Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: Four testimonials of the Prophet Joseph Smith’

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Published: Thursday, April 10 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

"It seems obvious to me that, when evaluating Joseph Smith, the judgments of contemporaries who knew him best ought to be given special emphasis."

If Peterson is going to travel down this road, perhaps the judgments of contemporaries who knew James Strang "ought to be given special emphasis" regarding Strang's claim as the sole legitimate leader of the Church after the death of Joseph Smith.

Followers of Strang make a similar argument that Peterson makes about Smith. Strang was allegedly "supported by all of the family of Joseph Smith. He was joined by the mother, wife, and three sisters of Joseph Smith. He was sustained by the only surviving brother of Joseph Smith, and his brothers-in-law. He was believed by all of the living Book of Mormon witnesses, except one who was no longer a member of the church."

I don't see Strang's followers trumping Smiths, but it certainly can be reduced to a silly debate about how my contemporaries should be given more "special emphasis" than yours...as if this somehow adds more credibility to a claim...so why even bring it up?

Mountanman
Hayden, ID

Yet another excellent article by Dr. Peterson. Thank you!

eastcoastcoug
Danbury, CT

The research of the past decade or so has certainly yielded a lot of great information about Joseph Smith and early church history. Along with it, there are many legitimate issues as well as distractions that often make it difficult to discern what really happened.

For me, I feel the content of the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price are more significant and impactful than how they were translated. It would all be supernatural - whether Joseph Smith looked through ancient eyepieces or looked into a hat or saw writing in the sky. For me the result (the content) and what it does for my understanding of the world, for my faith, my ability to see others as spirit children of a living God, that is what matters.

As for the recent writings on the character of these people, it's great to have and I enjoy reading. I had many ancestors who were there and chose to sustain Joseph and Brigham as prophets. That carries a lot of weight for me. Who am I to say I'm smarter than they were, with what little I have to go on as physical evidence or character witnesses?

eastcoastcoug
Danbury, CT

WSU Grad,

So let's go with your assumption here about Strang and his contemporaries. Since most of the Smith family and others you mentioned disavowed Strang before his death, that would seem to support Peterson's contention of going with "the judgment of contemporaries".

Strang joined the LDS church just a few months before Joseph's murder. He was not already an Apostle or leader of any sort. His claim to the presidency rested on a letter that he claimed to have received from Joseph before Joseph's death. A letter some experts say has a forged signature.

When you die, would you want your legacy represented by those who know you best, or those who do not??

Verdad
Orem, UT

I'm not sure that I see your point, Weber State Graduate.

Are you really prepared to argue that, in judging the character of historical people, the evidence of those who knew them shouldn't be given any more attention than the opinions of those who didn't know them at all?

Peterson didn't say that no other evidence should be taken into account, nor that the testimonies of acquaintances should trump everything else, but surely it's reasonable to pay special attention to what's said by those who were in the best position to know somebody at first hand.

And, finally, Peterson has already written here about James J. Strang and his witnesses. I Googled it to be sure: He did a column about Strang on June 9, 2011. Look for "Deseret News Peterson James Strang." (I'm apparently not allowed to give the link here.)

Bob A. Bohey
Marlborough, MA

It appears that the writer of the article proposes that people who spoke/speak in a positive way about J.S. should be taken more seriously than those who do not. Interesting.

1.96 Standard Deviations
OREM, UT

Weber State Graduate:

Daniel Peterson wrote an article about James Strang on June 9, 2011 for DN. It is entitled, "Defending the Faith: The story behind James Strang and his sect." Do a search on DN and check it out for yourself. In summary, James Strang's close associates essentially called him a fraud and denied their testimonies. Later, James Strang was killed in 1856 by some of his own disaffected followers.

Can you tell me of any legitimate fruits of James Strang that indicate he was to preside over the church after Joseph Smith died? What is his legacy?

Moontan
Roanoke, VA

@ Mr Bohey ... In your personal life, who's testimony is apt to be more accurate - those who speak well of you, or those who speak ill?

This isn't to suggest our critics don't have truthful things to say, but I do believe, on the whole, a positive outlook is never as tainted as a negative one.

RockOn
Spanish Fork, UT

Nice article, Dan. And Bob, you are right. They should be taken more seriously.

fboy
Bountiful, UT

1.96

"James Strang's close associates essentially called him a fraud and denied their testimonies. Later, James Strang was killed in 1856 by some of his own disaffected followers."

Isn't that pretty much exactly what happened to Joseph Smith as well?

Steve C. Warren
WEST VALLEY CITY, UT

Although there is an excellent chance that Brigham Young on his deathbed was referring to Joseph Smith when he said "Joseph, Joseph, Joseph," there's also an excellent chance that he was referring to his son Joseph, who had died in August 1875. Joseph Young was the first male child of Brigham Young, who likely was strongly affected by his son's unexpected death.

Brigham loved Joseph Smith, but let's not automatically assume that in passing from this life he was being greeted by Joseph Smith rather than his own son.

Church member
North Salt Lake, UT

I agree with Bob A. Bohey

The church wants you to believe everything that was said that is positive about Joseph. And they want you to not believe anything that was said that makes him look bad. No surprise.

Church member
North Salt Lake, UT

To: Moontan

You make some interesting points. Those closest to Warren Jeffs have very positive things to say about him. They even know that he is a prophet of God. Should we believe them as well? How do we tell the difference between all the people who proclaim to be prophets?

Verdad
Orem, UT

Bob A. Bohey and "Church member":

Peterson wrote that special emphasis should be given to the testimonies of those who knew a person best. This seems to be a reasonable historical principle. He said nothing about rejecting negative comments and paying attention only to positive testimonials.

Ghostleigh
Chandler, AZ

I don't believe Joseph Smith was murdered by "some of his own disaffected followers" as fboy has queried.

1aggie
SALT LAKE CITY, UT

I think a person's deeds should carry more weight than what his friends say. And in eveluating a person's deeds, all (un-whitewashed) information should be considered. Sources that attempt to obfuscate or cherry-pick facts should be discounted when weighing conflicting information regarding a person's deeds.

1aggie
SALT LAKE CITY, UT

When evaluating testimonials as a form of judging character, we should remember that Goebbels, Goering, Himmler, and Hess has great things to say about you know who.

Brahmabull
sandy, ut

eastcoastcoug

"When you die, would you want your legacy represented by those who know you best, or those who do not??"

Perhaps those who don't know him best can give a more accurate and unbiased view of the true character of the person and the events surrounding them.

Moontan
Roanoke, VA

@Church Member: Good question. I'd side with a preponderance of the evidence, and toss in a healthy dose of 'follow my heart' and enough intellect to check any and all excess. Then I'd move through life content that my decision was upright if not all right, reminding myself now and again that I'll never have all the answers this side of eternity.

Bob A. Bohey
Marlborough, MA

@Verdad "Peterson wrote that special emphasis should be given to the testimonies of those who knew a person best. This seems to be a reasonable historical principle. He said nothing about rejecting negative comments and paying attention only to positive testimonials"

Church member summed it up nicely for me: "Those closest to Warren Jeffs have very positive things to say about him. They even know that he is a prophet of God. Should we believe them as well? How do we tell the difference between all the people who proclaim to be prophets?"

Now your comments leave the impression that you are somewhat intelligent and if that is the case am I to believe that you didn't comprehend that the writers intent was to persuade the readers that the positive accounts of J.S. should be taken more seriously than the negative? Shame on you.

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