Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: 2 legal tests of Joseph Smith's integrity’

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Published: Thursday, Aug. 14 2014 7:00 a.m. MDT

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Murray, UT

This defense may very well be legitimate and Joseph's conviction was discharged at a later point. The premise of mormonism remains incredible though - a God capable of intervention withheld aid (or record thereof) for a hundred thousand while humans lived short, violent lives until the occasional prophet who was met with wide rejection. The revelation given to the prophets was not in relation to scientific advances that could have led to a more comfortable and receptive audience, but rather he gave hints about sending Jesus who would inevitably be killed for our sins committed in ignorance. He established a church, then due to it's fragility the truth was lost and God again waited 1800 years (?!) in order to call a young man who had been accused of disorderly conduct for claiming, like many others, to find native american treasure on gullible landowners property. But the charge is now "widely" considered as discharged... ok folks

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Latter-day Saint faith need not be contingent on the character of Joseph Smith.


Thanks for bringing to our attention the scholarly work that provides a more complete picture of the character of Joseph Smith, Dr. Peterson.

@slcdensizen - it's one thing to make assumptions about how God should have dealt with humans, or about how you or I might behave if we were God. Unfortunately, taking that tack presumes one to be more wise than God, or to have greater knowledge or better character. Each of your objections can be easily answered, but that is not the pivotal question nor a fruitful path in making a personal determination of whether God is real or whether Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet. The direct approach is what God recommends, and I expect there is no other way to discover God unless and until he might suggest some other method (e.g. logical argument or scientific discovery) given that he is omniscient and omnipotent and we are not. Of course life seems easier if one can but rationalize away God's existence; however, my experience is that life is more joyful and purposeful if one makes the attempt to live by God's commandments.

george of the jungle
goshen, UT

There is a lot that said about him. but the fact is: LDS people are kind.


If one begins from the premise that God could "fix" all mankind's problems despite their agency to act contrary to his will, and scientifically bring them, without any suffering, through a temporal existence, and that the only existence that existed or at least mattered was this current mortal one, I suppose "slcdenizen's" skepticism might be justified.

However, his construct does not represent the only logical possibility. Let me offer another:

We came here from an earlier existence, having received instruction about where we were going, and voluntarily chose to enter a time of testing in order to prize the good. Provision was made to redeem us from the effects of wrong choices, if we wanted it, so that we could return to the presence of the wise God, who made the plan, with newly acquired skills, to enable us to experience the profound life that he lives. God has provided revelation so that we might learn and follow that plan.

I learn more by opposition and trials than when life floats along without significant opposition. From this framework,Joseph Smith's revelations and teachings shine brightly indeed.

Bountiful Guy
Bountiful, UT


Respectfully, your spin is more incredible than what you label 'incredible'. I know of no religion that claims God offered no intervention or aid or record for 1800 years. Where did you get that story? And since when did God insist that the things he does are accompanied by scientific advances to corroborate his dealings with men? And what religion teaches that Jesus was killed for our sins committed in ignorance? And who insisted that God had to choose someone accused of disorderly conduct to be prophet? Perhaps you have proof that the landowners are gullible people. Or could it be that you label people in order to draw emotion to your story. My, how your imagination doth soar.

Durham, NC

I understand that Mormonism hangs on the truthfulness of the Joseph Smith story - I would surely hope it isn't dependent on a "perfect" Joseph Smith, not the perfection of any of its leaders.

If the disciples who walked with Jesus had issues with faith from time to time - how is it we expect our own leaders to be any less human. I would hope our faith is not dependent on the perfection of our leaders past or present, but rather the divinity of their message. These two are in fact entirely different things.

I think a much stronger narrative is how our leaders were able to do what they did, despite being quite human - rather than some idealized version of history that seems most unobtainable or replaceable by those living today.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

Harold Bloom has called Joseph Smith an "authentic religious genius" (he has also said America has produced only two, the other being Emerson), and a person whose "religion-making imagination" is, in Bloom's opinion, unsurpassed in American history.

I have also seen quotes from early followers saying Joseph was the smartest man they ever knew, which sort of belies the whole “ignorant farm boy” narrative.

Curious – does anyone have any recommendations on good (i.e., objective) biographies on Joseph, if there is such a thing? No doubt there are scores of “faith promoting” or anti-Mormon screeds.

Murray, UT


"Unfortunately, taking that tack presumes one to be more wise than God, or to have greater knowledge or better character"

Not smarter than God, just smarter than my fellow humans who perpetuate myths.

@Bountiful Guy

"Where did you get that story?"

The great apostasy was characterized by the absence of the fullness of the gospel. Joseph Smith was worthy enough to restore it, indicating there was 1800 years of men and women unworthy of what Joseph Smith, convicted of disorderly conduct, was. If that is easily digested, then the rantings of Warren Jeffs or Jim Jones should not have been so easily dismissed.

Murray, UT

@Tyler D

No Man knows my History by Fawn M Brodie.

water rocket
Magna, UT

There have always been builders and tear downers (termites). Even Jesus Christ had detractors who were jealous of his ability to attract followers. The scriptures give one very simple test, and that is: "By their fruits ye shall know them." Their are countless millions who have been blessed by the doctrines of Jesus Christ, as revealed to us directly or through His prophets, it is the same. Since Joseph Smith's detractors (termites) can't tear down the teachings of either Jesus Christ or Joseph Smith (because they are the same) then they try to discredit the messenger. Good luck with that, because all you are doing is destructive in intent, and we all know who the author of that doctrine is, don't we?

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Tyler D,

"....does anyone have any recommendations on good (i.e., objective) biographies on Joseph, if there is such a thing?...."

At the risk of stirring up a hornet's nest, I second slcdenizen's recommendation of Brodie's No Man Knows My History. It is the landmark biography of Joseph Smith that changed the landscape of study on his life. It's a good place to start.

Donna Hill's Joseph Smith, the First Mormon and Richard Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling are also excellent studies.

Utes Fan
Salt Lake City, UT

@Tyler D

"Curious – does anyone have any recommendations on good (i.e., objective) biographies on Joseph, if there is such a thing? No doubt there are scores of “faith promoting” or anti-Mormon screeds."

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman

John Locke
Ivins, , UT

If you have studied (not just read) the scriptures, particularly the Old Testament, it humanizes the prophets of God in many ways. Even those who were truly on the side of the Lord and to whom he spoke (as the scriptures describe, may have made a mistake or two in their lives. They were not perfect. They had been called by the Lord to those positions. Joseph Smith was not perfect; he was called to be a prophet in this dispensation, the latter-days, spoken of by Isaiah. If he had been portrayed as such, he would not have had the credibility he needed to be a prophet, in my mind. Only God and his Son, Jesus Christ are perfect.

If you are going to read Fawn Brodie's biased history, or Bushman's "Rough Rolling Stone," (I have read both. Brodie comes to her conclusions without any real evidence) among other historians, then read the Book of Mormon to see the other side (with a true desire to seek the truth). At least be the fair people you all seem to be. Look at both sides if you really want the truth. But, do you really?

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

The faith of a people is based on what they believe to be true even if parts of it are untrue. The LDS religion is a strong and vibrant faith. To believing Mormons, that’s evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet. ‘By their fruits, ye shall know them’ is the test they cite.

That the Book of Mormon was transcribed from writings on gold plates can’t be verified any more than it can be proven that Moses received the law engraved on stone tablets by the finger of God, that Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee, or that Mohammed rode up into heaven on the back of his horse. But the human need to believe in such miraculous events as literal happenings is strong enough to make them believe that it was so.

Woods Cross, UT


Wow! Your incredible insights have caused me to become an atheist! Because if God were real we would all have easy comfortable lives. Food would just grow unhindered. God would have created the Earth with completed, furnished homes. Work would be unnecessary. Our bodies wouldn't require exercise. Healthcare wouldn't be free, because it would be unnecessary with no illness. Adam and Eve would have enjoyed central air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and online banking. It would have been great - because after all the Christian position is that the purpose of this life is that it is easy, right?

Bountiful Guy
Bountiful, UT

It's interesting that several have recommended No Man knows my History by Fawn M Brodie as a fair and unbiased book about Joseph Smith. I seem to recall that she claimed that Joseph Smith fathered 11 children that were not Emma's. And over the last years, DNA testing of the descendants of those purported sons proved that Joseph was not the father in every single case. So relying on her book for fairness doesn't seem credible. And to say that there was no bias is equally incredible. Someone above said that she offers no proof, only assertions. That's a pretty fair assessment of her book. But it feeds those who are not interested in facts. I also like how, in contrast to such books, The Joseph Smith Papers examines every document that has been found. They put all the documents out there for people to study and assess. What a great program, in my view. I enjoy studying documents, so I'm glad to have access to them.

Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

"...personal character is crucial to the credibility of his prophetic claims..."

This simply is another attempt to try and establish legitimacy by injecting faulty reasoning in a positive sense. If this is the standard by which we use to establish prophetic credibility, then why not take seriously other self-professed prophets throughout the world who also have strong personal character and integrity?

William Branham comes to mind...he was a deeply respected American Christian minister who asserts that on May 7, 1946, an angel appeared to him calling him "to take a gift of divine healing to the peoples of the world." There are upwards of 2 million followers worldwide of Branham and his prophetic messages.

Branham, Smith, and many others for that matter, have followers who can attest to the personal character of their prophets, but such good character can't reasonably establish the credibility of their prophetic claims if those claims are in diametric opposition.

It's this type of irrelevant appeal to character as a defining criterion for truth that draws attention away from testing the validity of an actual claim.


The terms "ignorant" and "intelligent" address different aspects. One can be highly intelligent (or "clever") and yet ignorant. It is also possible for one to be very well informed yet unintelligent (as in "educated beyond one's intelligence"). The claim that Joseph Smith was originally an ignorant farm boy is reasonable given his lack of access to formal and informal education. The claim that he was a genius is also reasonable given his accomplishments.

The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was not held up until one "worthy enough" should show up on the scene, and that has never been a claim of the restored church. Countless "worthy" people and events prepared the world for the restoration of truth over a period of hundreds of years. The reason is that many people don't really want truth, some to the point that they will go out of their way to attempt to suppress it; it was God's intention to establish His Church one final time in such circumstances that it could not be overpowered or extinguished by those who dislike truth as it had been numerous times throughout human history.

Salt Lake City, UT

@John Locke
" At least be the fair people you all seem to be. Look at both sides if you really want the truth. But, do you really?"

Speaking of fairness, is it possible to you that someone who actively seeks the truth can honestly come to a conclusion different then the one you did on the matter?

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