Defending the Faith: Joseph Smith's character

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  • Krystyl Orem, UT
    Feb. 8, 2013 12:25 p.m.

    There have been many comments made here about Joseph Smith, Temples, teachings, imperfections, etc. I am not a prominent person in the world, well versed in knowledge or history or politics or philosophy. I don't pretend to be perfect, or a perfect authority on experiences or rumors that people may know or hear. But I have read the Book of Mormon. I have studied the teachings of this church and have put them to the test by praying to God Himself about them and by living them. Because of these things, I know by the manifestation of the Spirit of the Lord and by the undeniable fact that this Gospel has brought me closer to God than anything else in this world that this Church is Jesus Christ's church, that Joseph Smith was called by God to be a Prophet, and yhat the Book of Mormon is the Word of God, and I cannot by any means deny the beautiful and sacred things that I have experienced.

  • John_ Boise, ID
    Feb. 4, 2013 11:52 a.m.

    I take it you haven't read Galatians recently; As Jesus says and Paul reiterates in Galatians and explains, Abraham wasn't under the Law of Moses but instead had the Gospel and the New Covenant.

    You do realize that the quote by Jesus is Jesus quoting Genesis 2:24?

    Clearly Lehi had received a command of the Lord in this regards. You still appear to be missing Jacob 2:30, odd that.

    I was already aware that bishops need to be married..

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Feb. 4, 2013 9:43 a.m.

    Bill in Nebraska,

    "The change to the Word of Wisdom and where it became even more of a commandment upon the saints was started by Brigham Young...."

    My great-grandmother was a family legend as a pioneer diarist whose account of the trek to Zion was published after she died. It wasn't until a year or so ago that genealogical research discovered that she was well known during her lifetime for smoking a corn cob pipe. That obscure detail evoked much laughter in my family when it came to light. Didn't wuite fit the image we had of her.

    Today, of course, the Word of Wisdom is a worthiness criterion for temple recommends and advancement in the priesthood. But it wasn't always so.

    Heber J. Grant is the Church figure most associated with the WOW policy we follow today. What many Mormons today don't know about Grant is that before he became Prophet, he was actively involved in the Prohibition cause in the early 1900s. The Church WOW policy of today came on the heels of that era. One can make what he will of that.

  • Jeremy Parker Petersburg, Alaska
    Feb. 3, 2013 10:32 a.m.

    Skeptic said "Few people will ever know the real history because it is kept secret within the inner circle of authority." So we may safely assume that you are then one within that inner circle? If not then your assertion is illogical.

  • Jeremy Parker Petersburg, Alaska
    Feb. 3, 2013 10:29 a.m.

    Hoost, the diagram you are looking for is to be found not in the character of man, but rather in the character of God. God sees the end from the beginning, therefore he can facilitate those ends by whatever means produce them. If a prophet produces them by his errors in addition to his successes, what do we care?

    When we sustain our prophet we don't sustain only his good decisions, because this isn't a secular command structure like state governments. We trust God with the protection of his own governance (the only government that can operate that way) such that we follow all the marching orders handed down by the prophet knowing that our successes and our failures may be equally consecrated to our success and that God will remove and hindrances from our path even if that be a David.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    Feb. 2, 2013 6:22 p.m.

    Brahmabull: The argument with the Word of Wisdom has been gone over and over between you and others. Since, you believe once a revelation is given then it can't be changed or modified. That in and of itself is not true. What is revealed to one prophet may not be the entire revelation. The change to the Word of Wisdom and where it became even more of a commandment upon the saints was started by Brigham Young. This was because some saints even though the revelation was given started setting up bars and saloons in the Salt Lake Valley. Brigham Young then directed the saints that if we were to be true to our word that all saints must adhere to the Word of Wisdom. The bars and saloons were closed and the saints unanimously accepted his statements. This called continuing revelation. It became part of the Temple questions in the 20th century. Remember it isn't the President of the Church stating the questions but JESUS CHRIST himself. He sets the questions. Now whether you want to believe that or not is really up to you. I know it to be true by direct revelation to me.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Feb. 2, 2013 3:43 p.m.

    (Jesus)For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’(Mt 19:5)

    To: John ,God actually directly commands such with Abraham, True but, Christians are under the New Covenant.

    Behold the Lamanites your brethren ,whom you hate because of the filthiness and cursing which hath come upon their skins ,are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father, that they should have save it One wife …(Jacob 3:5)
    A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach;(1Tim 3:2) v. 12Let the deacons be the husbands of One wife, ruling their children and their own houses well..

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    Feb. 2, 2013 3:00 p.m.

    There may be much contention for what is good or bad, myth or reality concerning Joseph Smith, but one certainty is that one of the largest and richest world organizations is promoting and perpetuating his legend as a saint; so will truth prevail against all odds and money. Few people will ever know the real history because it is kept secret within the inner circle of authority.

  • gcrobmd GADSDEN, AL
    Feb. 2, 2013 8:21 a.m.

    I agree with Bro. Peterson.

    How can we judge Joseph? Sometimes, my wife totally misinterprets my words, and she knows me better than anyone else. Likewise, I can misinterpret her words. If closest companions can misjudge now and then, how can we judge someone’s life from nearly two centuries ago?

    However, we can read the scriptures that Joseph gave the world. If you don’t accept God as their source, then they are certainly Joseph’s thoughts. His thoughts are sublime, tender, and empowering of individual worth. The breadth of Joseph’s thoughts and his knowledge of human character are miraculous given Joseph’s young age and backwoods upbringing. The amount that he wrote and its consistency show that his words weren't pretense. His thoughts sound like a loving father’s words to his children to ensure their happiness. Indeed, with study and time, one gains the knowledge that they are a loving Father’s words.

    Knowing this, everything else about Joseph’s past is insignificant, except that there is hope for all of us.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    Feb. 1, 2013 11:00 p.m.

    How Tornogal can read a column about Joseph Smith's flaws as an example of "Joseph Smith worship" eludes me.

    But I have to admit that many of the comments on Peterson's columns, week after week after week, seem very strange to me.

  • John_ Boise, ID
    Feb. 1, 2013 3:14 p.m.


    1. Jesus Christ drank wine. Clearly the Word of Wisdom isn't on the same level of commandment as "Thou Shalt Not Lie". In fact one might want to call it a principle with a promise or something similar, oh wait that is what is in the introductory verse, odd that. It was originally not given by way of commandment such that Joseph drinking at weddings, for instance, doesn't mean that he broke any commandments which he was under.

    2.What do you consider to be serious sin? I mean all sin is serious if it isn't repented of but I would consider serious sin to be something which would get one involved in a church disciplinary proceeding, which the word of wisdom does not generally do. Yes one can not go to the temple while breaking the word of wisdom but one will also not face disfellowship of excommunication for doing so.

    3. At least there aren't any "Great Disappointments" in Joseph Smiths revelations, as is common in many of the alternatives.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    Feb. 1, 2013 2:29 p.m.

    Tyler D. - Joseph Smith wasn't alive in the 18th century, he was born in the early 19th century (1805) so I assume that is what you meant. There were many, many religious fanatics at that time. I do agree with you that he was passionate and a great leader, and an interesting figure of the time - but I don't believe his claims.

    If Smith claimed that he was not guilty of any serious sin, and he did break the word of wisdom by drinking beer, then why is that considered a serious sin now? You can't go to the temple if you are breaking the word of wisdom.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Feb. 1, 2013 1:13 p.m.

    @Craig Clark – “I don’t think Mormonism is what Emerson had in mind…”

    Oh no doubt! And I think he would be appalled at the growing fundamentalism we see in America. Heck, even the Unitarians (as loosey goosey & doctrine-less as any religion) were too dogmatic for him.

    I see Emerson as a uniquely American version in a long tradition of spiritual teachers (Socrates, Jesus, Buddha, etc…) who emphasized the kingdom of God being within us, and to look elsewhere is distracting at best.

    Joseph on the other hand falls squarely in the tradition of dogma, doctrine, hierarchy, authority and above all the truth of an organization. In that sense the two could not be more different.

    Self Reliance to me holds the place as the greatest spiritual essay ever penned by an American, despite the fact that it has been wildly misunderstood (as something Ayn Rand would say).

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Feb. 1, 2013 11:57 a.m.

    Tyler D.

    "’s only fair that we compare/judge Smith against the standards and other men of his own time. He was arguably one of the two greatest spiritual men of the 18th century (the other being Emerson)...."

    Joseph Smith founded an American strain of Christianity in the era when Emerson was the strongest voice for America divorcing itself from European thought patterns to create something new. I don’t think Mormonism is what Emerson had in mind but there may be more of a historical corollary there than most people might readily appreciate.

  • John_ Boise, ID
    Feb. 1, 2013 11:54 a.m.

    Sharrona, if you could reference what you are quoting it might make more sense. Where is vs 30 from the Jacob passage you quoted? Also, I didn't mention David or Solomon but Abraham and Jacob, who God actually directly commands such with Abraham. God is moral and not amoral, therefore morality can not come from His holy nature as otherwise He could not be moral.

    hoost, considering as how Joseph also said that prophet is only a prophet when he is acting as such then obviously we are not expected to take his word as infallible, which if we were would lead to some problems as early teachings by Joseph were replaced by revelation from God. The member is referring to the notes of Official Declaration 1 where it is said that the Lord will not allow the prophet to lead the people astray but will remove them before that happens.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Feb. 1, 2013 11:32 a.m.

    “I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God.”

    He says he was not guilty of any great or malignant sin, then goes on to confess to “levity” and “associating with jovial company.” Conservatively, it’s a safe disclosure of flaws from a man who in 1838 as the object of much controversy took up the pen to write in defense of himself, a man who was increasingly mindful of his place in history and offering what a critic might call a non-confession confession. How much weight do we give it?

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Feb. 1, 2013 11:08 a.m.

    Regardless of what anyone thinks of Joseph Smith’s character, the relevant question to my mind is “does being a man of God necessarily equate to a superior morality?”

    And it’s only fair that we compare/judge Smith against the standards and other men of his own time. He was arguably one of the two greatest spiritual men of the 18th century (the other being Emerson), and he was also a leader of a large number of people (and claimed de facto powers as such in Nauvoo), so it is perhaps also apt to compare him with Lincoln.

    For me, he comes up short in these comparisons (especially during the Nauvoo times), however he still is a very charismatic and interest historical figure.

  • hoost Walnut Creek, CA
    Feb. 1, 2013 9:33 a.m.

    “I told them I was but a man and they must not expect me to be perfect...”

    However we must expect that when he says God has told him something his words are perfect? The fact that all LDS prophets are but human filters of divine teaching would naturally lead one to believe that the best we can hope to learn from them is a skewed view of God's will through a glass darkly. And yet these men (and only men) are currently in positions of status considered so sacred by the membership that they cannot ever apologize for mistakes lest they lose face, and they cannot be petitioned to change anything lest God's will appear to be steerable by man. It's all very frustrating.

    A dear LDS friend of mine once said, "I know that the prophets aren't perfect and sometimes they have made mistakes in the past, and even though the current prophet is also just a man I have faith that I can trust in everything he says because I also know he cannot lead us astray." Wha??? Is there a diagram somewhere that makes sense of statements like that?

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Jan. 31, 2013 5:34 p.m.

    RE: John, Abraham's and Isaac's polygamy or is it just Joseph's(character)…
    …David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, Which was abominable before me saith the Lord. “Wherefore my brethren hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines you shall have none. (Jacob 2:24,27)

    @Temple concern, Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days… But the temple he had spoken of was his Body. (John 2:19-21) Jesus is The Christian’s Temple.

    Ceremonial Law was fulfilled with the sacrifice by Jesus on the cross. e.g ...1. Sacrifice: from animal sacrifices to the body of Christ. 2. Place of worship: from the Temple to any place.

    But not the Moral Law which are." based on God's holy nature. Their purpose is to promote the welfare of those who obey. The value of the laws is obvious by reason and common sense. The moral law encompasses regulations on justice, respect, and sexual conduct(polygamy,adultery) and includes the Ten Commandments. It shows the fallen state off mankind.

  • Thinkman Provo, UT
    Jan. 31, 2013 4:57 p.m.


    You are correct that the LDS church's finances are audited every year.

    The LDS Church Auditing Committee audits thoses finances and each April General Conference I believe they say that everything was in order and the tithing and other donations given to the LDS Church were well taken care of and managed well.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    Jan. 31, 2013 4:18 p.m.

    Joseph Smith's character is more and more questionable the more you dig into his history.

  • John_ Boise, ID
    Jan. 31, 2013 1:50 p.m.


    An article that admits that Joseph had a great number of faults borders on Joseph Smith worshiping? So we should accept slanderous claims against Joseph as fact and claim that is unbiased?

    Are you just as concerned about Abraham's and Isaac's polygamy or is it just Joseph's that bothers you?

    Chris B,

    Everything in the temple can be found in explicit detail in print, audio, and video online so I don't know what you think is secret. That said (since those aren't from the church), everything can be found in great detail in scripture, primarily the Bible, so I still don't know what the concern is.

  • Chris B Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 31, 2013 12:49 p.m.


    Unfortunately you cannot hide behind the "sacred" term and pretend your religion isn't secretive. Wouldnt you consider your baptisms "sacred"? And yet, in great detail and with even pictures your missionaries show exactly how that is done to people.

    Why not the same with your temple? Just tell everyone exactly what you, just like you do for your baptisms.

    Would you be ok if our government never gave any detail on where it spend its money. And similar to your example, once it is given(willingly or not) to the government, it is THEIR money.

    And yet I bet you want some accountability and transparency.

    Mormons pick and choose what parts of their religion they want to share with everyone(Even those who dont want to hear) but then when someone does want more information, they hide all the things that wouldnt be seen as normal.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    Jan. 31, 2013 12:22 p.m.

    If you were to ask the following questions can be answered.

    In the temple we do baptisms for the dead. Seal families together for time and all eternity, never breaking the family apart. We take upon ourselves SACRED Covenants that if followed will bless our lives forever.

    Our finances are audited twice annually. The Bishop/Branch President is responsible for every expense in their respected units. There are checklists that are followed to ensure that all funds are expended according to church guidelines. Tithing and other offerings are transferred to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints headquarters in Salt Lake City. Every year in the April General Conference the auditing department reports on the finances of the LDS Church. I don't have to tell you how I spend my money nor does anyone have to tell me how I spend mine. When a person gives that money to a representative of the Bishopric or Branch Presidency it is NO LONGER THEIR MONEY. It becomes the LDS Church's money to do with the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth today.

  • Tornogal LITTLE ROCK, AR
    Jan. 31, 2013 12:14 p.m.

    This fascinates me: "'I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God.' Nonetheless, he declared, he wasn’t guilty of “any great or malignant sins,' since 'a disposition to commit such was never in my nature," as written in his personal history."

    How does Brother Peterson reconcile that with Joseph's polygamy and polyandry? How does he reconcile it with his "glass looking" for money with his neighbors?

    Non-Mormons are interested in Mormonism, but articles like this diminish that interest through what appears to be "Joseph Smith worship."

  • Chris B Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 31, 2013 11:29 a.m.

    Mormons would be more accepted if they would be transparent, as we demand from those who govern us. The government owes it to us to be completely transparent(some extreme exceptions related to nationsl security apply)

    If the Mormons would acknowledge what they do in their temples, openly discuss things past Prophets have said, and be open what their finances they would be more accepted as a positive contribution to society. Or at least a group that society could then make a decision about.

    Its impossible to make a decision about a group that hides much of who they are, other than to decide they are secretive.