Joseph Smith: A Virtuous Man

rp_nauvoo-temple-joseph-art-lds-82988-gallery-notice-243x300.jpg*This post has been updated to clarify the author’s intent.

“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.” (Moroni 7:16)

From the spring of 1820 onward, wicked men consistently called the character of Joseph Smith into question. Vast lies were told and written about him to discredit him and to stop The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) from going forward. Many have accused the Church of hiding the “true history” of Joseph Smith, because someone wrote that Joseph Smith committed all kinds of evil. Some questionable “historical evidence” has been taken from the enemies of Joseph Smith and the enemies of the truth.

Speaking of the Prophet, Joseph Smith, Neil L. Andersen said:

“Should we be surprised with the evil spoken against him? The Apostle Paul was called mad and deranged. Our Beloved Savior, the Son of God, was labeled gluttonous, a winebibber, and possessed of a devil.” (Joseph Smith, Neil L Andersen, Oct 2014)

Books have been written and papers published that have accused, inferred, or suggested that Joseph Smith committed adultery multiple times. Many people feel like this is “important history” that the church had kept quiet. I have heard many say that these things have been compiled and written by the top scholars and historians of the day, so they must be true. Many have tabled these claims, saying they will understand why at some future date, without even questioning their validity.  We can and we should question their validity. If a highly educated and academically acclaimed historian came out today with “evidence” that a prophet had committed adultery when he was younger, would you not question those claims? In Moroni chapter 7, Mormon teaches us how to discern good from evil. He says,

“12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. 13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.”

Just as we can judge the moral character of say, President Monson, to be good and of God from his service and his teachings, we can use that same reasoning when judging the moral character of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith did not invite and entice people to sin. He brought forth the Book of Mormon. Herp_joseph-smith-82822-gallery.jpg restored the priesthood. He restored the covenants of baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. He restored the temple covenants. He faced all sorts of persecutions and trials because he taught the commandments, and not because he broke the commandments. Given all the good that Joseph Smith did for mankind, we can, as Mormon taught in Moroni 7, judge Joseph Smith to be good and to be of God.  Joseph Smith was indeed a virtuous man. Joseph Smith taught that a man cannot exercise the priesthood unworthily. Doctrine and Covenants 121 states:

“39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. 40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.” (D&C 121:39-40)

At one sorrowful time, Joseph was very troubled because he and Martin Harris lost the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon.  Joseph had asked the Lord three times if he could allow Martin Harris to take the translated pages to show Martin’s wife. Once the pages were lost, the Lord had Joseph stop the translation until after Joseph repented. (D&C 3) Asking the Lord for something three times is a very minor sin compared to adultery. If Joseph Smith had indeed been committing adultery, we can be sure that the Lord would have removed him from his office as prophet, seer, and revelator. When you are seeking to know and understand the character of Joseph, do not go to his enemies expecting to find the “real truth”. Look to his works, his words, the accounts of the people who knew him, and the accounts of our trusted apostles and prophets today. Yes, please, ask, seek, and knock. You do not need to table your questions. But question the accounts of Joseph’s enemies at least as scrupulously as you would question the accounts of his friends. Of Joseph Smith, John Taylor said:

“I testify before God, angels, and men, that [Joseph] was a good, honorable, [and] virtuous man— … [and] that his private and public character was unimpeachable—and that he lived and died as a man of God.”( Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor (2001), 83; see also Doctrine and Covenants 135:3.)

As Reported by Neal A. Maxwell:

“Brigham Young was not easily impressed by anybody, yet he said he felt like shouting “Hallelujah!” all the time that he ever knew Joseph Smith! (See Journal of Discourses, 3:51.) And dying Brigham’s last words were, “Joseph! Joseph! Joseph!” He was about to be with his beloved Joseph once again! (Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985, p. 399.)” (My Servant Joseph, Neal A Maxwell, April 1992)

Elder Neil A Andersen reminds us that Joseph’s name will be had for good and evil. He said:

“The negative commentary about the Prophet Joseph Smith will increase as we move toward the Second Coming of the Savior. The half-truths and subtle deceptions will not diminish.”

Quoting Neal A Maxwell, Elder Andersen reminded us that:

 “Studying the Church … through the eyes of its defectors… [is] like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus. Defectors always tell us more about themselves than about that from which they have departed.”

And giving his own testimony that Joseph Smith was indeed a virtuous man, Elder Andersen declared:

“I testify that Joseph Smith was an honest and virtuous man, a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, did appear to him. He did translate the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God.”

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About Diane Robertson

Diane Robertson is just a plain old ordinary person with nothing terribly special about her. She's a homeschooling mother blessed with 11 kids, Diane spends most days in yoga pants taking care of her children, teaching, cooking, and cleaning while never actually doing yoga. Motherhood has helped Diane develop a passion for protecting the family and children. She blogs about political family issues at and journals about her family at