Criticism of Mormonism/Books/The Changing World of Mormonism/Chapter 17

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 17: Joseph Smith"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Criticism of Mormonism/Books, a work by author: Jerald and Sandra Tanner
Claim Evaluation
The Changing World of Mormonism
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Response to claims made in The Changing World of Mormonism, "Chapter 17: Joseph Smith"

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Response to claim: 448 - No man can enter the Celestial Kingdom without Joseph Smith's consent

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

No man can enter the Celestial Kingdom without Joseph Smith's consent.

(Author's sources:

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

No one from first century Palestine can enter the kingdom without the consent of Jesus' apostles; thus Christ too appoints modern apostles (like Joseph) to play a role in judgment. Do the Tanners reject the idea that Peter, James, John, and the rest of the Twelve will help judge Israel? If not, then why is the idea for a modern apostle treated as so absurd?



Question: Do Mormons believe that Joseph Smith must approve whether or not they get into heaven?

The Book of Mormon confirms that no mortal's role in the judgment supersedes the role given to Jesus Christ

Critics charge that Joseph claimed, or it was claimed in his behalf, the right to "approve whether or not someone gets into heaven," and that this gives to a mortal a right properly reserved for God and Jesus Christ. Some critics have even charged that "Mormons worship Joseph Smith."

No mortal's role in the judgment supersedes the role given to Jesus, as the Book of Mormon bears witness:

...the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.(2 Nephi 9:41.)

Joseph's participation in the judgment is no more or less than the role assigned to the Lord's apostles at the Last Supper

Joseph's participation in the judgment (at the command and sufferance of Jesus) is no more or less than the role assigned to the Lord's apostles at the Last Supper. Those who condemn Joseph on these grounds must also condemn Peter and the rest of the Twelve.

Members of the Church reserve their worship for God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost. They do not worship Joseph Smith or any other mortal, save Jesus only. Joseph Smith's position in LDS thought is analogous to the role which Peter or Paul plays in traditional creedal Christianity.


Response to claim: 448 - Joseph Smith would be looked upon as a god

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith would be looked upon as a god.

(Author's sources: Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 5:88.)

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 cited material nowhere says Joseph will be "looked upon as a god." He is compared to Peter, and even put subservient to Peter: the chain is Joseph -> Peter -> Jesus -> Father. This is prelude to emphasizing the blessings to all: by following a prophet, they become his spiritual posterity, "his whole posterity are prophets." All of these are subservient "unto the Most High God"—which is the Father, not Joseph.



The quote and its use by the critic(s):

List Actual quote Critical use

*

Brother Brigham was speaking this forenoon, showing what an influence he has over this people. I want to know if he has any over a man or woman that is not in this vine, he being the head now? When Joseph was here, he was the head of the vine in the flesh; but since he stepped away, brother Brigham is head of the vine, and we are connected to it; all you men and women, and then all the Saints throughout the world are connected to that vine to which he is connected; and he has power and influence over them, because they partake of his nature and his element, and he partakes of the element that came through Joseph, and Joseph from Peter, and Peter from Jesus, and Jesus from the Father, and then it extends through all the Quorums that pertain to the house of Israel….

What! of those that do not belong to this Church? Yes, just as much as those that do; and they cannot get salvation upon any other principle. Well, now, you need not think that is a tight jacket; for I will tell you it is a jacket you have all to wear. You may grunt, and you may take a course to kill this people and destroy the Prophet. Good God! there will a hundred come up where you kill one. Bless your souls, if a man is a Prophet, and that Prophet has a posterity, his whole posterity are prophets. Tell about raising up kings, and priests, and prophets unto the Most High God! You may kill brother Brigham: kill him, if you can; but I tell you, you will never do it nor his brother Heber, until the times comes.

Joseph Smith would be looked upon as a god.

Question: Did Heber C. Kimball say that future generations would view Joseph Smith as "a god"?

Kimball is using a biblical allusion to insist that Joseph and his heirs to the priesthood have a right to leadership of the Saints in both spiritual and temporal things

It is claimed that Joseph's place in LDS theology is blasphemous and even idolatrous. As evidence for this, critics of Mormonism cite Heber C. Kimball's remark that future generations would see Joseph as "a god." However, Kimball is not here assigning Joseph divine status, nor he is teaching the doctrine of theosis. Rather, he is using a biblical allusion to insist that Joseph and his heirs to the priesthood have a right to leadership of the Saints in both spiritual and temporal things.

Critics, especially Bible-believing ones, ought to be aware of the allusion, but they omit it from their citation and their interpretation, distorting both.

In the wake of difficulty with the US government over the leadership of the Territory of Deseret, Heber C. Kimball said:

You call us fools: but the day will be, gentlemen and ladies, whether you belong to this Church or not, when you will prize brother Joseph Smith as the Prophet of the Living God, and look upon him as a God, and also upon Brigham Young, our Governor in the Territory of Deseret. [1]

Well, I will say there is no other man, except it is his successor in the Priesthood, that will ever rule over me as a Governor.

Kimball's remarks are centered around who would lead the Saints in the territory

Kimball makes clear that Joseph is to be recognized as a prophet of God, and then alludes to the Bible. When Moses, the great prophet and political leader of Israel, was called as a prophet, he was told by God that:

And [Aaron] shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God (emphasis added) (Exodus 4:16).


Response to claim: 450 - Church members elevate Joseph Smith almost to the level of Jesus Christ

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Church members elevate Joseph Smith almost to the level of Jesus Christ.

(Author's sources: Tiffany's Monthly in 1859, p.170)

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

A popular magazine from 1859 is the authors' best support for this claim?



Response to claim: 451-452 - Joseph Smith liked to fight

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith liked to fight.

(Author's sources:

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 like to fight.



Question: Do Joseph Smith's personality and temperament indicate that he was not a true prophet of God?

Although we cannot fully detach the man from the message, we should remember that Joseph Smith was a man as well as a prophet

As a man, Joseph was subject to the same passions and opinions as other men, but as a prophet, he restored the truths, ordinances, and authority necessary to exalt mankind.

At its base, this attack is simply ad hominem abusive—an attack on the messenger, rather than his claims.

This criticism is not driven so much by facts as it is by expectations—people have their own preconceived notions of how a prophet should look, speak, and act. When a person who claims to be a prophet, often people dismiss him because he doesn't fit their idea of what a prophet should be, regardless of what he has accomplished.

Joseph Smith encountered and recognized this sort of prejudice, and he spoke about it:

I never told you I was perfect, but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught. Must I then be thrown away as a thing of nought? [2]

Brigham Young explained it this way:

I recollect a conversation I had with a priest who was an old friend of ours, before I was personally acquainted with the Prophet Joseph. I clipped every argument he advanced, until at last he came out and began to rail against "Joe Smith," saying, "that he was a mean man, a liar, moneydigger, gambler, and a whore-master;" and he charged him with everything bad, that he could find language to utter. I said, hold on, Brother Gillmore, here is the doctrine, here is the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the revelations that have come through Joseph Smith the Prophet. I have never seen him, and do not know his private character. The doctrine he teaches is all I know about the matter, bring anything against that if you can. As to anything else I do not care. If he acts like a devil, he has brought forth a doctrine that will save us, if we will abide it. He may get drunk every day of his life, sleep with his neighbor's wife every night, run horses and gamble, I do not care anything about that, for I never embrace any man in my faith. But the doctrine he has produced will save you and me, and the whole world; and if you can find fault with that, find it. [3]

At a 1894 gathering of Latter-day Saints who personally knew Joseph Smith, Joseph F. Smith (his nephew) arose and made the following remarks:

Now, some of us remember one thing, and some remember another thing, with relation to the Prophet [Joseph Smith]. I remember several instances, general incidents, myself, which might be considered inappropriate to mention here tonight. For it is sometimes the ludicrous things and drastic things which occur that impress themselves with greater vigor upon the mind; and we remember them more distinctly than we do other things of far greater importance and which are far more worthy to be recollected. No matter what we may recollect of the Prophet or what may be said to us here tonight with regard to our memeory [sic] of him, the one thing that I wish to call your attention to first and foremost of all other things is this, that whatever else the Prophet Joseph Smith may have done or may have been, we must not forget the fact that he was the man out of the millions of human beings that inhabited this earth at the time—the only man, that was called of God, by the voice of God Himself, to open up the dispensation of the Gospel to the world for the last time; and this is the great thing to bear in mind, that he was called of God to introduce the Gospel to the world, to restore the holy priesthood to the children of men, to organize the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the world, and to restore all the ordinances of the Gospel, for the salvation not only of the living, but also of the dead, and he was called to this mission by God Himself. Now, if somebody tells us about Joseph being fond of wrestling, fond of running a foot race, fond of having a good scuffle with some lusty neighbor or friend; or if you hear somebody tell about the good, that is, the overflowing of the human nature that was in him, it need not detract one iota from the great and glorious principles which were revealed through him to the world. [4]

Dr. John M. Bernhisel, related his impressions of Joseph Smith to Illinois Governor Ford in 1844. He wrote:

Having been a boarder in General Smith's family for more than nine months, and having therefore had abundant opportunities of contemplating his character and observing his conduct, I have concluded to give you a few of my "impressions" of him.

General Joseph Smith is naturally a man of strong mental powers, and is possessed of much energy and decision of character, great penetration, and a profound knowledge of human nature. He is a man of calm judgment, enlarged views, and is eminently distinguished by his love of justice. He is kind and obliging, generous and benevolent, sociable and cheerful, and is possessed of a mind of a contemplative and reactive character. He is honest, frank, fearless and independent, and as free from dissimulation as any man to be found.

But it is in the gentle charities of domestic life, as the tender and affectionate husband and parent, the warm and sympathizing friend, that the prominent traits of his character are revealed, and his heart is felt to be keenly alive to the kindest and softest emotions of which human nature is susceptible; and I feel assured that his family and friends formed one of the greatest consolations to him while the vials of wrath were poured upon his head, while his footsteps were pursued by malice and envy, and reproach and slander were strewn in his path, as well as during numerous and cruel persecutions, and severe and protracted sufferings in chains and loathsome prisons, for worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience.

He is a true lover of his country, and a bright and shining example of integrity and moral excellence in all the relations of life. As a religious teacher, as well as a man, he is greatly beloved by this people. It is almost superfluous to add that the numerous ridiculous and scandalous reports in circulation respecting him have not the least foundation in truth. [5]

Attorney John S. Reed, a life-long non-Mormon, said in May 1844:

The first acquaintance I had with Gen. Smith was about the year 1823. He came into my neighborhood, being then about eighteen years of age, and resided there two years; during which time I became intimately acquainted with him. I do know that his character was irreproachable; that he was well known for truth and uprightness; that he moved in the first circles of the community, and he was often spoken of as a young man of intelligence and good morals, and possessing a mind susceptible of the highest intellectual attainments. I early discovered that his mind was constantly in search of truth, expressing an anxious desire to know the will of God concerning His children here below, often speaking of those things which professed Christians believe in. I have often observed to my best informed friends (those that were free from superstition and bigotry) that I thought Joseph was predestinated by his God from all eternity to be an instrument in the hands of the great Dispenser of all good, to do a great work; what it was I knew not. [6]

Peter H. Burnett, a former Governor of California and attorney for Joseph wrote:

You could see at a glance that his education was very limited. He was an awkward and vehement speaker. In conversation he was slow, and used too many words to express his ideas, and would not generally go directly to a point. But, with all these drawbacks, he was much more than an ordinary man. He possessed the most indomitable perseverance, was a good judge of men, and deemed himself born to command, and he did command. His views were so strange and striking, and his manner was so earnest, and apparently so candid, that you could not but be interested. There was a kind, familiar look about him, that pleased you. He was very courteous in discussion, readily admitting what he did not intend to controvert, and would not oppose you abruptly, but had due deference to your feelings. He had the capacity for discussing a subject in different aspects, and for proposing many original views, even of ordinary matters. His illustrations were his own. He had great influence over others. As an evidence of this I will state that on Thursday, just before I left to return to Liberty [Missouri], I saw him out among the crowd, conversing freely with every one, and seeming to be perfectly at ease. In the short space of five days he had managed so to mollify his enemies that he could go unprotected among them without the slightest danger. [7]

A New York Herald writer said he was "one of the most accomplished and powerful chiefs of the age." He then described him as follows:

Joseph Smith, the president of the church, prophet, seer, and revelator, is thirty-six years of age, six feet high in pumps, weighing two hundred and twelve pounds. He is a man of the highest order of talent and great independence of character--firm in his integrity--and devoted to his religion; . . as a public speaker he is bold, powerful, and convincing; . . as a leader, wise and prudent, yet fearless as a military commander; brave and determined as a citizen, worthy, affable, and kind; bland in his manners, and of noble bearing. [8]

Opposite the positive views presented here and the conflicting views of Joseph which critics seek to take advantage of, there is reason to pause and consider the absoluteness of one opinion of Joseph over another. Speaking of Joseph's human side, the world's expectations of him, and reconciling the two realities, Marvin S. Hill concluded:

If a look at the human side of Joseph Smith seems at times somewhat unflattering, it comes from no desire to diminish him. It comes rather from the belief that at times in the Church we tend to expect too much of him, to ask him to be more than human in everything he did. This may lead to some disillusionment, if occasionally we find that he did not measure up to all our expectations. The early Saints usually avoided that kind of mistake. Brigham Young said of Joseph: 'Though I admitted in my feelings and knew all the time that Joseph was a human being and subject to err, still it was none of my business to look after his faults.' Brigham chose to stress the positive side.

Parley P. Pratt said that Joseph was "like other men, as the prophets and apostles of old, liable to errors and mistakes which were not inspired from heaven, but managed by...[his] own judgment."

These brethren knew Joseph as a man with human weaknesses, yet they believed in his divine calling and in his greatness. It seemed to them that what he had achieved as a prophet far outweighed his imperfections. In the long run their love of him and their faith in his calling were decisive in shaping their lives. Seeing Joseph in his various moods, they still called him a prophet of God... Those who would understand the Prophet must give consideration to his spiritual side as well as his human side. It was his strong commitment to things spiritual which made him so aware of his human failings, so desirous to overcome his weaknesses and to give his all to the work of the Lord. [9]


Stephen H. Webb: "Evidence That Demands Our Amazement... Joseph Smith was a remarkable person"

Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb wrote:[10]

By any measurement, Joseph Smith was a remarkable person. His combination of organizational acumen with spiritual originality and personal decorum and modesty is rare in the history of religion. He was so steadfast in his ability to inspire men and women through times of great hardship that none of those who knew him could claim to fully understand him. He knew more about theology and philosophy than it was reasonable for anyone in his position to know, as if he were dipping into the deep, collective unconsciousness of Christianity with a very long pen. He read the Bible in ways so novel that he can be considered a theological innocent—he expanded and revised the biblical narrative without questioning its authority—yet he brusquely overturned ancient and impregnable metaphysical assumptions with the aplomb of an assistant professor. For someone so charismatic, he was exceptionally humble, even ordinary, and he delegated authority with the wisdom of a man looking far into the future for the well-being of his followers. It would be tempting to compare him to Mohammed—who also combined pragmatic political skill and a genius for religious innovation—if he were not so deeply Christian. [Title is Webb's.][11]:95

Response to claim: 452-454 - Joseph Smith liked military trappings and titles

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith liked military trappings and titles.

(Author's sources: History of the Church 4:382; 5:3; 6:282, 227)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Joseph, like many of his era, liked the pomp and spectacle of marching and military regalia. This is no crime or sin—Joseph did not relish war, and always tended to conciliation. Latter-day Saints do not, in any case, believe in perfect or unflawed prophets. Joseph described himself as "a man of like passions with yourselves." [12]



Response to claim: 456-457 - Joseph Smith was ordained "King on earth" by the Council of Fifty

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith was ordained "King on earth" by the Council of Fifty.

(Author's sources:
  • Klaus J. Hansen, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1966, page 104.
  • Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1968, pp.212-13. off-site
  • Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 356. ( Index of claims )
  • Kenneth W. Godfrey, Causes of Mormon Non-Mormon Conflict in Hancock County, Illinois, 1839-1846, Ph.D. dissertation, BYU, 1967, pp.63-65")

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 Tanners' sources do not exactly support them in this case:
    • Godfrey's 1967 thesis discusses Joseph's ordination, but notes that this is "over the house of Israel," and cautions that "the general public probably misunderstood the Prophet and his role in relation to the Council of Fifty....It appears evident that his concept of the Kingdom of God was an ideal, a utopia, a goal to be worked for and achieved some time in the future. The Prophet was not going to establish The Kingdom of God by the sword but with love and gentle persuasion" (65-66).
    • Godfrey's BYU Studies (1968) article is similar: "Antagonism toward the Mormon Prophet was further incited when it was correctly rumored, that he had been ordained “King over the Immediate House of Israel” by the Council of Fifty. This action was wrongly interpreted by non-Mormons to mean that he was going to attempt to overthrow the United States government by force. In reality the Prophet was establishing a political organization that would remain in effect in a state of limbo until commanded by Christ to function as an aid in ushering in the millennial reign of the King of Kings."
    • Hansen's article says only that Joseph is made "king over that organization [the Council of Fifty]," not "on earth."
    • We are left, then, only with Brodie's cynical (and equally distorted) view of the matter. The Tanners provide the illusion of balance and documentation, and provide nothing of the sort.



Question: What was the Council of Fifty?

Joseph Smith received a revelation which called for the organization of a special council

On 7 April 1842, Joseph Smith received a revelation titled "The Kingdom of God and His Laws, With the Keys and Power Thereof, and Judgment in the Hands of His Servants, Ahman Christ," which called the for the organization of a special council separate from, but parallel to, the Church. Since its inception, this organization has been generally been referred to as "the Council of Fifty" because of its approximate number of members.

The Council of Fifty was designed to serve as something of a preparatory legislature in the Kingdom of God

Latter-day Saints believe that one reason the gospel was restored was to prepare the earth for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as the Church was to bring about religious changes in the world, the Council of Fifty was intended to bring a political transformation. It was therefore designed to serve as something of a preparatory legislature in the Kingdom of God. Joseph Smith ordained the council to be the governing body of the world, with himself as chairman, Prophet, Priest, and King over the Council and the world (subject to Jesus Christ, who is "King of kings"[13]).

The Council was organized on 11 March 1844, at which time it adopted rules of procedure, including those governing legislation. One rule included instructions for passing motions:

To pass, a motion must be unanimous in the affirmative. Voting is done after the ancient order: each person voting in turn from the oldest to the youngest member of the Council, commencing with the standing chairman. If any member has any objections he is under covenant to fully and freely make them known to the Council. But if he cannot be convinced of the rightness of the course pursued by the Council he must either yield or withdraw membership in the Council. Thus a man will lose his place in the Council if he refuses to act in accordance with righteous principles in the deliberations of the Council. After action is taken and a motion accepted, no fault will be found or change sought for in regard to the motion.[14]

What is interesting about this rule is that it required each council member, by covenant, to voice his objections to proposed legislation. Those council members who dissented and could not be convinced to change their minds were free to withdraw from the council without repercussions. Thus, full freedom of conscience was maintained by the council — not exactly the sort of actions a despot or tyrant would allow.

The Council never rose to the stature Joseph intended

Members (which included individuals that were not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) were sent on expeditions west to explore emigration routes for the Saints, lobbied the American government, and were involved in Joseph Smith's presidential campaign. But only three months after it was established, Joseph was killed, and his death was the beginning of the Council's end. Brigham Young used it as the Saints moved west and settled in the Great Basin, and it met annually during John Taylor's administration, but since that time the Council has not played an active role among the Latter-day Saints.


Question: Was Joseph Smith anointed to be "King over the earth" by the Council of Fifty?

Joseph was never anointed King over the earth in any political sense

Some people claim that Joseph Smith had himself anointed king over the whole world, and that this shows he was some sort of megalomaniac.

The Council of Fifty, while established in preparation for a future Millennial government under Jesus Christ (who is the King of Kings) was to be governed on earth during this preparatory period by the highest presiding ecclesiastical authority, which at the time was the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph had previously been anointed a King and Priest in the Kingdom of God by religious rites associated with the fullness of the temple endowment, and was placed as a presiding authority over this body in his most exalted position within the kingdom of God (as a King and a Priest).

Joseph was anointed as the presiding authority over an organization that was to prepare for the future reign of Jesus Christ during the Millennium

The fact that Joseph's prior anointing was referenced in his position as presiding authority over this body creates the confusion that he had been anointed King of the Earth. He was in fact only anointed as the presiding authority over an organization that was to prepare for the future reign of Jesus Christ during the Millennium. The fact that Joseph had submitted his name for consideration as President of the United States during this same period adds fodder for critics seeking to malign the character of the Prophet.


Response to claim: 458 - Joseph Smith ran for president because he thought that he could win and rule as king over the United States

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith ran for president because he thought that he could win and rule as king over the United States.

(Author's sources: Hansen, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn 1966, p.67)

FairMormon Response

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

Yet again, the Tanners' citation does not support their claim. Hansen's article reads, in part:
The Gentiles, who could be quite as literal-minded as the Saints, therefore believed that the Mormon kingdom, like Mohammed's, was to conquer the world by fire and sword. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Joseph Smith insisted emphatically that the Kingdom was to be ushered in through peaceful means....[Joseph] seems to have realized that a temporal kingdom of God in an area surrounded by Gentiles faced at best a precarious future. But what if, through a bold stroke, he could capture the United States for the Kingdom? The Council of Fifty thought there might be a chance and nominated the Mormon prophet for the Presidency of the United States....Still, the Mormon prophet was realistic enough not to stake the entire future of the Kingdom of God on this plan.



Question: Did Joseph Smith run for President because he had delusions of grandeur?

There is little evidence that Joseph expected to win his political contest

Critics charge that Joseph Smith's decision to run for President of the United States in 1844 shows him to be either a megalomaniac bent on amassing ever more power, or a fanatic with delusions of grandeur.

Joseph Smith was sincere in his political principles, which seem to have been generally well-received and were well thought out. There is little evidence, however, that Joseph expected to win his political contest. Joseph had ample experience with persecution and hatred throughout his prophetic career; it seems unlikely that he would have expected to overcome such animus and successfully be elected president.

However, there were other goals that were also served with his Presidential campaign, and these seem to have loomed even larger in the minds of Joseph and those he sent as campaigners—chief among these was the strength added to the Church through strengthening distant branches, training future leaders, preaching the gospel, and dispelling prejudice.

Cover of "The Prophet," a magazine published by the Church in New York, 1844. This issue advocates the election of Joseph as President of the United States, with Sidney Rigdon as Vice-President. (From Ensign (September 1973): 21.)

Joseph Smith was clear that he did not put his political beliefs or activities into the prophetic realm

Joseph Smith was clear that he did not put his political beliefs or activities into the prophetic realm. As he said, "The Lord has not given me a revelation concerning politics. I have not asked him for one."[15]

Joseph's reasons for running for president included the following:[16]:148

  1. Joseph wanted to provide the Saints with a political candidate they could support. Rather than "holding their nose" and voting for the "lesser of two evils," or abstaining from participation in the process, Joseph offered himself as an option.
  2. Joseph's candidacy meant that Mormons would support neither Whigs or Democrats; this could help avert anti-Mormon sentiment in Illinois, since the party which did not receive LDS support would have further reason to resent the Mormons, who were numerous enough to hold a "balance of power" in the state.
  3. Joseph hoped to publicize the Saints' grievances regarding their dispossession by the state of Missouri. Other efforts at legal redress had failed, and so Joseph saw the campaign for the Presidency as a means of attracting attention, with hopes that the public's sentiments could be appealed to directly. Prior to running, Joseph asked John C. Calhoun, Lewis Cass, Richard M. Johnson, Henry Clay, and Martin Van Buren (the five leading candidates) what their actions would be with respect to the Mormons' Missouri grievances. Two did not reply; the other three would not pledge support in the event of a victory.[17]
  4. Joseph knew that running for President would attract attention. This allowed him to preach his religious and political ideals on the national stage.
  5. Joseph advocated a strong central bank; he doubtless had vivid memories of the problems which arose when reliable banking was not available, especially on the frontier, given the problems with the Kirtland Safety Society.

There were many other benefits which accrued to the Church

There were many other benefits which accrued to the Church:

  • Members of the Quorum of the Twelve were safely out of reach of mob violence at the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum. (Wilford Woodruff reported that Joseph told him that he [Woodruff] needed to leave to be protected. Some of the returning Twelve also faced mob attacks on their lives before reaching Nauvoo.)[16]:149, 163–164. The visits of the Twelve to members not at Nauvoo also strengthened these members' commitment to the Church following the death of Joseph. Members might have concluded that Joseph's death meant the end of the Church; having met and known the apostles, they were more confident in the Church's new leadership.[16]:162
  • Campaigning for Joseph strengthened the Church through converts.[16]:149 One author who reviewed the campaigners' diaries noted:
"The electioneers did much more than merely campaign for Joseph Smith: one of the purposes of the candidacy, which becomes obvious from the journals of the campaigners, was to proselytize. By their own accounts, campaigning seemed secondary in comparison to the amount of time they devoted to preaching."[16]:152 And, with Joseph's death, the travelers did not suddenly return home. They continued their work, which would be strange if their departure was primarily geared toward electing Joseph Smith.[16]:156-58
  • Having many traveling messengers who knew Joseph Smith and the gospel well allowed the Church to suppress apostate practices or teachings in areas removed from the Church's center at Nauvoo.[16]:159-61
  • The preaching and campaigning managed "to remove a great deal of prejudice" against the Church.[18] It also impressed many people favorably in the midst of an acrimonious presidential campaign:
...the electioneers did campaign. They held political meetings, and some even had electors appointed for their respective states. The bulk of their campaigning effort involved presenting the Prophet's [platform] to the citizenry of the United States, who on the whole seemed impressed and pleased with this plaform. On the other hand, many of the elders did have difficulty campaigning and were sometimes severely opposed.[16]:152
  • The electioneers were working in their home state, so this gave them the chance to preach to many family members. Some joined the Church, while others merely abandoned the prejudices they had held against their Mormon kin. This is significant, since the Saints were soon to move west, far from these family ties.[19]

The issue of George Miller

Some have pointed to the remarks of George Miller, one of the campaigners, to insist that Joseph really intended his run for the Presidency to permit the establishment of a political Kingdom of God on earth.

Miller was later to join Lyman Wight's Texas break-off "empire," and even later he joined the followers of James Jesse Strang—who claimed to have established the political Kingdom of God on earth—in 1850. As one author has noted,

The course that George Miller followed after Joseph Smith's death, in contrast to that followed by Brigham Young and the Twelve, evidences that Miller probably left the Church, at least partially, over the very issue of the political Kingdom of God. But even more surprising is that George Miller's journal exists only through 1843. What historians have quoted as evidence of Joseph Smith's 'secret' intentions was not written by Miller at the time of Joseph's campaign. It was written in 1855 in a letter from Miller in St. James, Michigan, to his brother, partially to justify Miller and Strang's position. Miller attempted to substantiate that Joseph tried to do what he and Strang were then doing, and so portrayed the Prophet as trying to set up the Kingdom of God with a king in the United States. It seems clear that Miller justified his own position, rather than objectively reflecting on what Joseph had said to him ten years earlier.[20]

Unfortunately for this theory, it ignores Joseph's contemporaneous remarks about his candidacy, and the behavior and journals of those who were involved as electioneers.


Response to claim: 460 - Joseph Smith felt that he was "almost equal with God" and that God was his "right hand man"

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith felt that he was "almost equal with God" and that God was his "right hand man."

(Author's sources: History of the Church 5:289, 467; 6:78, 408-409)

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 certainly did not consider himself "almost equal with God."



Question: Did Joseph Smith believe that he was better than Jesus Christ?

Joseph was not a man who believed himself to be better than Christ

Consider the following excerpt from a letter Joseph wrote to his wife Emma:

I will try to be contented with my lot, knowing that God is my friend. In him I shall find comfort. I have given my life into his hands. I am prepared to go at his call. I desire to be with Christ. I count not my life dear to me [except] to do his will.[21]

These are not the words of a man who believed himself to be better than Christ. Joseph loved Christ and throughout his life strove to follow him. These words written in private to his wife demonstrate that Joseph was not so prideful as to think himself better than Christ. Consider also the following statement, made in public, by Joseph Smith:

I do not think there have been many good men on the earth since the days of Adam; but there was one good man and his name was Jesus. Many persons think a prophet must be a great deal better than anybody else....I do not want you to think that I am very righteous, for I am not.[22]

Both in private and in public Joseph Smith demonstrated his humility before the Lord.


Question: Was Joseph Smith ego-maniacal, proud, and narcissistic?

Several quotes are used by critics to portray Joseph as ego-maniacal, proud, and narcissistic

Joseph Smith is quoted as saying such things as:

  • "I am learned, and know more than all the world put together."
  • "I combat the errors of ages; I meet the violence of mobs; I cope with illegal proceedings from executive authority; I cut the Gordian knot of powers, and I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth . . . diamond truth; and God is my ‘right hand man.’”

These quotes are used to portray Joseph as ego-maniacal, proud, and narcissistic.

Note: This wiki section was based partly on a review of G.D. Smith's Nauvoo Polygamy. As such, it focuses on that author's presentation of the data. To read the full review, follow the link. Gregory L. Smith, A review of Nauvoo Polygamy:...but we called it celestial marriage by George D. Smith. FARMS Review, Vol. 20, Issue 2. (Detailed book review)

To paraphrase G. D. Smith, small wonder, then, that this Joseph—the one revealed by the documents—decided to run for the presidency. The decision was natural since the Saints felt no candidate was worthy of their support—though they knew that a vote for Joseph could well be “throw[ing] away our votes.”[23] Joseph’s campaign was “a gesture,” though one he took seriously.[24] Experienced students of Mormon history will know this; G. D. Smith evidently counts on his audience not knowing.

See also reply to Abanes here.

Did Joseph claim to know more than all the world?

G. D. Smith writes that “in defending his theology [during the King Follett discourse], Smith proclaimed, ‘I am learned, and know more than all the world put together.’” The period ending the sentence would imply that this completed his thought—and so it appears in the History of the Church.[25] If the three published versions of the original talk are consulted,[26] however, they each demonstrate that the sentiment may have been quite different:

Now, I ask all the learned men who hear me, why the learned doctors who are preaching salvation say that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing. They account it blasphemy to contradict the idea. If you tell them that God made the world out of something, they will call you a fool. The reason is that they are unlearned but I am learned and know more than all the world put together—the Holy Ghost does, anyhow. If the Holy Ghost in me comprehends more than all the world, I will associate myself with it.[27]

In the History of the Church version, the statement about the Holy Ghost is placed in its own sentence. This allows G. D. Smith to exclude it with no ellipsis and portray Joseph as decidedly more arrogant than he was.

Daniel C. Peterson’s remark is telling: “Amusing, isn’t it, . . . that the very same people who vehemently reject the . . . History of the Church as an unreliable source when it seems to support the Latter-day Saint position clutch it to their bosoms as an unparalleled historical treasure when they think they can use it as a weapon against the alleged errors of Mormonism.”[28]:54-55

Letter taken from context

Critics fail, then, to provide the context for these remarks, some of which are taken from an exchange which Joseph had with newspaperman James Arlington Bennet.[29] For example, G.D. Smith quotes the phrases above and then editorializes: “With such a self-image, it is not surprising that he also aspired to the highest office in the land: the presidency of the United States.”[30] Here again, he serves his readers poorly. He neglects to tell us that Joseph’s remark comes from a somewhat tongue-in-cheek exchange with James Bennet, who had been baptized in the East but immediately wrote Joseph to disclaim his “glorious frolic in the clear blue ocean; for most assuredly a frolic it was, without a moment’s reflection or consideration.”[31]:71

James Bennet's original letter

Bennet went on to praise Joseph in an exaggerated, humorous style: “As you have proved yourself to be a philosophical divine . . . [it] point[s] you out as the most extraordinary man of the present age.” “But,” cautioned Bennet,

my mind is of so mathematical and philosophical a cast, that the divinity of Moses makes no impression on me, and you will not be offended when I say that I rate you higher as a legislator than I do Moses. . . . I cannot, however, say but you are both right, it being out of the power of man to prove you wrong. It is no mathematical problem, and can therefore get no mathematical solution (italics added)[31]:72

Joseph’s claim that his religious witness can “solve mathematical problems of universities” is thus a playful return shot at Bennet,[32] who has claimed a “so mathematical” mind that cannot decide about Joseph’s truth claims since they admit of “no mathematical solution.”[33] G. D. Smith may not get the joke, but he ought to at least let us know that there is one being told.

Bennet continued by suggesting that he need not have religious convictions to support Joseph, adding slyly that “you know Mahomet had his ‘right hand man.’” Joseph’s reply that God is his right-hand man is again a riposte to Bennet and follows Joseph’s half-serious gibe that “your good wishes to go ahead, coupled with Mahomet and a right hand man, are rather more vain than virtuous. Why, sir, Cæsar had his right hand Brutus, who was his left hand assassin.” Joseph here pauses, and we can almost see him grin before adding: “Not, however, applying the allusion to you.”[31]:77

Diamond hard truth

Bennet had also offered Joseph a carving of “your head on a beautiful cornelian stone, as your private seal, which will be set in gold to your order, and sent to you. It will be a gem, and just what you want. . . . The expense of this seal, set in gold, will be about $40; and [the maker] assures me that if he were not so poor a man, he would present it to you free. You can, however, accept it or not.”[31]:72

Joseph does not let this rhetorical opportunity go by, telling Bennet that “facts, like diamonds, not only cut glass, but they are the most precious jewels on earth. . . . As to the private seal you mention, if sent to me, I shall receive it with the gratitude of a servant of God, and pray that the donor may receive a reward in the resurrection of the just.”[31]:77, (emphasis added) Joseph’s concluding remark about the necessity of “truth—diamond-hard truth” plays on this same association with the proffered precious stone.

Bennet's goals

The key point of Bennet’s letter, after the sardonic preliminaries, was an invitation to use untruth for political gain—hence Joseph’s insistence on “diamond-hard truth.” Bennet closed his letter by asking to be privately relieved of his honorary commission with the Nauvoo Legion, noting that

I may yet run for a high office in your state, when you would be sure of my best services in your behalf; therefore, a known connection with you would be against our mutual interest. It can be shown that a commission in the Legion was a Herald hoax, coined for the fun of it by me, as it is not believed even now by the public. In short, I expect to be yet, through your influence, governor of the State of Illinois.[31]:72, (emphasis added)

Bennet hoped to use Joseph without embracing his religious pretensions and was bold enough to say so.[34] However, Joseph was not as cynical and malleable as the Easterner hoped, for the Prophet then insisted at length on the impropriety of using “the dignity and honor I received from heaven, to boost a man into [political] power,” since “the wicked and unprincipled . . . would seize the opportunity to [harden] the hearts of the nation against me for dabbling at a sly game in politics.”

Joseph’s fear in relation to politics is that to support the unworthy would be to corrupt the mission he has been given. “Shall I,” continued Joseph rhetorically, “. . . turn to be a Judas? Shall I, who have heard the voice of God, and communed with angels, and spake as moved by the Holy Ghost for the renewal of the everlasting covenant, and for the gathering of Israel in the last days,—shall I worm myself into a political hypocrite?” Rather, Joseph hoped that “the whole earth shall bear me witness that I, like the towering rock in the midst of the ocean, which has withstood the mighty surges of the warring waves for centuries, am impregnable, and am a faithful friend to virtue, and a fearless foe to vice.”[31]:77-78

It is at this point that he makes the statement quoted by G. D. Smith—a nice rhetorical summation of the word games he and Bennet were playing and a jovial but direct rejection of Bennet’s politically cynical offer—but hardly evidence of someone with a grandiose self-image.[35]


Response to claim: 460 - Joseph boasted that he was the only one who kept a whole church together

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Joseph boasted that he was the only one who kept a whole church together.

(Author's sources: History of the Church 6:408-409)

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 made a statement that sounded boastful, and unbecoming a prophet. However, Joseph's quote is taken out of context.



Question: Was Joseph Smith prone to boasting?

Joseph made a statement that sounded boastful, and unbecoming a prophet

Joseph Smith is reported as saying:

I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam... Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.” (History of the Church, 6:408–409. Volume 6 link

This attitude strikes some as boastful, and unbecoming a prophet.

There are two issues here:

Joseph's quote, if accurate, is taken out of context

Assuming that the quote is accurate in History of the Church, it is evident that Joseph's quote is taken out of context. What was Joseph's intent, and why did he use this approach? As it turns out, he was drawing from the Bible and applying its lessons to his own situation. In the original context, Joseph was facing intense persecution by many people, including some he had previously considered to be his friends. The statement about "boasting" was supposedly made about a month before he was killed. He made it after reading 2 Corinthians 11: to the congregation. Note the following statement by Paul, in this scripture:

Paul: "let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, that I also may boast a little"

Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, that I also may boast a little. That which I am speaking, I am not speaking it as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, bear the foolish gladly. (2 Corinthians 11:16-19, NASB)

Paul then launches into a literary tirade where he claims many things to make himself look the fool, to contrast himself with those who the Corinthians were listening to for their words of salvation, instead of to him. His words were meant to compare and contrast what the Saints at Corinth were doing against what he was offering.

Joseph employed the exact same literary approach that Paul the Apostle did

Do the critics dismiss the words of Paul and deny his calling as an Apostle because he used such a literary approach that included boasting? No, they do not. Yet, they dismiss Joseph Smith when it is clear by his own statements, in context, that he engaged in the exact same literary approach. Consider the words of Joseph right after reading this chapter of Paul's to the congregation:

My object is to let you know that I am right here on the spot where I intend to stay. I, like Paul, have been in perils, and oftener than anyone in this generation. As Paul boasted, I have suffered more than Paul did, I should be like a fish out of water, if I were out of persecutions. Perhaps my brethren think it requires all this to keep me humble. The Lord has constituted me curiously that I glory in persecution. I am not nearly so humble as if I were not persecuted. If oppression will make a wise man mad, much more a fool. If they want a beardless boy to whip all the world, I will get on the top of a mountain and crow like a rooster: I shall always beat them. When facts are proved, truth and innocence will prevail at last. My enemies are no philosophers: they think that when they have my spoke under, they will keep me down; but for the fools, I will hold on and fly over them.[36]

It would appear that Paul recognizes the necessity of boasting at times against the wicked and hard-hearted

Joseph then makes the statements that the critics attack, in the same way that Paul made outrageous "boasts" to contrast his position with the position of those who the Corinthians were starting to listen to. Paul starts the next chapter of 2 Corinthians with the statement "boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable." So, it would appear that Paul recognizes the necessity of boasting at times against the wicked and hard-hearted (though it may do little good, being unprofitable), yet the critics do not allow Joseph to follow Paul's advice and, of necessity, boast at times.

Perhaps the critics are unaware of Paul's advice? Or perhaps they apply a double standard where Paul is allowed such literary and rhetorical license, but Joseph is not?

Such double standards are, sadly, the stock-in-trade of sectarian anti-Mormonism.

In short, Joseph is using the scripture in Paul as a counter-argument (or a rhetorical device)--he is responding to his critics, and demonstrating that (as with Paul) true messengers from God are often persecuted by those who should listen, while the false and apostate are praised.


Response to claim: 462-463 - Response to claim: The destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor was illegal

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

The destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor was illegal.

(Author's sources: History of the Church, vol. 6, p.xxxviii)

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 destruction of the paper was legal, but the destruction of the printer's type was not.



Question: Was the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor legal?

The destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor led directly to the murder of Joseph and Hyrum

It is claimed by one critic of the Church that Joseph "could not allow the Expositor to publish the secret international negotiations masterminded by Mormonism’s earthly king." [37] Another claimed that "When the Laws (with others) purchased a printing press in an attempt to hold Joseph Smith accountable for his polygamy (which he was denying publicly), Joseph ordered the destruction of the printing press, which was both a violation of the 1st Amendment, and which ultimately led to Joseph’s assassination." [38]

The Expositor incident led directly to the murder of Joseph and Hyrum, but it was preceded by a long period of non-Mormon distrust of Joseph Smith, and attempts to extradite him on questionable basis.

The destruction of the Expositor issue was legal; it was not legal to have destroyed the type, but this was a civil matter, not a criminal one, and one for which Joseph was willing to pay a fine if imposed.

Joseph seems to have believed—or, his followers believed after his death—that the decision, while 'unwise' for Joseph, may have been in the Saints' interest to have Joseph killed. For a time, this diffused much of the tension and may have prevented an outbreak of generalized violence against the Saints, as occurred in Missouri.

The destruction of the first issue was legal, but it was not legal to destroy the printer's type

It is claimed that "When the Laws (with others) purchased a printing press in an attempt to hold Joseph Smith accountable for his polygamy (which he was denying publicly), Joseph ordered the destruction of the printing press, which was both a violation of the 1st Amendment, and which ultimately led to Joseph’s assassination." [39]

The destruction of the Expositor issue (i.e., the paper itself) was legal; it was not legal to have destroyed the type, but this was a civil matter, not a criminal one, and one for which Joseph was willing to pay a fine if imposed.

Joseph did not unilaterally order the action against the Expositor—it was the Nauvoo City Council (which included non-Mormons) which reached the unanimous decision. Having reached that decision, Joseph Smith then issued an order, as mayor, to carry out the Council's decision. As described in the Church's 2011 Priesthood/Relief Society manual:

On June 10, 1844, Joseph Smith, who was the mayor of Nauvoo, and the Nauvoo city council ordered the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor and the press on which it was printed. [40]

History of the Church also describes this event [41]:

I [Joseph Smith] immediately ordered the Marshal to destroy it [the Nauvoo Expositor] without delay, and at the same time issued an order to Jonathan Dunham, acting Major-General of the Nauvoo Legion, to assist the Marshal with the Legion, if called upon so to do." [42]

The First Amendment is irrelevant to this discussion. In 1844, the First Amendment only applied to federal law; it had no application to state or local law until the passing of the Fourteenth Amendment after the Civil War.


Response to claim: 465 - Joseph fought his attackers at Carthage using a six-shooter

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Joseph fought his attackers at Carthage using a six-shooter.

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

Joseph returned fire with a pistol when he and his three friends were attacked by 200 men armed with rifles. Joseph fired no shot until his brother had been shot in the face and killed. Three of Joseph's shots misfired; he killed no one. Yet, critics wish to portray this event as a "gunfight". Joseph's gun, by the way, has been on display at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City for years.



Question: Is it possible that Joseph Smith is not a martyr because, while in jail, he had a gun and he had the temerity to defend himself?

Joseph and Hyrum were martyrs by the accepted definition of the term—they suffered death for their beliefs

It seems clear that:

  1. Joseph and Hyrum were martyrs by the accepted definition of the term—they suffered death for their beliefs. (Note that martyrs can die for worthy or ignoble causes, but this makes them no less martyrs.)
  2. The Church has not hidden this fact, but published it from the beginning and includes it in the History of the Church twice.
  3. Joseph was not guilty of murder, because no one died from his shots, and his actions would have been justifiable as self-defense and defense of others even if deaths had resulted.

Critics of Joseph Smith redefine the term "martyr"

In order to make their argument tenable, the critics must do three things. First, they must take some creative liberties with the English language. In this case, the word being redefined is the term martyr. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines a "martyr" as

“a person who chooses to suffer or die rather than give up his faith or his principles.”[43]

The online resource, Dictionary.com, defines a martyr as

“one who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles.”[44]

Both are nearly identical and fairly standard definitions, and neither includes a requirement or qualifiers of any sort. However, some anti-Mormon writers have taken the term martyr and subtly changed its definition to suit their own needs. The new definition would probably read something like this: Martyr: a person who chooses to suffer or die rather than give up his faith or his principles without any resistance or effort at self-defense on his part whatsoever.

Critics are free to use such a definition, but it belongs to them alone; it is not the standard use of the word, and not what Church members mean when they refer to the "martyrdom" of Joseph and Hyrum Smith at Carthage.

Throughout Christian history, "martyrs" have been understood to be those who suffered quietly, and those who resisted, even with violence, and even to the death of those who persecuted them for their beliefs.

The first anti-Mormon argument thus focuses on the fact that Joseph had a firearm and that he used that firearm to defend himself. Is it possible that Joseph's announcement that he was going “as a lamb to the slaughter” is false, since he fought back?

Anyone who has ever worked on a farm or in a slaughterhouse knows that sheep do not go willingly to the slaughter. They kick and buck, bleat, scream, and make every attempt to escape their fate. In fact, they make such a haunting sound, that the title of an extremely popular Hollywood film was based on it: The Silence of the Lambs. The term “lamb to the slaughter” simply refers to the inevitability of the final outcome. No matter how valiantly they struggle, the fate of the sheep is sealed. If we apply this understanding to Joseph Smith and his brother, it is clear that they truly were slaughtered like lambs. Fight as they might, they were doomed.

Ensign (June 2013): 40, shows Joseph with the pepperbox pistol he would fire to defend himself and others prior to his murder.


Question: Is it true that Joseph killed two men by firing at the mob?

The attackers who were hit by Joseph were not killed (as was first reported in some Church publications) but only wounded

Joseph fired his gun six times (only three shots discharged) and he hit two of the mobbers, which John Taylor later mistakenly stated had died. Was Joseph a murderer?

Joseph's actions were clearly self-defense and defense of others under the common law. However, this point is moot since the attackers who were hit were not killed (as was first reported in some Church publications) but only wounded. They were alive and well at the trial held for mob leaders, and were identified by witnesses. Their good health allowed them to receive gifts because of their role in the assault on Joseph, Hyrum, and the other prisoners.

According to Dallin Oaks and Marvin Hill:

Wills, Voras, and Gallaher were probably named in the indictment because their wounds, which testimony showed were received at the jail, were irrefutable evidence that they had participated in the mob. They undoubtedly recognized their vulnerability and fled the county. A contemporary witness reported these three as saying that they were the first men at the jail, that one of them shot through the door killing Hyrum, that Joseph wounded all three with his pistol, and that Gallaher shot Joseph as he ran to the window.[Hay, "The Mormon Prophet's Tragedy," 675] According to Hay, Wills, whom the Mormon prophet had shot in the arm, was an Irishman who had joined the mob from “his congenital love of a brawl.”[Statement of Jeremiah Willey, August 13, 1844, Brigham Young correspondence, Church Archives.] Gallaher was a young man from Mississippi who was shot in the face.[Hay, "The Mormon Prophet's Tragedy," 669, 675. Another source says Wills was a former Mormon elder who had left the Church. Davis, An Authentic Account, 24.] Hay described Voras (Voorhees) as a “half-grown hobbledehoy from Bear Creek” whom Joseph shot in the shoulder. The citizens of Green Plains were said to have given Gallaher and Voras new suits of clothes for their parts in the killing.[Statement of Jeremiah Willey, August 13, 1844][45]


Question: Has the Church hidden the fact that Joseph fired a gun while in Carthage Jail?

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not aware of all the excruciatingly minute details of the history of the Church

Mob fires at Joseph Smith in the upper window at Carthage Jail.

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and this is especially true of new members or less-active members) are not aware of all the excruciatingly minute details of the history of the Church. It has become a common tactic among some anti-Mormon aficionados of Mormon history to use this historical ignorance as a weapon. These writers often claim to “expose” these minor events of Church history in a sensationalistic attempt to shock members of the Church with “hidden” revelations or “secret” accounts about various episodes in Church history. They will often claim that the Church has kept this knowledge under wraps for fear that if it was generally known it would cause many members of the Church to immediately renounce their faith and result in the ruination of the Church.

Joseph's attempt to defend himself using the gun is clearly described in History of the Church

Unfortunately for the critics, Joseph's attempt to defend himself, his brother, and his friends, and his possession of a pepperbox gun, is clearly spelled out in the History of the Church:

In the meantime Joseph, Hyrum, and Elder Taylor had their coats off. Joseph sprang to his coat for his six-shooter, Hyrum for his single barrel, Taylor for Markham's large hickory cane, and Dr. Richards for Taylor's cane. All sprang against the door, the balls whistled up the stairway, and in an instant one came through the door.

Joseph Smith, John Taylor and Dr. Richards sprang to the left of the door, and tried to knock aside the guns of the ruffians...

Joseph reached round the door casing, and discharged his six shooter into the passage, some barrels missing fire. Continual discharges of musketry came into the room. Elder Taylor continued parrying the guns until they had got them about half their length into the room, when he found that resistance was vain, and he attempted to jump out of the window, where a ball fired from within struck him on his left thigh, hitting the bone, and passing through to within half an inch of the other side. He fell on the window sill, when a ball fired from the outside struck his watch in his vest pocket, and threw him back into the room.[46]

The next volume of the History of the Church tells the story from John Taylor's point of view:

I shall never forget the deep feeling of sympathy and regard manifested in the countenance of Brother Joseph as he drew nigh to Hyrum, and, leaning over him, exclaimed, 'Oh! my poor, dear brother Hyrum!' He, however, instantly arose, and with a firm, quick step, and a determined expression of countenance, approached the door, and pulling the six-shooter left by Brother Wheelock from his pocket, opened the door slightly, and snapped the pistol six successive times; only three of the barrels, however, were discharged.[47]

If the Church wished to hide these facts, why did they publish them in the History of the Church not once, but twice?


Notes

  1. Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 5:88-89.
  2. Joseph Smith, Jr., Thomas Bullock Report, 12 May 1844, Temple Stand; cited in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of Joseph Smith, 2nd Edition, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 369, punctuation modernized.
  3. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:77-78.
  4. "Joseph, the Prophet. His Life and Mission as Viewed by Intimate Acquaintances", Salt Lake Herald, Church and Farm Supplement (12 January 1895): 210. Reprinted in Joseph F. Smith, "Joseph, the Prophet. His Life and Mission as Viewed by Intimate Acquaintances," in Brian H. Stuy (editor), Collected Discourses: Delivered by Wilford Woodruff, his two counselors, the twelve apostles, and others, 1868–1898, 5 vols., (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987–1989), 5:26ff. [Discourse given on 1894?.]
  5. 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), 6:467–468; citing Bernhisel to Thomas Ford (14 June 1844). Volume 6 link
  6. "Some of the Remarks of John S. Reed, Esq., as Delivered Before the State Convention," Times and Seasons 5 no. 11 (1 June 1844), 549–550. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  7. Peter H. Burnett, Recollections of an Old Pioneer (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1880), 66–67.
  8. James Gordon Bennet, "The Mormon Prophets," New York Herald (19 February 1842).
  9. Marvin S. Hill, "Joseph Smith the Man: Some Reflections on a Subject of Controversy," Brigham Young University Studies 21 no. 1 (1981), 9. PDF link
  10. "Webb is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He is a graduate of Wabash College and earned his PhD at the University of Chicago before returning to his alma mater to teach. Born in 1961 he grew up at Englewood Christian Church, an evangelical church. He joined the Disciples of Christ during He was briefly a Lutheran, and on Easter Sunday, 2007, he officially came into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church."
  11. Stephen H. Webb, "Godbodied: The Matter of the Latter-day Saints (reprint from his book Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter (Oxford University Press, 2012)," Brigham Young University Studies 50 no. 3 (2011). (emphasis added)
  12. William Clayton to the Saints at Manchester, 10 Dec. 1840, Clayton Papers; cited in James B. Allen, Trials of Discipleship: The Story of William Clayton, a Mormon (Urbana and Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 69. ISBN 0252013697.
  13. See 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16
  14. Andrew F. Ehat, "'It Seems Like Heaven Began on Earth': Joseph Smith and the Constitution of the Kingdom of God," Brigham Young University Studies 20 no. 3 (1980), 260-61.
  15. 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), 5:526. Volume 5 link
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 Margaret C. Robertson, "The Campaign and the Kingdom: The Activities of the Electioneers in Joseph Smith's Presidential Campaign," Brigham Young University Studies 39 no. 3 (2000).
  17. Arnold K. Garr, "Joseph Smith: Candidate for President of the United States," in Regional Studies in the Latter-day Saint Church History: Illinois, edited by H. Dean Garret (Provo, Utah: Department of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University, 1995), 152. GospeLink (requires subscrip.) GL direct link
  18. Jacob Hamblin, Journals, typescript, Perry Special Collections, 7; cited in Robertson, "Electioneers," 154.
  19. See discussion in Robertson, "Electioneers," 154–156.
  20. Quoted with discussion in Robertson, "Electioneers," 173, note 60.
  21. Letter from Joseph Smith to Emma Smith, June 6, 1832, Greenville, Indiana; Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, Illinois.
  22. History of the Church 5:401.
  23. "Who Shall Be Our Next President," Times and Seasons 5 no. 4 (15 February 1844), 441. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  24. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005).
  25. George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), 226. ( Index of claims , (Detailed book review))
  26. Joseph Smith in The Essential Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature, 1995), 238. Joseph Smith, "Conference Minutes," Times and Seasons 15 no. 5 (15 August 1844), 614–15. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) Stan Larson, ed., "The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (Winter 1978), 193–208..
  27. Larson, “Newly Amalgamated Text,” 203. The italic type (added by Larson) indicates material found only in Wilford Woodruff’s account.
  28. Daniel C. Peterson, "Review of Decker's Complete Handbook on Mormonism by Ed Decker," FARMS Review of Books 7/2 (1995): 38–105. off-site
  29. Bennet’s name is also sometimes spelled Bennett.
  30. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy, 225.
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 31.4 31.5 31.6 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). Volume 6 link
  32. Charles Mackay, though mistaking this Bennet for John C. Bennett, nevertheless realized what was going on: “‘Joseph’s reply to this singular and too candid epistle was quite as singular and infinitely more amusing. Joseph was too cunning a man to accept, in plain terms, the rude but serviceable offer; and he rebuked the vanity and presumption of Mr Bennett, while dexterously retaining him for future use.” See Charles Mackay, ed., The Mormons, or Latter-day Saints; with memoirs of the Life and Death of Joseph Smith, the American Mahomet, 4th ed. (London, 1856); cited in Hubert Howe Bancroft and Alfred Bates, History of Utah, 1540–1886 (San Francisco: The History Co., 1889), 151 n. 112. Concludes Bancroft: “More has been made of this correspondence than it deserves,” though G. D. Smith has seen fit to continue the error.
  33. Joseph pursued Bennet’s mathematical analogy for several paragraphs; see History of the Church, 6:75–77. Volume 6 link. Bennet was fond of the metaphor; in 1855 he was to privately publish A New Revelation to Mankind, drawn from Axioms, or self-evident truths in Nature, Mathematically demonstrated. See Richard D. Poll, "Joseph Smith and the Presidency, 1844," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 3 no. 3 (Autumn 1968), 19 n. 19.
  34. Lyndon W. Cook, "James Arlington Bennet and the Mormons," Brigham Young University Studies 19 no. 2 (Winter 1979), 247–49.
  35. When Joseph’s personal letters are compared with this letter, one suspects a large contribution by scribe and newspaperman W. W. Phelps.
  36. 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), 6:408. Volume 6 link
  37. Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling, Mormon America: The Power and the Promise, (New York:HarperCollins Publishers, 2000), 16. ( Index of claims )
  38. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014).
  39. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014).
  40. "Chapter 46: The Martyrdom: The Prophet Seals His Testimony with His Blood," Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith," The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (2011), 528–40.
  41. It should be noted that History of the Church was begun after Joseph's death, and was written in the "first person," as if Joseph himself had written it. For further information on this, see Question: Who is the author of ''History of the Church''?
  42. History of the Church, 6:432. Volume 6 link
  43. Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition (New York: World Publishing Company, 1970), 870.
  44. Dictionary.com website, s.v. "martyr."(accessed May 7, 2003).
  45. Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy, the Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1979), 52. ISBN 025200762X.
  46. 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), 6:617–618. Volume 6 link
  47. 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), 7:102–103. Volume 7 link