Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Joseph was an adulterer or an honorable man...

We are taught in the Mormon church that by their fruits you may know them.  In the New Testament Jesus was quoted;

The Lord said to the people in his day, and to us too: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:20.)
“For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
“… Every tree is known by his own fruit.” (Luke 6:43–44.)

The church's own scripture, The Book of Mormon states (3 Nephi 14:16);

 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

 20 Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them.

Moroni, the son of Mormon adds his "testimony" (Moroni 7:3-5);

 Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.

 And now my brethren, I judge these things of you because of your peaceable walk with the children of men.

 For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.

Moroni continues;

11 For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil.
 12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.

14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.

Elder Russell Ballard, said in 2007 General Conference stated;

 Sometimes people just want to know what the Church is. Those who are curious in this general way deserve clear and accurate information that comes directly from those of us who are members so that they do not have to rely on the incomplete answers, half-truths, or false statements that may come from the media or other outside voices. The many misunderstandings and false information about the Church are somewhat our own fault for not clearly explaining who we are and what we believe.

 He continues; 

We should also remember that sometimes the best way to answer people’s interest can be by how we live, how we radiate the joy of the gospel in our lives, how we treat others, and how sincerely we follow the teachings of Christ.

The Doctrine and Covenants (135) reveal how John Taylor felt about Joseph Smith, he also offered God's opinion of him as well.

Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!

So God approved of his "servant Joseph" and all he did.  Which brings me to the fundamental question.  The one question that is the foundation for all truth claims.  President Gordan Hinckley said in General Conference,  2003;

 Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.

Based on this last quote it would do us well to find out if this organization is true or not.  The whole system comes down to whether Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, or a deceiver, fraud and an adulterer.  We know that Jesus claimed by the fruits of the individual one can determine if they are good or evil.  We also know by the Lord's own decree, in the Book of Mormon (the most correct book on earth),  that a "bitter fountain can't bring forth good water".  So I propose that either Joseph was a good, honorable man who was a prophet or he was a womanizing fraud.  Let's answer this by  what Jesus taught, let's look at his fruit. 

1. Joseph's 1826 trial for glass looking.  This can be a difficult case to dissect with allegations of fraud, misinterpretations, and "hear say".  It can be agreed upon that Joseph did go before a court and was found guilty of being a disorderly person.  Can that be considered fraud?-it is up to debate.  The main points I would like state is that Joseph was involved in occult magic.  He either really believed he could tap into the supernatural or it was a parlor trick.  Either way, in my opinion, does not bode well for the truthfulness claims of the church.  I also think it is important to recognize that Joseph was using a peep stone in a hat to find buried treasure--consequently that was never found.  This is the  same technique he used to "translate" the gold plates.  It is the same process a young Palmyra "prophetess" used.  Her name was Sally Chase, she would put a stone into a hat, press it to her face and announce what was seen.  William Stafford, another neighbor of Joseph in Palmyra, also had a peep stone.  Both of these two individuals used their stones to look for treasure (Quinn 1998:41).  Joseph's own mother, Lucy Smith, used seer stones as well(Quinn 1998:42).   This was  a common practice during Joseph's time, several individuals were looking for buried treasure as a means for income.  

Would these actions by young Joseph be considered spurious?   Did he really believe he was receiving an answer through his peep stone?  Was it a scam?  We won't really know what he thought, but in my opinion, if he really felt he was getting direction from supernatural source--then we must pause and reconsider all other revelations after the fact.  Why?  Because,  he was proven to not have the gift of discernment.  Also, why would God use the same fraudulent process to bring about the Book of Mormon.  Finally, are the revelations from Joseph, the directions of God or are they his own imaginary constructions? 

2. Kirtland banking scandal. Gerald and Sandra Tanner, who I feel are generally unbiased, as ex Mormons, in their presentation of Mormonism wrote:

Wilford Woodruff, who remained true to the Church and became the fourth President, confirmed the fact that Joseph Smith claimed to have a revelation concerning the bank. Under the date of January 6, 1837, he recorded the following in his journal: "I also herd [sic] President Joseph Smith, jr., declare in the presence of F. Williams, D. Whitmer, S. Smith, W. Parrish, and others in the Deposit office that HE HAD RECEIVED THAT MORNING THE WORD OF THE LORD UPON THE SUBJECT OF THE KIRTLAND SAFETY SOCIETY. He was alone in a room by himself and he had not only [heard] the voice of the Spirit upon the Subject but even an AUDIBLE VOICE. He did not tell us at that time what the Lord said upon the subject but remarked that if we would give heed to the commandments the Lord had given this morning all would be well." ("Wilford Woodruff's Journal," January 6, 1837, as quoted in Conflict at Kirtland, page 296)

According to Joseph, God told him to start a bank:

"Construction of the temple had temporarily boosted the economy of Kirtland, but after the dedication the economy declined as poor converts arrived in ever increasing numbers. The old settlers attempted to keep them out of Kirtland by economic pressures, but the Mormon population increased twentyfold while the landholdings only quadrupled. In November 1836 Joseph and other church leaders drew up articles for a bank to provide capital for investments. It was a desperate gamble. Oliver Cowdery went to Philadelphia for plates to print bank notes, and Orson Hyde went to the legislature in Columbus with a petition for a bank license. It was refused. Oliver returned with plates for the Kirtland Safety Society Bank, but Orson Hyde came back without a charter. The plates were so expensive that they printed some specie anyway, writing in "Anti" before the word "Bank" and "ing" after it. The notes read, "Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company," and the paper passed as legal tender from a joint-stock company. At first the money circulated wildly. When merchants and businessmen who were more sophisticated than the Mormons began to redeem their notes, Joseph could see that a run would ruin the bank. After one month he and Sidney Rigdon resigned as officers but the bank failed. This affected Joseph's status.
    People who were convinced that Joseph had intended a swindle at the outset attacked him verbally and threatened him physically. This disruption forced Joseph to leave the city frequently....(Newell & Avery 1994 62).

There were also claims of fraudulent activity with the bank. 
The safe measured only 25 by 24 by 29 inches. The dimensions of the safe cast a serious shadow on the validity of stories of various apostates cited by Brodie. They claimed that the shelves of the bank vault were lined with many boxes each marked $1,000. These many boxes were supposedly filled with sand, lead, old iron, and stone with only a thin layer of coins on top. As will be pointed out later [in the article], the founders of the bank probably had enough genuine specie when the bank was opened to fill the several small boxes that might have occupied this very modest safe. (Brodie 1945, 196-197).

This was a disaster from the outset.  If God really gave Joseph the revelation to start a bank, then God has no idea what he is doing.  Most likely, in my opinion,  it was one of the grand ideas that came from Joseph's mind.  Either way it turned out badly for  all involved.

3. Polygamy.  The Doctrine & Covenants, section 132,  God states:


 34 God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises.

 35 Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it.

 36 Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac; nevertheless, it was written: Thou shalt not kill. Abraham, however, did not refuse, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.

 37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.

 38 David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.

 39 David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord.

Here God states that he commanded and allowed all these men to participate in polygamy.  However, in the Book of Mormon, "the most correct book on earth",  Jacob writes:

22 And now I make an end of speaking unto you concerning this pride. And were it not that I must speak unto you concerning a grosser crime, my heart would rejoice exceedingly because of you.
 23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.

 24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

 25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.

 26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.

 27 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 he shall have none;

 28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.

 29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.

 30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

 31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.

 32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.

 33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.

 34 And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before; and ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.

 35 Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.

Here we have "the most correct book" giving one commandment, saying that David was engaging in abominable acts while Joseph's revelation, in the D&C states that God did not condemn David except involving  Uriah's wife.  So which is correct?  These statements are in conflict.   How can we trust anything Joseph claims from God if he has gotten other  previous supernatural revelations wrong.  Case in point; treasure hunting,  Kirtland banking scandal, and the selling of the Book of Mormon copyright in Canada,  show how inept Joseph's or God's revelations really were.

I feel that polygamy/polyandry is the crown jewel in Joseph's bungles.  He managed to alienate himself with all outsiders at the time and caused a ripple effect inside the church.  Those that were considered his friends abandoned him and denounced him.  Many were willing to look past the previous mistakes but could not anymore.  This ultimately, lead to his arrest and death.  These issues are still felt in the church today.  

Based on what I have read, Joseph was a charismatic man.  Is it no wonder that he was popular with women?  I would put him on the level of a David Koresh or a Jim Jones.  They all had the ability to get their followers to obey.  This is conjecture, but I feel polygamy was a way to deal with Joseph's sexual activities.  Section 132 was received in 1843.  The introduction states;

 Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded July 12, 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant and the principle of plural marriage. Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, evidence indicates that some of the principles involved in this revelation were known by the Prophet as early as 1831. See Official Declaration 1.  

The Fanny Alger affair took place prior to that revelation.  Also, according to Emma, she caught Joseph with Fanny in a barn.  

 Fanny Alger is Joseph's first known plural wife, whom he came to know in Kirtland during early 1833 when she, at the age of 16, stayed at his home as a housemaid. Described as "a varry nice & Comly young woman," according to Benjamin Johnson, Fanny lived with the Smith family from 1833 to 1836.

Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, recalled that the prophet's "servant girl" claimed he had made "improper proposals to her, which created quite a talk amongst the people." Mormon Fanny Brewer similarly reported "much excitement against the Prophet…[involving] an unlawful intercourse between himself and a young orphan girl residing in his family and under his protection."

Former Mormon apostle William McLellin later wrote that Emma Smith substantiated the Smith-Alger affair. According to McLellin, Emma was searching for her husband and Alger one evening when through a crack in the barn door she saw "him and Fanny in the barn together alone" on the hay mow. McLellin, in a letter to one of Smith's sons, added that the ensuing confrontation between Emma and her husband grew so heated that Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, and Oliver Cowdery had to mediate the situation. After Emma related what she had witnessed, Smith, according to McLellin, "confessed humbly, and begged forgiveness. Emma and all forgave him." While Oliver Cowdery may have forgiven his cousin Joseph Smith, he did not forget the incident. Three years later, when provoked by the prophet, Cowdery countered by calling the Fanny Alger episode "a dirty, nasty, filthy affair."

Chauncey Webb recounts Emma’s later discovery of the relationship: “Emma was furious, and drove the girl, who was unable to conceal the consequences of her celestial relation with the prophet, out of her house”.

SOURCE: Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, p.291

At least one account indicates that Fanny became pregnant. Chauncy G. Webb, Smith's grammar teacher, later reported that when the pregnancy became evident, Emma Smith drove Fanny from her home (Wyl 1886, 57). Webb's daughter, Ann Eliza Webb Young, a divorced wife of Brigham Young, remembered that Fanny was taken into the Webb home on a temporary basis (Young 1876, 66-67). Fanny stayed with relatives in nearby Mayfield until about the time Joseph fled Kirtland for Missouri.

Fanny left Kirtland in September 1836 with her family. Though she married non-Mormon Solomon Custer on 16 November 183614 and was living in Dublin City, Indiana, far from Kirtland, her name still raised eyebrows. Fanny Brewer, a Mormon visitor to Kirtland in 1837, observed "much excitement against the Prophet … [involving] an unlawful intercourse between himself and a young orphan girl residing in his family and under his protection" (Parkin 1966, 174).

SOURCE: Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, p.8

Here is a man, claiming to be God's spokesperson for the earth, and yet is engaging in unsavory actions.  To me, it seems as if everything Joseph did was done out of self interest.  I think his own words are telling (History of the Church vol. 6 p. 408-409);

God is in the still small voice. In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil--all corruption. Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days
page 409
of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet. You know my daily walk and conversation. I am in the bosom of a virtuous and good people. How I do love to hear the wolves howl! When they can get rid of me, the devil will also go. For the last three years I have a record of all my acts and proceedings, for I have kept several good, faithful, and efficient clerks in constant employ: they have accompanied me everywhere, and carefully kept my history, and they have written down what I have done, where I have been, and what I have said; therefore my enemies cannot charge me with any day, time, or place, but what I have written testimony to prove my actions; and my enemies cannot prove anything against me. They have got wonderful things in the land of Ham. I think the grand jury have strained at a gnat and swallowed the camel.

Do these sound like the words of a humble prophet of Jesus.  I feel he is far from the man portrayed in the church's manuals.  He can't be both a prophet and next to Jesus in status, while also an adulterer.   It can't be both, it is one or the other..  I also feel that the same, self interest, is still present in the church as an organization.  Most service opportunities, benefit the church.  If there is a big service event or natural disaster, the bright yellow smocks are present.  I have found that the church has stayed true to its origins in some regards.  Praise to the man indeed...



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