Joseph Smith – Honesty

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Christ-like Character Traits

Honest, Punctual and a Prophet of God

[In a letter to a friend:] I will now tell you about Myself. I enjoy myself first rate. I have been well ever since I have been in this state. As for the Prophet we have had some dealings with him and we find him to be a man of his word; he is very punctual in all his dealings and there is no doubt in my mind but he is a prophet of God and as much called to guide the people in this day as Moses was in his day. And as for his taking the property of the Saints and converting it to his own use, it is not so. It is like a good many other stories that are told about him. I wish you could be here and see for yourself and know and understand for yourself and not from another. 1

Honest Good Workers

I knew all of the Smith family well. They have all worked for me many a day. They were very good people. Young Joe (as we called him then) has worked for me, and he was a good worker. . . I always thought them honest. They were owing me some money when they left here. One of them came back in about a year and paid me. 2

A Boy of Truth

[My father] hired Joseph Smith, Jr. Joseph and I worked and slept together. My father said that Joseph was the best hand he ever hired. We found him a boy of truth. He was about twenty-one years of age. 3

Inspiring Stories

Borrowing Money

My father, Thomas Colborn, a member of Zion’s Camp, and well acquainted with the Prophet Joseph, moved from the state of New York to Nauvoo with his family in the spring of 1843. I was then in my ninth year. Upon arriving there, we camped down by the river in a little log cabin, near the Hilbert stone house. The day after our arrival, I was out in the yard, when a gentleman rode up and inquired for Thomas Colborn. Of course I did not know who it was, but there was something so noble and dignified in his appearance that it struck me forcibly.

My father soon came out and shook him cordially by the hand, and called him Brother Joseph. I knew then it was the Prophet. Father invited him in and he alighted and followed him into the house. He soon told his errand.

It was quite an exciting time just then. The Prophet had been falsely accused of an attempt to murder Governor Boggs of Missouri. The mobbers had tried every means to take him, and had made their boast that if they got him, he never should return alive. Porter Rockwell, a firm friend of Joseph’s, had been kidnapped and taken to Missouri as an accomplice, and was about to have his trial, but money was scarce wherewith to pay the lawyers’ fees. Joseph requested my father to lend him $100.00 to pay the lawyer who defended Porter Rockwell. He explained the situation, and father freely counted out the money. “This shall be returned within three days, if I am alive,” said the Prophet, and departed.

My aunt, father’s sister, who was camped with us, was quite wrathy, and called my father very foolish and unwise.

“Don’t you know, Thomas,” said she, “you will never see a cent of that money again. Here are your family without a home, and you throw your money away.”

“Don’t worry, Katie,” father replied, “if he cannot pay it, he is welcome to it.”

This conversation was held before us children, and I thought seriously about it. Would he pay it, or would he not? But I had strong faith that he would.

The day came when it was to be paid. A cold, wet, rainy day. The day passed. Night came; 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock, and we all retired for the night. Shortly after there was a knock at the door. Father arose and went to it, and there in the driving rain stood the Prophet Joseph.

“Here, Brother Thomas, is the money.” A light was struck, and seated at the table, he counted out the $100.00 in gold.

He said, “Brother Thomas, I have been trying all day to raise this sum, for my honor was at stake. God bless you.”

My aunt had nothing to say. She afterwards left the Church.

My testimony is that Joseph Smith was truly a Prophet of God. This incident I have related strengthened my testimony. 4

Stood for Convictions

I knew them very well. They were very nice men, too. The only trouble was they were ahead of the people; and the people, as in every such case, turned out to abuse them, because they had the manhood to stand for their own convictions. I have seen such work all through life.

“What did the Smiths do that the people abused them so?” They did not do anything. Why! these rascals at one time took Joseph Smith and ducked him in the pond that you see over there, just because he preached what he believed, and for nothing else. And if Jesus Christ had been there, they would have done the same to Him. Now I don’t believe like he did; but every man has a right to his religious opinions, and to advocate his views, too. If people don’t like it, let them come out and meet him on the stand, and show his error. Smith was always ready to exchange views with the best men they had.

“Why didn’t they like Smith?” To tell the truth, there was something about him they could not understand. Some way he knew more than they did, and it made them mad.

“But a good many tell terrible stories, about them being rogues, and liars, and such things. How is that?” Oh! they are a set of d- – - – d liars. I have had a home here, and been here, except when on business, all my life—ever since I came to this country—and I know these fellows. They make these lies on Smith, because they love a lie better than the truth. I can take you to a great many old settlers here who will substantiate what I say.

“Well, that is very kind, Mr. Taylor, and fair; if we have time we will call around and give you the chance; but we are first going to see these fellows who, so rumor says, know so much against them.” All right; but you will find they don’t know anything against those men when you put them down to it. They could never sustain anything against Smith. 5

“Everything Good or Bad You Know of Me”

Brother Hunter, at Joseph’s request, visited Springfield to interview Governor Ford and represent matters in their proper light, and ask him to use his influence to allay the excitement and hostility which had now set in like a flood in the direction of Nauvoo and the “Mormons.” Joseph’s parting words to him were: “You have known me for several years; say to the governor, under oath, everything good and bad you know of me.” Brother Hunter was accompanied on his errand by J. Bills and P. Lewis. They were followed for miles by officers whose intention was to arrest them, but having the promise of God’s Prophet that they should accomplish their journey and return in safety, they were not overtaken, and in due time arrived at their destination. 6

James Henry Rollins

In 1831, I started for Missouri, and arrived about the 1st of January, 1832. Joseph Smith the Prophet came to Independence on his second visit there, about the last of April or the first of May, 1832. He came to my uncle’s house and saluted my uncle and aunt. Then he came to me and said, “Henry, I want to baptize you, if possible, before I leave.”

I was then working in my uncle’s store, and, on Saturday, Joseph came into my uncle’s store and asked him if I could go with him to the Whitmer settlement. He wanted to baptize me, but my uncle could not spare me.

When Joseph returned from the Whitmer settlement, he authorized Oliver Cowdery to baptize me, instead of himself, but Cowdery did not get to do it. I was finally baptized by John Corrill.

. . .

While I was in the store, Newell K. Whitney came in and said, “Joseph wants you to come up the river near the old printing office.”
I went, supposing he would send me somewhere on an errand as he sometimes did. When I arrived I saw that he had been baptizing several individuals.

He said to me, “Do you remember, I promised to baptize you at Independence, Missouri. I want to fulfill that promise now, if you are willing.”

I said, yes, I was very willing.

He then took me in the river and baptized me, after which I took a seat on a rock and he confirmed me and placed many blessings on my head. 7

Inspired Teachings

Borrowers are Slaves to Lenders

One day when the Prophet carried to Bro. Crosby’s house a sack of flour he had borrowed, the wife remarked that he had returned more than he had received. He answered that it should be so. That anything borrowed should be returned always with interest to the lender. “Thus,” said he, “The borrower, if he be honest is a slave to the lender.” Bro. Crosby felt it to be an opportune time to give to the man he loved so well some corrective advice, which he had desired for a long time to do.

He reminded him, of every phase of his greatness and called to his mind the multitude of tasks he performed that were too menial for such as he. And to fetch and carry flour, he told him, was too great a humiliation. “Too terrible a humiliation,” brother C. repeated, “for you who are the head, and you should not do it.” The Prophet listened quietly to all he had to say then made answer in these words: “If there be humiliation in a man’s house who but the head of that house should or could bear that humiliation?” 8

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Notes:

  1. Joseph S. Murdock, “Joseph Stacey Murdock to John Dougless, East Hamilton, N.Y., Jan. 24, 1844,” LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  2. Interview with E. L. and William H. Kelley, March 1881, published in The Saints’ Herald, Plano, Illinois, XXVIII (June 1, 1881), p. 165; Juvenile Instructor, XVII (October 1, 1882), pp. 301-302; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 1.
  3. Joseph Knight, Jr., Folder, Church Historian’s Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 1.
  4. Sarah M. Pomeroy, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet,” Young Woman’s Journal 17, no. 12 (December 1906): 539.
  5. Interview with E. L. and William H. Kelley, March 1881, published in The Saint’s Herald, Plano, Illinois, XXVIII, (June 1, 1881), p. 167; Juvenile Instructor, XVII (October 1, 1882), p. 302; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 1.
  6. Edward Hunter, In Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City, Utah:Western Epics, 1971), 1:230.
  7. A Sketch of the Life of James Henry Rollins, Church Historian’s Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  8. Jesse W. Crosby, “LaFayette C. Lee, Notebook,” LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Author: Joseph Smith Foundation on January 1, 1970
Category: Articles, People
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