A partial re-posting of an article by Diane Tingen (Mormonism Schism)

I was shocked to discover how many times Joseph Smith was investigated for or charged with criminal activity, and how many times he was arrested.  Here is the result of my research:

Criminal Charges / Arrests

Joseph Smith

1.  1826 – New York

Tried in Chenango County, New York, for the crime of pretending to find lost treasure.  It appears that he was convicted of this crime and paid a fine (and may have even been “escorted by the Sheriff” out of the county per the verdict).  For more information on this arrest and trial, please read what is contained on the BYU Law Blog at this link – as well as what FairMormon.org has to say at this link.  Of particular interest is this portion of this blog entry is this statement:  “Reverend Wesley P. Walters of the United Presbyterian church in Marissa, Illinois, discovered some records in the basement of the sheriff’s office in Norwich, New York, which he maintains demonstrate the actuality of the 1826 trial and go far to substantiate that Joseph Smith spent part of his early career in southern New York as a money digger and seer of hidden treasures. A periodical in Salt Lake City which heralded Walters’s findings said they “undermine Mormonism” and repeated a statement by Hugh Nibley in The Myth Makers, “if this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith.”

2.  1830 – New York

 Smith reportedly performed an exorcism in Colesville, and he was again tried as a disorderly person but was acquitted.  The account of the exorcism is in this article about the Knight family on LDS.org.  The article on LDS.org discusses the trial as well.  (These articles have since been removed by LDS.org)

3.  1837 – Kirtland, Ohio

In May 1837, Grandison Newell accused Joseph Smith of plotting to murder him.  Joseph was eventually acquitted, but the testimony of church leaders and employees revealed how seriously the Prophet’s followers took his supposed off-hand remarks (or perhaps he meant them).  In either case, statements by two apostles and other close associates no doubt undermined Joseph Smith’s reputation.  Wilbur Denton and Sidney Rigdon both testified that the alleged conspiracy took place in April or May of 1835.   Orson Hyde testified that when rumors began circulating that Newell might sue the floundering Kirtland Safety Society, Joseph Smith “seemed much excited and declared that Newell should be put out of the way, or where the crows could not find him,” and he said that “destroying Newell would be justifiable in the slight of God, that it was the will of God, etc.”  

4.  1838 – Kirtland, Ohio

After a warrant was issued for Smith’s arrest on a charge of banking fraud, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon fled Kirtland for Missouri on the night of Jan. 12, 1838.  This incident had to do with the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company, and with charges of fraud and illegal banking, including the illegal purchase of Monroe Bank in Michigan by Smith and Ridgon.  After the purchase of Monroe Bank was complete, Oliver Cowdery was named as its Vice-President and as part of that deal and Oliver’s move to Michigan to run that bank, his Ohio company (O. Cowdery & Company) was dissolved and all assets were transferred to Jospeh Smith and Sidney Rigdon.  Of course, 1837 was filled with events that led to the banking failure and the fraud charges, and numerous events occurred during that time frame, culminating in Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon fleeing Kirtland and heading for Missouri.  Please see the information contained on FairMormon.org at this link.  (This information has since been removed by the LDS church)

5.  1838 – Missouri

 On November 1, 1838, the Mormon surrendered to 2,500 state troops, and agreed to forfeit their property and leave the state.  Joseph Smith was court-martialed and nearly executed for treason, but militiaman Alexander Doniphan, who was also Joseph Smith’s attorney, probably saved Joseph’s life by insisting that he was a civilian.  Joseph Smith was then sent to a state court for a preliminary hearing, where several of his former allies, including Danite commander Sampson Avard, turned state’s evidence against him.  Joseph Smith and five others, including Sidney Rigdon, were charged with “overt acts of treason,” and transferred to the jail at Liberty, Missouri to await trial.

 In 1839, Smith and his companions tried to escape at least twice during their four-month imprisonment.  On April 6, 1839, on their way to a different jail after their grand jury hearing, they succeeded in escaping by bribing the sheriff.  Subsequently, Joseph Smith and the Mormons fled the state and moved to Illinois.

 

6.  1844 – Illinois

 Arrested for ordering the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor printing press and the burning of building in which it was housed (after an article was written exposing the truth behind Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy and polyandry).  He was subsequently killed on June 27, 1844 while in Carthage Jail.  Interestingly, after the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor and the burning of the building, Joseph Smith fled the state, going across the Mississippi River into Iowa.  It was only upon the pleadings of Emma Smith (his fist wife) that he returned to Illinois to face the charges – and was arrested.  And of course, there is the famous statement that Joseph Smith made on his way to Carthage Jail – that he was going as a lamb to the slaughter.  Yeah, right!  I mean, he had a gun and shot it during the shoot-out.  How is that being like a lamb going to the slaughter?  And using that terminology would intimate that he was an innocent man, when that is the farthest thing from the truth. 

 My reaction to discovering all of the above (#1-6) was WOW!!  Of course, it also makes me sick to my stomach, especially since I was a member of this cult for over 50 years.  In researching all of this, I found so much that I never knew before, mainly because nothing about this type of information is ever discussed in Mormon Church meetings.  Like the Monroe Bank in Michigan.  Oliver Cowdery becoming its Vice-President and relinquishing the assets in his Ohio business to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in the process?  Interestingly, Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated from the Mormon Church in 1838 as well.  From what I have been able to discern, his excommunication was for speaking out against Joseph Smith and his practice of polygamy – but it appears now that it probably had something to do with the Monroe Bank and the banking failure of the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company as well.  And perhaps appointing him as Vice-President of the Monroe Bank in Michigan was a way to get rid of him since he was being too vocal about Joseph Smith’s activities.

 Of course, I could go on and on about the many versions of the First Vision, the supposed “martyrdom” of Joseph Smith upon being killed while in Carthage Jail (and the fact that he had a gun with him during the shoot-out), the true origins of the Book of Mormon, and the supposed translation of the Book of Abraham, but since all of those topics are discussed in length in the book I have written which is posted on this blog, I won’t go into all that here (especially since this post has gotten so long).  Suffice it to say that Joseph Smith was a very busy boy in his gold-digging business, treasure-hunting, founding Mormonism, creating doctrine to add to it (like the Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham and the D&C), exorcisms, purchasing banks, founding new banking companies, getting arrested (and defending himself, as well as escaping and bribing his way out of jail), chasing women, trying to talk them into marrying him, having actual weddings, juggling all the women (I mean, 33 wives must have been a job all by itself), joining the Masons, stealing the Masonic ceremonies for use in the Mormon Temple in Nauvoo, designing special undergarments (with obvious Masonic symbols incorporated in them), and on and on.

 I have to admit that what Joseph lacked in credibility, he made up for in creativity, charisma, and chutzpah.

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