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The Skulls of Joseph and Hyrum Smith

Superimposition of the Dibble Death mask and sketch of the skull buried as Hyrum Smith, but identified as Joseph's by six doctors and 3 different studies. 

Dr. Niles Herrod's Analysis of the Skulls

In 1995, Dr. Niles Herrod, a maxillofacial surgeon, wrote a report published in Shannon M. Tracy's first book, "In Search of Joseph" coming out with a bombshell of a report, that he believed Skull buried as Hyrum Smith, was actually was Joseph Smith's. Here are some of his statements from his 1995 paper, published in Appendix B, of "Millions Shall Know Brother Joseph Again", Shannon M Tracy:



      "July 5, 1995


"Anatomical Treatise of the Exhumed Skulls and Mandibles of Joseph and Hyrum Smith…

"I was provided photographs, which had originally been obtained from the RLDS Church, who identified the skulls as Joseph and Hyrum following the exhumation of these remains and subsequent reburial. I was also provided a photograph of the exhumation process at the the time the skulls were partially uncovered…


"RLDS Joseph: There is complete absence of the mid-facial structures, including facial bones… To explain the loss of the mid-facial structures based upon a fall from a 16-20 foot distance, makes for an interesting conjecture; however the loss of the structures... is not consistent with the usual fracture lines of the Leforte III or cranial facial disjunction pattern fracture. The missing sphenoidal structures may be better explained by a multiply fragmented comminuted fracturing created by a rifle bullet. It is also evident from the photograph taken of the gravesite at the time of exhumation when the skulls were partially uncovered, that the excavation was considerably less than meticulous, which revealed bricks, rocks, root structures, paper, etc. The specimens could have been damaged at the time of exhumation. 


"RLDS Hyrum: The frontal view reveals a skull missing the maxilla just anterior to the bilateral maxillary first molars. The nasal floor is absent as well as the septum. The missing segment of the right maxilla appears to be cleanly fractured with evidence of marrow spaces and the left section is dirt encrusted. The left nasal bones and pyriform apurature of the left lateral nose and the nasal process of the maxilla appears to be intact…


"There appears to be a step deformity to the left zygoma viewed at the infraorbital rim, as well as the zygomatical frontal suture, however not evident in the sub-mental view. The bone is intact, as in the buttress of the zygoma. The left zygoma appears less prominent than the right. Argument could be made that this is a healed zygomatical maxillary fracture. 


"...Argument could be made that the fracture line of the maxilla could have been iatragenic in the process of the exhumation...


"It is interesting to note that the left maxilla and the nasal process of the maxilla and the pyriform margin of the nose appear to be intact in an area which would have been injured had this been the skull of Hyrum, since the death mask reveals a penetrating wound mid-lateral nose. 


"The computer-generated image taken from the death mask of Joseph Smith was then overlaid over the appropriately articulated skull and mandible of the RLDS Hyrum and remarkable adaption was evident.


"Summary: ...Skull damage was present from what appears to be a normal deteriorating process as well as possible iatrogenic causes. Although arguments could be made the RLDS Joseph skull had sustained mid-facial fractures, it is difficult to believe that the amount of destruction of the skull was created by blunt trauma. A more reasonable argument would be that these injuries were created by multiple penetrating missles with resultant comminution of these structures and subsequent age deterioration…


"The presence of an intact nasal process of the left maxilla of the RLDS Hyrum gives support to the argument that this skull is not Hyrum and is that of Joseph. Further evidence is that decrease of zygomatic prominence (cheek bone) of the left zygoma, which appears to be evident in the frontal view of the RLDS Hyrum [skull]. This is consistent which the death mask of Joseph."

Kent M. Van De Graaff's Analysis of the Skulls of Joseph and Hyrum Smith

Kent M. Van De Graaff, PH.D. Human Anatomist (BYU professor emeritus of human anatomy), who wrote books on Anatomy also concluded using computer analysis, of the disinterred skulls of Joseph and Hyrum Smith (1928), had been misidentified and also concluded that the skull previously identified as Hyrum was actually Joseph Smith’s, noting the shape of the frontal bone, and brow bones of Hyrum and the skull buried as Joseph, was of Hyrum Smith. 

Expert from "In Search of Joseph", 1995, Shannon Michael Tracy:


“It was a privilege to examine the skull photographs and death mask casts of Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith... The photographic images of both skulls present several problems to an examiner. The most challenging problem is that due the extensive trauma from the bullet wounds important diagnostic bones and features are missing from both skulls... 


“A computer scan of each photograph provided the basis for positioning the lower jaw in correct alignment with the upper jaw. This task was much easier in the skull initially identified from Hyrum than it was from that identified as from Joseph...


“Once each mandible was positioned in its proper relation to its respective skull, a match to the computer-modeled death mask was made. Other skeletal features were important in establishing this match. Of particular significance was the prominence of the supraorbital margin of the frontal bone and the size and position of the mental (chin) region of the mandible. Other features that were considered on each skull were the shape of the frontal bones (forehead), the positions of the orbits, and the apparent size and shape of the nose. 


“The most startling conclusion of this examination is that the photographs of the skulls were incorrectly identified… the photograph skull identified as from Joseph Smith is actually from Hyrum Smith and the skull identified as from Hyrum Smith is from Joseph Smith. 

“Kent M. Van De Graaff, PH.D. Human Anatomist.”

Personally speaking, as an artist, Hyrum Smith's frontal bone, or brow bone was so much more prominent and unique, just like the skull buried... as Joseph Smith's- to finally read a description by Dr. Van de Graaff, felt very validating; but Michael Tracy seems to be credited for this conclusion, when he is only credited for agreeing with these men, and paying good money to help their work be published, in both his 1995 Book, "In Search of Joseph" and again in his 2008 book, "Millions Shall Know Brother Joseph Again". 

Dr. D. Cope Norcross, Dr. Kent D. Katz, and Dr. John Pickrell's Analysis of the Skulls of the Martyrs



Dr. D. Cope Norcross, Dr. Kent D. Katz, and Dr. John Pickrell, published in 2008, "Millions Shall Know Brother Joseph, Again", did their own analysis of the photographs, of the two skulls identified as Joseph and Hyrum, along with phrenology measurements taken of Joseph Smith's head, only, in January 1840, by Dr. Alfred Woodward. concurred with the 1995 findings of Dr. Van de Graff and Dr. Niles Herrod, stating:

“...Using accepted skull soft tissue thicknesses, the phrenology measurements from images of the skulls and the masks were taken and standardized.  the Photographs of the exhumed skulls attributed to Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith were then examined, as were their measurements from the images of the skulls and the masks were taken and standardized. The measurements were problematic in that parts of the skulls were missing, the photographic alignment of the skulls was not consistent nor anatomic… a sufficient number of the phrenology measurements from the two skulls were constructed, and allowed a reasonable comparison. 


“…Based on the phrenology measurements, the group concluded that skull number one [buried as Hyrum Smith, assuming as this is the skull this book using for analyzing the Scannell kid] more closely matched the head measurements attributed to the Prophet Joseph Smith by Dr. Woodward. The group could not say with absolute certainty, however, that skull number one was that of Joseph Smith based solely on the phrenology measurements, only that of the two skulls, number one was most consistent with Joseph Smith’s phrenology measurements. 


“…Joseph Smith, while still alive, had his profile traced from his shadow. This profile tracing, along with profiles of the death mask and the photographic profile of the exhumed skull, were digitally overlaid. The location of the pyriform aperture, the nasion, the glabella, the supraorbital ridge, and the hairline fell into alignment…"


[signatures] Kent D. Katz, Cope Norcross, M.D., and John Pickrell M.D."

As I am reading this, for the tenth time, I appreciate these men stating that they know the phrenology measurements are "problematic", these are doctors, men who went to medical school and specialized in example- otoaryngology was Dr. Norcross specialty, Dr. Pickrell is a cardiologist, and Dr. Katz is a gastroenterologist. I have high regard for their analysis of the skulls, they have better education than me, that I KNOW includes incredible study in bones, being just a CMA- I had to learn a lot about bones, but they had to learn was 10X more than I had to know about bones, to pass my CMA exam! Alas, however, they do dedicate about a full page analyzing the Scannell daguerreotype, expressing awe in how well they THINK it matches the facial characteristics seen on the mask and skull. I do not think they took many classes in identifying people in photographs, categorizing facial feature, their opinions from there are not ones that I wanted to include.


 I found Tracy to be quite professional in his book, Millions... in what I read of it, at least (do not own it and only read a few pages). Why Curtis Weber without any medical training, or even classes, but a linguist concluded something so polar opposite, than 6 doctors before him, an was able to convince the world he knew better, has me a little bit astounded by talent with words, but again, he is a linguist. Curtis seemed to simply and accuse anyone associated with Tracy as ignoring the "basics of anatomy", never mentioned the names or specialties of the men who actually made conclusions on the skulls of Joseph and Hyrum  Smith quoting a sculpture as his source and doing a study solely on his own, because he worked at the Church History dept. and had access to physically handle and "test" the death masks. Tracy didn't conclude anything, he commissioned people smarter than him and gave them credit on every day, including ZYGOTE media, back in 1995. I trust three doctors working together then a novice, working alone (which is rare in any true scientific journal, people just know they cannot work alone).

Dr. Joseph Lyon's Analysis of the Skulls of the Martyrs


Joseph and David Lyon mutually concurred with Dr. Niles Herrod and Dr. Kent M. Van De Graff, in their 2008 study, "Physical Evidence at Carthage Jail and What It Reveals about the Assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith". Below, I show portions of their study, which more analyzes the nature of the events that caused the death of the two brothers, June 27th, 1844:


“Effect of an 1816 Musket Ball on a Simulated Human Skull”, writing, “ John Spangler… and Joseph L. Lyon… performed an experiment to estimate the damage done to a skull by a 69-caliber musket ball when fired through a piece of hardwood similar to the door at Carthage Jail. We obtained an artificial skull… used in training neurosurgery residents to cut out sections of bone from the human skull.


"…The skull sat on a wadded newspaper at the back of the box behind a piece of well-dried, 0.8 inch thick black walnut board, held in place by half-inch wood cleats at the bottom… Our goal was to replicate the amount of resistance to a musket ball that the bedroom door would have offered. The skull was positioned on its side with the back lifted up so the ball would pass through the walnut, strike the skull over the left maxilla just under the left eye [Hyrum's left, medical speak], and exit without striking the bones forming the floor of the cranium... Our purpose was to determine if a musket ball fired through a piece of hardwood had sufficient energy to fracture the maxillary bones of the human skull… The force of the ball striking the skull knocked the left maxilla and the base of the right maxilla off the skull and threw them about 15 feet from the box. Had this been the skull of a living person, the overlying soft tissue… would have prevented the maxillae from being blown off the skull. However, we concluded that after being fired through… a musket ball still had sufficient force to fracture the maxillary bones...


footnotes 48. “The skull we have identified as Hyrum Smith’s was originally identified as Joseph Smith’s. Shannon Tracy asserted that the skulls of the Smith brothers were misidentified when they were reburied in 1928 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ). We concur with this assertion. The skull identified… as Hyrum Smith’s had no hole in the left maxilla, but a small defect to the right maxilla. The skull identified as Joseph Smith’s [by the RLDS Church, not the Lyon's brothers or Tracy] was missing the bones of the nose, the floor of the mouth, the frontal sinuses and upper jaws. This would be consistent with a traumatic fracture to these structures such as that caused by a 69-caliber musket ball striking the left maxilla. Tracy, In search of Joseph, 48-60."

The late Joseph Lyon (passed away in 2021) makes the sixth doctor, to conclude, the skull buried as Hyrum was actually Joseph's. 

Hyrum Smith Seen Losing this Teeth in Fall 1844

Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith's bodies were FIRST exhumed by Emma's request, Fall of 1844, and was found that Hyrum was losing his teeth, in the process of moving them to the back yard of the Mansion House:


The bodies remained in the cellar of the Nauvoo House, where they were buried until the fall when they were removed by Dimick B. Huntington, William D. Huntington, Jonathan H. Holmes and Gilbert Goldsmith at Emma’s request... It was found at this time that two of Hyrum’s teeth had fallen into the inside of his mouth, supposed to have been done by a ball during the martyrdom, but which was not discovered at the time he was laid out, in consequence of his jaws being tied up..." History, 1838–1856, volume F-1 [1 May 1844–8 August 1844]

Why I agree with them?

It seems to have been implied that somehow I have conspired with Shannon Tracy to make a video titled, "Six Doctors Disagree with Curtis Weber"= and "No" did not happen. I however have spoken with him (fall 2023) to verify he did not "manipulate doctor Van de Graaff" (actual- legit accusation and yes he debunked this lie), but I do agree with his work in his first book, "In Search of Joseph". The reason I made the before mentioned video, was because I initially felt utterly alone in my belief the skulls were switched in 1928 and was shocked to find in 2022- a total six doctors (many more specialists too agreed) agreed with what I felt in my bones was true. This was five years researching Joseph's plausible photograph and had absolutely no idea this many doctors believed this, blogs made it sound like Tracy alone studied the skulls, many mocking him saying no one agreed with him, very cruelly, but again, no I had no association whatsoever with Tracy when I made the video, but I certainly very compelled to defend his team and somewhat angry no one seemed to know the truth, but the lie that Tracy on his own studied the skulls, ignoring the qualifications of those involved. 

I first found the article by Joseph Lyons and remember being excited that someone agreed with me , but it wasn't a full analysis. It was not until 2021 that I was handed the book, "Millions Shall know Brother Joseph Again", by Shannon Tracy (his second book), that I found the notes by Dr. Herrod and Van de Graaf. I knew this was news to me, that it wasn't just "Shannon Tracy's analysis of the skulls", but actual doctors, so I snapped pics of the notes with my cell phone. I sat on it for two months when the Holy Spirit told me to send those notes to Doctor Henneberg, who I cannot quote, but was generally impressed and found this all very important.  I reread it and having read our paper, their opinions matched up in regards to a possible injury to the left eye. I researched these doctors and found their qualifications, Van de Graaff a Professor of Anatomy and Dr. Niles Herrod a Maxillofacial Surgeon (recruited by Van de Graaff because the skull in question had a broken maxilla and Herrod had operated reconstructing broken maxillas on live individuals). 

I reread Curtis Weber's paper, "Skulls and Crossed Bones?: A Forensic Study of the Remains of Hyrum and Joseph Smith", and found his simplification the 1995 study to have been written solely by Shannon Tracy and that Shannon (per Dee Jay Bawden), 

"He concluded that Tracy had ignored basic principles of anatomy and arrived at the wrong conclusion, and that the 1928 identifications were indeed correct." 

I was appalled by the contrast of reality, the real truth, that the 1995 study was done by a team of men first from ZYGOTE MEDIA who had worked with Dr. Van de Graaff before, and as I said previously- he recruited Niles Herrod because of the break in the bone and he had apparently worked with him before, Tracy is never seen in the many photographs shown of them working (on computers) in the book "In Search of Joseph", showing Tracy is literally standing far back behind them, as they work in various computer programs, pictures of the four men from ZYGOTE Media sitting with the two doctors talking, no way could Tracy conspired to undermine the six men, who wouldn't have given a flying flip about what Tracy thought, and no reason for him to want the skull with more facial bones to be Joseph Smith, otherwise why would he pay these men so much money to do the study?


Dee Jay Bawden allegedly argued with Tracy, later I found he argued with Dr. Van de Graaf- wrote books on Anatomy, and was an anatomist, this "fight" was verified by Tracy who really wants no part in the drama anyhow and I don't blame him, and he doesn't deserve to put down here in 2023, but someone named Curtis has been making fun of him to this day, I really don't like that, and I really don't like that Utah Church related newspapers repeatedly quote Curtis Weber's 2009 study and for five years I could not find one bit of evidence in a google search that anyone other than Joseph Lyons agreed with what I believe, so my passion comes from shock to be honest. When I read the book, "In Search of Joseph", it was clear that Shannon yes thought the skulls were misidentified when he compared them in photoshop to the two death masks (of Joseph and Hyrum Smith), and only two male skulls were found in 1928 right where Emma's sons told their sons their uncle and father were buried, so identification is pretty simple process, simple match, two death masks, two skulls- who is who? 


Using "facial approximations" of skulls- from a photograph, was used by Weber and is considered a last resort technique by Maciej Henneberg (and his team) and results could only be deemed "tentative", because of the high rate of inaccuracy, in their paper,  "Building Faces from Dry Skulls: Are They Recognized Above Chance Rates?*", written by Carl N. Stephan and Maciej Henneberg,

"...results suggest that facial approximations are not very useful in excluding individuals to whom skeletal remains may not belong. Evidence from this experiment supports suggestions by others that facial approximation should be used in forensic science when all other methods of identification have failed and only to provide tentative identification."

So, that said, it is clear the 1995 notes by Dr. Van de Graaff and Dr. Herrod, who concluded the skull buried as Hyrum Smith is actually Josephs and the skull buried as Joseph's was actually Hyrum's did not rely on facial approximations, and rejected the 1839 measurements of Joseph's alive head (by a phrenologist, as obviously there wasn't one done of Hyrum, so why use it?), or his and brother's 1928 skull measurements (likely with a straight ruler with no distinct marked locations on the skulls so -unreliable), but based their conclusions on unique details seen on the skulls and masks (considering how they died), then supported by two later studies, totaling six doctors agreeing with each other (and whomever worked with the Community of Christ when they also concluded the same thing), it's just frustrating no one knows, bloggers ruled the roost in 2009 and promoted Curtis, while attacking Shannon Tracy (although I disagree with the Scannell Daguerreotype as being Joseph Smith and Maciej and Teghan saw that image and did not choose to include it or write about it, and would have- had they found it similar enough to Joseph Smith), astoundingly- more research supports the skulls were misidentified in 1928 and Hyrum Smith was laying right next to Emma in burial, with Joseph not anywhere close, but I'm sure they got over it and laughed when they got resurrected ;) 

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