I will begin this post with a story:
It is the story of a boy born in Vermont, born to a family that was poor in finances, but rich in love. When he was fourteen, religion had become a big thing in his town and he was eager, and I do mean eager, to find which church is the one he should attend. But he was so confused as to which one he should join.
So while studying the Bible, he comes across a verse in the epistle of James ( If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.), and decided to act on that verse the next day.
It was then in a field where he prayed and saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and was told to join none of the churches, for they were all an abomination to him. After that, Smith receives a visit from the Angel Moroni who has a work for him to do which would be to restore God's true church, which was lost after biblical times.
So he obtains the golden plates, translates them, and the Book of Mormon, along with the Mormon religion is born. He falls in love with Emma Hale, and they have the kind of marriage and relationship that church members are taught to aim for.
Smith deals with persecution from the time he becomes open about his vision. Persecution due to what he saw, and then persecution over his new religion. At one point, it gets so bad that he has to relocate to the Midwest. Yet, he stays true to God and the church throughout it all. The persecution regarding the religion gets to the point where Smith is killed as a martyr to his beliefs. This is at many times used as an example to members of the church to never be ashamed, and never be afraid of getting persecuted (because persecution WILL come), as the founder of that church was killed for his beliefs, and for not denying "God's one and only church."
Sounds like such a beautiful and inspirational story, doesn't it?
What if I told you it was all bullshit?
This is how the church wants the world to see Joseph Smith.
The church likes to feed us the "sunshine and cupcakes" and keep the integral information hidden. For example, my story above is how the church paints Smith, through the Joseph Smith History book in "The Pearl of Great Price," through the "Joseph Smith - Teachings of the Presidents of the Church" manual, through movies such as, "The Restoration," "Legacy," "My Story (biographical film of Emma Hale Smith)" and, "The Work and The Glory" movie series. Even the primary manuals that I used to teach from painted up Joseph as a giving and brave man.
But through my research, I learned that Smith was dishonest, was very selfish, a philanderer and just came off as a lunatic at times. He also changes his stories from time to time with an example being "The First Vision."
On "The First Vision"
So as mentioned in my little story, in Mormonism we are taught that Joseph Smith saw both God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Son tells Joseph not to join any churches. This all takes place in what is now called "The Sacred Grove" after Joseph follows a verse in the epistle in James, by praying to find out which church to join.
I discovered that there are many versions of that story. One of them being that Smith saw only one personage, and no instruction on joining or not joining a church was given, just that his sins were forgiven. In other versions, Smith claimed that he saw angels. But the two versions that I learned about was enough for me to see the inconsistency here. It also caused questions to arise about the "Godhead" (God the Father and God the Son being separate beings, not one) that I was continuously taught about throughout my years in the church.
Also, Joseph Smith claims that he was persecuted by the town after revealing this alleged vision. I remember at a fireside the teacher trying to drum up some sympathy to the fact that Smith was just a young teenaged boy who dealt with harassment and persecution over his vision. Yet, his vision was not revealed until eighteen years after (1838) it had "occurred" in 1820. So there's one thing that makes you question the persecution that the church claims that Smith had experienced.
Also, after this "vision" and Smith's personal "commandment" to not join any church, he applied for membership to a Methodist church. So here we have commandment-breaking.
On "The Book of Mormon"
There is quite a bit to cover here. So we learn that Moroni visits Joseph Smith at his home and tells him of a work that needs to be done. Moroni shows him an area where the golden plates are, and gives him instruction over the years. When the time was right, Smith would obtain those gold plates, and God will help him to translate them into what would become "The Book of Mormon."
Only, there was NEVER any gold plates. Ever wonder why those plates are never seen in a museum, or in any of the historical sites of the church? (Yes, I am aware of the claim that Moroni had to take the plates back.) Apparently, Smith was able to create this sacred book by...
Looking at a rock that sat in a bottom of a hat. A seerstone as the church likes to call it.
And apparently this was mentioned briefly sometime in 1993. Please keep that year in mind.
And let me refresh your memory on the time that I had investigated and joined the church: The spring and summer of 2004.
So I never learned about some "seerstone." I was fed that Joseph had used the golden plates by the Missionaries, and through my YSA Institute classes. And through those aforementioned movies that I had indulged in over the years.
More of the hiding of information. The church is pretty good at that, aren't they?
You even have President Uchtdorf trying to sell the reality of a rock giving Smith messages by comparing it to a cellular phone. I couldn't buy it. It sounded just ludicrous to me.
I will also mention that this "seer stone" was also used by Smith to find treasure.
Then you the content of the Book of Mormon itself.
Through my searches, I would learn about "The Views of the Hebrews" booklet that was written by Ethan Smith (no relation) who did not live too far from Joseph Smith, and had published that book about ten years prior to when the Book of Mormon was published. So we can add plagiarism to the resume of Smith's repertoire.
*A link to the Views on Hebrews can be found at the bottom of this page so you can read it and compare it to the Book of Mormon.
While I found Mormonism's polygamous history strange, what disturbed me most was the fact that not only did Smith practiced it, but the details of his practice of it. This is something the church never told me. Through movies ("The Work and the Glory" and "My Story")and the Relief Society/Priesthood Manuals, Joseph Smith and Emma Hale's marriage was painted up as a golden partnership. Through movies that I watched, Emma believed in Smith's story about his vision and supported him, and stuck by him throughout his "persecutions." They kept each other strong throughout their hard times. There was no mention on any of Smith's many wives throughout those movies that I had watched nor in that lesson manual.
So to find out that Joseph had many wives was a shock, even though I knew something about the polygamy that had taken place, nobody ever told me about Smith's wives.
What disturbed me even more, was that quite a few of his wives were women married to living husbands and some were teenagers as young as fourteen. Let's think back to my friend's reason for why polygamy started: Because there were a lot of widows and married men married them to make sure they were taken care of.
I know these women that we are talking about are not widows, but why would a fourteen year old need to be married to be taken care of? Isn't that what her parents were for?
I had a Mormon friend on Facebook that shared a piece of her family history about how one of her descendants was a man in his mid-to-late twenties, had married a fifteen year old. She then said that it was okay, because Smith did the same thing, and she does not understand why people are disgusted by the fact that Smith had done such a thing.
When you read the church's essay, they mention Helen Mar Kimball, one of Smith's teenaged brides saying that she was married just before her fifteenth birthday (note, Smith was thirty-seven at the time). We've seen from that line that even "God's Church" itself could not bring themselves to say that she was married at the age of fourteen, instead they say, "before her fifteenth birthday).
The essay tries to claim as to whether or not Smith and Kimball's marriage was consummated remains a mystery when there are many documentations of Kimball saying, "I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it."
Reading between the lines, I (and others) would say that the marriage was consummated. Yet is was obviously one-sided consummation.
I could also mention Fanny Alger, but I'm sure many already know about that "dirty, nasty, filthy affair."
Then we have the married wives that Smith was sealed to. Going back to my friend's statement of the women needed to be taken care of, so they became plural wives, I wondered what kind of "taken care of" did these women needed since they were already married to their living husbands? And also, why would they need to be sealed to Smith to be with HIM in the next life, rather than the men that they were already married to? Now I do understand that some of these men were sent away to serve missions, and Smith married their wives while they were away serving. I had a hard time believing that this was something that "God" wanted.
What also bothered me was Joseph Smith lying about his practice of plural marriage. If this was a commandment from God himself, and an angel with a sword threatened his life (oh, I'm sorry, "encouraged"), why would he deny this practice?
On Dying as a "Martyr"
I remember a lesson about Joseph Smith during an institute class where Smith dying as a martyr was covered. The class was also told that we should be willing to endure through persecution for this church because Smith endured persecution for the church and died for it. I don't vividly remember the lesson, but I remember what I had mentioned before about persecution, and that there was an argument on whether the word "martyr" was just a word, or more than just a word. So let's take a look at the word "martyr" shall we?
- 1.a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs.
"saints, martyrs, and witnesses to the faith"
- 1.kill (someone) because of their beliefs.
"she was martyred for her faith"
Now if the religion we were talking about was "Polygamy" then Smith would be a martyr. But polygamy was a practice, a part (sure, a big one in a way) of that religion.
(Now if you want to look at the noun section of the word, and the second definition under the noun section, then I guess in that case he would be a martyr. The many claims of the persecution over his religion and his vision would make him one, but albeit not an honorable one. What I'm focusing on is the "honor" that the church tries to feed us.)
In reality, the people that had jailed and killed Smith were not angry in regards to his religion like the church lays claim to. It was Smith's polygamy and polyamory and destruction of property that got him in trouble. The local newspaper, The Nauvoo Expositor was going to reveal Smith's polygamous/polyamorous lifestyle (or to be frank, his sexual liaisons) and Smith ordered the press destroyed. For that action, he was jailed. After that incarceration and a gun battle, he was killed.
This has nothing to do with the religion, not like the church tries to convince us.
After discovering this, I felt that Joseph Smith was not a man that I would want to follow, sing "Praise to the Man" for, or defend him like I used to.
Suggested Reading/Viewing (as always, if there is something that I should add, please let me know in a comment):
- The Views of the Hebrews (in .PDF format)
- The Stories of the Wives of Joseph Smith
- Destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor
Just for laughs.