the thinker

Joseph Smith's Character

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“I have taken the severest chastisement that I have ever had in my life. As I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel met me, and said that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the Record to be brought forth.”

- Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., Joseph the Prophet, by Lucy Smith, p. 99

“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.”

- Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., referring to his sexual struggles, “History of Joseph Smith,” Times and Seasons, v. 3, p. 749, April 1, 1842

“He [Joseph Smith, Jr.] was a likely young man & at that time did not Profess religion he was not a Profain man although I did once in a while hear him Swair he never gambled to my knowledge.... I well know he was no Horse Jocky for he was no Judge of Horses I sold him one that is old.... I never new him to git drunk I believe he would now and then take a sip.... I state this for fact that any thing from what I have said about Joseph Smith that is wors than I say is fals & untru.”

- Josiah Stowell, Stowell to J.S. Fullmer, February 17, 1843, original in LDS Archives; see Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, 1994, p. 17

“... because he [Joseph Smith, Jr.] was a minor... they hoped he might reform [and] he was allowed to escape [jail].”

- W.D. Purple, Chenango Union, NY, May 3, 1877; Latter-day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, October 1835, p. 201

“I do not consider that the church was any more organized or established in the eyes of God on that day [April 6, 1830] than it was previous to that day. I consider that on that day the first error was introduced into the Church of Christ, and that error was Brother Joseph being ordained as ‘Prophet, Seer, and Revelator' to the church.”

- High Priest David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses, An Address to all Believers in Christ, p. 33

“[Joseph said] ‘God does not care if we have a good time, if only other people do not know it'…. If any woman, like me, opposed his wishes, he used to say: ‘Be silent, or I shall ruin your character.'”

- Sarah Pratt, in Wyl, Mormon Portraits, p. 62

“[Joseph] acquired knowledge very rapidly, and learned with special facility all the tricks of the scoundrels who worked in his company.... He learned by heart a number of Latin, Greek and French commonplace phrases, to use them in his speeches and sermons.... Joseph kept a learned Jew in his house for a long time for the purpose of studying Hebrew with him.... I taught him the first rules of English Grammar in Kirtland in 1834. He learned rapidly.”

- C.G. Webb, quoted in W. Wyl, Mormon Portraits, 1886, p. 25

“In the first place, most of the [Mormonism Unvailed] statements were sworn to before judges or justices of the peace. Furthermore, one could perhaps understand why the signers might harshly magnify any earlier idiosyncrasies that Joseph Smith and his family had displayed, but one wonders what they would gain by signing completely false and therefore easily disprovable statements. It is possible that Hurlbut [compiler of affidavits] might have helped to draft some of the statements, but the content of those statements must have met with the approval of the signers. In the second place, Hurlbut did not collect the statements from Joseph's in-laws and acquaintances in the Harmony, Pennsylvania, area. These statements were first published in the May 1, 1834, Susquehanna Register, and subsequently republished by How in Mormonism Unvailed. The statement that Joseph's father-in-law, Isaac Hale, made is particularly important because it deals with several significant events leading up to the production of the Book of Mormon. If all of this testimony were part of a conspiracy to discredit Joseph, it is remarkable that so many people were in on it. The conspiracy would have had to encompass not only those living in the Palmyra-Manchester area, but also the Harmony, Pennsylvania, area.”

- David Persuitte, Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon, p. 34

“28th June 1830 Joseph Smith father of the Defendant appeared and the Case was called and the plaintif[f] declared for a note and account Note dated 7th April 1830 for $20.07 on Interest and on account for Shoeing horses of balance due on account $0.69 Joseph Smith sworn and saith that his Son the Defendant engaged him to Come down at the return of the summons and direct the Justice to enter Judgment against the defendant for the amount of the note & account Judgment for the plaintif for twenty one dollars seven cents $21.07.”

- Nathan Pierce Docket Book, Manchester Town Office; see Abanes, One Nation Under Gods, pp. 135-136

"Joseph never said many words upon any subject but always seemed to reflect more deeply than common persons of his age upon everything of a religious nature."

- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary manuscript of Biographical Sketches, p. 46, quote not in book; see Marquardt and Walters, Inventing Mormonism, p. 55

"... Joseph was less inclined to the study of books than any child we had but much more given to reflection and deep study."

- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary manuscript of Biographical Sketches, p. 49, quote found in Biographical Sketches on page 84

“The source of his [Joseph's] power lay not in his doctrine but in his person, and the rare quality of his genius was not due to his reason but to his imagination. He was a mythmaker of prodigious talent. And after a hundred years the myths he created are still an energizing force in the lives of a million followers. The moving power of Mormonism was a fable – one that few converts stopped to question, for its meaning seemed profound and its inspiration was contagious.”

- Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History, p. ix

“He [Joseph Smith, Jr.} talked incessantly about himself, what he had done and could do more than other mortals, and remarked that he was a ‘giant, physically and mentally.' In fact, he seemed to forget that he was a man. I did not change my opinion about him, but suppose he has some good traits.”

- Charlotte Haven, “A Girl's Letters From Nauvoo,” Overland Monthly (San Francisco), v. 16 (Dec. 1890), pp. 616-638