Some items on the character of Joseph Smith

Some items on the character of Joseph Smith August 20, 2018


Authentic JS image?
Some believe this to be an actual daguerrotype of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Others doubt it.
(Wikimedia Commons)


From an uncompleted manuscript:


The second president of the Church, Joseph Smith’s immediate successor, was Brigham Young. Recalling his own early experiences with Joseph Smith, he remarked,

Who can say aught against Joseph Smith? I do not think that a man lives upon the earth that knew him any better than I did, and I am bold to say that, Jesus Christ excepted, no better man ever lived or does live upon this earth. I feel like shouting Hallelujah all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith, the Prophet.[1]

“It must weigh heavily in the balance of history,” remarks Richard Lloyd Anderson, “that Oliver Cowdery, later a discriminating and astute lawyer, lived a school term in the Smith home in Manchester in 1828-9 and defended the Prophet and his family as ‘industrious, honest, virtuous, and liberal to all.’”[2]

Frederic G. Mather, a professional writer and a non-Mormon, interviewed residents of Harmony, Pennsylvania, in about 1880 who still remembered Joseph Smith as “a good and kind neighbor.”[3]  The Masonic grand master of the state of Illinois was surprised to find Joseph “hospitable, polite, well-informed and liberal. . . .  Instead of the ignorant and tyrannical upstart, judge my surprise at finding him a sensible, intelligent companion and gentlemanly man.  In frequent conversations with him he gave me every information that I desired, and appeared to be only pleased at being able to do so.”[4]  An English traveler, recounting his visit to Nauvoo in 1843, reported that Joseph was “a kind, cheerful, sociable companion.”[5]

Testimonials to the good character of Joseph Smith abound.[6]  The Prophet, recalled Jesse N. Smith, was

incomparably the most God-like man I ever saw. I know that by nature he was incapable of lying and deceitfulness, possessing the greatest kindness and nobility of character. I felt when in his presence that he could read me through and through. I know he was all that he claimed to be. [7]

“My first impression of the Prophet,” recalled Daniel Tyler, “was that he was a meek, humble, sociable, and very affable man. . . . My subsequent acquaintance with him more than confirmed my most favorable impressions in every particular.”[8] “As a son, he was nobility itself in love and honor of his parents,” remembered Benjamin F. Johnson.  “As a brother he was loving and true even unto death.  As a husband and father, his devotion to wives and children stopped only at idolatry.”[9]  “The more extensive my acquaintance and experience became with him,” wrote William Holmes Walker in his diary, “the more my confidence in him increased.”[10]


[1] $Andrus and Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, 40.

[2] Anderson, “The Reliability of the Early History of Lucy and Joseph Smith,” 23, citing L.D.S. Messenger and Advocate 2 (1855), 200. [Check original.]

[3] Frederic G. Mather, “The Early Days of Mormonism,” Lippincott’s Magazine 26/152 (August 1880): 200-201.*

[4] Quoted in Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet, 352.

[5] Quoted in Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet, 355.

[6] See, in addition to the specific materials cited below, the comments of Bathsheba W. Smith ($Andrus and Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, 138), William Farrington Cahoon (ibid, 149), and . Compare the impression recorded by the non-Mormon Peter Hardeman Burnett, who served for a time as Joseph Smith’s lawyer and later as first American governor of California (ibid, 126).

[7] The Juvenile Instructor 27 (1 January 1892): 23-24.*

[8] $Andrus and Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, 55.

[9] Given in Dean R. Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs, Reporting Doctrinal Views of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Bountiful: Horizon Publishers, 1976), 18.

[10] From the diary of William Holmes Walker, “Incidents, Travels, and Life of Elder William Holmes Walker, including His Immediate Association with Joseph Smith, the Prophet . . .,” 8, copied by Brigham Young University in 1961. In BYU Special Collections.*



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