Another view of the Facsimiles

Joseph Smith’s Abraham project has occasioned much confusion and debate over the almost two centuries since it began in 1835. To contribute to the confusion (and illustrate something of the social history of the vignettes–dubbed facsimiles), I offer the following tidbit.

Prominent anti-Mormon newspaperman Thomas Sharp (Thom-ASS to Joseph Jr.’s acerbic little brother William) responded to the Times and Seasons publication of Joseph’s interpretation of the facsimiles by claiming that the sacrificial victim was Thomas Sharp, and the knife-wielding dark lord was Smith. The vitriolic William responded in his hymenoptoric[1] prose:

No. 1st represents a fat Turkey suspended in a proper place, to bring the Editor to a sence of gratitude. Numbers 5, 6, 7 and 8th, Tom Greg and three sub Editors laughing at the calamity they have brought upon their sool (T. Sharp._ No. 9 the Editor in a future state. No. 11 the brakes and rushes near the Indian fishery below Warsaw. He can translate the rest of No. 11; wee’l keep dark. Plate 2. The Editor’s satylites (Anti Mormons) in confusion occasioned by the stings of the Wasp.[2]


[1] I doubt this is a word. Mormons and Anti-Mormons talked incessantly about the choice of Wasp for the name of the “secular” newspaper for Nauvoo. Finally people got sick enough of the vitriol to demand a name change (now under the editorship of John Taylor, as William had been elected to the state legislature, where his angry tirades continued) to the Nauvoo Neighbor.

[2] “A Scared Editor,” The Wasp 1:2 (23 Apr 1842): 3.

[3] Remember those choose-your-own-adventure books from the 1980s? The ones where the nirvana pages could only be reached by accident? This isn’t one of them.


  1. An off-the-wall comment: has anybody done a decent critical edition of Sharp’s Warsaw Signal material on Mormon themes? There’s a lot of really valuable history there…

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    Very cool, Sam; I had never seen this before.

  3. a fat Turkey suspended in its proper place.


    These are fantastic. Thanks Sam.

  4. Maybe if I get time I will throw together some of William’s raciest attacks. Some of them are actually kind of funny.
    as far as Sharp, I agree, his papers may be quite useful. I use an obscure article in a paper looking at ghostwriting in Nauvoo.

    PS: I love my copy of Kofford’s Wasp. If you’ve got the $$, it’s way more fun than reading cnn or NYT or whatever.

  5. Mark IV says:

    Sam, was there an article in Sunstone about the Wasp, maybe 15 years ago?

    I remember, years and years ago, reading about Thom-ASS, etc., and being highly entertained. And isn’t it great that JS jr. didn’t make his little brother knock it off?

  6. Mark: I question whether Joseph could have made William do much. William essentially beat Joseph up at one point.

  7. JSJ and William had a complex relationship. William did attack JSJ once, but there’s no clear evidence he physically overpowered his brother. Family was so important to JSJ that he was wounded above and beyond any bruising.

  8. Sam: Is that really true? Bushman says that afterward, Joseph “could not sit or stand without help.” RSR p. 301, citing JS Journal.

  9. MCQ: i wasn’t being clear. My impression/memory of the fight was that JSJ allowed William the upper hand because he couldn’t bear to fight so aggressively with his brother. William hurt him, but it wasn’t because he overpowered him (admittedly my memory may be slightly off). The letter he wrote Wm afterwards is fascinating too.

  10. Ia Calvin Maker, in Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker series, based on William?

  11. I know that Card is Mormon, but that’s the limit of my knowledge of him.

  12. There was an article about the Wasp in the Fall 1982 issue of BYU Studies:

    “The Sting of the Wasp