Christ-like Character Traits
There were prophets before, but Joseph has the spirit and power of all the prophets. 1
Manly and GodlikeI’ve seen the Prophet wrestle, and run, and jump, but have never seen him beaten. In all that he did he was manly and almost godlike. The only words that express his looks and actions are: ‘Surely he was a man of God.’ 2
Convinced Joseph Smith is ProphetI heard the Prophet discourse upon the grandest of subjects. At times he was filled with the Holy Ghost, speaking as with the voice of an archangel and filled with the power of God. His whole person shone, and his face was lightened until it appeared as the whiteness of the driven snow. Finally, I was convinced of the truth sufficiently to want to be baptized, to get a knowledge for myself of the testimony that Joseph Smith had seen God. After my baptism, everything that I had thought about in a religion was changed. Every part of my system became convinced, through the power of the Holy Ghost, that God is my Father, that Jesus Christ is my Elder Brother, and that Joseph Smith is His prophet. 3
Jesse N. SmithI first saw the Prophet in Kirtland, though I was then but a child. Afterwards I met him at Nauvoo. The Prophet was incomparably the most God-like man I ever saw. I know that by nature he was incapable of lying and deceitfulness, possessing the greatest kindness and nobility of character. I felt when in his presence that he could read me through and through. I know he was all that he claimed to be.
James Henry RollinsI first met Joseph Smith in my Uncle Sidney Gilbert’s house, the first day he arrived in Kirtland, in February, 1831. While he was in the house with my uncle and aunt, I saw a wagon turn over as it was coming down the slippery hill, and heard a woman and two or three children screaming. I ran in and told Joseph and my uncle about it, and Joseph ran without his hat to assist them. My first impression was that if any of the occupants were hurt seriously, Joseph could heal them. But none of them were hurt, and it turned out to be Joseph’s own family. Joseph and my uncle returned to the house. He asked my uncle if I was his son. He said no, I was his wife’s nephew. “Well,” he said, “The Lord has shown him great things.” I had seen Joseph and Hyrum in a vision, in December, 1830.
Illinois Democratic PressA distinguished writer observed that a man should be estimated not so much by what he knows, as by what he accomplishes. Judged by this standard, the leaders of the Mormons—the founder of the sect, his immediate co-workers, and those upon whom his mantle fell at a time when their star seemed destined to set in disaster and blood, but who guided them safely in their wonderful exode [sic] into the wilderness, and have so shaped their subsequent movements, that seeming disaster has been turned into success, must be counted among the remarkable men of the times. It is folly to call them ignorant—it is not more wise to call them fanatics and enthusiasts. These epithets may properly apply to a large number of their followers. But the leaders are men of mind, possessed of rare powers of invention, great capacity for execution, wonderful judgment and felicity in determining upon the means to a given end. Bad men they undoubtedly are, but they are not fools. 4
My recollections and acquaintance with the Prophet Joseph are those of a boy from the age of eight to eighteen, when he was martyred.
His kind manner and gentle words when I first met him in company with my father, and he took me by the hand; his noble deportment when before the people; his easy, jovial appearance when engaged in the sports which were common in the days of Nauvoo; his firm dislike of that which was degrading—all these combined to give me a very favorable opinion of this noble man.5
Noble PrayerI had heard men and women pray—especially the former—from the most ignorant, both as to letters and intellect, to the most learned and eloquent. But never until then had I heard a man address his Maker as though He was present listening as a kind father would listen to the sorrows of a dutiful child. Joseph was at that time unlearned, but that prayer, which was to a considerable extent in behalf of those who accused him of having gone astray and fallen into sin, was that the Lord would forgive them and open their eyes that they might see aright. That prayer, I say, to my humble mind, partook of the learning and eloquence of heaven. There was no ostentation, no raising of the voice as by enthusiasm, but a plain conversational tone, as a man would address a present friend. It appeared to me as though, in case the veil were taken away, I could see the Lord standing facing His humblest of all servents I had ever seen. It was the crowning of all prayers I ever heard. 6
Strong TestimonyI made a critical examination as to his appearance, his dress, and his manner as I heard him speak. He was only twenty-five years of age and was not, at that time, what would be called a fluent speaker. His remarks were confined principally to his own experiences, especially the visitation of the angel, giving a strong and powerful testimony in regard to these marvelous manifestations. He simply bore his testimony to what the Lord had manifested to him, to the dispensation of the gospel which had been committed to him, and to the authority that he possessed. At first he seemed a little diffident and spoke in rather a low voice. But as he proceeded, he became very strong and powerful and seemed to affect the whole audience with the feeling that he was honest and sincere. It certainly influenced me in this way, and it made impressions upon me that remain until the present day. As I looked upon him and listened, I thought to myself that a man bearing such a wonderful testimony as he did, and having such a countenance as he possessed, could hardly be a false prophet. He certainly could not have been deceived, it seemed to me. If he was a deceiver, he was deceiving the people knowingly; for when he testified that he had had a conversation with Jesus, the Son of God, and had talked with Him personally, as Moses talked with God upon Mount Sinai, and that he had also heard the voice of the Father, he was telling something that he either knew to be false or to be positively true. 7
Heavenly and Angelic in his CountenanceIn the autumn of 1838 my father lived in Ray County, Missouri, near the Richmond Landing. Joseph the Prophet, in company with his brothers Hyrum and William and eleven others whose names I do not remember, had been up to Caldwell County to lay out the city of Far West. When they got to the Missouri River on their return to Kirtland, they found that the boats did not run on regular time on account of the river being low, and as they were compelled to wait for a steamer, they came to my father’s house near the landing and stayed there thirteen days. Father was the only Mormon in that part of the country. At that time Joseph was studying Greek and Latin, and when he got tired studying he would go and play with the children in their games about the house, to give himself exercise. Then he would go back to his studies as before. I was a boy then about fourteen years old. . . . I relate this to show the kindness and simplicity of his nature. I never saw another man like Joseph. There was something heavenly and angelic in his looks that I never witnessed in the countenance of any other person. During his short stay I became very much attached to him, and learned to love him more dearly than any other person I ever met, my father and mother not excepted. The next time I saw the Prophet was at the Richmond courthouse, in chains, after the surrender of the city of Far West. I used to walk six miles every day to see him during his stay in Richmond Jail. Although a boy of about fourteen years, I became convinced beyond doubt that he was a Prophet of God, and that testimony has never left me. 8
“Noble experience inspired me”I very frequently went with my Father from where we lived eight miles to Nauvoo to meeting and back home the same day on foot to hear the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Patriarch Hyrum and others preach with great power. I was then fourteen years old, but I was very anxious to go to meeting and listen to what the servants of the Lord had to say. On one occasion when I went with my Father to Nauvoo to meeting on April 6th, the same year of the martyrdom, while they held meeting in the grove not far from the Temple a very large congregation was gathered having come a long way on foot, I with a few other boys climbed up on some boards behind the stand that was temporary so that I could hear every word that was said. I was sitting close behind the Prophet Joseph Smith so that I nearly touched his clothes. I had not been long in the church and was somewhat superstitious and took particular notice of his manner of dress and action. I remember that he had on a light colored linen coat with a small hole in each elbow of his coat sleeve. I remember thinking that he was not a proud man and that his very noble experience inspired me with great confidence and faith that he was a great Prophet of the Lord. I also remember while one was preaching the Prophet Joseph spoke to the Elder that was preaching to stop speaking for a minute. Joseph the Prophet rose from his seat and said in a loud voice owing to the large congregation that was assembled saying he wished some of those young men on the outside of the congregation that were making disturbance by talking loud to the young ladies would not do so but wait and go to their homes and speak to them by the consent of their parents. The speaker continued his discourse and after a while the Prophet walked down from the stand and walked through the further side of the congregation where the disturbance was. Although the alley was densely crowded with people standing up, the way opened up so that he walked through and back without any hindrance where it would seem impossible for any other man to do so. Such was the respect of the people for Joseph Smith so you can see that he was not above acting in the capacity of a deacon when it was really necessary. There was no more disturbance in that meeting. In this meeting he said that North and South America would become Mount Zion and that the constitution would hang on a single untwisted thread and that the Latter Day Saints would save it. 9
Bold and ForthrightI was not intimately acquainted with the Prophet, but I have many times listened to his inspired words; and I never shall forget the words he spoke on the first Sunday after I came to Nauvoo. The temple was built a few feet above the ground. While preaching he pointed towards it and said, “The Lord has commanded us to build that temple. We want to build it, but we have not the means. There are people in this city who have the means, but they will not let us have them. What shall we do with such people? I say damn them!” and then he sat down. On the following day several persons came forward with their means, and this averted the curse which would doubtless otherwise have followed them. 10
Ever FriendlyI have heard mother tell a little incident about the Prophet: Soon after we went to Nauvoo, she had occasion to do a little shopping, and on her way to the store, she passed the Mansion House. The Prophet was standing on the lawn conversing quite earnestly with several very elegant Gentile gentlemen. As she passed along, very naturally she looked at the Prophet. She knew him, but he did not know her. All at once he reached his arm over the fence, grasped her by the hand, and gave her a hearty shake. He did not hesitate in his conversation with the gentlemen but kept right on talking, and mother passed on. I need not say she was delighted. I am sure he divined what a noble-spirited woman she was. 11
It has been my faith and belief from the time that I was made acquainted with the gospel that no greater prophet than Joseph Smith ever lived on the face of the earth save Jesus Christ. He was raised up to stand at the head of this great dispensation—the greatest of all dispensations God has ever given to man. He remarked on several occasions when conversing with his brethren: “Brethren, you do not know me, you do not know who I am.” 12
Richard G. Scott
The scriptures record that throughout history, on occasions of exceptional importance, God the Father’s voice has been heard. On repeated occasions Jesus Christ has personally appeared to select individuals. Yet there is only one supernal, singular instance of which we have knowledge that God the Father Himself appeared in person. This was done with His precious Holy Son, Jesus Christ, to an audience of one. That one was young Joseph Smith Jr., an extraordinary spirit prepared before the foundation of the earth. He would become the greatest prophet sent to earth. 13
Eliza R. SnowAgain I had ample opportunity of judging of his daily walk and conversation, and the more I made his acquaintance, the more cause I found to appreciate him in his divine calling. His lips ever flowed with instruction and kindness; but, although very forgiving, indulgent and affectionate in his nature, when his godlike intuition suggested that the good of his brethren, or the interests of the kingdom of God demanded it, no fear of censure, no love of approbation, could prevent his severe and cutting rebukes. “His expansive mind grasped the great plan of salvation, and solved the mystic problem of man’s destiny; he was in possession of keys that unlocked the past and the future, with its successions of eternities; yet in his devotions he was as humble as a little child. Three times a day he had family worship; and these precious seasons of sacred household service truly seemed a foretaste of celestial happiness.14
D. Todd Christofferson
I love and bear witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Through his personal association with the Lord, his translation and publication of the Book of Mormon, and the sealing of his testimony with his martyr’s blood, Joseph has become the preeminent revelator of Jesus Christ in His true character as divine Redeemer. Jesus has had no greater witness nor more devoted friend than Joseph Smith. [/note]Ensign, May 2008[/note]
Twelve days after the Prophet escaped from Missouri, a General Conference of the Church was held at Quincy, Illinois. His soul was filled with emotion, and it seemed as though he could not utter his feelings, only with a flood of tears. He looked calm, however, and a halo of brightness hovered about him. He was of a tender heart, as well as of a stern and firm disposition when occasion required it. I have known the Prophet to weep with tender affection, and have seen him with his sword drawn, as a military officer, when he was mighty as well as powerful.
After the Prophet had looked over the congregation, he said, “To look over this congregation of Latter-day Saints who have been driven from their homes and are still in good faith, without homes, as pilgrims in a strange land, and to realize that my life has been spared to behold your faces again seemed to be so great a pleasure that words were only a vague expression of my soul’s gratitude.”
I have heard the Prophet say that he did not claim perfection, but possessed human weaknesses. He said, “When I speak as a man it is Joseph only that speaks. But when the Lord speaks through me, it is no more Joseph Smith who speaks; but it is God, and let all Israel hear.”
Joseph Smith, Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards saw a light in the heavens, in the southwest quarter of the sky, and a broad sword, from half past seven to nine o’clock. The Prophet said, “As sure as there is a God who sits enthroned in the heavens, and as sure as he ever spoke by me, so sure will there be a speedy and bloody war; and the broad sword seen this evening is a sure sign thereof.We very often went to Nauvoo to meetings. I have never heard or seen a man so filled with inspiration as the Prophet. He was full of light. I began to believe that he possessed an infinity of knowledge. I looked upon him as upon no other man. I have often heard him speak under divine influence, and I have felt as though I have been lifted in spirit beyond mortality, and that I was looking upon a simile of God, and at times I found myself in tears of joy. Others have I seen in the same condition, and at times even those not members of our church. 15
Benjamin F. Johnson
As a son, he was nobility itself, in love and honor of his parents; as a brother he was loving and true, even unto death; as a husband and father, his devotion to wives and children stopped only at idolatry. His life’s greatest motto, after “God and His Kingdom,” was that of “wives, children and friends.” On one Sunday morning while sitting with him in the Mansion dining room, in private converse, two of Emma’s children came to him as just from their mother, all so nice, bright and sweet. Calling them to my attention, he said, “Benjamin, look at these children. How could I help loving their mother?”Joseph, the Prophet, as a friend was faithful, long suffering, noble and true to that degree that the erring who did love him were reminded that the rod of a friend was better than the kiss of an enemy, while others who “sopped in his dish” but bore not reproof became his enemies and, like Law, Marks, Foster, Higbee and others who hated him, conspired to his death.16
Mosiah L. Hancock
Well do I remember the Prophet’s speech from a frame in front of his mansion—where he said, “Brethren, I now roll this work onto the shoulders of the Twelve; and they shall bear and send this gospel to every nation under heaven.”
He asked the members of the Legion if they were not all his boys, and they shouted “Yes!”
I stood on the rail of the fence in front of the Mansion. The Prophet said, “Brethren, the Lord Almighty has this day revealed to me something I never comprehended before! That is—I have friends who have at a respectful distance been ready to ward off the blows of the adversary (he brought his hand down on my father’s head as he was acting as bodyguard to the Prophet), while others have pretended to be my friends, have crept into my bosom, and have become vipers—my most deadly enemies. I wish you to be obedient to these true men as you have promised. ARE YOU WILLING TO DIE FOR ME?”
“Yes!” was the shout.
“You have said you are willing to die for me—.” Then he drew his sword and cried, “I WILL DIE FOR YOU! If this people cannot have their rights, my blood shall run upon the ground like water.”
I saw the Prophet and the rest when they departed from Nauvoo for the last time; and I went out to meet their martyred bodies when they were brought from Carthage with Apostle John Taylor, who was himself so badly wounded that he could not stir. Many of the Saints went out to meet them, and their hearts were full of sorrow. I went to see those noble martyrs after they were laid out in the Mansion.
After the people had gone home, my father took me again into the Mansion and told me to place one hand on Joseph’s breast and to raise my other arm and swear with hand uplifted that I would never make a compromise with any of the sons of hell, which vow I took with a determination to fulfill to the very letter. I took the same vow with Hyrum. 17
Peter Hardeman Burnett
Joseph Smith was much more than an ordinary man. He possessed the most indomitable perseverance, was a good judge of men, and deemed himself born to command, and he did command. His views were so strange and striking, and his manner was so earnest and apparently so candid that you could not but be interested. There was a kind, familiar look about him that pleased you. He was very courteous in discussion, readily admitting that he did not intend to controvert, and would not oppose you abruptly, but had due deference to your feelings. He had the capacity for discussing a subject in different aspects and for proposing many original views, even of ordinary matters. His illustrations were his own.
He had great influence over others. As an evidence of this I will state that after he had been taken a prisoner in Missouri, I saw him out among the crowd conversing freely with everyone and seeming to be perfectly at ease. In the short space of five days he had managed so to mollify his enemies that he could go unprotected among them without the slightest danger.
Among the Mormons he had much greater influence than Sidney Rigdon. The latter was a man of superior education, an eloquent speaker, of fine appearance and dignified manners; but he did not possess the native intellect of Smith, and lacked his determined will.18
Joseph FieldingJoseph and Hyrum Smith were of large stature, well proportioned and had a noble appearance, and this appearance was by no means lost in death, as they lay side by side, for what can make men more noble than to hold the truth of God against his own interest (temporally) to be at war with the world, for the salvation of the upright in heart, and finally seal that truth with their blood. When I think of them and write of them, I feel as though I want to ask their forgiveness that I have not mourned for them more deeply. Joseph had been brought before rulers and judges scores of times, but was never convicted of any crime, neither Hyrum, and although the governor said the burning of the printing press was unlawful, yet the persecutors said they knew the law would not reach him, but powder and ball would, so that they justly are ranked with the martyrs of Jesus Christ. 19
- History of the Prophet Joseph Smith, rev. George A. Smith and Elias Smith, , 346
- Lucy Diantha Morley Allen, Young Woman’s Journal, XVII (December, 1906), pp. 537-538; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 31.
- Lorenzo Snow, The Improvement Era, XL (February, 1937), pp. 82-84; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 33.
- “The Mormons,” New York Daily Times, 28 September 1852, 6.
- They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 98
- Daniel Tyler, The Juvenile Instructor, XXVII (February 1, 1892), pp. 93-95; (February 15, 1892), pp. 127-128; (August 15, 1892), pp. 491-492; XXVIII (May 15, 1893), p. 332; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 50.
- Lorenzo Snow, The Improvement Era, XL (February, 1937), pp. 82-84; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 31.
- John W. Hess, “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor 27, no. 10 (15 May 1892): 302-3.
- Goudy E. Hogan, “History of Goudy Hogan, from Diary in his own Hand,” typescript copy, BYU Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Provo, Utah.
- William E. Jones, “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor 27, no. 2 (15 January 1892): 65-66.
- “Mothers of Our Leaders: Rambling Reminiscences of Margaret Gay Judd Clawson,” Relief Society Magazine 6, no. 6 (June 1919): 317.
- Deseret News Weekly, Dec. 29, 1880, 754
- “Truth Restored,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 78
- Eliza R. Snow, Edward Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom (New York: 1877), pp. 65-66
- They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 86 – 87.
- They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 88.
- Autobiography of Mosiah L. Hancock, Brigham Young University Library
- Peter Hardeman Burnett, An Old California Pioneer (Oakland, 1946), pp. 40-41.
- Diary of Joseph Fielding, 1797-1863