The Virtue of Joseph Smith

Speaking at the general conference last October, Mormon Apostle Neil L. Andersen gave a talk simply titled “Joseph Smith.”  Toward the end of his message, Andersen said, “I give you my witness that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. He chose a holy man, a righteous man, to lead the Restoration of the fulness of His gospel. He chose Joseph Smith.” This phrase became the byline when his talk was reprinted in the conference edition of Ensign magazine (November 2014, pp. 28-31).

Speeches by LDS leaders on this subject are nothing new. Many leaders have glowingly spoken of their founding prophet, the one whom they believe was called by God to “restore” true Christianity. What I found interesting, however, is how Andersen utilized several logical fallacies to defend his premise.

Andersen said Smith’s work began with the “appearance of the Father and the Son” and that the reason his work is dismissed is because people “do not believe that heavenly beings speak to men on earth.” Those same detractors, he explained, also say it is impossible that “golden plates were delivered by an angel and translated by the power of God.” big_iconLet’s not forget that Smith’s claims are being dismissed by a growing number of Latter-day Saints who do believe heavenly beings speak to men on earth as well as presuppose that the gold plates were real. However, like many outsiders, once they learn all of the details surrounding these alleged events, they are compelled to conclude that they have the signs of fabrication. Andersen’s straw man argument is much too simplistic.

Andersen attacked the character of ex-Mormons whom he feels malign the prophet. In doing so, he invoked a statement by Apostle Neil Maxwell who, in a 1977 BYU devotional talk, said, “Some insist upon studying the Church only through the eyes of its defectors—like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus. Defectors always tell us more about themselves than about that from which they have departed.” “Attacking the man,” or the ad hominem fallacy, fails to address the very real concerns many ex-Mormons (and others) have. This approach often is an attempt to shield the faithful from uncomfortable information. After all, why would anyone trust a person whose character is like Judas?

Andersen attempted to offset the many criticisms against Smith’s character by pointing to several contemporaries who testified to his virtue. This “appeal to the people” again fails to address the valid reasons many of Smith’s contemporaries felt he was not a virtuous, holy man.

Andersen also cited the “spreading of the restored gospel” as the “fruit” of Smith’s calling. But Islam is growing much faster than the LDS Church. Does this fact lend credence to the truth claims of Islam?

Andersen  also committed a genetic fallacy when he warned listeners that “Internet information does not have a ‘truth’ filter. Some information, no matter how convincing, is simply not true.” Technically, he is right. There is plenty of information on the web that is certainly questionable (remember, even Andersen’s talk can be found on the Internet!), but just because something is critical of Mormonism does not automatically means it is false. Truth claims must be judged on their merit, not by where the information originated.

The timing of Andersen’s talk is especially interesting. A few weeks after his message, the church released a Gospel Topics essay admitting how Smith had married as many as forty women, including ten with living husbands as well as another ten teenagers, one as young as fourteen. There is proof that Smith lied many times to his wife Emma about his polygamous affairs. This might be a good place to start if Smith’s credentials as a virtuous and holy man are to be honestly examined.

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22 Responses to The Virtue of Joseph Smith

  1. falcon says:

    Yes indeed and the fall back position when people begin to discover the truth about Smith is that he was just “a man”. Interestingly enough, I know of at least one sect of Mormonism that early on discovered that Smith was a fallen prophet. They can’t rewind the tape far enough however and admit the guy never was a prophet.

  2. falcon says:

    I was watching the “Joseph Smith” movie in the visitors center at the Carthage Jail. There was one other couple there besides my wife and I, along with their toddler. It was pretty evident that this couple was pretty much gone over Joseph Smith. They were so devout and taken with the prophet that if they were ever exposed to the real information, it would have rocked their world.
    Really, the movie was like watching a Walt Disney Productions fantasy. And to think that these folks were just sucking it all in. To me, it was almost criminal; like a long con. It is heart breaking to think of how the LDS people are putting all their faith and trust in Joseph Smith.
    I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if the end results weren’t so serious. If there wasn’t a God and the LDS people were in the (LDS) club, sort of like a fraternal society, that added meaning and purpose to their lives, I wouldn’t be concerned. But we’re talking about a decision making process void of accurate information that has serious eternal consequences.
    The way to the Father is not through Joseph Smith; quite to the contrary. The way to the Father is through Jesus Christ and the cross of redemption and the resurrection. Placing our faith solely in the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did for us is the pathway to the Father and eternal life. Joseph Smith does not hold the keys to the dispensation of the faux restored gospel.

  3. Ironman1995 says:

    Sharon can make a list of where Joseph Smith lied about his polygamous ways, dates, months and all those others who supported him by lying , that would really help me put together things even though i know he wasnt a prophet of God . His own words would contradict those silly essays.

  4. historybuff says:

    The confirmation of Joseph Smith’s polygamy by the Church may prove to be a stumbling block for Mormons and non-Mormons alike. Not only did he seduce and marry teenage girls and the wives of other men, but he also lied about it to members of his church and to the public. For example, he said:

    “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery and having seven wives, when I can only find one.” (Joseph Smith, “Address of the Prophet—His Testimony Against the Dissenters at Nauvoo”, delivered Sunday, May 26, 1844. Printed in History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 408-412. Also published in the Millennial Star, No. 42 Vol. 23 p. 674.)

    Then he created a false revelation condemning polygamy in an attempt to further assuage members of his church and the public:

    “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.” 1835 edition of the Doctrine & Covenants, Section 101 (also in the 1844 edition as Section 109) (This section of the Doctrine & Covenants was quietly removed by the church in 1876.)

    He then attacked and drove out anyone who discovered the truth. He slandered the reputations of several Church members when they objected to his polygamy. For example, Orson Pratt was excommunicated; Parley Pratt was dis-fellowshipped; and Sarah Pratt, Nancy Rigdon, and Martha Brotherton were accused of being prostitutes. Others suffered similar fates. In some cases, Joseph became violent, probably with assistance from his Danite militia. For example, he ordered the destruction of the offices of a newspaper, The Nauvoo Expositor, after it published disclosures of his polygamy. ; .

    Only the most blindly devoted followers would consider this to be the behavior of a prophet of God.

    Ironically, there’s been a recent news story about a man representing himself as a prophet and proceeding to isolate his followers from the rest of society, as did Joseph Smith. Then he claimed to be greater than Jesus, as did Joseph Smith.

    ( “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 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.” History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 408-409. )

    Then he started having sex with young girls and the wives of his followers. No, it wasn’t about Joseph Smith, although Joseph Smith did all those things. It’s about Victor Barnard and he’s now being extradited back to the U.S. as a fraud and a child molester.

  5. jardim says:

    Amen, falcon. There are consequences now and later. I believe they could have so much more time, love, and energy if they would choose Jesus now instead of the exhausting rules they’re following now.
    I lived in Utah a long time and it was kind of a club where most people belonged and outsiders were assumed to be in it, or pressured into joining until they finally made it clear they didn’t want to belong.
    I moved to a place where I am still part of a Mormon community because of family members. The LDS people here don’t speak English as their primary language and so they miss out on many of the church’s own publications like that article about Joseph Smith and a lot of the “anti-Mormon” news. They are a small community in a country dominated by Catholicism and everyone knows everyone in the LDS church. Longtime members who don’t agree with things like the Word of Wisdom or tithing still hang onto parts of the church’s teachings and defend them fiercely, which is new to me. I was used to Utah where people always tried to look like they were living the Mormon dream or else tried hard to differentiate themselves.
    Explaining things logically fails here in this new place where people mix Masses for the dead, temple work, and visiting witches to remove an evil eye curse. I wish I could share all these excellent Mormon Coffee posts to make people think. When I converse about beliefs or religion, I remind myself that God brings people to him, I am not responsible to “save” them like I thought when I was Mormon.

  6. Rhythm Of The Tides says:

    ”What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago.” (History of the Church 6, May, 1844, p. 411)

    Anyone else feeling the holiness ?

    No ?

    Me neither.

  7. Ironman, Mormons in Transition has a list online that might be what you are looking for. Take a look at “Joseph Smith Statements Denying Polygamy” and let me know if this provides you what you need.

  8. jardim says:

    ¡Muchas gracias, historybuff!

  9. historybuff says:

    De nada. Todos aquí estamos listos para ayudar.

  10. Mike R says:

    Joseph Smith is but one of many latter days prophets who have claimed visits from ” heavenly beings ” like God the Father , Jesus , angels (or even dead Biblical persons) . The more successful latter days false prophets need to claim such visits to show they have a kind of connection to the individuals we read of in the Bible , that way they are more successful at convincing people to accept them and their new teachings . Mormonism is not unique . It’s leaders , by their teachings , have simply proven themselves to be the kind of latter days prophets Jesus pre warned everyone would come — Matt 24:11

  11. Ironman1995 says:

    Thanks Sharon , Grand slam , and i knew you would have more than enough . When Hiram Brown gets thrown under the bus so glad for the essays that got it all right .

  12. falcon says:

    I’ve watched Mitz Nelson’s testimony a few times. What strikes me about it was when she talks about not having been that into Joseph Smith. It appears to me that what she was into was the LDS system. I thought all LDS folks were into Joseph Smith.

    So what do Mormons do when they find out that Smith wasn’t what they were led to believe. What does someone, who was clinging to the Smith fantasy do when they find out the truth? Not a good place to be especially if it’s the husband or wife and the other spouse is a TBM.

  13. historybuff says:

    I recall many years ago when I was in a discussion group with other Mormons. One of the members said she was converted by the Church’s “sensible, fair-minded” doctrines. Two other members of the group responded by saying that they had never heard of anyone being converted by the Church’s doctrines. They both had been converted by the Church’s sports program and dances, and didn’t know much about the Church’s history and doctrines. Nor were they interested.

    I suspect this phenomenon — purposeful ignorance — is common to many religions, sports fans, political groups, and organizations generally, where the social bond is far more important than anything else.

    A pity, but it’s always been that way. As Winston Churchill once said, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”

  14. falcon says:

    I noticed in the comment section of the link I shared, a guy named “Ryan” said something like, “The DNA evidence shows that the BoM is true. Do some research.” I commented to “Ryan” that maybe he could explain a little more thoroughly what exactly the DNA research has to do with the BoM? Oh, I remember! DNA evidence shows that the “Indians” living in North America were not of Semitic decent but rather Asiatic.
    So Joseph Smith’s tome that he pulled out of his hat with a magic rock was nothing more than a poorly written fantasy.

  15. historybuff says:

    Hold the presses! Salt Lake Tribune, March 20, 2015: More on the virtue of Joseph Smith?

    It sounds like Mormon women are finally taking a principled stand against founding Prophet Joseph Smith’s polygamous marriages to 14-year-old girls and the wives of other men, and his violent reprisals against anyone who objected.

    “UPDATE: The online community Feminist Mormon Housewives has started a call to action. … “[His] crimes are long and sordid,” the blog post reads, “and include arranging underage marriages, violence and intimidation, and allegations of human trafficking.”

    No, wait. False alarm. The Mormon housewives aren’t protesting the activities of Joseph Smith, but rather those of current non-Mormon polygamist Willie Jessop. Joseph Smith’s child brides, adulterous unions, and violent reprisals are evidently still considered by Mormon women to have been directed by God and a sign of Joseph’s divine virtue.

  16. lance.ensign says:

    If you notice, the Mormon church appeals to emotion far and above reason, fact and history. Almost every thing the Mormon church puts out for public consumption bypasses the reality of who Joseph Smith was and pushes the emotional buttons. Who can fail to get teary-eyed seeing the carefully contrived exhibits and films at the Temple Square Visitor’s Center? But you realize that there’s something wrong, that everything you’re seeing is manipulating you emotionally.

    In fact the Mormon church condemns and punishes reason, ignores facts, and glosses over history in favor of emotionalism. Just watch any General Conference address from any year–pick one at random–and you’ll see what I mean. It’s not just a church PR push to get converts, it’s a way of life within the church itself. And I think it’s why so many leave the church or become inactive. Emotionalism can only carry you so far before you realize that it’s empty. And then you start reading, and learning.

  17. falcon says:

    You are really being unfair to the Prophet Smith. What would you do if an angel with a sword appeared to you and threatened you with death unless you married multiple women? It’s truly amazing how people can take degenerate behavior, bolstered with lies and in some way consider it holy. This is cult-like thinking and is a sign of a true believer.
    I know. It was a long time ago. Things were different then. The LDS don’t do that any more.

  18. falcon says:

    It seems to me that if you can get yourself labeled a prophet, you can engage in the most degenerate behavior and still be placed on a high pedestal by those who buy your scam. It’s merely a matter of being able to work the long con and do it sincerely.
    There are people for home the story is all important because it provides them with some sort of emotional satisfaction. There is no behavior that can be done by the prophet that will disabuse them of the notion that what this prophet does and says is true. It’s not unlike members of a family where the patriarch is discovered to be engaging in sexual predatory behavior with one or more of his children. It’s not unusual for the family members to turn on the ones who report (the behavior).
    The Smith myth is so compelling to the true believers that the thought of giving it up is more than they could be bear. Then there’s the LDS system which promises forever families and deity status for the man with planets to rule and adoring spirit offspring.
    All that is needed is obedience to the system through which all of these rewards can be earned. And think of it. It all started with a fourteen year old boy out in a little grove of trees. Yea right!

  19. falcon says:

    Oh brother!
    The falcon must not have been skating at full strength on the above post. I notice two glaring typo type errors.

    The LDS folks have a real problem with their prophets and leaders in general. They want to see these guys as holy and righteous and basically all knowing and then, reality. They start to see the rather bad behavior, especially with Smith, and the very dumb proclamations the prophets and other leaders make supposedly speaking for the Mormon god. What to do?
    Well these people are masters at cognitive dissonance. That is, holding two conflicting beliefs in mind at the same time accepting both as true. So they are to “trust the leaders they will never lead you astray”, “when the leaders speak the thinking has been done” BUT they are just men and not infallible. This despite the fact that Brigham Young claimed that his sermons were as good as scripture. Check out the Journal of Discourses if you really want to be entertained.
    The main feature of Mormonism is suppose to be that they have a living prophet like the prophets of OT times. That’s one of the leading questions the Mormon missionary boys ask. They point to the idea that the OT prophets heard from God and they, the LDS, have a prophet SOOOOOOOOOOO what is the “one true church”? Are you feeling something? Join now and avoid the rush.
    The LDS idea of having a prophet so they must be the “one true church” conflicts with all of the other sects, Mormonism and other wise, who also claim a prophet who hears from God. So should we play the game of “test the prophets”. I don’t think the LDS want to do that because that’s when the trouble starts for the TBM. Actually checking these guys out means having to come up with more implausible explanations for why these sears are so far off the bubble.

  20. falcon says:

    A tad bit off topic here but Joseph Smith did Mormons a disservice in many ways but one of the most glaring is how he changed God to just another god and God’s plan of salvation through grace to an “earned reward” system. It’s Sunday and a good day to discover who God is and what He did for us through His Son Jesus Christ. For those who are heavily burdened in trying to achieve a level of righteousness that will result in the ultimate LDS reward, I ask you to consider the following:

    If you know Mormonism only from the happy-family commercials, you have a skewed view of what life is like in many Mormon families. Mormonism is based on earning righteousness for salvation. In 2 Nephi 25:23, a verse in the Book of Mormon, they are told “it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

    In Mormon theology and doctrine, people are placed on the earth to be tested by the Heavenly Father. Those who are obedient will receive blessings from their god in the present life and spiritual blessings in the future life, depending upon their faithfulness (Doctrine & Covenants 130:20–21). These spiritual blessings include being promoted to one of the three levels of heaven and future exaltation to become a god, potentially being given their own planet to populate and reign over. All of this comes with a tremendous amount of pressure to perform in the family and Mormon community. You do your best, and Jesus will do the rest.

    This idea of working to earn God’s favor and to earn salvation flies in the face of biblical passages like Ephesians 2:8–10, which tell us that our salvation and favor in God’s eyes is based solely on the person and work of Jesus Christ—not on our own works, regardless of how much we do. The Mormons you meet are likely weary of trying to meet an unattainable standard in order to be accepted by their families, their church, and their god.

    I was just reminded again as I watched the video that I linked to above, the long and tedious journey that many Mormons take coming out of Mormonism and then to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I use to think I could just point out the obvious to them and they’d surrender to Christ. But then we know that coming out of Mormonism can be very difficult since often times their minds and emotions are secured by a thick chain with a huge padlock.
    But Jesus is the key and through the Spirit of God, that lock can be opened, the chains that bind can be broken and true rest can be found.

  21. Mike R says:

    falcon said, ” But then we know that coming out of Mormonism can be very difficult since often times their minds and emotions are secured by a thick chain with a huge padlock . But Jesus is the key and through the Spirit of God , that lock can be opened , the chains that bind can be broken and true rest can be found. ”

    So true . Jesus is the key , no temple rituals , no latter day prophet . The heart of the Christian life is a daily interaction with a very personal Savior , worshiping Him , praising Him . Matt 11:28; Jn 14:6 .

    Former BYU Prof . Lynn Wilder started reading the New Testament and it had a profound impact on her and it changed her life . Part of her story :
    ” For me , Christ’s words in the Bible has a great impact on my soul …. reading the words of the Biblical Christ simply , literally changed me from the inside out because I came to think differently.
    After examining the objective , and the more subjective , I was brought to a point of decision : (a) believe the words of Christ in the Bible that had the power to drastically alter my thinking , (b) believe Mormon doctrine as stated by representative men with ‘ priesthood authority ‘ in the Ensign , General Conference , Doctrines and Covenants , Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible , etc , or (c) renounce faith in Jesus altogether . I know many discover the falsehood of Mormonism but never want to trust Christ again because in Mormonism one equates Christ with the Church . Then knowing the LDS Church is false can cause one to jump to the conclusion that Christ is a fraud as well . This conclusion seems to make good rational sense . But before I made it I realized that the LDS Church has hijacked the real Christ and distorted Him into something He is not. I knew the LDS Jesus . Now I knew the One in the Bible . The difference was striking .

    I’m not suggesting I have learned to leave reason behind again and trust another ‘ religion ‘ like Mormonism . Never again will I do that . What I have learned to do is to know and to trust Christ Himself by reading His words in the Bible . There’s a gargantuan difference between faith in Christ and faith in a religion .”

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