways to word things NPOV without making them sound unnecessarily like a blatant con. Further, as to whether Jesus was the son of God is barely consistent throughout Mormon history. The original 1830 Book of Mormon contained no references to Jesus being the son of God - the numerous such references in the BOM were all added in later. Reswobslc 18:09, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

Come on, this is getting silly. The question is "HOW MANY TIMES DO WE HAVE TO SAY "CLAIMS OR REPORTEDLY, OR EVEN PURPORTEDLY?" My intent was not to question your motives, but as I said it was a bit of a rant. Since I edit the Jesus articel and have worked on that article for many months I am pretty familiar with what it says and what it does not say. We already have all of the qualifiers in the article and you want more. My staement is that putting a qualifier in every time anyone says anything is POV and violates NPOV. If you are stating that we can put one qualifier at the top, then we have it. Look in the first paragraph:

The early life of Joseph Smith, Jr. covers the period from his birth on December 23, 1805, to the end of 1827, when Latter Day Saints believe Smith located a set of Golden Plates engraved with ancient Christian scriptures, buried in a hill near his home in Manchester, New York.

The second paragraph states:

Smith's followers revere him as a latter-day prophet.

This is followed by the 3rd paragraph:

This early period of Smith's life is significant within Mormonism because it represents the time when Smith first claimed to act as a prophet, to have had a theophany (called by his followers the First Vision), and to have obtained the Golden Plates, purportedly the source material for the Book of Mormon, a Latter Day Saint sacred text. During this period, Smith was influenced by numerous religious and cultural trends in early United States history.

Let's look at the section in question. The first sentence reads:

While Smith was working as a treasure seeker, he was also frequently occupied with another more religious matter: acquiring a set of Golden Plates he claimed were deposited, along with other artifacts, in a prominent hill near his home.

This is then followed by a referenced quote. Then followed by a statement of belief:

and observers reported that Smith eventually used the Urim and Thummim and his seer stone interchangeably. (Stevenson 1882, p. 86).

This goes on ad nauseam. The section now reads as if any fool could possibly believe this then they need to get their head examined. I hope to see your many tags on every article of religion. If you are going to start setting the standards for WIKI, then enforce them across the board and not just where you have an obvious POV. Storm Rider (talk) 19:07, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

If you do not understand the NPOV policy, no need to rant to me - read WP:NPOV. "Qualifiers", as you put it, are not necessary - the word "qualifier" doesn't appear even once in WP:NPOV. Neither do the words "claims", "purportedly", or "reportedly" as in your previous capitalized (screaming?) statement. NPOV isn't about including disclaimer words or about ensuring that a reader knows that something is in dispute. It is about sticking to undisputed facts. Many dispute Joseph Smith was a prophet, but whether or not he was, no one disputes that he said he was a prophet. The latter is a fact and is perfectly fine to include. What is wrong with sticking to facts? NPOV (and avoiding bias) isn't a Wikipedia-only thing - it's something we're taught in high school English and writing courses. Journalists and news anchors have the same burden, it's not a new concept, and not one you're likely to get any sort of exception to by arguing about it. Reswobslc 20:19, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

You have said nothing with which I disagree. I believe the article was sticking to the facts, it was written well within NPOV standards, and avoided bias. I also see that you have answered none of my questions. I can also see that we are not communicating very well. I am dropping the converstation; there is no benefit to WIKI, this article, or anyone else in contining. Cheers. Storm Rider (talk) 23:36, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

Archive talk page?[edit]

The conversation topics found at this talk page are stale by several years; is it time to archive this talk page's contents? -- 208.81.184.4 (talk) 15:53, 12 April 2011 (UTC)

Proposed lead change[edit]

It has been pointed out at the main article that the lead for this article fails to mention Smith's occult practices. The current lead is also wordy and repetitive.

I propose the following substitution for the third paragraph of the lead:

Smith's family members held divergent views about organized religion, but they believed in visions and prophecies and engaged in folk religious practices typical of the era. During his youth and early adulthood, Smith himself was paid to use a seer stone to search for buried treasure. During this period Smith also claimed to have had visions and to have received golden plates from an angel from which he said he translated the the Book of Mormon, a Latter Day Saint sacred text. Latter Day Saints believe the events in Smith's early life demonstrate his calling as a prophet, whereas non-believers often use his early life to illustrate his "magic world view."

--John Foxe (talk) 22:15, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

I have a proposed rewrite for the whole lead. I'm going to make the edit in the article itself. If this is a good structure, and we merely need to work out the details, I would hope that we can just do the editing in the article itself. If not, anyone is free to revert. The proposed lead may be slightly too long, but we can discuss what to cut. I am posting it here also, for reference:

Joseph Smith, Jr. was the founder and principal prophet of the Latter Day Saint movement Followers of his faith today include the Mormons and the Community of Christ. The early life of Joseph Smith covers the period from his birth on December 23, 1805, to the end of 1827.

Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont, the fifth child of Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. By 1817, Smith's family had moved to the "burned-over district" of western New York, an area repeatedly swept by religious revivals during the Second Great Awakening. Smith family members held divergent views about organized religion, but they said that they experienced visions and prophecies, and they engaged in folk religious practices typical of the era. Smith investigated Methodism for a time, but like his father, soon became disillusioned with the churches of his day.

In the early 1820s, with the male members of his family, Smith began using a seer stone to search for buried treasure. Also during this time, Smith said he began seeing a series of visions, the first of which was a theophany. In 1823, Smith said he saw an angel, who directed him to a nearby hill (Cumorah) where he said was buried a book of golden plates. He told his family that the plates were inscribed with a Christian history of ancient American civilizations. According to Smith, the angel prevented him from obtaining the plates in 1823, but told him to come back in exactly a year with the "right person." This person was supposed to be his brother Alvin, but Alvin died before the 1824 visit. Nevertheless, Smith continued to return to Cumorah over the next three years, reporting to his family that he could not obtain the plates.

Meanwhile, during one of Smith's treasure expeditions, he met and fell in love with Emma Smith from Harmony, Pennsylvania, and eloped with her in 1827. Returning with Emma to the hill on his 1827 annual visit, Smith said the angel granted him the plates, but forbade him to show them to anyone except whom the angel directed. Smith obtained a wooden chest, and kept it closed and hidden around Smith's parents home in Manchester, New York, with the plates ostensibly inside. As news of the plates spread locally, Smith's former treasure hunting associates sought to share in the proceeds. Intending to translate the plates himself, and hoping to avoid interference from his Palmyra associates, Smith moved to Harmony to live with his in-laws.

COGDEN 01:01, 12 October 2011 (UTC)
The two sentences I would recommend be removed are:

He told his family that the plates were inscribed with a Christian history of ancient American civilizations.

...and...

Smith obtained a wooden chest, and kept it closed and hidden around Smith's parents home in Manchester, New York, with the plates ostensibly inside.

In the context of Smith they are superfluous. This is detail best left to the body of the article. Padillah (talk) 15:27, 12 October 2011 (UTC)
I agree with the second cut. For the first one, I'm not wedded to that particular sentence, but I just want to make sure something is said about the the nature of the plates. COGDEN 22:15, 12 October 2011 (UTC)

Rapid-fire edits[edit]

John, Though I like, and agree with many of the smaller tweaks you are making in the article, the larger, substantive changes must be discussed here on the talk page first. Mixing controversial substantive changes between small tweaks and agreed-upon revisions is bad form, as it is very hard to see which changes are which, and very hard to reverse the individual changes. Because of this, I am reverting to the last stable version, and asking that you make only "tweaks" from here on, and bring up larger changes on the talk page. -- Adjwilley (talk) 22:37, 12 October 2011 (UTC)

You should sort out what you don't like and bring it here so that we can discuss it, not revert my many stylistic improvements. I'll be glad to give you some time to come up with a list of objections. I'm in no rush.--John Foxe (talk) 22:46, 12 October 2011 (UTC)
I really am sorry about the revert. I will try to sort through and restore the stylistic improvements, but it will take me a while. It is not an easy task sorting through a bunch of changes, especially when whole paragraphs were moved, split, or deleted. I will not be able to do that tonight, but I'll get on it tomorrow. -- Adjwilley (talk) 23:08, 12 October 2011 (UTC)
Sorry about rushing off yesterday; I was on my way to a piano tuning appointment. I finished restoring your stylistic improvements, section by section. I didn't move any paragraphs, and I didn't move the picture, so the changes are easy to trace. In the future, please propose substantive additions and deletions on the talk page, and please don't mingle them among helpful tweaks, paragraph merges, and picture moves, as it makes them very hard to detect. -- Adjwilley (talk) 18:22, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

FA review?[edit]

A major problem with this article is that, despite an extensive bibliography, most citations are to primary, rather than secondary, sources, which violates Wikipedia policy ("any interpretation needs a secondary source. Do not analyze, synthesize, interpret, or evaluate material found in a primary source yourself; instead, refer to reliable secondary sources that do so.") Bushman is cited exactly twice, both of which references I added yesterday. The article will have to be rewritten. Should we request that the article's feature article status be reviewed?--John Foxe (talk) 20:25, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

Comment: the article was featured in 2005, the same year Bushman's Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling was published. That is probably the reason he is not cited. I don't know a whole lot about featured article reviews, but it seems that the obvious solution would be to update the article with Bushman citations, and if there are discrepancies, correct those too. In other words, any substantive edits should bring the article closer into alignment with the first several chapters in Bushman that focus on Smith's early life. -- Adjwilley (talk) 22:53, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
We're not just talking Bushman here but Brodie and Quinn citations as well. The article has no quotations from Brodie at all, and that book was published in 1945. There should have been no problem quoting from No Man Knows My History if the article weren't so obviously written from an LDS perspective.--John Foxe (talk) 14:11, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
I think we all agree the article needs work but what are the benefits of requesting an FA review before the work is done rather than after? So long as no one tries to trot out the old "This is an FA article so don't mess with it" argument (which I don't think any of us would fall for anyway) we should be fine to do the work and then request a review. Padillah (talk) 16:47, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
Also, that would help validate the work put in. Padillah (talk) 16:47, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
I agree. It would be wonderfully ironic to improve the quality of the article and then have the FA status pulled. (The last time I worried about getting a gold star was in grade school.)--John Foxe (talk) 19:40, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
@John, I re-read the entire article today, and a couple days ago I read the first few chapters of Brodie (I didn't re-read the chapters in Bushman though). I have to say that there aren't any major flaws in the article that stand out to me. The focus and tone seem pretty good overall. Of course there are many smaller flaws, and you are correct in saying that it relies heavily on primary sources. Any interpretations, though, seem to fall in line with the secondary sources.
One of my main concerns here is that, sources aside, there are many more problems in Joseph Smith than in this article. Granted, some of them are scars from its long history of edit wars, but despite being heavily sourced and edited, it seems that few people are happy with it. My primary concern is that if you dive into editing this article, it will become the next battleground.
That said, I believe that there is a solution to what's going on over at Joseph Smith, and I am devoting a lot of energy to that right now. Call me crazy, but I believe that we can reach a consensus, though it will take some compromise on both sides. Anyway, you stated earlier that you weren't in a rush, so if you could please just give me a week or so, I would like to propose a plan over at Joseph Smith. If my plan works, then we will have reached a consensus, and we'll have a clear direction for editing this article, as well as Joseph Smith. If it doesn't, I will apologize for delaying your work here, and we will move forward as we see best.
Does that sound acceptable to you? -- Adjwilley (talk) 22:27, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
I think you need to read Quinn's Early Mormonism and the Magic World View before you conclude that there aren't major flaws in this article. For instance, the article needs more emphasis on the occult practices of Smith and his family, Smith's irreligious youth, and his treasure seeking for profit. The article's also wordy and weakly written. (That this could be a featured article in 2005 demonstrates how much Wikipedia has improved over the last six years.)
As I said, I'm in no rush to revise this article, but I don't know why improvements here have to wait for your proposals at Joseph Smith. You're not crazy to propose a grand scheme there, but I've been around long enough to have watched earlier attempts become simply lightning rods for further discord. In any case, I don't think this sub-article will become the battleground that the main article has been because so many fewer people are interested in it.--John Foxe (talk) 12:31, 15 October 2011 (UTC)
Sorry for the delay. My intention was not to delay improvements here, and I have appreciated the edits you have been making. Part of the reason I wanted to wait was because I didn't know yet what I was going to argue...I was still in the initial stages of analyzing sources, and I didn't actually crunch any numbers until a couple days ago.
As for Quinn, I probably will read his book at some point, however, I don't think one can use the book to say "the article needs more emphasis on the occult practices of Smith." Yes, the book is focused on Smith's magical practices. But that doesn't tell us anything about how important magic was in his life, or to what proportion it appears in other sources (and thus to what proportion it should appear in a Wikipedia article). There are thousands of other books on Smith that focus on other things. To determine where the emphasis should lie, we should use sources like Bushman and Brodie that cover Smith's entire life, not sources like Quinn that look at one subject under a microscope. -- Adjwilley (talk) 18:04, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
I disagree. Writing more than 65 years ago, Brodie was basically ignorant of the occult influence on Smith (plus she had her own fish to fry). And Bushman is a Mormon. He doesn't like to be called an apologist, but he isn't beyond trying to slip by the tough places in the story if for no other reason than to keep the General Authorities from too obviously lifting their eyebrows. For that reason I think the opening chapters of Rough Stone Rolling are the weakest in the book.--John Foxe (talk) 19:22, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm not in a great position to defend Brodie, because I don't know what sources Quinn had available to him that Brodie didn't have (unless you want to include the Hofmann forgeries ;-). As for Bushman, I think that dismissing Smith's leading biography because of the author's religion is a little shallow. -- Adjwilley (talk) 21:44, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
What Brodie wouldn't have given for a set of Vogel's Early Mormon Documents! As for Bushman, I think Rough Stone Rolling is the best biography of Joseph Smith ever written; but it's prudent, rather than shallow, to note that he's writing from an LDS perspective.--John Foxe (talk) 14:38, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

Discussion of Joseph Smith's personality and character[edit]

Here's the diff of a paragraph about Joseph Smith's youthful character that Adjwilley has reverted, although it's based on secondary sources rather than the primary sources which he has now restored without explanation. So, the ball's in your court to explain why you've reverted a paragraph that's based on reliable sources but reflects unfavorably on the credibility of Joseph Smith.--John Foxe (talk) 00:02, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

I don't think the discussion should be about whether or not the paragraph reflects unfavorably on Smith. My concern is that you completely transformed a paragraph about Smith's childhood activities (school, farm work, odd jobs, local junior debating club) into a lengthy discussion of his post-1823 character without giving any compelling reasons for the change on the talk page, and with the edit summary, "added some material." I also disagree with including long direct quotes from people who knew Smith. For our purposes, it's not important what Tucker and Hendrix thought about Smith; what matters is what Bushman and Brodie thought. For your convenience, I have added some secondary sources to the paragraph. -- Adjwilley (talk) 16:13, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
The paragraph should not deliberately gloss over the aspects of Smith's character that an investigator of Mormonism would like to know. Certainly Lucy Smith's testimony about her son's storytelling ability is one of the very few things we know for sure about Smith's childhood and should be included. I agree that the secondary voices of Brodie, Bushman, Vogel, and Quinn should be front-and-center in this article. As it stands, the article is deficient because it's largely based on primary sources; it needs to be "completely transformed."--John Foxe (talk) 19:40, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
Thank you, that is much better. I had to revert the drinking change though because it was most definitely not supported in Bushman. There were probably multiple reasons Smith Sr. had partially abdicated leadership, and drinking may have been one, but since it's not supported, we leave it in the footnote as a possible cause, along with discouragement, being "worn down with setbacks", and shame for having lost the Vermont farm. -- Adjwilley (talk) 21:39, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm willing to give way on the mention of Smith, Sr.'s drinking, but Vogel calls him an alcoholic. I'd bet that a lot of the responsibility for the dysfunction of the Smith family can be laid at the doorstep of Smith, Sr.'s drinking.--John Foxe (talk) 10:18, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
Possibly. There are a lot of possible reasons, however your view doesn't seem to be supported by Bushman. I'd guess that the drinking was more likely a result of his discouragement of having lost the farm in Vermont, and other setbacks. -- Adjwilley (talk) 00:33, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Bushman is a Mormon patriarch with every reason to play down Smith, Sr.'s alcoholism (if alcoholism it was), and Vogel is certainly an equally reliable source for Wikipedia purposes. Of course, why Smith, Sr. was drinking is a matter that we don't have to address.--John Foxe (talk) 10:31, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

Direction for the article[edit]

I'm not really liking the pattern that seems to be emerging here: that is, you make several edits, significantly changing the structure and meaning of a paragraph, I do a partial revert, we banter a little on the talk page, add sources, add footnotes, and then end up with a paragraph much like the original, with a little more information, and your point of view in the footnotes. It may improve the article quality a little, and definitely improves the references to reliable sources, but it is a grueling process, and is probably not the most efficient way to get things done. (It's essentially a Wikipedia:BOLD, revert, discuss cycle repeated over and over again.)

As an alternative, it's obvious that you have a direction in which you would like to take the article. Why don't you present that here on the talk page, lay out what you'd like to do with the article, and then we can try to reach a WP:Consensus first. This could save both of us a considerable amount of time. -- Adjwilley (talk) 00:33, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

The article has to be completely rewritten because it's currently based on primary sources, so there's no point in laying out any grand scheme. I don't have one anyway, except I want the article to be better written stylistically and reflect a more neutral, non-LDS perspective.
You're a reasonable fellow, and I'd be glad to have your assistance in improving this article. But attempting to be an obstructionist won't work in the long run. You can't argue that the status quo is better than my changes because the article as it stands is based on a Mormon interpretation of primary sources—and that violates Wikipedia policy. Any change I make is prima facie an improvement to the article unless you can demonstrate from a reliable secondary source that it's not.--John Foxe (talk) 10:17, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
You should propose your major changes here on the talk page and reach a consensus before making them. Please see: WP:FAITACCOMPLI which says, "Discussion is, however, called for if you think the edit might be controversial or if someone indicates disagreement with your edit (either by reverting your edit and/or raising an issue on the talk page)." I will revert again. So far, you haven't been able to defend your point of view against reliable sources like Bushman and Brodie. -- Adjwilley (talk) 14:45, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
You can't exclude reliable secondary sources that you don't like or just haven't read: Vogel's a reliable secondary source and so is the Ostlings' book.
We've worked things out together before, and if the disagreement's just between us two, we can ask for a third opinion.--John Foxe (talk) 20:53, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm not excluding Vogel because I haven't read him. I just mentioned the two most prominent biographies. (As a side note, I ordered a copy today on ebay.) A third opinion would probably be good here. -- Adjwilley (talk) 21:57, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
How should the question be framed?--John Foxe (talk) 22:39, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

Reverts[edit]

So far as I can see, the issues at stake here are:

  • Renaming "Religious background" to "Religious and folk magic background"
Adjwilley's argument: "Religious background" is broad enough to cover the folk religious practices of the Smith family, and is a more appropriate section title. (What we call folk magic was just an extension of religion to the Smiths.)
Quinn's book is called Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. The sort of occult practices in which the Smith family engaged were condemned by both evangelical clergymen and rationalists. To exclude "folk magic" from the title is an attempt to push Mormon POV because mention of Joseph Smith's practice of magic is an embarrassment to contemporary Mormons.--John Foxe (talk) 22:37, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
The Mormon POV argument doesn't make sense, because Quinn was a church member until 6 years after he first published the book, and he still considers himself a "Mormon." I guess you'd have to find a proper definition of "Mormon POV." Also, as I noted above, Quinn's book cannont be used to determine how much emphasis Magic should have, because the book is written specifically about Magic. It's one book about Joseph Smith among thousands that focus on other things. To determine the proper emphasis, we should look at reliable sources like Bushman and Brodie that cover Smith's whole life. I spent a week doing that, and have presented my results on Talk:Joseph Smith. If you disagree, I would invite you to point out where I went wrong. -- Adjwilley (talk) 00:07, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Of course, by "Mormon," I meant the official view of the LDS Church, which Quinn does not represent. Quinn is a reliable secondary source, and you can't eliminate it simply because you don't like what it implies—that Mormonism springs from the occult.--John Foxe (talk) 13:34, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Adjwilley's argument: Do you have a source that says that the Oneida Community was influential in Smith's religious background? If not, I think we can safely say it's undue and belongs in the footnote where I have put it. I doubt you'll find any source saying the Oneidas influenced him as a youth, since the community wasn't founded until after Smith's death.
The mention is intended to link the religious excitement with other new religions that flourished in New York besides Mormonism. It's almost a quotation from Ostling, a reliable secondary source.--John Foxe (talk) 22:37, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
The phrase "surrendered to one religious craze after another" already does that. -- Adjwilley (talk) 00:07, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Better to be specific. Besides "craze" is unnecessarily pejorative.--John Foxe (talk) 13:34, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
with
"Smith grew to maturity during the Second Great Awakening, a time of religious excitement in the United States. Western New York was such fertile ground for the fires of revivalism that it was called the "Burned-over district."
Adjwilley's argument: I don't have a strong opinion on this one. I personally found the Age of Enlightenment mention helpful, as Bushman references it frequently in the context of Smith trying to get people to believe in visions and angels during a post-enlightenment era. I also liked the "caught fire" bit because it makes it clear why the district was called "burned over." Your replacement only said that Western New York was "fertile ground" but left out the detail that it was repeatedly burned over.
I think my version's shorter and better stylistically.--John Foxe (talk) 22:37, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Your "shorter" argument breaks down when you consider that you are replacing
"surrendered to one religious craze after another"
with
"The heightened religious interest increased membership in traditional denominations, but many new sects and communitarian experiments also sprang from the movement and frequently flowered in western New York, including the American Shakers and the Oneida Community of John Humphrey Noyes."
The original version is shorter than yours and presents the information in a general way without going into unnecessary specifics. -- Adjwilley (talk) 00:07, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
The writing of the original is weak, and the additional specifics are helpful to the uninitiated.--John Foxe (talk) 13:34, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Using Brodie's quote about "adolescent mystic brooding over visions," and "a likable ne'er-do-well who was notorious for tall tales and necromantic arts" at the end of the section on "Childhood."
Adjwilley's argument: The quote is out of place. The paragraph is already bordering on the long side, and we have plenty of long quotes in it already. You've already got the "tall tales" bit in his mother's overly-long quote, and the rest of the quote is speaking of Smith as a young adult, not a child. Visions haven't been mentioned yet in the article, nor have the necromantic arts. He got into that stuff after he was 18, not while he was still a child.
Brodie is talking about Smith as an adolescent, but so are the other quotations in the paragraph. Except this one reflects negatively on the character of Joseph Smith. Furthermore, the Smith family engaged in magical practices even before Joseph's birth.--John Foxe (talk) 22:37, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
I think the other quotes should be further down in the article too. Where you have it, Visions and magical practices haven't even been mentioned yet, so Brodie's quote doesn't make sense. Also, as others have pointed out, your argument that negativity is a basis for inclusion doesn't make sense. -- Adjwilley (talk) 00:07, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
The location would make better sense if you'll let me introduce the magic immediately afterward, which is what I'd like to do.
It will be impossible to preserve the current LDS slant once all the primary sources are replaced; reliable secondary sources simply don't support the LDS position as well as does an LDS interpretation of primary sources. So eventually the article will contain more information inimical to the LDS position regardless. The reliable sources are all on my side.--John Foxe (talk) 13:34, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
I am sorry if you think I am trying to push an LDS pov because that is certainly not my intention. My main goal here has been to preserve what I see as the fairly neutral pov that already exists in this featured article. I disagree with your assessment that all the sources are on your "side." If there are to be "sides," my opinion is that one should try to be on the side of the sources. -- Adjwilley (talk) 17:38, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
As a side note, I think your recent addition about Asael creates a lot of problems in the paragraph, which should begin with the introductory: "Smith's family and ancestors, like the majority of families of this era, had little affiliation with organized religion;". It also creates redundancy within the paragraph, and I recommend you move it elsewhere. -- Adjwilley (talk) 22:01, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm just warming up by mentioning Asael. Both Smith's family and a majority of other families of this era had church affiliations of some sort. Asael was Universalist; Lucy was raised a Congregationalist and became a Presbyterian. (The sentence that you mention is supposed to be cited to Quinn, but there's no page number.)--John Foxe (talk) 22:37, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
I think you may have misunderstood my comment here. I'm totally fine with mentioning his grandparents' religons. I was just pointing out that the placement of your addition created several problems in the paragraph that I couldn't correct because we're both at 3RR. You've fixed it now, so it's a moot point. -- Adjwilley (talk) 00:07, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Good.--John Foxe (talk) 13:34, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

First Vision[edit]

I'd like to replace the current material here on the First Vision with material from the article First Vision, making it clear that the story has no connection with Smith's adolescence except in his own, much later, later reminiscence.--John Foxe (talk) 20:32, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

I'm a little uncomfortable about taking material from a B article to replace material in a Featured Article. There's a lot of stuff in First Vision. What specifically did you have in mind? -- Adjwilley (talk) 22:29, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

As a replacement I'd like something much shorter, something like the following with citations:

Beginning in 1832, when Smith was 27, he gave several accounts of a vision he said he had when he was in his early adolescence. According to an account Smith told in the 1840s, he went to the woods to pray about which church to join but fell into the grip of an evil power that nearly overtook him. At the last moment, he was rescued by two shining "personages" (presumably Jesus and God the Father) who hovered above him. One of the beings told Smith not to join any existing churches because all taught incorrect doctrines. Smith wrote several accounts of the vision beginning in 1832, but none of the accounts was published until the 1840s. Though Smith had described other visions, the First Vision was essentially unknown to early Latter Day Saints; Smith's experience did not become important in the Latter Day Saint movement until the early-20th century, when it became the embodiment of the Latter Day Saint restoration. Largely through Joseph F. Smith's influence, Smith's 1838 account of the First Vision became part of the canon of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1880 when the faith canonized Smith's early history as part of the Pearl of Great Price. Belief in the First Vision is now considered fundamental to the LDS faith, second in importance only to belief in the divinity of Jesus. An official website of the Church calls the First Vision "the greatest event in world history since the birth, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus Christ."

I think it important to make it clear that there's no independent testimony that Smith had this vision, no local persecution, no George Lane, etc. Of course, it would be fine to quote Smith's exact words once it's clear that the First Vision is simply a faith statement. And if you'll allow such a simple exposition, it shouldn't be necessary to catalog the differences in Smith various accounts. We can leave that for the larger article.

If you insist on arguing that the 2005 FA status has significance in 2011, I'll apply to have the status removed. There's no way this article could be an FA today.--John Foxe (talk) 00:07, 6 November 2011 (UTC)

The current article seems to already have all of the information you presented, except for the parts about Latter Day Saint interpretations (which arguably doesn't belong in this article anyway.) You'd also be cutting out a substantial amount of material. Can you justify these cuts? I think it's already crystal clear that the First Vision is a faith statement, just the same as all his later visions, and for that matter, the visions of any other person. -- Adjwilley (talk) 16:28, 6 November 2011 (UTC)

The difference between Smith's First Vision and his vision of Moroni and the Golden Plates is that we have a lot of external testimony that he freely talked about the later. There's no contemporary testimony about Smith talking about the First Vision, not even to family members, who even much later seemed baffled by it.

I'd like to make the section much shorter, say a paragraph, especially because about half the references are not to reliable sources. There's a whole article on the subject to which we're directing the reader. What's the argument for wasting electrons by keeping it?--John Foxe (talk) 22:27, 6 November 2011 (UTC)

I've added a few Bushman references to the section. I would recommend that instead of deleting large portions of the article, you start by flagging references you find unreliable, and give people some time to find reliable ones. -- Adjwilley (talk) 02:05, 7 November 2011 (UTC)

Why?--John Foxe (talk) 11:23, 7 November 2011 (UTC)

Brodie quotaton[edit]

You've reversed Brodie's meaning. She says that he wasn't taken for a visionary, and you've quoted her as saying that he was. That quotation, by an authoritative source, provides negative commentary about Joseph Smith of which the LDS Church would not approve. Therefore it should be included in the text. But I'm fine with you choosing the best location.--John Foxe (talk) 00:01, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

My apologies. I was quoting Bushman on the visionary part, hoping the quotes in the footnote would make that clear. Bushman calls Smith a rural visionary no fewer than six times. (See pages 58, 72, 111, 127, 130, and 143.) I disagree that the views of the LDS Church should determine what should be included in the text. Instead, we should compare the Bushman and Brodie quotations and then try to reach a consensus. -- Adjwilley (talk) 00:28, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Obviously I don't believe the views of the LDS Church should determine content either. That's why I'd like to see that Brodie quotation in the text. It would provide appropriate balance to the LDS teaching that Smith was concerned with religion during his childhood.--John Foxe (talk) 00:50, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Been monitoring your edits as an outside, neutral editor. Looks like you guys are doing a good job working together. Thanks for being amicable! SocratesJedi | Talk 07:15, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Glad to have you along for the ride.--John Foxe (talk) 10:56, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
We both agree that we shouldn't let the LDS Church determine the content, but I still disagree that we should add content to "ballance" the views and teachings of the Church. There are plenty of websites that do that, and Wikipedia should not be one of them (see WP:Advocacy and WP:NOTADVOCATE). Instead of focusing on the LDS Church, we should focus on reliable sources. That said, I must say that I also appreciate the civility. -- Adjwilley (talk) 19:35, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Explanations for reversions needed[edit]

FyzixFighter has reverted recent edits of mine without discussion on this page, restoring a great deal of Mormon special pleading, much of it cited only to non-reliable, LDS sources.--John Foxe (talk) 16:34, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

You mean a reason besides the fact that you made you made more than one revert ([1], [2], [3]) in 24 hours - once again violating your 1RR probation. Or besides the fact that your edits removed the edits of others without discussion - odd double standard you have there. Or besides the fact that the edit summary (claiming removal of material with no reliable secondary source citation) for an edit deleting a whole paragraph and then some was a misrepresentation of the actual edit - the removed material included only two primary sources (Cowdery and Smith, a single cite each) and three secondary sources (Mather - 2 cites, Porter - 1 cite, Roberts - 2 cites). Or besides the fact that this edit was blatantly trying to push a POV and ignored the very following sentence - which is more neutral and more correct since we 1832 is the first written account. Honestly, can we get above the lowest two forms of disagreement. Note that I did attempt to address your concern for secondary sources by providing two additional secondary sources for a statement that had none. But beyond that, dismissing sources and opinions of other editors based on their known (or supposed in my case since I've never identified mine) religious affiliation is a weak and useless argument in the case of the former, and bordering on a personal attack in the case of the latter. --FyzixFighter (talk) 05:03, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
As I said, you reverted edits of mine without discussion on this page, restoring a great deal of Mormon special pleading (not to mention some poor syntax), much of it cited to non-reliable, LDS sources such as Cowdery, Smith, Porter, and Roberts, to which you've now cheerfully admitted.--John Foxe (talk) 19:42, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm also wondering whether Mr. Willey and FyzixFighter are working in consort to revert edits that reflect negatively on Joseph Smith [potential outing removed] --John Foxe (talk) 22:00, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
Once again FyzixFighter has reverted recent edits of mine without discussion on this page, restoring a great deal of Mormon special pleading, much of it cited only to non-reliable, LDS sources.--John Foxe (talk) 12:19, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm restoring that information because the only arguments you've given are the lowest and weakest types of arguments, ie ad hominen and name-calling. The only argument of substance you've provided is that of syntax. I've made good faith efforts to address that, to improve the references in one part by adding cites to Quinn, Norton, and Backman, and to remove any synthesis based on the primary sources by simply stating what they state. I still don't see why you insist on a double standard where I must first discuss revisions to your edits, but you don't have to discuss revisions and removal of, up until now, stable material put in by other editors. You've also totally disregarded WP:AGF and made an attempt at outing in your "wondering" post above, which should probably be reverted and removed from the editing history. --FyzixFighter (talk) 14:34, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Specifically, you've cited Cowdery (1834b, p. 13);Smith (1883);Roberts (1902)Tucker (1876, p. 18), none of which are reliable secondary sources. Please remove the information cited to these sources or provide reliable secondary sources to replace them.--John Foxe (talk) 12:39, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

@FyzixFighter, I must interject. First off I cannot find, neither in the current version nor talk page history, the ad hominem attack you purport Foxe leveled at you. If you are talking about ad hominem attacks against your sources, to decalre a source as not reliable is not ad hominem. Your labeling it as such does raise questions for me. An other thing that raises questions for me is you labeling this and this as reverts. They are not. A revert is when a person simply undoes the prior edit by clicking the "undo" link next to the date on the differences page. In fact both of those edits show Foxe trying to work with another editor to strike a balance. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Foxe doesn't have his POV. I know he does, and an even cursory examination of the talk page history will show you I'm not simply agreeing with Foxe. But if you are going to attack someone (and, let's face it, that's what you are doing by carrying on in the manner shown above) do it for offenses they may have actually committed. Like this edit where a jab at Lucy was added and the summary was simply "combined two paragraphs and added some Bushman citations". For what it's worth, an argument against Reliable Sources is, in Wikipedia, a perfectly valid argument. You may not like the implication of that argument but if we don't hold our sources to a high standard we will be lost. Our sources are our articles. Padillah (talk) 13:40, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

@Padillah: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've only claimed in the above that John was using ad hominem arguments to dismiss sources. I have never said that he leveled ad hominem attacks at me during this current exchange. The only reason that John has given for certain sources to be unreliable is their LDS affiliation. An ad hominem argument (the second-to-weakest type of argument), as described in Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement, is attacking the characteristics or authority of the writer without addressing the substance of the argument. To paraphrase both John's argument and Graham's example of ad hominem argument, "Of course the sources would say that. They're LDS." The calling of the sources unreliable is not the ad hominem, the reason given for them being unreliable is the ad hominem. This is even more perplexing when you consider that one of the sources John wants removed (Tucker) is definitely not an LDS source. That is why I've been saying that no substantive arguments (besides that of syntax) have been made for removing the text and sources in question.
As to reverts, reverts are more than just clicking undo, which is only the most easily identifiable revert. More broadly, reverting may also refer to any action that in whole or in part reverses the actions of other editors (see Help:Reverting). In it is in that sense that I was identifying those edits as reverts. The first removed a good portion of this edit, and hence a revert, and the second I would argue undid this edit. However, it was incorrect for me to identify them as two separate reverts since a series of consecutive saved revert edits by one user with no intervening edits by another user counts as one revert. --FyzixFighter (talk) 14:37, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Fair enough, let's take the sources to WP:RS noticeboard and see if they can be claimed as RS or not. Rather than simply deny John's argument (a feat which adds nothing to the discourse, in short "I won't listen, la la la") Let's get the sources qualified as reliable and thus defeat his argument. I am concerned that rather than acknowledge the obvious appearance of bias and work to eliminate it, you chose to become insulted and lash back. I can tell you from experience, that's not the best way to handle an argument and it's one of the worst ways to handle an argument with John Foxe. He has been at this for years and has developed quite thick skin. As to the reverts - for the purpose of a 1RR probation - I have always understood that it was meant to specifically address edit wars. Thus it is meant to refer specifically to the "undo" link or a direct undoing of previous material. Otherwise it would be rather simple for someone to over run the page with their edits and John would be helpless. It would also be impossible for him to collaborate on the article since he would not be able to contradict or change an edit more than once a day (which is, obviously, completely untenable). There are several editors on this page, myself included, that keep the discussion on an even keel. I see John editing in good faith (from a POV, but in good faith). With that in mind let's take his argument at it's word rather than engaging in ad hominem attacks by trying to discredit him (a practice we are currently denouncing him for using). If he declares Tucker not a reliable source let's take the question to WP:RS and ask them. If we get it declared a Reliable Source then we can use it in the article. And we'll have removed any claim John may have to our bias since we were not involved in the decision. Do you have the book name? Let's go. Padillah (talk) 17:07, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
I don't think I was insulted and lashed back in any way. I was short and blunt with him, especially when he was advocating a double standard of requiring others discussing reverts to his edits but not vice versa. I disagree with you on the 1RR applying specifically to the "undo" link - a revert is a revert, and I haven't seen anything in WP policy that supports the narrower interpretation. Of course, I may have missed it - where are you drawing this conclusion from? Or should we just agree to disagree on that point?
Nor do I agree that I've been engaging in ad hominem attacks to discredit him. I have attacked and dismissed his arguments as weak and without substance, using Graham's hierarchy as a measuring stick, and argued that his edit summaries were misleading, but I have never used any real or supposed characteristics about John himself to discredit him. Because John has never gotten above explaining why the sources are not reliable in this specific instance, except arguing that they are LDS, I find it difficult to pursue any discussion with him further about the reliability of the sources. All I can respond is "Yes, those sources are LDS - that one isn't. ...So what?" Note also that at each step, I have not simply reverted. Rather, I've sifted through his edits for changes and sources that improve the text and I've re-added those, and I've added additional reliable sources to statements he seems to be contesting and made changes to reduce the amount of synthesis and improve the NPOV of statements sourced to refs that could be construed as more primary than secondary. John's edits are the ones that seem to blindly use the "undo" button, reusing the same arguments both in the summaries and here on the talk page despite additional sources being added and the use of the possibly controversial sources being minimized. It is John who has made this personal, not me, when he accused other editors of conspiring to edit in bad faith and characterized me as his "Mormon nemesis".
However, John has finally identified in a statement above the sources that he says are unreliable. Since 3 of the 4 sources are used in multiple places in the article I'm unsure for which statements John thinks the sources are unreliable. I can go out on a limb and guess though.
So have at it. --FyzixFighter (talk) 18:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've only claimed in the above that John was using ad hominem arguments to dismiss sources.
Actually you only ever said his arguments were ad hominem. You never specified what arguments you felt were ad hominem so I was forced to make an assumption. That's why my initial reaction was to clarify what you thought was an ad hominem attack.
I don't think I was insulted and lashed back in any way.
Then I misunderstood the text and your mood when it was written. Your zeal at proving his arguments basless rather than wrong was my basis for this assumption.
I disagree with you on the 1RR applying specifically to the "undo" link...where are you drawing this conclusion from?
From the various and disparate probation discussions I've had through the years. It's not a policy, it stems from common usage of WP. If you are not allowed to revert vandalism or blatant POV or change the syntax of a statement or do anything... your ability to contribute to an article decreases considerably. Blocks, bans, and probation are not punative in WP they are preventative. John's 1RR probation is to prevent him (and, to be fair, others) from engaging in revert wars. If you chose not to accept this explanation then I guess you agree to disagree.
Nor do I agree that I've been engaging in ad hominem attacks to discredit him.
Unless I have missed something the only response you've provided for his supposed ad hominem attacks are to label them ad hominem attacks and point out their standing on Grahm's Hierarchy. Rather than confront his arguments, you discredit them (and him) by declaring them the second-to-weakest argument. You are free to insist that being labeled "Non Reliable Source" is attacking the source but I rather think it's very pertinent to the bias of this article. I have seen Mormon literature and it can be extremly biased toward The Prophet. If you fail to understand this bias then you may have difficulties contributing to this article.
So have at it.
Umm, not to put too fine a point on it - I don't care if they are reliable sources or not. I have no interest in doing your foot work for you. If you want the sources used then you go to the WP:RS board and get them to approve them. Then bring that citation back here and I will force John to acquiesce. But I won't do the work for you. If it's that important to you, you do the work. Padillah (talk) 22:28, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
I swear this is the last point that I'll belabor on this dead horse, but there is a distinction in what I've said and done that your summary of what's happened seems to not make. I'm not insisting that being labeled "Non Reliable Source" is an ad hominem attack on a source. What I am saying is that being labeled as such for being LDS, which seems to me to be the sum of John's argument so far, to be a weak, non-substantive, is an ad hominem argument. If the argument was that the sources are not reliable for such-and-such reasons based on counterarguments and refutations, then I wouldn't be so blunt and a proper discussion could ensue. But merely being able to declare sources unreliable based on religious affiliation seems to me a slippery slope that I don't think anyone wants to go down. If someone made the same argument on a page you were watching, but used "Brazillian" instead of "LDS" for why several sources were non-reliable and no further reason, how much general weight would you give that argument to start off with?
Before I take this over to RSN then, could I at least get your third opinion on RS question. This being a disagreement between just two editors, myself and John, asking for a third opinion would be one of the next steps in a dispute resolution. Given the sources and statements above, are the sources valid reliable sources for those statements? Are there any issues that immediately jump out at you? --FyzixFighter (talk) 01:37, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
This is the last time I will bring up this particular argument as well - if you fail to see the inherent bias in using a Mormon source to promote a Mormon article then I have questions as to your ability to edit this article neutrally. You belittle John's argument because "the sum of Jon's argument so far" is one-sided. But your argument isn't that these are respected journalists. Your argument isn't that their character is above reproach. Your argument isn't that they are used as sources by a leading, non-biased, peer reviewed, outstanding journals. Your sole argument is that you think John's argument is ad hominem. Rather than answering the argument you are attacking the man by belittling his path. That's ad homenim. You are also vastly misrepresenting John's argument. His argument isn't attacking the person, it's attacking the source. He is expecting you to come forward and admit that LDS sources may have extraneous bias toward The Prophet and support those sources in other ways. This is a Mormon article, whether we like that or not. And, as such, sources that are trying to push a POV will have a distinct slant when addressing this subject. Very few Mormons think Joseph Smith was "just zis guy, you know". There are people that believe that Smith talked to God. Not prayed, nono. Looked God in the eye and heard his voice with his ears. You have to admit the bias of people that followed the man claiming this kind of feat. Please, take a second to admit that some people believe in Smith as a prophet and some don't. Then reflect on the obvious and blatant bias of those that believe him a prophet would lend to their recollection of his life. If your line of reasoning was presented as something like "Even Brodie uses Roberts to provide context for...(something)" then you'd have a defense against the claim of bias. But, so far, you just don't like John calling your sources biased. That's it. That's all I see. You ask me if someone used "Brazillian" rather than LDS would I give that source the same weight. In return I must ask - what article are we editing? The one on thongs? No, "Brazillian" carries no extra weight nor bias. Are we editing the article on Brazil's independence from Portugal? Then yes, I have to recognize that there are feelings and emotions that run deep and I would think any source I tried to use would need to be properly vetted to make sure I wasn't introducing bias into the article. It's this ignorance of apparent bias that worries me.
As for whether I think they are reliable sources? Yes, prima facie they appear to be reliable and even, as you've noted, supported by other, already accepted, sources. That leaves only the question of "Do the statements need to be in the article and are they being represented in a non-biased fashion". Given your difficulty admitting that Mormon bias even exists, I don't see those conversations going any smoother than this one. Padillah (talk) 13:28, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
For what it's worth, my point about the sources at issue is that they are not WP:RS, peer-reviewed academic sources. The same would be true if the quotations had come from E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville Ohio: Telegraph Press, 1834).— Preceding unsigned comment added by John Foxe (talkcontribs) 14:55, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
(after ec)@Padillah - Because you've made some assumptions about me personally which I think are false, I feel that I should respond... hopefully briefly. I have never said that Mormon sources are above reproach nor without bias. I apologize if my comments have implied that. Especially when dealing with theologically significant events and information, Mormon sources may be biased. My disagreement with John is (imo) basically the reverse of your argument above. Because the gist of John's removal of material appeared to not go further than "Mormon special pleading, much of it cited only to non-reliable, LDS sources", what I don't like is that it appears that having something be Mormon or LDS is a sufficient condition for being presumed to be biased (this may have been compounded by the fact that he used that argument when removing cites to LDS authors in scholarly sources), which is as inherently wrong as automatically assuming that LDS sources are without bias. --FyzixFighter (talk) 15:39, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
@FyzixFighter, I don't mean to make assumptions about you personally. I can simply work with what I have been given and until the above I had never seen you address the obvious bias Mormon sources present. You are right in concluding that John is not a fan of Mormon sources. It is well known that his POV lies somewhere south of "Smith was a bad guy". Please don't misinterpret my confronting you with defending him. I agree with your assessment that simply because a source is Mormon doesn't make it useless. With care, we can gain a lot of insight using sources, even Mormon ones.
@John, you know as well as I that being "peer reviewed" is only one of many criteria for WP:RS. Other than the Cowdry one, which is actually a letter published later, the other two are histories or biographies. How do they differ from Bushman or Brodie? Even so, there are other ways to use them that would be reliable. We can't simply eliminate everything Mormons write. Can you address WHY you reject the sources FyzixFighter is using (other than simply being Mormon in origin)? Padillah (talk) 16:14, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
Anything not published by "reputable peer-reviewed sources or by well-regarded academic presses" is suspect. Now, I've used non-peer-reviewed materials when writing Wikipedia articles about obscure topics and living people, but Joseph Smith doesn't fall into those categories. About Smith we have lots of good secondary works published in peer-reviewed journals and by academic presses, and that's what should be used here. Almost everything worthy of mention here should be findable in Bushman (an LDS member in good standing), Brodie, Vogel, or Quinn.--John Foxe (talk) 19:40, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
Fair enough (Please note: I am not agreeing with Foxe, simply recognizing that he has a valid, cogent argument to present). FyzixFighter, is there something Roberts, Tucker, Smith, or Cowdery offer that is not supported by the academics listed above? Do you dispute that Joseph Smiths life is not sufficiently covered in the works listed by Foxe? What argument do you have for the inclusion of these new (to the article) sources? Also, how do you respond to the assertion that, with all the fine academic, peer-reviewed material available regarding Joseph Smith, we don't lack for reliable sources? Padillah (talk) 20:27, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I agree with John Foxe that one should be able to source everything to either Bushman, Brodie, and Vogel, but disagree on Quinn for reasons we’ve been over before. I’ll agree to disagree on that one. I also agree with FyzixFighter that John’s initial arguments were quite weak, and that there shouldn’t be a double standard on defending edits on the talk page (i.e. John Foxe should have to justify removal of material, especially if he expects FyzixFighter to justify reverting.)

That said, I think this discussion is going to be a stalemate until John specifies exactly which statements he thinks are unreliable and why. The diffs are a little confusing, especially since three paragraphs are being made into two.

I think that long-term, this argument over reliable sources is not going to solve our problems here. – Adjwilley (talk) 01:19, 30 November 2011 (UTC)

Here's a good example of POV pushing from non-reliable sources: "Both Smith's brother, William, and Smith's associate, Oliver Cowdery, later wrote that Smith was highly influenced by the teachings of a Rev. George Lane, a presiding Methodist Elder and an administrator in the Palmyra era during the intense revivals of 1824 and 1825.Cowdery (1834b, p. 42)Smith (1883, p. 6)."--John Foxe (talk) 15:29, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
I apologize for the delayed response. @Padillah - One of my problems with John's argument is that it isn't consistent with his edits both most recently and on the larger time scale. There are a number of occasions when John has added or attempted to add material to Joseph Smith related pages based on non-reliable (usually primary) sources. Additionally, the last two times that John reverted, he removed material to which I had added reliable, secondary sources. Finally, a quick look at the article references show that the works cited are replete with such sources, over a dozen to Howe, so I wonder why John is choosing to focus on these few sources in these few paragraphs. The actions do not appear to be congruent with the most recent statements of his argument. To the argument itself, I think a good portion of the information can be cited to secondary sources, though I wouldn't limit ourselves to those few, big-name sources. As Adjwilley has suggested, it is a lot easier when the disputed statements are identified along with the sources. However, primary sources (which Cowdery, Wm. Smith, and Roberts who is quoting J. Smith probably qualify as) that have been reliably published may be used in Wikipedia - but any interpretation of primary source material requires a reliable secondary source for that interpretation. What we cannot do is analyze, synthesize, interpret, or evaluate material found in a primary source ourselves. Most of the statements which cite the sources in question do not synthesize or interpret, but merely state facts that so-and-so said such-and-such - certainly a reliable secondary source would be better, especially if we want to go into more detail and meaning about the significance of such a statement, but the lack of a secondary source should not require removal of the statement unless it has crossed the line out of NPOV. And to one of your last points, these sources that John is contesting are not new to the article - they have been in the article with statements more or less the same for over a year.
Which brings us to John's post above. I'm having difficulty seeing how that statement is POV. Can you be a bit more explicit in how it is POV-pushing? Do other editors see this statement as POV-pushing? From my view there are two points - first, that Smith was influenced by Lane is not stated as fact, but as an opinion properly attributed to who held that opinion, thus satisfying NPOV. Secondly, I'm fairly certain that I can find a secondary source for the statement - but that would just change the refs, the statement itself could essentially stay as it is with the source I have in mind. Isn't the fact that a statement is POV-pushing generally a result of the statement itself and not the sources cited? --FyzixFighter (talk) 04:07, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
The statement pushes POV because it implies that Smith was influenced by the Rev. George Lane on the basis of two non-reliable, primary sources that track back to Smith himself. (Neither Cowdery nor William Smith were present, and they're simply reflecting what Joseph Smith told them later.) But there's no problem with the statement per se if it can be attributed to a reliable (i.e. non-Mormon) secondary source. It's the sources that are the problem.
I'd like to eliminate all the non-reliable sources in this article including Howe. I just happened to start with these paragraphs because I was revising in paragraph order (basically, to remind myself where I had left off).--John Foxe (talk) 14:53, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
I'm still having trouble with this logic. Primary doesn't automatically mean unreliable, just as secondary doesn't automatically mean reliable. Mormon doesn't automatically mean unreliable, just as non-Mormon doesn't automatically mean reliable. Reliable non-Mormon secondary sources often take primary Mormon sources at face value.
That said, as far as I can tell, Bushman only mentions the good Reverend by name in the footnotes, so perhaps we should follow his lead. – Adjwilley (talk) 16:50, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
As I said above, anything not published by "reputable peer-reviewed sources or by well-regarded academic presses" is suspect at Wikipedia, especially when there are excellent peer-reviewed secondary sources that might be cited. FyzixFighter said he was "fairly certain" that he could find a reliable secondary source for the statement. Let's give him a chance do it.--John Foxe (talk) 18:31, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
I've removed the section. If FyzixFighter can find a reliable secondary source for the information, we can always put it back.--John Foxe (talk) 23:04, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
That was nearly a straight reversion, Adjwilley, even eliminating my improved wording. And it's not fair to cite to Bushman what he's only quoting from Smith, that Smith "had two questions on his mind," etc.--John Foxe (talk) 20:57, 11 December 2011 (UTC)
I'm sorry about the wording. It was a partial reversion, and some of the tweaks you made to the wording only worked when the "spark of Methodism" quote was tucked away in the footnote. As I read it, the "two questions on his mind" is actually quoting Bushman, not Smith, and since when is it "not fair" to quote Smith or Bushman in an article about Joseph Smith? The main reason for my reversion was that your cuts had created a confusing juxtaposition. Your paragraph said,
"Later as an adolescent, he displayed an interest in Methodism and reportedly spoke at Methodist meetings. A friend described him as a 'very passable exhorter'. Yet according to his mother during a period of religious excitement Smith claimed, 'I can take my Bible, and go into the woods, and learn more in two hours, than you can learn at meeting in two years, if you should go all the time'."
The problem is that the first sentence comes from pre-1820ish, while the Bible in the woods bit comes from 1824-25ish. The paragraph tends to obscure the fact that Smith initially showed interest in the various religions, particularly Methodism, but then later withdrew to "cut his own path" as Bushman puts it. – Adjwilley (talk) 22:11, 11 December 2011 (UTC)
Also, saying that it was nearly a straight reversion is inaccurate. Your edits cut 2,013 bytes out of the article, while mine only added back 670. – Adjwilley (talk) 22:17, 11 December 2011 (UTC)
You're right about your not doing a total reversion, and I'm glad to be done with the Rev. Lane. But I've added a sentence to illustrate that Smith was still interested in Methodism in 1828.--John Foxe (talk) 22:45, 12 December 2011 (UTC)

Semi-Arbitrary break[edit]

Thank you for the delightful and informative edit summary on your last edit. I'm sorry that I have to revert it, for various reasons, which I will now list.

  • The addition about Joseph attending Methodist meetings seems to be pushing a point that Bushman himself did not intend. He says that it was probably to placate Emma's family, and never even hints that Smith may have had a renewed interest in Methodism.
  • Translation of the Book of Mormon and Smith's 1828 activities are beyond the scope of this article, which covers Smith's life from 1805-1827. The sentence is out of place in a paragraph about Smith's childhood and adolescence.
  • As I have said before, explaining why the district was called "burned over" is helpful, and there's no reason to remove it.
  • Smith didn't say that he had "two questions on his mind." That is Bushman's opinion. What Smith said was that his "mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant." If you'd like to cite the opinion to Bushman, that would be just fine. I appreciated the way you did it the other day in the first paragraph of the new Revelations section.

I will try to keep the helpful wording tweaks you made. – Adjwilley (talk) 04:02, 13 December 2011 (UTC)

Ah, I missed the 1827 cutoff for the article.
The description of the "Burned-Over" district is illiterate: "in honor of the way in which it surrendered to one religious craze after another." I have no problem with a description, but let's get a better one from another source. Why would you want to quote an atheist on the nature Second Great Awakening?--John Foxe (talk) 15:22, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
You didn't explain why you moved the Great Awakening material from the first paragraph where it's introduced. It's less wordy to have it all in one place.
Maybe you could fix the current footnote problems. Frankly I'm unsure what happened there.--John Foxe (talk) 15:22, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
It looks like a couple of original named references got deleted, which broke other references that were calling them. Usually a bot comes around and rescues these "orphaned" references, but it looks like it missed these ones. For the revival/awakening material, I'm ok with having it mentioned in two places – once in the introduction/background first paragraph, and a second time where it applies specifically to young Joseph. – Adjwilley (talk) 16:20, 13 December 2011 (UTC)
Thank you for fixing the fires of revivalism sentence. That's probably better than the "craze" description, although some of the stuff going on back then does seem pretty crazy today :-) – Adjwilley (talk) 01:29, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
There was a lot of craziness. I was irritated more by the sloppy prose than the content.--John Foxe (talk) 21:45, 14 December 2011 (UTC)

FA reassessment needed[edit]

I'm sure the standard for featured articles was less stringent seven years ago. But at this point, this article needs reassessment. Too much of it is cited to primary rather than secondary sources, especially the latter half. I'll be happy to ask for a reassessment myself, but I'd prefer a Mormon to do so in the spirit of good will.--John Foxe (talk) 15:33, 21 March 2012 (UTC)

I'd be happy to do it, but I don't know how. I've never done it before. So, just let me know what needs to be done, and I'll do it. Btw, I am a very active member of the LDS Church, so I am probably one of the people you're looking for. --Jgstokes-We can disagree without being disagreeable (talk) 19:41, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
Thanks. I'd be glad to have your help. The instructions on applying for a reassessment are here. Now that I've raised the issue, lets wait few days to see if we can interest anyone else in the conversation. It might be that a number of us working together could improve article enough without the jolt of first getting it delisted.--John Foxe (talk) 20:49, 21 March 2012 (UTC)

First Vision section[edit]

I've dramatically rewritten and condensed the First Vision section on the grounds that there's no WP:RS evidence that the event occurred in Smith's youth. I also thought it would be good to discover if anyone else is interested in dramatically overhauling this early WP:FA, which certainly would never be accepted as such in 2012.--John Foxe (talk) 01:49, 23 March 2012 (UTC)

And I've reverted. As has been previously pointed out, most reliable sources treat the First Vision within the context of his youth. The long-standing text already treats the subject fairly neutrally and has sufficient mention of a summary of some of the caveats involved including when accounts were written, and the main First Vision article goes into greater depth, as it should. Your edit introducing wording and placement that is not neutral but intends to lead the reader to some predetermined conclusion, ie POV-pushing. You have also removed references to the 1838 and 1832 accounts of the First Vision, instead implying that the story first appeared in 1840. Additionally you removed sourced statements with a IMO misleading comment "removing non-essential information". If a "Mormon" editor had removed a sourced statement that you put in with such a edit summary, you would certainly make a big deal about it. --FyzixFighter (talk) 07:31, 23 March 2012 (UTC)
I disagree. Most reliable sources make it clear that there's no evidence the First Vision occurred during Smith's youth. As usual you're pushing religious POV—indeed, long-standing religious POV—not by making any positive contribution but simply by reverting my improvements based on WP:RS.
Here's the information I removed as non-essential: "Some scholars have concluded that these two accounts refer to two distinct stones found in 1819–1820 and 1822, and that these stories have in some cases been conflated. Other scholars believe that the two accounts refer to the same event in 1822.Vogel (1994, p. 202). However, this has little support among his current followers." The last sentence has no citation at all. FyzixFighter, I dare you to defend the importance of those three sentences.--John Foxe (talk) 13:44, 23 March 2012 (UTC)

WP is not the place for hearsay.[edit]

I have removed a paragraph added by John Foxe. Though properly sourced, it was full of "he said Smith claimed" and similar hearsay statements. IMHO, WP is not the place for hearsay, no matter how well sourced. Please do not revert this change without discussing it here first. Change reverted until it is discussed. --Jgstokes-We can disagree without being disagreeable (talk) 00:06, 30 March 2012 (UTC)

I'd be happy to discuss the following paragraph:

One Joseph Capron, who lived near the Smiths, said that Joseph had "discovered ghosts, infernal spirits, mountains of gold and silver, and many other invaluable treasures deposited in the earth. He would often tell his neighbors of his wonderful discoveries." Joseph's uncle, Jesse Smith, said that Joseph had told him he had "eyes to see things that are not" and that "the angel of the Lord" had put him "in possession of great wealth, gold & silver and precious stones." Smith told one Jonathan Thompson that he had discovered the two Indians who had buried a trunk of treasure and that one of them continued to guard it. A childhood friend, c said that while digging in a hill, Smith said he could "see a man sitting in a gold chair." W. R. Hine said Smith had told him that he had seen Captain Kidd sailing on the Susquehanna River at flood tide and that he also "saw writing cut on the rocks in an unknown language" telling where Kidd had buried his treasure.Palmer (2002, pp. 186-88).

So long as the material is cited to a WP:RS, which Palmer is, it makes no difference whether it's hearsay or no. I happen to believe that the testimony is highly accurate, but my opinion makes no difference. The paragraph is cited to Palmer, and unless Palmer's reliability as a WP:RS can be impugned by another WP:RS source, the material should stand. (In passing, the paragraph does not use the phrase "Smith claimed.")--John Foxe (talk) 00:20, 30 March 2012 (UTC)

Smith's own words impugn Palmer. From HC Volume 1, we read the following, "As my father's worldly circumstances were very limited, we were under the necessity of laboring with our hands, hiring out by day's work and otherwise as we could get opportunity. Sometimes we were at home, and sometimes abroad, and by continued labor, were enabled to get a comfortable maintenance. In the year 1824 my father's family met with a great affliction by the death of my eldest brother, Alvin. In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stowel, who lived in Chenango County, state of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna county, state of Pennsylvania; and had, previous to my hiring to him, been digging, in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him, he took me, with the rest of his hands, to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money digger." Smith makes no mention of seer stones, and any claim that he supposedly used them for treasure hunting is false propoganda made up by enemies of Smith for the purpose of discrediting what he claimed. History of the Church may be slightly more Mormon POV, but it is nonetheless a reliable source that puts the lie to Palmer's words. IMHO, I think that a reevaluation of Palmer's reliability would be crucial. I also think that rather than just having the two of us discuss this, Palmer's reliability as a source should be discussed by other editors as well. Until a consensus is reached on Palmer's credibility, I suggest that the text in question not be reincluded. Thanks. --Jgstokes-We can disagree without being disagreeable (talk) 13:40, 30 March 2012 (UTC)

Neither Smith himself nor the History of the Church is a reliable source, i.e. "vetted by the scholarly community" or "published in reputable peer-reviewed sources." Palmer is. To exclude Palmer as a reliable source, you must provide contradictory evidence from a WP:RS. The burden of proof's on you.--John Foxe (talk) 18:37, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
I see. I didn't know that. But if Smith can't speak for himself, who can? Under that definition, I agree, Palmer is a reliable source. I'm sure that I can find a countersource, given time. However, I also feel that other WP editors should be allowed to comment on the issue as well. With that said, let the discussion begin! --Jgstokes-We can disagree without being disagreeable (talk) 18:48, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
That's Wikipedia. Smith's testimony is unacceptable here unless backed by a reliable secondary source like Bushman, Brodie, Vogel, or Quinn. Newcomers are regularly baffled.
I'm not in a hurry; take some time to try to find a WP:RS that counters Palmer. (One book you'd probably find unsettling is Rodger I. Anderson, Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1990).--John Foxe (talk) 19:58, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
I've removed the paragraph. This material is tangential, and full of hearsay, and most of the good biographies don't give it much weight, if any at all. Most mention that there were affidavits collected from former neighbors, but few actually agree with what the neighbors were saying. Bushman doesn't. Remini doesn't either, nor does he mention the specific claims, as far as I could find. Brodie gives an idea of what some of the claims were, but leaves the bulk in an appendix, and flatly refutes some of them (i.e. that Smith was "destitute of moral character and addicted to vicious habits", even though that one was signed by 51 neighbors.) ~Adjwilley (talk) 21:45, 6 February 2013 (UTC)
Hearsay? That’s the most ludicrous objection I have heard so far. Everything a reliable secondary source says is per definition hearsay. Tangential? No, the subheading is “Work as a treasure hunter”. So material about his belief in this type of folk lore is right on topic. Unreliable? An historian’s book on Mormon origins is clearly a reliable source for the topic of this article. Palmer and his book both even have their own Wikipedia articles. The fact that other historians might disagree with him (if that’s the case) does not make him unreliable. And what makes you think these accounts are untrustworthy in the first place? Unless you are guessing, you must ultimately be relying on some reliable source who says so. The onus is therefore on you to produce that other source. 92.24.99.131 (talk) 16:40, 7 February 2013 (UTC)
@FyzixFighter, you have now just reverted again without entering into any discussion here despite referring in your edit summary to WP:BRD and saying "gain consensus on talk page before reinserting". Do you honestly think that is constructive? I have set out my reasons above. But how can any consensus be gained if you won't discuss the issue? Maybe you should read the WP:BRD you refer to. It says: "BRD is not a valid excuse for reverting good-faith efforts to improve a page simply because you don't like the changes. Don't invoke BRD as your reason for reverting someone else's work or for edit warring: instead, provide a reason that is based on policies, guidelines, or common sense." And please read WP:DRNC too. It says: "Sometimes editors will undo a change, justifying their revert merely by saying that there is "no consensus" for the change, or by simply asking the original editor to "first discuss". This is not very helpful or informative". I might add that it is especially unhelpful when the original editor has done his best to discuss! 89.240.108.221 (talk) 19:01, 7 February 2013 (UTC)
There's a difference between representing the views of secondary sources, and just parroting primary sources that happen to be reproduced in a secondary source. (You could cite almost anything you want to Dan Vogel's Early Mormon Documents, for instance.) There are hundreds and perhaps thousands of people who knew Smith who we could quote on both sides of the spectrum, all of whom have been quoted by "historians". What makes Lorenzo Saunders a better expert on Joseph Smith than, say, Hyrum Smith? What does Palmer say about Smith and his treasure hunting? Very likely he sums up all the primary accounts and says something along the lines of "the Smith family practiced various forms of folk magic such as using divining rods and seer stones to search for buried treasure" which is what the article already says.
Also, this kind of reverting is fairly standard when someone tries to shoehorn in undue weight on some aspect they like. I think you'd agree that my recent revert here was quite appropriate. "Reliably sourced" is not the only criteria for inclusion, otherwise our articles would be much much longer than they are now. ~Adjwilley (talk) 18:15, 8 February 2013 (UTC)
I was the one who started this discussion. I still have some concerns about the matter, though I have not been able to find anything to confirm my claim that it's hearsay. But much discussion has taken place, and I agree fully with Adjwilley. His recent revert takes care of all my concerns. If you disagree, please continue the discussion. But I agree with the article content as it now stands. Please don't revert without discussing it here first. Thanks. --Jgstokes-We can disagree without being disagreeable (talk) 01:40, 9 February 2013 (UTC)