A few weeks ago I was drawn into a conversation on Facebook by a former High School classmate about our prophet Joseph Smith, Jr.. An estranged member of my church at an early age, she happened to be reading a “very scary and fascinating book” [her words] known to be highly critical of Joseph Smith and the LDS Church in general. Admirably, she reached out to her “Mormon friends” to weigh in on the criticisms and rather shocking claims raised in the book.
I researched her concerns carefully in order to respond respectfully & accurately. I provided not only my personal thoughts but also the official LDS stance. I learned more about the book in question; written by a novelist with no experience with and limited knowledge of my church. I read critiques by historians who pointed out the many gaps and inaccuracies in the book. Although presented as “extensively researched” there was a notable bias, ‘twisted truths’, ‘exclusions of information’, shoddy research, and even a few blatant lies in order to craft a much more exciting and sensationalized “story”.
For a period of time, this book became a “best seller” and no doubt has fooled many into believing it is more fact than fiction. I took the time to carefully research many of the more “unsettling” claims made in the book about Joseph Smith, LDS belief and church history.
Sometimes, I just had to laugh.
“Jesus Christ chose a holy man, a righteous man, to lead the Restoration of the fullness of His gospel….[Joseph Smith’s] name was prophesied to “be had for good and evil among all nations, kindred and tongues” (JSH 1:29)
The good spoken of Joseph Smith came slowly; the evil speaking began immediately. Joseph wrote, “How very strange it was that an obscure boy … should be thought … of sufficient importance to attract … the most bitter persecution.”
That conversation with my friend opened up a surprisingly long discussion with more comments from more friends all weighing in, adding opinions with varying levels of understanding or tolerance. It became a highly debated topic. I found myself in the position of being one of only 2 “Mormon voices” defending the good name of our prophet [although other Mormons were reading and occasionally “liking” comments, they chose not to comment].
Throughout the experience I couldn’t help ponder why a non-historian novelist, who has no connection nor known personal grudge with my church, chose to spend months writing a book with the purpose of discrediting its religious founder?
Three Reasons Why ‘People Gotta Hate’
- Controversy and sensationalism sells. (sure enough, the author made plenty of money)
- Many people have no knowledge of Joseph Smith and/or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and are honestly very interested.
- Because of the prophesy.
Joseph Smith’s “name will be had for good and evil among all nations, kindred and tongues”.
I can’t change the minds of those who are determined to fear, distrust or even hate a man that I revere. Nevertheless, I was grateful for the opportunity to be involved in the conversation to add some balance. I know for certain of only one person participating in that forum who experienced a “conversion” of heart and will remember the conversation long-term.
Although I entered the conversation with a firm belief in Joseph Smith. I left the conversation with an even deeper appreciation and respect for the “man who communed with Jehovah“.
- A man who continues to this day being misunderstood, disrespected and reviled, despite all the amazing good he did.
- A man who spoke to God and Jesus Christ personally.
- A man who was visited by angels.
- A man who was trusted to translate another Testament of Jesus Christ and to restore the fullness of Christ’s gospel to the earth again.
- A man who was asked to do very hard things, suffer excruciating physical and emotional pain, endure continual injustices with no proper legal protection, and ultimately giving his very life for his cause – murdered in cold blood by a mob of cowards and criminals.
If you are interested in learning more about Joseph Smith, please be like my friend and take the time to find out the “Mormon viewpoint”.
About Joseph Smith: Best sources for accuracy
JosephSmith.net / examining Joseph Smith: Prophet of God
Mormon.org / explaining basic Joseph Smith History and Belief
JosephSmithPapers.org The Joseph Smith Papers Foundation A collection of millions of pages of journals, diaries, documents, & artifacts from the historical archives of the Church regarding the Restoration of the Church- available to the public. We believe in transparency.
Heard something weird or ‘shocking’ about Joseph Smith, the Mormons or the LDS Church in general?
Go To FairMormon.org – addressing critical questions with faithful answers.
Want the ultimate test & proof that Joseph Smith was a living prophet?
Read & Pray about THE BOOK OF MORMON: ANOTHER TESTAMENT OF JESUS CHRIST. [order a free copy here]
As long as I live, I will praise and ‘speak good’ of Joseph Smith’s name. I choose to stand up for him and calmly yet boldly defend his prophetic calling.
- Was he a perfect man? No. (No prophet or person on earth has ever been except for Jesus)
- Do we worship him? No. We worship Jesus Christ. We honor Joseph Smith as called and anointed to personally witness of and reveal Christ.
- Was he a good and righteous man? Yes.
- Was he called by God? Yes.
- Did he do what God asked of him? Yes. He paid for it with his life and sealed his testimony with his blood.
As of 5 days ago, there is now another prophesy about Joseph Smith:
The negative commentary about the Prophet Joseph Smith will increase as we move toward the Second Coming of the Savior. The half-truths and subtle deceptions will not diminish. There will be family members and friends who will need your help. Now is the time to adjust your own ‘spiritual oxygen mask’ so that you are prepared to help others who are seeking the truth
– Neil L. Anderson, Joseph Smith, Oct. 2014
Every time I bear witness of Joseph Smith as a prophet, there is a power poured into my soul that is hard to describe. I have experienced this personally many times, as my story above illustrates. It also happens every time I sing the hymn “Praise to the Man“, written shortly after Joseph Smith’s murder to become a favorite LDS anthem. I always get tears when I sing this song because the spirit of the Lord is so strong. It was very powerful to be able to sing this hymn during October Conference after Elder Anderson’s talk. The Lord works His tender mercies and miracles like that in LDS General Conference to add witness to the messages. I was even shown on TV for an extended time during this song [between 1:51 – 2:00] which was another sweet blessing for my parents serving their mission in CA to be able to see me, and dear friends and family hoping for a glimpse.
It is a sacred honor to add my praise to the man and prophet, Joseph Smith. – MoSop