FairMormon is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of LDS doctrine, belief and practice.
Criticism of Mormonism/Books/No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith/Chapter 27
Response to claims made in "Chapter 27: Carthage"
|Claims made in "Chapter 26: Prelude to Destruction"||
A FairMormon Analysis of: No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, a work by author: Fawn Brodie
|No Man Knows My History|
Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 27: Carthage"
Jump to Subtopic:
- Response to claim: 381 - Joseph blessed his son Joseph III to be his successor as president of the Church
- Response to claim: 392 - Joseph sent for some wine while in Carthage Jail and "all except Hyrum sipped a little"
- Response to claim: 394 - Joseph may have given the Masonic signal of distress as he leaped to the window
- Response to claim: 405 - Joseph was lazy
Response to claim: 381 - Joseph blessed his son Joseph III to be his successor as president of the Church
Joseph blessed his son Joseph III to be his successor as president of the Church.
- Zion's Ensign, Vol. 12, No. 29, p. 5
- Temple Lot Case, pp. 28, 180.
- Lyman Wight, letter to the Northern Islander, Reprinted in Saints Advocate, vol 7 (September 1884).
- John D. Lee, Mormonism Unveiled, p. 155.)
The author has misinterpreted her source.
Question: Did Brigham promise that Joseph Smith III would eventually take over the Church?
Brigham was referring to being "ready to receive" any of Joseph's children into the Church
The Wikipedia article "Joseph Smith, Jr." makes this rather interesting assertion:
Indeed, as late as 1860, Brigham Young assured the bulk of Smith's followers that young Joseph would eventually take his father's place. (Journal of Discourses, 8:69.)
The source provided does not support the assertion that Brigham stated that "young Joseph would eventually take his father's place." Brigham said,
What of Joseph Smith's family? What of his boys? I have prayed from the beginning for sister Emma and for the whole family. There is not a man in this Church that has entertained better feelings towards them. Joseph said to me, "God will take care of my children when I am taken." They are in the hands of God, and when they make their appearance before this people, full of his power, there are none but what will say—"Amen! we are ready to receive you."
The brethren testify that brother Brigham is brother Joseph's legal successor. You never heard me say so. I say that I am a good hand to keep the dogs and wolves out of the flock. I do not care a groat who rises up. I do not think anything about being Joseph's successor. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:69.)
Brigham's comment "we are ready to receive you" applied to all of Joseph's children, not just Joseph Smith III.
Mark Hofmann forged a document known as the The Joseph Smith III blessing, which falsely represented itself as a father’s blessing given by the Prophet Joseph Smith on 17 January 1844 to his son, Joseph Smith III, to the effect that this son was his appointed successor. (See Ensign, May 1981.) off-site
Response to claim: 392 - Joseph sent for some wine while in Carthage Jail and "all except Hyrum sipped a little"
Joseph sent for some wine while in Carthage Jail and "all except Hyrum sipped a little."
(Author's sources: History of the Church 7:101)
Wine was not forbidden by the 19th century application of the Word of Wisdom.
Question: In what way did Joseph Smith implement the Word of Wisdom during his lifetime?
Joseph Smith never interpreted the Word of Wisdom revelation as demanding total abstinence
The Word of Wisdom was enforced differently in the 19th century than today. Observance of the Word of Wisdom has changed over time, due to on-going revelation from modern-day prophets, who put greater emphasis on certain elements of the revelation originally given to Joseph Smith. Early Latter-day Saints were not under the same requirements as today's Saints are.
As one historian noted:
it appears clear that Joseph Smith never interpreted the [Word of Wisdom] revelation as demanding total abstinence, but stressed moderation and self-control....He had no objections to using tobacco for medicinal purposes. With regard to wine and "strong drink" possibly the most accurate index to the Prophet's position was expressed by Benjamin F. Johnson, who personally knew Joseph: "As a companion, socailly, he was highly endowed; was kind, generous, mirth loving, and a times even convivial. He was partial to a well supplied table and he did not always refuse the wine that maketh the heart glad."
Beer, unfermented or lightly fermented wine, and cider were considered "mild drinks" by some and therefore acceptable under at least some circumstances
The text of the Word of Wisdom forbids "strong drink" (D&C 89:5,7), which some (including Joseph) seem to have interpreted as distilled beverages (hard liquor). Beer, unfermented or lightly fermented wine, and cider were considered "mild drinks" by some (D&C 89:17) and therefore acceptable under at least some circumstances (note that verse 17 specifically permits "barley...for mild drinks"). One historian notes that the degree of rigor with which early Saints observed the Word of Wisdom varied:
 While the Saints opposed the common use of tea  and coffee, it would appear that they had little objection to its occasional use for medicinal purposes. In an age when these items were frequently used as a relief for a wide variety of ailments, it would have been imprudent to have entirely forbidden their use....
 The journal of Joseph Smith reveals many instances where Joseph and other Church leaders drank wine and a tolerant attitude towards the consumption of this beverage is particularly noticeable....
 Despite the injunction contained in the revelation discouraging the drinking of wine, (except for sacramental purposes) the casual nature of the allusions to this beverage suggest that many Church Authorities did not consider moderate wine drinking in the same category as the use of strong drinks....
Evidence suggests that the drinking of tea, coffee, and liquor was [in the 1830s] in general violation of the principle [of the Word of Wisdom], though exceptions can be found. All of these items were used by the Saints for medicinal purposes. Moderate wine-drinking was evidently acceptable to most Church leaders.... In short, it would seem that adherence to the revelation to at least 1839 required Church members to be moderately temperate but certainly [did] not [require] total abstinence....
Response to claim: 394 - Joseph may have given the Masonic signal of distress as he leaped to the window
Joseph may have given the Masonic signal of distress as he leaped to the window.
(Author's sources: Zina Huntington Jacobs, Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 698.)
Joseph may have been trying to utter the Masonic cry of Distress.
Question: Were Joseph Smith's final words, "O Lord, my God!" a cry for help or mercy from Freemasons in the mob at the Carthage jail?
Joseph Smith's final words were "O Lord, my God!"
According to the accounts of both John Taylor and Willard Richards—the two eyewitnesses who survived the mob's attack on Carthage jail—Joseph Smith's final words were "O Lord, my God!"
The account in the official History of the Church records:
Joseph, seeing there was no safety in the room, and no doubt thinking that it would save the lives of his brethren in the room if he could get out, turned calmly from the door, dropped his pistol on the floor and sprang into the window when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he fell outward into the hands of his murderers, exclaiming. "O Lord, my God!"
John Taylor reported:
Hyrum was shot first and fell calmly, exclaiming: I am a dead man! Joseph leaped from the window, and was shot dead in the attempt, exclaiming: O Lord my God! They were both shot after they were dead, in a brutal manner, and both received four balls. (D&C 135:1)
Willard Richards' testimony was that
two balls pierced [Joseph] from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he fell outward, exclaiming, "Oh Lord, my God!" As his feet went out of the window my head went in, the balls whistling all around. He fell on his left side a dead man.
Those who knew Joseph Smith believed that this was an attempt to save his life and the life of his friends by calling out to Freemasons in the mob
Those who knew Joseph Smith believed that his use of the phrase "O Lord, my God!" was an attempt to save his life and the life of his friends by calling out to Freemasons in the mob. (Joseph and the other Mormons in the jail were Masons, Joseph himself having been inducted on 15 March 1842.)
Among the brotherhood of Freemasons, there is the Grand Hailing Sign of Distress: "Oh Lord, my God, is there no help for the widow's son?" According to Masonic code, any Mason who hears another Mason utter the Grand Hailing Sign must come to his aid.
Most adult men in Hancock County, Illinois, were Masons, and there were Masons in the mob that attacked the jail. If Joseph was attempting to give the Grand Hailing Sign, they would have been obligated to stop their attack and defend Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor, and Willard Richards.
John Taylor, a Master Mason himself, wrote:
...[T]hese two innocent men [Joseph and Hyrum] were confined in jail for a supposed crime, deprived of any weapons to defend themselves: had the pledged faith of the State of Illinois, by Gov. Ford, for their protection, and were then shot to death, while, with uplifted hands they gave such signs of distress as would have commanded the interposition and benevolence of Savages or Pagans. They were both Masons in good standing. Ye brethren of "the mystic tie" [Masonry] what think ye! Where is our good Master Joseph and Hyrum? Is there a pagan, heathen, or savage nation on the globe that would not be moved on this great occasion, as the trees of the forest are moved by a mighty wind? Joseph's last exclamation was "O Lord my God!"
If one of these murderers, their abettors or accessories before or after the fact, are suffered to cumber the earth, without being dealt with according to law, what is life worth, and what is the benefit of laws? and more than all, what is the use of institutions which savages would honor, where civilized beings murder without cause or provocation?
According to Heber C. Kimball:
Masons, it is said, were even among the mob that murdered Joseph and Hyrum in Carthage jail. Joseph, leaping the fatal window, gave the Masonic signal of distress. The answer was the roar of his murderers' muskets.
Zina D. H. Young wrote in 1878:
I am the daughter of a Master Mason [Heber C. Kimball]! I am the widow of a Master Mason [Joseph Smith] who, when leaping from the window of Carthage jail pierced with bullets, made the Masonic sign of distress; but...those signs were not heeded.
From the above it appears the last words of Joseph Smith were believed by at least some people who knew him to be the Masonic cry of distress.
Response to claim: 405 - Joseph was lazy
Joseph was lazy
There is plenty of evidence that Joseph was not lazy.
Question: Was Joseph Smith's family lazy, shiftless and seeking to make a living without performing any labor?
The claim that the Smiths were lazy is belied by objective financial data showing them to be more hard-working than most of their neighbors
It is claimed by some that Joseph Smith and his family were lazy, shiftless, and sought to make a living without labor. The claims of a "lazy" Smith family come largely from the Hurlbut-Howe affidavits, published in Mormonism Unvailed, the first anti-Mormon book.
The claim that the Smiths were lazy is belied by objective financial data showing them to be more hard-working than most of their neighbors. The attacks on their industry date from after they had become notorious for the Book of Mormon and the Church, and probably spring from religious hostility more than truth.
"The Smiths' farming techniques, it seems, were virtually a textbook illustration of the best recommendations of the day"
Were the Smiths truly lazy? Some research sought to address this question, and Daniel C. Peterson summarized the results:
Working from land and tax records, farm account books and related correspondence, soil surveys, horticultural studies, surveys of historic buildings, archaeological reports, and interviews with agricultural historians and other specialists—sources not generally used by scholars of Mormon origins—Enders concludes that, on questions of testable fact, the affidavits cannot be trusted.
The Smiths' farming techniques, it seems, were virtually a textbook illustration of the best recommendations of the day, showing them to have been, by contemporary standards, intelligent, skilled, and responsible people. And they were very hard working. To create their farm, for instance, the Smiths moved many tons of rock and cut down about six thousand trees, a large percentage of which were one hundred feet or more in height and from four to six feet in diameter. Then they fenced their property, which required cutting at least six or seven thousand ten-foot rails. They did an enormous amount of work before they were able even to begin actual daily farming.
Furthermore, in order to pay for their farm, the Smiths were obliged to hire themselves out as day laborers. Throughout the surrounding area, they dug and rocked up wells and cisterns, mowed, harvested, made cider and barrels and chairs and brooms and baskets, taught school, dug for salt, worked as carpenters and domestics, built stone walls and fireplaces, flailed grain, cut and sold cordwood, carted, washed clothes, sold garden produce, painted chairs and oil-cloth coverings, butchered, dug coal, and hauled stone. And, along the way, they produced between one thousand and seven thousand pounds of maple sugar annually. "Laziness" and "indolence" are difficult to detect in the Smith family.
Of four families who gave negative testimonials against the Smiths (Staffords, Stoddards, Chases, and Caprons), only one farm of then ten they owed was worth more than the Smith's farm. The Smith farm was improved to the point that it was worth as much or more per acre than 71% of the farms in the region. Even in Palmyra township, the Smith's farm was worth more than 60% of the farms. Given that the Smiths' property was worth more than 90% of their critical neighbors', and more than over half of all the farms in the area, it is difficult to credit the after-the-fact claims by some neighbors in the Hurlbut affidavits that the Smiths were lazy ne'er-do-wells.
If the Smiths were so lazy in 1825, before the Book of Mormon made them notorious, then why did so many neighbors try to help them save their farm from foreclosure?
Other Smith neighbors tell a story that is more in keeping with the available financial data.
Richard Lloyd Anderson noted that:
All who claimed to know Joseph Smith in this area had contact in the townships of either Palmyra or Manchester, and the 1830 census contains about 2,000 males old enough to know the Smiths in these two localities. From that possible number, Hurlbut procured the signatures of seventy-two individuals who claimed firsthand experience with Joseph Smith. At best, Hurlbut selected one-half of one percent of the males who potentially knew anything about the Smiths. Although Howe presented these as representative, they are matched by approximately the same number in those communities known to have a favorable opinion of the Smiths in the late 1820's. Dr. Gain Robinson, uncle of the Smith family physician, gathered sixty signatures on a certificate attesting the Smiths' reliability in an attempt to prevent loss of their farm in 1825.
If the Smiths were so lazy in 1825 (before the Book of Mormon made them notorious) then why did so many neighbors try to help them save their farm from foreclosure?
Orlando Saunders: ""They were the best family in the neighborhood in case of sickness; one was at my house nearly all the time when my father died"
Former neighbor Orlando Saunders recalled that: "They were the best family in the neighborhood in case of sickness; one was at my house nearly all the time when my father died....[The Smiths] were very good people. Young Joe (as we called him then), has worked for me, and he was a good worker; they all were. . . . He was always a gentleman when about my place."
John Stafford: Joseph "would do a fair day's work if hired out to a man"
- Paul H. Peterson, "An Historical Analysis of the Word of Wisdom," Master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1972, 38. The cited material is [Letter from BF Johnson to George F. Gibbs, 1903.]
- Paul H. Peterson, "An Historical Analysis of the Word of Wisdom," Master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1972. Page numbers cited within text.
- 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), 6:618. Volume 6 link
- History of the Church, 6:618. Volume 6 link
- Masons in antebellum America took the Grand Hailing Sign very seriously. Many accounts exist of it being used during the Civil War. See Michael A. Halleran, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War (University Alabama Press, 2010).
- "The Murder," Times and Seasons 5 (15 July 1844), 585. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) Taylor's original italics have been removed, and italics added for emphasis. The article itself is unsigned, but John Taylor was the editor of the Times and Seasons and would have either written it or approved its publication.
- Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball: The Father and Founder of the British Mission (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888), 26. It should be noted that while Heber C. Kimball personally knew Joseph Smith, he was not an eyewitness to the events at Carthage.
- Andrew Jenson, Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 4 vols., (Salt Lake City, A. Jenson History Co., 1901; reprinted Salt Lake City, Utah : Greg Kofford Books, 2003), 1:698. Zina's statement about "leaping the window" matches very closely with what her father, Heber C. Kimball, said about the incident.
- Donald L. Enders, "The Joseph Smith, Sr., Family: Farmers of the Genesee," in Joseph Smith, The Prophet, The Man, edited by Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate, Jr., (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1993), 213–25.
- Daniel C. Peterson and Donald L. Enders, "Can the 1834 Affidavits Attacking the Smith Family Be Trusted?," in Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon: The FARMS Updates of the 1990s, ed. John W. Welch and Melvin J. Thorne (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999), 286–87. off-site
- Enders, 220.
- Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reappraised," Brigham Young University Studies 10 no. 3 (1970), 285. For more details, see Richard Lloyd Anderson, "The Reliability of the Early History of Lucy and Joseph Smith," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4 no. 2 (Summer 1969), 16, 19.
- Anderson, "Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reappraised," 309; cited by Matthew Roper, "Review of The Truth about Mormonism: A Former Adherent Analyzes the LDS Faith by Weldon Langfield," FARMS Review of Books 4/1 (1992): 78–92. off-site
- William H. Kelly, "The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:121.