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Founder and first "Prophet, Seer, and Revelator" (1805-1844)
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)

Joseph Smith, Jr. was born in Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, on December 23, 1805. Joseph was the third son and one of ten children born to Joseph Smith Jr.Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith. Both parents were poorly educated, very superstitious, and deeply involved in the occult (magic). The destitute Smith family moved frequently, with the mystical Joseph Sr. etching out a meager existence by farming, digging for buried treasure, and "water witching." When all else failed, he even attempted to mint his own money (a practice that was disliked by the local constabulary).

The Smith family had a reputation for low moral character. According to more than sixty affidavits signed by members of the community, "...we have no hesitation in saying, that we consider them destitute of moral character, which ought to entitle them to the confidence of the community. They were particularly famous for visionary projects, spent much of their time in digging for money which they pretended was hid in the earth;...Joseph Smith, Senior, and his son Joseph, were in particular, considered entirely destitute of moral character, and addicted to vicious habits." 1

Joseph, Jr. learned well from the poor examples shown by his parents. According to one acquaintance, "...his habits of exaggeration and untruthfulness...and by reason of the extravagances of his statement, his word was received with the least confidence by those who knew him best. He would utter the most palpable exaggeration or marvelous absurdity with the utmost apparent gravity." 2

Joseph Smith, Jr. spent his youth practicing what we know today to be witchcraft and occultism--drawing magic circles, crystal gazing (with his famous "peep stone"), water-witching, sacrificing animals to manipulate the spirits, enchantments, communication with familiar spirits (necromancy), and astrological magic talismans and swords.

At the age of 14, Joseph Smith, Jr. claimed to have been visited by God the Father and Jesus, both in the flesh. He was told by them that ALL present-day churches were wrong, that ALL the clergy were corrupt, and that ALL creeds were an abomination in God's eyes! In a later vision with the Angel Moroni, Joseph was given directions to a stash of buried golden plates in the Hill Cumorah and told that they contained "reformed Egyptian" characters from which he would translate into the "restored gospel," later known as the Book of Mormon.

From that translation (with the infamous peep-stone), the Book of Mormon was published in 1830. Shortly thereafter, the Book of Commandments (which later became the Doctrine and Covenants), and the Pearl of Great Price (a mistranslation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead papyri) came into being.

Joseph Smith, Jr. introduced into the church (and a very naïve world) many concepts of the Godhead, salvation, and man's destiny that are considered heretical in Christianity. In Mormonism, God is just a man and man is just a God. Jesus is the spirit brother of the devil. Plurality of wives is a requirement for entrance into heaven (which Joseph described as "everlasting burnings"). However, if you don't make it there, according to Smith, "Hell is by no means the place this world of fools suppose it to be, but on the contrary, it is quite an agreeable place ." 3

Joseph, Jr. was once called the "greatest egotist and boaster." He was obsessed with power, fame, and as many wives as he could gather. He was proud of his physical strength and would regularly show-off. He was known for his short temper and physical violence when aggravated.

In 1838, a very prideful Joseph Smith appointed himself Lieutenant General of the Nauvoo Legion. Lyman L. Woods recalls, "I have seen him on a white horse wearing the uniform of a general. He was leading a parade of the Legion and looked like a god." 4 Later, Joseph had himself ordained "King on earth!" Toward the end of his life, Joseph had himself nominated for President of the United States. 5

Joseph's power over his minions was great. Brigham Young once proclaimed, " man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom without the consent of Joseph Smith. Every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, Junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are...I cannot go there without his consent. He reigns there as supreme a being in his sphere, capacity, and calling, as God does in heaven." 6

Humility and meekness never played a very important part in Joseph's life. Prior to being killed in a gunfight at the Carthage, Illinois, jail in 1844, Joseph had left us with these profound statements:

"God made Aaron to be the mouthpiece for the children of Israel, and He will make me be god to you in His stead, and the Elders to be mouth for me; and if you don't like it, you must lump it." 7

"I am a lawyer; I am a big lawyer and comprehend heaven, earth and hell, to bring forth knowledge that shall cover up all lawyers, doctors and other big bodies." 8

"Don't employ lawyers, or pay them money for their knowledge, for I have learned that they don't know anything. I know more than they all." 9

"I combat the errors of ages; I meet the violence of mobs; I cope with illegal proceedings from executive authority; I cut the gordian knot of powers, and I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth-diamond truth; and God is my 'right hand man'." 10

"If they want a beardless boy to whip all the world, I will get on the top of a mountain and crow like a rooster: I shall always beat them....I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet." 11

But my favorite Joseph Smith quote has still got to be, "No man can learn you more than what I have told you." 12

(1) Walter Martin, The Maze of Mormonism, 1983, p. 25 (from Mormonism Unvailed, E. D. Howe, 1834, p. 261)
(2) Ibid. (from The Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism, Tucker, 1847, p. 16)
(3) Ed Decker and Dave Hunt, The God Makers, 1984, p. 76 (from The Nauvoo Expositor, June 7, 1844)
(4) Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism, 1891, p. 454 (from Joseph Smith, The Man and the Seer, Andrus, p. 5)
(5) Ibid., pp. 457-458
(6) Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, p. 289
(7) Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.363 (from History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 319-320)
(8) History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 289
(9) Ibid., p. 467
(10) Ibid., Vol. 6, p. 78
(11) Ibid., pp. 408-409
(12) Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, p. 614

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Mormonism is a cult of personality centered around Joseph Smith Jr.

From the Changing World of Mormonism Chapter 17

    The importance of Joseph Smith in Mormon theology cannot be overemphasized. Brigham Young, the church's second president, boasted:

    Well, now, examine the character of the Savior, and examine the characters of those who have written the Old and New Testament; and then compare them with the character of Joseph Smith, the founder of this work ... and you will find that his character stands as fair as that of any man's mentioned in the Bible. We can find no person who presents a better character to the world when the facts are known than Joseph Smith, Jun., the prophet, and his brother, Hyrum Smith, who was murdered with him (Journal of Discourses, vol. 14, p.203).

    ... no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith.... Every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are ... I cannot go there without his consent.... He reigns there as supreme a being in his sphere, capacity, and calling, as God does in heaven (vol. 7, p.289).

    ... I am an Apostle of Joseph Smith.... all who reject my testimony will go to hell, so sure as there is one, no matter whether it be hot or cold ... (vol. 3, p.212).

    I will now give my scripture—"Whosoever confesseth that Joseph Smith was sent of God ... that spirit is of God; and every spirit that does not confess that God has sent Joseph Smith, and revealed the everlasting Gospel to and through him, is of Anti-christ ... (vol. 8, p.176).

    Heber C. Kimball, a member of the first Presidency under Brigham Young, said that the time would come when people would "prize brother Joseph Smith as the Prophet of the Living God, and look upon him as a God, and also upon Brigham Young, our Governor in the Territory of Deseret" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p.88).


 Mormon scholar D. Michael Quinn, has carefully documented that Smith was influenced by the culture of his day and particularly by his immediate family. His father and uncle both used divining rods.1 Luman Walters was likely the individual who introduced Joseph Smith, Jr. to using the "seer stone" for the pretense of discovering treasure.2The Palmyra Reflector dubbed him as "Walters the Magician" who operated by the use of "familiar spirits," using instruments of witchcraft such as a "stuffed toad," "an old sword," and a "seer stone."3

Dr. Reed Durham, former president of the Mormon History Association, and Professor of Religion at the University of Utah, in a 1974 lecture revealed that at the time of his death Joseph Smith was wearing what was formerly thought to have been a "Masonic jewel" was actually a "Jupiter talisman." This proves that Joseph Smith was engaged in occult practices until the end of his life in 1844.4A talisman is an object engraved with astrological signs believed to have possessed power to avert evil and bring good luck. Such pieces are clearly identified with occult magic. This lecture, although true, brought the wrath of then President Spencer W. Kimbell down upon Dr. Durham. The talisman is currently kept in the LDS Archives.

Smith's Jupiter talisman
Smith's Jupiter talisman

Is it wrong to use a Jupiter Talisman?

Yes, no Christian, let alone a prophet, would do this. Jupiter is a false god. The Bible is very  specific that those who follow God cannot use magic or follow other gods.

1 D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (Salt Lake City: Signature Press, 1987), 27-28.
2 Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1867),28,38.
3 The Reflector, June 12, July 7, 1830; February 28,1831.
4 Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism-Shadow or Reality? (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse
An Excerpt from Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection by Lance S. Owens Lance S. Owens Lance S. Owens Lance S. Owens


IN 1973 RLDS HISTORIAN PAUL M. EDWARDS identified a fundamental deficiency of Mormon historical studies: "We have not allowed," says Edwards speaking of Mormon historians, "the revolutionary nature of the movement from which we have sprung to make us revolutionaries." He continued:

        The one thing about which we might all agree concerning Joseph Smith is that he was not the usual sort of person. He did not approach life itself--or his religious commitment--in a usual way. Yet the character of our historical investigation of Joseph Smith and his times has been primarily traditional, unimaginative, and lacking in any effort to find or create an epistemological methodology revolutionary enough to deal with the paradox of our movement. The irony of our position is that many of our methods and interpretations have become so traditional that they can only reinforce the fears of yesterday rather than nurture the seeds of tomorrow's dreams.1


More than two decades have passed since those words were penned, years marked by a veritable explosion in Mormon studies, and yet Edward's challenge "to find or create an epistemological methodology revolutionary enough to deal with the paradox" of Joseph Smith remains a summons largely unanswered. Revolutions are painful processes, in measure both destructive and creative. The imaginative revisioning of Joseph Smith's "unusual approach" to life and religion, demands a careful--though perhaps still difficult and destructive--hewing away of an hundred years of encrusting vilifications and thick layerings of iconographic pigments, masks ultimately false to his lively cast. Smith eschewed orthodoxy, and so eventually must his historians. To that end, there is considerable value in turning full attention to the revolutionary view of Joseph Smith provided by Harold Bloom in his critique of The American Religion.

Broadly informed as a critic of the creative imagination and its Kabbalistic, Gnostic undertones in Western culture--and perhaps one of the most prominent literary figures in America--Bloom has intuitively recognized within Joseph Smith a familiar spirit, a genius wed in nature to both the millennia-old visions of Gnosticism in its many guises, and the imaginative flux of poesy. Individuals less informed in the history and nature of Kabbalism--or of Hermetic, Alchemical and Rosicrucian mysticism, traditions influenced by a creative interaction with Kabbalah--may have difficulty apprehending the basis of his insight. Indisputably, the aegis of "orthodox" Mormon historiography is violently breached by Bloom's intuition linking the prophet's visionary bent with the occult aspirations of Jewish Kabbalah, the great mystical and prophetic tradition of Israel.

Bloom is, of course, not a historian but a critic and interpreter of creative visions, and his reading of Smith depends perhaps less on historical detail than on his intuition for the poetic imagination. The affinity of Smith for these traditions is, nonetheless, evident to an educated eye.

What is clear is that Smith and his apostles restated what Moshe Idel, our great living scholar of Kabbalah, persuades me was the archaic or original Jewish religion. . . . My observation certainly does find enormous validity in Smith's imaginative recapture of crucial elements, elements evaded by normative Judaism and by the Church after it. The God of Joseph Smith is a daring revival of the God of some of the Kabbalists and Gnostics, prophetic sages who, like Smith himself, asserted that they had returned to the true religion. . . . Either there was a more direct Kabbalistic influence upon Smith than we know, or, far more likely, his genius reinvented Kabbalah in the effort necessary to restore archaic Judaism.2

While I would not diminish the inventive genius of Joseph Smith, careful reevaluation of historical data suggests there is both a poetic and an unsuspected factual substance to Bloom's thesis. Though yet little understood, from Joseph's adolescent years forward he had repeated, sometime intimate and arguably influential associations with distant legacies of Gnosticism conveyed by Kabbalah and Hermeticism--traditions intertwined in the Renaissance and nurtured through the reformative religious aspirations of three subsequent centuries. Though any sympathy Joseph held for old heresy was perhaps intrinsic to his nature rather than bred by association, the associations did exist. And they hold a rich context of meanings. Of course, the relative import of these interactions in Joseph Smith's history will remain problematic for historians; efforts to revision the Prophet in their light--or to reevaluate our methodology of understanding his history--may evoke a violently response from traditionalists. Nonetheless, these is substantial documentary evidence, material unexplored by Bloom or Mormon historians generally, supporting a much more direct Kabbalistic and Hermetic influences upon Smith and his doctrine of God than has previously been considered possible.

Through his associations with ceremonial magic as a young treasure seer, Smith contacted symbols and lore taken directly from Kabbalah. In his prophetic translation of sacred writ, his hermeneutic method was in nature Kabbalistic. With his initiation into Masonry, he entered a tradition born of the Hermetic-Kabbalistic tradition. These associations culminated in Nauvoo, the period of his most important doctrinal and ritual innovations. During these last years, he enjoyed friendship with a European Jew well-versed in the standard Kabbalistic works and possibly possessing in Nauvoo an extraordinary collection of Kabbalistic books and manuscripts. By 1844 Smith not only was cognizant of Kabbalah, but enlisted theosophic concepts taken directly from its principal text in his most important doctrinal sermon, the "King Follett Discourse."

Smith's concepts of God's plurality, his vision of God as anthropos, and his possession by the issue of sacred marriage, all might have been cross-fertilized by this intercourse with Kabbalistic theosophy--an occult relationship climaxing in Nauvoo. This is a complex thesis; its understanding requires exploration of an occult religious tradition spanning more that a millennium of Western history, an investigation that begins naturally with Kabbalah.

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