Question: Did Joseph Smith brag about his strength and prowess in fighting?


Question: Did Joseph Smith brag about his strength and prowess in fighting?

Joseph was talking about his skill in a game called "stick pulling"

Consider these two quotes from Joseph Smith provided by the author of the critical book One Nation Under Gods:

On June 30, 1843, Smith fought and boasted again of his strength, saying: "I feel as strong as a giant....I pulled up with one hand the strongest man that could be found. Then two men tried, but they could not pull me up."36 (emphasis added) [1]

And,

On June 30, 1843, he wrestled and bragged again of his prowess, saying: "I feel as strong as a giant....I pulled up with one hand the strongest man that could be found. Then two men tried, but they could not pull me up."34 (emphasis added) [2]

In both quotes above, the author seeks to illustrate a violent personality in Joseph Smith. Notice that both quotes contain an ellipsis. What do you suppose the critic of the Church removed from the quote?

In fact, if one reads these quotes carefully, it might strike the reader odd that the struggle between Joseph and his 'opponents' did not involve something like tackling, hitting, or throwing down--which are typical action words used when describing a fight. On the contrary, the struggle involved a "pulling up" motion--a description that would, in fact, fit one of Joseph Smith's favorite recreational games: Stick-pulling.

Perhaps if we were to look up the passage, we might be able to see the proper context. Take a look at the whole quote, omission and all (the bold portion was not included in the author's quote):

I feel as strong as a giant. I pulled sticks with the men coming along, and I pulled up with one hand the strongest man that could be found. Then two men tried, but they could not pull me up.

This is not a violent description at all! "Pulling sticks" is a game of sitting on the ground, facing one another, placing feet together, grabbing forward to a stick, and attempting to pull the other person up from the ground.

Notes

  1. Richard Abanes, One Nation under Gods, page 179 (hardback)
  2. One Nation under Gods, page 178 (paperback)