After hearing about my TBM mother and sister reasoning that Joseph Smith would not have subjected himself to so much persecution and hardship if the BoM were a fraud, I decided to take a closer look at his return on investment.
In addition to sex and power (30+ wives from among other men's wives and daughters, prophet, mayor, Lieutenant General, anointed king of the world, presidential candidate), Joseph Smith also benefitted financially, thereby hitting the sex, money, and power Trifecta. Below is all of the non-trivial financial information I could find beginning with his bankruptcy in 1842 (obviously, the Kirtland years would also be fertile ground for a similar investigation). My speculation on his debts are that much of them were likely incurred because he was glutting himself along the way.
1. Joseph Smith cleared over $73,000 in debt by filing for bankruptcy in 1842 (his brothers Hyrum and Samuel, along with other LDS dignitaries took advantage of a brief window where Congress enacted a lenient bankruptcy law only to rescind it months later when $440 million in liabilities in the country were wiped clean for $44 million in assets). Joseph’s $73k debt represented nearly $2 million in 2010 dollars.
2. By Joseph’s own account, he owed approximately $70,000 again by the time he was killed just 2 years later in 1844 (over $1.84 million in 2010 dollars).
3. LAND SPECULATION. Nauvoo land purchased for $2 per acre, lots sold for average price of $500 per acre (minimum $200 per acre | maximum $800 per acre) multiply by factor of 25 to 28 for value in 2010 dollars—this is how frontier land speculation works when masses of people are gathered by revelation.
• SPIRITUAL BLACKMAIL TO PROMOTE SALES. February 13, 1843: I spent the evening at Elder Orson Hyde's. In the course of conversation I remarked that those brethren who came here having money, and purchased without the Church and without counsel, must be cut off. This, with other observations, aroused the feelings of Brother Dixon, from Salem, Massachusetts, who was present, and he appeared in great wrath.
• SPIRTUAL COERCION TO PROMOTE SALES. ----------BEGIN NAUVOO NEIGHBOR EXCERPT ---------- 20 December 1843, Nauvoo Neighbor 37: To Emigrants and Latter-Day Saints Generally: I feel it my duty to say ... that there is in the hands of the trustee in trust, a large quantity of lands, both in the city and adjoining townships in this county, which is for sale, some of which belongs to the Church and is designed for the benefit of the poor, and also to liquidate debts owing to the Church, for which the trustee in trust is responsible. Some, also, is land which has been consecrated for the building of the Temple and the Nauvoo House.
If the brethern who move in here and want an inheritance, will buy their lands of the trustee in trust, they will thereby benefit the poor, the Temple, and the Nauvoo House, and even then only will be doing that which is their duty, and which I know, by considerable experience, will be vastly for their benefit and satisfaction in days to come. Let all the brethern, therefore, whey they move into Nauvoo, consult President Joseph Smith, the trustee in trust, and purchase their lands of him; and I am bold to say that God will bless them. ...
We hold ourselves ready at any time to wait upon the brethern and show them the lands ... and can be found any day, either at President Joseph Smith's bar-room, or the Temple Recorder's office at the Temple. ---------- END NAUVOO NEIGHBOR EXCERPT ----------
4. ABUSE OF POWER. Nauvoo city council awarded Joseph Smith sole right to sell liquor in city limits. He established bar in Mansion House/Hotel for that purpose, but Emma forced him to remove it by threatening to take the kids and move back to the Homestead house.
5. ASSETS OWNED BY JOSEPH/EMMA: • Joseph Smith Mansion House (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith_Mansion_House) • Nauvoo House built by order of revelation at the Church’s expense (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauvoo_House) • Homestead house in Nauvoo (http://cofchrist.org/js/homestead/default.asp) • Brigham Young claimed that Emma owned $50,000 in *city property* when they finished settling the assets with Emma ($1.4 million in 2010 dollars). This apparently referred to the Hugh White purchase which Joseph had deeded to her before his death (http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V17N03_89.pdf). • Quincy property (aka Cleveland farm) • One or more additional farms (Brigham Young twice used the plural when referring to farms given to Emma, saying that “besides these farms she owned city property worth fifty thousand dollars”). • Owned at least two steamships: the Maid of Iowa and the Nauvoo (Joseph Smith owed a debt on the latter at the time of his death that was settled for over $5,000 (over $140,000 in 2010 dollars). • Steamship docks (ownership was under dispute—still looking for more info on this one). • Egyptian papyrus and mummies purchased by friends of Joseph Smith for $2,400 in 1835 ($60,000 in 2010 dollars). o Mother Smith would charge admission (25 cents or around $7 in 2010 dollars) to see the Egyptian mummies and papyrus. Lying, Joseph reportedly told visitors that his mother had purchased them herself for $6,000 ($150,000 in 2010 dollars). o They remained in the Smith family until Emma sold them shortly after Lucy Mack Smith’s death in 1855.
Does anyone else have any more examples from his years in Nauvoo?
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 03/03/2014 10:29PM by Facsimile 3.
Feel free. No one can know for sure. He had several money making scams, but his self appointment as a general, his running for president, and his huge sexual appetite tells me those things mattered far more to him.
The power and sex were definitely important to an egomaniac like Joseph Smith, but I think he was scarred by the financial woes his family experienced in his youth and was determined to ensure their financial security once he gained confidence in his spirtual con.
Facsimile 3 Wrote: ------------------------------------------------------- > In case you missed it, the picture of his Mansion > House is all you need to know about his desire to > have nice things. > > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith_Mansion_ > House
I am thinking it was from Fawn Brodie's NMKMH. There is a possibility, however, that I may have conflated the price of the Galland lands on the Iowa side of the Mississippi (about 20,000 acres between the Mississippi and Des Moines Rivers).
My memory might be faulty, but I thought Brodie provided a similar price for the swampy part of Commerce that was converted to Nauvoo home lots for the Saints. I will double-check tonight and update this thread. Thanks for asking--I definitely do NOT want to exaggerate the numbers.
Facsimile 3 Wrote: ------------------------------------------------------- > After hearing about my TBM mother and sister > reasoning that Joseph Smith would not have > subjected himself to so much persecution and > hardship if the BoM were a fraud, I decided to > take a closer look at his return on investment.
Well, what was he facing if he wasn't a fraudster? His folks went through some far worse conditions. If being poor turns one from looking for opportunities to improve your conditions to opportunistic ways to improvise your con then The Smiths were the latter and not the former as much.
"After hearing about my TBM mother and sister reasoning that Joseph Smith would not have subjected himself to so much persecution and hardship if the BoM were a fraud..."
For one, there is NO evidence that he suffered ANY persecution as a youth for telling his first vision tale, etc... The amount of "persecution" he endured is greatly exaggerated. Much of the "hardship" he endured were the result of his numerous illegal activities.
Now, the imprisonment in Liberty Jail and Carthage that TBM's would cite as specific examples have nothing to do with the BoM, his testimony, etc... Most don't know WHY he was imprisoned...they assume it was just because he dared to speak the truth. Are there ANY real examples of religious persecution from early mormon history? The amount of mob violence the early members endured is also exaggerated, was sometimes done in retaliation, and had more to do with politics than with religion. I don't believe there are any examples of members being asked to deny the BoM or be shot. Correct me if I'm wrong.
... > Does anyone else have any more examples from his > years in Nauvoo?
In terms of ready cash, Smith may not have had much in his pocket at any one time. Other than his property holdings, he did not seem to have much of an inclination to save his money.
And why would he ever have/need such an inclination, when hundreds (thousands?) of his deluded followers were ready to hand over all their valuables to him at a moment's notice.
But there must have been times that he found himself lacking the necessary dollars to bribe an Illinois official, hire a Gentile lawyer, or purchase a necessity somewhere away from his theocratic fiefdom of Nauvoo.
In such cases, newly minted Mexican silver coins were a useful resource --- and, no, they were not really silver, and no, they were not manufactured in Mexico.....
Lacking such bogus bucks, a "midnight liberation" of some prized Gentile livestock could always be depended upon to furnish spending money (after the critters had been properly "consecrated unto the Lord" and sold at public auction in Quincy, of course).
Facsimile 3 Wrote: ------------------------------------------------------- > Counterfeiting? That would make sense, given that > he accused Oliver Cowdery of counterfeiting when > he ran him out of the Church in Missouri. Do you > have any good documentation for this? > > Incidentally, counterfeiting and stock rustling > would also be consistent with the tax seizure > theory I started working on below.
When The Twelve were chased out of Nauvoo, the timing of their departure appears to have been just prior to the Gentile marshal coming to search Nauvoo for counterfeiting operations. A counterfeit bank note plate was years later discovered on Brigham Young's property in Salt Lake City.
Orson Hyde admitted that Nauvoo counterfeiting was going on, but blamed the activity on Sidney Rigdon.
William Smith ran a hotel a few miles south of Nauvoo, and it was there that the bogus silver coins evidently were making their appearance. The children of one Mormon came across a sack of the counterfeit coins and caused some deep trouble for their father.
The western Illinois newspapers featured stories about counterfeit money flowing out of Mormon Nauvoo, but I have not compiled a list of such articles yet.
Probably an extended web search would turn up some interesting accounts, if you have the free time to go looking.
Interesting, would Sidney Rigdon have even been in Nauvoo during the right time period for the counterfeiting? The LDS disdain for Gentiles and their belief in their own chosenness/superiority leads me to believe that they could have easily rationalized counterfeiting. Sounds like they went that route instead of the buy-tons-on-credit-in-St. Louis-and-skip-on-the-bills plan concocted by Hyrum Smith.
"For months, Mormon leaders had been negotiating for property. Besides Commerce, the most likely site was directly across the Mississippi in Lee County, Iowa, where Isaac Galland, a local editor, purported doctor, and land dealer, owned a large tract. Joseph was drawn to Galland’s proposal of twenty thousand acres for $2 an acre with nothing down and the payments stretched over twenty years. To an impoverished people, those terms seemed heaven-sent. The land could be occupied without raising cash, and the debt paid off later as farms became productive."
That is a solid reference for the lands on the Iowa-side of the Missippi, which actually turned out to be a fraudulent sale because Galland did not have title to those lands.
It looks like I WAS guilty of exaggeration (conflation in reality, but I am willing to take the lumps). The land purchases on the Illinois-side of the river were slightly more complex and expensive. Below is an example taken from http://signaturebookslibrary.org/?p=9858, which I also found described on a number of other sites and mentioned (with less detail) in Fawn Brodie's book. The Hugh White purchase of 135 acres for $5k also included the two-story, four-room log cabin mentioned below (i.e. the Nauvoo "Homestead" property). I am not sure how to value the home, but let's be very conservative and assume $1,000 for that improvement and count the 135 acres as costing $4k or less than $30 per acre. That is 15x higher than $2 per acre, but still substantially less than the $500 average lot price set by Joseph Smith (more to follow in another post).
[BEGIN EXCERPT] 1 May 1839: The Saints purchase their first land in Commerce, a 135-acre farm, from Hugh White for $5,000, plus forty-seven “unimproved” acres from Isaac Galland. Later, additional hundreds of acres are purchased from Daniel H. Wells, Hiram Kimball, Davidson Hibbard, and the firm of Horace R. Hotchkiss.
10 May 1839: Joseph Jr., Emma, and their four children move into the Homestead, a two-story, four-room log cabin purchased from [p.197]Hugh White about a mile south of Commerce. Joseph Sr. and Lucy live in a lean-to built on this cabin. [END EXCERPT]
Joseph Smith purchased 500 acres from Horace R. Hotchkiss for $53k (on credit with annual interest payments of around $3k), or over $100 per acre. According to Fawn Brodie, it was this expensive purchase that drove the need for the high-priced lots in Nauvoo. However, and this is where it gets interesting, Joseph Smith ended up defaulting on the $50k when he filed for bankruptcy in 1841. Hotchkiss *thought* the debt he held was with the Church, but Joseph Smith claimed it as a personal liability during the bankruptcy and quit paying anything for the land. Meanwhile, lots had been sold and improved, thereby raising the tax burden on the deed holders (i.e. Hotchkiss and company), and they were having trouble covering the taxes and were at risk of having their lots auctioned by the city of Nauvoo for back taxes. So, it looks like you have Joseph Smith selling expensive lots in Nauvoo that he never paid for and which the LDS could potentially steal through tax seizures. *** CAUTION *** This is a new topic for me and one that I need to more fully investigate, so do NOT count any of this as confirmed. I will report back in a new thread if I find anything in the coming days/weeks, and would appreciate any insight any one here can provide.
"Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi", pgs. 170-175 (available in Google Books online)
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/25/2014 08:21PM by Facsimile 3.
From Orson Scott Card's argument as to why Mormonism is not a cult:
"As for exploitative leadership, this charge is absolutely false and always has been. Joseph Smith passed the money test with flying colors: He died poor and in debt, not because of profligate spending, but because any money that flowed into his hands flowed right back out again in attempts to benefit the saints and build the church."
Orson Scott Card is apparently a very poor investigator. In addition to the information posted to this thread, one only needs to look so far as William Law. Despite denials by Joseph Smith et al, the Nauvoo Expositor was very accurate and I have yet to see anything that would impugn William Law's credibility.
From William Law's interview with Dr. Wyl:
"Did you ever hear Joseph speak of his money?"
"Oh yes, he used to boast of his riches. He expressed the opinion, that it was all-important that he should be rich. I heard him say myself, 'it would be better that every man in the church should lose his last cent, than that I should fall and go down.'"
Joseph Smith succeeded as a religious con man, but his financial skills were obviously wanting. Unfortunately he failed time and time again at this. The Anti-Bank was a fiasco as was his socialist/communist experiments. He indeed managed for a time to be financially comfortable by skimming donations and real-estate speculation. His Mansion-House was nice, complete with a bar tended by none other than Porter Rockwell, long hair be-ribboned. Porter, a latter-day Sampson was promised by Joe that he'd be protected as long as he never cut his hair. Emma put a stop to the bar, as she was very against alcohol. The Mansion House was configured as a hotel with multiple guest rooms. Joe took advantage of this to bed his additional "spiritual wives" therein.
Conclusion; Joe was an imaginative opportunist, both financially and sexually. He lived a full but somewhat abbreviated life. I guess he lived fast and died young.