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American Mohammed

You can find a lot of interesting parallels between Joseph Smith and Mohammed, enough to justify calling Joseph Smith an American Mohammed. I just realize that both claimed to have revelations that authorized them to take their daughters to wife.

Mohammed married Aisha, the daughter of his brother-by-oath. They were married when she was six. They consummated their marriage when she was nine. He was 54. While marriages at such ages were apparently common, I understand that it went against custom to marry the daughter of your brother, even if only by oath.

Even Aisha held suspicion about Mohammed’s self-serving revelation that allowed him to marry any wife who desired him:

Narrated Aisha:

I used to look down upon those ladies who had given themselves to Allah’s Apostle [Mohammed] and I used to say, “Can a lady give herself (to a man)?” But when Allah revealed: “You (O Muhammad) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives), and you may receive any of them whom you will; and there is no blame on you if you invite one whose turn you have set aside (temporarily).’ (33.51) I said (to the Prophet), “I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires.” (Sahih Bukhari, Book 60:311)

Joseph married Maria and Sarah Lawrence whose father had died. They lived in Joseph’s household as foster daughters. In fact, William Law filed a lawsuit in the spring of 1844 against accusing him of marrying Maria Lawrence in an attempt to make public his practice of polygamy.

Joseph had secretly proposed a polyandrous marriage with William Law’s wife. She refused and William—then First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Mormon church—asked Joseph whom he considered a fallen prophet to renounce polygamy. Joseph refused and subsequently excommunicated William.

William then attempted to expose Joseph’s duplicity in the Nauvoo Expositor. Joseph ordered its printing press destroyed. Joseph was arrested on charges related to the destruction of the printing press and imprisoned in Carthage, Illinois where a mob killed him in the summer of 1844. So Joseph’s marriage to his foster daughters contributed to his death.

It’s interesting to me that both of these men used self-serving, alleged revelations to justify sex with their followers, including those who could be considered their daughters.

(Inspired by Jesus and Mo.)

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Where Are Joseph’s Children?

If Joseph Smith had dozens of acknowledged wives and yet no children except with his first wife, it’s natural to ask why.

One possible explanation is that Joseph Smith didn’t have sex with his plural wives. According to sworn testimony of some of his wives, this is not the case.

Another explanation is that Smith did in fact have such children that aren’t publicly acknowledged because the children go by other names (e.g. by the name of the mother’s other polyandrous husband). This seems to be the case. (ibid)

Yet another explanation for the relative scarcity of children is that abortion was practiced in Nauvoo (though the impartiality of the witnesses for this is doubtful).

I honestly don’t have any firm conclusions about what went on between Smith and his women. It’s nigh on impossible to know. Of one thing I am confident: the history of Joseph Smith is not as clear and pure as LDS sunday school lessons would have us believe. While it is possible that Joseph Smith was above reproach, the evidence seems to me to weigh more heavily in the other direction. I tend to believe that Smith simply fits the oft repeated archetype of cult leader taking sexual liberties with his followers.[1] [2] [3] It is certainly the simpler explanation when compared with angelic visitors and divine commandments to wed other men’s wives.

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The Wives of Joseph Smith

TAG recently sent me a link to The Wives of Joseph Smith which contains a short biography on most if not all of Joseph Smith’s wives. (Thanks, TAG.) It seems well researched and reputable. The most interesting to me are the stories about his wives who were still married to living men at the time of their marriage, like the story of Zina Huntington Jacobs who was the polyandrous wife of three men: Henry Jacobs, Joseph Smith, and Brigham Young.

In 1839, the Huntington family arrived in Nauvoo, along with daughter, Zina. Within months, Zina’s Mother died from the malaria epidemic which claimed the lives of many of the early Nauvoo settlers. About this same time, Zina met and was courted by Henry B. Jacobs, a handsome and talented musician. Sometime during Henry’s courtship of Zina, Joseph Smith explained to Zina the “principle of plural marriage” and asked her to become one of his wives. Zina remembers the conflict she felt about Joseph’s proposal, and her budding relationship with Henry: “O dear Heaven, grant me wisdom! Help me to know the way. O Lord, my god, let thy will be done and with thine arm around about to guide, shield and direct …” Zina declined Joseph’s proposal and chose to marry Henry. They were married on March 7, 1841.

Zina later wrote, that within months of her marriage to Henry, “[Joseph] sent word to me by my brother, saying, ‘Tell Zina, I put it off and put it off till an angel with a drawn sword stood by me and told me if I did not establish that principle upon the earth I would lose my position and my life’”. Joseph further explained that, “the Lord had made it known to him she was to be his celestial wife.”

Zina chose to obey this commandment and married Joseph on October 27. She later recalled, “When I heard that God had revealed the law of celestial marriag … I obtained a testimony for myself that God had required that order to be established in this church … I made a greater sacrifise than to give my life for I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honerable woman by those I dearly loved …”. Zina continued, “It was something too sacred to be talked about; it was more to me than life or death. I never breathed it for years”.

Zina’s first husband, Henry, was aware of this wedding and they continued to live in the same home. He believed that “whatever the Prophet did was right, without making the wisdom of God’s authorities bend to the reasoning of any man.” Over the next few years, Henry was sent on several missions to Chicago, Western New York and Tennessee. Henry missed his family and wrote home often. One of Henry’s missionary companions, John D. Lee, said, “Jacobs was bragging about his wife and two children, what a true, virtuous, lovely woman she was. He almost worshiped her …”.

Shortly after Joseph Smith’s death in 1844, Zina married Brigham Young. In May of 1846, Henry was sent on a mission to England. In Henry’s absence, Zina began to live openly as Brigham’s wife and remained so throughout her life in Utah. Henry seemed to struggle with this arrangement and later wrote to Zina, “… the same affection is there … But I feel alone … I do not Blame Eny person … may the Lord our Father bless Brother Brigham … all is right according to the Law of the Celestial Kingdom of our God Joseph.”

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[I have the distinct feeling that I've said this all before. If that's true, just chalk it up to early onset senility and take it as a reminder.]

Some may question why I criticize the heartfelt beliefs of others, even those who are closer to me than anyone else in the world. I do it because I am mindful of my legacy.

I often hear stories about people whose parents or grandparents were Mormon but who left activity in the church. These people learn about Mormonism, join the LDS church, and are left wondering why their parents or grandparents left such a wonderful institution. I hear other stories about children who grow up without religion but find it later in life.

In short, my reason for criticizing religion is that I don’t want that to happen to my descendants. If they choose to follow religion, I want them to know exactly why I chose not to do likewise. I want them to hear my reasons and thoughts on the subject. I don’t want them to stumble blindly into faith. If they believe in God, I want them to understand exactly what my thoughts were on the subject. If they come to a belief that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, then I want them to also know that he married dozens of women, some polyandrously while their husbands were away on missions that he had called them to, some as young as fourteen, for example. I want their faith to be tempered by all of the evidence available and by asking tough, critical questions. I don’t want them to come to their beliefs through indoctrination, and I don’t want my lack of faith to be an enigma.

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Inpu (Anubis to the Greeks) is the jackal-headed Egyptian god of embalming, mummification, and death. Here is a picture of Anubis attending to a mummy in this role.

“…a priest wearing the mask of Anubis
prays for the deceased.” [1]

Here are a few more scenes of Inpu/Anubis attending mummies on a lion-couch.

“Anubis was the protector of embalming and guardian
of both the mummy and the necropolis.” [2]


“Anubis in reconstituting the body of his deceased
father [Osiris] became the model for the embalmers.” [4]

“While Anubis is stretching out his hands
to lay out the mummy on its couch,
the soul is hovering above its breast,…” [5]

The following pictures also show canopic jars (usually four) which contain the liver, lungs, stomach, and intestines of the mummy. These internal organs were protected by the gods Imsety (man-headed), Hapi (baboon-headed), Duamutef (jackal-headed), and Qebehsenuef (falcon-headed) respectively.


“In [the] Old Kingdom prayers were addressed to to Anubis
for the survival of the deceased in the afterlife.” [7]

“The god Anubis balming a deceased man” [8]

“An image from the Book of the Dead on a wall
in the tomb of Twosret and Setnakhte.…
Four canopic jars await internal organs.” [9]

The next illustrations emphasize the importance of Osiris’ phallus.




The following continue some of the previous themes including birds flying above the chest of the deceased:




The Mormons in the crowd should be experiencing a bit of déjà vu at this point.

Given this rudimentary survey in Inpu/Anubis iconography, what would you expect to find in the missing portions of the following fragmentary papyrus if it were presented to you?


You would probably expect to see Anubis tending to the body of Osiris or a deceased person. If you are Joseph Smith who has very little experience in Egyptology and has probably never had the benefit of seeing similar images, you imagine a sacrificial scene:

This restoration has been canonized in LDS scripture as Facsimile No. 1 from the Book of Abraham. Connected to it is a story of human sacrifice at the hands of an “idolatrous priest of Elkenah” by the will of Abraham’s father, Terah, vaguely similar to other stories in Abrahamic folklore.

This is what Richard A. Parker, Wilbour Professor of Egyptology and Chairman of the Department of Egyptology at Brown University thought:

This is a well-known scene from the Osiris mysteries, with Anubis, the jackal-headed god, on the left ministering to the dead Osiris on the bier. The penicilled(?) restoration is incorrect. Anubis should be jackal-headed. The left arm of Osiris is in reality lying at his side under him. The apparent upper hand is part of the wing of a second bird which is hovering over the erect phallus of Osiris (now broken away). The second bird is Isis and she is magically impregnated by the dead Osiris and then later gives birth to Horus who avenges his father and takes over his inheritance. The complete bird represents Nephthys, sister to Osiris and Isis. Beneath the bier are the four canopic jars with heads representative of the four sons of Horus, human-headed Imseti, baboon-headed Hapy, jackal-headed Duamutef and falcon-headed Kebehsenuf. The hieroglyphs refer to burial, etc.…” (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 3, no. 2, Summer 1968, p. 86)

After I left the church, I came across a similar presentation to the one I have made here. I had already intellectually accepted that Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham had nothing to do with what was on the papyri, but when I saw with my own eyes how painfully obvious the errors were, I was stunned. My knowledge became visceral.

My purpose here isn’t to point out all of the inaccuracies in the restoration and interpretation of this papyrus. You can read at length about this and other problems with Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham. You can also read the apologetic response. I just wanted to provide a stark experience of just how wrong Joseph Smith got it. He alleged to have been guided by God to translate the papyrus like he had translated the Book of Mormon from ancient golden plates, yet as you can see, he got it very wrong.

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