It is a point of great interest to me that Joseph Smith, Jr. who died in 1844, over 160 years ago, is still so hated today and is thought of as an evil person. This is very evident in the anti-Joseph Smith sites, discussions, blogs, news reports, etc. on the Internet today. What amazes me so is that Adolph Hitler, who was responsible for the murder of millions of Jews, doesn’t bring a response from people with as much antagonism, hatred, anger, etc. as does Joseph. Yet, all Joseph claimed to be was a prophet of God, like Moses. So why is it that those who believe in his teachings revere him, while those who don’t, think he is evil? The answer to this comes from the first visit of the angel Moroni to him. According to Joseph’s writings, several years after the event, in Times and Seasons, volume 8:
“While I was thus in the act of calling upon God I discovered a light appearing in the room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and … that God had a work for me to do, and that my name should be had for good and evil, among all nations, kindreds, and tongues; or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people” (RLDS History of the Church 1:12–13, emphasis added).
Joseph’s name today is “had for good and evil” just as the angel said. It is a fulfillment of prophecy. If this event really happened, and I believe it did, why did God through His angel tell Joseph his name would “be had for … evil?” So Joseph would not be discouraged and give up when he heard people saying evil, untrue things about him, which I believe they have for almost 190 years (his first vision was in 1820). If later in his life Joseph was going to turn into an evil man, as some say he did, God wouldn’t have warned him that his name would “be had for … evil.” When an evil person does evil things, it’s no surprise to them when people say they’re evil. However, when a good person does good things and people say they’re evil, it is a surprise and it is hurtful and discouraging. When God warned Joseph his name would “be had for good and evil,” he was telling Joseph that he would be accused of doing evil things, but because those accusations would be false, he should give them no heed. The angel didn’t say Joseph would be evil, just that his name would “be had for … evil.”
Of course, some people say Joseph made everything up—the vision in the grove, the visitations of the angel Moroni, the Book of Mormon, the revelations, the Inspired Version of the Bible, everything. They say he was a deceiver—a liar and an evil person. For the sake of argument, let’s assume for a moment he was evil. That would mean that the above words weren’t spoken to him by an angel, but Joseph made them up. He made up that an angel told him his name would “be had for good and evil.” I have known a few people in my life that I consider evil. However, they always tried to present the image that they were good and never once did they state that people would say they’re evil. Because being evil, they didn’t want to create the possibility in other’s minds that they might be evil, and thus their true intent revealed. In my opinion, if Joseph was evil and made up everything he said, he wouldn’t have stated that some people would think he was evil. He wouldn’t have wanted to put seeds of doubt in people’s minds as to his authenticity. Thus, I believe Joseph didn’t make this up. I believe that the above event happened as Joseph said it did. And I believe everything he said was true—the vision in the grove, the visitations of the angel Moroni, the Book of Mormon, the revelations, the Inspired Version of the Bible, everything.
Please keep in mind as you read the upcoming posts that while I believe Joseph was a prophet of God, I also know he was a man and men make mistakes. Moses, a prophet of God, made a mistake at the water of Meribah. As a result, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20:8–13; Deuteronomy 32:49–52). Joseph made the mistake of giving the first 116 pages of the translation of the Book of Mormon to Martin Harris. As a result, he lost the privilege of continuing to translate the book until he had sufficiently repented of his error (See RLDS History of the Church 1:3; RLDS Doctrine and Covenants 2 & 3). However, these were the mistakes of honest, godly men, not evil ones. So when considering Joseph and the work he did, I acknowledge he may have made errors in judgment and action, because he was a man. But he wasn’t an evil one. The evil that people attribute to Joseph Smith, Jr. are not mistakes of an honest, godly man. They are the acts of an evil one. And in the following posts I will try to show that the evil acts which people attribute to Joseph Smith, Jr. are false and that he was truly a good, honorable man and a prophet of God.