Criticism of Mormonism/Books/No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith/Chapter 7

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 7: The Perfect Society and the Promised Land"

A FairMormon Analysis of: No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, a work by author: Fawn Brodie
Claim Evaluation
No Man Knows My History
Chart.brodie.ch7.jpg

Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 7: The Perfect Society and the Promised Land"

Jump to Subtopic:


Response to claim: 101-102 - Joseph promised Lyman E. Johnson that he would see the Savior come and stand upon the Earth. William Smith and Orson Hyde were told that they would stand on earth until Christ comes

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph promised Lyman E. Johnson that he would see the Savior come and stand upon the Earth. William Smith and Orson Hyde were told that they would stand on earth until Christ comes.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph did not ordain Lyman E. Johnson, William Smith or Orson Hyde. These ordinations were performed by the Three Witnesses.

History of the Church, Vol. II, pp. 189-91 states that Lyman E. Johnson was ordained by the Three Witnesses, not Joseph Smith:

Lyman E. Johnson, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball came forward; and the Three Witnesses laid their hands upon each one's head and prayed, separately.[1]

History of the Church also makes it clear that the Three Witnesses performed the ordinations of William Smith and Orson Hyde as well:

While these statements make it very clear that the Prophet Joseph did not join with the Three Witnesses in ordaining the Apostles—except in the way of confirming the ordination they received from the Witnesses, as described by Elder Kimball—the minutes of the meeting held February 21st, at which Parley P. Pratt was ordained, state that he was "ordained one of the Twelve by President Joseph Smith, Jun., David Whitmer, and Oliver Cowdery." Martin Harris must have been absent, and the Prophet evidently joined Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer on that occasion because of the absence of Harris; but whether or not the Prophet was mouth on that occasion does not appear in the minutes or in Elder Pratt's autobiography." [p. 187 and footnote 8.]

"The blessing of Lyman E. Johnson was, in the name of Jesus Christ, that he should bear the tidings of salvation to nations, tongues, and people, until the utmost corners of the earth shall hear the tidings; and that he shall be a witness of the things of God to nations and tongues, and that holy angels shall administer to him occasionally; and that no power of the enemy shall prevent him from going forth and doing the work of the Lord; and that he shall live until the gathering is accomplished, according to the holy prophets; and he shall be like unto Enoch; and his faith shall be like unto his; and he shall be called great among all the living; and Satan shall tremble before him; and he shall see the Savior come and stand upon the earth with power and great glory." [p. 188]

"William Smith's Blessing:—We pray that he may be purified in heart; that he may have communion with God; that he may be equal with his brethren in holding the keys of this ministry; that he may be kept and be instrumental in leading Israel forth, that he may be delivered from the hands of those who seek to destroy him; that he may be enabled to bear testimony to the nations that Jesus lives; that he may stand in the midst of pestilence and destruction. He shall be mighty in the hands of God, in bringing about the restoration of Israel. The nations shall rejoice at the greatness of the gifts which God has bestowed upon him: that his tongue shall be loosed; he shall have power to do great things in the name of Jesus. He shall be preserved and remain on the earth, until Christ shall come to take vengeance on the wicked. Adjourned." [p. 191]

"Orson Hyde's Blessing:—Oliver Cowdery called upon the Lord to smile upon him; that his faith be made perfect, and that the blessings pronounced may be realized; that he be made mighty, and be endued with powers from on high, and go forth to the nations of the earth to proclaim the Gospel, that he may escape all the pollutions of the world; that the angels shall uphold him; and that he shall go forth according to the commandment, both to Jew and Gentile, and to all nations, kingdoms and tongues; that all who hear his voice shall acknowledge him to be a servant of God; that he shall be equal with his brethren in holding the keys of the kingdom; that he may stand on the earth and bring souls till Christ comes. We know that he loves Thee, O, Lord, and may this Thy [p.190] servant be able to walk through pestilence and not be harmed; and the powers of darkness have no ascendency over him; may he have power to smite the earth with pestilence; to divide waters, and lead through the Saints; may he go from land to land and from sea to sea, and may he be like one of the three Nephites." [p. 189-190]

Response to claim: 102 - Joseph suggested that the Second Coming would occur within fifty-six years

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph suggested that the Second Coming would occur within fifty-six years.

Author's sources: History of the Church, Vol. II, p. 182.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The authors do not note that Joseph wasn't really sure what this meant.

Question: Did Joseph Smith prophesy that Jesus Christ would return in 1890?

Jesus Christ stated that no mortals or angels would know when He would return

It is important to realize that while Jesus Christ resided on the earth he stated that no mortals or angels would know when He would return:

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matthew 24:36).

Because we do not know, we need to constantly be ready for his return, for "in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh" (Matthew 24:44).

In February 1835, Joseph Smith is reported to have said that "fifty-six years should wind up the scene"

Joseph Smith did make several interesting statements about seeing the Savior. B.H. Roberts in History of the Church notes the Prophet's remark in 1835 when he is reported to have said that,

...it was the will of God that those who went Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh—even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.[2]

In Feb 1835, fifty six years in the future was February 1891. This would be shortly after Joseph's 85th birthday (he was born 23 December 1805).

Joseph made continuous reference to this date in light of a revelation which he reported. It is recorded in D&C 130:14-17, and it is clear that the revelation leaves the exact date of Christ's second coming much more uncertain. Whatever Joseph meant or understood by "wind up the scene," it must be interpreted in light of the revelation as he reported it, and the conclusions which he drew from it.

This particular revelation is a favorite of anti-Mormon critics. They have misquoted it, misreported it, misinterpreted it and misexplained it. Most often they simply do not complete the quote, making it appear that the Prophet said something he didn't.

Joseph acknowledged as he recorded this revelation that he didn't understand its meaning or intent

The revelation is reported in abbreviated form, and Joseph acknowledged as he recorded it that he didn't understand its meaning or intent:

I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following: Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter. (D&C 130:14-15).

Many critics end the quote at this point, and then they hope the reader will assume that the statement is a prophecy that the Savior would come in the year 1890 or 1891, since the Prophet Joseph was born in 1805. (Other critics do not even bother to cite D&C 130, and simply rely on the quote from the Kirtland Council Minute Book of 1835, reproduced in History of the Church.)

Joseph expresses his uncertainty: "I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time"

However, if the reader will continue further in that passage, they will see how Joseph Smith himself understood the revelation, unfiltered through note-takers or critics who wish to explain his meaning:

I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face (D&C :130).

The actual content of Joseph's prophecy--if personal opinion can be said to be prophecy--does not occur until the next verse:

I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time.(D&C 130:17.)

Without a doubt, Joseph's belief proved correct. The Lord did not return to the earth for His Second Coming before that time.

At least twice, as is recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph saw the face of the Son of Man

But there are other aspects of fulfillment that should also be considered. We do not know when it was that the Prophet earnestly prayed to know the time of the Lord's coming. The context, (verse 13), shows that it may have taken place in 1832 or earlier. At least twice, as is recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph saw the face of the Son of Man. D&C 76:20-24 and D&C 110:2-10 both record appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ, either of which may constitute fulfillment of the Lord's prophetic promise. He may also have seen the Lord's face at the time of his death in 1844, as he pondered in D&C 130:16.

Joseph made reference to the incident on at least two other occasions, and indicated that his belief was not that the Lord would come by the time of his 85th birthday, but rather that the Lord would not come before that time, which of course was a correct prophecy.

In the History of the Church:

I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written--the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eighty-five years old.[3]

Again, Joseph Smith doesn't say the Lord will come then, but that He will not come before that time. The return to his age 85 shows that all these remarks derive from the same interpretation of his somewhat opaque revelation from the Lord, who seems determined to tell his curious prophet nothing further.

Joseph denies that anyone knows an exact date

Later, Joseph Smith again prophesied on the subject of Christ's coming:

I also prophesy, in the name of the Lord, that Christ will not come in forty years; and if God ever spoke by my mouth, He will not come in that length of time. Brethren, when you go home, write this down, that it may be remembered. Jesus Christ never did reveal to any man the precise time that He would come. Go and read the scriptures, and you cannot find anything that specifies the exact hour He would come; and all that say so are false teachers.[4]

This remark was made on 10 March 1844. It echoes a teaching given through Joseph in the Doctrine and Covenants in March 1831:

And they have done unto the Son of Man even as they listed; and he has taken his power on the right hand of his glory, and now reigneth in the heavens, and will reign till he descends on the earth to put all enemies under his feet, which time is nigh at hand—I, the Lord God, have spoken it; but the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes. (D&C 49:6-7, emphasis added)

Thus, from the beginning to the end of his ministry, Joseph Smith denied that a man could or would know the date of the second coming of Christ. (Joseph's remarks may have been instigated by the intense interest among religious believers in William Miller's prophecy that Christ would return by 1843.)


Response to claim: 103 - Joseph began "translating" the New Testament at Sidney Rigdon's suggestion

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph began "translating" the New Testament at Sidney Rigdon's suggestion.

Author's sources: No sources provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is the author's speculation.



Response to claim: 108 - The United Order was Sidney Rigdon's idea

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The United Order was Sidney Rigdon's idea.

Author's sources: No sources provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author provides no evidence of this.



Response to claim: 111 - Joseph said that the lost ten tribes were living in a land near the North Pole

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph said that the lost ten tribes were living in a land near the North Pole.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The two citations provided by Brodie (one cite includes the other) say nothing about the "North Pole" being the location of the lost ten tribes of Israel. The citations do mention that Joseph stated that John the Revelator was among them, and that he was there to help "prepare them for their return from their long dispersion."

The footnote cited by Brodie reads, in part:

In addition to the spiritual manifestations already mentioned as having occurred at this conference of June 3rd-6th, it should be said that, according to John Whitmer's History of the Church (ch. 5 [should be chapter vii, which Brodie also cites]): "The Spirit of the Lord fell upon Joseph in an unusual manner, and he prophesied that John the Revelator was then among the Ten Tribes of Israel who had been led away by Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, to prepare them for their return from their long dispersion, to again possess the land of their fathers. He prophesied many more things that I have not written. After he had prophesied he laid his hands upon Lyman Wight and ordained him to the High Priesthood [i. e. ordained him a High Priest], after the holy order of God. And the Spirit fell upon Lyman, and he prophesied concerning the coming of Christ. He said that there were some in the congregation that should live until the Savior should descend from heaven with a shout, with all the holy angels with Him. He said the coming of the Savior should be like the sun rising in the east, and will cover the whole earth. So with the coming of the Son of Man; yea, He will appear in His brightness and consume all [the wicked] before Him; and the hills will be laid low, and the valleys be exalted, and the crooked be made straight, and the rough smooth. And some of my brethren shall suffer martyrdom for the sake of the religion of Jesus Christ, and seal their testimony of Jesus Christ, and seal their testimony of Jesus with their blood. He saw the heavens opened and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father, making intercession for his brethren, the Saints. He said that God would work a work in these last days that tongue cannot express and the mind is not capable to conceive. The glory of the Lord shone around."

Here's what John Whitmer wrote:

The spirit of the Lord fell upon Joseph in an unusual manner. And prophesied that John the Revelator was then among the ten tribes of Israel who had been led away by Salmanasar King of Israel [should be Assyria], to prepare them for their return, from their long dispersion, to again possess the land of their fathers. He prophesied many more things that I have not written. After he had prophesied he laid his hands upon Lyman Wight [and ordained him] to the High Priesthood after the Holy Order of God. And the spirit fell upon Lyman, and he prophesied, concerning the coming of Christ, he said that there were some in the congregation that should live until the Savior should descend from heaven, with a shout, with all the holy angels with him. He said the coming of the Savior should be, like; the sun rising in the east, and will cover the whole earth, so with the coming of the Son of man be, yea, he will appear in his brightness and consume all before him. And the hills will be laid low, and the valleys be exalted; and the crooked be made straight; and the rough smooth. And some of my brethren shall suffer martyrdom, for the sake of the religion of Jesus Christ, and seal the testimony of Jesus with their blood.[5]

Response to claim: 112 - Joseph attempted to perform miracles and failed during a conference in Kirtland, Ohio

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph attempted to perform miracles and failed during a conference in Kirtland, Ohio.

Author's sources:
  • John Whitmer, History of the Church, Chapter viii
  • Newel Knight's journal, published in Scraps of Biography, p. 70.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Nothing in chapter viii of Whitmer's History discusses Joseph failing to perform miracles. Nothing in Scraps of Biography p. 70 talks about a failed miracle. Knight says only, "Conference convened. The Elders, from various parts of the country where they had been laboring, came in, and the power of the Lord was displayed in our midst. A number were ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the hearts of the Saints rejoiced in the rich blessings bestowed upon them."

Response to claim: 113 - Stories claimed that miracles could not be performed in Ohio because it was not "consecrated ground"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Stories claimed that miracles could not be performed in Ohio because it was not "consecrated ground."

Author's sources: Source not provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

We cannot find any information on these "stories." This is simply Brodie's assumption.




Notes

  1. History of the Church, Vol. II, pp. 189-91.
  2. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:182. Volume 2 link
  3. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 5:336–337. Volume 5 link
  4. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:254. Volume 6 link
  5. John Whitmer, History of the Church, Chapter 7