Joseph Smith’s Powerful Influence

ThrowbackThursIt’s Throwback Thursday!

Last week (15 October 2015) Deseret News announced the recent discovery of Emma Smith’s 1841 Book of Mormon. Apparently, Joseph Smith gave the book to John Quincy Adams’s grandson, Charles Francis Adams, when Charles visited the Prophet in May of 1844. The book was recently discovered in John Quincy Adams’ well-preserved library.

The Deseret News article explains the visit Charles Adams — along with his friend Josiah Quincy — paid to Nauvoo just weeks before Joseph Smith’s death. While quoting both men’s recollections of their meeting with the Prophet, it’s not surprising that the article does not mention the poor opinion both of these men had of Joseph Smith. For example, the article quotes Mr. Adams’ description of viewing Lucy Smith’s Egyptian mummies while listening to the Prophet “explain the contents of a chart or manuscript which he said had been taken from the bosom of one of them.” But Mr. Adams’ next sentence was not included in the article: “The cool impudence of this imposture amused me very much.”

This is not the first time the Mormon Church has brought attention to the fact that these two important men made it a point to meet the Mormon Prophet. Since I’ve written about this before, I thought now would be an appropriate time to revisit that article. The following blog article originally posted at Mormon Coffee on September 21, 2009.


“It is by no means improbable that some future textbook… will contain a question something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen? And it is by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written: Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet.” Josiah Quincy, Jr., Figures of the Past, 1883

The above quote is oft used in Mormondom to impress people with a notable non-Mormon’s positive opinion of Joseph Smith. It can be found in numerous Mormon videos shown at LDS Visitors Centers. It is included in books about the “Prophet.” Most recently it was highlighted at Mormon Times in an article titled “Joseph Smith ‘most influential’ 19th century American.”

I found that Josiah Quincy’s book, Figures of the Past, is available online, so I read Mr. Quincy’s entire chapter on Joseph Smith and did a little additional research.

Josiah Quincy, Jr. visited Nauvoo in mid-May, 1844. His travelling companion was Charles Francis Adams, Sr., son and grandson of two American presidents. Being deemed important visitors, these men were received and welcomed by Joseph Smith. Mr. Quincy wrote:

Intelligence of our arrival had in some mysterious manner reached General Smith, and the prophet’s own chariot, a comfortable carryall, drawn by two horses, soon made its appearance. It is probable that we owed the alacrity with which we were served to an odd blunder which had combined our names and personalities and set forth that no less a man than ex-President John Quincy Adams had arrived to visit Mr. Joseph Smith.

After spending a day with the Prophet, Josiah Quincy wrote his impressions in a journal. Later he wrote about the visit in letters to friends. Later still he compiled his impressions into a chapter for his book. The chapter began with the now-famous quote; Josiah Quincy was impressed by Joseph Smith. But if all that he wrote in his book is considered, Josiah Quincy was not favorably impressed.

Mr. Quincy referred to the religious system of Mormonism as being comprised of “monstrous claims” (383). He said the sect created by Joseph Smith was filled with “demoralizing doctrines” (377). Quincy noted several times that Joseph Smith apparently thought very highly of himself and thought himself quite clever. Speaking of himself as the militia commander of 3,000 men, Smith reportedly explained,

“I decided that the commander of my troops ought to be a lieutenant-general, and I was, of course, chosen to that position. I sent my certificate of election to Governor Ford, and received in return a commission of lieutenant-general of the Nauvoo Legion and of the militia of the State of Illinois. Now, on examining the Constitution of the United States, I find that an officer must be tried by a court-martial composed of his equals in rank; and as I am the only lieutenant-general in the country, I think they will find it pretty hard to try me.” (383-384)

When Joseph Smith talked about theology and his ability as Master of languages, Josiah Quincy wrote,

Smith was well versed in the letter of the Scriptures, though he had little comprehension of their spirit. He began by denying the doctrine of the Trinity, and supported his views by the glib recitation of a number of texts…The degrees and orders of ecclesiastical dignitaries he set forth with great precision, being careful to mention the interesting revelation which placed Joseph Smith supreme above them all…The prophet referred to his miraculous gift of understanding all languages, and took down a Bible in various tongues, for the purpose of exhibiting his accomplishments in this particular. Our position as guests prevented our testing his powers by a rigid examination, and the rendering of a few familiar texts seemed to be accepted by his followers as a triumphant demonstration of his abilities. It may have been an accident, but I observed that the bulk of his translations were from the Hebrew, which, presumably, his visitors did not understand, rather than from the classical languages, in which they might more easily have caught him tripping. (385-386)

Perhaps the most concise and clearly stated opinion Mr. Quincy formed of the Prophet Joseph Smith is found following Quincy’s praise of the beautiful city of Nauvoo. He wrote,

And all the diligent workers, who had reared these handsome stores and comfortable dwellings, bowed in subjection to the man to whose unexampled absurdities we had listened that morning. Not quite unexampled either. For many years I held a trusteeship which required me to be a frequent visitor at the McLean Asylum for the Insane. I had talked with some of its unhappy inmates, victims of the sad but not uncommon delusion that each had received the appointment of vicegerent of the Deity upon earth. It is well known that such unfortunates, if asked to explain their confinement, have a ready reply: ‘I am sane. The rest of the world is mad, and the majority is against me.’ It was like a dream to find one’s self moving through a prosperous community, where the repulsive claim of one of these pretenders was respectfully acknowledged. It was said that Prince Hamlet had no need to recover his wits when he was despatched [sic] to England, for the demented denizens of that island would never detect his infirmity. If the blasphemous assumptions of Smith seemed like the ravings of a lunatic, he had, at least, brought them to a market where ‘all the people were as mad as he.’ (388-389)

Josiah Quincy’s travelling companion also wrote of this 1844 visit with the Prophet. Though his recollections are not as detailed as Quincy’s, Charles Francis Adams wrote this in his diary:

There is a mixture of shrewdness and extravagant self-conceit, of knowledge and ignorance, of wisdom and folly in this whole system of this man that I am somewhat at a loss to find definitions for it. Yet it is undoubted that he has gained followers at home and abroad…On the whole I was glad I had been [to see Joseph Smith]. Such a man is a study not for himself, but as serving to show what turns the human mind will sometimes take. And herafter [sic] if I should live, I may compare the results of this delusion with the condition in which I saw it and its mountebank apostle.

Such was the “powerful influence” these respected visitors found in Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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10 Responses to Joseph Smith’s Powerful Influence

  1. falcon says:

    Excellent article. There’s a big difference between a true believer and an honest skeptic. The true believer is in a state of mind that won’t allow him/her to clearly discern the spirit of the cult leader they are following. It’s really a situation that is repeated often enough that folks ought to know better and take heed. I’ve witnessed this in more modest situations where by a girl taken with a young man goes on and on about him. He’s just a wonder; good looking, intelligent and gifted. Then you meet the guy and he’s about as ordinary and average as they come, but not to the love stuck young woman.
    Charles Manson was as crazy as a loon. He still is. Yet he was able to attract young idealized and smart followers, men and women alike. They killed for Charlie and even those who weren’t in the group that committed the murder, were still devoted to the guy when he was on trial. Is this just some sort of psychological hook or is it something more? I would say that quite often what is in operation is some sort of spiritual force of a demonic nature. There are some who are sociopaths but others whose “abilities” to seduce folks goes beyond the psychological.
    One other thing. The LDS church has a way of putting a spin on Smith to make him look like something he clearly wasn’t. But think of this. Even in Smith’s time, there were those who saw right through him. Some had been followers of his and others simply observers.
    Mazlow talked about how people join groups to get their needs met and leave those groups when they are no longer getting those needs met. Today there are people who are streaming out of Mormonism and the LDS church because the magical spell has been broken. They can clearly see that the Emperor isn’t wearing clothes.

  2. falcon says:

    I think most of us know that talking to LDS about Joseph Smith is pretty much a non-starter. They will defend him like a girl who’s dating a jerk, will defend him to her parents. I’m providing a link to a video of a man who recently left the LDS church and became a Christian. It’s 28 minutes long and he addresses Joseph Smith at about the 20 minute mark. At some point in time, all questioning LDS will have to address “the prophet”.

  3. Mike R says:

    It’s sad how so many sincere people can be fooled into following latter days false prophets .
    The Mormon people don’t need Joseph Smith , Brigham Young or any of their prophets . Forgiveness of sins , a personal relationship with God , and receiving the gift of eternal life is available to those who hear/ read the gospel of salvation , that gospel has been saving people for 2000 years now because it’s the power of God — Rom 1:16 .
    May the Mormon people discover that liberating truth one day soon .

  4. falcon says:

    Joseph Smith was in a long line of false prophets. The list is endless. Even in our time false prophets emerge every day it seems. What happens is that people don’t seem to have enough confidence or discernment to check things out. That’s one thing I’d tell LDS, check it out.

  5. Mike R says:

    Joseph Smith could have been quite “successful ” these days as one of those t.v. preachers that have such a personality that they practically mesmerize people , and thus get away with much . Joseph was becoming very important — he decided to be a Lt.General of his large private army , a prophet , pursuer of women , and a king .

    Brigham Young was convinced to become a follower of Joseph Smith and was fooled into thinking he better not question Smith in anything Smith did :

    ” I clearly saw and understood , by the spirit of revelation manifested to me , that if I was to harbor a thought in my heart that Joseph could be wrong in anything , I would begin to lose confidence in him …. I repented of my unbelief, and that too , very suddenly ; I repented about as quickly as I committed the error . It was not for me to question whether Joseph was dictated by the Lord at all times and under all circumstances …..It was not my prerogative to call him in question with regard to any act of his life . ” [ Teachings of The Living Prophets 1982 p 56 , pub. by the LDS Church ] .

    Brigham was fooled because he did not test Smith by God’s word ( and some common sense ) as a result Joseph got away with much which slowly commenced his slide away from sound scriptural doctrines as well from sole fidelity to his wife , his church’s law on marriage .

  6. falcon says:

    That’s a good quote. I don’t know why Young would take on that attitude but it may have had something to do with protecting his own equity in Smith and his program. Think about folks who are sold-out to a person and their movement, cause or organization. They build up equity, emotional and financial. And then to admit it may all be bogus? It’s easier to come up with some mental gymnastics and keep on believing then give-up.
    You’ve seen the pithy little sayings Mormons have come up with to continue to believe in the one true church. Let’s try, “The people aren’t perfect but the church is”. Process that one. I just heard a short audio of John Dehlin at the recent “ExMormon Foundation” gathering. He said he wanted to thank the LDS church for having excommunicating him. He said they did him a favor. He also mentioned how much he had loved the church and initially couldn’t figure out why those who left appeared so dark and angry. Anyone who tracked John Dehlin’s course out of the LDS church will see a great study in the emotional stages a person goes through as they begin to discover the unthinkable about the organization they have devoted themselves to.

  7. falcon says:

    In the video that I linked to above, Earl Erskine is interviewing Brent Parkin and they are discussing what it was like the first time they went into a Christian church service. They both said the same thing. They couldn’t believe how the service was all focused on Jesus. They weren’t accustomed to that. So what are the LDS focused on? I’ve never been to an LDS church service but a friend told me that he was never to one that didn’t feel like a funeral.
    That’s an interesting observation since LDS are conditioned and taught that if something makes you feel good, it’s the Spirit. If something makes you feel bad, it’s Satan. The men in the article above were obviously not feeling good about Joseph Smith in their encounter with him. That’s the thing with cults like Mormonism. They convince people of a certain set of premises and if the person buys it, they’re hooked. In Mormonism it’s the good feeling paradigm. If you read the BoM and get a good feeling then the Spirit is testifying to its truthfulness. What happens if you don’t get the good feeling? There’s something wrong with you. In-other-words, you didn’t pray, weren’t humble or sincere. If you had been you would have received the confirming feeling.
    When an LDS gets themselves past this false belief of emotions prove truth, they are then free to ask some probing questions and find out if indeed this feelings based religion is true or not. I suppose we could flip this whole thing and say that if the LDS don’t discover that Mormonism is false then they didn’t pray, weren’t sincere and humble enough.
    Bottom line? Test the premise. You won’t go to outer darkness.

  8. falcon says:

    I guess the thing that frustrates me the most is the fact that LDS won’t even consider that maybe Joseph Smith isn’t who they think he is and maybe his claims aren’t true. I’m going to link to another one of these twenty-eight minute videos that bear testimony that when Jesus knocks on our door, it’s we who have to open that door.
    It’s amazing to me that as I watched this video to hear both men, who are bright articulate guys, say they didn’t know that Joseph Smith was a polygamist. These are men, one who was a bishop in the LDS church, that didn’t even have the fundamental knowledge about Smith. I guess they had no reason to even ask since both were very content as Mormons.
    But then something happened. That something was Jesus knocking on the door of their hearts and lives. I was very fortunate I guess, that God put so much power and conviction on me that I couldn’t escape Him. It was basically surrender or die. Maybe not quite that dramatic but even all these decades later I can still remember it like it was yesterday it was that intense.
    To you LDS, this isn’t so much about exposing Joseph Smith as it is exposing Jesus Christ. If an LDS gets angry because they learn what they didn’t know before which calls into question Joseph Smith and the LDS church, but they don’t come to know Jesus………………
    That’s really the point of what we do here. To prove Mormonism and the LDS church as untrue isn’t all that interesting to me. If that was my motivation I wouldn’t waste my time. But the idea is to bring people to the Lord Jesus Christ and in so doing secure eternal life for them and their families.

  9. Mike R says:


    You made a good point as to why we are here . It’s not to just to help the Mormon people see that their prophets are latter days false prophets . It’s more important than that . Mormons need Jesus , the true Jesus . Complete forgiveness of sins, peace with God , and receiving eternal life , are available to the Mormon people . Mormonism is not the answer .

    We know it takes time for many Mormons to transition out of Mormonism , we must have patience in helping them . There have been ex Mormons on here who have been great aids in sharing what it was like leaving or considering leaving Mormonism .

    I praise God for MRM , those who run this ministry truly love the Mormon people and have been used by God to reach many for Jesus .

  10. falcon says:

    Every once in a while I’ll hear or read something that fits in perfectly with what happens to hook people into groups like the LDS church. When examining the pull of Joseph Smith on some people it’s that “these people believe that the “prophet” has mystical experiences beyond theirs'”. In Smith’s case it was the claim of visions and/or appearances by spirit beings and revelations. Why do people believe these guys? Well why do people believe con men who sell them a bill of goods and run off with their money?
    In Smith’s case it wasn’t that he was just a very convincing person but given his involvement in the occult, spiritual forces were also at work. So it’s a spiritual battle for the souls of people. What responsibility does the person who’s being conned have? I’d say that when anyone comes along with some fantastic story, either ignore them or check out their claims in light of what the Bible teaches.
    First of all Jesus and his disciples, warned about false prophets. The old adage, if it seems to good to be true it probably is, applies to Smith. The Bible also says to pay attention to doctrine. When we see were Smith went with his doctrine, it’s as obvious as day and night that his religion bears no resemblance to Christianity.

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