, also known as Joshua the Jewish minister or the Prophet Matthias, visited , Ohio, and conversed with JS from 9 to 11 November 1835. In the early 1820s, Matthews proclaimed himself an Israelite, temporarily identified himself with the Zionist movement of Manuel Mordecai Noah, and came to reject Christianity. In , New York, in 1830 and in , New York, in 1831, Matthews launched his career as a religious figure, calling himself the Prophet Matthias, and sought to win over recent converts of Charles G. Finney’s revivals. In 1832, Matthews gained a small following and converted Elijah Pierson, a man of wealth who in February 1830 had organized an independent Christian perfectionist church on Bowery Hill in . Pierson died from an apparent poisoning in early August 1834, and Matthews, who claimed ownership over Pierson’s property following his death, was charged with murder. Matthews was acquitted of that charge, but immediately after the acquittal he was tried and sentenced to three months in jail for beating his adult daughter and obtaining money under false pretenses; thirty days were added to his sentence for contempt of court. Suffering from internal dissension, compounded by the public spectacle and press coverage of the trials and Matthews’s four-month incarceration, his religious experiment in crumbled in 1835.
Three months after his release from jail in in August 1835, was reported to be traveling in . The 5 November issue of the Western Reserve Chronicle detailed Matthews’s travels in Ohio and noted that while in Warren, Ohio, Matthews “inquired the way to , where, perhaps, he has gone to join the ‘democratic’ community of Mormons, at .” Prior to Matthews’s arrival in Kirtland, the Painesville Telegraph also notified the Geauga County community of his presence, publishing two articles that labeled him as a deluded religious fraud.
On the morning of 9 November, , calling himself “Joshua the Jewish minister,” arrived at the home of JS in . JS did not initially recognize him as the notorious figure Matthias, and Matthews’s visit prompted him to relate the “circumstances connected with the coming forth of the book of Mormon,” including an account of his first vision of Deity. The narrative JS presented to Matthews, one of the few early written accounts of this vision, expands upon some of the details found in JS’s circa summer 1832 history, which is the earliest extant account of JS’s first vision. In his telling of the event to Matthews, JS included details such as the presence of “two personages” as well as “many angels” in the “silent grove.” The narrative also provides an account of the visit he received in 1823 from an “Angel,” later identified as Moroni, who described “a sacred record which was written on plates of gold,” and it gives the timeline for JS’s obtaining of the plates.
JS hosted for the next two days and invited him to expound on his religious views, but he ultimately denounced his visitor and told him to leave. Nevertheless, regional newspapers reported on the visit of Matthews and JS and claimed that the two were joining forces. The Daily Cleveland Herald stated, “The impostor who lately figured so conspicuously in the city of , has turned Mormon; and, as we learn from the Chardon Spectator, is now at in that county, in high favor with the prophet Joe Smith.” The Ohio Repository, published in Canton, noted that “eastern papers state this impostor has taken up his abode among the Mormons, on the borders of the Lake, in this —and that both himself and his doctrines are received with great favor by them.” More aligned with JS’s journal account, the Painesville Telegraph reported a much less favorable interaction between JS and Matthews. In an article titled “Prophet Catch Prophet,” the Telegraph stated, “The notorious impostor Matthias has performed a pilgrimage to the temple of the equally notorious Joe Smith, where he held forth his doctrines last week. It appears that the new pretender met with less encouragement than he anticipated from the Latter-Day-ites, and after a two days conference the Prophets parted, each declaring he had miraculously discerned a devil in the other!” By the end of November 1835, the New York Herald informed its readers that “Matthias has not joined the Mormons” but added sarcastically that “if they have pretty women among them no doubt he will.” No interaction between JS and Matthews after 11 November 1835 is known, though a July 1837 report in the Baltimore Gazette and Daily Advertiser noted that Matthews was back in northeastern Ohio “to regulate the Mormonites, at , and spread his new doctrines among the benighted of the west.”
’s visit to JS was recorded in JS’s journal by . Residue from an adhesive wafer at the top of page 25 of JS’s 1835–1836 journal—as well as some paper residue still stuck to the wafer residue—indicates that a loose leaf had been attached in the journal and suggests that part of the entry for 9–11 November 1835 was probably copied into the journal from an earlier manuscript, which is no longer extant.
Johnson and Wilentz, Kingdom of Matthias, 32, 79–100. The idea of Christian perfectionism derived from John Wesley’s A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, which describes the journey of an individual to the state of perfection or sanctification through the purity of intention and dedication of one’s life to God. (Wesley, Plain Account, 3–5, 172.)
Johnson, Paul E., and Sean Wilentz. The Kingdom of Matthias. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Wesley, John. A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, as Believed and Taught by the Rev. John Wesley, from the Year 1725, to the Year 1777. New York: Lane an dScott, 1850.
and looked around, but saw no person or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of walking, I kneeled again my mouth was opened and my toung liberated, and I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon my <me> head, and filled me with joy unspeakable, a personage appeard in the midst, of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testifyed unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God; <and I saw many angels in this vision> I was about 14. years old when I recieved this first communication; When I was about 17 years old I saw another vision of angels, in the night season after I had retired to bed I had not been a sleep, when but was meditating upon my past life and experiance, I was verry concious that I had not kept the , and I repented hartily for all my sins and transgression, and humbled myself before Him; <whose eyes are over all things>, all at once the room was iluminated above the brightness of the sun an angel appeared before me, his hands and feet were naked pure and white, and he stood between the floors of the room, clothed <with> in purity inexpressible, he said unto me I am a messenger sent from God, be faithful and keep his commandments in all things, he told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the indians, were the literal descendants of Abraham he explained many things of the prophesies to [p. 24]
In his circa summer 1832 history, JS stated, “I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee. . . . I am the Lord of glory I was crucified for the world . . . I come quickly . . . in the glory of my Father.” In the circa summer 1832 history, JS noted seeing Jesus Christ only. All of JS’s subsequent accounts, including this conversation with Matthews, record that he saw two personages. (JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 3; JS History, vol. A-1, 3; JS, “Church History,” Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1842, 3:706–707; Neibaur, Journal, 24 May 1844.)
In a February 1835 letter, Oliver Cowdery described the angel as wearing a “garment” that was “perfectly white.” JS later clarified that the angel had appeared wearing a “robe of most exquisite whiteness.” (Oliver Cowdery, “Letter IV,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Feb. 1835, 1:79; JS History, vol. A-1, 5.)
Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.