After exploring historian Dan Vogel’s motivations behind his studies of the life of Joseph Smith in our first segments, we now delve deeper into Joseph’s treasure digging activities.

Dan devoted a portion of his book Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet to understanding not only the financial motivations for Joseph’s treasure digging practice, but also to explain how this practice possibly became the start of a chain of events leading to the creation of the LDS Church, best explained by a portion of the abstract in Dan’s book:

“Over time, Joseph became aware that people trusted him and that he could be an influence for good or ill, that even through nefarious means, God worked through him when his heart was right. He realized this when he led groups in search of Spanish treasure in New York and Pennsylvania. Although no treasure was found, the men sincerely believed that Smith had a spiritual gift and could see where casks of gold were hidden in the earth. This training ground in spiritual leadership was invaluable because the prophet learned how to create an environment for belief—one in which people could exercise faith and be converted to Christ through the sensible influence of the Spirit, all prior to the overarching work of restoring primitive Christianity.”

Dan has an extensive Youtube video collection devoted to many different aspects of the life of Joseph Smith.  These highly informative and popular videos may be found here.

This interview is also a part of our new Mormon Stories Podcast “Truth Claims” initiative, which includes a new essay on Folk Magic/Treasure Digging published on the Mormon Stories web site which provides the story of Joseph Smith’s treasure digging, along with a billboard campaign this month along I-15 to help build awareness of this important topic.  To support the billboard campaign, click here.

Part 1 – Dan discusses the history of folk magic in Joseph Smith’s time and how the young prophet became involved:

Part 2 – Dan details some of Joseph Smith’s experiences with treasure digging:

Part 1

Download MP3

Part 2

Download MP3


  1. Timmy January 22, 2019 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    John, please stop leading the witness. Just interview the guy, ask open-ended questions, and stop trying to prove your theories. I’m not saying your theories are right or wrong, just that this podcast is called “Mormon Stories”, not “John’s Agenda about Mormonism”. Otherwise a fascinating interview……….thank you both for this gift!

    • D. Michael Martindale January 28, 2019 at 3:54 pm - Reply

      I have to concur with that. I feel like I’m listening more to John than the guest.

  2. beth January 23, 2019 at 4:38 am - Reply

    Thank you John and Dan for a wonderfully enlightening interview and for helping us all to better understand joseph smith and his history and all that brought him in to what he eventually became, a latter day Mormon prophet, hearing Dan is a breath of fresh air and l appreciate all your efforts to give a really good interview john. Many thanks both of you.

  3. VFanRJ January 23, 2019 at 7:57 am - Reply

    Hoping to be wrong, but I dare say that Dan’s book “The Making of a Prophet” isn’t available. I see two used copies on amazon starting at $700.

    • Mormon Stories January 23, 2019 at 8:33 am - Reply

      In our blog description, we link to a free online version of the book since it is no longer in print

  4. Marsha Fish January 27, 2019 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    Incredible insight! Often disturbing to hear naturally, if you are just learning about church coverups as I am. I appreciate the honesty and research taken.

  5. Janeen Thompson February 7, 2019 at 11:53 pm - Reply

    I can’t believe you didn’t discuss The Late War as an inspiration for the Book of Mormon! Why? Dan, I have always admired your scholarship and objectivity. Hope to hear more from you!

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.