Joseph Smith Jr. Jr.

I’ve learned about the curious case of Joseph Smith III.

A judge ruled that the church Joseph Smith III led was the authentic successor to the church that his father, the restoration prophet, established. Photo courtesy centerplace.org
A judge ruled that the church Joseph Smith III led was the authentic successor to the church that his father, the restoration prophet, established. Photo courtesy centerplace.org

LDS Church members may understand him to be a misguided prophet whose family did not follow the “true vine” of the gospel.

But he may have quite a case otherwise.

Smith III succeeded his father Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism, in the Community of Christ (formerly Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

Here’s his case:

Not only church patriarch Joseph Smith, Sr., but the prophet himself (at least twice) prophesied via blessings that Smith III would lead the church upon the prophet’s death. One blessing was given in 1844, before the prophet died.

Anyone involved with Mormonism should read “Joseph Smith III: Pragmatic Prophet.” University of Illinois Press offers a fair recounting.

We read that Smith III:

  • Believed that the church lost its way in the 1840s, after the bank failure of Joseph Smith, Jr. (henceforth called ‘prophet’) and doctrines like polygamy were introduced;
  • Studied law and saw that as a basis for religion, particularly in terms of a “committee system” (more democratic), “pragmatism” and “legalism”;
  • Was described in reference to the phrase “one mighty and strong,” which is used in Mormon circles even today to consider someone who will rise to leadership in inspired fashion;
  • Was rejected by leaders of the Utah church despite the prophecies;
  • Was in favor of ending slavery, considering himself “a Lincoln man”;
  • Proactively taught that polygamy was not of God, declaring plural marriage to oppose the Christian message;
  • “Was a master at mitigating conflict,” whereas the succession crisis, which Brigham Young emerged from as the LDS Church president, wasn’t;
  • Sent a missionary force to Utah to gather Latter-day Saints to the correct church;
  • Got 500 letters from the Salt Lake valley asking for missionaries to be sent there;
  • Sought reconciliation with Brigham Young’s church and had a role in the Edmunds-Tucker Act, which ended polygamy;
  • Was in Washington, D.C. pursuing an end to polygamy while there were LDS polygamy issues in Mexico;
  • Was recommended by Brigham Young to replace the prophet after the prophet died;
  • Was highly respected by non-LDS folks and highly regarded the constitutional mandate of separation between church and state and also the importance of religious freedom for all;
  • Didn’t want his own son to be the succeeding prophet until his son became intently involved in and serious about the church, and the son was much more involved in leading the church than challenger R.C. Evans had been;
  • Didn’t have a funeral of fanfare, asking that money that would have gone to his funeral be instead given to charity;
  • Had unique leadership qualities in being “rational,” “traditional” and “charismatic”;
  • Helped Mormonism in general, including the LDS Church and all Mormon sects gain more notoriety;

And this is interesting:

  • His church was regarded as the authentic successor to the prophet’s when a judge ruled that Community of Christ had rightful ownership of most of the Kirtland Temple property.
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Published by: Rhett Wilkinson

Rhett has been an evil journalist and evil-er political worker. At nine years old, Rhett wrote about Han Solo and Princess Leia getting married and having kids and a child named Ben. And also, Luke building a new Jedi Order and a New Republic being established. That all happened in the books or films, so he's still waiting for Lucasfilm to pay up!

Categories Uncategorized9 Comments

9 thoughts on “Joseph Smith Jr. Jr.”

  1. Joseph Smith III: Pragmatic Prophet is probably the best book I’ve read this year. I fell in love with JS III, and as a Mormon (at the time I read the book), it was very eye-opening to me. I couldn’t help but compare JS III to Brigham Young, and the contrast is striking. It became so clear to me that the only reason for supposing the “true” church went with Brigham is if and because that’s what you already believe. If we’re looking only at the fruits of each man, there’s just no comparison (IMHO).

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    1. “I couldn’t help but compare JS III to Brigham Young, and the contrast is striking. It became so clear to me that the only reason for supposing the ‘true’ church went with Brigham is if and because that’s what you already believe.” Thank you for the comment, Benjamin!

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    2. I think it is interesting that JS III at least followed more closely the D&C that specifies that the prophet can designate his successor (D&C 43:3-4) and that a revelation is required to appoint the president as define by D&C 102:9-10. What the LDS church came up guarantees them that old men that can’t even function will likely end up being the president of the church.
      http://salemthoughts.com/Topics/Succession.shtml

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  2. In the Kirtland Temple Lot case, the LDS church of Utah was not a party of that suit. Besides that, the case was dismissed. The finding in the case were published as IF the case had been decided for the RLDS — which never happened,

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    1. Hi again, Russell — thank you for the Wikipedia link, but check out, in light of your comment about the Kirtland Temple suit, the opening paragraph in the link:

      “The Kirtland Temple Suit… is an 1880 Ohio legal case that is often cited as the case that awarded ownership of the Kirtland Temple to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS Church). Though the case was dismissed by the court, the publication of the court’s findings of fact—as if they had been the decision of the court—reinforced the belief by members of the RLDS Church and others that the court had considered the RLDS Church, and not The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the rightful legal successor to the Latter Day Saint church established by Joseph Smith in 1830.”

      The line “as if they had been the decision of the court” is particularly noteworthy.

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