What is your Favorite Legacy left by Joseph Smith?

By: Graceforgrace
December 23, 2012

Jeff Lindsay thinks Joseph Smith’s greatest legacy is the Book of Mormon.  I agree with him and personally feel that the Book of Mormon is probably his greatest legacy for me personally because reading it has literally changed my life.

However, there are many more things that Joseph Smith accomplished in his lifetime that I thought it would be worth highlighting some of them since today is his birthday.  In fact, John Taylor (the Church’s 3rd president) went so far to say that “Joseph Smith has done more save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.

Some things off the top of my head that I can think of that Joseph Smith left behind include: temples, translation of the Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, eternal marriage, and the organization of the Church.  I’m sure there are tons more that I’m not thinking of, so that’s where you come in!  What do you think Joseph Smith’s greatest legacy is?

29 Responses to What is your Favorite Legacy left by Joseph Smith?

  1. ji on December 23, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    Being an example of a good man called to do an important work — always faithful…

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  2. Tristin on December 23, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    JS showed the world that dogma is overrated and (wo)man’s personal connection with God is primal in the power hierarchy.

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  3. Sherry on December 23, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Sorry…can’t think of much other than his polygamy and that he lied about it and hid it from Emma, his wife. This is probably not what you’re looking for but it’s what I think now, even after Seminary and years of GD classes and studying the scriptures.

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  4. Badger on December 23, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    Going for “greatest” rather than “favorite”, I would nominate the idea of ongoing, present-day revelation, specifically in the two forms of revelation transmitted via church leaders, and revelation received through the working of the Holy Ghost. Joseph Smith spoke of many other means of revelation, but unlike say, the Urim and Thummim, these two forms are part of the everyday experience of being Mormon.

    I’d argue against the Bible translation as being too non-canonical for too long, and the present-day Church organization as a product more of successors than the founder. Temples, D&C, and eternal marriage are all very strong contenders, so much so that I’d say the Book of Mormon’s greatest weakness for the title of “greatest” is in omitting them.

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  5. Jared on December 23, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    Sherry–

    Everything I’ve read says Joseph told Emma about polygamy. He didn’t lie to her, but it appears he hid some things from her because she was hostile. Bushman write:

    “… Emma vacillated between accepting and rejection.” Rough Stone Rolling, P. 490.

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  6. Kris on December 23, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    I like his quotes on faith.

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  7. Alma Allred on December 23, 2012 at 9:00 PM

    While I love the Book of Mormon, Joseph brought the scientific model to theology: He tried an experiment got results and published them. He invites everyone to do the same and they will find out for themselves.

    PS the idea that Emma didn’t know about plural marriage is a favorite of the ignorant. William McLellin said Emma watched the first plural sealing in Kirtland.

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  8. MH on December 23, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    Jared, I’m familiar with the Bushman quote you reference, but it seems severely out of context. Certainly Joseph hid many of his polygamist marriages from Emma in the 1830′s especially (Fanny Alger comes to mind). Yes, Emma was aware of some of them in the 1840s, but not all. Certainly Joseph deceived Emma quite a bit. Joseph convinced Emma that his marriages to the Partridge sisters were spiritual sealings. Bushman documents well that when Emma discovered that they were sexual, she raised a ruckus and wanted Joseph to quit the polygamy. Bushman documents that episode very well. Certainly Joseph was not completely truthful with Emma.

    Joseph’s name will be had for good and evil–I think that is his biggest legacy.

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  9. FireTag on December 23, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    I go with Book of Mormon — and the fact that the Book of Mormon doesn’t mention some of the other things (as noted by Badger in #4) has been schismatic for a lot more people than Emma since the 1830′s.

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  10. Badger on December 23, 2012 at 11:26 PM

    FireTag, you make a very good point about the Book of Mormon having a broader base. As Graceforgrace no doubt intended, there is room for interpretation of “greatest” or “favorite”. I thought of the two forms of revelation because they are so pervasive, frequently encountered, and (in my view) defining of the LDS experience. However, not only does the Book of Mormon not only bring in more of the non-LDS denominations, it engages more directly with American Christianity in general, with more emphasis on issues that have a life of their own outside Mormonism (e.g., Universalism).

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  11. Sherry on December 24, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    Thanks MH – my point exactly. Joseph was not 100% honest which is not what Mormons teach, see 13th Article of Faith. Joseph was a paradox.

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  12. Brian on December 24, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    Book of Abraham. It’s creation left a smoking gun trail that helped me solve my inner conflict that lasted almost 40 years.

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  13. Roger on December 24, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    Hard question to answer. For some, JS is a conduit to light and truth; for others, a stumbling block.

    I remain fascinated and perplexed. I don’t know what he saw. I’ve experienced Day of Pentecost-like manifestations and have spent years swallowing bile and gritting my teeth. How could he not have accomplished what he did without a prophetic gift? If he had prophetic gifts, how did he go so far off the track (polygamy, Council of 50, etc.)? Struggling with this for nigh on to 50 years ……

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  14. MH on December 24, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    I’m watching Ken Burns’ Baseball. I did not know that baseball was Joseph Smith’s favorite sport.

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  15. Bryan in Va on December 24, 2012 at 2:17 PM

    Priesthood authority is a biggie. What’s the point in engaging in a work intended to save souls work when that work is not recognized in Heaven?

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  16. Roger on December 24, 2012 at 6:31 PM
  17. Angie on December 24, 2012 at 10:40 PM

    Of all Joseph Smith’s contributions, my favorite is Relief Society

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  18. ken on December 25, 2012 at 6:07 AM

    To me it is his hunger and thirst for knowledge.

    And I am totally amazed that we are talking so openly about his “spiritual wifery.”

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  19. Hawkgrrrl on December 25, 2012 at 6:21 AM

    I suggest introducing the concept that Jesus was the God of the Old Testament and that people were openly worshiping Jesus before his birth (introduced in the BOM) was one of them. I’d add the concept that God is an exalted man and that man can become a god by following God’s example is another one. Through this second concept, Joseph Smith immediately reduced the distance between man and God to an intimate connection, which also explains personal revelation.

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  20. Douglas on December 25, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Most posters have made valid points, which I shall not attempt to replicate. I do appreciate the link about JS and baseball. As a Giants fan, I recall when the “Gints” had a parade of Mormons…Cory Snyder, Jeff Kent, Shawn Estes, JT Snow…
    What did JS contribute the MOST? The concept that the Lord has reestablished His Church and speaks through Prophets today. Of course, from my perspective it’s by definition the Lord’s doing and His initiative, and JS was simply the means of conveyance. And had “Brother Joseph” proved inadequate, the Lord could and would have gotten another. Indeed, some profess that the Lord did exactly that, or at least didn’t accept what are commonly believed to be Smith’s successors (Young, Taylor, etc up to Monson today)

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  21. Roger on December 25, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    Coming to grips with “spiritual wifery” is overdue. Most of my missionary companions taught investigators and new converts that JS never practiced polygamy. The reality is that the martyrdom was precipitated by the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor due to its published exposé on “spiritual wifery”. And it seems the global marker for the Mormon brand.

    Hawk, the Lorenzo Snow couplet is often repeated and I believe I understand your comments. But didn’t GBH distance the Church from such a declaration? If one goes to the official Internet sites, isn’t the doctrine confined to a restatement of the promise in Romans that we can be co-inheritors with Christ?

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  22. Douglas on December 25, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    #21 – I remember GBH, in an interview with Larry King, distancing the Church from Lorenzo Snow’s comment. It’s not that all of a sudden the idea of a man attaining “exaltation” (e.g., become like God himself, the exact details are to me still not entirely clear) is no longer valid. It’s more that Snow in 1898 could touch on an eternal truth as best as he interpreted it, but even that couplet is not hard doctrine…it wasn’t voted on and accepted as Scripture. Methinks that likely GBH didn’t want this doctrine emphasized since to a Christian fed a steady diet of Monotheism (rather than the Henotheistic LDS approach) would get creeped out. First the milk, then the meat.
    As for your companions teaching that JS NEVER practiced polygamy, in WHAT mission? Granted, I was advised to avoid the subject (ca. 1980-92), merely stating that it was something considered appropriate for the time under revelation but now has been discontinued..so, brother, you can’t legitimize your mistress as a plural wife, sorry…But never, if put on the spot about it, were we to be apologetic or dissemble on it. As the fictional Captain Jean-Luc Piccard told the Enterprise crew when they were being “watched” by “Q”, “if we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we are!”

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  23. Roger on December 25, 2012 at 6:21 PM

    Douglas, these elders weren’t dissembling or consciously misleading anyone. They flat out didn’t know. In the late 60s and early 70s, it just didn’t occur to 19-year-old missionaries that the Prophet Joseph was engaged in such controversy. Frankly, unless they had read Brodie, most members were unaware.

    To respond to your specific question: Spain.

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  24. MH on December 25, 2012 at 8:24 PM

    Yes, Roger thanks for the baseball link. From what I gather, the rules of “ball” weren’t nearly formalized in Joseph lifetime, with something like 8-15 players per side (per Ken Burns commentary.) It really wasn’t until well until the 1870s that rules became more standardized.

    As for the couplet, Hugo Olaiz gave an interesting presentation at Sunstone back in 2008 that referenced GBH’s concerns. From my notes,

    According to Olaiz, it seems that most of the prophets embrace “as God now is, man may be”, but are much more uncomfortable with the “As man now is, God once was” part. He said Pres Hinckley only quoted the latter part of the quote in the 2nd half of the couplet in 1994, and that it seems that previous prophets also had problems with the 1st half.

    Douglas, a 12 year mission–wow!!! I didn’t know they did that under Kimball/Benson/Hunter. Despite having served a mission to the Bible belt (87-89), nobody ever asked me about polygamy, so I’m mildly surprised it was brought up. (The couplet, on the other hand, was a topic for my mission, as was “The Godmakers.”)

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  25. Justin on December 26, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    What is your Favorite Legacy left by Joseph Smith?

    Joseph Smith was amazing to me because he democratized the religious experience again:

    * everyone can be a prophet and prophetess

    * we are all kings and priests — queens and priestesses

    * God appeared to him, “so what?” he’d say — it can and should happen to anybody.

    * we are all, each of us, the literal offspring of the Personage who framed the sky and the earth.

    He shows me that feeling that God is in all of us, uniquely and individually — as we are right here and right now — even as human-beings in the flesh.

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  26. Justin on December 26, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    Oops — that last paragraph ["He shows me that feeling ..."] should’ve been out of the blockquote with that bulleted list.

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  27. graceforgrace on December 26, 2012 at 11:38 PM

    All of you who are mentioning JS’s spiritual wifery…I had thought about mentioning that, but refrained.

    I too feel that Joseph Smith is such a polarizing figure and realize he was very untruthful with the polygamy deal. That one issue is something that I personally do not feel was inspired by God.

    However, I do feel the Book of Mormon was inspired as well as many other things. I chose to focus on the positive, which for me, is the Book of Mormon.

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  28. Douglas on December 27, 2012 at 1:07 AM

    #24 – I meant 80 to 82. Typo. Of course, sometimes I wished that I had remained in the mission field during the years 1982 to 1992, I might have done more good! Ah, but I was allocated but two years at the appropriate time, so it’s not good to gripe about the “calling” I had then (meaning my first wife), merely appreciate the results (my adult children from said marriage).
    GBH was asked in the Larry King interview about men (and women) becoming Gods (and Goddesses), not about God having once been a man. It’s not that the “Latter” concept (pun intended) gives me discomfort, but I could only speculate as to what manner of man. Did “Gawd” have to “repent”. Somehow, I think not, since Jesus himself said that He could do nothing but what He’d seen his Father (from on high in the Pre-Mortal existence, or as some part of a greater collective intelligence, you could drive yourself full-blown bat guano crazy trying to figure it out!), I’ve supposed that Heavenly Father was at one point a Savior for His spiritual brothers and sisters. But that’s just the Gospel according to Doug, and methinks that GBH was seeking to avoid a subject that either he hadn’t received revelation on or had been directed not to divulge it.
    Besides, though that keep screaming “there ought to be another law” tend to forget that Jehovah felt that Moses could get the children of Israel to behave with just ten. Left to our own devices, we tend to complicate things unnecessarily.

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  29. Justin on December 27, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    The polarization is indeed interesting — graceforgrace [#27].

    I, for example, am quite drawn to Joseph Smith for his egalitarian views on marriage and his attempt to restore the tribal notion of family and kinship to the gospel by practicing simultaneous polygyny and polyandry.

    I guess it’s all in the perspective.

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