- Criticism of Joseph Smith
This article is part of a series on Joseph Smith 1805 to 1827 – 1827 to 1830 1831 to 1834 – 1834 to 1837 1838 to 1839 – 1839 to 1844 Death – Polygamy – Teachings Prophecies – Criticism Bibliography – ChronologySee also: Criticism of Mormonism and Joseph Smith, Jr.
Joseph Smith Jr., founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, has been criticized by various contemporaries, historians, and researchers. Some criticisms accuse Smith of being a pious fraud, others claim that he had an immoral character, and others claim that he induced followers to join his church and follow his commands so that he could gain power and reap material and sexual rewards. In spite of the criticisms, most critics acknowledge that Smith was a charismatic and intelligent leader. Smith's claims and actions are usually defended by his followers, although Latter-day Saints generally accept that he was imperfect.
Notable critics and publications that are critical of Joseph Smith
Critics that were contemporaries of Joseph Smith
During Smith's lifetime, several associates criticised Smith, including Eber D. Howe, author of Mormonism Unvailed, John C. Bennett, author of History of the Saints; or, an Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism, and Oliver Cowdery.
Notable critics of Smith from the 20th and 21st centuries include Fawn Brodie, author of No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, David Persuitte, author of Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon, Jon Krakauer, author of Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, authors of Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?, and Richard Abanes, author of One Nation Under Gods.
Criticisms regarding immoral character
Arrest for being "a disorderly person and an imposter"
Critics claim that Smith's arrest in Bainbridge, New York in March 1826 for being "a disorderly person and an imposter" (for activities related to treasure-hunting) is evidence of his immoral character.
Treasure-hunting and money-diggingSee also: Early life of Joseph Smith, Jr.
Critics claim that Smith's occupation as a treasure hunter in the 1820s is evidence that he engaged in immoral activities.
ViolenceSee also: Mormonism and violence and Danites
Critics claim that Joseph Smith was a violent man, prone to fist fights and other violence, and that Smith formed and supported the Danites, a Mormon vigilante group employed to forcefully carry out Smith's directives.
Smoked and drank
Critics claim that Joseph Smith smoked and drank alcoholic beverages after publishing the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom, which discouraged those practices.
Criticisms that claim Smith was not genuine prophet
Failed propheciesMain article: Prophecies of Joseph Smith Jr.
Critics claim that Smith could not be a prophet of God, because many of Smith's prophecies failed to come true.
First Vision was fabricatedMain article: First Vision #Criticism of the First Vision
Critics of Smith claim that he fabricated the First Vision, the description of the episode when Smith allegedly first met with supernatural beings. Critics cite significant differences between the approximately ten written descriptions of the First Vision.
Criticisms regarding fabrication of sacred textsMain article: Criticism of Mormon sacred texts
Book of MormonMain article: Criticism of the Book of Mormon
Critics of Smith claim that he fabricated the Book of Mormon, including the invention of its purported language, Reformed Egyptian. Critics also criticise the use of seer stones and hat for translating.
Book of AbrahamMain article: Book of Abraham
Critics of Smith claim that he fabricated the Book of Abraham, citing the opinion of Egyptologists who examined portions of the original documents.
Kinderhook platesMain article: Kinderhook Plates
Critics of Smith claim that when Smith saw the Kinderhook Plates - which were brass plates planted in the ground as a hoax - that Smith fabricated an unpublished translation of some of the plates.
Criticism regarding narcissism and power
Critics claim that Smith was narcissistic and overly concerned with power, and they cite his actions such as having himself ordained king by the Council of Fifty, and appointing himself General of the Nauvoo Legion.
Criticisms regarding sex and marriageMain article: Plural Marriage #Criticism of plural marriageSee also: List of the wives of Joseph Smith, Jr.
Critics claim that Smith engaged in immoral behavior by having affairs and marrying approximately 30 women.
Marrying underage girlsMain article: Plural Marriage #Underage plural marriages
Critics claim that Smith instituted polygamy so that he could gratify sexual desires in an immoral way, particularly with young girls.
Fanny Alger affairMain article: Fanny Alger
Critics claim that Smith had an affair with his younger housekeeper, Fanny Alger.
Threats to women who did not marry himMain article: Plural Marriage #Instances of coercion and deception related to plural marriage
Critics of Smith cite instances where Smith used his power as prophet to threaten some potential spouses with eternal damnation if they did not consent to be his wife.
Allegations that Smith allowed abortions for plural wives
Smith was accused by Sarah Pratt in an 1886 interview with "vitriolic anti-Mormon journalist W. Wyl" of allowing John C. Bennett, a medical doctor, to perform abortions on polygamous wives who were officially single, which she alleged limited Smith's progeny from these wives. She based this on statements made to her by Bennett. Orson Pratt, Sarah Pratt's husband, considered Bennett a liarJ.C. Bennett has published lies concerning myself & family & the people with which I am connected....His book I have read with the greatest disgust. No candid honest man can or will believe it. He has disgraced himself in eyes of all civilized society who will despise his very name,"
whereas Sarah Pratt herself said, "[I] know that the principle statements in John C. Bennett's book on Mormonism are true."
- Abanes, Richard (2003). One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church. Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1568582838.
- Bennett, John C. (1842). History of the Saints; or, an Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism. Leland & Whiting. http://www.olivercowdery.com/smithhome/1840s/ben1842a.htm.
- Brodie, Fawn M. (1995). [No Man Knows My History No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith]. Vintage. ISBN 0679730540. No Man Knows My History.
- Compton, Todd (1997). In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith. Signature Books. ISBN 156085085X.
- Howe, Eber D. (1834). Mormonism unvailed [sic] or, A faithful account of that singular imposition and delusion, from its rise to the present time. Online copy
- Krakauer, Jon (2003). Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith. Doubleday. ISBN 0385509510.
- Persuitte, David (2000). Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon (2nd ed.). McFarland & Company. ISBN 078640826X.
- Quinn, D. Michael (1994). The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power. Signature Books. ISBN 1560850566.
- Tanner, Jerald and Sandra (1987). Mormonism - Shadow or Reality?. Utah Lighthouse Ministry. ISBN 9993074438.
- ^ Bennett, John C. (2000). The History of the Saints: Or An Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism. University of Illinois Press. pp. 40–49, 72–78, 155–171. ISBN 025202589X.
- ^ Brodie, Fawn M. (1995). [No Man Knows My History No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith]. Vintage. ISBN 0679730540. No Man Knows My History.
- ^ Abanes, Richard (2003). One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church. Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1568582838.
- ^ a b MacKinney, Jonathan (2006). Revelation Plain And Simple. Xulon Press. p. 494. ISBN 1600342809.
- ^ Brown, Dean. "Part 4: Joseph Smith And Money-digging". Rejecting the Mormon Claim. The Bible Study. http://www.bibletopics.com/biblestudy/162-4.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
- ^ a b Weisberg, Jacob. "Romney's Religion: A Mormon president? No way.". Slate. http://www.slate.com/id/2155902. Retrieved 2007-12-04.
- ^ Bennett, John C. (1842). History of the Saints; or, an Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism. Leland & Whiting. http://www.olivercowdery.com/smithhome/1840s/ben1842a.htm.
- ^ Howe, Eber D. (1834). Mormonism unvailed [sic] or, A faithful account of that singular imposition and delusion, from its rise to the present time. Online copy
- ^ "Cowdery, Oliver". Encyclopedia of Mormonism. 1. Macmillan Publishing Company. 1992. http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/people/oliver_cowdery.html. Retrieved 2006-08-02.
- ^ The Original Prophet, By a Visitor to Salt Lake City, Fraser's Magazine, February 1873, vol 2, p229-230.
- ^ Abanes, p 43-46
- ^ Abanes, p. 28-33
- ^ Tanners, p. 32-49
- ^ Abanes, p. 151-160
- ^ Tanners, p. 252-259, p. 428-450
- ^ Tanners, p. 6, 405-408
- ^ Abanes, p. 4611-468
- ^ Tanners, p. 186-195
- ^ Abanes, p. 15-18
- ^ Tanners, p. 143-162
- ^ Tanner, Jerald and Sandra (1987). Mormonism - Shadow or Reality?. Utah Lighthouse Ministry. pp. 91. ISBN 9993074438.
- ^ Brody, Fawn (1971). No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (2d ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
- ^ Abanes, Richard (2003). One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church. Thunder's Mouth Press. pp. 73. ISBN 1568582838.
- ^ Abanes, p. 451-458
- ^ Tanners, p. 294-369
- ^ Tanner, Jerald; Tanner, Sandra. "The Kinderhook Plates: Excerpt from Answering Mormon Scholars Vol 2". http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/kinderhookplates.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
- ^ Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power
- ^ Brodie, p. 357
- ^ Tanners, p. 414-417
- ^ Abanes, p. 181-183
- ^ Tanner, p. 202-231
- ^ Abanes, p. 130-134
- ^ Tanners, p. 216-218
- ^ Abanes, p. 132-134
- ^ Compton 1997
- ^ The Prophet Joseph Smith and His Plural Wives, Anderson, Richard L. & Faulring, Scott H., FARMS Review of Books 10:2
- ^ Smith 1971, pp. 113 link
- ^ JOSEPH SMITH THE PROPHET: HIS FAMILY AND HIS FRIENDS, copy of Wilhelm Ritter von Wymetal's 1886 book
- ^ Wymetal 1886, pp. 60–61 link
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