I believe it was Uncle Dale who once made the interesting suggestion that the angelic visitation to the three witnesses might have been a Joseph Smith accomplice dressed as an angel. This was also recently proposed to me as a possible explanation for the visionary experiences of Smith's prospective polygamous wives, reassuring them about polygamy. I don't particularly buy this explanation myself, but I thought I'd nevertheless pass along the following anecdote, which a "traveler" heard from a hermit. The traveler noted that the story was told in "rather a rid'lous manner" and that he was "no voucher for the story," but was merely reporting an amusing tale he'd been told.
One sabbath evening, when the services of the congregation of the Mormonites were over, the Rev. Joe Smith, priest and prophet, announced to his expectant tribe, that on the seceeding sabbath, the baptismal sacrament would take place, at which time an angel would appear upon the opposite bank of the stream -- Next sabbath came, and "great was the company of the people" to witness the miraculous visitation.
The baptism commenced, and was no well nigh concluded. -- "Do our eyes deceive us! can such things be! The prophecy! The angel!" were exclamations, which ran through the multitude, as a fair form robed in a loose white garment, stood suddenly before the assembled multitude, upon the opposite shore, and then disappeared! All was amazement, consternation, awe! But where is Joe Smith? In a few moments Joe Smith was with them, and their faith was confirmed.
Again was a baptism appointed. Again was the angel announced -- a larger congregation assembled -- and yet again did the angel appear. At that moment two powerful men sprang from a thicket -- rushed upon the angelic visitant, and, amid mingling exclamations of horror and execrations of pity, from the spectators, tore away his long white wings, his hair and robe, and plunged him into the stream. By some unaccountable metamorphosis, the angel in a few moments emerged from the river honest Joe Smith, priest of Mormon, finder of the golden plates, etc. and the magi of the enchantment were revealed in the persons of two brawny pukes. Since then -- the story concludes -- not an angel has been seen all about Mount Zion!http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/MO ... htm#052937
I strongly suspect that if the story were true, it would have been told by more reliable witnesses. It's a pretty standard folktale about religious fraud, sorta like the story of the missionary who plans to fake a resurrection, only to be foiled by a skeptic who pulls out a knife and says, "Just to make your miracle a little more spectacular, let's cut the corpse's throat first"—at which point the missionary's supposedly dead confederate jumps up and runs away.
Anybody else know of evidence that might support humans having played the roles of angels?