Does Mormonism Rise Or Fall On Joseph Smith’s Character?

I am going to take a break from my series and discuss “Does Mormonism Rise Or Fall On Joseph Smith’s Character?”

The reason that I am bringing up this issue today is because I just watched the live stream of the UVU conference: Mormonism and the Internet and yesterday Patrick Mason said that Mormonism does not rise or fall on the character of Joseph Smith.

My first response was – yes it does. I mean if Joseph’s character is in question, that puts in question whether or not he told the truth about the angels and the gold plates, etc. Right? And if those are lies than Mormonism is a total waste of time.

Well maybe yes and maybe no.  This is why I am thinking about this.

Let’s read a little bit about the notorious John Friend as an example.

First read here about the scandal.

Reminds us of Joseph Smith, eh?

Now read his bio.

Similar personality of  Joseph Smith, right?

So we can come to the conclusion that both men have character issues and in Joseph’s case that probably means Joseph is not to be trusted when he talks about finding and translating gold plates and being visited by angels.

But does it mean that neither of them brought anything that was worthwhile into the world? I would say maybe they both did.  I must note here that Joseph Smith also helped to bring bad things into the world of Mormon communities (i.e. polygamy, racism, homophobia, persecution, unnecessary suffering) but you must also place blame for these things on other people as well (i.e. the Bible).

I saw a quote on the Mormon Stories community facebook page today that said:

“Religion is never Science (understanding reality or truth through objective means) but Religion IS an Art (seeking provocation of emotion and reflection through subjective means). So the problems occur when people try to make religion a science or when people dismiss religion as the amazing Art it can be.”

So if you look at Mormonism this way – if you see it as provocation of emotion and reflection through subjective means and reject it as truth and objectivity then perhaps you have something to hold on to no matter the character of the founder – no matter if the Book of Mormon is not historical.  What matters is: Can attending the Mormon church make you feel emotion and reflect on your life? Can it make you a better person? Do you feel moved? Do you feel community connection?

I can say that sometimes Mormon church services are very moving (sometimes not) and I think that inspiration comes when people do not try to make it true and objective, but instead insightful into the human condition.  It is only then that it becomes Art and not just nonsense.

Throughout history there have been many people with bad character that have brought some worthwhile and good things into the world (musicians, leaders, artists, politicians, authors). I think it is a great idea to find the good in things and do your best to reject the rest.

John Dehlin’s uncorrelated Mormon movement is trying to get Mormonism to open up so it doesn’t need to rise and fall on the character of Joseph Smith or the historicity of the Book of Mormon because if it holds too tightly to this false notion, then it will eventually fall.

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This entry was posted in Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, LDS Members Don't Want To Know If Its Not True, Mormonism Good and Bad, Polygamy, Questioning Mormons, The Book of Mormon, Uncorrelated Mormonism, Uncorrelated Mormons, Why LDS Members Leave The Church. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Does Mormonism Rise Or Fall On Joseph Smith’s Character?

  1. Jenny says:

    My Grandfather passed away a few months ago, and our family gathered at his home to begin the process of preparing it for sale. Next door, was his faithful and devoted neighbor who has spent the last decade mowing the yard, shoveling the snow, planting the garden, and keeping an eye on my Grandfather for absolutely no compensation. He even checked on him once to find him collapsed on the floor and called 911 – essentially saving his life. He carried loads of items to the dump or to Goodwill as we cleaned out the 50+ years of accumulation. He has always been kind and friendly to our family. But, last month this man was arrested on numerous counts of fraud and it turns out he has a long record of fraud, impersonating a doctor, and is even in trouble with the US Navy for some of his false claims. I read article after article about him and all the dishonest things he has done throughout his life. I also read the reactions from the public about how he was the scum of the earth and an all around terrible person. It got me thinking about how good people sometimes do bad things – and how bad people sometimes do good things.

    Joseph Smith may have been a good man who did some bad things – or visa versa – and I think that can be said about all of us. Regardless if you view him as a prophet of God, a complete fraud, or somewhere in between the two – he left behind some good things from his earthly life.

  2. I’m not buying this argument. “Even if Joseph Smith was a fraud he may have contributed some good.” Yes, you could probably make this claim for characters like Hitler and Stalin, too. But if Smith was responsible for millions of people trusting and investing their lives in a false religion, the Biblical condemnation of being tossed into the sea tied to a mill stone comes to mind. Mormonism rises or falls based on the testimony of this man. His claim that he was given the restored Gospel and apostolic responsibility to speak God’s truth to the world should be taken seriously and investigated. Mormons ask seekers to read their scriptures and pray for God to give them an affirmation of its validity; however; followers of other religions do the same so trusting strong emotional feelings about what is true may not help you know if Smith or Muhammad was the true prophet. In Smith’s case his character and actions should be objectively be considered as well as the historical and archeological validity of the Book of Mormon.

  3. gary olsen says:

    Mormonism does rise or fall, or fail on the character of Joseph Smith. Mormonism is Joseph Smith. Everything Mormons believe comes from his mouth. If he is believable then Mormonism is what it says it is. If he’s not then it is a fraud. He may have done some good things in his lifetime, but the evidence against him is overwhelming. All of the mistakes in the BOM, the fraud his attempted translations of the Egyptian papyri, the kinderhook plates, his lies surrounding the supposed 1st vision, all of the interpolations between the 1833 Book of Commandments and the 1835 D and C, his immoral behavior with woman and young girls, his constant lying about ploygamy/polyandry, and on, and on, and on. Does this sound like someone you would trust with your salvation?

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