I was certainly bothered by finding out about Joseph Smith’s highly questionable behavior. I was satisfied by my own research into the primary sources that what I had found out was reliable and factually based.
But there was something else that began to bother me. What I began to realize was that there was a concerted effort to hide this information from faithful members of the church. Joseph’s sexual misconduct and secret polygamy were not faith-promoting, indeed, his behavior was completely faith-shattering. Yet, I was surprised (and simultaneously not-so-surprised) to see how much the church covered it up.
It was not that long prior that the members of the church had two years of using educational manuals about Joseph Smith’s life and teachings, and nowhere in there was there a single mention of his rampant polygamy. He was painted as a super-righteous, down-to-earth, compassionate, loving, honest, obedient saint. Which really was the opposite of what the true Joseph Smith was like. Not only was his persona white-washed, but they portrayed the relationship of Joseph and Emma like unto some kind of Edward and Bella love story of glorious and epic proportions.
But the reality is that their marriage was a farce. He played years of philandering hi-jinks, both with and without Emma’s knowledge and complicity. He was mentally and emotionally abusive to her and to the women around him. She was his doormat. This is no great love story. These two were more like Hamlet and Ophelia – where Hamlet basically taunted and verbally tortured his ex until she finally threw herself into a river. In this case Joseph ran around on Emma behind her back until he repeatedly got caught and then played the “But I’m The Prophet” trump card to force Emma into line.
The guy even wrote scripture as if it were the Voice of God condemning Emma if she did not let him sleep with whomever he wanted. Check out the last third of the Mormon scripture Doctrine & Covenants Section 132 if you want to see the lengths that Joseph would go to keep her in line.
What an abusive manipulative pig.
Let me ask you this: if you found your husband (or wife) in bed with another person, or getting hot and heavy with someone else in a barn, how would you react? Would you accept the excuse of “God told me to”? Even if he produced a revelation from god that commanded you to be OK with it and threatened you with eternal destruction if you were not?
I can easily see the reason the church hides information about Joseph’s antics. It was disgusting.
And then I recalled an item that I had put on my personal shelf years prior. Something that had bothered me for years, but I had set it aside.
Joseph Smith Had a Gun at Carthage.
Years earlier, I had gone to see a church-produced movie about Joseph Smith, which portrayed his death at the hands of a mob who stormed Carthage Jail where he was incarcerated. While later discussing the movie with a friend, he asked me if they had shown anything about Joseph having a gun and shooting any of the attackers. I found it curious that I had been a lifelong member of the church, and had never heard such a thing.
I had been taught that Joseph went like a lamb to the slaughter, arrested only for his religious beliefs. So when I heard someone say that he had a gun and fired it at Carthage, I assumed this was an anti-Mormon lie. But I looked it up and sure enough, Cyrus Wheelock smuggled in a six-shot pistol to Joseph and he used it to kill two people.
According to the journal of John Taylor (who would years later become the third president of the LDS church) he said while in Carthage Jail:
I had never heard any of this before. Never in a lesson, never in a talk, never read it in the Doctrine & Covenants or other scripture, or in church magazines. This information simply did not exist in the Mormon version of the story. To me it changed the context of what happened. This was no lamb to the slaughter; this was a man willing to defend himself violently if necessary. This new information in no way fit with the narrative of the meek and mild Joseph going knowingly and willingly to his death. I thought, “Hey if I were in jail unjustly and people were coming to kill me, I would defend myself too.” I had no problem with Joseph doing the same. I could not understand why the church felt like they had to hide this information.
At the time, I discussed that Joseph had a gun with my wife and we were both curious and confused by it. I remember thinking, “This information was the truth about how it really happened. Shouldn’t the truth be told about it?” I thought it made the story more interesting, more realistic, more heroic. But more than making the story better, it was the plain open truth about what had happened. I could not understand why it was left out of the lessons, the movies, the paintings. Surely in the ~40 years of being a member, I should have heard about it somewhere somehow. I ended up putting this all on my shelf with a final, “Well I don’t understand, but it is all true, so there must be some explanation. I don’t know what it is, but I won’t worry about it.” Then I put it out of my mind.
So here I was a couple years later taking it off my shelf, dusting it off, and looking at it again. I had just experienced the shock and awe of finding out about Joseph’s polygamy, polyandry and sexual misconduct, and I saw what looked like a deliberate effort by the church to cover it up. Now here I had another example where the church had hidden information about a key event in Joseph’s life to paint a narrative of Joseph that did not happen. Taking a fresh look at the Joseph/Carthage/Gun issue, I turned to the power of Google.
Here is what I was taught for ~40 years about Carthage:
- Joseph was arrested by evil men for his religious beliefs.
- He went willingly, knowing he was going to die as a martyr, even referring himself as a “lamb to the slaughter”.
- They got sad and sang hymns.
- A mob stormed the place, shot Hyrum and then shot Joseph as he tried to climb out a window.
Here is the truth about what really happened:
- Joseph was arrested for ordering the destruction of the printing press of the Nauvoo Expositor which was a newspaper produced by William Law. William Law was a member of the First Presidency in 1841 and had published an exposé in the Expositor about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, including his propositioning of William’s own wife, Jane. I read the issue of the Nauvoo Expositor myself and found nothing in it that was inaccurate. It told the truth about things that have since been completely verified by historians in and out of the church. Joseph ordered the press destroyed and was arrested for it.
- At the time of his arrest, he removed his temple endowment garments, told others to do it as well, and sent word to the apostles on the east coast to destroy their garments.
- Joseph did not go assuming he would be killed. He expected to be rescued and even dispatched messages to the Nauvoo Legion to come to his aid to attack Carthage and “immediately” free him. In fact, when the mob first attacked the jail, Joseph said not to worry because it was just the Legion coming to rescue him.
- Two guns were smuggled in to the prisoners.
- The prisoners drank wine together and sang songs. John Taylor continues: “Sometime after dinner we sent for some wine. It has been reported by some that this was taken as a sacrament. It was no such thing; our spirits were generally dull and heavy, and it was sent for to revive us. I think it was Captain Jones who went after it, but they would not suffer him to return. I believe we all drank of the wine, and gave some to one or two of the prison guards. We all of us felt unusually dull and languid, with a remarkable depression of spirits. In consonance with those feelings I sang a song, that had lately been introduced into Nauvoo, entitled, ‘A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief’.” (History of the Church, 7:101).
- The mob attacked and Joseph fired his gun through the door, wounding two (who would later die from the wounds). Joseph ran to the window, shouted a Masonic slogan to request help of any Mason who could hear him, was shot and then fell.
- Joseph was found wearing his well-known Jupiter Talisman around his neck.
(D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power”)
That is a VERY different story than what gets told by the church.
I mentioned Joseph’s gun at Carthage to a couple of family members who were around at the time, one visiting, one living with us temporarily. The first flat out disbelieved me, even when I mentioned that it was from John Taylor’s journal at the time. I thought I had compelling evidence – the journal of someone who would later become the prophet of the church. But this person responded by putting up all kinds of barriers to the information and suggested that I read Mormon Apologetic websites. I was slightly put off by this suggestion through my misunderstanding at the time of the word “Apologetics”. At that time, I thought it meant someone was apologizing for the church, and as a believer I felt like they need not apologize to anyone. I did not understand that the word “apologetics” just meant responses to critics. The other family member I told seemed more interested, and more sympathetic toward my confusion about why this information had been obscured. I read the Apologists explanation on this topic, whose arguments seemed particularly weak. They rejected the notion that the church hid this information because they said it had been published in church history “not once, but TWICE”.
Not two whole times, I say.
Out of the thousands and thousands of pages the church has published about church history, out of the thousands of lesson manuals, seminary and institute manuals, church artwork, talks, magazines, general conference, you give me two measly references and you call that being honest? How about it gets told as part of the story every single time? The church knows it is purposely hiding the damaging parts of its history, especially when it comes to Joseph Smith.
As LDS church leader Boyd Packer once said:
I find that idea to be very distasteful because it is tantamount to lying. What he is saying is that it is OK to hide true parts of church history and just leave the faith-building stuff. By that same logic of only looking at the positive parts of history, Pol Pot was just a freedom fighter and political activist. By that logic, Adolf Hitler was just an entrepreneur and motivational speaker who unified Germany and other parts of Europe. Was Joseph as bad as those guys? Of course not. But pushing this idea that we should only look at the positive aspects of history is not only intellectually immature, it is simply dangerous. In the case of the LDS church which bases its truth claims on its so-called restoration by the prophet Joseph Smith, the character of the man is of vital importance.
I continued to see more and more instances of the church hiding controversial and sometimes disturbing facts about Joseph and the early church. All easily verified through multiple primary sources. I thought: “Shouldn’t the truth about Joseph and the early church be told regardless of how positive or negative it might be?” I had been taught my entire life that the Holy Spirit of god would teach me what is true.
If polygamy really was endorsed by god, if it really was OK for Joseph to have rampant infidelity, if it was really fine if Joseph married and slept with young teens, if it was really OK to send men on missions and then marry their wives……. If god was OK with all of it, shouldn’t the spirit testify to me as to the truthfulness of all that? Wouldn’t the spirit tell me that it was good and right and fine and acceptable? Shouldn’t there be a burning in my bosom telling me that Joseph’s behavior had god’s a-OK stamp of celestial approval? I remember asking myself, “If god is OK with that behavior, what kind of god am I worshiping?”
And then I thought… “If god is NOT OK with that behavior, what does that mean about Joseph being a prophet? Does it change anything? Does that mean he wasn’t one? And if he wasn’t, what does that mean about all of the fruits of his labors? Does his behavior taint everything he produced?” I seriously struggled with how to reconcile my discoveries about Joseph with what I thought were a series of personal spiritual confirmations that the church I belonged to was true and right.
I clawed my way through book after book, article after article, website to website in an effort to reconcile my thoughts. I continued to read the LDS scriptures, continued to attend church, pay tithing, pray individually and as a family. Somewhere in there, I baptized and confirmed a child into the LDS church. I was expecting that god would help me understand all of this. Somewhere I was hoping that there existed some explanation that would answer all these questions I had. At one point, I was staring up at the sky and saying, “OK. THIS is your chance, God. I am a believer; I am following the commandments the best I can. I am a decent man who works hard to be a good husband and a father. This is your chance to reconfirm it to me. I am open, I am willing, I am seeking. Guide me here.”
No answer. Dead silence. No confirmations. Just static.
Keep in mind here that Joseph’s polygamy, etc. is not the only wart on the nose of church history that they go out of their way to hide, cover up, or spin to keep the truth away from those dandelion-fluff-fragile testimonies of the faithful.
- Choose Your Own Adventure: The Multiple Contradictory First Vision Accounts
- Was The Angel Named Nephi or Moroni?
- The Complete Absence of Book of Mormon Historical Evidence Is Only Outweighed by the Heaping Slab of Evidence Against It
- The Kirtland Bank Swindle: How Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery Tricked and Stole Money from Church Members, then Skipped Town
- Failed Translations: The Kinderhook Plates and Greek Psalter
- Joseph’s Failed Prophecies & Changing Revelations
- Joseph’s Hypocritical Drinking & Smoking
- Changes to Scripture which Changed the Doctrine
- The Hilarious Mis-Translation of the Book of Abraham
- Which Is It? Trinity Vs. Godhead
- Joseph’s Peep Stone & Treasure Hunting
- The Weak Evidence of the Three & Eight Witnesses
- The Book of Mormon “Magic Rock in a Hat” Translation Process
- Who Really Wrote the History of the Church? Pssst. It Wasn’t Joseph
- Joseph’s Arrests for Fraud
- Black Men Denied the Priesthood and Temple Access
- The Church Commits and Covers Up the Mountain Meadows Massacre
So here I was burdened with this new information I was gaining about Joseph Smith, and I was also confronted with the church Apologists admitting that what I was reading really happened. Then I had evidence of efforts by the church to hide the information from the regular members of the church. I was a very troubled guy at that point.
I began to look into more issues. I spent months researching the various fruits of Joseph Smith. I was a bit surprised, actually, to realize how much of Mormonism traced back directly to him. Months later I was talking to my mom after I had stopped believing in the church. She said to me, “You can’t let just one or two things drive you away from the church.” In truth, I completely agreed with her. It seemed unreasonable to expect the church to be 100% perfect in every way. It is unattainable. I never gave the church, its teachings, nor its people a goal that far out of reach.
There were plenty of times where I just let things go and wrote them off with the popular church slogan of “The Church is true… the people are flawed”.
- A bishop getting physically violent with me? The guy is just a tool, but the church is still true.
- A mission president berating me telling me I can never be forgiven? Way to be compassionate like Jesus, but the church is still true.
- Family member living a secret lifestyle? Doesn’t make any sense how that could happen, but the church is still true.
- The church practiced institutional racism for over 100 years? I don’t understand and put it on my shelf, but the church is still true.
And if it had only been a couple issues, I had been trained since birth to just compartmentalize them, shove them to the side and not worry about them. But it wasn’t just a couple issues; it was a mountain of issues. Unfortunately, the mental shelf upon which I stacked these issues was pretty heavy, my friends. It was really starting to sag dangerously.
I already had serious issues with my belief of Joseph Smith as a prophet. That was what I called my First Pillar of Disaffection. The other three Pillars were: The False Translation of the Book of Abraham, The Anachronistic Book of Mormon, and Temples (AKA Masonry 2.0).
These four Pillars were the four main issues I had that led to my eventual disbelief in the Mormon church.
Exmo: How I Killed the Mormon God, Chapter 7: The Church Hides Damaging Truth | ©2017 Aaron Case. All Rights Reserved.
- Ch. 1 – Scorched Earth
- Ch. 2 – Discovering Mormon Temple Ceremony-Changes
- Ch. 3 – Starting on a Path
- Ch. 4 – Starting to See the Truth
- Ch. 5 – Busting Polygamy Wide Open
- Ch. 6 – Apologetic Spin
- Ch. 7 – The Church Hides Damaging Truth
- Ch. 8 – Book of Mormon Translation & Historicity Issues
- Ch. 9 – Native American DNA Is Not Jewish
- Ch. 10 – Anachronisms of Objects & Language