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Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism 101/Chapter 17
Response to claims made in "Chapter 17: Joseph Smith"
|Chapter 16: Lamanites, Seed of Cain, and Polygamy||
A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism 101, a work by author: Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson
|Chapter 18: The Church and Its Leadership|
Response to claims made in Mormonism 101, "Chapter 17: Joseph Smith"
Jump to Subtopic:
- Response to claim: 251 - "We have noticed a more subdued reference to Mormonism's founder by tour guides and various displays. In the public area, emphasis on Smith seems to be diminishing"
- Response to claim: 252 - The authors claim that they "almost feel sympathetic toward the Mormon apologist who has to defend Smith's bad social behavior"
- Response to claim: 253 - "Should people accept Smith as a prophet of God when his behavior was sometimes less than what we would expect from political leaders?"
- Response to claim: 253 - The authors quote Richard Van Wagoner to describe Joseph's "lust for manly achievement" and his alleged "inclination toward extra-marital romantic liaisons"
- Response to claim: 253-255 - The authors use the terms "secret marriages" "secret plural wives" "secretly married" "amorous advances" "errant yearnings" "extra-marital romantic liaisons" "still teenagers" "affairs" "sexual relations" to describe Joseph's marital arrangements
- Response to claim: 253 - The authors state that "fully one-third of Joseph's plural wives, eleven of them, were polyandrous"
- Response to claim: 254 "Some might argue that these relationships were strictly platonic. Compton disagrees"
- Response to claim: 254 - "The daughter of Heber C. Kimball stated how Smith promised that if she would "take this step," it would insure the eternal salvation and exaltation of her father's household and kindred"
- Response to claim: 255 - "Would Mormons living in today's society follow as their prophet a man who was known to be a money digger and advocate of folk magic?"
- Response to claim: 255 - "The fact that Smith owned a Jupiter talisman shows that his fascination with the occult was not just a childish fad"
- Response to claim: 256 - "Despite what may have been written about him, it is evident that Smith had an ego and expected to be followed without question"
- Response to claim: 257 - The authors claim that Joseph Smith was boastful
- Response to claim: 258 - The authors use a quote from Brigham Young and from Joseph Field Smith to "prove" that Joseph is the gateway to the Celestial Kingdom
- Response to claim: 258-259 - The authors claim that Latter-day Saints believe that Joseph will save them
- Response to claim: 261 - "It should come as no surprise that among the many excuses Mormons have raised for the failure of Smith's Missouri predictions, few admit it was due to his lack of prophetical insight"
- Response to claim: 262 - "Smith attempted to flee into Iowa and ultimately to the Rockies. While waiting for horses, his wife Emma sent him a message stating that the Latter-day Saints were accusing Smith of cowardice and urged him to return. Smith did so"
- Response to claim: 262 - "After dinner, Smith and several church officials ordered some wine to be brought to the jail"
- Response to claim: 262 - The authors claim that Joseph's use of a gun disqualifies him as a martyr
- Response to claim: 263 - The authors repeat a popular rumor that Joseph killed two of his attackers with his gun
- Response to claim: 263 - The authors attempt a comparison between the death of Joseph Smith and the death of Jesus Christ
Response to claim: 251 - "We have noticed a more subdued reference to Mormonism's founder by tour guides and various displays. In the public area, emphasis on Smith seems to be diminishing"
Having made regular visits to Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, we have noticed a more subdued reference to Mormonism's founder by tour guides and various displays. In the public area, emphasis on Smith seems to be diminishing.
Fact checking results: This claim is falseThis claim is nonsense.
Question: Has the Church deemphasized references to Joseph Smith in recent years?
This is false--Joseph's role as the first prophet of the restoration continues to be a point of emphasis
This is false--Joseph's role as the first prophet of the restoration continues to be a point of emphasis. Joseph is, of course, out-ranked in important by God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
Several critics of the Church have come up with a surprising claim that the Church is publicly de-emphasizing Joseph Smith. This is a rather amazing statement to make. Surely anyone who visits Temple Square can test this statement and see that it is completely false. The authors obviously took their tour of Temple Square with Steven and Charles Crane whose similar claim, in the anti-Mormon work "Ashamed of Joseph," is soundly proven false in FARMS reviewer LeIsle Jacobson's onsite test.14 Jacobson's visit, as recounted in the endnote, found interactive and readily available video displays about Joseph and guides who easily spoke about him on the "basic beliefs" tour.
If there were still any doubt as to LDS public references to Joseph Smith, consider for example, that immediately adjacent to Temple Square is found a massive structure that was formerly the Hotel Utah. It was renovated a number of years ago to what today is known as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and has a very large nine-foot marble statue of the prophet in the lobby; this cannot be missed. This is the very building where the missionaries on Temple Square send visitors to view current Church movies.
Another example comes in the form of an official Church letter of clarification issued to religion writers and editors regarding a Newsweek report on the Latter-day Saint faith. In an excerpt from the September 7, 2001 letter, the Church wrote:
Most importantly, our Church spokesmen emphasize our position that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Restoration of the ancient, biblical Church of Jesus Christ. The conviction among our Church members that this Restoration took place through the Prophet Joseph Smith in the early 1800s is so central to our thinking that no understanding of the Church is complete without it. A moment spent checking the Church's media Web site http://www.lds.org/media will affirm that this message of a distinctive, restored Church, is a consistent one.15
In this media library is found a significant article on Joseph Smith. In that article, "From Farm Boy to Prophet," it clearly states:
Latter-day Saints revere Joseph Smith as a prophet in the tradition of biblical prophets like Moses and Isaiah. Church members believe that his doctrinal teachings and instructions concerning the Church's organization resulted from divine revelation, not his own learning.
While critics lead the reader to believe otherwise, the Church is clear and direct in telling the esteem to which Joseph is held.
The authors condescendingly claim that they,
...almost feel sympathetic toward the Mormon apologist who has to defend Smith's bad social behavior...
Fact checking results: This claim is falseRegardless of a token acknowledgment to the contrary, the authors leave the reader with the impression that not one person ever had anything good or positive to say about Joseph Smith. It is important to consider a few recorded opinions of Joseph in his day from those who knew and understood him, had the opportunity to interact with him, and ultimately finds itself in harmony with what he actually taught.
Response to claim: 253 - "Should people accept Smith as a prophet of God when his behavior was sometimes less than what we would expect from political leaders?"
The authors claim,
...should people accept Smith as a prophet of God when his behavior was sometimes less than what we would expect from political leaders? Should character be ignored when it comes to men who claim to be prophets of God?
The spin: This is pure propaganda.
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].
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."
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.
Brigham Young (1855): "he was an honorable man and dealt justly, we know his true character. But let his enemies give his character, and they will make him out one of the basest men that ever lived."
The history of Joseph and Mary is given to us by their best friends, and precisely as we will give the history of the Prophet Joseph. We know him to have been a good man, we know that he performed his mission, we know that he was an honorable man and dealt justly, we know his true character. But let his enemies give his character, and they will make him out one of the basest men that ever lived. Let the enemies of Joseph and Mary give their characters to us, and you would be strongly tempted to believe as the Jews believe. Let the enemies of Jesus give his character to us, and, in the absence of the testimony of his friends, I do not know but that the present Christian world would all be Jews, so far as their belief that Jesus Christ was an impostor and one of the most degraded men that ever lived.
The authors quote Richard Van Wagoner to describe Joseph's "lust for manly achievement" and his alleged "inclination toward extra-marital romantic liaisons."
- Richard Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess, 390-291, 293.
- Todd Comption, "A Trajectory of Plurality: An Overview of Joseph Smith's Thirty-three Plural Wives," Dialogue 29, no. 2 (Summer 1996), 22.
The spin: In the tasteless pursuit of tabloid details, the authors have merely excerpted sensational passages from the works of Richard Van Wagoner and Todd Compton in an effort to deconstruct Joseph.
Richard Van Wagoner, whose writings the authors make much use of, wrote what certainly applies to the authors' approach to Joseph's marital matters:
Contrary to popular nineteenth-century notions about polygamy, the Mormon harem, dominated by lascivious males with hyperactive libidos, did not exist. The image of unlimited lust was largely the creation of Gentile travelers to Salt Lake City more interested in titillating audiences back home than in accurately portraying plural marriage.
The authors portray Joseph's plural marriages as lustful passion. This, however, is contrary to what polygamy was about.
The authors use the terms "secret marriages" "secret plural wives" "secretly married" "amorous advances" "errant yearnings" "extra-marital romantic liaisons" "still teenagers" "affairs" "sexual relations" to describe Joseph's marital arrangements.
The spin: The authors' emotionally laced words of suggested deception are tactically employed to control their readers' perceptions of Joseph's marital engagements. In this case, the authors superficially gloss over Joseph's plural marriages of which Emma had limited knowledge. The authors repeatedly indicate on the one hand that Joseph's plural marriages were a secret to Emma, yet on the other hand describe her feelings as "jealously battling" something she supposedly did not know about.The facts: While there is ample evidence that shows Emma consented to at least a half-dozen wives, the authors ignore any discussion on the implications and meaning of this or her overall mixed feelings on the subject.
Question: How did Emma Hale Smith react to Joseph's practice of plural marriage?
Emma was aware of Joseph's plural marriage and sometimes gave permission, but did much to try and thwart it
Emma was aware of plural marriage; it is not clear at exactly what point she was made aware, partly due to there being relatively few early sources on the matter. Emma was generally opposed to the practice of plural marriage, and did much to try and thwart it. There were times, however, when Emma gave permission for Joseph's plural marriages, though she soon changed her mind. Emma was troubled by plural marriage, but her difficulties arose partly from her conviction that Joseph was a prophet:
Zina Huntington remembered a conversation between Elizabeth [Davis] and Emma [Smith] in which Elizabeth asked the prophet’s wife if she felt that Joseph was a prophet. Yes, Emma answered, but I wish to God I did not know it.
Emma did teach her children that Joseph had never taught the doctrine of plural marriage, and blamed its introduction on Brigham Young
Emma never denied Joseph's prophetic calling; she did, however, teach her children that Joseph had never taught the doctrine of plural marriage, and blamed its introduction on Brigham Young. Torn between two certitudes—her conviction of Joseph's prophetic calling, and her hatred of plural marriage—Emma had difficult choices to make for which we ought not to judge her.
But, the critics ought to let all of Emma speak for herself—she had a great trial, but also had great knowledge. That she continued to support Joseph's calling and remain with him, despite her feelings about plural marriage, speaks much of her convictions. As she told Parley P. Pratt years later:
I believe he [Joseph] was everything he professed to be.
Allen J. Stout: "from moments of passionate denunciation [Emma] would subside into tearful repentance and acknowledge that her violent opposition to that principle was instigated by the power of darkness"
Allen J. Stout, who served as a bodyguard for Joseph, recounted a conversation he overheard in the Mansion House between Joseph and his tormented wife. A summary of his account states that "from moments of passionate denunciation [Emma] would subside into tearful repentance and acknowledge that her violent opposition to that principle was instigated by the power of darkness; that Satan was doing his utmost to destroy her, etc. And solemnly came the Prophet's inspired warning: 'Yes, and he will accomplish your overthrow, if you do not heed my counsel.'"
Emma Smith: "The principle is right but I am jealous hearted. Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with that [principle;] we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it
Emma's inner conflict was also dramatized in another report:
Maria Jane Johnston, who lived with Emma as a servant girl, recalled the Prophet's wife looking very downcast one day and telling her that the principle of plural marriage was right and came from Heavenly Father. "What I said I have got [to] repent of," lamented Emma. "The principle is right but I am jealous hearted. Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with that [principle;] we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it."
Emma Smith: "I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God, when revealed through his servants without doubting"
Emma asked Joseph for a blessing not long before he went to Carthage. Joseph told her to write the best blessing she could, and he would sign it upon his return. Wrote Emma:
I desire with all my heart to honor and respect my husband as my head, ever to live in his confidence and by acting in unison with him retain the place which God has given me by his side...I desire the spirit of God to know and understand myself, I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God, when revealed through his servants without doubting.
The authors note,
One misconception concerning Joseph's polyandry is that it was a practice represented in only one or two unusual marriages; however, fully one-third of Joseph's plural wives, eleven of them, were polyandrous.
The implication of "polyandrous" is that the women involved had two husbands at the same time. In reality, Joseph was sealed to those women for eternity, and they continued to live with their earthly husbands, and only their earthly husbands. Joseph never cohabited with or had relations with those women. In regard to polyandry, Daynes wrote: "Perhaps nothing is less understood than Joseph Smith's sealings to women already married, because the evidence supports conflicting interpretations."
The authors base their shallow glimpse of this subject on what at times could be described as the historical guesswork of Compton, which carries its own subsequent set of problems. The authors merely repeat one sentence from Compton's book and fail to mention or consider any of Compton's long list of theories for reasons behind polyandry which might provide some understanding for the reader.
Question: Was Joseph Smith married or sealed to women who were already married to other living men?
Joseph Smith was sealed to 11 women who were married to men who were still living. Some of these men were even active members of the Church
Among Joseph's plural marriages and/or sealings, between eight to eleven of them were to women who were already married. Of the eight well-documented cases, five of the husbands were Latter-day Saints, and the other three were either not active in or not associated with the Church. In all cases, these women continued to live with their husbands, most of them doing so until their husbands died. These eternal marriages appear to have had little effect upon the lives of the women involved, with the exception that they would be sealed to Joseph in the afterlife rather than to their earthly husbands. One of the most well-known of these "polyandrous" marriages was to Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs.
Of all the aspects of Joseph Smith's marital theology, this is the most difficult area to understand, because very little primary evidence exists. As one scholar noted:
Perhaps nothing is less understood than Joseph Smith's sealings to women already married, because the evidence supports conflicting interpretations.
These "polyandrous" marriages have given rise to a number of criticisms:
- Why would Joseph be sealed to other men's wives?
- What was the nature of these marriages? Were they consummated?
- Why did these 11 women continue to live with and have children with their husbands even after being sealed to Joseph Smith?
- One critic of the church notes, "Joseph Smith would frequently approach other men’s wives about being his own plural wives..." 
At the time that celestial marriage was introduced, it was possible to be married for time to one person and sealed for eternity to another. These marriages appear to have been performed for the purpose of forming dynastic bonds in the afterlife, as there is no evidence that Joseph ever cohabited or had intimate relations with any of these women. No children from these marriages have ever been identified. These were sealings which would only affect Joseph's association with these women in the afterlife.
Response to claim: 254 "Some might argue that these relationships were strictly platonic. Compton disagrees"
The authors state,
Some might argue that these relationships were strictly platonic. Compton disagrees, "Though it is possible that Joseph had some marriages in which there were no sexual relations, there is no explicit or convincing evidence for such a marriage (except, perhaps, in the cases of the older wives). And in a significant number of Joseph's marriages, there is evidence for sexual relations."
The spin: While the authors readily accept the insinuation that all of Joseph's relationships were sexual, they fail to consider or even recognize the speculative (and what at times has been described as the self-serving) nature of Compton's exploration of polyandrous marriages.The facts: Sources do not show nor is there any reliable evidence that the way Joseph practiced polyandry included sexual or familial relations.
Question: Did Joseph Smith father any children through polygamous marriages?
Science has eliminated most of the possibilities that had long been rumored to be descendants of Joseph Smith. There are a couple for which DNA can tell us nothing either way and that rest on dubious historical reasoning. Thus critics cannot claim in honesty that Joseph had any children by his polygamous wives.
It is claimed that Joseph Smith fathered children with some of his plural wives, and that he covered up the evidence of pregnancies. It is also claimed that Joseph Smith had intimate relations with other men’s wives to whom he had been sealed, and that children resulted from these unions.
Critics of Joseph Smith have long had difficulty reconciling their concept of Joseph as a promiscuous womanizer with the fact that the only recorded children of the prophet are those that he had with Emma. Science is now shedding new light on this issue as DNA research has eliminated most of the possibilities that had long been rumored to be descendants of Joseph Smith. In the case of at least two, however, DNA cannot tell us either way. The historical reasoning for justifying that Joseph had children by these wives is dubious.
The available evidence does not support the claim that Joseph had intimate relations with married women
There is no question that Joseph Smith was capable of producing children by Emma. It is logical to assume that if Joseph had intimate relations with many other women, that there would be evidence of pregnancy and children. The focus of the critics is primarily on Joseph’s sealings to women who were married to other husbands, since having a child by any of the previously single women to whom he was married would fall within the expected scope of plural marriage.
The available evidence, however, does not support the claim that Joseph had intimate relations with married women. Fawn Brodie, who repeatedly stated her belief that Joseph had intimate relations with many of his plural wives, identified several individuals that she thought “might” be children of Joseph Smith, Jr. Yet, even Brodie noted that “it is astonishing that evidence of other children than these has never come to light.” Brodie postulated, in spite of a complete lack of evidence, that Joseph must have been able to successfully practice some sort of primitive birth control, or that abortions must have been routinely employed.
Brodie does indeed identify some specific individuals whom she claims are likely to have been the progeny of Joseph Smith. These individuals are examined, along with a comparison of Brodie’s claims against modern evidence.
|Mother||Brodie’s claim (‘’No Man Knows My History’’, p. 301, 345, 465)||Modern evidence|
|Brodie claims that “the physiognomy revealed in a rare photograph of Oliver Buell seems to weight the balance overwhelmingly on the side of Joseph’s paternity.”||Oliver Buell is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.
DNA research in 2007 confirmed Presendia Huntington Buell’s son Oliver, born sometime in 1838-1839, was the son of Norman Buell. "Only 9 of the 23 genetic markers match when comparing the inferred Oliver Buell haplotype to that of Joseph Smith. Such a low degree of correlation between the two haplotypes provides strong evidence that they belong to two unrelated paternal lineages, thus excluding with high likelihood Joseph Smith Jr. as the biological father of Oliver N. Buell. Further weight is given to this observation by the close match of the inferred haplotype of Owen F. Buell to the independent Buell record in the SMGF data base, which genetic relationship dates back prior to Joseph Smith's era. Additionally, the two genetic profiles were run through a haplogroup predictor algorithm that assigned the Smith haplotypes to a cluster known as R1b and the cluster for the Buell's haplotypes to I1b2a, two deeply divergent clades that separated anciently, thus providing further evidence that the Oliver Buell and Joseph Smith lineages are not closely related."
|Brodie states that “[t]here is some evidence that Fannie Alger bore Joseph a child in Kirtland.”||DNA research in 2005 confirmed Fanny Alger’s son Orrison Smith is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.|
|”Legend among the descendants of Levi W. Hancock points to another son of the prophet. If the legend is true, the child was probably John Reed Hancock, born April 19, 1841.”|| Nothing is yet known regarding the patrilineage John Reed Hancock.
John Reed's brother Mosiah is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.
DNA research in 2007 confirmed Clarissa Hancock's son Mosiah, born 9 April 1834, was the son of Levi Hancock. "A 12-marker haplotype was already available for a paternal descendant of Mosiah Hancock, generated by an independent commercial laboratory. A comparison of the 12 markers to the shortened Joseph Smith haplotype showed only 5 matches, indicating a low likelihood of a biological relationship between Mosiah and Joseph. Additionally, we queried the SMGF database with the 12 Ycs Hancock markers. Six independent records returned matching all 12 markers, all having the surname Hancock with documented connections to Mosiah's grandfather Thomas Hancock III."
|The son of Mary Rollins Lightner “may as easily have been the prophet’s son as that of Adam Lightner.”||George Algernon Lightner, born March 22, 1842, died as an infant and therefore had no descendants. DNA testing cannot help determine paternity. However, there is no evidence of conjugality between Joseph and Mary|
|Mrs. Orson Hyde’s sons Orson and Frank “could have been Joseph’s sons.”||Orson Washington Hyde, born November 9, 1843, died as an infant and therefore had no descendants. DNA testing cannot help determine paternity. The evidence for Marinda Hyde's marriage to Joseph Smith is surprisingly sparse. Brian Hales lists no more than 4 documents relating to her relationship to Joseph Smith. There is no evidence of conjugality between the two.|
|Mrs. Parley P. Pratt’s son Moroni “might also be added to this list.”|| Moroni Llewellyn Pratt is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.
DNA research in 2005 confirmed Mary Ann Frost Pratt's son Moroni, born 7 December 1844, was the son of Parley P. Pratt.
|”According to tradition,” Emma beat Eliza Snow and caused her to abort Joseph’s child.||Both LDS and non-LDS reviewers have found several flaws in the story about Eliza. Emma's biographers note that "Eliza continued to teach school for a month after her abrupt departure from the Smith household. Her own class attendance record shows that she did not miss a day during the months she taught the Smith children, which would be unlikely had she suffered a miscarriage."|
|Zina was “about seven months pregnant with Jacobs' child at the time of her marriage to the prophet.” (Brodie, p. 465) John D. Lee and William Hall stated that Zina had been “pregnant by Smith.”|| Zebulon Jacobs is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.
DNA research in 2005 confirmed Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs's son Zebulon was the son of Henry Bailey Jacobs.
In 1915, Sylvia Sessions Lyon's daughter, Josephine, signed a statement that in 1882 Sylvia "told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church." For many years, it was not known whether Sylvia was referring to her daughter as being a literal descendant of Joseph Smith, or if she was referring to the fact that she had been sealed to the prophet. However, DNA research ultimately proved that Josephine was not a descendant of Joseph Smith.
In an article published in Mormon Historical Studies, Brian C. Hales demonstrates that Sylvia considered herself divorced prior to marrying Joseph polygamously.
For more detail regarding the investigation into possible children from Joseph's polygamous marriages, please refer to the book chapter on this subject.
Response to claim: 254 - "The daughter of Heber C. Kimball stated how Smith promised that if she would "take this step," it would insure the eternal salvation and exaltation of her father's household and kindred"
The authors claim,
In May 1843 the thirty-seven-year-old prophet of Mormonism convinced fifteen-year-old Helen Mar Kimball to be sealed as his plural wife. The daughter of Heber C. Kimball stated how Smith promised that if she would "take this step," it would insure the eternal salvation and exaltation of her father's household and kindred. Helen was led to believe that the relationship was more of a spiritual nature and claimed she would have never gone through with it had she known otherwise.
The spin: At this point in the authors' book, their sources are intermingled between Todd Compton and Richard Van Wagoner. While both books cover this same paragraph, the authors chose Van Wagoner's paragraph over Compton's entire chapter on the subject.The facts: This is likely because Van Wagoner provides no hint that the source of Helen's later claim of "would have never gone through with it" comes from an anti-Mormon writer whom Compton describes as displaying "extremism," "is suspect," "not credible," "unreliable," and to be "regarded with caution."
Question: Was Helen Mar Kimball's marriage to Joseph Smith ever consummated?
Critics generally do not reveal that their sources have concluded that Helen's marriage to Joseph Smith was never consummated
Critics generally do not reveal that their sources have concluded that Helen's marriage to Joseph Smith was unconsummated, preferring instead to point out that mere fact of the marriage of a 14-year-old girl to a 37-year-old man ought to be evidence enough to imply sexual relations and "pedophilia." For example, George D. Smith quotes Compton without disclosing his view, cites Compton, but ignores that Compton argues that " there is absolutely no evidence that there was any sexuality in the marriage, and I suggest that, following later practice in Utah, there may have been no sexuality. All the evidence points to this marriage as a primarily dynastic marriage.”  and Stanley Kimball without disclosing that he believed the marriage to be "unconsummated." 
Helen wrote a poem entitled "Reminiscences," which is often cited by critics
Later in life, Helen wrote a poem entitled "Reminiscences." It is often cited for the critics' claims:
- I thought through this life my time will be my own
- The step I now am taking's for eternity alone,
- No one need be the wiser, through time I shall be free,
- And as the past hath been the future still will be.
- To my guileless heart all free from worldly care
- And full of blissful hopes—and youthful visions rare
- The world seamed bright the thret'ning clouds were kept
- From sight, and all looked fair but pitying angels wept.
- They saw my youthful friends grow shy and cold.
- And poisonous darts from sland'rous tongues were hurled,
- Untutor'd heart in thy gen'rous sacrafise,
- Thou dids't not weigh the cost nor know the bitter price;
- Thy happy dreems all o'er thou'rt doom'd alas to be
- Bar'd out from social scenes by this thy destiny,
- And o'er thy sad'nd mem'ries of sweet departed joys
- Thy sicken'd heart will brood and imagine future woes,
- And like a fetter'd bird with wild and longing heart,
- Thou'lt dayly pine for freedom and murmor at thy lot;
- But could'st thou see the future & view that glorious crown,
- Awaiting you in Heaven you would not weep nor mourn. [p. 2]
- Pure and exalted was thy father's aim, he saw
- A glory in obeying this high celestial law,
- For to thousands who've died without the light
- I will bring eternal joy & make thy crown more bright.
- I'd been taught to reveire the Prophet of God
- And receive every word as the word of the Lord.
- But had this not come through my dear father's mouth,
- I should ne'r have received it as God's sacred truth.
The first portion of the poem expresses the youthful Helen's attitude. She is distressed mostly because of the loss of socialization and youthful ideas about romance. But, as Helen was later to explain more clearly in prose, she would soon realize that her youthful pout was uncalled for—she saw that her plural marriage had, in fact, protected her. "I have long since learned to leave all with Him, who knoweth better than ourselves what will make us happy," she noted after the poem.
Helen was disappointed that she was not permitted to attend a party or a dance
Thus, she would later write of her youthful disappointment in not being permitted to attend a party or dance:
I felt quite sore over it, and thought it a very unkind act in father to allow William to go and enjoy the dance unrestrained with other of my companions, and fetter me down, for no girl danced better than I did, and I really felt it was too much to bear. It made the dull school more dull, and like a wild bird I longed for the freedom that was denied me; and thought to myself an abused child, and that it was pardonable if I did not murmur.
I imagined that my happiness was all over and brooded over the sad memories of sweet departed joys and all manner of future woes, which (by the by) were of short duration, my bump of hope being too large to admit of my remaining long under the clouds. Besides my father was very kind and indulgent in other ways, and always took me with him when mother could not go, and it was not a very long time before I became satisfied that I was blessed in being under the control of so good and wise a parent who had taken counsel and thus saved me from evils, which some others in their youth and inexperience were exposed to though they thought no evil. Yet the busy tongue of scandal did not spare them. A moral may be drawn from this truthful story. "Children obey thy parents," etc. And also, "Have regard to thy name, for that shall continue with you above a thousand great treasures of gold." "A good life hath but few days; but a good name endureth forever.
So, despite her youthful reaction, Helen uses this as an illustration of how she was being a bit immature and upset, and how she ought to have trusted her parents, and that she was actually protected from problems that arose from the parties she missed.
Question: Did Helen Mar Kimball "confess" to having marital relations with Joseph?
Helen allegedly said "I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony"
Critics of the Church provide a supposed "confession" from Helen, in which she reportedly said:
I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.
The source of the statement is "suspect"
Author Todd Compton properly characterizes this source, noting that it is an anti-Mormon work, and calls its extreme language "suspect."
Author George D. Smith tells his readers only that this is Helen "confiding," while doing nothing to reveal the statement's provenance from a hostile source. Newell and Avery tell us nothing of the nature of this source and call it only a “statement” in the Stanley Ivins Collection; Van Wagoner mirrors G. D. Smith by disingenuously writing that “Helen confided [this information] to a close Nauvoo friend,” without revealing its anti-Mormon origins.
In order for this story to be true, Helen would be telling a story at variance with all other things that she wrote
To credit this story at face value, one must also admit that Helen told others in Nauvoo about the marriage (something she repeatedly emphasized she was not to do) and that she told a story at variance with all the others from her pen during a lifetime of staunch defense of plural marriage.
If we accept the statement as valid, we may interpret it in other ways than conjugality.
As Brian Hales writes:
It is clear that Helen’s sealing to Joseph Smith prevented her from socializing as an unmarried lady. The primary document referring to the relationship is an 1881 poem penned by Helen that has been interpreted in different ways:
"I thought through this life my time will be my own The step I now am taking’s for eternity alone, No one need be the wiser, through time I shall be free, And as the past hath been the future still will be. To my guileless heart all free from worldly care And full of blissful hopes and youthful visions rare The world seamed bright the thret’ning clouds were kept From sight and all looked fair but pitying angels wept. They saw my youthful friends grow shy and cold. And poisonous darts from sland’rous tongues were hurled, Untutor’d heart in thy gen’rous sacrafise, Thou dids’t not weigh the cost nor know the bitter price; Thy happy dreams all o’er thou’st doom’d also to be Bar’d out from social scenes by this thy destiny, And o’er thy sad’nd mem’ries of sweet departed joys Thy sicken’d heart will brood and imagine future woes, And like a fetter’d bird with wild and longing heart, Thou’lt dayly pine for freedom and murmor at thy lot; But could’st thou see the future & view that glorious crown, Awaiting you in Heaven you would not weep nor mourn. Pure and exalted was thy father’s aim, he saw A glory in obeying this high celestial law, For to thousands who’ve died without the light I will bring eternal joy & make thy crown more bright. I’d been taught to reveire the Prophet of God And receive every word as the word of the Lord, But had this not come through my dear father’s mouth, I should ne’r have received it as God’s sacred truth."
One year after writing the above poem, she elaborated:
"During the winter of 1843, there were plenty of parties and balls. … Some of the young gentlemen got up a series of dancing parties, to be held at the Mansion once a week. … I had to stay home, as my father had been warned by the Prophet to keep his daughter away from there, because of the blacklegs and certain ones of questionable character who attended there. … I felt quite sore over it, and thought it a very unkind act in father to allow [my brother] to go and enjoy the dance unrestrained with others of my companions, and fetter me down, for no girl loved dancing better than I did, and I really felt that it was too much to bear. It made the dull school still more dull, and like a wild bird I longed for the freedom that was denied me; and thought myself a much abused child, and that it was pardonable if I did murmur."
After leaving the church, dissenter Catherine Lewis reported Helen saying: “I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than a ceremony.”
Assuming this statement was accurate, which is not certain, the question arises regarding her meaning of “more than a ceremony”? While sexuality is a possibility, a more likely interpretation is that the ceremony prevented her from associating with her friends as an unmarried teenager, causing her dramatic distress after the sealing.
Supporting that the union was never consummated is the fact that Helen Mar Kimball was not called to testify in the Temple Lot trial. In 1892, the RLDS Church led by Joseph Smith, III sued the Church of Christ (Hedrickites), disputing its claim to own the temple lot in Independence, Missouri, that Edward Partridge, acting for the church, had purchased in 1831 and which his widow, Lydia, had sold in 1848 to finance her family’s trek west.The Hedrickites held physical possession, but the RLDS Church took the official position that, since it was the true successor of the church originally founded by Joseph Smith, it owned the property outright.
Question: What were Helen Mar Kimball's views on plural marriage?
Helen disliked plural marriage because of the difficulties it placed on her mother
Helen made clear what she disliked about plural marriage, and it was not physical relations with an older man:
I had, in hours of temptation, when seeing the trials of my mother, felt to rebel. I hated polygamy in my heart, I had loved my baby more than my God, and mourned for it unreasonably….
Helen is describing a period during the westward migration when (married monogamously) her first child died. Helen was upset by polygamy only because she saw the difficulties it placed on her mother. She is not complaining about her own experience with it.
Response to claim: 255 - "Would Mormons living in today's society follow as their prophet a man who was known to be a money digger and advocate of folk magic?"
The authors state,
For instance, would Mormons living in today's society follow as their prophet a man who was known to be a money digger and advocate of folk magic? According to Quinn, Smith and his family were well versed in such things: Joseph Smith...had unquestionably participated in treasure seeking and seer stone divination and had apparently also used divining rods, talismans, and implements of ritual magic.
The spin: The authors are guilty of "presentism".
Question: Was Joseph Smith's participation in "money digging" as a youth a blot on his character?
Money digging was a popular, common and accepted practice in their frontier culture
Joseph Smith and some members of his family participated in "money digging" or looking for buried treasure as a youth. This was a common and accepted practice in their frontier culture, though the Smiths do not seem to have been involved to the extent claimed by some of the exaggerated attacks upon them by former neighbors.
In the young Joseph Smith's time and place, "money digging" was a popular, and sometimes respected activity. When Joseph was 16, the Palmyra Herald printed such remarks.
The local newspapers reported on "money digging" activities
- "digging for money hid in the earth is a very common thing and in this state it is even considered as honorable and profitable employment"
- "One gentleman...digging...ten to twelve years, found a sufficient quantity of money to build him a commodious house.
- "another...dug up...fifty thousand dollars!" 
And, in 1825 the Wayne Sentinel in Palmyra reported that buried treasure had been found "by the help of a mineral stone, (which becomes transparent when placed in a hat and the light excluded by the face of him who looks into it)." 
The Smith's attitude toward treasure digging was similar to a modern attitudes toward gambling, or buying a lottery ticket
Given the financial difficulties under which the Smith family labored, it would hardly be surprising that they might hope for such a reversal in their fortunes. Richard Bushman has compared the Smith's attitude toward treasure digging with a modern attitudes toward gambling, or buying a lottery ticket. Bushman points out that looking for treasure had little stigma attached to it among all classes in the 17th century, and continued to be respectable among the lower classes into the 18th and 19th. 
Despite the claims of critics, it is not clear that Joseph and his family saw their activities as "magical."
Three Concerns to Address about Joseph's digging
There are generally only a few questions that need to be addressed regarding Joseph's money-digging: his motives, his success, and the extent of his involvement. The first question is a question of what Joseph was doing while treasure seeking. Was he simply seeking to con people out of money in an easy way? The second question seems to be one of his abilities. How could he produce the Book of Mormon with something that didn't provide him any miraculous experience?
With regards to his success, it is, at the very least, plausible that he could see things in the stone that were invisible to the naked eye--just not treasure. There is, in fact, no recorded instance indicating that Joseph could see and locate treasure in the stones. There is, however, evidence that he could use the stone for more righteous purposes. A few pieces of historical testimony indicate this.
- Josiah Stowell. In the spring of 1825 Josiah Stowell visited with Joseph Smith, according to Joseph's mother Lucy, “on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye.” There was a Spanish gold mine that Josiah believed Joseph might be able to help locate. When Joseph was brought to court in Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York on trial for charges of being a "disorderly person", Josiah testified in Joseph's defense that he could see things in the stone. There are two records of Josiah's testimony: that of a WD Purple and a Miss Pearsall. The Purple account is quoted first and the Pearsall, second:
The next witness called was Deacon Isaiah Stowell. He confirmed all that is said above in relation to himself, and delineated many other circumstances not necessary to record. He swore that the prisoner possessed all the power he claimed, and declared he could see things fifty feet below the surface of the earth, as plain as the witness could see what was on the Justices’ table, and described very many circumstances to confirm his words. Justice Neeley soberly looked at the witness, and in a solemn, dignified voice said: “Deacon Stowell, do I understand you as swearing before God, under the solemn oath you have taken, that you believe the prisoner can see by the aid of the stone fifty feet below the surface of the earth; as plainly as you can see what is on my table?” “Do I believe it?” says Deacon Stowell; “do I believe it? No, it is not a matter of belief: I positively know it to be true.”
Josiah Stowel [sic] sworn. Says that prisoner had been at his house something like five months. Had been employed by him to work on farm part of time; that he pretended to have skill of telling where hidden treasures in the earth were, by means of looking through a certain stone; that prisoner had looked for him sometimes, – once to tell him about money buried on Bend Mountain in Pennsylvania, once for gold on Monument Hill, and once for a salt-spring, – and that he positively knew that the prisoner could tell, and professed the art of seeing those valuable treasures through the medium of said stone: that he found the digging part at Bend and Monument Hill as prisoner represented it; that prisoner had looked through said stone for Deacon Attelon, for a mine – did not exactly find it, but got a piece of ore, which resembled gold, he thinks; that prisoner had told by means of this stone where a Mr. Bacon had buried money; that he and prisoner had been in search of it; that prisoner said that it was in a certain root of a stump five feet from surface of the earth, and with it would be found a tail-feather; that said Stowel and prisoner thereupon commenced digging, found a tail-feather, but money was gone; that he supposed that money moved down; that prisoner did not offer his services; that he never deceived him; that prisoner looked through stone, and described Josiah Stowel’s house and out-houses while at Palmyra, at Simpson Stowel’s, correctly; that he had told about a painted tree with a man’s hand painted upon it, by means of said stone; that he had been in company with prisoner digging for gold, and had the most implicit faith in prisoner’s skill.
There are a few other historical evidences that can be read to demonstrate Joseph's ability to see things in the stone.
- Martin Harris reminisced in an interview in 1859:
“I…was picking my teeth with a pin while sitting on the bars. The pin caught in my teeth and dropped from my fingers into shavings and straw… We could not find it. I then took Joseph on surprise, and said to him–I said, ‘Take your stone.’ … He took it and placed it in his hat–the old white hat–and place his face in his hat. I watched him closely to see that he did not look to one side; he reached out his hand beyond me on the right, and moved a little stick and there I saw the pin, which he picked up and gave to me. I know he did not look out of the hat until after he had picked up the pin.
In the same interview, Martin testified to Joseph's finding of the plates by the power of the seer stone:
In this stone he could see many things to my certain knowledge. It was by means of this stone he first discovered these plates.
- Henry Harris
“He [Joseph Smith] said he had a revelation from God that told him they [the Book of Mormon plates] were hid in a certain hill and he looked in his stone and saw them in the place of deposit.
- On 7 August 1875, The Chicago Times reprinted an interview of David Whitmer conducted by Jacob T. Child, editor of the Richmond Conservator. Whitmer told Child that while witnessing the translation of the Book of Mormon, that he (Whitmer) would put the seer stone Joseph used to translate the Book of Mormon to his own eye and see nothing.
I have seen Joseph, however, place it to his eyes and instantly read signs 160 miles distant and tell exactly what was transpiring there. When I went to Harmony after him he told me the names of every hotel at which I had stopped on the road, read the signs, and described various scenes without having ever received any information from me.
- Willard Chase and Sally Chase. As Richard Bushman has noted:
Willard Chase, one of the Smith's neighbors and a friend of Joseph's, found one of the tones. Chase let Joseph take the stone home, but as soon as it became known "what wonders he could discover by looking in it," Chase wanted it back. As late as 1830, Chase was still trying to get his hands on the stone. His younger brother Abel later told an interviewer that their sister Sally had a stone too. A nearby physician, John Stafford, reported that "the neighbors used to claim Sally Chase could look at a stone she had, and see money. Willard Chase used to dig when she found where the money was." After Joseph obtained the plates, Willard Chase led the group that searched the Smith's house, guided by Sally Chase and a "green glass, through which she could see many very wonderful things.
What may be said about Joseph's abilities to see is that he could see things that allowed him to do good. He could not see that which he was not meant to see.
Motives and Extent of Involvement
It is currently in debate what Joseph's motives were and how much he was involved.
Richard Bushman has written:
At present, a question remains about how involved Joseph Smith was in folk magic. Was he enthusiastically pursuing treausre seeking as a business in the 1820s, or was he a somewhat reluctnat participant, egged on by his father? Was his woldview fundamentally shaped by folk traditions? I think there is substantial evidence of his reluctance, and, in my opinion, the evidence for extensive involvement is tenuous. But this is a matter of degree. No one denies that magic was there, especially iun the mid 1820s. Smith never repudiated folk traditions; he continued to use the seer stone until late in life and used it in the translation process. It certainly had an influence on his outlook, but it was peripheral--not central. Biblical Christianity was the overwhelming influence in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. Folk magic was in the mix but was not the basic ingredient.
What we do know is that after the Angel Moroni's appearance in 1823, Joseph began to turn away from treasure seeking. Again from Richard Bushman:
Joseph Jr. never repudiated the seer stones or denied their power to find treasure. Remnants of the magical culture stayed with him to the end. But after 1823, he began to orient himself away from treasure and toward translation. Martin Harris, another early supporter, remembered Joseph saying that "the angel told him he must quite the company of the money-diggers. That there were wicked men among them. He must have no more to do with them. He must not lie, nor swear, nor seal." After 1823, he continued to be involved in treasure expeditions but not as the instigator or leader; perhaps he resisted by dragging his feet. William Stafford depicts Joseph Sr. hunting for gold and going back to the house to seek further instructions from Joseph Jr., as if the son was trying to stay out of the picture while the father pushed on. In 1825, when the family needed money, Joseph Jr. agreed to help Stowell find the Spanish gold, but with misgivings. Lucy said of Stowell's operation that "Joseph endeavored to divert him from his vain pursuit." Alva hale, a son in the household where the Smiths stayed in Harmony while digging for Stowell, said Joseph Jr. told him that the "gift in seeing with a stone" was "a gift from God" but that " 'peeping' was all d—d nonsense"; he had been deceived in his treasure-seeking, but he did not intend to deceive anyone else. By this time, Joseph apparently felt that "seeing" with a sone was the work of a "seer," a religious term, while "peeping" or "glass-looking" was fraudulent.
So, in summary, we may say that:
- Joseph found a seer stone in 1822 and may have used it to look for treasure.
- Many people believed that he could see things in the stone. There are testimonials that suggest that he could see things in the stone yet no record that he could find any treasure.
- His motives, cosmological influences, and extent of involvement for early treasure seeking (1822-25) are still in debate. His motives for his later treasure seeking (1825-26) are to help with finances of his family.
- Beginning in 1823, after the claimed appearance of the angel Moroni, Joseph oriented himself away from treasure seeking.
- His scriptural and revelatory productions were largely based in Biblical Christianity. Folk magic was a peripheral ingredient to his work (and there is even explicit condemnation of magic in those scriptural productions [Alma 1:32; 3 Nephi 21:16; Mormon 1:19; 2:10; Doctrine and Covenants 63:17; Doctrine and Covenants 76:103)
For a detailed response, see: Joseph Smith/Occultism and magic
Response to claim: 255 - "The fact that Smith owned a Jupiter talisman shows that his fascination with the occult was not just a childish fad"
The authors bring up magic again,
The fact that Smith owned a Jupiter talisman shows that his fascination with the occult was not just a childish fad. At the time of his death, Smith had on his person this talisman...
The mistake: It is not a proven fact that Joseph even owned a Jupiter talisman.The facts: The talisman, or "silver pocket piece" as described in 1937, appeared on a list of items purportedly own by Joseph Smith which were to be sold by Charles Bidamon. Bidamon waited fifty-eight years after Emma’s death to make his certification, and notes that at the time of her death he was only fifteen years old.
Question: Did Joseph Smith have a Jupiter talisman on his person at the time of his death?
The only source of evidence that claims Joseph Smith had the Jupiter Talisman on his person is Charles Bidamon, made long after the death of Joseph and Emma
Did Joseph have this Talisman on him when he was murdered? What would it mean if he did?
This well circulated claim finds its origins in a 1974 talk by Dr. Reed Durham. Durham said that Joseph "evidently [had a Talisman] on his person when he was martyred. The talisman, originally purchased from the Emma Smith Bidamon family, fully notarized by that family to be authentic and to have belonged to Joseph Smith, can now be identified as a Jupiter talisman."
There is only one source of evidence that claims Joseph Smith had the Jupiter Talisman on his person, and that source is Charles Bidamon. Bidamon's statement was made long after the death of Joseph and Emma, relied on memories from his youth, and was undergirded by financial motives.
The idea that Joseph Smith might have had a Jupiter Talisman in his possession is used by critics of the Church as proof of his fascination with the occult. As one work put it: "The fact that Smith owned a Jupiter talisman shows that his fascination with the occult was not just a childish fad. At the time of his death, Smith had on his person this talisman....
By contrast, contemporary evidence demonstrates that Joseph did not have such a Talisman in his possession at his death.
Durham, the source of the idea in modern discourse, would later say:
I now wish I had presented some of my material differently… For instance, at the present time, after rechecking my data, I find no primary evidence that Joseph Smith ever possessed a Jupiter talisman. The source for my comment was a second-hand, late source. It came from Wilford Wood, who was told it by Charlie Bidamon, who was told it by his father, Lewis Bidamon, who was Emma’s second husband and a non-Mormon not too friendly to the LDS Church. So, the idea that the Prophet had such a talisman is highly questionable!... [One author who was presented wrote:] "Dr. Durham also told me he was trying to play the “devil’s advocate” in his Nauvoo speech, which is what many there, including myself, sensed. Unfortunately others took the words to further their purposes."
Question: What is the source of the story about Joseph Smith possessing a Jupiter talisman?
The source of the Talisman story, upon which Dr. Durham based his remarks, was Wilford C. Wood, who was told it by Charles Bidamon, the son of Lewis Bidamon
Lewis was Emma Smith's non-Mormon second husband. Charles was born following an affair between Lewis Bidamon and Nancy Abercrombie, which occurred while Lewis was married to Emma. Charles was taken in by Emma when four years old, and raised by her until her death 11 years later. (This action says much for Emma's charity.)
The talisman, or "silver pocket piece" as described in 1937, appeared on a list of items purportedly own by Joseph Smith which were to be sold by Charles Bidamon
Richard Lloyd Anderson wrote that the Talisman, or "silver pocket piece" as described in 1937, appeared on a list of items purportedly own by Joseph Smith which were to be sold by Charles Bidamon. One item listed was "a silver pocket piece which was in the Prophet's pocket at the time of his assassination.":541 Wilford Wood, who collected Mormon memorabilia, purchased it in 1938 along with a document from Bidamon certifying that the Prophet possessed it when murdered. The affidavit sworn to by Charles Bidamon at the time of Wilford C. Wood's purchase was very specific:
This piece came to me through the relationship of my father, Major L. C. Bidamon, who married the Prophet Joseph Smith's widow, Emma Smith. I certify that I have many times heard her say, when being interviewed, and showing the piece, that it was in the Prophet's pocket when he was martyred at Carthage, Ill.:558
Bidamon waited fifty-eight years after Emma’s death to make his certification, and notes that at the time of her death he was only fifteen years old
Anderson noted that Bidamon waited fifty-eight years after Emma’s death to make his certification, and notes that at the time of her death he was only fifteen years old.
Durham based his comments on Wood's description for the item which was: "This piece [the Talisman] was in Joseph Smith's pocket when he was martyred at Carthage Jail.":558 However, a list of the items in Joseph's possession at the time of his death was provided to Emma following the martyrdom. On this list there was no mention made of any Talisman-like item. If there had been such an article, it ought to have been listed.
The list of items in Joseph's possession at the time of his death did not list the talisman among them
In 1984, Anderson located and published the itemized list of the contents of Joseph Smith's pockets at his death. The list was originally published in 1885 in Iowa by James W. Woods, Smith's lawyer, who collected the prophet's personal effects after the Martyrdom. The contents from the published 1885 printing are as follows:
Received, Nauvoo, Illinois, July 2, 1844, of James W. Woods, one hundred and thirty- five dollars and fifty cents in gold and silver and receipt for shroud, one gold finger ring, one gold pen and pencil case, one penknife, one pair of tweezers, one silk and one leather purse, one small pocket wallet containing a note of John P. Green for $50, and a receipt of Heber C. Kimball for a note of hand on Ellen M. Saunders for one thousand dollars, as the property of Joseph Smith. - Emma Smith.:558
No Talisman or item like it is listed. It could not be mistaken for a coin or even a "Masonic Jewel" as Durham first thought. Anderson described the Talisman as being “an inch-and-a-half in diameter and covered with symbols and a prayer on one side and square of sixteen Hebrew characters on the other.”:541 Significant is the fact that no associate of Joseph Smith has ever mentioned anything like this medallion. There are no interviews that ever record Emma mentioning any such item as attested to by Charles Bidamon, though he claimed she often spoke of it.
Response to claim: 256 - "Despite what may have been written about him, it is evident that Smith had an ego and expected to be followed without question"
The authors claim that "[t]here is no question that many Mormon historians have painted Smith as a man of high morals and impeccable integrity. Any reports to the contrary are often assumed to have been made by enemies of the church or disgruntled ex-Mormons. Despite what may have been written about him, it is evident that Smith had an ego and expected to be followed without question."
The spin: Interestingly the authors seem to have no problem citing "LDS" and "Mormon" authorities to construct an entire chapter of "contraries." Is the reader to conclude that every single "LDS" or "Mormon" historian that they cite is an enemy or apostate?The facts: The authors state that despite what may have been written about Joseph, he remains an egotist that controlled his people. Do Mormon leaders control the faithful and expect to be followed without question? There are several examples that show just the opposite expectation. Brigham Young, quoting Joseph Smith, said:
The question was asked a great many times of Joseph Smith, by gentlemen who came to see him and his people, 'How is it that you can control your people so easily? It appears that they do nothing but what you say; how is it that you can govern them so easily?' Said he, 'I do not govern them at all. The Lord has revealed certain principles from the heavens by which we are to live in these latter days. The time is drawing near when the Lord is going to cut short his work in righteousness, and the principles which he has revealed I have taught to the people and they are trying to live according to them, and they control themselves.' Gentlemen, this is the great secret now in controlling this people. It is thought that I control them, but it is not so. It is as much as I can do to control myself and to keep myself straight and teach the people the principles by which they should live.
- For a detailed response, see: Authoritarianism and Church leaders and Authoritarianism and Church leaders/Quotes
The authors claim Joseph was boastful when he said,
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. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I.
The mistake: The authors omit the context of Joseph's statement, in which he was emulating something said by the Apostle Paul.
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:
- The accuracy of the quote in History of the Church, since it is based upon a synopsis of Joseph's remarks by Thomas Bullock. For more detail on this aspect, see "Question: Is the quote of Joseph Smith's "boasting" of keeping the Church intact accurate?".
- Assuming that the quote is accurate, it is evident in any case that the quote has been removed from its larger context.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Both in private and in public Joseph Smith demonstrated his humility before the Lord.
The authors use a quote from Brigham Young and from Joseph Field Smith to "prove" that Joseph is the gateway to the Celestial Kingdom,
Young stated that entrance into the celestial kingdom was conditional on Smith's consent. "No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are-I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent. He holds the keys of that kingdom for the last dispensation-the keys to rule in the spirit world."
President Joseph Fielding Smith affirmed this, saying that nobody could reject this "testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
The mistake: The idea that one would require Joseph Smith's consent to enter the celestial kingdom is not Church doctrine.The facts: The Book of Mormon confirms that no mortal's role in the judgment supersedes the role given to Jesus Christ. Even if he has a role in the judgement, his participation in the judgment is no more or less than the role assigned to the Lord's apostles at the Last Supper.
Question: What is the origin of the criticism of the idea that Joseph Smith will participate in the final judgement?
The criticism originates with statements made by Brigham Young and Orson Hyde that are recorded in the Journal of Discourses
The criticism originates with statements made by Brigham Young and Orson Hyde that are recorded in the Journal of Discourses. Statements made by these early church leaders are removed from their context in order to make it appear that a belief in Joseph Smith rather than Jesus Christ is the key to salvation.
When read in context, Brigham Young's statement and intent become clear:
Joseph Smith holds the keys of this last dispensation, and is now engaged behind the vail in the great work of the last days...no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith.... I will now tell you something that ought to comfort every man and woman on the face of the earth. Joseph Smith, junior, will again be on this earth dictating plans and calling forth his brethren to be baptized for the very characters who wish this was not so, in order to bring them into a kingdom to enjoy...he will never cease his operations, under the directions of the Son of God, until the last ones of the children of men are saved that can be, from Adam till now.... It is his mission to see that all the children of men in this last dispensation are saved, that can be, through the redemption.
Clearly, Joseph's role is to function under the "direction...of the Son of God," and the primary goal is the salvation of all who will accept any degree of Christ and Joseph's witness of Him.
Similarly, critics extract the second sentence of the following quote from Brigham Young, while ignoring the sentence preceding it (emphasis added):
I have taught for thirty years, and still teach, that he that believeth in his heart and confesseth with his mouth that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith is his Prophet to this generation, is of God; and he that confesseth not that Jesus has come in the flesh and sent Joseph Smith with the fulness of the Gospel to this generation, is not of God, but is antichrist.
It is not a novel idea to have mortal prophets involved in the post-mortal judgment
At the Last Supper, Jesus himself taught that:
Ye [the apostles] are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:28-30; see also Matthew 19:28.)
A similar promise to participate in the judgment of those among whom they were called to serve was given to the twelve Nephite Disciples (see 1 Nephi 12:9-10). This principle is also reiterated in modern revelation (see D&C 29:12).
Since the Latter-day Saints accept the witness that Joseph was called as an apostle and prophet (see D&C 21:1) with the same authority as that given to Peter, James, John, and others, they do not think it strange that he will likewise play a role in judgment. The witness of a prophet will always be brought against those who did not accept his witness of Christ (see Matthew 10:40; John 5:45-47).
The authors claim that Latter-day Saints believe that Joseph will save them,
Christians throughout the centuries have pointed to Jesus Christ as the only way to eternal life, Mormon leaders have taught that Joseph Smith will apparently be a deciding factor as well"... "The Bible clearly states that every person-both believer and non-believer-will be judged by Jesus, not Joseph! There is no hint that somebody like Smith would assist in the judgment.
The mistake: Latter-day Saints do not believe that Joseph Smith will "save" them.The facts: There is little doubt that through reading the Bible and rest of the Standard Works of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that we all will stand before the great judgment bar of God.
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: 261 - "It should come as no surprise that among the many excuses Mormons have raised for the failure of Smith's Missouri predictions, few admit it was due to his lack of prophetical insight"
The authors claim evidence of failed prophecies,
[Smith's] followers were forced to leave Missouri...It should come as no surprise that among the many excuses Mormons have raised for the failure of Smith's Missouri predictions, few admit it was due to his lack of prophetical insight.
The spin: It is important to understand the context in which "historians" are quoted for a proper understanding of their material. Interestingly, the authors freely called upon dead "LDS historian Andrew Jenson" for an earlier quote in their chapter that served to question the truthfulness of Joseph as a prophet. That quote had nothing to do with the context of Jenson's talk. His entire lecture was on proving that Joseph was in fact a prophet of God by describing numerous instances of fulfilled prophecies and other such witnesses to the truthfulness of his call. The authors ignore the fact that Jenson, in his 110-year-old Friday-evening lecture to the Student's Society, illustrated how Smith's predictions were proof of his "prophetical insight."The facts: Ironically, Jenson uses Missouri as one proof of Joseph's "prophetical insight." Jenson states:
In 1831 the Saints were commanded to gather to Jackson County, Mo., which was designated as a land of inheritance for the Saints in the last days, and also as the identical spot where they should build that great city, the New Jerusalem, about which the ancient Prophets and Saints had sung, prayed and rejoiced so much. Joseph Smith had just arrived in that goodly land, together with a number of his brethren, when a revelation, containing some very strange sayings was given on the 1st of August, 1831.
Jenson then relates D&C 58:1-5, wherein the Lord talks of the land they had just arrived in and speaks of "much tribulation" and blessings to those that remain faithful after that which is to follow. Jenson points out that if Joseph was a fraud attempting to make financial gain or seeking the vain glory and honor of men, then it would be pretty absurd to be predicting trouble when there was none immediately apparent. In less than three years after this revelation, the Saints were driven out of Jackson County and three years after that they were forced from Clay County, Missouri, then two more years later the Governor issued an extermination order driving them from the State of Missouri. If McKeever and Johnson do not think this means "much tribulation," then what, as Jenson states, does it mean?
- For a detailed response, see: Joseph Smith/Alleged false prophecies
Response to claim: 262 - "Smith attempted to flee into Iowa and ultimately to the Rockies. While waiting for horses, his wife Emma sent him a message stating that the Latter-day Saints were accusing Smith of cowardice and urged him to return. Smith did so"
The authors now attempt to cast doubt on Joseph's status as a martyr for his beliefs,
Knowing full well that he would be in great danger by placing himself in the hands of his enemies, Smith attempted to flee into Iowa and ultimately to the Rockies. While waiting for horses, his wife Emma sent him a message stating that the Latter-day Saints were accusing Smith of cowardice and urged him to return. Smith did so.
The spin: Was Joseph a coward? Joseph and Hyrum returned to Carthage for reasons that the authors omit from their narration. Joseph was, and always had been, willing to die for his faith, his God, and his people.The facts: Danel Bachman, illustrating this willingness, cited an 1838 incident when Joseph and Hyrum were in the hands of their enemies and were sentenced to be executed. Did he resist? No! Joseph, speaking of his feelings at the time said:
As far as I was concerned, I felt perfectly calm, and resigned to the will of my heavenly Father.... And notwithstanding that every avenue of escape seemed to be entirely closed, and death stared me in the face, and that my destruction was determined upon, as far as man was concerned; yet, from my first entrance into the camp, I felt an assurance, that I with my brethren and our families should be delivered. Yes, that still small voice, which has so often whispered consolation to my soul, in the depth of sorrow and distress, bade me be of good cheer, and promised deliverance.
For a detailed response, see: Joseph Smith/Martyrdom
Response to claim: 262 - "After dinner, Smith and several church officials ordered some wine to be brought to the jail"
The authors which to emphasize that Joseph drank wine at Carthage,
After dinner, Smith and several church officials ordered some wine to be brought to the jail.
The spin: The authors lead the reader to think that Joseph and his associates sat around drinking wine all night. The fact that the History of the Church mentions the wine so matter-of-factly should warn us that circumstances were different, and neither current or later Church leaders or members saw this as something that would make Joseph look bad.The facts: Joseph's final night consisted of testimony, study, and prophecy. The record reads:
During the evening the Patriarch Hyrum Smith read and commented upon extracts from the Book of Mormon, on the imprisonments and deliverance of the servants of God for the Gospel's sake. Joseph bore a powerful testimony to the guards of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, restoration of the Gospel, the administration of angels, and that the kingdom of God was again established upon the earth, for the sake of which he was then incarcerated in that prison, and not because he had violated any law of God or man.:600
Later that night we read:
Soon after Dr. Richards retired to the bed which Joseph had left, and when all were apparently fast asleep, Joseph whispered to Dan Jones, "are you afraid to die?" Dan said, "Has that time come, think you?" "Engaged in such a cause I do not think that death would have many terrors." Joseph replied, "You will yet see Wales, and fulfill the mission appointed you before you die.":601
In fulfillment of this prophecy, Dan Jones fulfilled two missions to Wales and was an instrument in bringing nearly one thousand people into the church.
Question: Did Joseph Smith violate the Word of Wisdom by drinking alcohol in Carthage Jail before he was killed?
The wine is mentioned clearly in the History of the Church: Why would leaders include this information if it made Joseph look bad?
Joseph Smith drank alcohol in Carthage Jail prior to being martyred. Doesn't this make Joseph Smith a hypocrite for violating the Word of Wisdom?
We are sometimes guilty of "presentism"—judging historical figures by the standards of our day, instead of their day. We note that the wine is mentioned clearly in the History of the Church. Why would leaders include this information if it made Joseph look bad? This should be our first clue that something else is going on.
John Taylor: "we sent for some wine. It has been reported by some that this was taken as a sacrament. It was no such thing; our spirits were generally dull and heavy, and it was sent for to revive us"
Consider also that drinking water in Joseph Smith's day (or during Biblical times) was a gamble because water purity was always questionable; a little alcohol in a beverage ensured that it was free of viruses and bacteria. The development of germ theory in the late 19th century lead to chemical treatments to ensure a safe supply of public drinking water. A strict ban of all alcohol in Joseph Smith's time would have been a death sentence for many Latter-day Saints—especially during the 1832–1833 cholera pandemic, which spread its disease by water.
Alcohol was also considered a medicinal substance, and was used with that purpose well into the 19th century. Thus, some wine or brandy use would be seen as "medicinal," rather than "recreational." This perspective is likely reflected in John Taylor's later account of the events at Carthage:
Sometime after dinner we sent for some wine. It has been reported by some that this was taken as a sacrament. It was no such thing; our spirits were generally dull and heavy, and it was sent for to revive us. I think it was Captain Jones who went after it, but they would not suffer him to return. I believe we all drank of the wine, and gave some to one or two of the prison guards. We all of us felt unusually dull and languid, with a remarkable depression of spirits. In consonance with those feelings I sang a song, that had lately been introduced into Nauvoo, entitled, 'A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief', etc.:101
Alcohol was thought to be useful as a stimulant to restore both mood and energy
In a medicinal context, alcohol was thought to be useful as a stimulant to restore both mood and energy. As one history noted:
There was a wide spectrum of views on its use in medicine. At one extreme were those who felt that as alcohol was a stimulant, it should be beneficial in all disease states....A problem for doctors was reconciling that brandy (the most commonly used form of alcohol) seemed to have both stimulant and sedative effects. However it is clear that the emergency use of brandy was as a stimulant [and such use continued into the twentieth century]....For lesser conditions, tonics were much used as stimulants and alcohol was the basis of many of these, the alcohol concentration of which was often greater than that of wine....
In the twenty-first century, a member who used morphine by injection to get high would be regarded as in violation of the Word of Wisdom. But, if they used it under a physician's supervision for a recognized condition for which its use was appropriate, that would be considered in harmony with the Word of Wisdom. Cancer patients, for example, do not lose their temple recommends simply because they require morphine. In a similar way, Joseph and his companions' use of wine prior to the martyrdom obviously did not trouble him or his contemporaries, because they understood their era's medical context.
The authors claim that Joseph's use of a gun disqualifies him as a martyr.
Smith was visited by Cyrus H. Wheelock who, as he was about to leave, "drew a small pistol, a six-shooter from his pocket, remarking at the same time, 'Would any of you like to have this?"' The narrative states that Smith "immediately replied, 'Yes, give it to me."' He then proceeded to take the pistol and put it into his pants pocket.
The mistake: There is no question Joseph intended to defend himself and his friends, as was his right. As to the details that shed light on his acquisition of the weapon, another narrative from the History of the Church paints a different and clearer picture than the one the authors present.The facts: The account reads:
The morning being a little rainy, [Wheelock] favored his wearing an overcoat, in the side pocket of which he was enabled to carry a six shooter, and he passed the guard unmolested. During his visit in the prison he slipped the revolver into Joseph's pocket. Joseph examined it, and asked Wheelock if he had not better retain it for his own protection... Joseph then handed the single barrel pistol which had been given him by John S. Fullmer, to his brother Hyrum, and said, 'You may have use for this.' Brother Hyrum observed, 'I hate to use such things or to see them used.' 'So do I,' said Joseph, 'but we may have to, to defend ourselves;' upon this Hyrum took the pistol.:243 
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:
- 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.)
- The Church has not hidden this fact, but published it from the beginning and includes it in the History of the Church twice.
- 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.”
The online resource, Dictionary.com, defines a martyr as
“one who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles.”
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.
The authors repeat a popular rumor that Joseph killed two of his attackers with his gun,
John Taylor stated that before Smith was shot, he used his smuggled gun to shoot three of his attackers, killing two of them.
The mistake: Although John Taylor believed it at the time, the two men shot by Joseph Smith at Carthage Jail did not die from their wounds.
Question: Did Joseph Smith actually shoot and kill two men at Carthage Jail?
John Taylor erroneously believed that Joseph Smith had shot and killed two of their attackers at Carthage Jail
John Taylor actually said, "I afterwards understood that two or three were wounded by these discharges, two of whom, I am informed, died." Who were these rumored dead men? Colonel Hay in his narrative wrote:
Joe Smith died bravely. He stood by the jamb of the door and fired four shots, bringing his man down every time. He shot an Irishman named Wills, who was in the affair from his congenital love of a brawl, in the arm; Gallagher, a Southerner from the Mississippi Bottom, in the face; Voorhees, a half-grown hobbledehoy from Bear Creek, in the shoulder; and another gentleman, whose name I will not mention, as he is prepared to prove an alibi, and besides stands six feet two in his moccasins.
The alleged dead men were actually indicted by the court for murder
The courts indicted these alleged dead men for murder. Mr. Hay wrote:
Bills of indictment were found at the October term of court against Levi Williams, Mark Aldrich, Jacob C. Davis, William N. Grover, Thomas C. Sharp, John Wills, William Voorhees, William Gallagher and one Allen. They were based on the testimony of two idle youths, named Brackenbury and Daniels, who had accompanied the expedition from Warsaw to Carthage on the 27th of June, and had seen the whole affair.
The alleged dead men were seen on the road between Carthage and Warsaw
The two youths eventually exploited the incident and became useless as witnesses. However, their testimony as to seeing Wills, Voras, and Gallaher, all wounded, on the road between Carthage and Warsaw, were sufficient for indictment. The three indicted men were never arrested, nor did they appear at the trial. In contrast to Taylor's unverified rumor perpetuation of their death, a local newspaper of that day perpetuated rumors to the contrary stating that the three men had left the state.
Dallin Oaks and Marvin Hill's detailed analysis of the accused killers trial stated that:
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 country. 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... The citizens of Green Plains were said to have given Gallaher and Voras new suits of clothes for their parts in the killing.
The authors erroneously turn rumors into fact. Clearly there is more to the story than the mangled words of John Taylor reveal.
The authors attempt a comparison between the death of Joseph Smith and the death of Jesus Christ,
The differences between Jesus and Joseph Smith are obvious. On the one hand, Jesus quietly and humbly went like a lamb to the slaughter. He went peacefully and without resistance. When Peter attempted to defend his Lord from the mob by drawing his sword, he was told to put it away (John 18:11)...it is wrong for Mormons to draw a similarity between Smith's final actions and those of the Savior. There can be no comparison between the sacrificial death of Christ and the way Smith died!
The spin: Professional critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner would no doubt approve of the authors' conclusions about the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. Why wouldn't they? The same material can be found in a pamphlet that they sell entitled Jesus and Joseph Smith. For example:
- Tanner: "It is interesting to compare the death of Joseph Smith with that of Jesus."
- McKeever: "The differences between Jesus and Joseph Smith are obvious."
- Tanner: "Jesus did go like a 'lamb to the slaughter'"
- McKeever: "Jesus quietly and humbly went like a lamb to the slaughter"
- Tanner: When Peter tried to defend Jesus with the sword, Jesus told him: "Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11)
- McKeever: When Peter attempted to defend his Lord from the mob by drawing his sword, he was told to put it away (John 18:11)
- Tanner: "can be seen that the death of Joseph Smith can in no way be compared to the death of Jesus."
- McKeever: "can be no comparison between the sacrificial death of Christ and the way Smith died!"
Additionally, the previously addressed narratives of Cyrus H. Wheelock's pistol, details of the "shoot-out," and the two dead men, can all be found in the Tanner's free pamphlet. The fact that this information can be had via the Tanner's Internet site, or thirty copies of the pamphlet can be had for the price of one dollar at the Tanners' store in Salt Lake City, demonstrates the stale and tired recompilation of 170+ years of asked-and-answered anti-Mormon rhetoric.
While both sets of critics make much of Jesus telling Peter to put his sword away, both fail to mention the instruction was preceded by Jesus telling the apostles who did not have swords to sell their garments and buy one, which was followed by Peter cutting the servants ear off, then Jesus said it was enough. (Luke 22:36-51) Why did Jesus tell his followers to equip themselves with swords if he did not want them to defend themselves? Jesus himself said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34)The facts: "Mormons" draw no such comparison between the matchless sacrifice of Christ and that of the cold-blooded murder of the Prophet. This theme of denying Joseph Smith status as a Martyr is popular in anti-Mormon publications. They conclude that his use of a gun, and attempted escape from a window (to save the lives of those in the room, no less) voids him as a martyr. While this defies definition, it is nonetheless used as a basis for denial. The question must be asked, can a martyr give resistance? There is nothing in its definition that suggests they cannot. Webster's definition of a Martyr certainly fits Joseph. The definition states that a martyr is someone "put to death for adhering to a belief, faith, or profession." The authors apparently want the definition to be re-written to exclude Joseph Smith. If the authors suggest he was put to death for some other reason, they fail to make their case. Can the authors deny Christ as the Savior because he resisted earlier attempts against His life? Paul similarly fought death through following a lengthy legal process in hopes of freedom. So are we to conclude that Paul is not a Martyr either? It is puzzling how the authors can contrast between Jesus and Joseph and arrive at the conclusion they do. We see through examples above, just how Joseph acted under due process. He was a willing sacrifice and his words and actions repeatedly confirm this.
- "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.)
- 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
- Brigham Young, (6 October 1855) Journal of Discourses 3:366.
- Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 89.
- Of the non-biblical cultural abhorrence of polygamy, Stephen E. Robinson writes: "In Western culture plural marriage is generally abhorred, but the roots of this abhorrence can hardly be described as biblical, for the Old Testament explicitly sanctions polygamy and the New Testament does not forbid it. The practice could not have been abhorrent to Jesus and the first-century Jewish Christians, for their culture was not Western, and plural marriage was sanctioned in the law of Moses, the holiness of which was endorsed by both Jesus and Paul. Indeed, it is possible that some Jewish Christians of the first century continued to practice plural marriage just as they continued Sabbath observance, circumcision, and other practices related to their cultural and religious background. The cultural milieu of Judaism and early Christianity simply cannot be the source of the Western horror of plural marriage, for plural marriages were common in the environment of the earliest Christian church.
I do not deny that polygamy is now abhorred in Western culture generally and in modern Christianity particularly. What I deny is that the source of that abhorrence is biblical. It is derived not from the biblical heritage but the classical-the abhorrence of polygamy comes from Greece and Rome. As orthodox a figure as Saint Augustine knew that the prohibition of plural marriage in the church of his day was only a matter of Roman custom: 'Again, Jacob the son of Isaac is charged with having committed a great crime because he had four wives. But here there is no ground for a criminal accusation: for a plurality of wives was no crime when it was the custom; and it is a crime now, because it is no longer the custom… The only reason of its being a crime now to do this, is because custom and the laws forbid it.' Though pagan culture could freely tolerate multiple sexual partners, it could tolerate only one wife. In that respect Greco-Roman culture was very similar to contemporary Western culture.
Clearly, then, the antagonism to plural marriage was not biblical in origin, for the bosom of Abraham, where most Christians long to repose, is a polygamous bosom, and the house of Israel, into which most Christians seek admission, is a polygamous house. [Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians? (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991), 92-93.]
- Emma gave permission for at least the marriages of Eliza and Emma Partridge, and Sarah and Maria Lawrence. See Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 409, 475. ( Index of claims )
- Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 261. ( Index of claims )
- Mary Audentia Smith Anderson (editor), "Memoirs of Joseph Smith III (1832–1914)," The Saints Herald (2 April 1935): 431–434.
- Allen J. Stout, "Allen J. Stout's Testimony," Historical Record 6 (May 1887): 230–31; cited in Wendy C. Top "'A Deep Sorrow in Her Heart' – Emma Hale Smith," in Heroines of the Restoration, edited by Barbara B. Smith and Blythe Darlyn Thatcher (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 17–34.
- Emma Smith to Maria Jane Johnston, cited in Wendy C. Top "'A Deep Sorrow in Her Heart' – Emma Hale Smith," in Heroines of the Restoration, edited by Barbara B. Smith and Blythe Darlyn Thatcher (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 17–34.; quoting Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 161.
- Emma Hale Smith, Blessing (1844), Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
- Kathryn M. Daynes, More Wives than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840–1910 (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 29. ISBN 0252026810.
- Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 15-23. ( Index of claims )
- Samuel Katich, "A Tale of Two Marriage Systems: Perspectives on Polyandry and Joseph Smith," Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 2003.
- Kathryn M. Daynes, More Wives than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840–1910 (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 29. ISBN 0252026810.
- John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014)
- DNA Tests rule out 2 as Smith descendants, Deseret News Nov. 10, 2007.
- Ugo A. Perego, Jayne E. Ekins, and Scott R. Woodward, "Resolving the Paternities of Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah L. Hancock through DNA," JJHWA, 133.
- Ugo A. Perego, Natalie M. Myers, and Scott R. Woodward, “Reconstructing the Y-Chromosome of Joseph Smith Jr.: Genealogical Applications, Journal of Mormon History Vol. 32, No. 2 (Summer 2005) 70-88.
- Deseret News, 2007.
- Ugo A. Perego, Jayne E. Ekins, and Scott R. Woodward, "Resolving the Paternities of Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah L. Hancock through DNA," JJHWA, 134-135.
- Brian Hales, Laura Hales "Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner" <http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/plural-wives-overview/mary-elizabeth-rollins/> (accessed 5 December 2018)
- Brian Hales, Laura Hales "Marinda Nancy Johnson" <http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/plural-wives-overview/marinda-nancy-johnson/> (accessed 5 December 2018)
- Perego, Myers and Woodward, 2005.
- This bit of folklore is explored in Maureen Ursenbach Beecher et al., "Emma and Eliza and the Stairs," Brigham Young University Studies 22 no. 1 (Fall 1982), 86–96.. RLDS author Richard Price also argues that the physical layout of the Mansion House makes the story as reported by Charles C. Rich unlikely, see "Eliza Snow Was Not Pushed Down the Mansion House Stairs," in Richard and Pamela Price, Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy: How Men Nearest the Prophet Attached Polygamy to His Name in Order to Justify Their Own Polygamous Crimes, Volume 1 (Price Publishing Co, 2000), chapter 9. Price's dogmatic insistence that Joseph never taught plural marriage, however, cannot be sustained by the evidence.
- Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd edition, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 136. See also discussion in Danel W. Bachman, “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Polygamy Before the Death of Joseph Smith,” (1975) (unpublished M.A. thesis, Purdue University), 140n173.
- Perego, Myers and Woodward, 2005.
- Brian C. Hales, "The Joseph Smith-Sylvia Sessions Plural Sealing: Polyandry or Polygyny?" Mormon Historical Studies 9/1 (Spring 2008), 41—57. [41–57]
- Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 15-23.
- George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy
- Todd M. Compton, “Response to Tanners,” post to LDS Bookshelf mailing list (no date), http://www.lds-mormon.com/compton.shtml (accessed 2 December 2008). Compare with Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy, 198–202, 302, 362 and Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 14.)
- Stanley B. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 98. See also Stanley B. Kimball, "Heber C. Kimball and Family, the Nauvoo Years," Brigham Young University Studies 15/4 (Summer 1975): 465.
- "Helen Mar Kimball Whitney 1881 Autobiography," Appendix I in Helen Mar Whitney, A Woman's View: Helen Mar Whitney's Reminiscences of Early Church History, ed. Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel (Provo, Utah / Salt Lake City, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, distributed by Bookcraft, 1997), 486.
- Helen Mar Whitney, A Woman's View: Helen Mar Whitney's Reminiscences of Early Church History, ed. Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel (Provo, Utah / Salt Lake City, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, distributed by Bookcraft, 1997), 486–487.
- Helen Mar Whitney, Scenes and Incidents, 90. (italics added)
- Catherine Lewis, Narrative of Some of the Proceedings of the Mormons (Lynn, MA: n.p., 1848), 19.
- Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 195. ( Index of claims )
- George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), 202. ( Index of claims , (Detailed book review))
- Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd edition, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 147.
- Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 2005), 293. (Reviews)
- On Helen’s authentic statements, see Helen Mar Whitney, A Woman’s View: Helen Mar Whitney’s Reminiscences of Early Church History, ed. Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1997), ix–xliii.
- See "Helen Mar Kimball" at http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/plural-wives-overview/helen-mar-kimball/
- Augusta Joyce Crocheron (author and complier), Representative Women of Deseret, a book of biographical sketches to accompany the picture bearing the same title (Salt Lake City: J. C. Graham & Co., 1884).
- Palmyra Herald (24 July 1822); cited in Russell Anderson, "The 1826 Trial of Joseph Smith," (2002 FAIR Conference presentation.) FairMormon link
- "Wonderful Discovery," Wayne Sentinel [Palmyra, New York] (27 December 1825), page 2, col. 4. Reprinted from the Orleans Advocate of Orleans, New York; cited by Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 170–171.
- Richard L. Bushman, "Joseph Smith Miscellany," (Mesa, Arizona: FAIR, 2005 FAIR Conference) FairMormon link
- Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his Progenitors for Many Generations (Lamoni, Iowa, 1912; republished by Herald Publishing House, 1969), 103.
- Tiffany’s Monthly, June 1859, 163.
- Kirkham, A New Witness For Christ in America, 133.
- David Whitmer Interview with Chicago Times, August 1875. In Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996-2003), 5:21–22.
- Willard Chase, Affidavit (1833), and Peter Ingersoll, Affidavit (1833), in MoU 238-9; Tucker, Origin, 19; Abel Chase Interview (1881), and John Stafford, Interview (1881), in EMD, 2:85, 106, 121; Caroline Rockwell Smith, Statement (1885), in EMD, 2:199; BioS, 102, 109. For another Palmyra seer stone, see Wayne Sentinel, Dec. 27, 1825
- Line written 17 June 2019
- Dan Vogel, "The Locations of Joseph Smith's Early Treasure Quests," Dialogue 27, no. 2 (Spring 1990): 91-108
- Susan Staker, "Secret Things, Hidden Things: The Seer Story in the Imaginative Economy of Joseph Smith," in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, ed. Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 235-74
- Mark Ashurst-McGee, "Moroni: Angel or Treasure Guardian?, Mormon Historical Studies 2, no. 2 (Fall 2001): 39-75
- Richard L. Bushman, "Joseph Smith and Money Digging" in A Reason for Faith: Navigating LDS Doctrine and Church History ed. Laura Harris Hales (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2016) 4
- Richard L. Bushman "Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling" (New York City, NY: Alfred Knopf Publishing, 2005) 51
- Dr. Reed Durham’s Presidential Address before the Mormon History Association on 20 April 1974.
- Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 225. ( Index of claims )
- Jerald R. Johansen, After the Martyrdom: What Happened to the Family of Joseph Smith (Springville, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 2004), 79. ISBN 0882905961. off-site
- Richard L. Anderson, "The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Searching," Brigham Young University Studies 24 no. 4 (1984). PDF link
Caution: this article was published before Mark Hofmann's forgeries were discovered. It may treat fraudulent documents as genuine. Click for list of known forged documents.
Discusses money-digging; Salem treasure hunting episode; fraudulent 1838 Missouri treasure hunting revelation; Wood Scrape; “gift of Aaron”; “wand or rod”; Heber C. Kimball rod and prayer; magic; occult; divining lost objects; seerstone; parchments; talisman
- Original coming from LaMar C. Berett, The Wilford Wood Collection, Vol. 1 (Provo, UT: Wilford C. Wood Foundation, 1972), 173.
- Anderson points to its original source in J. W. Woods "The Mormon Prophet," Daily Democrat (Ottumwa, Iowa), 10 May 1885; and in Edward H. Stiles, Recollections and Sketches of Notable Lawyers and Public Men of Early Iowa (Des Moines: Homestead Publishing Co., 1916), 271.
- Discourses of Brigham Young, edited by John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1954), 470.
- 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
- Letter from Joseph Smith to Emma Smith, June 6, 1832, Greenville, Indiana; Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, Illinois.
- History of the Church 5:401.
- Brigham Young, "Intelligence, etc.," (9 October 1859) Journal of Discourses 7:289-289.
- Brigham Young, "The Kingdom of God," (13 July 1862) Journal of Discourses 9:312.
- Andrew Jenson, "Joseph Smith: A True Prophet," a lecture delivered by Elder Andrew Jenson, before the Students' Society, in the Social Hall, Salt Lake City, Friday evening, January 16, 1891, as found 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).
- 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), 6:606. Volume 6 link
- 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
- 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), 6:616. Volume 6 link
- Henry Guly, "Medicinal brandy," Resuscitation 82/7-2 (July 2011): 951–954.
- History of the Church. Volume 7 link
- J. Christopher Conkling, A Joseph Smith Chronology (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1979), 243-245.
- Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition (New York: World Publishing Company, 1970), 870.
- Dictionary.com website, s.v. "martyr."(accessed May 7, 2003).
- Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 7, 102-103.
- Whitney, The Mormon Prophet's Tragedy: A Review, 75; and Hay, "The Mormon Prophet's Tragedy," 675.
- Whitney, The Mormon Prophet's Tragedy: A Review, 87; and Hay, "The Mormon Prophet's Tragedy," 677.
- Dallin Oaks and Marvin Hill, Carthage Conspiracy, The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1975), 79.
- Ibid., 52-53.
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