Ah, the life of Joseph Smith. You either love the guy or you don’t. This article isn’t so much about the Mormon Church and Smith’s accomplishments in his relatively short-lived life as it is a chronological look at his behavior pattern.
The young man certainly had a zest for flair and wasted no time displaying acts of grandiose ideals along with misplaced leadership skills. With the drive to lead we oft times find other parts of a personality emerge bordering obsession. If a person like this hasn’t the opportunity for a mentor who can help tame the wild side, you’re usually left with dictators. It’s up to the reader to decide if Smith fit those shoes.
For all intensive purposes ol’ Joe didn’t have anyone who would stay for the long haul to guide and correct. Those who tried to intervene were quickly brushed aside and/or threatened. Family members, aka parents, were a product of the times who had fallen into the false teachings of American Folk Religion and Witchcraft. As such, their outlook only fueled Joe’s behavior to be on the hunt for the next big experience.
Reports of his poor choices appear early in records and as we look over these we can see how Smith had pretty much painted himself into a corner. If he had placed his faith in the God of the Bible I personally believe he would’ve achieved great things for the Lord and been looked upon with great admiration instead of contempt.
We’re publishing these things not to bash Smith or the Mormon people. We do this to inform and give the investigator more insight into the life of Joseph Smith. In the beginning of his career you can see that some of his teachings were biblically sound, but unfortunately that period didn’t last.
As the years went along beliefs he adopted and promulgated did a complete turnaround with his behavior becoming more outlandish with beating people up to threatening death.
Some of the citations provided in this text brings up the subject of wrestling. Now wrestling in the nineteenth century was one of the biggest past times of the era.
It’s not that wrestling in and of itself is a bad thing, rather, we’re more concerned in the manner Smith went about participating in the event. In the majority of incidents we see that he used it to brag, to physically harm someone or to dare someone to take him down, especially if they were smaller than he was. FYI – Smith was about 6′ with a regular build.
Sadly, we’re still seeing this type of behavior with some of the Mormon people today. Threats, anger problems and the vitriol hasn’t stopped with the passing of Joseph.
The following is our list of several incidents in Joe’s life that caught the attention of not only us, but those who lived during the time of Smith as well. Keep in mind this is only a small example of the countless times Smith acted out inappropriately.
Unbelievers To Be Wiped Out
March 7th & July 20th 1831 – Smith declared Independence, MO as the new Zion and those who wouldn’t bow to this god would be wiped out. D&C 45:64-67, 49:9-10, D&C 57:2-5
Sword to Fall
D&C 1:13; “And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.” – Joseph Smith, November 1, 1831
Earth To Be Destroyed
D&C 88:87; “For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig-tree.” – Joseph Smith, December 27, 1832
Eight days later Smith said this;
United States To Be Destroyed
History of the Church 1:315-316; “And now I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ, that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation; pestilence, hail, famine, and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land…” – Joseph Smith, January 4, 1833
Tax Collector Beaten
Mormon Portraits, p 23; “Mr. K.: “A tax collector once asked a certain amount from Joseph; he stopped the prophet, who was riding in his carriage. Joseph said that he had paid him and owed him nothing. The collector said: “If you say this, you are a liar.” Joseph jumped out of his carriage and struck the collector such a blow that he went flying a distance of three or four yards. Joseph took his seat in the carriage and drove away.” – Dr. W. Wyl
Cursing Enemies & Avenging Yourself
D&C 103:24-25; “And inasmuch as mine enemies come against you to drive you from my goodly land, which I have consecrated to be the land of Zion, even from your own lands after these testimonies, which ye have brought before me against them, ye shall curse them; 25 And whomsoever ye curse, I will curse, and ye shall avenge me of mine enemies.” – Kirtland, OH, February 24, 1834 HC 2:36-39
Zion Will Be Redeemed September 11, 1836
History of the Church 2:145; “…use every effort to prevail on the churches to gather to those regions and locate themselves, to be in readiness to move into Jackson county in two years from the eleventh of September next, which is the appointed time for the redemption of Zion.” – Joseph Smith, August 16, 1834
Acquitted on Assault Charges Against Brother-in-Law
Joseph Smith acquitted in trial before the Court of Common Pleas at Chardon, on a charge of assault and battery brought by his brother-in-law, Calvin Stoddard.
“Smith then came up and knocked him in the forehead with his flat hand – the blow knocked him down, when Smith repeated the blow four or five times, very hard – made him blind – that Smith afterwards came to him and asked his forgiveness.” – Joseph Smith Papers, 26 June 1835
Violent Fight with William Smith (Joe’s brother)
A physical altercation with his brother William took place during a public debate at their father’s house. Conflicting reports on who got the worst beating, but in Millennial Star it says Joe got the raw end of the deal. – Millennial Star Vol. 27, No. 1, p 7. December 16, 1835
Smith’s Intolerance of Criticism/Thrashing Brother Wm. Smith
Benjamin F. Johnson, letter to Elder George S. Gibbs, 1903, as printed in The “Testimony of Joseph Smith’s Best Friend,” pp. 4-5; “And yet, although so social and even convivial at times, he would allow no arrogance or undue liberties. Criticisms, even by his associates, were rarely acceptable. Contradictions would arouse in him the lion at once. By no one of his fellows would he be superseded…. one or another of his associates were more than once, for their impudence, helped from the congregation by his foot. . . . He soundly thrashed his brother William . . . While with him in such fraternal, social and sometimes convivial moods, we could not then so fully realize the greatness and majesty of his calling.” Sunstone Magazine
Kicking into Street & Boxing Ears of Minister
This account of Joseph boxing the ears of a Baptist minister appears in two different writings. The retelling of the incident is recorded as the History of Luke Johnson in the Millennial Star and officially recorded under the date of January 7, 1865.
According to Johnson the incident in question took place in the Autumn of 1836.
History of Luke Johnson, Latter-day Saints Millennial Star, Vol. 27, No. 1, p 5; “A Baptist Clergyman from the State of New York, who had been acquainted with the Prophet Joseph in his early life, called upon him and staid all night. Joseph made the minister welcome, and treated him hospitably and respectfully; but, when breakfast was over next morning, he called Joseph a hypocrite, a liar, an imposter and a false Prophet, and called upon him to repent. Joseph boxed his ears with both hands, and, turning his face towards the door, kicked him into the street. He immediately went before a magistrate, and swore out a writ against Joseph for assault and battery.” – Luke Johnson
Conflict in Kirtland, p. 268; “On another occasion, a Baptist minister, who had been acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith in New York earlier in his life, visited him in Kirtland and remained as a guest with the Smiths over night. Following breakfast the next morning, the clergyman proceeded to call the Mormon leader “a hypocrite, a liar, an impostor, and a false prophet,’ [[47 Luke S. Johnson, “History of Luke Johnson,” Millennial Star, XXVII, No. 1 (January 7, 1865). p. 5.]] with the desired effect of chastening Smith to repentance. Joseph became exasperated over his ingratitude and “boxed his ears with both hands, and turning his face towards the door, kicked him into the street,” for the man’s lack of charity.” –Max H. Parkin
Joseph Slaps Apostle’s Face
The Culture of Violence in Joseph Smith’s Mormonism, p 21; “In the fall of 1837, David W. Patten investigated the Prophet’s secret relationship with his servant girl Fanny Alger, and the hapless apostle collided with Smith’s code of male honor. Brigham Young described what happened: “David in[sult]ed Joseph & Joseph slap[p]ed him in the face & kicked him out of the yard.”” – D. Michael Quinn
Acquitted of Attempted Murder
Mormon Portraits, pp 249-250; Despite the missing affidavits in History of the Church, two LDS apostles testified they received orders to put ‘Grandison Newell away’. For whatever reason (lack of evidence?) Smith was acquitted.
Smith Acknowledges Danites
According to D. Michael Quinn Joseph Smith made mention of the Danites in his journal (A Scriptory Book) in early June 1838 to explain the reason why the militant group was needed. This group was organized to defend the Church and carry out acts of ‘blood atonement’ on dissenters or anyone else who heavily opposed the Church. The Culture of Violence in Joseph Smith’s Mormonism, p 22
Joseph Approves Salt Sermon
June 17, 1838 – Sidney Rigdon delivers the infamous ‘Salt Sermon’. This was preached to anyone within earshot and then printed by Smith as a pamphlet. The sermon was a warning to all dissenters to evacuate the area immediately or else be ‘trodden under foot’.
Smith’s Physical Admonishment of Rigdon
Confessions of John D. Lee, aka Mormonism Unveiled, pp. 77-78; “…the Prophet dragged him from the ring, bareheaded, and tore Rigdon’s fine pulpit coat from the collar to the waist; then he turned to the men and said: ‘Go in, boys, and have your fun.’…Rigdon complained about the loss of his hat and the tearing of his coat. The Prophet said to him: ‘You were out of your place. Always keep your place and you will not suffer; but you got a little out of your place and you have suffered for it. You have no one to blame but yourself…’” – John D. Lee also see Mormon Portraits, p 120
Order Given to Assassinate Governor Boggs
In May of 1842 Smith and John C Bennett gave orders for Rockwell to ‘fulfill prophecy’ and despite being shot in the head Boggs survived.
While there’s a wide array of varying opinions about whether or not Smith knew or ordered the hit, evidence from affidavits taken at the time shows Smith’s complicity.
One in particular was very telling;
Mormon Portraits, pp 33-34; “Mrs. Sarah Pratt: “One evening Dr. Bennett called at my house and asked me to lend him my husband’s rifle…I asked him what he wanted the rifle for, and he said: ‘Don’t be so loud; Rockwell is outside – Joseph wants it; I shall tell you later.’…I suspected some foul play, and refused to give him the rifle stating that I dared not dispose of it in the absence of my husband. Bennett went away, and when the news came that Gov. Boggs had been shot at all but killed, Bennett came and told me that he had wanted the rifle of my husband for “that job,” and that Joseph had sent him to get it. I have not the slightest doubt that Joseph had planned and ordered the assassination of Gov. Boggs.””
Smith Prefers Decapitation Over Hanging
History of the Church 5:296; “…I was opposed to hanging, even if a man kill another, I will shoot him, or cut off his head, spill his blood on the ground, and let the smoke thereof ascend up to God; and if ever I have the privilege of making a law on that subject, I will have it so.” – Joseph Smith, March 4, 1843
Wrestling with the Locals
History of the Church 5:302; “In the evening, when pulling sticks, I pulled up Justus A. Morse, the strongest man in Ramus, with one hand.” – Joseph Smith, March 11, 1843
History of the Church 5:302; “Monday, 13.—I wrestled with William Wall, the most expert wrestler in Ramus, and threw him.” – Joseph Smith March 13, 1843
History of the Church 5:316; “Josiah Butterfield came to my house and insulted me so outrageously that I kicked him out of the house, across the yard, and into the street.” – Joseph Smith, March 28, 1843
Joseph not So Much a Christian
History of the Church 5:335; “I am not so much a “Christian” as many suppose I am. When a man undertakes to ride me for a horse, I feel disposed to kick up and throw him off, and ride him. David did so, and so did Joshua. My only weapon is my tongue. I would not buy property in Iowa territory: I consider it stooping to accept it as a gift.” – Joseph Smith, April 6, 1843
Joseph Challenges Saints to Confront His Behavior
Times and Seasons 4, [May 1,1843]: 181; “President Joseph then asked the conference if they were satisfied with the First Presidency, so far as he was concerned, as an individual, to preside over the whole church; or would they have another? If, said he, I have done anything that ought to injure my character, reputation, or standing; or have dishonored our religion by any means in the sight of men, or angels, or in the sight of men and women, I am sorry for it, and if you will forgive me, I will endeavor to do so no more. I do not know that I have done anything of the kind; but if I have, come forward and tell me of it. If anyone has any objection to me, I want you to come boldly and frankly, and tell of it; and if not, ever after hold your peace.” – April, 6, 1843
Joseph Strong as a Giant
History of the Church 5:465-466; “I feel as strong as a giant. I pulled sticks with the men coming along, and I pulled up with one hand the strongest man that could be found. Then two men tried, but they could not pull me up, and I continued to pull, mentally, until I pulled Missouri to Nauvoo. But I will pass from that subject.” – Joseph Smith, June 30, 1843
Smith Enraged, Strikes Bagby 2-3 Times
History of the Church 5:524; “Bagby called me a liar, and picked up a stone to throw at me, which so enraged me that I followed him a few steps, and struck him two or three times. Esquire Daniel H. Wells stepped between us and succeeded in separating us. I told Esquire to assess the fine for the assault, and I was willing to pay it. He not doing it, I rode down to Alderman Whitney, stated the circumstances, and he imposed a fine which I paid, and then returned to the political meeting.” – Joseph Smith, August 1, 1843
Smith Chokes Bagby
History of the Church 5:531; “He then complained of the treatment he had received from Walter Bagby, the county assessor and collector, who has exercised more despotic power over the inhabitants of the city than any despot of the eastern country over his serfs. I met him, and he gave me some abusive language, taking up a stone to throw at me: I seized him by the throat to choke him off. He then spoke of Esquire Daniel H. Wells interfering when he had no business, and of the abuses he received at the election on the hill. They got a constable by the name of King. I don’t know what need there was of a constable. Old Father Perry said, “Why, you can’t vote in this precinct.”” – Joseph Smith, August 13, 1843
World Subdued Under Smith
“We spent about an hour conversing on various subjects, the prophet himself, with amazing volubility, occupying the most of the time, and his whole theme was himself. Let us give what turn we would to the conversation, he would adroitly bring it back to himself…Running on in his voluble style, he said: ‘The world persecutes me, it has always persecuted me…They thought to put me down, but they haven’t succeeded, and they can’t do it. When I have proved that I am right, and get all the world subdued under me, I think I shall deserve something.” – Editor of the Pittsburg Gazette (New York Spectator [New York City], 23 September 1843)
Combats the Errors of the Age
History of the Church 6:78; “I combat the errors of ages; I meet the violence of mobs; I cope with illegal proceedings from executive authority; I cut the Gordian Knot of powers, and I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth – diamond truth; and God is my ‘right hand man.’” – Joseph Smith, November 13, 1843
Can Read All Writings and Hieroglyphics
The Saga of the Book of Abraham, p 257; “These are hieroglyphics; nobody can read them but myself. I can read all writing and all hieroglyphics.” – Jay Todd
Breaks Leg of Good Friend
Mormonism: Its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, p 52; Mrs. Mary Ettie V. Smith claimed that “the Prophet Joseph Smith had one day broken the leg of my brother Howard, while wrestling…” – N.W. Green
More Reports of Violence
Beating Up Another Minister
Journal of Discourses 3:67; “After he got through chatting, the Baptist stood before him, and folding his arms said, “Is it possible that I now flash my optics upon a Prophet, upon a man who has conversed with my Savior?” “Yes,” says the Prophet, “I don’t know but you do; would not you like to wrestle with me?” That, you see, brought the priest right on to the thrashing floor, and he turned a summerset right straight. After he had whirled round a few times, like a duck shot in the head, he concluded that his piety had been awfully shocked, even to the centre, and went to the Prophet to learn why he had so shocked his piety. The Prophet commenced and showed him the follies of the world, and the absurdity of the long tone, and that he had a super-abundant stock of sanctimoniousness.” – Jedidiah M. Grant, Salt Lake, September 24, 1854
Brigham’s Calm Personality Compared to Smith
Journal of Discourses 8:317-318; “Some may think that I am rather too severe; but if you had the Prophet Joseph to deal with, you would think that I am quite mild. There are many here that are acquainted with brother Joseph’s manner. He would not bear the usage I have borne, and would appear as though he would tear down all the houses in the city, and tear up trees by the roots, if men conducted to him in the way they have to me.” – Brigham Young, Salt Lake City, October 6, 1860