A Dialogue between Joseph Smith and the Devil
Parley P. Pratt
Introduction by Donna Morley: Mormon, Parley P. Pratt first wrote this dialogue for the New York Herald on January 1, 1844. It
was reprinted in pamphlet form in 1845, as well as, by other publishers since then (see bibliography). A mention of this dialogue
can be found in the Mormon’s History of the Church 7:559.
Parley Pratt wrote this piece of Mormon literature in response to the Christian clergy who were accusing Joseph
Smith (with the help of Mormon, Sidney Rigdon) of stealing a manuscript by a pastor named Solomon Spaulding.
Spaulding had sent his manuscript to the publishing firm that Rigdon worked at. The manuscript became lost at
the firm, and was never found. Both Smith and Rigdon were accused of using the Spaulding’s manuscript to write
the Book of Mormon.
While there are some similarities between the Spaulding manuscript, and the Book of Mormon, there are greater
similarities between Joseph Smith’s, the Book of Mormon and pastor Ethan Smith’s (no relation) fictional book,
View of the Hebrews. Mormon historian B.H. Roberts, who was a key figure in the Mormon Church, wrote in 1922
the book, Studies of the Book of Mormon (only released by his family after his death). In that book he wrote that
there was a possibility that the View of the Hebrews (published seven years before the Book of Mormon) may have
helped Smith write the Book of Mormon. Actually, Roberts realized that the Book of Mormon may not be of divine origin at
all. He wrote his findings and comparisons in his book, Studies of the Book of Mormon.1
Parley Pratt eventually left the Mormon church. He reported that Smith described an angel “as having the appearance of ‘a tall,
slim, well built, handsome man, with a bright pillar upon his head.’” The Devil, he said, once “appeared to him in the same form,
excepting upon his head he had a ‘black pillar,’ and by this mark he was able to distinguish him from the former.” 2
As you begin to read this dialogue, keep in mind that misspellings and grammatical errors are found in the original.
A Dialogue between Joseph Smith and the Devil
Parley P. Pratt
(Enter Devil with a bundle of hand bills, which he is in the act of pasting up)
 All the liars, swindlers, thieves, robbers, incendiaries, murderers, cheats, adulterers, harlots, blackguards,
gamblers, bogus makers, idlers, busy bodies, pickpockets, vagabonds, filthy persons, and all other infidels and
rebellious, disorderly persons, for a crusade against Joe Smith and the Mormons! Be quick, be quick, I say or our
cause will be ruined and our kingdom overthrown by the d----d fool of an imposter and his associates, for even now
all earth and hell is in a stew.
Joseph Smith happens to be passing and hails his majesty:
 Smith: Good morning, Mr. Devil. How now, you seem to be much engaged; what news have you got there?
 Devil: [Slipping his bills into his pocket with a low bow] Oh! good morning Mr. Smith; hope you are well sir.
Why, I--I was just out on a little business in my line. Or, finally, to be candid I was contriving a fair and honorable
warfare against you and your imposition, wherein piety is outraged and religion greatly hindered in its useful
course. For, to be bold, sir--and I despise anything under-handed--I must tell you to your face that you have made
more trouble than all the ministers or people of my whole dominion have for ages past.
 Smith: Trouble! What trouble have I caused your majesty? I certainly have endeavored to treat you and all other persons
in a friendly manner, even my worst enemies, and I always aim to fulfil the Mormon Creed, and that is, to mind my own
business exclusively. Why should this trouble you, Mr. Devil?
 Devil: Ah, your own business, indeed! I know not what you may consider your business, it is so very
complicated; but I know what you have done and what you are aiming to do. You have disturbed the quiet of
Christendom, overthrown churches and societies, you have dared to call into question the truth and usefulness of
old and established creeds, which have stood the test of ages, and have even caused tens of thousands to come
out in open rebellion, not only against wholesome creeds, established forms and doctrines, well approved and
orthodox, but against some of the most pious, learned, exemplary and honorable clergy whom both myself and all
the world love, honor and esteem, and this is not all. But you are causing many persons to think who never
thought before and you would fain put the whole world a thinking and then where will true religion and piety be?
Alas! They will have no place among men, for if men keep such a terrible thinking and reasoning as they begin to
do, since you commenced your business, as you call it, they never will continue to uphold the good old way in
which they have jogged along in peace for so many ages, and thus, Mr. Smith, you will overthrow my kingdom and
leave me not a foot of ground on earth, and this is the very thing you aim at. But I, sir, have the boldness to
oppose you by all the lawful means which I have in my power.
 Smith: Really, Mr. Devil, your majesty has of late become very pious. I think some of your Christian brethren have greatly
misrepresented you. It is generally reported by them that you are opposed to religion. But--
 Devil: It is false; there is not a more religious and pious being in the world than myself, nor a being more liberal minded. I
am decidedly in favor of all creeds, systems and forms of Christianity, of whatever name and nature; so long as they leave out
that abominable doctrine which caused me so much trouble in former times, and which, after slumbering for ages, you have
again revived; I mean the doctrine of direct communication with God, by new revelation. This is hateful, it is impious, it is directly
opposed to all the divisions and branches of the Christian church; I never could bear it. And for this very cause, I helped to bring
to condign punishment all the prophets and apostles of old, for while they were suffered to live with this gift of revelation, they
were always exposing and slandering me, and all other good pious men in exposing our deeds and purposes, which they called
wicked, but we considered as the height of zeal and piety; and when we killed them for these crimes of dreaming, prophesying,
and vision-seeing they raised the cry of persecution, and so with you miserable, deluded Mormons.
 Smith: Then, your most Christian Majesty is in favor of all other religions but this one, are you?
 Devil: Certainly, I am fond of praying, singing, church-building, bell ringing, going to meeting, preaching, and withal, I have
quite a missionary zeal. I like, also, long faces, long prayers, long robes, and learned sermons; nothing suits me better than to
see people who have been for a whole week opposing their neighbor, grinding the face of the poor, walking in pride and folly,
and serving me with all their heart. I say nothing suits me better, Mr. Smith, than to see these people go to meeting on Sunday
with a long religious face on, and to see them pay a portion of their ill-gotten gains for the support of a priest, while he and his
hearers with doleful groans and awful faces, saying: "Lord, we have left undone the things we ought to have done, and done the
things we ought not"; and then when service is ended see them turn to their wickedness and pursue it greedily all the week and
the next Sabbath repeat the same things. Now, be candid, Mr. Smith, do you not see that these and all others, who have a
form and deny the power, are my good Christian children, and that their religion is a help to my cause?
 Smith: Certainly, your reasoning is clear and obvious as to these hypocrites, but you would not be pleased
with people getting converted either at camp meeting or somewhere else, and then putting their trust in that
conversion and in free grace to save them-would you not be opposed to this?
 Devil: Why should I have any objections to that kind of religion, Mr. Smith? I care not how much they get converted, nor
how much they cry Lord! Lord! nor how much they trust to free grace to save them, so long as they do not do the works that
their God has commanded them. I am sure of them, at last, for you know all men are to be judged according to their deeds.
What does their good old Bible say? Does it not say, "not every one that saith Lord, Lord, shall enter into my kingdom, but he
that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven." No, no, Mr. Smith, I am not an enemy to religion, and especially to the
modern forms of Christianity, so long as they deny the power, they are to help to my cause; see how much discord, division,
hatred, envy, strife, lying, contention, blindness, and even error and bloodshed [have] been produced as the effect of these very
systems. By these means I gain millions to my dominion while at the same time we enjoy the credit of being pious Christians;
but you, Mr. Smith, you are my enemy, my open and avowed enemy; you have dared, in a sacriligious manner, to tear the veil
from all these fine systems, and to commence an open attack upon my kingdom, and this even when I had almost all
Christendom together with the clergy and gentlemen of the press in my favor. How dare you venture thus to commence a
revolution, without reverse and without aid or succor and in the midst of innumerable hosts of my subjects?
 Smith: Why sir, in the first place, I knew that I had the truth on my side, and that your systems and forms of
Christianity were so manifestly corrupt that one had only to lift the veil from your foileries on one side and to
present plain and reasonable truth on the other, and the eyes of the people could at once distinguish the
difference so clearly that except they chose darkness rather than light, they would leave your ranks and come over
to truth. For instance, what is easier than to show from the history of the past, that a religion of direct revelation
was the only system ever instituted by the Lord, and the only one calculated to benefit mankind? What is easier
than to show that this system saved the church from flood, famine, flames, wars, division, bondage, doubt and
darkness, many times, and that it is the legitimate way and manner of God's government of his own peculiar
people in all ages and dispensations.
 Devil: To be candid with you, Mr. Smith, I must own that what you have now said, neither myself nor my most able
ministers have been able to gainsay by any argument or fact. But then you must recollect that tradition and custom, together
with fashion and popular clamor, have in all ages had more effect than plain fact, and sound reason. Hence, you see we are yet
safe so long as we continue to cry from press and pulpit, and in Sunday Schools, that all these things are done away and no
longer needed. In this way, though God may speak, they will not hear; angels may minister and they will not believe, visions
may reveal, and they will not be enlightened; Prophets may lift their voice, and their warnings pass unheeded; so you see we
still have them as safe as we had the people in olden times. God can communicate no message to them which will be examined
or heard with any degree of credence or candor. So, for all the good they get from God, all communications being cut off, they
might as well be without a God. Thus, you see, I have full influence and control of the multitude by a means far more effectual
than argument or reason, and I even teach them that it is a sin to reason, think or investigate, as it would disturb the even
tenor of their pious breathings and devout groans and responses. Smith, you must be extremely ignorant of human nature, as
well as of the history of the past to presume that reason and truth would have much effect with the multitude. Why, sir, look
how effectually we warded off the truth at Ephesus when Paul attempted to address them in the theatre. Strange that with all
these examples before you, you should venture to raise the hue and cry which has so oft been defeated and this with no better
weapons on your side than reason and truth. Indeed, you touch my Christian spirit of forbearance that you have escaped so far
without a grid-iron; but take care for the future, I may not always be so mild.
 Smith: But why is your majesty so highly excited against me and my plans of operation, seeing that you consider that you
have the multitude perfectly safe; and why so enraged and so fearful of the consequences of my course and the effect of my
weapons, while at the same time you profess to despise them as weak and powerless? Alas, it is too true that you have the
multitude safe to all appearance at present, and that truth can seldom reach them; why not then be content and leave me to
pursue my calling in peace? I can hardly hope to win to the cause of truth any but the few who think, and these have ever been
troublesome to your cause.
 Devil: True, but then you are in spite of all my efforts, and that of my fellows, daily thinning our ranks by
adding to the number of those who think, and such a thinking is kept up that we are often exposed in some of our
most prominent places, and are placed in an awkward predicament, and who knows what defeat, disgrace and
dishonor may befall the pious cause if you are suffered to continue your rebellious course.
 Smith: But, Mr. Devil, why, with all these other advantages on your side do you resort to such mean, weak
and silly fabrications as the "Spaulding Story"? You profess to be a gentlemen, a Christian and a clergyman, and
you ought, for your own sake, and for the sake of your cause, to keep up outward appearances of honor and
fairness. And now, Mr. Devil, tell the truth for once; you know perfectly well that your Spaulding story, in which you
represent me as an impostor, in connection with Sidney Rigdon, and that we were engaged in palming Solomon
Spauldings romance upon the world as the Book of Mormon, is a lie, a base fabrication, without a shadow of truth
and you know that I found the original records of the Nephites and I translated and published the Book of Mormon
from them, without ever having heard of the existence of Spaulding, or his romance, or of Sidney Rigdon either.
Now, Mr. Devil, this was a mean, disgraceful and underhanded trick in you, and one of which you have reason to be
 Devil: Well, Mr. Smith, to be candid, I acknowledge that what you say is true, and that it was not the most
honorable cause in the world, but it was you who commenced the war, by publishing that terrible book which we
readily recognized as a complete expose of all our false and corrupt Christianity not even keeping back that fact
that we had continued during the dark ages to rob the scriptures of their plainness, and we feel the utmost alarm
and excitement, and without much reflection, in the height of passion, we called a hasty council of the clergy and
editors, and other rascals in Painesville, Ohio, and thinking that almost any means was lawful in war, we invented
the Spaulding story, and fathered it upon the poor printer, Howe of Painesville, although Dr. Hurlburt (thanks to my
aid) was its real author. But Mr. Smith, mark one thing; we had not a face so hard nor a conscience so abandoned
as to publish this Spaulding story at the first as a positive fact; we only published it as a conjecture, a mere
probability, and this you know we had a right to do; without once thinking of the amount of evil it would eventually
accomplish. But, Sir, it was some of my unfortunate clergymen, who more reckless, hardened, and unprincipled
than myself, have ventured to add to each edition of this story, till at last, without my aid or consent, they have
set it down for a positive fact that Solomon Spaulding, Sidney Rigdon, and yourself, have made up the Book of
Mormon out of a romance. Now, Mr. Smith, I am glad of this interview with you, as it gives me the opportunity of
clearing up my character. I acknowledge with shame that I was guilty of a mean act in helping to hatch up and
publish the Spaulding story as a probability, and that I associated with rascals far beneath my dignity either as a
sovereign prince or a religious minister, or even as an old honorable and experienced Devil, and for this I beg your
pardon. But really I must deny the charge of having assisted in making the addition which has appeared in the
later editions of that story, in which my power probabilities and mean conjectures are set down for positive facts.
No! Mr. Smith, I had no hand in a trick so low and mean; I despise it as the work of priests and editors alone,
without my aid or suggestion, and I don't believe that even the meanest young devils in our dominion would have
stooped to such an act.
 Smith: Well I must give your majesty some credit for once at least, if what you say is true, but how can you justify your
conduct in dishonoring yourself so far as to stoop to the level of the hireling clergy and their followers, in still making use of this
humbug story (which you affect to despise), in order to still blind the eyes of the people in regard to the origin of the Book of
 Devil: Oh! Mr. Smith, it does take so readily among the pious of all sects that it seems a pity to spoil the fun,
and I cannot resist the temptation of carrying out the joke, now it is so well rooted in their minds. And you can't
think how we devils shake our sides with laughter when we get up in the gallery in some fine church, put on our
long face, and assist in singing and in the devout responses; this done, the Spaulding story is gravely told from
the pulpit, while the pious old clergyman wears a face as long as that of Balaam's beast. All is swallowed down for
solid truth by the gaping multitude, while we hang our heads behind the screen and laugh and wink at each other
in silence, as anything overheard would disturb their worship, and as bad as I am, I never wish to disturb those
popular modes of worship, which decency requires us to respect. So, you see, Mr. Smith, we have our fun to
ourselves at your expense; but after all we do not mean any hurt by it, although I must acknowledge, upon the
whole, it serves our purpose.
 Smith: Well, we will drop this subject, as I want to inquire about some of your other stories which have had
an extensive circulation by means of your editors and priests. For instance, there is the story of my attempting to
walk on the water and getting drowned, the numerous stories of my attempting to raise the dead, as a mere trick
of imposition, and getting detected in it; and the stories of my attempting to appear as an angel, and getting
caught and exposed in the same; and, besides this, you have me killed by some means every little while. Now, you
old hypocrite, you know that none of these things ever happened, or any circumstance out of which to make them;
and that so far from this I deny the principle of man's working miracles, either real or pretended as a proof of his
mission and contend that miracles if wrought at all, were wrought for benevolent purposes, and without being
designed to convince the unbeliever, why, then, do you resort to such silly stories in your opposition to me, seeing
that you have many other advantages? Not that I would complain of such weak opposition, as if it were calculated
to hinder my progress, but rather to mention it as something well calculated to injure your own cause, by betraying
your weakness, folly and meanness.
 Devil: Ha, ha, ha, eh, eh! Oh, Mr. Smith, I just put out these stories for a joke, in order to have my own fun, and without
the more distant idea that any being on earth would be so silly as to give any credence to them; but judge my surprise and joy
when I found priests, editors, and people so ready to catch at everything against their common enemy, as they call you, that
these jocose stories of ours actually took in their credulous craniums for grave truths, and were passed about by them and
sought after and swallowed by the multitude as greedily as a young robin swallows a worm when it is dropped into its mouth
which is stretched at full width, while its eyes are closed. So you see Mr. Smith, that without meaning any particular harm to
you, I have my fun, and am, besides, so unexpectedly fortunate as to reap great advantage from circumstances where I had
neither expected nor calculated. So I hope you will at least bear my folly, nor set down aught in malice where no malice was
intended. You know we devils are poor, miserable creatures at best, and were it not for our fun, and our gambling, and our
religious experiences, we would have nothing to kill time.
 Smith: Well I see plainly you will have to creep out some how or other, rather than hear the disgrace and
stigma which your conduct would seem to deserve. But forgetting the past, let me inquire what course you intend
to pursue in the future and whether this warfare between you and me will still be prosecuted? And if so, what
course do you intend to pursue hereafter? You know my course. I have long since taken the field at the head of a
mere handful of brave patriots, who are true as the polar stars, and firm as the Rock of Gibralter. They laugh at
and despise your silly stories, and with nothing but a few plain, simple weapons of truth and reason, aided by
revelation, we boldly make war upon your whole dominion and will never quit the field, dead or alive, till we win
the battle, and deprive you of every foot of ground you possess. This is our purpose, and although your enemy, I
am bold and generous enough to declare it. So, you see, I am not, for taking any unwary advantage,
notwithstanding all your pious tricks upon me and the public.
 Devil: Mr. Smith, I am too much of the gentleman not to admire your generous frankness and your boldness,
and too much of a Christian not to appreciate your honesty; but, as you commenced this war, and I only acted at
first on the defensive, with the pure motive of defending my kingdom, I think this ought, in some degree at least,
to excuse the means I have made use of; and, that you may have no reason to complain in the future, I will now
fully open to you the place of my future campaign. Here (pulling out his bundle of handbills) is what I was doing
this morning when by chance we met, and by the reading of which you will see my course. Heretofore I have
endeavored to throw contempt upon your course in hopes to smother it and to keep it under, as something
beneath the notice of us well informed Christians. For this cause I have generally caused it to be represented that
you were a very ignorant, silly man, and that your followers were made up of the unthinking and vulgar, and not
worthy of notice. But the fact is, you have made such rapid strides and have poured forth such a torrent of
intelligence and gathered such a host of talented and thinking men around you, that I can no longer conceal these
facts under a bushel of burning lies, and therefore I now change my purpose and my manner of attack. I shall
endeavor to magnify you and your success from this time forward and to make you appear as much larger than the
reality as you have heretofore fallen short. If my former course has excited contempt and caused you to be
despised and thus kept you out of notice, my future course will be to excite jealousy, fear and alarm, till all the
world is ready to arise and crush you as though you were a legion of scapegoats commanded by Bonaparte. This I
think will be more successful in putting you down than the ignoble course I have heretofore taken, so prepare for
 Smith: I care as little for your magnifying powers as I have heretofore done for you contempt; in fact, I will
endeavor to go ahead to that degree that what you will say in regard to my great influence and power, though
intended by you for falsehood, shall prove to be true, and by so doing I shall be prepared to receive those whom
you may excite against me, and to give them so warm a reception, that they will never discover your intended
falsehood, but will find all your representations of my greatness to be a reality--so do your worst. I defy you.
 Devil: Well time will determine whether the earth is to be governed by a prophet and under the sway of truth,
or whether myself and my Christian friends will still prevail; but remember, Smith, remember, I beseech you, for
your own good, beware what you are doing. I have the priests and editors with a few exceptions, under my control,
together with wealth, popularity and honor. Count well the cost before you again plunge into this warfare.
Goodbye, Mr. Smith, I must be away to raise my recruits and prepare for a campaign.
 Smith: Goodbye to your Majesty. (They both touch hats and turn away)
 Devil: (Recollecting himself and suddenly turning back) Oh! say, Mr. Smith, one word more if you please, (in
low and confidential tone, with his mouth to his ear) after all, what is the use of parting enemies, the fact is, you
go in for the wheat and I for the tares. Both must be harvested; are we not fellow laborers? I can make no use of
the wheat, nor you of the tares even if we had them; we each claim our own, I for the burning, you for the barn.
Come then, give the poor old Devil his due, and let's be friends.
 Smith: Agreed; I neither want yours, nor you mine--a man free from prejudice will give the Devil his due.
Come, here is the right hand of fellowship, you to the tares, and I to the wheat. (They shake hands cordially)
 Devil: Well, Mr. Smith, we have talked a long while, and are agreed at last--you are a noble and generous
fellow, and would not bring a railing accusation against even a poor old Devil, nor cheat him one cent. Come, it is
a warm day, and I feel as though it is my treat. Let us go down to Mammy Brewer's cellar and take something to
 Smith: Agreed, Mr. Devil, you appear very generous now. (They enter the cellar together)
 Devil: Good morning, Mrs. Brewer, I make you acquainted with my good friend, Mr. Smith, the prophet.
 Landlady: Why Mr. Devil, is that you? Sit down, you're tired; but you don't say that this is Mr. Smith, your mortal enemy?
I am quite surprised; what will you have, gentlemen, for if you can drink together, I think all the world ought to be friends.
 Devil: As we are both temperance men and ministers, I think perhaps a glass of spruce beer apiece will be
alright; what say you Mr. Smith?
 Smith: As you please your majesty. (They take the beer)
 Devil: (Holding up glass) Come, Mr. Smith, your good health. I propose we offer a toast.
 Smith: Well proceed.
 Devil: Here's to my good friend, Joe Smith, may all sorts of ill-luck befall him, and may he never be suffered
to enter my kingdom, either in time or eternity, for he would almost make me forget that I am a devil, and make a
gentleman of me, while he gently overthrows my government at the same time that he wins my friendship.
 Smith: Here to his Satanic Majesty; may he be driven from the earth and be forced to put to sea in a stone canoe with an
iron paddle, and may the canoe sink, and a shark swallow the canoe and its royal freight and an alligator swallow the shark and
may the alligator be bound in the northwest corner of hell, the door be locked, key lost, and a blind man hunting for it.
1. If you would like a copy of this book, it’s available in the resource section of faithandreasonforum.com, or contact our help desk. Also, a short comparison between the two books can be found on the Faith & ReasonForum website, in the Mormonism section.
2. Found in E.D. Howe’s, Mormonism Unveiled (Zanesville, OH: printed and published by the author, 1834), 187;
a photomechanical reprint (Salt Lake City, UT: Utah Lighthouse Ministry). Also in Donna Morley’s, A Christian Woman’s Guide to Understanding Mormonism (Eugene, Oregon, Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 112, 223.
A Dialogue Between Joseph Smith and the Devil, found in the New York Herald, January 1, 1884. Reprinted as a
pamphlet in 1845. Reprinted in editors Richard L. Cracroft and Neal A. Lambert’s, A Believing People: Literature of
the Latter-day Saints, (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1974). Also reprinted in Jerry Burnett and
Charles’ Pope’s, Pre-assassination Writings of Parley P. Pratt,(Salt Lake City, UT: Mormon Heritage Publishers,
1976), Mormon Collector series, Volume 4. Reprinted as "Joseph Smith's Dialogue with the Devil" in LDSF 2, ed.
Benjamin Urrutia, 37–47. Reprinted in The Essential Parley P. Pratt. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990. 31–40.
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