Who Was Joseph Smith?


An eloquent huckster. A spiritual version of a snake-oil salesman.


An adult convert to the LDS church in my family once thought I needed explanation of who Joseph Smith was. You see, “everything I hear or read about Mormonism is a lie”… um, I worked on digitizing documents from the time, including narratives and newspaper accounts of the Mormons.

Since this family member converted and gave me his testimony (I told him the Holy Spirit confirmed I should be Christian) I make it my business to read as much as I can about the religion so I can understand, as a family member.

Anyway, he told me Smith was “like the Pope.” His impressionable preteen daughter was there so I didn’t get into a big explanation. I just said “Not exactly,” and started to clear the table. Actually, I was speechless! I literally had to bite my tongue. If we’d been alone I would have started with the fact that Smith founded the religion and Jesus Christ founded Catholicism. I would have pointed out that the Pope is alive. There are many other things I would have said. But let’s leave it at, an adult member of the LDS church who has been a member since the late 1980s wanted to tell me that Joseph Smith was “like the Pope.”

I understand he was a charlatan and a fraud who used to do dowsing and used “seeker stones”, dictated the Book of Mormon into his hat from behind a curtain, supposedly prohibited the use of tobacco because his wife didn’t like the men spitting on the floor, and various other things. I prefer to read about him through sites like Catholic.com because I know serious scholars are at work here.


JSJ was a fraud, or perhaps deluded by demons. The guy was a fraud born to parents who were frauds. He was brought of scrying charges as a glass looker. He tried to murder a governor and was on the lam when he got what he deserved. He was wanted for treason against the US and treason against the state of Missouri and violated the civil rights of persons, The guy got a punishment he richly deserved. He even escaped jail and was on the lam when he was shot by some goodly citizens.


He was in Carthage jail when he got shot. He was not on the lam. The mob stormed the jail and there was an exchange of gunfire. Joseph and his brother had a couple of smuggled guns on them and fought back. He was not a martyr. Two of the mob were allegedly killed and another injured. Joseph fell to his death from the cell window.

I would not exactly call them “goodly citizens”. They were angry citizens. They had good reason to be angry. But I don’t celebrate the killing of anyone. God says “thou shalt not kill” and I actually believe that. God gives life and he takes it away. Just my opinion, though.


One of the LDS I spoke to, a descendant of Joseph Smith, got mad as heck when anyone challenged the validity of those plates. In his eyes, JS could do no wrong.


His decedants are few and far between. I would love to seen their face!


Same here. He also spoke of a journal that another of his family members kept. Honestly, he feels Joseph Smith hung the moon. :roll_eyes:


2 & 3 and a polygamist


I meant that he had escaped from the Missouri jail while on a treason charge and murder of the governor prior and was on the lam prior to being picked up on another separate treason charge.

Thou shalt not kill ? Did not Gd send the Israelites to kill their opponents in the Land of Milk and Honey? Or stoning people for adultery (talk about lynching … LOL)

The fact is you are engaging in anachronistic sillyness. Even the Papal States had an executioner at the time when JSJ cooked … right now he is being poked and prodded by tridents I am sure.


Yes he did. Did God send the mob to kill Joseph Smith?

I’m not Catholic but I wonder what the position of the Catholic Church would be regarding mobs descending upon prisons to kill the prisoners.


Did you read what I wrote… go read it again… and if you did not get it read it carefully one more time, There is key to unlocking the underlying understanding … hint ANACHRONISM get it now?

JSJ while he was in jail was still on the lam from Missouri from where he had escaped. The fact that the JSJ and HS had firearms on their person is good enough reason that they may have planned an escape, after all he had done that before. Also he had conspired to murder a governor. Sometimes mob justice, is justice after all especially at the time. The mob believed that JSJ was going to escape.

In the past, people received the death penalty for theft, he got the death penalty. That was justice for the time. I have no problem with that in a historical sense.


Yes, I read what you wrote.

So, did God order the mob to kill Joseph Smith?

What would the position of the Catholic Church be to a mob descending upon a prison to kill prisoners?


No. But they did serve justice nevertheless. You are attempting to judge those persons by our standards of justice. Remember cattle rustlers were lynched rather quickly when they were apprehended. This is the milieu in which this action takes place. JSJ did more than rustle cattle, he swindled many persons of money with his banking scheme. He was wanted dead or alive in Missouri for attempting to murder the governor and treason anyway. So he broke out of jail and skipped the state. The goodly citizens were afraid that he might do this again. His co-religionists smuggled in weapons into the jail cell. People has enough of the two scammers and served justice.


I was a Mormon for several decades. I know the history. I understand why anyone would be furious with Joseph Smith. You don’t need to justify yours or anyone else’s feelings. I get it.

Thank you for answering my question. Since God did not command it, then we can dismiss your comparisons to the God of the Old Testament as not applicable.

You didn’t answer my question about the Catholic Church so I will. Jesus told us to minister to the people in prison, not kill them. I believe that’s what the Catholic Church does. Please correct me if I’m wrong. You call it silliness. I call it just trying to follow the counsel of Jesus. I don’t think the traditions of 1844 or of 2017 trump His words. But like I said, this is just my opinion.


Here’s a good Mormon debunking site for everyone: https://cesletter.org/index.html


The Catholic Church has always held that there is a prudential judgement involved on the issue of the death penalty and how it is applied. The state has a right to impose the death penalty for certain crimes, again, this involves prudential judgement. When Christ sent out his apostles out and when they had to cross bandit territory he instructed them to have with them a sword and it was not for chopping carrots.

There is always a place for the death penalty to be applied in accordance with the prudential judgement of the state. Of course, we do not want summary execution by a mob, but sometimes there are evil people and some of them are heinous that righteous and just men may exact their own justice.

When you say

you commit the fallacy called presentism. Human history occurs within a milieu. Cattle rustling was a hanging crime, today it is not. You are applying the rules of today to sometime in the past. You are attempting to judge behavior by today’s standards.

So for example a foreign national say from Somalia commits kills three people. I would not think twice about sentencing the person to death. However, if it was an American citizen or a Spanish citizen I would leave that to the prudential judgement of those concerned. The reason is simple, Somalia refuses to take its citizens back. So we do not want the person running around a country he is a visitor in so execute him. But this again is an exercise of prudential judgement.

While recent popes have expressed opinions that alternatives to the death penalty are preferable, it would be doctrinally unsound if they should declare that the death penalty is morally evil, it is not.


What does the death penalty have to do with this? I said nothing about the death penalty. I asked what the position of the Catholic Church would be concerning mobs descending on jails to kill its prisoners. So are you suggesting that in 1844 it would have been acceptable then to the Catholic Church? I’m satisfied with whatever you answer, yes or no.


I read that a couple of years ago. I also read FAIR’s reply, which was quite pathetic.


That would only be presentism if God’s laws changed. Are you suggesting that they are different today than back then?


Not even in 1844. For goodness sake, the British Parliament passed the Riot Act in 1714, and in the US the Section 3 basically recreated the Riot Act at the Federal level all the way back in 1792. It has not been okay for a mob to break in anywhere for a very long time.

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