Joseph Smith, Jr.

From Academic Kids

Joseph Smith, Jr./Infobox

Joseph Smith, Jr. (December 23, 1805 June 27, 1844) was the founder and leader of the Latter Day Saint movement. His followers revere him as the first prophet of the latter days. Critics regarded him, his religion, and his politics with contempt and often violence: Smith and his brother Hyrum were killed when a mob attacked the Carthage, Illinois jail where the two were incarcerated on construed charges.

Raised during an era of Christian innovation, at the beginning of the Restorationism movement, Smith built his ministry upon claims of divine revelation, the visitation of angels, the translation of ancient writings, and the introduction of novel social, economic, and doctrinal ideas. Smith claimed his first vision, a theophany, came in his adolescent years, in a clearing of the woods near his home. According to Smith, this and other heavenly visions led him to restore what he claimed was the original Church of Jesus Christ, which he believed was lost in a Great Apostasy shortly after the deaths of the original apostles of Jesus.

Smith dictated numerous scriptures, many of which he claimed were translated from ancient records, including the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham. Smith also created a new "inspired" translation of the Bible, and dictated many new revelations, many of which were later compiled and published as the Doctrine and Covenants.

Smith and his legacy continue to evoke strong emotion; his life and works are subject to considerable debate and research. Latter Day Saints regard negative criticism as verification of a prophecy Smith gave at age thirty-four stating that seventeen years earlier he was told by an angel that his name and reputation "should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people." [1] (


Early life

Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont, the fourth child of Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. The Smiths suffered considerable financial problems and moved several times in and around New England. One of these moves was precipitated by the Year Without a Summer caused by the eruption of the Tambora volcano.

As a child, Smith's leg became dangerously infected during the winter of 1812-1813. Some doctors advised amputation, but Smith's family refused. Smith later recovered, though he used crutches for several years and was bothered with a limp for the rest of his life.

Court records show Smith was examined on March 20, 1826; regarding charges of "disorderly conduct" for money-digging activities. This action was probably brought by sons of Josiah Stowell, then Smith's employer. As his employer, Stowell had prevailed upon Smith to attempt to find buried treasure with divine assistance. With little success, Smith terminated this fruitless "treasure digging, but not before earning the enmity of some of Stowell's sons. Josiah felt that Smith was a harder worker than his sons presumably causing a degree of jealousy. At the examination (it was not a trial) seven witnesses were called and most of them affirmed that Smith had some sort of spiritual gift and the legal examination resulted in no action against Smith. Coincidentally, most scholars of the era acknowledge that "treasure digging" was a common form of folk magic (like water dowsing) and that Smith would have not been unique in its practice.

Smith married Emma Hale in secret on January 18, 1827. The couple eloped due to the Hale family's disapproval of Smith.

The First Vision

Main article: First Vision

Later in life, Smith ascribed great importance to an early theophany he claimed to have witnessed during his adolescence. Over the years, beginning in 1830, Smith described this experience in varying detail. In his last written account (1838), he described his vision as an appearance of Jesus and God the Father sometime during the spring of 1820, when he was fourteen years old. He said this vision was not well received in his community.


Missing image
Joseph Smith receives the plates on which is written the Book of Mormon.

Smith claimed he was visited by an angel named Moroni, three times during the evening and night of September 21, 1823, and once more in the morning of September 22. According to Smith, Moroni told him about Golden Plates or tablets hidden in the ground near his home, on a hill called Cumorah. These plates were said to contain an account of ancient inhabitants of the Americas, inscribed in reformed Egyptian.

On September 22, 1823, Smith went to Cumorah to recover the plates, but Moroni said he was unready.

Smith returned to the hill as directed by Moroni, on September 22, 1824, 1825, and 1826, and Moroni returned each night to counsel him. On 22 September 1827, Smith was allowed to take the plates, as well as the Urim and Thummim and a breastplate to aid his translation.

An official account of the First Vision and Smith's encounter with Moroni is contained in the Pearl of Great Price in Joseph Smith-History, verses 1-20 & 27-54 (

Translation of the Book of Mormon

Smith translated portions of the plates from December 1827 to February 1828; Emma and her brother Reuben acted as scribes. The faithful believe that Smith translated the plates using divine guidance and the Urim and Thummim. In addition, Smith and his scribes gave additional accounts as to how Smith accomplished his translations with the use of direct revelation, study, and other media.

Martin Harris acted as Smith's translation scribe from April to June of 1828. In early April, 1829, Smith began translating again, with Oliver Cowdery as scribe. Others also helped. When translation was complete, Smith said he returned the plates to Moroni.

During translation, the scribes never physically saw the plates. Later, three men and then eight other men were allowed to view the plates. Mary Whitmer, who boarded Smith and Emma during the translations final phase, said Moroni showed her the plates. Emma and others reported touching and moving the plates as they lay under a heavy cloth or in a bag.

The Book of Mormon was first published on March 26, 1830.

Church Founded

According to Cowdery and Smith, on May 15, 1829, they both received the Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist. Then using this priesthood's authority, they baptized each other. Peter, James, and John also came to them between May and June 1829 and ordained them to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Latter Day Saints believe that these events were necessary for the full restoration of the Church.

In 1830, on April 6, Smith and five others formally established "The Church of Christ" under New York State Laws (the church was later called Church of Latter Day Saints (1834), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (1838) then The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) Smith and others quickly began proselytizing and baptizing new members.

Throughout this period, Smith asserted that he received many revelations from God. These were compiled as The Book of Commandments, later published as the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835.


Missing image
Illustration of a mob tarring and feathering Joseph Smith.
To avoid conflict and persecution encountered in New York and Pennsylvania, Smith and Emma eventually moved to Kirtland, Ohio early in 1831. They lived with Isaac Morleys family while a house was built for them on the Morley farm. Many of Smith's followers and associates settled in Kirtland, Ohio, and also in Jackson County, Missouri, where Smith said he was instructed by revelation to build Zion.

In Kirtland, the church's first temple was built, and many extraordinary events were reported: appearances by Jesus Christ, Moses, Elijah, Elias, and numerous angels; speaking and singing in tongues, often with translations; prophesying; and other spiritual experiences. Some Mormons believed that Jesus' Millennial reign had come. Even those of other faiths reported a heavenly light "resting" upon the temple.

The early Church grew rapidly, but there was often conflict between saints and various neighbors. These conflicts were sometimes violent: On the evening of March 24, 1832 in Hiram, Ohio, a group of men beat and tarred and feathered Smith and his counselor Sidney Rigdon. They threatened Smith with castration and with death, and one of his teeth was chipped when they attempted to force him to drink poison. The mob action led to the exposure and eventual death of Smith's adopted newborn twins. Sidney Rigdon suffered a severe concussion after being dragged on the ground. According to some accounts, Rigdon was delirious for several days, threatening most of those who were near him, including the life of his wife and Smith. The reasons for this attack are uncertain, but likely were tied to a sermon given by Rigdon.

After tending to his wounds all night and into the early morning, Smith preached a sermon the following day. Though some reports state that members of the mob that had attacked him were present at this sermon, Smith did not mention the attack directly.

On January 12, 1838 Smith and Rigdon left Kirtland for Far West in Caldwell County, Missouri, in Smith's words, "to escape mob violence, which was about to burst upon us under the color of legal process to cover the hellish designs of our enemies." Just prior to their departure, many Saints, (including prominent leaders), became disaffected in the wake of the Kirtland Safety Society debacle, in which Smith and several associates were accused of various illegal or unethical banking actions.

Most remaining church members left Kirtland for Missouri.

Plural marriage

Most believe that Smith began practicing a form of polygyny called celestial marriage (later called plural marriage) perhaps as early as 1833 [2] ( Polygamy (marriage to multiple partners) was illegal in many U.S. States, including Illinois, and was felt by some to be an immoral or misguided practice.

There is disagreement as to the precise number of wives Smith may have had: one historian, Todd M. Compton, who contends that polygamy was a mistake for the Church, tried to document, using Utah LDS sources, at least thirty-three plural marriages or sealings during Smith's lifetime. See Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, Jr. for a list of these wives. It is without question that Joseph had multiple wives (as marriage certificates are available for some); but, as Compton states multiple times in his work "Absolutely nothing is known of this marriage after the ceremony"—that is, it is unclear how many of these marriages Smith consummated. Information on the intention of some of the sealings is similarly ambiguous; Smith has been sealed to many people as a father or a brother as well as those instances of being a husband. If these marriage sealings were indeed sexual unions it would be reasonable to expect some children from them as there were from Smith's first marriage. One of the plural wives made an allegation that Smith had fathered one of her children, but this is disputed, as is the theory that Smith fathered children with some of his plural wives that were raised as though they were the children of their other husbands.

The LDS Church (that migrated to Utah after Smith's death) believes plural marriage was instituted and practiced by the earliest prophets of the Old Testament, as documented by scripture, and was once again restored to the earth for the Mormon people in the nineteenth century. The LDS Church publicly announced the practice in Utah in 1852, after which the doctrine was generally accepted, but not widely practiced, in that church. Plural Marriage was later formally discontinued by the LDS Church, which currently excommunicates members who practice it. The Community of Christ (formerly Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) denied for many years that Smith ever taught or practiced polygamy. More recently, Community of Christ historians have publicly supported the view that Smith taught the doctrine. Template:Ref Other, smaller branches of the Latter Day Saint Movement descended from the LDS Church continue to practice plural marriage.

Although Smith publicly denied plural marriage during the early days of the church, he practiced it secretly, and introduced a small number of followers into the practice. In the early Latter Day Saint era, some followers who practiced plural marriage said they were uncomfortable with it when first introduced to them, but believed it was commissioned by God, who had allowed the practice in Old Testament times.

By most accounts, Emma was at times supportive, but often troubled by plural marriage; however she remained faithful to Smith.


The Missouri period was marked by often violent conflict and legal difficulties for Smith and his followers. Many of the initial settlers saw the LDS settlers as a religious and political threat, especially because unlike most Missourians, Mormons were anti-slavery. Mormons also tended to vote in blocs, giving them a degree of political influence wherever they settled. Additionally, Mormons purchased vast amounts of land in which to establish settlements. Some saints felt they had been promised control of the area by Smiths revelations, and this view only fueled the growing tension.

In response to the consistent persecution of members, a small group of Mormons organized themselves into a vigilante group called the Danites. Organized by Sampson Avard, Smith disapproved of the group, and Avard was excommunicated for his activities.[3] (

Soon the "old Missourians" and Mormon settlers were engaged in a conflict sometimes referred to as the 1838 Mormon War. One key skirmish was the Battle of Crooked River, which involved Missouri state troops and a Mormon group. There is some debate as to whether the Mormons knew their opponents were government officials, but the battle's aftermath was pivotal in Church history. One popular Mormon leader, David W. Patten, was killed in the skirmish.

This battle led to reports of a "Mormon insurrection". Due to these reports (and the political influence of pro-slavery politicians), Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs issued an executive order known as the "Extermination Order" on 27 October 1838. The order stated that the Mormon community was in "open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this State ... the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description." [4] ( (In 1976 Missouri Governor Christopher S. Bond formally apologized for the treatment of Mormons in Missouri and officially rescinded ( the "Extermination Order".)

Soon after this "Extermination Order" was issued, vigilantes attacked an outlying Mormon settlement and killed 17 Mormons. This event is identified as the Haun's Mill Massacre. Soon afterward, the 2,500 troops from the state militia converged on the Mormon headquarters at Far West. Smith and several other Church leaders surrendered to state authorities on treason charges. Although they were civilians, the militia leader threatened to try Smith and others in a military tribunal and have them immediately executed. Were it not for the actions of General Alexander William Doniphan in defence of due process, and Smith, the plans of the militia leaders likely would have been carried out.

The legality of Boggs' Extermination Order was debated in the legislature, but its objectives were achieved. Most of the Mormon community in Missouri either left or were forced out by the spring of 1839.

Instead of facing execution, Smith and three others spent several months in Liberty Jail awaiting a trial that never came. With shaky legal grounds for imprisonment, authorities eventually allowed them to escape. They joined the rest of the Church in Illinois.


Missing image
Profile of Joseph Smith, Jr. (circa 1843) by Bathsheba Bigler Smith, first wife of George A. Smith and mother of George Albert Smith

After leaving Missouri in 1839, Smith and his followers made headquarters in a town called Commerce, Illinois on the banks of the Mississippi River, which they renamed Nauvoo (meaning "to be beautiful"; Latter Day Saints often refered to Nauvoo as "the city beautiful", or "the city of Joseph"—which was actually the name of the city for a short time after the city charter was revoked—or other similar nicknames) after being granted a charter by the state of Illinois. Nauvoo was quickly built up by the faithful, including many new arrivals.

In March 1842, Smith was initiated as a Freemason (as an Entered Apprentice Mason on March 15, and Master Mason the next day—the usual month wait between degrees was waived by the Illinois Lodge Grandmaster, Abraham Jonas) at the Nauvoo Lodge, one of less than a half-dozen Masonic meetings he attended. He was introduced by John C. Bennett, a mason from the northeast.

Work on a temple in Nauvoo began in the autumn of 1840. The cornerstones were laid during a conference on 6 April 1841. Construction took five years and it was dedicated on May 1, 1846; about four months after Nauvoo was abandoned by the majority of the citizens. The temple was burned in 1848 and the remnants of the structure were destroyed by a tornado later that year.

Nauvoo's population peaked in 1845 when it may have had as many as 12,000 inhabitants — rivalling Chicago whose 1845 population was about 15,000.

Controversy in the City Beautiful

On the evening of May 6, 1842, a gunman shot through a window in Governor Boggs' home, hitting him four times. Sheriff J.H. Reynolds discovered a revolver at the scene, still loaded with buckshot and surmised that the suspect lost his firearm in the dark rainy night.

Some Saints saw the assassination attempt positively given Boggs' history of acting against the Church: An anonymous contributor to The Wasp, a Mormon newspaper in Nauvoo, wrote on May 28 that, "Boggs is undoubtedly killed according to report; but who did the noble deed remains to be found out."

Several doctors—including Boggs' brother—pronounced Boggs all but dead; at least one newspaper ran an obituary. To everyone's great surprise, Boggs not only survived, but gradually improved. The popular press—and popular rumor—was quick to blame Smith's friend and sometime bodyguard Porter Rockwell for the assassination attempt. By some reports, Smith had prophesied that Boggs would die violently, leading to speculation that Smith was involved. Rockwell denied involvement, stating that he would not have left the governor alive if he had indeed tried to kill him.

Also at about this time, Bennett had become disaffected from Smith and began publicizing what he said was Smith's practice of "Spiritual Wifery". (Bennett, earlier a pro-polygamy activist, knew of Smith's revelation on plural marriage and encouraged Smith to advocate the practice publicly. When this was rejected by Smith, Bennett began seducing women on his own and was subsequently excommunicated for practicing "Spiritual Wifery"[5] ( He stepped down as Nauvoo mayor—ostensibly in protest of Smith's actions—and also reported that Smith had offered a cash reward to anyone who would assassinate Boggs. He also reported that Smith had admitted to him that Rockwell had done the deed and that Rockwell had made a veiled threat on Bennet's life if he publicised the story. Smith vehemently denied Bennett's account, speculating that Boggs—no longer governor, but campaigning for state senate—was attacked by an election opponent. Bennett has been identified as "untruthful" by many historians and is seldom used as a reputable source.

Critics suggested that Nauvoo's charter should be revoked, and the Illinois legislature considered the notion. In response, Smith petitioned the U.S. Congress to make Nauvoo a territory. His petition was declined.

In February, 1844, Smith announced his candidacy for President of the United States, with Sidney Rigdon as his vice-presidential running mate.

King Follett Discourse

Two months before his death, Smith delivered a discourse on the nature of God at the funeral of a church member named King Follett. Although the address was not properly recorded or approved by Smith as official doctrine, it remains one of his most famous speeches. See King Follett Discourse.

Smith's Death

Eventually, several of Smith's disaffected associates—some of whom asserted that Smith had tried to seduce their wives in the name of plural marriage—joined together to publish a newspaper called the Nauvoo Expositor. Its only issue was published June 7, 1844.

Missing image
Artist's rendition of Smith's death.

The bulk of the paper was devoted to three main Criticisms of Smith: The opinion that Smith had once been a true prophet, but had fallen by advocating polygamy, Exaltation, and other controversial doctrines; The opinion that Smith, as both Mayor of Nauvoo and Church president held too much power, which was further consolidated by the overwhelmingly Mormon make-up of the Nauvoo courts and city council, who intended establishing a theocracy via the Council of Fifty; and the belief that Smith had corrupted women by forcing, coercing or introducing them into plural marriage.

The Nauvoo City Council passed an ordinance declaring the newspaper a public nuisance designed to promote violence against Smith and his followers. They reached this decision after lengthy discussion, including citation of William Blackstone's legal canon, which included a libellous press as a public nuisance. Under the council's new ordinance, Smith, as Nauvoo's mayor, in conjunction with the city council, ordered the city marshall to destroy the paper and the press on June 10, 1844. By the city marshall's account, the destruction of the press type was carried out orderly and peaceably. However, Charles A. Foster, a co-publisher of the Expositor, reported on June 12 that additionally to the printing press being destroyed, the group which he dubbed "several hundred minions ... injured the building very materially" as well [6] (, though this is contradicted by the fact that the building was in use for at least another decade.

Smiths critics were outraged, charging him with violating freedom of the press. Some sought legal charges against Smith for the destruction of the press, including charges of inciting riot and treason. Violent threats were made against Smith and the Mormon community. Warrants from outside Nauvoo were brought in against Smith, and dismissed in Nauvoo courts on a writ of habeas corpus. Smith declared martial law on June 18 and called out the Nauvoo Legion, a private militia of about 5,000 men, to protect Nauvoo from outside violence.

Smith soon submitted to arrest. Illinois Governor Ford proposed a trial in Carthage, the county seat, and guaranteed Smith's safety. Smith agreed and stayed in the Carthage Jail, under the Governor's promised protection. Ford agreed to stay in Carthage, but left not long after Smith went to stay at the jail. The unsympathetic "Carthage Greys", a local militia, were assigned to protect Smith at his second-floor room. Smith was joined there with his brother, Hyrum, Dr. Willard Richards, and John Taylor.

On June 26, 1844, Smith sent message to Major-General Johnathan Dunham of the Nauvoo Legion that he should lead the militia to the jail in order to protect and accompany Smith and his associates back to Nauvoo. Dunham decided to ignore Smith's order, fearing such an action would instigate a major conflict that could erupt into civil war. Dunham informed no one of Smith's order, or of his own decision regarding it.

Before a trial could be held, a mob of about 200 armed men (some painted as Indians) stormed Carthage Jail in the late afternoon of June 27, 1844. As the mob was approaching, the jailer became nervous, and informed Smith of the group. In a letter dated July 10, 1844, one of the jailers wrote that Smith, expecting the Nauvoo Legion, said "Don't trouble yourself ... they've come to rescue me."

The Carthage Greys reportedly feigned defense of the jail by firing shots or blanks over the attackers heads, and some of the Greys reportedly joined the mob, who rushed up the stairs.

The mob fired shots through the door and attempted to push the door open to fire into the room. Smith attempted to defend himself and his associates with a small pepper-box pistol that Cyrus Wheelock gave to Smith when he came to visit him at the jail. Smith's gun misfired several times, but he possibly hit as many as three men.

Hyrum Smith was shot in the face, just to the left of his nose. He cried out, "I am a dead man!" and collapsed. His body received five additional gunshot wounds. John Taylor was shot four times and severely injured, but survived the attack. Willard Richards escaped unscathed.

Joseph Smith was hit several times as he made his way towards the window. He made his way to the sill, but as he prepared to jump down, he was shot twice in the back and a third bullet, fired from a musket on the ground outside, hit him in the chest.

Most accounts report that before or as Smith fell from the window, he called "Oh Lord, my God!" or some similar phrase [7] (, which some have noted is similar to "Oh, Lord, My God, is there no help for the widow's son?" a traditional masonic call for aid. These last recorded words have led to speculation that his statement was a call for aid from any Masons in the mob, but this is purely conjecture.

There are varying accounts of what happened next. Richards' account claims Smith was dead when he landed after his fall; other accounts suggest Smith was alive when mob members propped his body against a nearby well and shot him before they fled. Another account claims one man tried to decapitate Smith for a bounty, and died in the act; there were reports that thunder and lightning frightened the mob off. Mob members fled, shouting, "The Mormons are coming," although there was no such force nearby.

After Smith's death

Joseph Smith painting owned by the Joseph Smith family.  Joseph Smith III, eleven years old at his father's death, said this was the best likeness of his father.
Joseph Smith painting owned by the Joseph Smith family. Joseph Smith III, eleven years old at his father's death, said this was the best likeness of his father.

Smith's death left the church in what has repeatedly been called a crisis. The church's charismatic founder was dead, and the church's hierarchy was scattered on missionary efforts and in support of Smith's presidential campaign. D. Michael Quinn, a historian who has written extensively about early Mormon history, quotes Brigham Young's initial concern after Smith's murder, "The first thing which I thought of was, whether Joseph had taken the keys of the kingdom with him from the earth." Without the keys of the kingdom, Young recognized the possibility that the church lacked a divinely-sanctioned leader.

Because of ongoing tensions, the state legislature revoked Nauvoo's city charter and it was disincorporated. All protection, public services, self-government and other public benefits were revoked. Those who lived in the former City of Nauvoo referred to it as the City of Joseph after this time, until the city was again granted a charter. Without official defenses, city residents continued to be persecuted by opponents, leading Young to consider other areas for settlement, including Texas, California, Iowa and the Intermountain West.


Smith left ambiguous or contradictory succession instructions that led to arguments and disagreements among the church's members and leadership, several of whom claimed rights to leadership.

An 8 August 1844 conference which established Young's leadership is the source of an oft-repeated legend. Multiple journal and eyewitness accounts from those who followed Young state that when Young spoke regarding the claims of succession by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he appeared to look or sound like the late Smith. Most saints followed Young, but some aligned with other various people claiming to be Smith's successor. Many of these smaller groups were spread out throughout the midwestern United States, especially in Independence, Missouri. Reverberations of the succession crisis continue to the present.

About two years after Smith's death mob violence and conflict continued to grow and threaten the Mormon establishment at Nauvoo. Brigham Young led many Latter Day Saints out of the United States and into Utah, which was then Mexican territory.

Smith as prophet

Christians and Jews look to Deuteronomy in the Bible for guidance on identifying a true prophet. After all, the scripture warns of wolves in sheep's clothing, false Christs, and false prophets. The scripture in Deuteronomy requires that a prophet prove themselves by prophesying and then having that prophesy fulfilled.

Critics of Joseph Smith's prophetic claims cite two examples of failed prophecies. Smith predicted that the American Civil War would be poured out upon all nations. Anti-Mormons would claim that wars were not poured out upon all nations. However, it is interesting to note that during and after the Civil War, battles and wars have not ceased. Sadly, this critique appears ignorant of the fact that the Confederate States of America did indeed ask for aid from Great Britain, which seriously considered openly supporting them. Further, Bernard Grun lists some of the conflicts in his book, The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Focusing between 1861 and 1961 the Italian struggles for unification took place (1866-71), as did the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71); the Ashanti War in Africa (ended in 1874); the Russian-Turkish War (1877-78); the Zulu War (1879); the Chinese-Japanese War (1893-95); the Spanish-American War (1898); the Boer War (1899-1902); the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5); the Turkish-Italian War (1911); the Chinese revolution (1911); World War I (1914-18); the Spanish Civil War (1931-39); World War II (1939-45); the Korean conflict (1950-53); Israeli conflicts (1955-56); and the Cuban Revolution (1959), not to mention the countless revolutions, coups d'etat, and skirmishes.

In Doctrine and Covenants 84:4-5, Smith prophesied that a temple would be built in Independence, Missouri during that generation. In D & C 124:49, 51, the Lord (according to Smith) revoked the commandment to build the temple there, noting that when people are prevented from doing a work, they are not responsible for not being able to fulfill it. Critics claim that since there is no man alive from that time today, and since there is no temple in Independence, that the prophesy is not fulfilled. Apologists point out that the Lord can decree and revoke prophesies according to His desires. Also, the meaning of a "generation" is not clear. This term can be interpreted to mean this dispensation, which according to Mormons, would last from Joseph Smith until the Second Coming.

Apologists argue that it is important to remember that other canonical prophets in the Jewish and Christian traditions have made prophecies that have failed to be fulfilled. Jonah prophesied the destruction of Ninevah, but the people repented and there was no destruction. Isaiah prophesied the death of Hezekiah, but after hearing the pleading of the king, the Lord revoked the prophecy and allowed Hezekiah to live longer. Does this make these false prophets? Or are we to consider the bulk of their predictions, ignoring the prophecies that have been revoked or that were conditional, and weight them in the balance?

Many more of Smith's prophecies came true. He predicted the American Civil War and its origins, even though people at the time mocked him and the elders who preached it. He predicted that he and his companions would be unharmed in Liberty Jail, despite overwhelming evidence that his captors intended to kill him. He predicted the settling place of the church in Utah, and that they would be free from persecution there. He also predicted that the church would grow from a few men into millions, and fill all nations. He predicted that his name would be known for good or bad among all people. He also predicted that Stephen A. Douglas, a prominent politician and presidential hopeful, would not win the presidency unless he helped the church. He did not, and he did not become president. He also predicted the destruction of Jackson County after his death, which occurred during the Civil War, almost exactly as he depicted it. He prophesied about conspiring forces with regards to alcohol, tobacoo, coffee, and tea, and certainly today we are all too familiar with that. He predicted that there would be stakes in Boston and New York, and today there are. He predicted that the prophesy of Elijah would be fulfilled, in that the hearts of the children be turned to their fathers, and today we are seeing that effect as people become interested in genealogy spontaneously, moreso than ever before. He predicted that he would die in Carthage Jail. He predicted that Dan Jones, one of those who stayed with him in Carthage, would survive and serve a successful mission in Wales. There are many, many more examples of prophesies, small and great, minor and major, recorded in scripture or recorded in personal diaries, that have been fulfilled precisely as Smith told it. ([8] (, [9] (

Apologists believe that the test in Deuteronomy has been passed by Joseph Smith, and that the overwhelming evidence points to him being such a prophet as Moses described. Critics remain unconvinced.


  • Template:Note Compton, Todd A Trajectory of Plurality: An Overview of Joseph Smith's Thirty-three Plural Wives Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought<u>, Summer 1996
  • Thomas Milton Tinney, (Sr.); The Royal Family of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Junior, First President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Library of Congress Call Number: CS71.S643 1973 Copy 1
  • Hugh Nibley; see No, Ma'am, That's Not History, reprinted in Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young; Deseret Books; ISBN 0875795161 (Hardcover, 1991) only available at (
  • Richard Lyman Bushman; Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism; University of Illinois Press; ISBN 0252060121 (1984; Paperback, 1988)
  • Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q. Cannon, editors; Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith's Teachings; Deseret Book; ISBN 1570086729 (Hardcover, 2000)
  • D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 1994). ISBN 1560850566.
  • Jon Krakauer; Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (Doubleday, New York, 2003)
  • Fawn M. Brodie; No Man Knows My History; The Life of Joseph Smith; (second edition, 1971). ISBN 0679730540.

Related articles

External links

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Who was Joseph Smith?,8672,957-1,00.html


Joseph Smith, Jr.
Founding president of
the Church of Christ (18301838)
later called
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (18381844)
Successor (as claimed by several competing Latter Day Saint movement churches):
President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Brigham Young
President of the Community of Christ (ne "RLDS Church")
Joseph Smith III
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite)
James Strang
de:Joseph Smith

es:Joseph Smith eo:Joseph SMITH fr:Joseph Smith fy:Joseph Smith ia:Joseph Smith nl:Joseph Smith ja:ジョセフ・スミス・ジュニア no:Joseph Smith pl:Joseph Smith pt:Joseph Smith ru:Смит, Джозеф


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools