Question: Was Joseph Smith, Jr. known as a "disreputable person?"

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Question: Was Joseph Smith, Jr. known as a "disreputable person?"

Joseph was only seen as lacking character in the opinion of those that misunderstood him and opposed his efforts in restoring the Church

In many—if not most—critical treatments of the Church, Joseph is made out to be "one of the basest men that ever lived." A Boston Bee reporter wrote after interviewing Joseph:

I could not help noticing that he dressed, talked and acted like other men, and in every respect appeared exactly the opposite of what I had conjured up in my imagination a prophet [to be].[1]

Clearly, Joseph is not what the critics imagine a prophet to be either. Was Joseph perfect? No; he never said he was. What he did say of himself was, "Although I do wrong, I do not the wrongs that I am charged with doing; the wrong that I do is through the frailty of human nature, like other men. No man lives without fault."[2]

Joseph was only seen as lacking character in the opinion of those that misunderstood him and opposed his efforts in restoring the Church. The recorded details and testimonies from firsthand accounts as to Joseph's good character cannot be ignored and certainly must be looked at by anyone serious in their study of Mormonism. The critics often avoid portraying the simple man who recognized the saving grace of Christ for his errors and sought to further the cause of righteousness.

Sectarian critics in particular ought to be careful, since the standard they apply to Joseph Smith might easily disqualify various biblical prophets. Paul for example, would not have been called to be an Apostle after his participation in the persecution of Christians and role in the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 8:1-3).

Ultimately, however, attacks, on Joseph's character are classic ad hominem—the man is attacked instead of the message.

Notes

  1. "Mormonism," Boston Bee (24 March 1843); cited in "From the Boston Bee," Times and Seasons 4 no. 13 (15 May 1843), 119–120. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  2. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 5:140. Volume 5 link