Today’s post is from an anonymous guest blogger. The critics of the church like to point the finger at Joseph Smith, citing polygamy, concealing polygamy, the Kirtland Bank failure, etc. Could Moses withstand the same scrutiny? Let’s take a look.Moses promised to take the Hebrews to the , but he didn’t, he kept them in the desert 40 years. He lied. Then, when he failed to deliver the goods, he claimed it was due to the Hebrews’ lack of faith. We’ve all heard that one before! Joseph Smith promised to establish Zion in Missouri, but instead, led everyone on a pointless “character-building” camping trip before conceding failure. And, once again, the failure of the mission was blamed on the people. But a 40 year camping trip gone bad? C’mon, Moses wins this one.
He was a murderer (killed an Egyptian). Joseph Smith was not accused of murder, but he did destroy a printing press and engage in suspicious treasure-digging endeavors. Even so, Moses wins this one.
He was a thief and organized criminal, instructing his people to plunder the Egyptians and take everything of
value that wasn’t nailed down when they left. Joseph Smith told the early Saints in Missouri to abandon their homes that were then destroyed or plundered by neighbors. Once again, Moses wins.
He abandoned his people in the desert for long periods of time, then when they struggled due to his own absentee leadership, he blamed them (Exodus 32:1). Many early church leaders left due to weaknesses they perceived in Joseph. Let’s call this one a draw.
He was a mass-murderer, ordering his enforcers to slaughter 3000 men for worshiping the On the Zion’s camp journey, they did have to drink some pretty disgusting swamp water. Still, not even close on this one–Moses takes it.(Exodus 32:28). Then he tried to poison them by making them drink it.
He hypocritically spared the life of his brother, who was the one who made the calf/idol in the first place. Nepotism! Joseph frequently misjudged others’ character out of love and loyalty for them, often to his own detriment. Whether bolstering his father’s confidence or entrusting John C. Bennett with a leadership role he was unworthy to hold, Joseph often erred on the side of mercy with those whom he loved. This looks like a draw.
He denied freedom-of-religion to those wanted to worship the golden calf and other idols. Joseph’s political platform and the voting bloc of the early church caused many to fear that the church was becoming too powerful and would deny freedoms to neighbors and rights to citizens. And those fears appear to be alive and well today in certain parts of the country. But, given that one of our Articles of Faith specifically speaks to allowing all to worship how they choose, Moses once again wins this one.
He was a bigamist. Joseph has 33 wives of record during his life time, some of which may have been platonic and none of which were openly co-habitating with him (unless you count Fanny Alger); still we have to give this one to Joseph.
Oh, and he was very homophobic, sexist (calling women unclean, and they were unclean for twice as long if they gave birth to a female child as opposed to a male child–how insulting!) Joseph created the Relief Society and did not prohibit women from practicing the priesthood, although he also did not specifically ordain women to the offices in the priesthood. Joseph was pretty progressive for his day; Moses clearly wins this one.
He was bigoted, prejudiced and provincial (he wouldn’t let his people date or marry non-Hebrews). Joseph welcomed all visitors openly, offering his home to all, regardless of their race or religion. He crafted a plan to buy and free all slaves so that their owners would not come after them for retribution, and his presidential platform was anti-slavery. Moses was clearly the more bigoted.
I think with some research, one could come up with a lot more indictments on Moses’ character.
So, for those who like to criticize Joseph Smith, does this list more securely solidify him as a prophet? Or do two wrongs not make a right? Is Moses’ character simply characteristic of his era, or has the historical record been embellished over time? How does the Lord work through imperfect prophets? How do other modern-day prophets’ flaws stack up against these historical precedents? Are modern-day prophets’ flaws evidence that humanity is evolving or that message control is getting tighter or something else? Discuss.