Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: Millions shall know Brother Joseph again’

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Published: Thursday, June 27 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

I agree both generally and specifically. We are too quick to want to destroy any hint of greatness by reveling in faults often no greater than our own. Further, we expect the great men and women of centuries or even millenia past to be modern in every way and do not comprehend how they could be both great and of their time.

Reference Joseph, the revelation that he was flawed should surprise no one. As Dr. Peterson notes, Joseph himself said so and there was only one faultless man to ever walk among us. And they crucified him.

One of the greatest lessons I ever learned was from Sister Marjorie Hinckley. When Pres. Hinckley was nearly 90 and had been prophet for a few years, a member of the first presidency for over a decade and an apostle for several decades - she noted how much he had changed in the past few years. I was stunned. Changed? He was already nearly perfect in my view. But this woman who had a front row seat to his life noted that with his new calling, he had grown. This gave me hope. If he could grow at nearly 90, so could I.

layton, UT

RE: Twin Lights, “Joseph himself said so and there was only one faultless man to ever walk among us. And they crucified him.”

Joseph,” 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”.(DHC v.6 p. 409.409).

Jesus did not sin.” He is the kind of high priest(Melchizedek) we need because he is holy and blameless, Unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven.(Heb 7:26 NLT).

…the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about, His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through “the Holy Spirit”. (Mt 1:18 NIV,ASV,ESV). A Unique miracle Jesus was Born sinless.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Intense scrutiny comes with the turf of notoriety. We don’t deny that Washington and Jefferson were slave owners. We deal with it in a context of our choosing.

Those who attack Joseph Smith with poisonous emotion weaken their assessment. So do apologists who gloss over blemishes of character and behavior to paint a rosy picture of the man millions see as a prophet of God. Questions about the credibility of his claims cannot and must not be danced around simply because he is a venerated figure for devout believers. Responsible biographers struggle to strike the right balance. Both Fawn Brodie and Richard Bushman know better than most that it’s not as easy as it sounds.

My boyhood regard for Joseph Smith approached near idolatry and the surreal. The image of his first vision instilled in me in Primary and Sunday School was the spine-tingling event of the latter days. It was painful for me in later years to face realistic facts that I still struggle to come to terms with.

sandy, ut

Are you sure Moroni visited Joseph? I thought it was Nephi...

Phoenix, AZ

It is interesting how such selective arguments could make Satan out to be a saint.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@Craig Clark

Excellent comment!

From what little I know it sounds like both Brodie and Bushman agree on the facts of Joseph’s life (Bushman apparently cites Brodie often in his biography); where they differ of course in on how to interpret those facts.

And while Bushman’s book has been hailed by the church, and heavily promoted by Deseret Book Store, the facts he and Fawn Brodie uncover are often very different from the white washed versions kids learn in Sunday School (e.g., only one “1st vision” account, etc…).

That may be an age appropriate way to teach kids about church history, but as you yourself testify, it doesn’t leave you on very solid ground when you begin to learn the whole truth as an adult.

I wonder if the church is rethinking their approach now that we are chin deep in the information age.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Tyler D,

"....That may be an age appropriate way to teach kids about church history, but as you yourself testify, it doesn’t leave you on very solid ground when you begin to learn the whole truth as an adult...."

Boyd K. Packer once took intellectual Mormon authors to task arguing that written history of the Church should be faith-promoting. I think that's an appropriate standard for the Sunday School manual, the Priesthood manual, and all the general instructional material the Church publishes. But academic history must adhere to a higher standard. That's where I have a real problem with Mormon apologists who want their work accepted as scholarship.

Portland, OR

It is hard to imagine that any human,tasked with providing all of humanity with a restored scripture, as they were in actual contact with the creator of the universe, be so undisciplined as to succumb to the urges of greed, power, and lust. Wouldn't the burden of saving all of humanity have some effect on the psyche of Joseph Smith?

There are and have been many, tasked with much, much less, who have lived exemplary lives. Some of them may be your neighbors, friends or family.

Mighty Mouse
Salt Lake City, Utah

It was no easier for those who lived in the days of Moses or Isaiah or Jeremiah or Jesus himself to believe in prophets. It has always been a challenge for some to exercise the faith necessary to believe that God condescends to reveal His mind and will to chosen mortals. For some it is easier to believe in the dead prophets than to accept that God speaks to one of their chosen contemporaries. Jesus Christ noted this when he said, as recorded in Luke 11:47, "...ye build the sepulchers of the prophets, and your father's killed them." As a flawed, mere mortal myself, it gives me great hope to know that we are that important in God's plan that He entrusts chosen vessels among us to give us the guidance we need for our day. And, if you think we need it less than those in ancient times, just read this newspaper.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

“I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been.”

Confessing to levity and associating with jovial company is not confessing to much. But it might have been centrally important to Joseph if he saw those traits as threatening and/or unbecoming to what he felt destined to be or believed himself called to be. I’ve sensed this in other places in the writings of Joseph Smith that suggest an ongoing inner conflict he often wrestled with.

Daniel Peterson argues that Joseph was basically a good man. I too think there was much good in him. But even the best of men can have a dark side that they don’t recognize as such.

Just a few random thoughts from a dime store psychologist.

Appleton, WI

Could Mr. Peterson please share his thoughts regarding Joseph's handling of the polygamy issue and his treatment of Emma?

Unwieldy Toaster
Bluffdale, UT

I would have liked to see mr Peterson address some of the polygamy issues where coercion and deceit were employed by Joseph. Or maybe even an honorable mention of treasure hunting.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

Mighty Mouse is correct.

I can just imagine the comments against the prophets and other leaders in their time:

Adam is insufficiently concerned with what his sons are doing.

Noah is just out there. All he ever talks about is a flood.

Abraham did not care about Hagar and Ishmael.

Jacob shows more affection for Rachael than his other wives.

Joseph talks big, shows a lack of respect to his elders, and is not above nasty tricks.

Moses is a murderer and is much too influenced by his Egyptian upbringing.

Daniel is too good for the rest of us.

Mordecai is not fully honest about his family lineage.

Isaiah lets his education show too much. He could use simpler language if he wanted to.

John the Baptist is just a showman with his camel hair clothing and eating locusts.

Peter is way too impetuous to be a leader.

James and John are social climbers. How can I follow them?

Paul appears mad to some people. Isn't that bad for the spreading of the gospel?

The list goes on and on . . .

Roanoke, VA

If those who dismiss the LDS Church because of questionable actions of the Prophet Joseph are consistent in their beliefs, they must also write off Judaism and non-LDS Christianity, as all the prophets from Moses on displayed questionable behavior at times. Indeed, did Joseph ever murder anyone? Those who embrace traditional Christian denominations, yet criticize Mormons and Joseph, are not being honest. The pot and black kettle thing. Therefore their opposition must be based on other factors.

And what exactly can we conclude from reports of Joseph's practice of polygamy? In 2013 we disagree over actions and motivations which are RECORDED for all to watch repeatedly ... and we still argue over what was said and meant. Yet we are expected to decide with 100% assurance what occurred in the 19th century, based upon faded letters and moth-eaten books?

I judge the BoM by its fruit. I see no bad fruit. I therefore take Joseph at his word as to its origin.

Richland, WA

The scripture produced by Joseph Smith is a monumental work that has inspired millions to look to Jesus Christ as their Savior and their God, Jehovah. The lives of the Latter-day Saints are full of unselfish service and moral living combined with outreach to the rest of mankind , inviting them to repent and be transformed and sanctified through the power.of Christ's atonement. Professor Truman Madsen saw Joseph Smith as a window through which we can better see the Savior.

None of Joseph's critics have ever produced writings as profound or moving, or as vivid in their testimony of the Savior, as the Book of Mormon and the Book of Moses. I personally think that at the core of Joseph's most vociferous critics is jealousy, their inability to be as charismatic as Joseph or inspire the kind of loyalty he inspired from so many good people even 170 years after his martyrdom. As with his contemporary, Abraham Lincoln, who was also murdered by his critics,Joseph was hated precisely because he was so effective in his mission.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO


"....I personally think that at the core of Joseph's most vociferous critics is jealousy, their inability to be as charismatic as Joseph or inspire the kind of loyalty he inspired from so many good people...."

Imaginative people who are born to lead and who display unconventional manners in making their mark often arouse gut level antipathy with the locals. Joseph may have erred on the side of the grandiose but he wasn’t afraid to make a big splash.

Anyone can claim to be a prophet and many who have done so throughout history failed to convince all but a handful of people seeking something to believe in. They are regarded as mad or as eccentrics who crave attention. But Joseph totally immersed himself in the role of prophet. He lived that role, he became that role. It’s not hard to see why many found him so believable.

layton, UT

@Twin Lights, I can just imagine the comments against the prophets and other leaders in their time?
God confirms them: Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.(Heb 11:7)
… Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God,(Heb 11: 9-10)
…by faith that Joseph..(Heb 11:22) by faith that Moses…kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.(Heb11:27)
..the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets…. They shut the mouths of lions(Daniel),… Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half(Isaiah) and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats(Elijah).Hebrews

That seer… his name shall be called Joseph[Smith], and it shall be after the name of his father. ( Genesis 50:33 JST)? JS Confirmation, NOT found in Greek LXX(Apostles Bible)

Herndon, VA

Joseph did not fall. He was just as great a prophet on the day he died as he was at 14 when he knelt in the sacred grove, or at 21 when the Angel Moroni delivered the plates to him.

The Lord himself said so:

"Joseph Smith, whom I did call upon by mine angels, my ministering servants, and by mine own voice out of the heavens, to bring forth my work;

"Which foundation he id lay, and was faithful; and I took him to myself."

Doctrine and Covenants 136: 37-38

The God that presides over this universe so declared it, and what is needed is for us to get in tune with Him, and we can have the same answers about the Prophet Joseph's diving calling and faithfulness to the end as anyone else who has lived in this generation.

If there is "reconciliation" that is needed, it is between us and God, not between the truth and the thoughts and ideas of mortal men.

Mansfield, TX

In typical apologist fashion, DCP is not telling the whole story. He writes:

But two following sentences are vitally relevant: "In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature."

Those two "vitally relevant" sentences were not written by Smith at all, but added by church scribes after his death. And the previous ones are heavily redacted. The original text reads:

"...I was left to all kinds of temptations, and mingled with all kinds of society. I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the corruption of human nature, which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, to the gratification of many appetites offensive in the sight of God. In consequence of these things I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections..."

The hagiographic portrayal of Joseph Smith reaches back to the earliest written histories of the church, and is now canonized in the Pearl of Great Price. In this article DCP pretends he is looking past such depictions to get to the truth, while it does the opposite.

Orem, UT

In all-too-typical critic fashion, Ishmael immediately jumps to lack of integrity as the explanation for his target's error or disagreement.

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