How do you reconcile Joseph Smith?

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ConfusedMolly
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How do you reconcile Joseph Smith?

Post by ConfusedMolly » 07 Jul 2017, 18:13

I'm able to put a lot of things on my "shelf" and try not to worry about questions/doubts I have with the faults of "man" and "culture" within our church... but I am really struggling to "shelf" Joseph Smith. Honestly, when I think about him my stomach feels sick. I don't want to feel this way! I wish I could go back to not knowing the things I know... but I can't "un-know" them.

It's not just that he's a prophet, because I know prophets are imperfect... he was the prophet who restored the gospel. The first Latter-day prophet. It's a big deal for me to feel this way about him...

My problems

-I had NO idea Joseph Smith was a polygamist until I read the church essay. Call me ignorant, but this 20-something year old, very active, seminary grad, BYU grad thought that Joseph Smith was monogamous. And not only was he polygamist but he was sealed to very young girls and women who already had husbands. Even if those relationships weren't "sexual".... why?! If women were already sealed to their husbands, they didn't need another sealing. A 14 year old girl has her whole life to find a husband and be sealed.

-I knew there were different accounts of the first vision, but I didn't realize that the earliest accounts didn't even mention both Heavenly Father and Jesus appearing to him. The LDS essay explains that when you tell the same story to different people or at different times, certain aspects of the story are emphasized and certain details can be left out. But that seems like kind of a huge detail to leave out... I'm just not satisfied with the essay's justifications.

-How our temple ceremony is very similar to the free mason's rituals and Joseph Smith just happened to become a free mason right before introducing the endowment.

So, how can I stay LDS when I'm questioning if Joseph Smith even had the first vision... if he was even a prophet... Because if he didn't have the first vision and if he wasn't a prophet, I'm left in a very scary spot.

I'm upset, I'm scared, I'm confused, I'm heartbroken...

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mom3
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Re: How do you reconcile Joseph Smith?

Post by mom3 » 07 Jul 2017, 18:50

Joseph can take forever. We have built him such a huge pedestal it takes a life time to restructure around it.

Don't take it too hard that you didn't know. I didn't find out about the polygamy part till my middle daughter was asked to do a report on it in 8th grade. Imagine being 35 and the wife of a seminary teacher and not knowing. The only thing more secret than Joseph's polygamy is his wife Emma. It wasn't until the late 80's that she even got mentioned at all.

For me, I just cut him out of the picture. That makes it sticky for recommends and so on. But I don't discount him fully.

In up state New York during the 1820 and 1830's - multiple people had personal revelations about the true church needing to be restored. To my knowledge only 2 remain, LDS(you can count Community of Christ with us) and Seventh Day Adventist. Three or four other churches began from similar experiences, but I don't think they lasted. (Could be wrong on that one. May have lasted but not have flourished like SDA and us). Which means something happened. I can let my connection to him rest on that. When I answer about the restoration of the gospel, I believe in my heart that everyone of those people had amazing experiences and were doing their best. I don't have to explain anything beyond that. Remember TR question are just yes and no answers.

Since I have wrestled with him for over a decade I can allow the good or good intention-ed to float to the top. I used to want to tell everyone about him, his flaws, the mess ups, etc. I still do sometimes. Then I remember it's out there if they want to find out.

My favorite part of Joseph is his favorite hymn. Over the years it has become mine. I will leave the rest of Joseph's life to God to sort out. Emma can help, too.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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ConfusedMolly
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Re: How do you reconcile Joseph Smith?

Post by ConfusedMolly » 07 Jul 2017, 18:56

Thank you mom3! It's true that Joseph Smith is put on a pedestal and I wish it wasn't that way. Then it would be much easier to "shelf" these concerns. I guess I need to give myself time to wrestle with it and hopefully I can come out on top like you have!

Curt Sunshine
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Re: How do you reconcile Joseph Smith?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 07 Jul 2017, 20:36

He was human.

He was classically charismatic and visionary - with both the great and terrible aspects of all truly charismatic and visionary people.

He was told his name would be had for good and evil. I take that statement much more literally than most members. I believe it was literal, not merely descriptive of other people's views.

No great religious reformer (or even major political reformer) was close to flawless when viewed objectively. Abraham, Moses, David, Muhammad, Jesus, Saul/Paul, Nephi, Alma Jr., Gandhi, King, Churchill, Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Jefferson, etc. - The list is nearly endless and consistent. Seriously, take out the Christian Savior narrative, and Jesus was a radically different person than we typically envision. Objectively, it was Paul and The Holy Roman emperors who were successful at spreading Christianity - and what they spread was radically different than what Jesus taught in the Gospels.

How do I reconcile Joseph Smith? Mostly by accepting him as fully human - and fully what he appears to have been.

Having said that, I want to point out two things:

1) He wasn't polygamous in the way Brigham Young established polygamy in Utah. Especially in the last few years of his life in Nauvoo, his sealings looked nothing like polygamy as we know it. I have no idea if he would have done differently if Emma hadn't been so opposed to classic polygamy, but he wasn't a classic polygamist. I don't like what he did at all, and it definitely led to polygamy under Brigham Young, but it is important to make the distinction.

2) The tokens and signs of the the endowment obviously were borrowed from Masonry, but the temple ordinances are radically different than Masonry. That is an important point when dealing with the topic. Jospeh didn't create the initiatory, endowment, or sealing ordinances from Masonry. Rather, he borrowed one specific aspect.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Reuben
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Re: How do you reconcile Joseph Smith?

Post by Reuben » 08 Jul 2017, 02:15

Here's something that helped me reconcile my expectation that the endowment should have been completely new instead of borrowed from Freemasonry. Israelite temple worship was totally borrowed from the surrounding cultures, too.

Here's the thing, though. You can learn a lot from comparing. If you believe that they're in some way revealed, you can look for things God wants us to know. Even if you don't, you can find things that are beautiful and compelling.

The idea of approaching God by moving into spaces deemed as progressively more holy is literally everywhere in east Mediterranean temple worship. In Israelite temple worship, they moved outward to inward. The endowment in the Salt Lake temple has patrons move upward. Most large temples are laid out so that patrons move upward or inward as they perform progressively holier ordinances (baptism, initiatory, endowment, sealing).

East Mediterranean temples usually featured an idol that represented a god. It was common to worship this god by "serving" the idol, to demonstrate willingness to serve the god in life. Service could take the form of washing, anointing, clothing, feeding, etc.

The Israelite temples featured an empty throne, because their god was expected to actually come. Instead of serving an idol, they served each other. After all, the image of their god wasn't chiseled in stone. His creations bore his image. Thus, serving each other was how Israel showed that they served their god.

It's easy to think of the endowment as just learning some secret handshakes. It's more, though: secret actions and secret spoken words are how human beings used authenticate a fellow craftsman (e.g. a stone mason, clock maker, or smith). We use certificates, telephone calls, and computer passwords for authentication now. But we still use secrets to both guard and reveal knowledge that's sacred or important to us.

In the endowment, each time someone asks a series of questions starting with "What is that?" they're really asking "What are your capabilities and authority?" The last time you answer the series of questions, you answer as if you're God the Father himself.

To transport this into a modern context, to enter the highest order of heaven, you log in at the veil as a god.
My intro

Love before dogma. Truth before loyalty. Knowledge before certainty.

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dande48
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Re: How do you reconcile Joseph Smith?

Post by dande48 » 08 Jul 2017, 09:13

Hi Molly,

It's a tough position to be in, for sure. Personally, I have more of an issue with Brigham Young. But here is how I've come to personally reconcile with Joseph Smith.

1. The visions. The visions Joseph Smith, as well as the three witnesses were reported to have been seen with "spiritual eyes", instead of physical eyes. Is there a vivid dream you've had in the past five years that you still remember? Or an important memory, like your baptism? I imagine the first vision was sort of like that; it was a massive spiritual awakening, where Joseph Smith witnessed the Creator of all of existance, and Joseph's mind had to piece things together the best he could. Memory is a funny thing, as time goes on. Details change. Things grow fuzzy. In the end, Joseph couldn't recall the specific date. It is highly likely Joseph Smith had the Spiritual vision/manifestation he said he had. But the details... the memory changed drastically over time.

2. The temple/Masons. Along with the First Vision, the human mind often pieces together spiritual experiences in the frame of what it already knows. It's interpretations largely depend on its frame of reference. Perhaps the Masons were inspired, and went through their own apostasy, and Joseph decided to correct it. Or that Joseph Smith understood the importance of sacred temple covenants and commitments, and felt the Mason rituals largely fit the bill. The temple ceremony isn't set in stone, that's for sure.

3. Polygammy. Emma Smith and Joseph Smith III were also in absolute denial about Joseph's polygammy until the day they died. It's a tough subject; Personally, I find solace in the fact that you can do a terrible thing (or many terrible things), and still have the divine within you. If God authorized polygammy, but without a lot of instruction, Joseph was simply trying to figure it out the best he could; but here is my alternative narritive:

Joseph Smith was a prophet who restored the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was married to Emma, and lived in a beautiful home. They had a servant girl, named Fanny Alger, who was very beautiful. Joseph Smith, being a red-blooded male, was attracted to her. Being the prophet, he also had an air of the divine, as well as the highest authority within the Church. He went and had an affair; it was wrong, stupid, and weak. He was very ashamed... He couldn't live with his terrible mistake, which everyone knew. So in time, he reframed it, placed the blame on God, and issued it as a commandment. Especially if there was no sexual involvement, many women (even those already civilly married) desired to be sealed as a wife to the prophet. It was a free ticket into the Celestial Kingdom.

Joseph's major delimma was this: Do you come clean, and thereby jepordize the faith and confidence in tens of thousands of Mormons, potentially causing them to leave the Church altogether? Or do you work your terrible mistake into Church doctrine? Imagine you were the prophet, married, and had an affair. What would you do? Would you have the courage?
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

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Heber13
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Re: How do you reconcile Joseph Smith?

Post by Heber13 » 08 Jul 2017, 11:07

I worked on it for a while and think 2 things mostly helped me:

1) I started becoming more comfortable embracing paradox, because I think it most accurately reflects the world around me. Joseph was a prophet who started and accomplished some amazing things like a prophet AND was a deeply flawed person. It actually is a nice thought to me that God works through flawed people, maybe even me. I like the realistic view of Joseph and his flaws instead of the Legendary "he has done more for mankind than anyone save Jesus" kind of thoughts.

Going with that...

2) what I was taught about the prophet were stories from other people. People like stories at church, people like talking about stories. Some people are great story tellers. I try to remember much of my prior belief was on stories that express how people feel about things, not true renditions of truth and reality. Joseph became almost a Paul bunyon character to advance Mormonism. I prefer things like Rough Stone Rolling that show more of the facts and less of a person's story on it and their agenda.

Polygamy seems like a mistake. The kirtland bank was a failure. Lots of things were done wrong.

But millions of people find hope in parts of the message we get from Joseph's work.

In short...I view him as a prophet. Nothing more. It was painful to shed my prior view of him and the religion...but I had no choice. I see things differently now. And adjust to what I see.

I cling to a strong belief in him as prophet. I'm grateful for his work. I reject some things and accept he was wrong in many things. It is all part of my testimony. I own my religion. I have made it mine. Whether others understand me or not...I struggle to cling to the good I find...and reject the things that are not good to me while loving others who see it differently than I do.

Paradox is powerful. It is a process.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Heber13
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Re: How do you reconcile Joseph Smith?

Post by Heber13 » 08 Jul 2017, 11:23

Oh ya...dande reminded me about masonry. I read into that for a while too...and see the influences of the world around Joseph and what he did. I didn't take that as a sign he was a false trickster...but more that Joseph was just trying to do things he thought God told him to do, and that was what influenced his thoughts that influence Revelation. Also, I think God told him he was ok...and not to worry too much about his sins...and from there...much of revelation was about what Joseph was thinking about...not necessarily a God coming down to set things right. God is bigger than Mormonism. But I admire Joseph for trying best he can to do something for good to help people. Even if he failed as he was figuring it out.

I think of Revelation differently now...but I still hope for Revelation and a God to guide us.

I see it more as the brother of Jared and a ship that needs light. It doesn't matter the methods, doesn't matter if it is rocks or anything else...God let's prophets (and us) choose things...and sometimes he touches them to enlighten and make powerful and acceptable.

I see the same with Joseph...God let him figure it out. Maybe even stuff like priesthood or other things core to the religion. I'm open to many possibilities and less certain we know much about it.

But there is goodness in much of what Joseph did and said. I can focus on the good parts and believe what feels right in my heart.

Masonry fascinates me. I can see why it was influential to Joseph and others during that time. I think Joseph believed in the story of Hiram Abiff as literal...as most did at that time. We know different now. But back then, it worked to help frame things in Joseph's world so he could act and make choices. The literal history may have been wrong...but the heart felt efforts of Joseph teaching gospel principles was real and worthwhile. Just not perfect. And so we need ongoing prophets and revelation, especially personal revelation.

I try to accept it for what it is, not make it fit into a box of beliefs I had to force everything in to to make sense to me.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

Minyan Man
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Re: How do you reconcile Joseph Smith?

Post by Minyan Man » 08 Jul 2017, 12:58

Joseph Smith is a puzzle. I would love to be able to talk with him face to face & finally settle these issues.
Since I can't, I have come up with my own conclusions. They are:
1. I don't worship JS. I worship Jesus Christ.
2. There isn't a Prophet, who ever lived, that was perfect.
3. The church should never portrayed him (JS) as perfect.
4. President Monson is the Prophet today & I believe he is inspired.

I'm not a very deep thinker, I guess.
I do understand how he (JS) is a problem for some.

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mom3
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Re: How do you reconcile Joseph Smith?

Post by mom3 » 08 Jul 2017, 14:55

I'm not a very deep thinker, I guess.
Bless you Minyan Man. Simple is always best.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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