Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Use of sources/Joseph Smith's Narcissism

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Joseph Smith's Narcissism?

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes

Author's Claims


One Nation under Gods, page 171, epigraph (hardback)

I combat the errors of the ages;...I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth--diamond truth; and God is my 'right hand man.'...[God] will make me be God to you in his stead,...and if you don't like it, you must lump it....I have more to boast of than ever any man had....I boast that no man ever did such a work as I.

Joseph Smith History of the Church, 1844

One Nation under Gods, page 171, epigraph (paperback)

I combat the errors of the ages;...I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth--diamond truth; and God is my 'right hand man' [1843]. God made Aaron to be the mouth piece for the children of Israel, and He will make me be god to you in His stead [1844]. I have more to boast of than ever any man had....I boast that no man ever did such a work as I [1844].

Joseph Smith History of the Church

Author's Sources


Endnote 1, page 542 (hardback); page 540 (paperback)

1. Joseph Smith, HC (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976/1980) vol. 6, 78, 319-320, 408-409.

Detailed Analysis

The author's response

The original presentation of this quote in the hardback version of ONUG made it appear as if this were a single quote given by Joseph Smith in 1844. In reality, the quote was constructed from three different sources—all taken out of context. When this was pointed out to the author he made the modifications seen in the paperback—this time acknowledging the dates associated with the different portions of the quote, but still removing them completely from context.

There is, however, little doubt that the author still wishes to present this information viewed in the context in which he originally presented it. Over seven years after ONUG was first published, the author posted the following statement on the Mormon Apologetics Discussion Board in response to challenges about the accuracy of his book One Nation Under Gods:

Well, all I can say is, I combat the errors of the ages. I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth—diamond truth; and God is my 'right hand man.' God made Aaron to be the mouth piece for the children of Israel, and He will make me be god to you in His stead...I have more to boast of than ever any man had....I boast that no man ever did such a work as I.

Oh, wait, all of that material has been already used. Sorry. Nevermind. Sorry, my bad.
—The author, referencing his compound quote in One Nation Under Gods used to ridicule Joseph Smith, Posted to Mormon Apologetics and Discussion Board, Dec. 4, 2008

The immediate response by another poster to the author's presentation of this quote was:

Are you misquoting J[oseph] S[mith] here? C[all] F[or] R[eference] please so I can read it in its entirety.
Posted by Anijen to Mormon Apologetics and Discussion Board, Dec. 4, 2008

Another poster noted that "Yes, it has been used, improperly." The author's response to this was somewhat oblique:

I said these will be answered shortly. And they will be. And no, you don't have that exactly right. Proverbs says:

He that is first in his own cause seemeth just;
but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him. (Pr. 18:17).

—The author, Posted to Mormon Apologetics and Discussion Board, Dec. 5, 2008

Examining the quotes

The quote actually consists of three separate phrases removed from context. We examine each individual quote.

"I combat the errors of the ages..."

I combat the errors of the ages;...I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth--diamond truth; and God is my 'right hand man' [1843]. (Paperback)

This is actually a very small portion taken from a letter written by Joseph to James Arlington Bennett:

Nauvoo, Illinois, Nov. 13, 1843.
  Dear Sir:—Your letter of the 24th ult. has been regularly received, its contents duly appreciated, and its whole tenor candidly considered; and, according to my manner of judging all things in righteousness, I proceed to answer you, and shall leave you to meditate whether "mathematical problems," founded upon the truth of revelation, or religion as promulgated by me, or by Moses, can be solved by rules and principles existing in the systems of common knowledge...It seems that your mind is of such "a mathematical and philosophical cast," that the divinity of Moses makes no impression upon you, and that I will not be offended when you say that you rate me higher as a legislator than you do Moses, because you have me present with you for examination; that "Moses derives his chief authority from prescription and the lapse of time." You cannot, however, say but we are both right, it being out of the power of man to prove us wrong. "It is no mathematical problem, and can therefore get no mathematical solution."

Joseph then goes on to give his definition of "mathematics"

  Now, sir, to cut the matter short, and not dally with your learned ideas, for fashion's sake you have here given your opinion, without reserve, that revelation, the knowledge of God, prophetic vision, the truth of eternity, cannot be solved as a mathematical problem. The first question then is, What is a mathematical problem? and the natural answer is, A statement, proposition or question that can be solved, ascertained, unfolded or demonstrated by knowledge, facts or figures; for "mathematical" is an adjective derived from mathesis (Gr.), meaning, in English, learning or knowledge. "Problem" is derived from probleme (French), or problema (Italian, or Spanish), and in each language means a question or proposition, whether true or false. "Solve" is derived from the Latin verb "solvo," to explain or answer...

Finally, Joseph makes the point that he can withstand the opposition against him. Note that the portion of the quote omitted by the author refers to meeting the "violence of mobs" and dealing with "illegal proceedings"

Shall I, who have witnessed the visions of eternity, and beheld the glorious mansions of bliss, and the regions and the misery of the damned,—shall I 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? Shall I, who hold the keys of the last kingdom, in which is the dispensation of the fullness of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy Prophets since the world began, under the sealing power of the Melchizedec Priesthood,—shall I stoop from the sublime authority of Almighty God, to be handled as a monkey's cat-paw, and pettify myself into a clown to act the farce of political demagoguery? No—verily no! 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,—no odds whether the former was sold as a pearl in Asia or hid as a gem in America, and the latter dazzles in palaces or glimmers among the tombs.

  I combat the errors of ages; I meet the violence of mobs; I cope with illegal proceedings from executive authority; I cut the guardian knot of powers, and I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth—diamond truth; and God is my "right hand man."
  And to close, let me say in the name of Jesus Christ to you, and to presidents, emperors, kings, queens, governors, rulers, nobles, and men in authority everywhere, Do the works of righteousness, execute justice and judgment in the earth, that God may bless you and her inhabitants; and
 The laurel that grows on the top of the mountain Shall green for your fame while the sun sheds a ray; And the lily that blows by the side of the fountain Will bloom for your virtue till earth melt away.
 With due consideration and respect, I have the honor to be
 Your most obedient servant,
 Joseph Smith.
History of the Church 6:74-78 (emphasis added)

"He will make me god to you in his stead..."

The author quotes Joseph from History of the Church 6:319-320:

[God] will make me be God to you in his stead,...and if you don't like it, you must lump it. (Hardback)

God made Aaron to be the mouth piece for the children of Israel, and He will make me be god to you in His stead [1844]. (Paperback)

It is interesting to note that in the Hardback edition of ONUG the author capitalized the word "God." This distorts the original source and meaning of the quote. This was corrected in the Paperback edition. Here is the quote in context:

The Lord has an established law in relation to the matter: there must be a particular spot for the salvation of our dead. I verily believe there will be a place, and hence men who want to save their dead can come and bring their families, do their work by being baptized and attending to the other ordinances for their dead, and then may go back again to live and wait till they go to receive their reward. I shall leave my brethren to enlarge on this subject: it is my duty to teach the doctrine. I would teach it more fully—the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. God is not willing to let me gratify you; but I must teach the Elders, and they should teach you. God made Aaron to be the mouth piece for the children of Israel, and He will make me be god to you in His stead, and the Elders to be mouth for me; and if you don't like it, you must lump it. I have been giving Elder Adams instruction in some principles to speak to you, and if he makes a mistake, I will get up and correct him.
History of the Church 6:319-320

Joseph is comparing his situation to that of Aaron, who was to be the "mouth piece for the children of Israel." He was not comparing himself to God. The capitalization of the word "god" by the author was improper, and he corrected this in the Paperback edition, also properly noting the comparison with Aaron. Notice how much more accurate the Paperback rendition of the quote is than the Hardback version.

"I have more to boast of than ever any man had..."

I have more to boast of than ever any man had....I boast that no man ever did such a work as I [1844]. (Paperback)

This is a common accusation from critics: Did Joseph "boast?" The quote in which Joseph Smith seems to boast is an interesting one. To understand the issues, we must remember:

  1. it is not based on Joseph's own writing; it is an account written after his death
  2. Joseph was using a scriptural passage by Paul, and applying it to his own situation--the idea of "boasting" was Paul's, not Joseph's. The following article examines each of these aspects in more detail: