Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: A shallow Joseph Smith wouldn't have been up to the task’

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Published: Thursday, Feb. 28 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

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Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

And now for the litany of common complaints recycled post after post (despite many being disproved) by those who simply cannot abide the thought of anyone saying anything nice about Joseph. 3 . . 2 . . 1

West Jordan, UT

Another great defense of the prophet Joseph Smith by Daniel Peterson. Your insights are always understandable and thought provoking. I can never get enough. Thank you.

Somewhere in Time, UT

A wonderful analsys and presentation. Thank you Brother Peterson. No matter how many detractors attack Joseph, they will never be able to stop God's work or the stone rolling forth.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Joseph Smith was certainly not shallow. His intutitive intelligence transcended much of his deficiencies in formal eduction. But his claims and his character are fair game for biographers and historians to consider.

Whos Life RU Living?
Ogden, UT

Well this comment board is like North Korea. Enjoy.


@Whos Life RU Living?

"Well this comment board is like North Korea. Enjoy."

Now there's some truth. Freedom of speech doesn't apply here ... very biased moderation.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

As a non-believer, I would echo Bloom’s analysis.

And even assuming good motives, do I think Joseph was talking to real entities and apprehend objective knowledge? No. But the same goes for every other visionary, mystic or prophet so it’s not meant to disparage.

But the criticism of Joseph the man should not be casually swept under rug. Brodie may have cherry picked and made wholly negative assumptions, but it doesn’t make her wrong. Although Grant Palmer and Richard Bushman probably do a better overall job in their biographies – the main difference being that Bushman assumes Joseph was who he said he was, and Palmer does not.

For me, he was a deeply flawed visionary and charismatic religious genius.


Montrose, CO

Your writing is always enlightening and fun to read. Thanks Bro. Peterson. Somewhere along the line I may buy a couple of your books. LOL

Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

"The notion of Joseph Smith as a lazy, scheming, yarn-spinning ne'er-do-well without a single serious idea in his head simply can’t withstand scrutiny."

In this respect, Peterson is accurate. Joseph Smith was an extraordinarily talented individual, very clever, and insightfully shrewd with an uncanny ability for understanding much of the religious thinking of his time.

Many LDS critics casually dismiss Joseph Smith's ability, discount his contribution to religious thought, and try and paint him as a religious charlatan with surreptitious goals for personal power. I believe this is a mistake and it perpetuates an unfortunate ad hominem fallacy. Many of Joseph Smith's claims can be discredited easily enough without attacking him personally.

The mistake Peterson makes is to advance an irrelevant association and correlate it with the veracity of Smith's prophetic claims. Peterson's use of "honor by association" fallacy is no different than Smith's ad hominem critics employing the old "guilt by association" trick. Both reasoning is equally flawed.

Smith shares many of the same qualities as Ann Lee, Charles Taze Russell, Ron Hubbard, Elijah Muhammad, and Mary Baker Eddy. Such qualities don't necessarily validate their prophetic claims either.

Scott Thormaehlen
Provo, UT

Great analysis of the prophet's influence and position. In a simple to read description of the prophets efforts and what his revelation brought to my understanding about the Bible I've written "Day of Defense: Positive Talking Points for the Latter Days".

sandy, ut

Just because Joseph Smith may have believed he was doesn't mean that he really was. You also can't conclude that because he was a good person and did good that he was a prophet. How many men of that time were good men? That doesn't make them prophets either nor does it validate any of there visionary claims. Many people die for their religion because they KNOW that it is true. Many are also incarcerated because of their beliefs. Just because they are right in their mind doesn't make it true. Many people since Joseph Smith have claimed they werer prophets. Well they can believe it all their lives, but I don't.

layton, UT

RE: Craig Clark, Joseph Smith was certainly not shallow. His intutitive intelligence transcended much of his deficiencies in formal *education. But his claims and his **character are fair game for biographers and historians to consider.

*(JS)"Don't employ lawyers, or pay them money for their knowledge, for I have learned that they don't know anything. I know more than they all." (D.H.C.. vol. 5. p. 467).

**(JS)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.(HofC. Vol 6. pp 408-,409.

**(JS)God made Aaron to be the mouth piece for the children of Israel, and He will make me be god to you in His stead, and the Elders to be mouth for me; and if you don't like it, you must lump it." HofC, vol. 6. pp. 319, 320

Scott Thormaehlen
Provo, UT

Your premise is grossly incorrect. It doesn't matter what was in Joseph Smith's mind...you have to compare what he recorded with what is in the Bible. If you record what others said with the Bible, you would have a very difficult time suggesting they were equally a prophet as Joseph Smith was. People die for all sorts of crazy reasons...not a good premise for your argument.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Joseph’s claim to be a prophet of God surpasses traditions of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli whose claims as leading figures of the Reformation were based on human reason. But what need is there for a theologian if you have a prophet delivering the word of God? Joseph Smith should be held to more exacting standards considering the audacity of his claims. There’s nothing unfair about that.

Scott Thormaehlen
Provo, UT

@Craig Clark, what claims are you referring to? Those recorded in the standard works?

Henry Drummond
San Jose, CA

I am not LDS but I find Joseph Smith to be a fascinating individual.

I have read both Dr. Bushman's "Rough Stone Rolling" as well as Professor Brodie's "No Man Knows My History." Some have dismissed Richard Bushman's work as nothing more than apologia from a believing Mormon. Likewise, others disdain Fawn Brodie's book as the disgruntled writings of a lapsed Mormon. Reading both books for their content rather than serving up polemical attacks on their respective authors is far more insightful. Both deserve respect for their scholarship.

Most Mormons tell me that their belief in Joseph Smith is based on faith, yet they insist that history empirically proves his prophetic claims. I've never understood that. It seems the focus of his life is artificially pushed into one of two camps - either he was a fraud or he wasn't. Wouldn't it be more insightful to simply agree that Joseph Smith believed in his prophetic calling and write a biography from that perspective?

Unfortunately I fear such a biography would only draw fire from those obsessed with "proving" or "disproving" faith while missing the magnificent life of a unique American.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Henry Drummond,

I concur with your views on Richard Bushman’s and Fawn Brodie’s biographies of Joseph Smith. Rough Stone Rolling is a remarkable achievement that can be held to rigorously high standards of scholarship with the author holding firm to his religious faith.

In my view, Fawn Brodie’s biography has been unjustly pilloried by faithful LDS since it was published. It’s clearly the work of a Mormon who has lost her faith but I found it sympathetic to Joseph on a human level. It remains the most influential and groundbreaking of the bios about Joseph Smith.


Twin Lights: How right you are!

The Scientist
Provo, UT

Shimlau wrote:

"Twin Lights: How right you are!"

Twin Lights: How wrong you are! How biased, closed-minded, and inconsiderate of others whose views do not exactly match your own.

Res Novae
Ashburn, VA

@The Scientist

Wow! Project much?

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