Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith, Jr.

This page is a summary or index. More detailed information on this topic is available on the sub-pages below.

We should be careful not to claim for Joseph Smith perfections he did not claim for himself. He need not have been superhuman to be the instrument in God’s hands that we know him to be. In May, 1844, Joseph declared: “I never told you I was perfect, but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.” He had commented earlier: “Although I do wrong, I do not the wrongs 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.” Joseph Smith was a mortal man striving to fulfill an overwhelming, divinely- appointed mission against all odds. The wonder is not that he ever displayed human failings, but that he succeeded in his mission. His fruits are undeniable and undeniably good.

—Elder D. Todd Christofferson, "The Prophet Joseph Smith," Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional (September 24, 2013) off-site
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Early Smith family history

Contemporary witnesses regarded the Smiths as trustworthy and hard-working

Summary: It is claimed that there are "no contemporary pro-Mormon statements from reliable and informed sources who knew the Smith family and Joseph intimately."

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Joseph Smith's education

Summary: It is claimed that Joseph Smith's education was more substantial than is claimed by the Church because he was "home schooled."

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Joseph Smith's character

It is claimed that Joseph Smith was a disreputable person.

Was Joseph Smith disreputable?

Summary: Was Joseph Smith known as a "disreputable" person?

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The Hurlbut affidavits

Summary: Some cite a collection of affidavits from Joseph Smith’s neighbors which claim that the Smith family possessed a number of character flaws. Many of Joseph Smith’s friends and neighbors signed affidavits that accused him and his family of being lazy, indolent, undependable treasure-seekers.

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"Amusing recitals" and "Tall Tales?"

Summary: Joseph Smith's mother reported that he told "amusing recitals" about the ancient inhabitants of the American continent well before he translated the Book of Mormon. Does this indicate that Joseph was simply a teller of "tall tales?"

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Personality and temperament

Summary: Some point to what they perceive as personal failings of Joseph Smith, such as his allegedly short temper, as evidence that he was not a true prophet of God.

Psychobiographical analysis

Summary: Is it possible to deduce Joseph Smith's thoughts and dreams years after his death? Some critics think so.


Joseph Smith's alleged narcissism

Accusations that Joseph Smith was ego-maniacal, proud, and narcissistic

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Accusations that Joseph Smith was prone to boasting

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Treasure seeking, money digging and Joseph Smith, Jr.

Was Joseph Smith's engagement in "money digging" or looking for buried treasure a blot on his character?

Was Joseph Smith's involvement with "money digging" a blot on his character?

Summary: Did Joseph "retrofit" his "treasure seeking" to have a religious explanation? For example, was Moroni originally conceived of as a treasure guardian by Joseph, and only later came to be seen as a divine messenger, an angel?

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Joseph Smith and the "occult" or "magick"

Citing Joseph Smith's experiences with folk magic, treasure seeking and seer stones, it is claimed that Joseph Smith's spiritual experiences were originally products of magic and the occult. Some charge that only much later did Joseph retrofit his experiences in Christian, religious terms: speaking of God, angels, and prophethood rather than in terms of magic, treasure guardians and scrying. It is also claimed that a "vagabond fortune-teller" named Walters became popular in the Palmyra area, and that when Walters left the area, "his mantle fell upon" Joseph Smith.

The origin of Joseph Smith's spiritual experiences

Summary: Were Joseph Smith's spiritual experiences originally products of magic and the occult?

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Joseph Smith's family and "folk magic"

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Joseph Smith's First Vision

Joseph Smith's claim that he saw the Father and the Son in 1820 has produced a wide variety of criticism. This set of articles addresses the various critical claims related to the First Vision. The linked articles below are designed to help readers to see some of the weaknesses that are found in arguments that are made against Joseph Smith's First Vision accounts. Some of these arguments are currently being advocated in anti-Mormon literature that is handed out near the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York.

Criticisms of the First Vision accounts

Church discussion of the First Vision accounts

Summary: Has the Church hidden the various accounts of the First Vision over the years?

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1832

Summary: Critical analysis of Joseph Smith's 1832 First Vision account

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1835

Summary: Critical analysis of Joseph Smith's 1835 First Vision account

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1838

Summary: Joseph Smith's 1838 First Vision account is analyzed by critics of the Church in order to use it to prove that the First Vision never occurred. A variety of critical arguments are raised based upon the words Joseph used to describe the events leading up to his First Vision. We examine here the introduction to Joseph's 1838 First Vision account, found in the Pearl of Great Price and separate facts from opinion.

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Joseph Smith's first and second "visitation of angels"

Summary: Joseph Smith referred to the what we now know of as the First Vision as the "first visitation of angels." He referred to Moroni's visit as "another vision of angels."

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Joseph Smith's 1832 First Vision account states he was 15 years old rather than 14

Summary: In Joseph Smith's 1832 First Vision recital he said that he was "in the 16th year of [his] age" when the manifestation took place but when he created the 1838 account he changed this information to say that he was "in [his] fifteenth year."

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Discrepancies in Paul's account of his vision

Summary: Paul the apostle gave more than one account of his vision of the resurrected Lord while on the road to Damascus. Like Joseph Smith's account of the First Vision, Paul's accounts differ in some details but agree in the overall message.

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D&C:84 says God cannot be seen without priesthood

Summary: Critics argue that Joseph Smith claimed that he saw God in 1820 and also claimed that he received the priesthood in 1829. But in a text which he produced in 1832 (DC 84:21-22) it is said that a person cannot see God without holding the priesthood. Therefore, it is claimed that Joseph Smith contradicted himself and this counts as evidence against his calling as an authentic prophet of God.

Was Joseph Smith told that "all the churches of the day were an abomination?"

Summary: It is claimed that Joseph Smith stated that during the First Vision that he was told that "all the churches of the day were an abomination."

A "mormoninfographic" erroneously indicates that the words "God the Father" and "Jesus Christ" appear in Joseph's 1838 account.

Summary: An anti-Mormon "infographic" erroneously indicates that the words "God the Father" and "Jesus Christ" appear in Joseph's 1838 account, however, Joseph only refers to them as "personages." The link between the Father and the Son is only implied by the words spoken by the Father: "This is my beloved Son."

A "mormoninfographic" states that "pillar of fire" is not mentioned in Joseph's 1832 account.

Summary: An anti-Mormon "infographic" claims that Joseph Smith's 1832 account neglects to mention a "pillar of fire."

A "mormoninfographic" indicates that the 1835 "Erastus Holmes" account describes a different vision.

Summary: An anti-Mormon "infographic" indicates that the 1835 "Erastus Holmes" account describes a different vision. This short summary account of the "first visitation of angels" was written in Joseph's journal only five days after he described seeing two "personages" and "many angels."

Prophet's mother said First Vision was of an "angel"

Summary: The Prophet's mother—Lucy Mack Smith—wrote a letter in 1831 which seems to indicate that her son's First Vision consisted of seeing an "angel" instead of Deity. Critics suggest that this demonstrates that the Prophet's story evolved over time and that his claim to have seen God was a relatively late addition to his story.


Criticisms of events leading up to the First Vision

Joseph Smith and the Methodists

Summary: It is claimed that any association Joseph had with Methodism did not occur until the 1824-25 revival in Palmyra, and that his claim that the "unusual excitement" started with the Methodists in 1820 is therefore incorrect.

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Lucy Mack Smith and the Presbyterians

Summary: It is claimed that since there was a religious revival in Palmyra, New York in 1824-25 which appears to match details of Joseph Smith's official Church history, he must have mistakenly mixed this event in with his narrative about what happened in 1820, and that the Prophet's mother joined the Presbyterian church after Alvin Smith died in late 1823. This contradicts Joseph's statement that she joined in 1820, thereby dating Joseph's First Vision to no earlier than 1823.

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Religious activity in the Palmyra area in 1820

Summary: It is claimed that there were no religious revivals in the Palmyra, New York area in 1820, contrary to Joseph Smith's claims that during that year there was "an unusual excitement on the subject of religion...indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it"

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The Smith family's place of residence in 1820 at the time of Joseph Smith's First Vision

Summary: It is claimed that there are discrepancies in Joseph's account of his family's early history, which make his 1820 and subsequent revelations impossible, and that there is no evidence that the Smith family was in the Palmyra area in 1820 for the religious excitement and First Vision which Joseph reported.

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A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article "First Vision"

Summary: FairMormon analyzes the Wikipedia treatment of the First Vision.


Criticisms of events occurring after the First Vision

Joseph Smith's early knowledge of the nature of God

Summary: It is claimed that Joseph began his prophetic career with a "trinitarian" idea of God, and only later developed his theology of the Godhead. What do we know about Joseph and the early Saints' views on God?

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Published references to Joseph Smith's First Vision

Summary: It is claimed that there is no reference to the 1838 canonical First Vision story in any published material from the 1830s, and that nothing published in this period mentions that Joseph saw the Father and Son. They also assume that it would have been mentioned in the local newspapers at the time.

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Brigham Young's references to elements of Joseph Smith's First Vision

Summary: It is claimed that Brigham Young never mentioned the First Vision. This is false.

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John Taylor's understanding of the First Vision

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Did Joseph join other churches contrary to commandment in vision?

Summary: It is claimed that Joseph Smith joined the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches between 1820 and 1830—despite the claim made in his 1838 history that he was forbidden by Deity (during the 1820 First Vision experience) from joining any denomination.

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Contradiction about knowing all churches were wrong

Summary: In his 1832 account of the First Vision, Joseph Smith said, “I found [by searching the scriptures] that mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatized from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament.” But in the 1835 account he said, “I knew not who [of the denominations] was right or who was wrong.” It is claimed that thus counts as evidence that the First Vision story evolved over time.

First Vision fabricated to give "Godly authority?"

Summary: It is claimed that Joseph Smith decided after he released the Book of Mormon to the public that he needed 'authority from God' to justify his claims as a religious minister. Therefore, it is claimed that he fabricated the First Vision story in order to provide himself with a more prestigious line of authority than that of the "angel" who revealed the golden plates.

First Vision story became more detailed and colorful after 1832?

Summary: Some claim that Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision grew more detailed and more colorful after he first recorded it in 1832.

1838 account modified to offset leadership crisis?

Summary: It is claimed that in 1838 Joseph Smith revised his personal history to say that his original call came from God the Father and Jesus Christ rather than an angel. His motive for doing this was to give himself a stronger leadership role because an authority crisis had recently taken place and large-scale apostasy was the result.

Is there evidence that Joseph or his family were persecuted because of the First Vision?

Summary: Some claim that there is no evidence that Joseph or his family were persecuted because of the First Vision. They argue that this means that Joseph invented the story later.

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Andrew Jenson called one of the personages in the First Vision an "angel"

Summary: A history article printed in 1888 by assistant Church historian Andrew Jenson twice referred to one of the visitors as an "angel."


Doctrinal criticisms related to the First Vision

Does Doctrine and Covenants 121:28 contradict the First Vision?

Summary: In 1839 Joseph Smith received a revelation from God in which it was stated that the time would come "in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods they shall be manifest" (D&C 121:28). This was an "unnecessary revelation," since according to the official LDS Church First Vision account Joseph Smith supposedly knew that there was more than one God since 1820. This information counts as evidence that the Prophet's story was fraudulent.

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God the Father as a Spirit versus Embodied

Summary: When the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1835 it portrayed God the Father as a personage of spirit whereas Jesus Christ was portrayed as a personage of tabernacle, or one having a physical body. Yet the official LDS First Vision story portrays the Father as a physical Being.

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Personages seen by Joseph Smith

Summary: A list of known personages who appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith or who were seen by him in vision.

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Brigham Young and the First Vision

Summary: It is claimed either that Brigham never taught about the First Vision, or that he taught that the Lord did not appear to Joseph. Both claims are false.

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Did the Church hide accounts of the First Vision?

The claim is sometimes made by critics that the LDS Church hides the various accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision that are not in its official canon. The following chronological database (compiled by FairMormon volunteer Edward Jones) demonstrates conclusively that this is simply not the case. The various accounts of the First Vision have been widely acknowledged in LDS-authored sources throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

LDS-Authored Publications (1910-1968)

Summary: Mentions of the various accounts of the First Vision in LDS publications (1910-1968)

LDS-Authored Publications (1969-1978)

Summary: Mentions of the various accounts of the First Vision in LDS publications (1969-1978)

LDS-Authored Publications (1979-1983)

Summary: Mentions of the various accounts of the First Vision in LDS publications (1979-1983)

LDS-Authored Publications (1984-1989)

Summary: Mentions of the various accounts of the First Vision in LDS publications (1984-1989)

LDS-Authored Publications (1990-1997)

Summary: Mentions of the various accounts of the First Vision in LDS publications (1990-1997)

LDS-Authored Publications (1998-2003)

Summary: Mentions of the various accounts of the First Vision in LDS publications (1998-2003)

LDS-Authored Publications (2004-Present)

Summary: Mentions of the various accounts of the First Vision in LDS publications (2004-Present)


Primary sources related to Joseph Smith's First Vision

Original text of Joseph's accounts of the First Vision

1832 account

Summary: This is the earliest known account of the First Vision written by Joseph Smith. Source: Joseph Smith Letterbook 1, pp. 1-6. Published in: Dean Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith.

1835 account

Summary: This account was written by Joseph Smith in his diary. Joseph described his vision to Robert Matthias, also known as "Joshua the Jewish minister". Joseph Smith Diary (1835–1836), original in Joseph Smith Collection, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah. Published in: Dean Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith.

1835 (Erastus Holmes account)

Summary: Erastus Holmes account Deseret News 2.15 (May 29, 1852); also in Millennial Star 15. 27 (July 2, 1853): 424; Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith, 2: 79-80; cf. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:207.; DHC 2. 312.

1840 (Orson Pratt account)

1842 (Joseph Smith History of the Church)

Summary: "Joseph Smith’s History of the Church," Times and Seasons 3. 10 (15 Mar. 1842): 726-28

1842 (Wentworth letter account)

Summary: Wentworth letter. (Times and Seasons, 3.9 (1 Mar. 1842), p. 706-710

1842 (Orson Hyde account)

1843 (The Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette)

Summary: “The Prairies, Nauvoo, Joe Smith, the Temple, the Mormons, etc.,” editor, David Nye White, The Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette 58 (September 15, 1843): 3

1843 (Levi Richards account)

Summary: Levi Richards’s diary about Joseph Smith preaching in the summer of 1843 and repeating the Lord’s first message to him that no church was His (see Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of Joseph Smith, 2nd Edition, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 215.

1844 (Daniel Rupp account)

Summary: : “Latter Day Saints, by Joseph Smith, Nauvoo, Illinois,” in I. Daniel Rupp, HE PASA EKKLESIA: An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States (Philadelphia: J. Y. Humphreys, 1844), pp. 404; The account for Rupp was published in the original history of the Church published in “History of Joseph Smith,” Millennial Star 22. 7 (February 18, 1860): 102-3; also in Dean Jesse, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:448.

1844 (Alexander Neibaur account)

Summary: Alexander Neibaur Journal, 24 May 1844

1893 (Charles L. Walker account)

Summary: As told by John Alger


Joseph Smith and the "occult" or "magick"

Citing Joseph Smith's experiences with folk magic, treasure seeking and seer stones, it is claimed that Joseph Smith's spiritual experiences were originally products of magic and the occult. Some charge that only much later did Joseph retrofit his experiences in Christian, religious terms: speaking of God, angels, and prophethood rather than in terms of magic, treasure guardians and scrying. It is also claimed that a "vagabond fortune-teller" named Walters became popular in the Palmyra area, and that when Walters left the area, "his mantle fell upon" Joseph Smith.

The origin of Joseph Smith's spiritual experiences

Summary: Were Joseph Smith's spiritual experiences originally products of magic and the occult?

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Joseph Smith's family and "folk magic"

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Joseph Smith as a translator

It is claimed that Joseph Smith claimed to translate other texts or items, which can be checked against modern academic translations. They claim that this "cross-checking" proves that Joseph could not have translated the Book of Mormon or other ancient texts.

Urim and Thummim and seer stones

Joseph Smith used the Nephite Interpreters as well as his own seer stone (both of which were later referred to as "Urim and Thummim") to translate the Book of Mormon.

Joseph Smith's use of seer stones as a youth

Summary: How did Joseph use his seer stone as a youth? Did he use it to look for treasure? Did he place it in his hat? Did he use it during the translation of the Book of Mormon?

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What was the "Urim and Thummim" used by Joseph to translate the plates? Was it the Nephite interpreters or the seer stone?

Summary: What physical aids were employed by the Prophet during translation?

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Joseph Smith used the same "rock in hat" seer stone for translating that he used for "money digging"

Summary: Joseph was given a set of Nephite interpreters along with the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was produced. In addition, Joseph already possessed and utilized several seer stones. Although Joseph began translating the Book of Mormon using the Nephite interpreters, he later switched to using one of his seer stones to complete the translation. Critics (typically those who reject Mormonism but still believe in God) reject the idea that God would approve the use of an instrument for translation that had previously been used for "money digging."

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Statements regarding instruments used by Joseph Smith to translate or receive revelation

Summary: Statements related to the Nephite interpreters, seer stones and Urim and Thummim

Book of Mormon translation method source quotes

Summary: A listing of quotes from both friendly and hostile primary sources, by date, discussing the translation process

The seer stone and Nephite interpreters were "apparently interchangable"

Summary: Critics of the Church imply that the use of a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon is less "believable" than the use of the Nephite interpreters.

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Joseph Smith placed either the interpreters or the seer stone in a hat

Summary: We know that Joseph placed his own seer stone in his hat to block out the light. Did Joseph place the Nephite interpreters, commonly known today as the "Urim and Thummim," in his hat as well? There is evidence that he did.

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Third party translation claims

Joseph Smith is claimed by others to have translated certain documents for which an actual translation was never produced.

Joseph Smith and the Greek psalter

Summary: It is claimed that an ancient text of Greek psalms (a "psalter") was misidentified by Joseph Smith as a containing "reformed Egyptian" hieroglyphics.

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Kinderhook Plates

Summary: Given the evidence that the Kinderhook plates were fraudulent, how can one explain the following things: Why did William Clayton claim that Joseph Smith had translated a portion of the plates? Where did the translation described by Clayton come from if the plates were actually fake? By what means did Joseph attempt to translate the plates?

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The "Joseph Smith Translation" of the Bible

Joseph Smith Translation as a restoration of the original Bible text

Summary: If the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is Joseph Smith's 'correction' of Biblical errors, why do these corrections not match known Biblical manuscripts?

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Use of the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible

Summary: Why don't Latter-day Saints use the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible as the "official" Bible instead of the King James Version.

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Relationship of the Joseph Smith Translation to the Book of Mormon

Summary: Some passages from the Bible (parts of Isaiah, for example) were included in the Book of Mormon text. However, the same passages were later revised for the Joseph Smith Translation of the Holy Bible. In some cases these passages are not rendered identically. It is claimed that if the JST was an accurate translation, it would match the supposedly more 'pure' Isaiah text possessed by the Nephites.

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Relationship of the Joseph Smith Translation to the Book of Abraham

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Joseph Smith and miracles

Healings and miracles

Summary: Do we have any record of Joseph Smith performing healings or other miracles by the power of Christ's priesthood?

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Joseph Smith and the priesthood

Date of the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood

Summary: It is claimed that the restoration of the priesthood was "back dated" later by Joseph Smith to justify his desire to dominate the Church. It is claimed that no one seems to know "when or how" Joseph Smith received the Melchizedek priesthood.

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Joseph Smith as a prophet

No more prophets after Christ?

Summary: Most of Christianity today claim that there are not supposed to be any more prophets after Christ's day.

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Alleged false prophecies

Summary: It is claimed that Joseph Smith was not a true prophet, and that he made "false prophecies."

Personages who appeared to Joseph Smith

Summary: A list of known personages who appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith or who were seen by him in vision. The list does not include instances where he only heard supernatural voices.

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Joseph Smith: Status in LDS belief

Summary: Do members worship Joseph Smith or treat him as more than a man? Critics charge that since Joseph claimed (or it was claimed in his behalf) the right to "approve whether or not someone gets into heaven," this arrogates to a mortal a right properly reserved for God and Jesus Christ. Some critics have even charged that "Mormons worship Joseph Smith."

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Joseph Smith and inhabitants of the moon

Summary: Did Joseph claim that the moon was inhabited?

Joseph Smith and the "office of the Holy Ghost"

Summary: Did certain Church leaders say that Joseph Smith was the Holy Ghost or that he "held the office of Holy Ghost?"

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Mormon belief that the original Garden of Eden was located in Missouri

Summary: Is it true Mormons believe the original Garden of Eden was located in Missouri? What can you tell me about this?

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Joseph Smith and legal issues

Joseph Smith's involvement with legal issues

Summary: How many times was Joseph involved with legal issues?

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Does D&C 98 teach the Saints to disobey the secular law?

Summary: According to historian D. Michael Quinn, Joseph received a revelation which "established the primacy of religious law over secular law...and not only authorized but commanded Mormons to disobey secular law and civil leaders not conforming to the commandments of God." This interpretation, however, is Quinn's own. The revelation is not telling the Saints to "disobey secular law and civil leaders"—it is telling them to "befriend" the law of the land, and seek to support "honest men and wise men" as leaders.

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Claimed mismanagement of the Lawrence estate

Summary: Joseph Smith was appointed the guardian of two daughters, Maria and Sarah Lawrence, and their inheritance. He later married them in plural marriage. The evidence shows that Joseph Smith faithfully discharged his legal duties, despite the claims made by some nineteeth-century and modern critics.

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Joseph Smith and legal trials

1826 trial for "glasslooking"

Summary: Joseph Smith was brought to trial in 1826 for "glasslooking." Didn't Hugh Nibley claim that if this trial record existed that it would be "the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith?"

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Kirtland Safety Society

What is the Kirtland Safety Society

Summary: Some people attack Joseph Smith over the Kirtland Safety Society (KSS) on multiple grounds: 1) they claim the KSS was a "wildcat bank," 2) they claim that the bank was illegal, and that the Church broke the law by founding it, 3) they claim it was a money-making scheme for Joseph, and 4) they claim its failure proves Joseph was not a prophet.

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Failure of the Kirtland Safety Society

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Joseph Smith, politics and government

Joseph Smith's presidential run

Summary: Some claim that Joseph Smith's decision to run for President of the United States in 1844 shows him to be either a megalomaniac bent on amassing ever more power, or a fanatic with delusions of grandeur.

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Joseph Smith and polygamy

Joseph Smith is frequently criticized for his introduction and practice of polygamy. From a Christian perspective, these attacks usually focus on arguing that polygamy is unchristian or unbiblical, and that Joseph hid the truth from the world. From a secular perspective, it is asserted that the practice of polygamy sprung from Joseph's carnal desires to marry young women. Of particular interest is the fact that Joseph was sealed to women who were already married to other men (polyandry).


Causes of the martyrdom

Summary: The murder of Joseph and Hyrum in Carthage Jail had many causes and contributing factors.

Nauvoo Expositor

Summary: What can you tell me about the Nauvoo Expositor? Did Joseph violate the law by ordering it destroyed? It is claimed that Joseph "could not allow the Expositor to publish the secret international negotiations masterminded by Mormonism’s earthly king."

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Joseph's qualification as martyr

Summary: Does Joseph Smith qualify as a "martyr?"

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Removal of temple garments before leaving for Carthage

Summary: Joseph and others with him removed their garments before traveling to Carthage Jail. Why did they do this?

Joseph Smith procured tobacco prior to the martyrdom

Summary: It is claimed Joseph arranged for some tobacco to be brought to Willard Richards in Carthage Jail just prior to his murder. Did Joseph violate the Word of Wisdom?

Joseph Smith drank wine in Carthage jail?

Summary: Joseph Smith and those who were with him drank wine in Carthage Jail prior to his martyrdom. Did Joseph violate the Word of Wisdom?

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Joseph fired a gun

Summary: It is claimed that Joseph could not have been a "martyr" because he had and used a gun at Carthage Jail.

Masonic cry of distress

Summary: Joseph's words at the window of Carthage Jail bear some resemblance to a Masonic distress call.

History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
To seal the testimony of this book and the Book of Mormon, we announce the Martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Hyrum Smith the Patriarch. They were shot in Carthage jail, on the 27th of June, 1844, about 5 o'clock P.M., by an armed mob, painted black--of from 150 to 200 persons...They were innocent of any crime, as they had often been proved before, and were only confined in the jail by the conspiracy of traitors and wicked men; and their innocent blood on the floor of Carthage jail, is a broad seal affixed to 'Mormonism' that cannot be rejected by any court on earth; and their innocent blood on the escutcheon of the State of Illinois with the broken faith of the State, as pledged by the Governor, is a witness to the truth of the everlasting gospel, that all the world cannot impeach; and their innocent blood on the banner of liberty, and on the magna charta of the United States is an ambassador for the religion of Jesus Christ that will touch the heart of honest men among all nations; and their innocent blood with the innocent blood of all the martyrs under the altar that John saw, will cry unto the Lord of Hosts, till He avenges that blood on the earth. Amen.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson,  Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, (24 September 2013)
Martyrdom endows a prophet’s testimony with a special validity. Indeed the Greek root “martureo” from which the English word “martyr” is derived means “witness.” The prophet Abinadi is described as “having sealed the truth of his words by his death.”30 Jesus’ own death was a testament of His divinity and mission. He is declared in Hebrews to be “the mediator of the new testament” validated by His death, “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead.” [31]


“Like most of the Lord's anointed in ancient time, [Joseph Smith] sealed his mission and his works with his own blood.” [32] In a hail of bullets on the afternoon of June 27, 1844, in Carthage, Illinois, Joseph and his brother, Hyrum, were cut down for the religion and testimony they professed. As the latter-day apostles then announced, “The testators are now dead, and their testament is in force. . . . Their innocent blood on the banner of liberty, and on the magna charta of the United States, is an ambassador for the religion of Jesus Christ, that will touch the hearts of honest men among all nations.” [33]

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Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims