Wednesday, September 10, 2008

That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain

Hamlet, disgusted at his partying, murderous, adulterous uncle, makes a mental note that "one may smile, and smile, and be a villain".
One of the difficult things people face as they try to reconcile the two images of Joseph Smith (God's spokesman and coniving fraud) is how can one man produce both the majestic, loving scripture as found in the D&C, and the evil deeds post-mo's are all too familiar with. I think that huge contrast is one reason why so many TBM's have a hard time believing the awful truths about Joseph Smith.
Here is Joseph "smiling":
"Let thy abowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let bvirtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy cconfidence wax strong in the dpresence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the edews from heaven. "
And "smiling":
"Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. aCourage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into bsinging. Let the cdead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the dKing Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to eredeem them out of their fprison; for the prisoners shall go free.

23 Let the amountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid brocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the cmorning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and dimmortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!"
And being a villain...All the remainder of this post comes from ( ):
One of Joseph's ambitions was to resolve the heavy debt incurred by the church by establishing the Kirtland Safety Society Bank on January 1, 1837. However, due to being denied this privilege by the Ohio legislature, he established the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company the following day. The bank was said to have been established through revelation from God, and it was rumored that Joseph predicted that like Aaron's rod, the bank would swallow up all other banks "and grow and flourish, and spread from the rivers to the ends of the earth, and survive when all others should be laid in ruins." (According to Warren Parrish, who succeeded Joseph as cashier of the bank, in a letter dated March 6, 1838 in Zion's Watchman. This letter was certified to be a statement of fact by Luke Johnson and John F. Boynton (former apostles) and Sylvester Smith and Leonard Rich (former seventies).)
The Messenger and Advocate published an appeal for investors which said:
"…we invite the brethren from abroad, to call on us, and take stock in our Safety Society; and we would remind them also of the sayings of Isaiah…'Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold (not their bank notes) with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God.'" (The parenthetical expression is part of the original text, reprinted in History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 473)
According to several individuals that left the church, the bank was established on fraudulent claims of capital security. They related that the bank vault was lined with many boxes, each marked $1,000. These boxes were actually filled with "sand, lead, old iron, stone, and combustibles," but each had a top layer of bright fifty-cent silver coins. Anyone suspicious of the bank's stability was permitted to lift and count the boxes. According to C. G. Webb:
"The effect of those boxes was like magic. They created general confidence in the solidity of the bank and that beautiful paper money went like hot cakes. For about a month it was the best money in the country." (Interview by W. Wyl. See Mormon Portraits, p. 36; also Oliver Olney: Absurdities of Mormonism Portrayed, p. 4; the letter of Cyrus Smalling in E. G. Lee, The Mormons, or Knavery Exposed, p. 14; and Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History, pp. 194-8).
William Parrish, secretary for Joseph and cashier of the bank for a short time, wrote in 1838:
"I have been astonished to hear him declare that we had $60,000 in specie in our vaults and $600,000 at our command, when we had not to exceed $6,000 and could not command any more; also that we had but about ten thousand dollars of our bills in circulation when he, as cashier of that institution, knew that there was at least $150,000." (Letter to Zion's Watchman, published March 24, 1838. Cyrus Smalling also wrote that Joseph had collected only $6,000 in specie. See E. G. Lee, The Mormons, or Knavery Exposed, p. 14)
It should be noted that Parrish left the church following this fiasco and began openly to describe Joseph's banking methods. He was later accused of absconding with $25,000, probably in bank notes which ultimately proved worthless.
On January 27, less than a month after the bank's opening, the Painesville Telegraph reported that Joseph had "shut up shop…saying he would not redeem another dollar except with land." Everyone with Kirtland anti-bank bills now realized their quandary and tried desperately to get rid of them. By February 1 the bills were selling for 12 ½ cents on the dollar. (According to Cyrus Smalling. See E. G. Lee, The Mormons, or Knavery Exposed, p. 14. Also William Harris: Mormonism Portrayed (Warsaw, Illinois, 1841), p. 30)
From the beginning, the bank had been operated illegally and Joseph was eventually ordered by the courts to pay the standard $1,000 penalty as well as court costs (see Chardon, Ohio, courthouse, Vol. U, p. 362). Needless to say, the dissolution of the bank and the catastrophic effects it held for those that trusted Joseph's word resulted in widespread disillusionment with the prophet. Under accusations of fraud, Joseph threatened to excommunicate any Saint who brought suit against a brother in the church. As Heber Kimball put it, during this time "there were not twenty persons on earth that would declare that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God." (Sermon delivered September 28, 1856. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, p. 105)
To be fair, many other banks failed during the "panic of 1837" and Saints who were ready to apostatize decided that Joseph's speculation looked more like an indiscretion than grand larceny. As related by Christopher Cary:
"It was marvelous to see with what tenacity they held to their faith in the prophet, when they knew they had been robbed, abused and insulted." (Pioneer and Personal Reminiscences, p. 45)
However, given the dishonest claims that appear to have been made regarding the bank's capital, the seemingly prophetic promises of prosperity in return for investment, and the fact that Joseph authorized and perpetuated the illegal operation of the bank in the first place, I personally consider this a poor reflection on Joseph's character and his ability to act under inspiration from God.


Seth R. said...

Which is basically to say that Joseph was like any hundreds of failed 1800s entrepreneurs.

And, the problem is?

Anonymous said...

So the people who pulled out just before the Anti-banking society was established have no blame in this? This was a trying time in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If you didn't "think you were wise" maybe you could have actually realized it. But no it's yet another way to attack a man who's been dead for nearly 200 years. You are such a great man!

Seth R. said...

Not sure what my character has to do with anything.

MuffinRub said...

Closer to the bone:

And some that smile have in their hearts, I fear,/ Millions of mischiefs" -Julius Caesar, Act 4, scene 1