Joseph Smith, Jr.

founder of the Latter Day Saint movement (1805–1844)

Joseph Smith, Jr. (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844) was the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormonism, and the Latter Day Saint movement.

I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.




  • Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none.
    • History of the Church, 2:52 (21 April 1834)
  • Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation
    • Lectures on Faith 6:7
  • The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.
    • Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 121 (8 May 1838)
  • Truth is "Mormonism." God is the author of it.
    • History of the Church, 3:297 (20 March 1839)
  • We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
    • Doctrine and Covenants, 121:39 (20 March 1839)
  • A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.
    • Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 137 (25 March 1839)
  • A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.
    • History of the Church, 3:381 (27 June 1839)
  • Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is in vain for anyone to minister without it. No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a Prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy.
    • Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 160 (2 July 1839)


  • If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven, and if you will follow the revelations and instructions which God gives you through me, I will take you into heaven as my back load. If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you. If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours—for charity covereth a multitude of sins. What many people call sin is not sin; I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down.
    • History of the Church, 4:445 (7 November 1841)
  • I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.
    • History of the Church, 4:461 (28 November 1841)
  • Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and in Germany, Palestine, New Holland, the East Indies, and other places, the standard of truth has been erected: no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing, persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done.
    • History of the Church, 4:540 (1 March 1842)
  • A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge.
    • History of the Church, 4:588 (10 April 1842)
  • That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, 'Thou shalt not kill'; at another time He said, 'Thou shalt utterly destroy.' This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.'
    • Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 256 (11 April 1842)
  • Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; and at the same time more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and more ready to detect in every false way, than we are apt to suppose Him to be.
    • Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 257 (11 April 1842)
  • Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind.
    • History of the Church, 5:23–24 (9 June 1842)
  • Deep water is what I am wont to swim in.
    • Doctrine and Covenants, 127:2 (1 September 1842)
  • I told them I was but a man, and they must not expect me to be perfect; if they expected perfection from me, I should expect it from them; but if they would bear with my infirmities and the infirmities of the brethren, I would likewise bear with their infirmities.
    • History of the Church, 5:181 (29 October 1842)
  • If I had not actually got into this work and been called of God, I would back out. But I cannot back out: I have no doubt of the truth.
    • History of the Church, 5:336 (6 April 1843)
  • It is my meditation all the day, and more than my meat and drink, to know how I shall make the Saints of God comprehend the visions that roll like an overflowing surge before my mind.
    • History of the Church, 5:362 (16 April 1843)
  • More painful to me are the thoughts of annihilation than death. If I have no expectation of seeing my father, mother, brothers, sisters and friends again, my heart would burst in a moment, and I should go down to my grave. The expectation of seeing my friends in the morning of the resurrection cheers my soul and makes me bear up against the evils of life. It is like their taking a long journey, and on their return we meet them with increased joy.
    • History of the Church, 5:362 (16 April 1843)
  • There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes. We cannot see it, but when our bodies are purified, we shall see that it is all matter.
    • Doctrine and Covenants, 131:7-8 (17 May 1843)
  • One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.
    • Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 199 (9 July 1843)
  • I see no faults in the Church, and therefore let me be resurrected with the Saints, whether I ascend to heaven or descend to hell, or go to any other place. And if we go to hell, we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven of it. Where this people are, there is good society. What do we care where we are, if the society be good? I don't care what a man's character is; if he's my friend—a true friend, I will be a friend to him, and preach the Gospel of salvation to him, and give him good counsel, helping him out of his difficulties.
    • History of the Church, 5:517 (23 July 1843)
  • Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of "Mormonism"; [it is designed] to revolutionize and civilize the world, and cause wars and contentions to cease and men to become friends and brothers.
    • History of the Church, 5:517 (23 July 1843)
  • Have the Presbyterians any truth? Yes. Have the Baptists, Methodists, &c., any truth? Yes. They all have a little truth mixed with error. We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true "Mormons."
    • History of the Church, 5:517 (23 July 1843)
  • There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge and a pumpkin for a beetle.
    • History of the Church, 6:184-85 (21 January 1844)
  • I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.
    • History of the Church, 6:408 (26 May 1844)
  • If my life is of no value to my friends it is of none to myself.
    • History of the Church, 6:549 (22 June 1844)
    • Smith's reply when friends accused him of cowardice for intending to leave Illinois to avoid legal prosecution.
  • I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer's morning; I have a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward all men. I SHALL DIE INNOCENT, AND IT SHALL YET BE SAID OF ME — HE WAS MURDERED IN COLD BLOOD.
  • Doctrine and Covenants, 135:4 (22 June 1844)
    • Smith's comments upon deciding to go to Carthage for incarceration and to face legal prosecution.
  • [I]t is not always wise to relate all the truth. Even Jesus, the Son of God, had to refrain from doing so, and had to restrain His feelings many times for the safety of Himself and His followers, and had to conceal the righteous purposes of His heart in relation to many things pertaining to His Father's kingdom.
    • Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 392 (27 June 1844)
  • O Lord my God!
    • Doctrine and Covenants, 135:1 (27 June 1844)
    • Cried out by Smith as he fell to his death after being shot by a mob.

King Follett discourse (1844)

  • You don't know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don't blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have believed it myself. . . . When I am called by the trump of the archangel and weighed in the balance, you will all know me then.
    • History of the Church 6:317 (7 April 1844)
  • I want to ask this congregation, every man, woman and child, to answer the question in their own heart, what kind of a being God is? . . . Does any man or woman know? Have any of you seen him, heard him, or communed with him? . . . God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make Himself visible,—I say, if you were to see Him today, you would see Him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another. . . . It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that He was once a man like us; yea, that God Himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.
    • History of the Church, 6:303-04 (7 April 1844)
  • [T]he doctrine of a plurality of Gods is as prominent in the Bible as any other doctrine. . . . The head God organized the heavens and the earth. I defy all the world to refute me. In the beginning the heads of the Gods organized the heavens and the earth. Now the learned priests and the people rage, and the heathen imagine a vain thing. If we pursue the Hebrew text further, it reads, 'The head one of the Gods said, Let us make a man in our own image.' I once asked a learned Jew, 'If the Hebrew language compels us to render all words ending in heim in the plural, why not render the first Eloheim plural?' He replied, 'That is the rule with few exceptions; but in this case it would ruin the Bible.' He acknowledged I was right. . . . In the very beginning the Bible shows there is a plurality of Gods beyond the power of refutation. It is a great subject I am dwelling on. The word Eloheim ought to be in the plural all the way through—'Gods'. The heads of the Gods appointed one God for us; and when you take [that] view of the subject, its sets one free to see all the beauty, holiness and perfection of the Gods. All I want is to get the simple, naked truth, and the whole truth.
    • History of the Church, 6:474-76 (7 April 1844)
  • Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God. I say that is a strange God anyhow—three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization. 'Father, I pray not for the world, but I pray for them which thou hast given me.' 'Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are.' All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God—he would be a giant or a monster.
    • History of the Church, 6:476 (7 April 1844)
  • Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it.
  • Element had an existence from the time he [God] had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end. . . . [T]he mind of man — the immortal spirit. Where did it come from? All learned men and doctors of divinity say that God created it in the beginning; but it is not so: the very idea lessens man in my estimation. I do not believe the doctrine; I know better. Hear it, all ye ends of the world; for God has told me so . . . We say that God himself is a self-existent being. Who told you so? It is correct enough; but how did it get into your heads? Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles? Man does exist upon the same principles. God made a tabernacle and put a spirit into it, and it became a living soul. . . . The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is [co-eternal] with God himself. I know that my testimony is true . . . Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it had a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are [co-eternal] with our Father in heaven. . . . I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man—the immortal part, because it has no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man. As the Lord liveth, if it had a beginning, it will have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation, who say that the spirit of man had a beginning, prove that it must have an end; and if that doctrine is true, then the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the house-tops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself.
    • History of the Church, 6:308-309 (7 April 1844)
  • You have to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one: from grace to grace FROM EXALTATION TO EXALTATION until you ATTAIN THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD."
    • History of the Church, 6:306 (7 April 1844)

Attributed to Joseph Smith, Jr.

  • I teach the people correct principles and they govern themselves.
    • Quoted by John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 10:57-58 (18 May 1862)
    • When asked how he governed his followers in Nauvoo, Illinois.
  • Would to God, brethren, I could tell you who I am! Would to God I could tell you what I know! But you would call it blasphemy, and there are men upon this stand who would want to take my life.
    • Quoted by Orson F. Whtiney, Life of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Kimball Family, 1888), 322
  • You will meet and become acquainted with your eternal Mother, the wife of your Father in Heaven… How could a Father claim His title unless there were also a Mother to share that parenthood?
    • Joseph Smith, n. d. (before his death on June 27, 1844), according to a reminiscence by Zina Diantha Huntington Young reported in Susa Young Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1911), 16.
    • Said in a conversation about the afterlife with Zina Diantha Huntington.

Quotes about Joseph Smith, Jr.

  • For someone who is not a Mormon, what matters most about Joseph Smith is how American both the man and his religion have proved to be. So self-created was he that he transcends Emerson and Whitman in my imaginative response, and takes his place with the great figures of our fiction, since at moments he appears far larger than life, in the mode of a Shakespearean character. So rich and varied a personality, so vital a spark of divinity, is almost beyond the limits of the human, as normally we construe those limits. To one who does not believe in him, but who has studied him intensely, Smith becomes almost a mythology in himself.
    • Harold Bloom, The American Religion (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 127
  • Joseph was no hair-shirt prophet. He believed in the good life, with moderate self-indulgence in food and drink, occasional sport, and good entertainment. And that he succeeded in enjoying himself to the hilt detracted not at all from the semi-deification with which his own people enshrouded him. Any protests of impropriety dissolved before his personal charm. "Man is that he might have joy" had been one of his first significant pronouncements in the Book of Mormon, and from that belief he had never wavered. He was gregarious, expansive, and genuinely fond of people. And it is no accident that his theology in the end discarded all traces of Calvinism and became an ingenuous blend of supernaturalism and materialism, which promised in heaven a continuation of all earthly pleasures—work, wealth, sex, and power.
    • Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History; The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 294-95
  • We do not worship the Prophet. We worship God our Eternal Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ. But we acknowledge the Prophet; we proclaim him; we respect him; we reverence him as an instrument in the hands of the Almighty in restoring to the earth the ancient truths of the divine gospel, together with the priesthood through which the authority of God is exercised in the affairs of His Church and for the blessing of His people.
  • Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.
  • Once in the world's history we were to have a Yankee prophet, and we have had him in Joe Smith. For good or for evil, he has left his track on the great pathway of life—or, to use the words of Horne, "knocked out for himself a window in the wall of the nineteenth century," whence his rude, bold, good-humored face will peer out upon the generations to come.
  • I feel like shouting hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith, the Prophet whom the Lord raised up and ordained, and to whom He gave keys and power to build up the kingdom of God on earth and sustain it.

See also

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