Friday, August 12, 2011

Rough Stone Rolling? REALLY!?!

Saturday Night Live.  Over the years, this has been one of my favorite shows.  Of course, there have been good years and bad years (with the very best being the beginnings of the show in the 1970's, and then for a while in the late 80's to mid-90's, and the current version is less than stellar a great deal of the time, but one segment that stands out (at least for me) is Really!?! with Seth and Amy (or with Seth Meyers alone right now since Amy Poehler left the show for greener pastures at NBC).

The way in which news stories are skewered on the REALLY!?! segment is hysterically funny.  But as humorous as these segments are, they also touch home on many topics as they drill in the fact very effectively that some things are just not reasonable, no matter how they are portrayed or painted.  Time and time again, they hit the nail on the head - and the humor that results explodes in a knowing laughter that stings a little (or a lot).

And that is how I feel about Joseph Smith and Rough Stone Rolling.

I mean, REALLY!?!



This book was written by Richard L. Bushman as commissioned by the LDS Church, and it was published by Deseret Books (the church's publishing arm).  I read this book after my exit from Mormonism because I wanted to see how Richard Bushman dealt with the real issues.  Touting the philosophy that despite Joseph Smith's many human flaws, he was still a Prophet of God (at least, according to them), it has given so many Mormons a place to hang their hats.  While taking this stance is not credible to me, I have had conversations with several TBMs (true, believing Mormons) who have  adopted this philosophy down to the letter.  Of course, it was very clever of the LDS Church leaders to commission the writing of this book.  Since the advent of the internet, they are dealing with an onslaught of negative information about Joseph Smith and the beginnings of Mormonism.  It's like an avalanche that is completely unstoppable.  And what better way to deal with all the negative information than to put their own spin on it.  Reminds me of the movie Wag the Dog and its idiomatic meaning, which is:  "To 'wag the dog' means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance. By doing so, the lesser-significant event is catapulted into the limelight, drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue.  The expression comes from the saying that 'a dog is smarter than its tail', but if the tail were smarter, then the tail would 'wag the dog'."

However, despite my opinion, according to some people this book is aiding in getting TBMs to realize the actual history of the Mormon Church, and not simply dismiss what they hear as "Anti-Mormon Propaganda."  If that is the case, that is a good outcome.  In fact, on the Crapstain blog, the author (Sandi) in her post entitled, "Why My Favorite book at Deseret Book Store is Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling," says that this book is helping some TBMs to get off their high horses in a way that is a positive step forward.  In that post, she said, "The information revealed about Joseph Smith in this book is more than the vast majority of LDS members have ever heard, since it's potentially damning, and the church has always swept it under the rug, made excuses for it, or glossed it over in a way that causes members to not question.  (It's a dangerous thing, not questioning)."

Yes, not questioning is a very dangerous thing.  But as far as Rough Stone Rolling helping some Mormons to come off their high horses even a little (and in a graceful dismount), I doubt that it will make much difference in the long-run in the Mormon Church.  What the Mormon Church wants is total compliance and no questioning.  It all boils down to this quote:  "When the prophet speaks, the debate is over."  They may have commissioned the writing of this book as a way to "explain away" some horrible information, but that doesn't mean they are flexible in the least. 

Personally, I consider the premise of Rough Stone Rolling to be an untenable stand that I cannot reconcile.  Joseph Smith's "flaws" as shown by what I have discovered were very major and are not what I consider to be in line with how a Prophet of God would conduct himself.  Truly, in my opinion, if Joseph Smith indeed was a Prophet of God, I believe that God would have smacked him upside the head and de-Prophetized him for engaging in this crap.

Of course, the first topic that strikes me as one of Joseph's major flaws was his practice of Polygamy and Polyandry.  Perhaps the recent trial of Warren Jeffs and his twisted practice of polygamy (78 wives... really!?!) has brought this to the forefront of my mind.  Or perhaps it's there anyway because I think the whole thing is so totally ridiculous.  After all, Warren Jeffs is practically Joseph Smith Reincarnated.  But truly, the fact that Joseph Smith married 33 women, 10 of whom were teenage girls (one as young as 14 years old), and 11 of whom were women who were already married to living husbands is way at the top of my "Oh Shit" list - and definitely deserves a top position in the Really!?! discussion.  To me, the way in which he went about his obvious obsession with wedding (and bedding) women was inconscionable.  In my opinion, he made many improper advances to many teenage girls, including Helen Mar Kimball (who was only 14 years old and who he coerced into marrying him).  If you follow the link underneath Helen Mar Kimball's name, you will find details of her story from a website called http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/, which was created and is maintained by an active LDS member.  Of course, there were many other women/girls involved in this mess, and the stories of all 33 women who did marry Joseph Smith are contained on that website.  As you will also note, all information is referenced and corroborated from highly credible sources.

In doing my research about Joseph Smith and his practice of Polygamy, I discovered some interesting information about improper advances that he made to Nancy Rigdon (the 19 year old daughter of Sidney Rigdon) who rebuffed him,  telling him that his behavior shocked her.  If you follow the link underneath her name, you will find further details of her story as well, and will note that this information is from the Official History of the Church, and that the letter discussed is contained in LDS Archives (Joseph Smith Collection).




In my opinion as based on the evidence, Joseph Smith invented polygamy/polyandry as a way to get women and satisfy his sexual desires (and with 10 teenage brides, he apparently wanted very young girls).  Of course, he was so wrapped up in his "Prophethood" and "elevated status" (as was Brigham Young), it's not surprising that he would invent a way to share his greatness with many women.  Polygamy ala Joseph Smith started with Fanny Alger in 1833, who was the Smith's live-in housekeeper (and 16 years old) - and escalated from there for the next 11 years.  Oliver Cowdery called what Joseph Smith had with Fanny Alger "a dirty, nasty, filthy affair," and felt that Joseph had not really "married" her, but was rather having an extramarital affair with her.  Of course, once Emma discovered the truth of what was going on (a famous story about finding Joseph and Fanny together in the barn), and the fact that Fanny had apparently become pregnant, she drove Fanny out of the house.  Why she didn't also drive Joseph out of the house and divorce him is beyond me.

One of the things that strikes me the most about Joseph Smith's practice of Polygamy and Polyandry is that when he was questioned about it, he always denied it - such as this statement:
"...What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers." (History of the Church, vol 6, p. 411Joseph Smith made this statement preaching from the stand to the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo on Sunday May 26, 1844.  At the time he had secretly taken at 33 plural wives.
Given the fact that Brigham Young had 55 wives, I often wonder what would have happened if Joseph Smith had not been killed in Carthage Jail (in Illinois) and had gone West to Utah with the Saints.  I'm sure he would have ended up with many more wives - probably approaching or exceeding the number that Warren Jeffs claims today.

But even aside from the question of Polygamy and Polyandry, there are many other "flaws" that Joseph Smith exhibited that I do not believe are in line with him being considered a Prophet of God.  More for my "Oh Shit" list...

For instance, I was shocked to discover how many times Joseph Smith was investigated for or charged with criminal activity, and how many times he was arrested.  Here is the result of my research:


Criminal Charges / Arrests
Joseph Smith

1.  1826 – New York

Tried in Chenango County, New York, for the crime of pretending to find lost treasure.  It appears that he was convicted of this crime and paid a fine (and may have even been "escorted by the Sheriff" out of the county per the verdict).  For more information on this arrest and trial, please read what is contained on the BYU Law Blog at this link - as well as what FairMormon.org has to say at this link.  Of particular interest is this portion of this blog entry is this statement:  "Reverend Wesley P. Walters of the United Presbyterian church in Marissa, Illinois, discovered some records in the basement of the sheriff's office in Norwich, New York, which he maintains demonstrate the actuality of the 1826 trial and go far to substantiate that Joseph Smith spent part of his early career in southern New York as a money digger and seer of hidden treasures. A periodical in Salt Lake City which heralded Walters's findings said they "undermine Mormonism" and repeated a statement by Hugh Nibley in The Myth Makers, "if this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith."


Interesting, to say the least...


2.  1830 – New York


Smith reportedly performed an exorcism in Colesville, and he was again tried as a disorderly person but was acquitted.  The account of the exorcism is on the SaintsWithoutHalos website as well as in this article about the Knight family on LDS.org.  The article on LDS.org discusses the trial as well.

3.  1837 - Kirtland, Ohio

In May 1837, Grandison Newell accused Joseph Smith of plotting to murder him.  Joseph was eventually acquitted, but the testimony of church leaders and employees revealed how seriously the Prophet's followers took his supposed off-hand remarks (or perhaps he meant them).  In either case, statements by two apostles and other close associates no doubt undermined Joseph Smith's reputation.  Wilbur Denton and Sidney Rigdon both testified that the alleged conspiracy took place in April or May of 1835.   Orson Hyde testified that when rumors began circulating that Newell might sue the floundering Kirtland Safety Society, Joseph Smith "seemed much excited and declared that Newell should be put out of the way, or where the crows could not find him," and he said that "destroying Newell would be justifiable in the slight of God, that it was the will of God, etc."  You can read more about this incident on the SaintsWithoutHalos website at this link.  It should be noted that all information on the SaintsWithoutHalos website is completely cross-referenced and linked to highly credible sources.

4.  1838 – Kirtland, Ohio

After a warrant was issued for Smith's arrest on a charge of banking fraud, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon fled Kirtland for Missouri on the night of Jan. 12, 1838.  This incident had to do with the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company, and with charges of fraud and illegal banking, including the illegal purchase of Monroe Bank in Michigan by Smith and Ridgon.  After the purchase of Monroe Bank was complete, Oliver Cowdery was named as its Vice-President, and as part of that deal and Oliver's move to Michigan to run that bank, his Ohio company (O. Cowdery & Company) was dissolved and all assets were transferred to Jospeh Smith and Sidney Rigdon.  Of course, 1837 was filled with events that led to the banking failure and the fraud charges, and numerous events occurred during that time frame, culminating in Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon fleeing Kirtland and heading for Missouri.  Please see the information contained on the SaintsWithoutHalos website at this link - and on FairMormon.org at this link.


5.  1838 – Missouri

On November 1, 1838, the Mormon surrendered to 2,500 state troops, and agreed to forfeit their property and leave the state.  Joseph Smith was court-martialed and nearly executed for treason, but militiaman Alexander Doniphan, who was also Joseph Smith's attorney, probably saved Joseph's life by insisting that he was a civilian.  Joseph Smith was then sent to a state court for a preliminary hearing, where several of his former allies, including Danite commander Sampson Avard, turned state's evidence against him.  Joseph Smith and five others, including Sidney Rigdon, were charged with "overt acts of treason," and transferred to the jail at Liberty, Missouri to await trial.

In 1839, Smith and his companions tried to escape at least twice during their four-month imprisonment.  On April 6, 1839, on their way to a different jail after their grand jury hearing, they succeeded in escaping by bribing the sheriff.  Subsequently, Joseph Smith and the Mormons fled the state and moved to Illinois.

6.  1844 – Illinois

Arrested for ordering the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor printing press and the burning of building in which it was housed (after an article was written exposing the truth behind Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy and polyandry).  He was subsequently killed on June 27, 1844 while in Carthage Jail.  Interestingly, after the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor and the burning of the building, Joseph Smith fled the state, going across the Mississippi River into Iowa.  It was only upon the pleadings of Emma Smith (his fist wife) that he returned to Illinois to face the charges - and was arrested.  And of course, there is the famous statement that Joseph Smith made on his way to Carthage Jail - that he was going as a lamb to the slaughter.  Yeah, right!  I mean, he had a gun and shot it during the shoot-out.  How is that being like a lamb going to the slaughter?  And using that terminology would intimate that he was an innocent man, when that is the farthest thing from the truth. 

My reaction to discovering all of the above (#1-6) was WOW!!  Of course, it also makes me sick to my stomach, especially since I was a member of this cult for over 50 years.  In researching all of this, I found so much that I never knew before, mainly because nothing about this type of information is ever discussed in Mormon Church meetings.  Like the Monroe Bank in Michigan.  Oliver Cowdery becoming its Vice-President and relinquishing the assets in his Ohio business to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in the process?  Really!?!  Interestingly, Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated from the Mormon Church in 1838 as well.  From what I have been able to discern, his excommunication was for speaking out against Joseph Smith and his practice of polygamy - but it appears now that it probably had something to do with the Monroe Bank and the banking failure of the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company as well.  And perhaps appointing him as Vice-President of the Monroe Bank in Michigan was a way to get rid of him since he was becoming too vocal about Joseph Smith's activities.  Here is the chronology from 1838 from the SaintsWithoutHalos website.

Of course, I could go on and on about the many versions of the First Vision, the supposed "martyrdom" of Joseph Smith upon being killed while in Carthage Jail (and the fact that he had a gun with him during the shoot-out), the true origins of the Book of Mormon, and the supposed translation of the Book of Abraham, but since all of those topics are discussed in length in the book I have written which is posted on this blog, I won't go into all that here (especially since this post has gotten so long).  Suffice it to say that Joseph Smith was a very busy boy in his gold-digging business, treasure-hunting, founding Mormonism, creating doctrine to add to it (like the Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham and the D&C), exorcisms, purchasing banks, founding new banking companies, getting arrested (and defending himself, as well as escaping and bribing his way out of jail), chasing women, trying to talk them into marrying him, having actual weddings, juggling all the women (I mean, 33 wives must have been a job all by itself), joining the Masons, stealing the Masonic ceremonies for use in the Mormon Temple in Nauvoo, designing special undergarments (with obvious Masonic symbols incorporated in them), and on and on.

I have to admit that what Joseph lacked in credibility, he made up for in creativity, charisma, and chutzpah. 

What a guy, huh?!!  I mean... REALLY!?!

2 comments:

On the Right Path said...

OMG!!! I agree...WOW! and REALLY!?!

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