Sunday I realized that, despite what I tell myself, I still have kind of a residual negative reaction to Joseph Smith. I find myself thinking of him like an unpleasant acquaintance from my past, like the kid up the street who used to throw rocks at me when I was a little boy.
I went to a missionary homecoming Sunday, and the boy was talking about service. He said, “Of all the people who have lived on this earth, there is one man who stands out as the greatest example of selfless service: Joseph Smith.” I had a kind of viscerally negative response, thinking that there were a lot of people I would put ahead of Joseph Smith on the service scale.
When I came home from church, I was watching the news, and they were talking to Kody Brown, the “Sister Wives” guy. He seems pretty sincere in his beliefs, but he comes across to me as rather self-absorbed, a bit self-righteous, and sort of creepy. I thought, self-absorbed, self-righteous, creepy polygamist with big hair. Sounds like Joseph Smith.
Mind you, had I lived in Joseph Smith’s time, I would not have advocated his death or imprisonment. He did a lot of manipulative, selfish, and just plain wrong things, but nothing that I can see worthy of imprisonment or death. To the degree that he was responsible for creating the culture and worldview I grew up with, I’ve forgiven him, which I think was an important part of my “recovery,” if that’s what you want to call it.
But it struck me that I don’t really like him very much. He’s not someone who would be my friend, and I certainly wouldn’t let my daughters babysit for him.