In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Joseph Smith and Crazy Horse

Black Elk and Elk
I have posted blog posts in the past based off of books about Native American chief’s or shaman or other important individuals such as “The Sun Chief” about Don C. Talayesva or “Big Snow Falling” about Albert Yava.  This post is more of the same but with a slight twist. The research for this post is mainly from John G. Neihardt’s book “Black Elk Speaks” about the Oglala Sioux Holy Man Black Elk and his visions and dealings throughout his life.  The caveat is that this post isn’t necessarily about Black Elk but rather it’s about his father’s cousin, the great Sioux Oglala leader and warrior Crazy Horse.  It is Black Elks description and stories about Crazy Horse that are significant and interesting when compared to the life of Prophet Joseph Smith.  Now it appears there have been others who may have noted some of these interesting comparisons but I felt I would add my version to the list. 

The Book does not spend an inordinate amount of time speaking about Crazy Horse but what little it does say, shows that Black Elk and his father held Crazy Horse in high regards.  The first correspondence noted is Black Elk quoting his father who is describing the vision Crazy Horse had that led to him being called Crazy Horse,

“he said that Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things.  That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world.  He was on his horse in that world, and the horse and himself on it and the trees and the grass and the stones and everything were made of spirit, and nothing was hard, and everything seemed to float.  His horse was standing still there, and yet it danced around like a horse made only of shadow, and that is how he got his name, which does not mean that his horse was crazy or wild, but that in his vision it danced around in a queer way.”[1]

This world of spirits seen by crazy horse correlates very well with what Joseph Smith described as the spirit world.  Joseph Smith taught,

“the righteous and the wicked all go to the same world of spirits until the resurrection.”[2]

During a funeral sermon Joseph touched on the location of this spirit world when he taught that righteous spirits,

“are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire they are not far from us.”[3]

And to show his belief in this teaching he also stated to Benjamin F. Johnson while visiting the Johnson farm,

 “From a boy I have been persecuted  . . . Why should I not wish for my time of rest?” And then he said, “I would not be far away from you, and if on the other side of the veil I would still be working with you, and with a power greatly increased, to roll on this kingdom.”  [4]

We also find in Doctrine and Covenants section 77 the teachings revealed to Joseph Smith that things in the spirit world are like those in this temporal world,

“that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal; and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual; the spirit of man in the likeness of his person, as also the spirit of the beast, and every other creature which God has created.”[5]

Possible Photo of Crazy Horse
We can see that the revelations received by and the teachings given from Joseph Smith relate directly to what Crazy Horse saw in his vision.  Crazy Horses vision offers an interesting parallel to the Joseph’s teachings because they were received in a different context but still attest to similar truths but his vision isn’t the only correlation the two have in common.  It was taught that Crazy Horse also carried a sacred stone with him one that he had either seen in a vision or used to see a vision.   Black Elk shared the following,

“They used to say too that he carried a sacred stone with him, like one he had seen in some vision, and that when he was in danger, the stone always got very heavy and protected him somehow.  That, they used to say, was the reason no horse he ever rode lasted very long.”

Now Joseph Smith was known to have had or used at least one if not multiple seer stones also referred to as a peep stone during his lifetime.  Now whether the seer stone offered him direct protection like the stone that Crazy Horse used it is not known.  But we do know that visions and revelations were directly tied to Joseph Smith’s seer stone including his ability to translate ancient texts like prophets of old.  It was Joseph Smith’s seer stone that helped him translate what we now have as the Book of Mormon.     After Joseph Smith’s death his wife Emma Smith was remarried (Emma Smith Bidamon) and gave the following account of Joseph’s use of the stones during the translation process.

“Now the first that my husband translated, [the book] was translated by use of the Urim, and Thummim, and that was the part that Martin Harris lost, after that he used a small stone, not exactly, black, but was rather a dark color.”[6]

Joseph Smith jr.
Another account of Joseph’s use of the seer stones was given by David Whitmer one of the original three witnesses of the Book of Mormon who described how Joseph Smith would use the stone to translate. 

“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” [7]

So the visions the seer stone and the similar understanding and teachings of the spirit world were not the only things that these two leaders had in common.  They were similar in death as well.  Both were not captured before being killed or martyred but they turned themselves in.  Joseph and his brother Hyrum were shot at Carthage Jail and Crazy Horse was stabbed with a bayonet during a scuffle at Fort Robinson.  Both deaths are shrouded in controversy.  On the disposal of Crazy Horses body Black Elk recounts the following,

“When it was day, Crazy Horse’s father and mother brought him over to our camp in a wagon. Then they put him in a box…They fastened the box on a pony drag and went away alone toward the east and north…the old people never would tell where they took the body of their son.”[8]

Sketch of Crazy Horse by Mormon Missionary
Upon the death of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum their bodies were taken back to Nauvoo IL the next day in a wagon where they were cleaned and examined.  On June 29th 1844 there was a public viewing after which the empty coffins weighted with sandbags were used to avoid any theft or destruction at the public burial.  The coffins with the actual bodies of the brothers were first buried under the Nauvoo House only to later be moved and reburied under an out-building on the Smith homestead.

It can be seen that both Joseph Smith and Crazy Horse lived very separate and different lives that in many ways seem to have mirrored each other in certain aspects and they each have left their influence on the future generations of their people and followers.  It is interesting that a Mormon missionary in 1934 after investigating Crazy Horses sister made the above referenced sketch of Crazy Horse.  Upon completion Crazy Horses sister claimed the depiction was accurate.

[1] Niehardt John G. Black Elk Speaks pg 85
[2] Teachings of The Prophet Joseph Smith, Pg. 310
[3] Teachings, page. 326
[4] LDSLiving Magazine, Life After Death: 6 Insights into the Spirit world 11/17/2014
[5] D&C 77:2
[6] Emma Smith Bidamon to Emma Pilgrim, 27 March 1870, “Early Mormon Documents, 1:532.
[7] David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.
[8] Niehardt John G. Black Elk Speaks pages 143-144.