Discourse, 5 January 1841, as Reported by William P. McIntire

Document Transcript

Joseph Smith said to D Ells, & to the Congragetion that he for a len[g]th of time, thought on phreknoledgee [phrenology]; & that he had a revalation. the Lord rebukeing him sharply on Creating such a thing; & further said there was no reality in such a science but was the workes of the Devil; he also said the Lord had told him that bro.— Law would do well; he would go & preach the gospel he also said as for his own knowledge the Earth was make made out of sumthng for it was imposible for samthng to be made out of nothing fire,— air, & watter are eternal existant principles which are the Composition of which [p. [3]] the earth— has been Composed; also this, earth has been organized owt of portions of other globes that has be disorganized; in testimony that this earth was not the first of Gods work; he quoted a pasage from the testament where Jesus said all things that he had saw the father do he had done & that he done nothing but what he saw the father do John the 5th. he also siad in testimony of the situation the saints in the presence of God. that they had flesh & bones & that was the agreement in eter[n]ity to come here & take on them tabernicles & the differance between us & satin [Satan] in that respect is [p. [4]] that he fell— & had not opertunity to come in the flesh— & that he allways is striveing to get others as miserable as himself— [p. [5]]


  1. 1

    Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary loosely defined phrenology as “the science of the human mind and its various properties.” In practice, phrenology consisted of measuring various exterior dimensions of the head and, based on standardized tables, using those measurements to determine character and personality traits. Phrenology was popular at this time and was considered a legitimate science by some, though others disbelieved it and viewed it as entertainment. JS received personal phrenology readings both before and after this discourse. He spoke against phrenology on at least one other occasion. Willard Richards recorded in a May 1843 entry in JS’s journal that JS objected to a phrenologist who was “performing” in Nauvoo, saying that he “thought we had been imposed upon enough— by such kind of things.” (“Phrenology,” in American Dictionary [1828]; Phrenology Charts, 14 Jan. 1840; A. Crane, “A Phrenological Chart,” Wasp, 2 July 1842, [2]; JS, Journal, 6 May 1843; 13 and 14 Oct. 1843.)  

    An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to Exhibit, I. the Origin, Affinities and Primary Signification of English Words, as far as They Have Been Ascertained. . . . Edited by Noah Webster. New York: S. Converse, 1828.

    The Wasp. Nauvoo, IL. Apr. 1842–Apr. 1843.

  2. 2

    “Law” was probably William Law, who was made a counselor to JS in the church’s First Presidency two weeks later. (Revelation, 19 Jan. 1841 [D&C 124:91]; Cook, “William Law, Nauvoo Dissenter,” 54.)  

    Cook, Lyndon W. “William Law, Nauvoo Dissenter.” BYU Studies 22 (Winter 1982): 47–72.

  3. 3

    See John 5:19, 26.  

  4. 4

    See Book of Mormon, 1837 ed., 70 [2 Nephi 2:27].