Question: What did Barton Stafford claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

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Question: What did Barton Stafford claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Barton Stafford claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. was a "drunkard"

  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. was a "drunkard."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. was "addicted to intemperance."

John Stafford, on the other hand, said that it was common then for everybody to drink, and to have drink in the field

John Stafford, eldest son of William Stafford, was later asked "What was the character of [Joseph] Smith [Jr.], as to his drinking?" Replied Stafford, "It was common then for everybody to drink, and to have drink in the field; one time Joe, while working for some one after he was married, drank too much boiled cider. He came in with his shirt torn." When asked if this meant Joseph had been drunk and fighting, Stafford insisted, "No; he had been scuffling with some of the boys. Never saw him fight; have known him to scuffle...." [1] Thus, while Joseph likely drank (as did everyone, a point which the affidavits gloss over) to describe him as 'addicted to intemperance' is likely a gross exaggeration. John Stafford seems to have remembered this event because it was remarkable and fairly minor—hardly the sign of Joseph being perpetually drunk.

  • The lack of other claims in the affidavits that Joseph Jr. was a drunk is also telling—this would have been widely known and widely claimed in the affidavits if true.

Notes

  1. 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.