Some Interesting Information About Joseph Smith


As much as I wonder about Joseph Smith and the polygyny question, I have always felt great and abiding gratitude to him for the vast vision he gave all of us about the Great Plan of Happiness, about the Restoration, about the covenants of the temple, and about the doctrine of the existence of Heavenly Mother. So as I was cleaning out an old bookcase the other day, I was delighted to stumble across some information about Joseph Smith that I had forgotten all about. Getting old has this marvelous upside--you are constantly relearning things you once knew, and it really is delightful.

Of course, retaining things from that long ago also has its downside--one of the things I rediscovered was a xerox of one page of a book--and I did not note down what the book was! It is headed, "Words of Jesse W. Crosby," and I know that Crosby was a neighbor of Smith's in Nauvoo. Take a look:

"One day when the Prophet carried to my house a sack of flour he had borrowed, my wife remarked that he had returned more than he received. He answered that it should be so; that anything borrowed should be returned always with interest to the lender. 'Thus,' he said, 'the borrower, if he be honest, is a slave to the lender.' Some of the home habits of the Prophet--such as building kitchen fired, carrying out ashes, carrying in wood and water, assisting in the care of the children, etc.--were not in accord with my idea of a great man's self-respect. The above incident of the Prophet carrying the sack of flour gave me the opportunity to give him some corrective advice which I had desired to do for a long time. I reminded him of every phase of his greatness and called to his mind the multitude of tasks he performed that were too menial for such as he; to fetch and carry flour was too great a humiliation. 'Too terrible a humiliation,' I repeated, 'for you who are the head, and you should not do it.'

"The Prophet listened quietly to all I had to say, then made his answer in these words: 'If there be humiliation in a man's house, who but the head of that house should or could bear that humiliation?'

"Sister Crosby was a very hardworking woman, taking much more responsibility in her home than most women take. Thinking to give the Prophet some light on home management, I said to him, 'Brother Joseph, my wife does much more hard work than does your wife.'

"Brother Joseph replied by telling me that if a men cannot learn in this life to appreciate a wife and do his duty to her, in properly taking care of her, he need not expect to be given one in the hereafter.

"His words shut my mouth as tight as a clam. I took them as terrible reproof. After that, I tried to do better by the good wife I had and tried to lighten her labors." [And the citation is, cryptically, TK, p, 145.]

Assuming that's true, that's a lovely story about Joseph Smith.

There's a second thing I discovered. This time I was able to find reference to it online (and also here). This is what it says:

[from Young Joseph by Ivan J. Barrett p. xiii-xiv]

"One day, when Joseph Smith, Jr. was about fifteen years of age, he and Porter Rockwell, who was eight, set out on an errand for Joseph’s father. Walking along the Canadaigua Road, they neared a small log shack. Suddenly they heard the crises and pleadings of a woman’s voice accompanied by the sharp resounding of a lash on human flesh. Joseph, with Porter at his heels, sped to the back of the log cabin. There they saw a brutal husband beating his wife with a leather strap. Bruised and bleeding, she sobbingly pled for mercy. Joseph, sickened at the sight of this heartless cruelty, rushed upon the brutal fellow, and grabbing him by the collar, snatched the leather strap from his hand. Joseph raised his fist and laid a sledge hammer blow on the whiskered jaw of the wife beater. The impact of Joseph’s slug sent the fellow sprawling on his back against a wood pile. He staggered to his feet, shaking his head and holding his jaw he gasped, “Who hit me?”

"Seeing a fifteen-year-old boy standing there ready for action maddened the man beyond control and with an oath, he rushed towards Joseph muttering, “I’ll kill this lad.” But the agile youth was ready, and quickly springing to the side, he whanged the wife beater a blow on the back of the neck that sent him face down in the dirt. As the fellow rose to his knees, he grabbed for Joseph and caught his trousers, whirling the boy around. From that moment on, the fight was nip and tuck. When it seemed as though Joseph would have to give up, he remembered that this man had whipped his wife and that gave him courage. Watching from an opening in the man’s guard, he punched a powerful blow to his stomach with a left fist and with a splintering right on the jaw, felled the man, three times his age and almost twice his size. Battered and beaten by the youthful Joseph, the man said he’d had enough.

"Twenty-three years after this in his remarks to the workmen on the Nauvoo Temple, Joseph alluded to this boyhood experience. “The finishing of the Nauvoo House is like a man finishing a fight; if he gives up he is killed; if he holds out a little longer, he may live. I’ll tell you a story: A man who whips his wife is a coward. When I was a boy, I once fought with a man who had whipped his wife. It was a hard contest; but I still remembered that he had whipped his wife; and this encouraged me, and I whipped him til he said he had enough.” (History of the Church, 7 Vols., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978, 5:285.)

Well, again assuming this is true, I like that story, too! I like the fact that Joseph tried to make his own wife's life easier, and I like the fact the Joseph whupped a man for hitting his wife.

Happy Sabbath!