Character of Joseph Smith

    Gentleness and Meekness and Love Unfeigned

    Introduction

    While “it is the nature and disposition of almost all men . . . to exercise unrighteous dominion,” Joseph Smith chose instead to lead “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.”1 “I love your soul,” he said to a friend in 1833, “and the souls of the children of men, and pray and do all I can for the salvation of all.”2 Years later, Joseph reaffirmed, “My heart is large enough for all men.”3

    “The nearer we get to our heavenly Father,” Joseph told the Relief Society sisters, “the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs.”4

    Joseph Smith’s love for the people grew out of his service to them. “It is a time-honored adage,” he taught, “that love begets love. Let us pour forth love—show forth our kindness unto all mankind, and the Lord will reward us with everlasting increase.”5

    Quotes

    Joseph Smith Quotes

    “That friendship which intelligent beings would accept as sincere must arise from love, and that love grow out of virtue, which is as much a part of religion as light is a part of Jehovah” (History of the Church, 6:73).

    “Wise men ought to have understanding enough to conquer men with kindness. ‘A soft answer turneth away wrath,’ says the wise man; and it will be greatly to the credit of the Latter-day Saints to show the love of God, by now kindly treating those who may have, in an unconscious moment, done wrong; for truly said Jesus, Pray for thine enemies” (History of the Church, 6:219; paragraph divisions altered).

    “If we would secure and cultivate the love of others, we must love others, even our enemies as well as friends. . . . [People] ask, ‘Why is it this babbler gains so many followers, and retains them?’ I answer, It is because I possess the principle of love. All I can offer the world is a good heart and a good hand” (History of the Church, 5:498; paragraph divisions altered).

    Witnesses

    Mary Alice Cannon Lambert, Early Member of the Church

    “The love the saints had for him was inexpressible. They would willingly have laid down their lives for him. If he was to talk, every task would be laid aside that they might listen to his words. He was not an ordinary man. Saints and sinners alike felt and recognized a power and influence which he carried with him. It was impossible to meet him and not be impressed by the strength of his personality and influence” (“Joseph Smith, the Prophet,” Young Woman’s Journal, Dec. 1905, 554).

    Emily D. Partridge Young, Early Member of the Church

    “Joseph was a prophet of God, and a friend of man. His was a noble character. All who knew him can testify to that assertion. He was all that the word gentleman would imply—pure in heart, always striving for right, upholding innocence, and battling for the good of all” (Emily P. Young letter, Salt Lake City, Utah to Lulu Clawson Young, 1897 June 27, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; punctuation and capitalization modernized).

    Andrew Workman, Early Member of the Church

    “I saw the Prophet Joseph for the first time in May [1842]. . . . A few days after this I was at Joseph’s house; he was there, and several men were sitting on the fence. Joseph came out and spoke to us all. Pretty soon a man came up and said that a poor brother who lived out some distance from town had had his house burned down the night before. Nearly all of the men said they felt sorry for the man. Joseph put his hand in his pocket, took out five dollars and said, ‘I feel sorry for this brother to the amount of five dollars; how much do you all feel sorry?’” (in “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor, Oct. 15, 1892, 641).

    Questions

    How did Joseph Smith exemplify the love of the Savior?

    The people loved Joseph because he tried to exemplify the love of the Savior. For example, Margarette McIntire Burgess recalled that as a little girl she found herself and her brother mired in the mud of a Nauvoo street as they walked to school. Joseph stopped, lifted them from the muddy street, cleaned the mud from their shoes, and, as Margarette recalled, “took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped our tear-stained faces. He spoke kind and cheering words to us, and sent us on our way to school rejoicing. Was it any wonder that I loved that great, good and noble man of God?” (in “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor, Jan. 15, 1892, 67).

    What impression did Joseph Smith make on people who were not members of the Church?

    Responses varied, of course, but many were favorably impressed. Peter H. Burnett, Joseph’s lawyer in Missouri and later governor of California, wrote of him: “He was much more than an ordinary man. He possessed the most indomitable perseverance. . . . 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, . . . [and] had due deference to your feelings. . . . I saw him out among the crowd [who had been his enemies], conversing freely with every one, 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” (An Old California Pioneer [1946], 40).

    Readings

    Online Resources at ChurchofJesusChrist.org

    Greatness of Joseph Smith”—in “The Martyrdom,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 284

    Joseph Smith Remained Humble”—in “Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 6–7

    Joseph Smith Loved Physical Contests”—in “Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 16

    Online Resources at BYU

    A More Virtuous Man Never Existed on the Footstool of the Great Jehovah: George Miller on Joseph Smith”—Lyndon W. Cook, BYU Studies, vol. 19, no. 3 (1979), 402–7

    Letter witnessing to the character and whereabouts of Joseph Smith in the matter of the assassination attempt on Lilburn W. Boggs.

    Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Reappraised”—Richard L. Anderson, BYU Studies, vol. 10, no. 3 (1970), 283–314

    Comparison of collections of affidavits and interviews from 1834, 1867, 1881, and 1888.