Did Joseph Smith Love His Enemies?

Posted: November 27, 2016 in Bob Betts, Bullying, Mormon Studies, Persecution

Lt General Joseph Smith

Lieutenant General Joseph Smith, Commander in Chief of the Nauvoo Legion.

by Bob Betts
One of the signature virtues of true Christians is loving our enemies. In Matthew 5:43-45 (KJV) Jesus taught His followers, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” No doubt, Joseph Smith had many enemies wherever he went, from local neighbors, to dissident Mormons, to the highest levels of state and federal governments. How did Joseph Smith respond? Did he love them? Did he bless them? Did he do good to them? Did he pray for them? Or, did he speak and act vengefully against them, and attempt to silence Mormon dissidents? In this article, I explore some of the reasons why Joseph Smith had so many enemies, but more about whether or not his treatment of them was in obedience to Christ’s command.

In the book “The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri”, Mormon author Stephen C. LeSueur explained the atmosphere and mood between both Mormon and Missourian vigilantes, “In Caldwell County [Missouri], Mormon leaders dominated local politics, while the Danites, a secret Mormon vigilante organization, enforced religious orthodoxy, thus reinforcing the Missourians’ perception of Mormonism as a fanatic and un-American religion. The Mormon army and the Danite band inspired a terrific fear among the non-Mormon settlers, who regarded the Mormon soldiers as ruthless cutthroats. Although Mormon military action was generally initiated in response to reports of violence, the Mormons tended to overreact and in some instances retaliate against innocent citizens. Their perception of themselves as the chosen people, their absolute confidence in their leaders, and their determination not to be driven out led Mormon soldiers to commit numerous crimes. The Mormons had many friends among the Missourians, but their military operations undercut their support in the non-Mormon communities. In the introduction to his book Mr. LeSueur observes:

“The degree of Joseph Smith’s complicity in the Mormon military activities has long been debated by historians. Evidence now available, however, demonstrates that he directed much of the plundering and burning committed by Mormon soldiers in Daviess County [Missouri]. He viewed these actions necessary for the defense of his people. In addition, Smith and other Mormon leaders knew and approved of the activities of the Danite organization, including the forcible expulsion of [Mormon] dissenters from the Mormon county of Caldwell. Mormon leaders justified the Danite actions with the claim that a republican people have the right to remove undesirable citizens from their communities– the same principle cited by the Missourians to expel the Mormons.” (Stephen C. LeSueur, “The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri”, p. 4) 

And just what was that Danite organization that Joseph Smith directed? Stephen C. LeSueur wrote, “A group of Mormons met secretly in Far West [Missouri] to discuss how to get rid of [Mormon] dissenters. The group adopted the name Daughters of Zion, which they later changed to Sons of Dan, or Danites” (page 38). On page 39, LeSueur continued, “The expulsion of these [Mormon dissenters] from Far West reflected a growing militant spirit among the Mormons, revealed a rigid intolerance for those who opposed their practices and teachings, and demonstrated their willingness to circumvent the law to protect their interests.”

In the third chapter, page 50, LeSueur records that Sidney Rigdon gave a speech on July 4, 1838, which “Joseph Smith and his counselors had carefully prepared…and afterward had it published and distributed to their people. (p. 51)” In that speech, enemies of the Church who would come against it were warned, “The man or the set of men, who attempts it, does it at the expense of their lives. And, that mob that comes on us to disturb us; it shall be between us and them a war of extermination, for we will follow them, till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us; for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses, and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed–Remember it then all Men.” Joseph Smith dictated an oration threatening a war of extermination. In it’s text, Joseph Smith promised to hunt down men in order to spill every last drop of their blood. Even to go after their families. These actions are a total violation of Christ’s command in Matthew 5.

General Joseph Smith with Sword

General Joseph Smith with Sword

Joseph Smith followed up with an article in the Elders’ Journal, page 54, “We are absolutely determined no longer to bear [persecution], come life or come death, for to be mobed (sic) any more without taking vengeance, we will not.” These are the documented words of Joseph Smith. Were these the words of a Christian man, who was obeying a fundamental command of Jesus Christ? Romans 12:19 (KJV) “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Curiously, Stephen C. LeSueur wrote,

“The evidence suggests, however, that the Mormon leaders’ fear of violence was exaggerated, even unfounded, at that time. The journals and reminiscences of the Saints do not mention any trouble with non-Mormons prior to the Fourth of July oration. W. W. Phelps testified that throughout the summer and fall he received assurances from the citizens of Ray and Clay counties that no mobs were being raised against the Saints in the quarter. William Swartzell, a Mormon resident of Diahman, recorded that the Mormons were the only ones talking about mobs at this time–he had heard nothing from the Missourians. In later years, Mormon leaders such as Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff [fourth LDS prophet], [LDS apostles] Orson Hyde and Jedediah M. Grant condemned Rigdon’s speech as a foolish and overly aggressive statement of Mormon rights that unnecessarily provoked anti-Mormon violence.” (Stephen C. LeSueur, “The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri”, p. 51)  

And, who wrote that speech? None other than Joseph Smith and his counselors.

In Matthew 5:38-39 (KJV), Jesus also taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

But, Joseph Smith ignored that teaching of Jesus Christ, as well, admitting, “I am not so much a ‘Christian’ as many suppose I am. When a man undertakes to ride me for a horse, I feel disposed to kick him off, and ride him. David did so, and so did Joshua. My only weapon is my tongue.” (April 6, 1843, History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 335)

First, whatever retaliation that Joseph Smith was alleging that David and Joshua committed, should he have been a follower of their examples, or obedient to Christ’s command to not resist an evil person, but to turn the other cheek?

Second, as you will see, Joseph Smith’s claim that his only weapon was his tongue, was far from the truth.

In the book “Conflict at Kirtland”, page 268, Mormon author Max Parkin quoted an original apostle, Luke Johnson, telling that Smith “boxed his [a minister’s] ears with both hands, and turning his face towards the door, kicked him into the street,…”

In another incident, “Smith then came up and knocked him [Calvin Stoddard] in the forehead with his flat hand – the blow knocked him down, when Smith repeated the blow four or five times, very hard – made him blind – that Smith afterwards came to him and asked his forgiveness…” (Ibid, p. 132)

Joseph Smith, himself, tells of some confrontations he had with his enemies, confirming his above boast, “When a man undertakes to ride me for a horse, I feel disposed to kick him off, and ride him,” but further refuting his claim that “My only weapon is my tongue.”:

“Josiah Butterfield came to my house and insulted me so outrageously that I kicked him out of the house, across the yard, and into the street.” March 28, 1843, (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 316)

“[Walter] Bagby called me a liar, and picked up a stone to throw at me, which so engaged me that I followed him a few steps, and struck him two or three times. Esquire Daniel H. Wells stepped between us and succeeded in separating us. I told the Esquire to assess the fine for the assault, and I was willing to pay it. He not doing it, I rode down to Alderman Whitney, stated the circumstances, and he imposed a fine which I paid, and then returned to the political meeting.” August 1, 1843, (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 524)

Kirtland Temple early 1900's

Kirtland Temple early 1900’s

“I met him [Walter Bagby], and he gave some abusive language, taking up a stone to throw at me: I seized him by the throat to choke him off.” Joseph Smith, August 13, 1843, (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 531)

Brigham Young knew Joseph Smith, and revealed, “Some may think that I am rather too severe; but if you had the Prophet Joseph to deal with, you would think that I am quite mild….He would not bear the usage I have borne, and would appear as though he would tear down all the houses in the city, and tear up trees by the roots, if men conducted to him in the way they have to me.” (October 6, 1860, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 8, pp. 317-318). Given Young’s hyperbole, his description confirms Smith’s own assessment of himself, “I am not so much a Christian.”

Joseph Smith was elected Mayer of Nauvoo, Illinois. “The (City) Council passed an ordinance declaring the Nauvoo Expositor a nuisance, and also issued an order to me to abate the said nuisance. I immediately ordered the Marshall to destroy it without delay,…

“About 8 p.m., the Marshall returned and reported that he had removed the press, type, printed paper, and fixtures into the street, and destroyed them.” Joseph Smith, June 10, 1844, (History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 432)

“The Expositor allegations and the subsequent reaction triggered the immediate events leading to the death of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum….

“The publication of the Expositor put Smith in a dilemma. If he did not stop its publication, exposure of the secrets of polygamy and the political kingdom of God might well rend the church asunder…When Smith convinced his rubber-stamp city council, in a trial without lawyers, witnesses, or jury, that the paper should be declared a public nuisance,…he may not have been prepared to pay for such a course of action with his life; but there is no question that he was prepared to pay a high price for the preservation of the kingdom… “In destroying the press Smith had over-stepped both his authority and the bounds of propriety.” (Klaus J. Hansen, Quest for Empire, pp. 156,158-159)

NOTE: Then Illinois Governor Thomas Ford ordered the arrest of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. They were taken into custody in Carthage, Ill., about 7 miles southeast of Nauvoo and held in jail to await a hearing. The events of the afternoon of June 27, 1844 are told by John Taylor (the eventual third “prophet”) in volumes six and seven of History of the Church, edited to highlight the actions of Joseph Smith:

“Immediately there was a little rustling at the outer door of the jail, and a cry of surrender, and also a discharge of three or four firearms followed instantly. …Joseph sprang to his coat for his six-shooter, Hyrum for his single barrel,… Joseph reached around the door casing, and discharged his six shooter into the passage, some barrels missing fire.When Hyrum fell, Joseph exclaimed; ‘Oh dear, brother Hyrum!’ and opening the door a few inches he discharged his six-shooter in the stairway (as stated before), two or three barrels of which missed fire…. Joseph, seeing there was no safety in the room, and no doubt thinking that it would save the lives of his brethren in the room if he could get out, turned calmly from the door, dropped his pistol on the floor, and sprang into the window when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he fell outward into the hands of his murderers, exclaiming, ‘O Lord, my God.” (History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 617-618)

“…I afterwards understood that two or three were wounded by these discharges (from Joseph’s six-shooter), two of whom, I am informed died.” (History of the Church, Vol. 7, p. 103)

More history of Joseph Smith would further expose him as a false believer. And, I may add more history as time permits. For now, the evidence is overwhelming that Joseph Smith ignored Jesus’ teachings, and proved himself to not be a child of our heavenly Father. And, Mormonism stands or falls on Joseph Smith’s story.

With all of the above evidence about the real Joseph Smith, what does this say about the LDS leadership’s movie-portrayals, teaching-manual portrayals, and other write-ups and pictorials of Joseph Smith as a mild-mannered, gentle, kind, level-headed, peace-making, Christ-centered gentlemen?

The Mormons surrendering to end the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri.

The Mormons surrendering to end the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri.

About The Author
Robert “Bob” Betts received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, in 1970, at the age of 18. After one year of Bible college (’72-’73), Bob was forced to discontinue that education due to a severe bout with valley fever. By 1974, the fever had dissipated, and in 1975, Bob met and married his wife, Patricia (Patty), and started a family. Bob and Patty have been married for 40 years as of 2015, with three children and seven grandchildren.

Bob Betss

Bob Betts

In the mid ‘90s, God developed within Bob, an interest in the study of the religion of Mormonism. The interest became a passion, and a compassion for the Mormon people. In the year 2000, Bob went into full time ministry to Mormons, and to any people directly affected by Mormonism’s outreach (families, friends, Christians, non-Christians, ex-Mormons, inactive Mormons, etc.). He oversaw a website “discussion board,” debating and challenging (and being challenged by) devout Mormons for over 10 years, and thousands of hours, seeing the fruit of salvation in a few, for which he readily gives God all the glory.

After 12 years, Bob left that ministry, but continues on social media to reach out to Mormons and ex-Mormons with the hope and truth of pure, biblical Christianity, honing the gift that God gave him to reasonably and logically dismantle the impossible gospel and theology of Mormonism.

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Joseph Smith made this statement at the conclusion of a speech in the public square at Far West, Missouri on October 14, 1838. This particular quote is documented in Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, second edition, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), pp.230–231.

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