An Interesting Account of Joseph Smith

I’d seen this before, but I stumbled across it again this morning. My ancestor, Frederick G. Williams, wrote the following about his association with Joseph Smith:

“Statement of facts relative to J. Smith & myself”

From the time I first became acquainted with Jos Smith I frequently assisted him let him have the run of my farm in Kirtland two year for which I recd no compensation though he frequently promised me he had given me Several notes for oxon farming utinstials waggon , for the run of the farm I never took any note ne[i]ther reced any thing for it

frequently Let him have money of which I mad[e] no account recollect letting him have 10 dollars at one time when making the road up the hill, also 31 dollars to redeem Kirtland currency with about the time we received the revelation [-] Page 240 if I recollect right a revelation was received regarding every one of of [sic] what was then called the firm to give up all notes & demands that they had against each other Should be given up and all be equal which we the [Cause?] that I never got any thing for my farm

I commenced writing for Joseph Smith Jr. July 20th 1832 as may be seen by S. Rigdons permission dated as above from which time up to the [-] of the Hebrew School in Kirtland I was constantly in Said Smiths employ and boarded myself

I also Let him have 27 dollars when he went to Missouri with the camp I also bought a patent [-] Silver watch for which [-] agreed to pay $50. …

From the time I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith Jr. Which was in the mo of August 1831, I frequently assisted him by letting him have money & other things, among which was the use of my Farm in Kirtland for two years for which I never took any note or Security I also furnished him with oxon chair Sled waggon and other things, not now recollected for which he gave me his note to the amount [of] several Hundred Dollars

but about the time we received the Revelation under page 240 in the doctrine and covenants a revelation was received (but not writen) requiring a certain number amoung us (among which I was one) to [-] accounts & give up all notes & demands that they had against each other & all be equal which was done this included all that he was to give me for my farm & the obligation which I held against him &c. but he never gave me any obligation for my farm whatever

Fascinating stuff.

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14 Responses to An Interesting Account of Joseph Smith

  1. Allan says:

    Gee, what motivation could he have had to endure all the persecution and hardship he went through? Could it be that it was profitable? Somehow that aspect of his life gets overlooked be the church. The fact is that he was a miserable failure at every honest enterprise he tried. Not that he persisted long at those…

  2. Fascinating indeed, Runtu. And quite typical of Smith’s activities, based on what I’ve read. Smith was incredibly talented at getting people to give or loan him money and land. When he took loans, he rarely paid them back. There were something like 130 lawsuits filed against him during his lifetime, and those were just the people who weren’t devout enough to let him get away with it.

    • runtu says:

      As I recall, when Joseph Smith left Ohio for Missouri, he did so in part to avoid the lawsuits against him, which amounted to some $150,000, I believe (someone can correct me if I’m mistaken, but that is what I recall). The church members left behind scraped together $35,000 to settle his debts for him. So, yes, he was pretty adept at such things.

  3. shematwater says:

    I think it interesting that F. G. Williams returned to the church after leaving it, even without any incentive. I would really like to know when this statement was made.

    Joseph Smith did leave debts in Kirtland, but he wasn’t the only one with debts. There was a small depression at the time which caused similar situations throughout the country. Several small quasi-banks like that of Kirtland went under. All the lawsuits were because the bank had gone under, not because he had simply barrowed and never repaid. it was a loss of investment.
    I also read that, partly due to this fact, Joseph did satisfy all his creditors. It was done after he left by an agent, but it was done.

    • runtu says:

      That’s sort of correct. However, the Kirtland Bank failed before the Panic of 1837, so you can’t blame the failure of the bank on economic conditions.

      • shematwater says:

        Not completely. The economic scare plunged in 1837, but it began in 1835. The reason the bank failed (not spiritually speaking) is because it backed its notes with land and not hard goods like gold. When things became risky such a backing was not accepted by many and those who invested in it didn’t want to stay with it.

      • shematwater says:

        I did a little research to refresh my memory.
        Smith was sited in a number of Law Suits, but as he was only the Cashier of the establishment it is hard to determine how much of what he was accused of was his fault.
        Also, he wanted an investigation of embezzlement against Parrish, who had a lot more authority in the establishment, but was not granted it. So, he may have been charged with a great deal of debt that was not his fault.

      • shematwater,

        Backing currency with gold is better than backing with land?!!

        That makes no sense. At least you can still survive if you have land (i.e., farming to feed oneself, shelter). Gold has minimal intrinsic value other than that which society imparts…it is no different than trading purple beads/wampum. You can’t eat gold (it is a decent conductor though). So how is land not as valuable, if not more so? Land is a tangible substance that can be taken from a debtor…unless you’re saying that there were other rules in place indicating that land could not transfer ownership when the owner was in debt.

  4. Bushman had this to say about the Kirtland period:

    “How the Smiths paid the bills in these years is a mystery. Joseph’s journal shows no evidence of working for money. In 1834, he had been granted the stewardship of a farm near the temple site, but he recorded no income or benefit. He never mentioned doing farm work or supervising anyone’s labors.”

    Well, it’s not really a mystery to anyone who has studied Joseph’s M.O. As I noted above, Joseph was brilliant at using the promise of spiritual or temporal gains to get people to keep him well-supplied.

    • shematwater says:

      No mystery at all, and for the reason you give. Just because he doesn’t record working on the farm in his personal journal doesn’t mean he didn’t work in it. Anyone who knows his personality can tell you he was a hard worker.

  5. jill says:

    Brigham Young seemed to be of the same bent. He engaged a woman to make hats for all his wives, and when she presented the bill, he told her to deduct it from her tithe. Too bad she had not made any money to tithe on in the first place.

  6. […] we’ve come a long way since Bible, Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, and even Joseph Smith‘s […]

  7. ff42 says:

    shematwater, what’s the deal with needing a reference when you haven’t produced any yourself?

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