Joseph Smith Was an Honest and Virtuous Man

“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”   (Matthew 7:18)

If Joseph Smith was given to sedition and seduction, how long do you think his religious fold would have lasted? If he was given to false and vain practices as some like to spitefully accuse him of, would not his religious organization have been toppled years ago? Would it not have faded into oblivion?

Joseph Smith’s revelations established counsel to minister to the poor, to send the missionaries to the four corners of the earth, and to introduce the ordinances of the House of God (temples) to prepare individuals to walk back into the presence of our Heavenly Father. He also clarified and restored correct doctrine concerning the family. All of these teachings were emphasized by the Savior, as he directed righteous prophets and patriarchs in both the Old and New Testaments. All of these teachings are taken seriously by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph Smith never said this was his Church or his work. The name of the Church should be noted reflectively as an individual considers who Joseph Smith purported to be and what he presented to the world.

Joseph Smith was a modern prophet called to restore all things from past gospel dispensations—and he did so under the pattern that past gospel dispensations were ushered in—through the ministry of angels. Some of those past dispensations are to be better understood by a close reading of the scriptures.

I suppose there are a variety of reasons why people like to draw attention to Joseph Smith’s teachings concerning marriage, particularly, plural marriage. I find it quite interesting that a disobedient, sexually perverted world, in which greater numbers accept alternatives to God’s sanction of marriage, calls into question the virtue of Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith did institute and practice plural marriage, but not in a 21st century mindset. If we are readers of the Bible and consider it the word of God, then the question ought to be asked sincerely: Why would the Lord command righteous men and women to obey the principle of plural marriage at certain times? (Such as those who lived in the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and those who lived in the days of the prophets—Samuel and Nathan.)

Joseph Smith’s teachings and practice regarding plural marriage occurred with a full understanding of the following truths: (1) Plural marriage is approved of the Lord only when He commands it. And the Lord has commanded it and revoked it as He deems necessary. Through a prophet it was restored and through a prophet it was revoked. (2) The commandment to live the law of plural marriage in the latter days was part of the restoration of all things. [See also Acts 3:20–21.] (3) Plural marriage can be authorized only through the priesthood keys given to the President of the Church. The charge was to not be taken nor treated lightly. For example, Nathan the prophet authorized David’s practice of plural marriage. But Nathan’s position also required him to rebuke David and take the wives of David from him [See 2 Samuel 12:1–13]; and (4) The Lord has at times instituted plural marriage to provide further opportunities for His people to raise up righteous children unto Him. [These truths are highlighted in the D&C Seminary Teacher Manual.] The plural marriage families who lived in the Great Basin between the 1850’s and 1890 have brought forth some choice individuals and large influential posterities.

These truths can easily be manipulated and abused by people. Unfortunately the modern day examples that television producers and news networks highlight don’t always help people understand these truths. Rather they titillate for viewership and perpetuate apostasy. They also portray polygamy in an entirely different tone than plural marriage instituted by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith did claim to be a modern day prophet and seer, yet he reasoned: “Although I do wrong, I do not the wrongs that I am charged with doing: the wrong that I do is through the frailty of human nature, like other men. No man lives without fault. Do you think that even Jesus, if He were here, would be without fault in your eyes? His enemies said all manner of evil against Him—they all watched for iniquity in Him.”

Yesteryear and today people constantly “watch for iniquity” in Joseph Smith. Why can’t people leave Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith alone? Why the brutal and vilifying attacks hundreds of years later? “Because [the Savior] is the truth, and the truth will always be opposed….” And “Because [Joseph Smith] taught the truth, and the truth will always be opposed.” (Listen to Elder Corbridge’s discourse)

Joseph Smith’s teaching on marriage interrupted the traditions of his day. I find it interesting that many of his most vehement enemies that sought to kill him were themselves adulterers and ones given to prostitution and rape. Adultery is lustful behavior that rudely ignores the marriage covenant and the responsibility a man and woman are to share in union. In plural marriage the union is sacred. Nonetheless, the restoration of the biblical practice was “entirely foreign” to the Latter-day Saints. With great sacrifice Joseph instituted the practice. But again a perverse world can only assume Joseph Smith did what he did to fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—Joseph Smith “did none other things than that which [he was] commanded” (See D&C 132:37). Neither he nor the church will ever have to apologize for the truths he restored to the earth in our gospel dispensation. Elder Neil L. Andersen expressed: “In our society beyond the veil of death, we will clearly understand the sacred calling and divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith.”

Joseph Smith was an honest and virtuous man.

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22 thoughts on “Joseph Smith Was an Honest and Virtuous Man

  1. Marc Ensign

    Ryan,
    There are some things your defence of Joseph Smith leaves out that need to be answered. Why were some of these young women told that the the salvation of their entire family depended on them complying with this principle? Why were they promised that if they submitted, their parents and siblings would be exalted? Doesn’t exaltation come from one’s own qualification and not anothers? Why when several of the young women Joseph aproached objected, did he threaten to ruin their reputations? Why were secret rendevous set up behind Emma’s back. Why does the Church continue to claim that these marriages were not sexual when the women who were party to them claimed they were? In the past it was easy to dismiss these claims as ‘anti=Mormon’, but the very reason they have resurfaced is because the sources are LDS journals and histories…the writings of faithful Latter-Day Saints who endured and questioned and who’s lives were ruined by this doctrine.

    Reply
    1. Ryan C. Jenkins Post author

      Marc, you can consider some of my other replies (sorry I just don’t have a lot time). I realize this a very difficult issue and that accounts in Joseph Smith’s day (and in the Bible for that matter) are not conclusive. Some of your argument are notions perpetuated by JS enemies. I think it is fair to consider the truths Joseph Smith restored and the trajectory of the Latter-day Saints seeing those through (administering to the poor, preaching of the gospel etc….). I realize you disagree but the Church is not an evil entity.

      Reply
      1. Marc Ensign

        Ryan, I know you want to believe in a certain Joseph Smith, but wanting it to be true, and believing it is true, and even testifying that its true doesn’t make it true. The references in my previous post came from LDS womeen like Helen Mar Kimgball and Nancy Rigdon and Sara Pratt and Eliza R. Snow. They were not perpetuated by JS ememies. That is the problem. The acqusations are coming from credible, but previously hidden sources. I do look to the trajectory of the church to justify my belief in it (FYI I am an active member and work in the temple). Nowhere have I suggested the church is an evil entity. Please consider what I posted previously instead of wanting to dismiss it as argumentitive. There are many faithful members of the church who would like a serious and truthful response instead of having their concerns ignored as anti-

        Reply
    2. Amanda@thewonderwomen.squarespace.com

      I think Brian Hales does a great job of clearing up a lot of this confusion at josephsmithspolygamy.org. He explains that this understanding is couched in a statement made by Helen Mar Kimball based on something she remembered the Prophet to have said, but, in her youth did not fully understand. Later statements by her father Heber C. Kimball are more clarifying. Of course, these families look forward to being linked in the eternities. But, as Elder Bednar reaffirmed @ a seminaries & institute broadcat in 2011 “You can’t be saved through the faithfulness of your parents.” I would naturally asume the same applies to spouses.
      A lot of Joseph’s actions in regards to Emma make more sense when you undertand the paradigm that whosoever loves God more than father, mother…spouse….is not worthy of him. It is my belief that Joseph did what he did to protect Emma as much as possible from the condemnation she would be under due to her hesitancy to accept the commandment of plural marriage. It was a mercy to her – and something that, by now, she probably has a better grip on.
      Read what the faithful saints who lived this commandment had to say about it. If you can’t believe their own words, you will be one of the blind who are only so because they WILL not see.

      Reply
  2. David Wendell

    I’m not commenting on whether Joseph Smith was honest and virtuous. I am commenting on your “proofs” that he was so. Generally speaking – I think it would be better to explain the specific accusations against Smith’s virtue. It seems to me you are mostly focused on polygamy – so talk about the most potentially “bad” marriages he had (perhaps start with the 14 year old girls/ladies/women).

    Back to your arguments…

    It seems that you are claiming Joseph Smith was an honest and virtuous man:

    1. because the LDS has grown. (Please compare with Islam. A religious organization can grow for human reasons and not divine, like any organization)

    2. because the name of the church he established/reestablished is called the church of Jesus Christ. (Tons of Church call themselves the Church of Jesus Christ. Just because people calls themselves something doesn’t mean they are.)

    3. because he admits he does wrong. ( It appears in the Joseph Smith quote that he’s comparing his wrongs – tied to frailty of human nature – with the fact that some people thought Jesus was doing wrong. I thought Christians thought Jesus did no wrong. Your thoughts?)

    4. because people, some of whom were not virtuous, attack him. (People attack good people, but people also malign bad people.)

    I recommend focusing on the biographical aspects of Smith’s life to prove whether he was or was not an honest and virtuous man.

    DW

    Reply
    1. Ryan C. Jenkins Post author

      David appreciate your reply….
      1. The punch to me is not in the size of the Church but what is accomplishing in helping people temporally and spiritually in their lives.
      2. I do disagree, not many Churches are called by the full name of the Savior. (I recently moved to Missouri, Boone County. 65 churches registered. Only five make reference to Lord, God or Savior, (one two king). But that is not my point really. There is no evidence of a selfish, self-centered man in the title of the Church or in the temples ceremonies JS restored. It is all about redemption through the Savior and HF’s plan of Happines.
      3. Agreed some thought Jesus did wrong. But He is a marvelous exception. (See Doctrine and Covenants 20:21-24 and John 8:29).
      4. Without question. David, I think the life of JOseph Smith being attacked is best described in the NT…. see John 15:18-25; and 16:1-3.

      Next year I have a book coming out that does focus on the biographical aspects of his life as well as his own words. Thanks for your comment. Ryan

      Reply
  3. John

    If you believe in a god that would condone his “prophet” using emotional manipulation and threats to coerce a 14 year-old girl into marrying him, I feel sorry for you. Perhaps his congregation grew as it did because he wasn’t honest about his practices, to the point of destroying a printing press that published the truth. I would not follow such a man or any god behind him.

    Reply
    1. Ryan C. Jenkins Post author

      John, when it comes to Helen Mar Kimball (the 14 year old) I think the “she said, they said, he said,” needs to be scrutinized. Helen Mar wrote a defense later in her life. We ought to defer to her especially when she was the one to live it. I do think men have manipulated and coerced women throughout the ages. But I also feel there are some positive examples (as I noted in the article). Best

      Reply
  4. Bill Dudley

    Ridiculous. God NEVER commanded plural marriage in the Bible, it is only reported as something people did in ignorance. In EVERY CASE (Abraham, David, Gideon, Solomon and every other) it ended in disaster because God did not bless it. Whitewash Joe Smith all you want, he was a pedophile and false prophet, no more no less.

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  5. MormonForever

    What a wonderful article on Joseph Smith. Thank you for writing this Joseph Smith was indeed a honest and virtuous man.

    Reply
  6. GP

    Honest and virtuous? You must have a very different definition than my definition. Joseph Smith practiced polygamy in secret while making several public statements denouncing the practice and denying his involvement. His actions also went against anti-polygamy LDS scripture – Jacob 2 and the 1835 D&C 101 (which was later replaced with D&C 132).

    There is no biblical account of God commanding anyone to practice polygamy – let alone the wives of other living men (polyandry). Joseph Smith took an ancient cultural practice of polygamy (not commandment) and used it as justification for his actions. As for the polyandry… it goes against the 10 commandments (adultery) and it boggles my mind how folks can try to rationalize it.

    Reply
    1. Ryan C. Jenkins Post author

      GP, secretive may be pushing it. There were always witnesses at the ceremonies. Yes they were done out of public eye and hidden and denied. Secretive seems to fit better with the adulterer and fornicator. I know of a few and I am sure you do. They never asked me to witness. I do accept the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God. Respectively I disagree with there being no biblical account. Genesis 16 I think is only one of several. Numbers 12 as well, were Moses was justified.

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  7. Lindsay

    If I hear one more time how much of a sacrifice it was for Joseph, Brigham, or any other man to live in a plural marriage, I think my head might explode. We never talk about how difficult it was for the women. We always talk about how men are visual by nature, well women are emotional. And so they had to give up the most tender part of them. They couldn’t have a mutually exclusive partner. They knew when he wasn’t with them, he was with other women, in their beds. He was wooing other potential wives. He was kissing them and telling them how much he loved them. You know what must have been hard? Sharing your husband. How much would you want to share your wife? Guess what? There was polyandry. They were marrying other people’s wives. Perhaps they didn’t sleep with them, but are you willing to give your wife to someone else for all eternity? The reason everyone is so focused on the sexual aspect is because he slept with a fourteen year old girl (according to her testimony). He promised her family salvation, if she married him. She herself later stated that she had been misled, she never would have agreed to the marriage if she had known she had to sleep with him. <— That is why it is disturbing!
    As Jacob 2:31-33 states: For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands. And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts. For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.

    Now what are these whoredoms that are breaking the tender hearts of His daughters? Oh yes; multiple wives and concubines. You seek to justify polygamy by David and Solomon, when the Lord clearly states in Jacob 2:23-24: But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son. Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord. So how could the Lord have given them the many wives, but then turned around and said it was an abomination that they had those wives in the first place? Don't we believe the BOM to be the most correct book on earth? So in the Bible the Lord gives a thumbs up to polygamy, but in the BOM he condemns it roundly. And before you say that Jacob 2:30 justifies it in any way, if you use the definition of "otherwise" that is "in another manner", verse 30 clearly states that the Lord will use other ways to raise up righteous seed. He doesn't need to break His daughter's tender hearts.

    In using Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to justify polygamy doesn't work, because Isaac only had one wife.

    What are the fruits of polygamy? How about broken women, secrecy, lies, deceit, the church losing temples, "lying for the Lord", missionary work coming to nearly are halt from the late 1880s-1920's, the church in massive debt by the early 1920s, and the fact that the only thing anyone seems to know about us is polygamy. Those are not such good fruits, IMHO.

    PS. The church Christ established in the meridian of time "faded into oblivion". You know which church had staying power? The Catholic church. Perhaps lasting power shouldn't be the benchmark by which we measure truth.

    Reply
    1. Ryan C. Jenkins Post author

      Lindsay, Without questions the practice was and could be abused and cause great heart-ache. There were several positivist examples of the law in Utah, as there were contrary ones for lustful or convenient purposes. Never would deny that. When Joseph Smith inquired as to the practice of plural marriage he had three questions. 1. How were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Moses etc…) Justified? 2. What is the meaning of the Law of Marriage in Matthew 22:22-29? 3. Why is this not adultery? Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants answers those questions. Joseph Smith didn’t seem to act hastily on this issue as some deviation and lacking self-control men do. Also, as I noted to a comment above, it is also helpful to consider the women’s testimony why they agreed to enter into plural marriage with Joseph Smith. Anyhow, all the best, Ryan

      Reply
  8. Phoenix

    People “can’t” leave Joseph Smith alone because he was a sexual predator and a pedophile. He ignored sacred marriage vows by marrying other men’s wives. He broke the professed word of God by hiding his marriages from Emma, by marrying sisters, mother/daughter pairs, and women who were not virgins. He committed adultery with Fanny Alger YEARS before the so-called revelation. He married two 14-year-old girls. He coerced these women by claiming he would be struck down by an angel if they refused, or that they and their entire family would be exalted if they agreed.

    Joseph Smith was anything but virtuous.

    Reply
    1. Ryan C. Jenkins Post author

      Phoenix, up front the notions do sound preposterous. Have you considered the testimony of Eliza R. Snow, Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, Lucy Walker, and Helen Mar Kimball? They spoke highly of his virtue and give their own accounts (dreams, visions, visitations of angels) of how they were convinced to enter into plural marriage. I think Lucy Walker’s account is fair to consider: http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/history-2/plural-wives-overview/lucy-walker/

      Best
      Ryan

      Reply
  9. Thomas Palmieri

    Why would God have decided to abrogate what the Spirit had said through St. Paul about single partner marriage in the time of Joseph Smith, only to abrogate Smith’s teaching and practice a few decades later, when the President went up into the temple and claimed yet another divine revelation once more banning the practice of polygamy, which conveniently allowed for Utah to enter into the Union? Are such men really and truly guided by the Spirit of holiness, or have their religious principles followed their appetites or motives of political expediency? Christ and the apostles did not so act.

    Reply
    1. Ryan C. Jenkins Post author

      Tom I respectively submit that there were other reasons the practice of plural marriage in the LDS Church in the 1890’s (beyond Utah’s chances of entering the Union). I think the the families who lived it (let’s say 2 generations of certain Mormons) were not all entirely upright, but the practice has produced some fine individuals and families who were remarkably disciples of Jesus Christ.

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  10. Ron Dean

    A good article. A true statement. For some reason, people seem to want to expect perfection from Joseph Smith. He never claimed perfection – only an aspiration to be perfect. The information age is wonderful in many ways but it sometimes puts information in the hands of those who lack the foundational background to cope properly with the information they have access to.

    Reply
  11. Boyd and Jana Summers

    Ryan,
    it is very disapponting for you to not have the time to answer many questions. You make the time and answers all questions related to the church. The following is very important to answer now:
    1. Polygamy has ruin so many lives and by having thr FLDS and the Order still practicing polygamy is a sin started by the LDS church. Joseph Smith should be ashamed. Angel Moroni with a sword to make sure sure this man does polygamy and marry a 14 year old.
    2. Blacks and the priesthood was wrong. Why would the LDS church do that and not allow the priesthood to blacks who aree very good peple. I was chastied by a High Council on my mission for baptising a black family who were very good people. BRIGHAM YOUNG was a Racist.
    3. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young Masons? Really? How do you think the temple rituals were set up? Ordinances have changed for years…Why? Women to honor and Obey? Women are to be respected and loved and not let the brethern feel
    almighty with what they say by holding the priesthood.. Also, stressing our family live to leave all responsibilities on wives.
    The Internet has opened up so many Mormons with understanding what the LDS chuch was really like in the early years. You nreed to dig more into the church history and read the Journal of discourses and get more answers before you write books about thr Mormon church. Ask leaders questions and get answers. That is important. Oh by the way, 2 billion dollars to build a mall in Salt Lake City? Money should of helped the poor and the needy and provide more food storage to familes. Oh Monson cutting the ribbon and say, LET’S GO SHOPPING! THE LDS church and Monson should be ashamed and embassed.
    ok, you learned something today. My wife and I are Christians not mormons…..Read the new tesament and know that our heavenly father and our savior is what is important and families. We don’t focus on the so to speak LDS prophets but our saviour Jesus Christ and our heavenly father. Oh I garaduated from Weber State too.
    Get facts before you wrjte books, I am an author too.
    3. Josep

    Reply
    1. Ryan C. Jenkins Post author

      Boyd
      I am sorry I didn’t get back with you, I don’t recall an initial email or response. In the midst of list you wrote this:.”The Internet has opened up so many Mormons with understanding what the LDS chuch was really like in the early years…. Read the new tesament and know that our heavenly father and our savior is what is important and families. We don’t focus on the so to speak LDS prophets but our saviour Jesus Christ and our heavenly father…
      Get facts before you wrjte books, I am an author too.”

      The problem today is many love and trust the internet and not the scriptures. I am glad you read the New Testament. Many so called church goers do. But a selective reading of the scriptures in the New Testament. doesn’t unlock and help clarify the workings of God and his purposes. this is why a study of the Old Testament is crucial. God doesn’t deal in racial terms, the scriptures teach that he speaks under the terms of tribes of Israel and certain responsibilities those tribes have. A finicky world operates in racial tones. The scriptures also talk of great sacrifice (and cost) that other dispensational temples were built under and Christ spoke favorably of His Father’s house (so I probably wouldn’t use that argument again). By the way who came first (according to scripture) God’s patriarchs and prophets and the administration of ordinances through them or the Masons? Something to think about. Best of luck in authoring. I wish more people read and pondered these days, but the current trend is scrolling and looking at visuals…. so the trend doesn’t favor you or me.

      Best

      Reply

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