Joseph Smith Was A Conman

I wonder how many Mormons know Joseph Smith was put on trial for being a conman a few years before he founded the church?

The story goes like this:

“For several years preceding the appearance of his book, he was about the country in the character of a glass-looker: pretending, by means of a certain stone, or glass, which he put in a hat, to be able to discover lost goods, hidden treasures, mines of gold and silver, &c. Although he constantly failed in his pretensions, still he had his dupes who put implicit confidence in all his words. In this town, a wealthy farmer, named Josiah Stowell, together with others, spent large sums of money in digging for hidden money, which this Smith pretended he could see, and told them where to dig; but they never found their treasure.

“At length the public, becoming wearied with the base imposition which he was palming upon the credulity of the ignorant, for the purpose of sponging his living from their earnings, had him arrested as a disorderly person, tried and condemned before a court of Justice. But, considering his youth, (he being then a minor,) and thinking he might reform his conduct, he was designedly allowed to escape. This was four or five years ago. From this time he absented himself from this place, returning only privately, and holding clandestine intercourse with his credulous dupes, for two or three years.”

The above account is taken from the first published telling of events, written by Abram W. Benton and published in the Evangelical Magazine & Gospel Advocate in 1831, about 5 years after the events occurred (via Omninerd).

The LDS apologists I’ve read online (including the author of the article on Omninerd) tend to try to brush it off by saying “well back then money digging wasn’t unusual”, missing the point that he wasn’t tried for “money digging” per se, he was tried (as far as we can tell from the surviving records) for being a conman, that is, he kept pretending he actually could locate buried treasure using his supernatural powers when, in fact, as far as the records show, he was totally unsuccessful in finding any treasure.

It speaks about the man’s character. And this trial happened 6 years after Smith claims that he had been visited by Jesus. I’d like to ask Mormons to engage their critical mind and ask themselves: is a conman who was going around the country trying to scam money out of gullible people the kind of person that you would put your trust in today? If someone who was a known conman turned up today and told you that he’d been visited by an angel or Jesus, would you believe him?

Read more about Joseph Smith’s career as a hustler here.

In addition, there is plenty of evidence that a lot of Mormon rituals and symbols were copied by Smith from what he learned from the Freemasons. His father was made a master Mason in 1818, quite a few of the original Mormons were also Freemasons and Smith himself became a master Mason in 1840. According to “MORMONISM AND MASONRY” by S.H. Goodwin (1920), Mormon temple worship shares an extensive commonality of symbols, signs, vocabulary and clothing with Freemasonry, including robes, aprons, handshakes, ritualistic raising of the arms, etc.  The LDS church was started during a time in the United States when there was a backlash against the Masons. Did Smith just transform the Masonic lodge into a church?

Anyone interested in Joseph Smith’s story should read the classic “No Man Knows My History” by Fawn Brodie published in 1945.


17 thoughts on “Joseph Smith Was A Conman

  1. Cameron at his best the man that doesn’t believe in a creator publishing works against the church and trying to make deals out of nothing. Isn’t it great that even prophets of gods are not perfect?

    Yes he did in his offtime have a hobby of finding treasure, hobbies exisited just like they do today. Baseball collectors or what not. Joseph was never convicted of any wrong doing, and if so where is your sources and who wrote that? For every 1 good article millions of false articles have been written about him. We are taught that Joseph’s name will be dragged through the mud throughout generations of time, but god has promised us that we may know that Joseph is a prophet of god through personal study and personal prayers. Anyone can write a paper of falsehood and claim it to be true, why not see the good Joseph has done, and the church doctrine that he has set up through god? Or is it easier to ignore this and focus on a few bad things people say he did?

    You may dissaprove all that you want in your deep thinking annalysis but you can’t disaaprove the conversion of millions of people who on thier own terms have found out that Joseph Smith is indeed a prophet. Science or deep thinking can never disaprove the spirit of truth and telling millions ofmembers that indeed Joseph is a prophet of god.

    So while you will probably censor this know that I have personally testified to you that I do indeed know that Joseph did see god the father and his son Jesus Christ, and that he has set up his church for these last days. I know this just as I know that the sun will rise tommorow and when the earth and our bodies pass away you shall know that I have witnessed and testified to you that I know these things to be true! Good luck in your quest to destroy a man and a church that shall always and forever stand despite what critics say and demeanor about. We as people convert on our own terms through prayer and study, and this formula my friend converts millions and millions!

    1. You have quite obviously been properly brainwashed since
      Primary days to rattle off the ritual mantra in preparation for
      “fast & testimony” (soap opera) Sacrament Sundays.
      Edifying the most pretentious, factless, inconsistent, preposterously
      fictitious Fable in theological history…..”then there was the one about a community of people residing on the 800°, photon spewing, radioactive, gaseous fireball called our sun! This through prophecy as the wisdom of Heavenly Father! What…was God playing a joke on B. Young, jerking him around with totally false information
      about a “crispy critter kingdom” for Christ, living happily amid atomic radiation blasts. Ok…….apologize this!!!!

  2. Doug

    1. Treasure hunting wasn’t a “hobby” for Joseph Smith, he charged money for it. Then he never delivered results. He told people he had a gift and could discover treasure for them, but he couldn’t. That’s called being a liar and a fraud.

    2. He wasn’t convicted because the records say he was allowed to “escape” because he was a minor. He was about 20 when then trial occurred. It sounds like they let him off with a warning.

    Anybody with the slightest critical thinking skills can see that Smith was a fraud and a liar BEFORE he claimed to have been visited by supernatural entities. It takes a pretty gullible person to believe the word of a proven liar and fraud.

  3. Doug:

    Please, put the facts (and these facts cannot be disputed) into a current context. Some guy is profiting from telling people that he was successful in achieving something that he actually never did achieve, and then hires himself out to provide that very service. The people are all the while assuming that what he claims is actually true. He lied. He’s a fraud.
    Allow me to paint a modern-day scenario for you: Would you give money to someone who claims that they’ve had great success in the stock markets, backed up with a track record of good returns. But they actually never had any success in the markets. Yes or no, Doug: Did that person lie? Is that person indeed a fraud? Please answer that question for me.

    I teach violin and am a performing musician for a living. It’s something that I enjoy and even love doing. But, I earn money doing it. therefore, I cannot, classify it as a “hobby”, nor does the IRS. I pay taxes from the revenue that I generate from teaching and performing. If I didn’t, I would be breaking the law, and would have to pay the consequences (if caught). Joseph Smith earned a living from treasure hunting, it was not a hobby. Can you, Doug, dispute this – yes or no?

  4. What gives with the Mormon picture and the false writings about Joseph? Are you saying that men don’t sin? Are you saying that because Joseph is a prophet he didn’t make mistakes? I find this funny and hard to believe. Have you researched any defense? try this site: Explains a lot of things.

    I know that Joseph wasn’t perfect but I do know what he has established and this is huge! I am a better loving individual because of this church, and I know that God lives and I have a purpose on this earth. I do feel sad for people like yourself. You don’t believe so you need to creat blogs to destroy what people believe in and make yourself higher than you really are. What a shame! I am also sure Chrissy’s parents and families are mighty proud of the work she is doing and tearing down their beliefs as well, the proud state of this world! Critical thinkers no not really!!

    1. Shar, as far as I’m aware (and feel free to correct my facts if you have alternative evidence), the story I wrote about Joseph Smith is factual. He was brought up on charges for being a liar and a fraud several years before he started the LDS church. This isn’t about “making mistakes”. This is about a man who was a proven liar and fraud. He was claiming to be able to do something (find treasure using seer stones) that he couldn’t actually do. What we’re asking is – if the entire LDS church is based on the stories told by a proven liar and fraud, surely even Mormons themselves have enough awareness to realize the rest of his claims have to be doubted? It’s about character, Shar. A man who lies to make money – and then goes on to start a church claiming he had spoken to supernatural beings – has to be treated with EXTREME skepticism.

      If you can’t admit that, then I’m afraid you’re too brainwashed to even think straight anymore.

      Chrissy isn’t “tearing down” anyone’s beliefs. Her family are free to believe what they want. We’re just pointing out the fact that Joseph Smith was a known fraud even BEFORE he claimed to have spoken to angels and gods.

  5. Doug/Shar (We know you’re the same person commenting under several names on Cameron’s blog – Steve, Crandal, Randy, Emily, for example… You should really try a different writing style if you want to successfully fool everyone.) Joseph Smith was a fraud before he started the LDS church. That is what Cameron’s post is pointing out. And Mormons just excuse it all away. I am very familiar with this – there is a clever justification for everything, and convenient ways to brush it all under the carpet. But for Mormons it would take some courage and intellect to look at the facts for exactly what they are, and to start looking at the Mormon religion in the face. I find it sad that certain family members of mine refuse to answer the hard questions. And others actually know and accept that it’s all a lie, but continue living a Mormon lifestyle for fear of “rocking the boat” with other family members. It’s a scary and bleak thought to actually use reason and logic, make logical conclusions, and take action. There is potential of losing your family, your culture, and your identity.

  6. Critics time and time have criticized what Joseph did and taught. For every accusation that we as Mormons know to be false we also have sources disproving your claims. So who is right? You think your sources are credible and we know our sources are credible. You believe what is written about Joseph is right, and I believe the same way. Did you look at the site that was provided?

    Joseph Smith was persecuted beyond means that a normal human being shouldn’t have to suffer because of his claims of what he saw,and what he claimed. Joseph was d among the different sects of religions because of what he claimed and Many things were written about him to make him look bad. I love that your website or your reference was found at: Evangelical Magazine & Gospel Advocate in 1831 A church that fought and d Joseph’s claim that he indeed saw the father and the son. He had many enemies but he also would never deny what he saw and what the church he established through god. Naturally opposition will occur and evil people will try to disrupt the plan of god. Whenever you find a false or a paper you need to look at what and who wrote it, and then find the defense such as in a court trial. Mormons have the advantage over the accused and that is prayer and study. We pray to know if these things are true and if it so be we receive the answers to our prayers. Something science can never explain. All you have our these supposedly credible websites, papers that have been written about Joseph accusing him of everything that he didn’t do!

    Our church does have flaws but which church doesn’t? Man does error in ways, but the doctrine that is taught and if followed will lead a person into a better life. Our church answers many questions that others have no answers for. We explain the orgin of families and why they are so important, where we came from before earth, what our mission is while on earth, how the worlds and the universers was created, what will happen after this earth life is gone, the places we may live after we our judged of our works, we know that there is a creator, we know about the , and doing work for the leaving them beyond this world the choice to accept that work or reject that work. You see this relgion has answered many questions that I have had, and I know them to be true through my personal experiences and through prayer.

    What does Atheism offer? How do they explain the origin of this earth, the miracles that happen daily to people, Who created all this stuff and the space that we see at night, how do you explain seeing spirits or the people that have seen them. I have a niece who saw my grandparents after they had died. My brother had an my niece knew nothing about and my grandparents appeared to my niece to tell her that they felt bad to what happened to my brother, and that they loved everyone, and that they were super busy in the spirit world. This seems far fetched to you, but I know this has happened and several times my niece has seen my grandparents. Your explanation is they were hallucinating or on right? Or does science also have another world after we die? Too many people have seen and talked with the , how can your belief explain this? Atheism teaches that there is no creator, this earth is just for us to live and die on and that is it! Wham bam and thank you maam!! Life is more than that my friends and we can explain it all.

    Joseph may have faults but as individuals we all have faults. Chrissy you need to go back to your roots. Your family has taught you, and all the times you went to church you can’t tell me you never felt anything? Did you not ever go to baptisms for the as a youth? I bet you did, and you can’t deny what you felt inside that temple, and if you do you have a lying spirit in you. You were taught and you left. You are willing to throw away your family through your actions against the church your family members love so much. That tells me a lot about your character and the values you have for your family, your willing to throw it all away, instead of just letting them believe what they believe in and don’t try to bash or create differing viewpoints to your claims against the church. You should respect. It’s a shame when we boast and have pride and we gradually distant ourselves from what we know to be true, and do research that clearly is anti-mormon for there is a lot out there! Show respect to others and what they believe in, and don’t support harmful images, (mormon underwear picture), harmful un-true stories etc. If you want to be better citizens then you let people worship they way they want. Please don’t use the well the church didn’t let gays marry excuse. As stated earlier religion does have rules and sins that are defined, and that not all religion is for people. Only those that fear and know that there is a god.

    Good luck in your bashing, and questioning everything, but all I need is prayer, and the right study to let me know that what I am learning is true and from god, and no man can tell me different.

    1. Shar, in typical Mormon style, your rant completely misses the point. Joseph Smith didn’t have “faults”. He was a liar and a fraud. If you have alternative evidence, give it to us. If you don’t, accept the truth and ask yourself why you are a member of a religion founded by a known conman.

    2. Shar/Doug, Doug/Shar: There is a major difference between preaching/ranting and actually coming up with valid arguments backed with evidence. When will Mormons start to understand this? You haven’t actually produced one valid argument disputing the simple fact that Joseph Smith was tried and convicted for doing fraudulent business. All you have done is drone on about your personal feelings about Joseph Smith’s character and about your own religious convictions. I know you don’t want to think of your prophet as a conman, but by definition he certainly was.

      Oh, and by the way, I’ve read your Mormon apologist link that’s meant to look like a Wikipedia page. There is no solid evidence provided. Just musings and bizarre suppositions. For example, concluding that he was only making $14/month by treasure digging and therefore wasn’t a conman is false. And beyond the point. The main point we’ve been saying over and over again is that it’s about the fact that he was lying and deceiving people, attempting to profit from it. It doesn’t matter how big or small of a profit he accrued. He deceived people. He was a conman.

  7. Doug here. I know you don’t like me using
    different name, but you seem to censor my
    writings so I go by differnt names. Sorry about that. I just thought that you didn’t like me getting on the blog so you made it so I couldn’t blog. Please don’t censor, or block the IP. I find that even though we differ in matters it’s still interesting to learn and to debate about matters, yes my skills need shine as I am not the best debater.

    Okay so addressing the issues. You claim Joseph is a liar and fraud, what happens if he is not? Do you claim this because you read it somewhere on the internet? Also how credible is that source? How do you know it wasn’t someone who d Joseph and twisted things around? The whole point is there are two sides to every issue, I do have websites that explains the one I mentioned which apparently Chrissy thought was bunk probably because the truth was in it from someone else’s perspective. It’s he said, and she said game of two differnt takes on the matter. If this be a serious crime Joseph would of been convicted and he was not found guilty of this crime. So say what you want. No man knows the true story because we were not there.

    The Historical context was in fact that treasure hunting was popular back in the day, many people made money doing this. Joseph was a hired hand on that one particular job by Josiah and Joseph even tried telling him it was a waist of time after much searching, Josiah was the one that thought there was money please see website I provided.
    also this website:

    There are many critics that have written hundreds of things about Joseph that are not true, you must go to his personal writings and those that knew Joseph to understand his work, and what he did. An organization that defends mormonism has a great website found at: website will address issues people had with Joseph and then defend those claims excellent source for truth. What sites or credible evidence do you have to share? You also have to look at who wrote them!

    Another great siteis this will present lots of different issues and address them.

    No man claims perfection or his perfect Joseph said that he had falses just like any other man, when he taught the doctrine of Jesus he never wavered or led people astray.

    I bet I can find numerous sources out there proclaiming the false theory of Atheism! I could call those credible and true sources just like you call the stuff you read about Joseph. I could easily de-bunk your beliefs just as you can mine. But the advantage I have is god and how we can study and pray to know of things if they are true. WHich I did, and which others of the same have.

    I get your point, you Joseph a man you never met, or studied what he taught, excuse me you have studied just the wrong things!! I see that religion is absent from both your lives, and in return you want that for all people. WHy have people believe in something you deem un-true? Am I right? If I am wrong why are you going to all the trouble in blogging and posting things about our church? Let people decide if the church is true, they don’t need anymore anti-mormon junk out there!

    Chrissy I feel I have answered the questions, but I feel you avoid the questions I asked of you, such as you can’t tell me you never have felt the spirit, and if you did do temple work as a youth you can’t say you felt nothing, I think you avoid this because deep down you don’t want to admit you felt something, you block those feelings. The church is true regardless of people that leave the church. God is a perfect individual and would have an organized religion and teachings that will bring us back to him, we claim this and people can join on these claims through personal prayer. It doens’t matter what you say on the matter, Joseph prophesied that his name will be dragged through the mud, and falsely accussed. Judge ye not comes to mind, when people assume that everything they read is true! Study and prayer are the keys to truth! Start with the basics. Please respect those you love, and quit particapating in such a harmful event to yourself and to your family, respect other beliefs. I only blog to fight for my beliefs because I know what you write is false and everyone can see these false accusations. Research both sides please.

    1. Doug – I put a stop on your work IP address only because it appeared to me that you were posting under several different names, pretending there were a dozen different people supporting your arguments. I don’t censor comments unless I feel you’re trolling in which case I reserve the right to block offenders for the sake of intelligent debate. Despite your admission that you have lied about your name, following that great tradition of lying started by Joseph Smith himself, I’ll spend a few minutes answering your questions. However, now that you’ve admitted to being a fraud, you are furthermore blocked from commenting on this site.

      >>You claim Joseph is a liar and fraud, what happens if he is not?

      I don’t claim that – the evidence supports that and I haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary. He was brought up on charges for being a liar and a fraud. If you have alternative evidence, provide it. If you don’t, have the integrity to admit you’re wrong.

      >>Do you claim this because you read it somewhere on the internet? Also how credible is that source?

      The earliest published account of Smith’s 1826 trial in Bainbridge was written in 1831 by AW Benton, a citizen of Bainbridge, as mentioned in David Persuitte’s book about Smith, a book which is supported by Mormons.

      >>there are two sides to every issue

      In this instance, I haven’t seen any evidence that denies that Smith was brought up on charges for being a fraud BEFORE he started the church.

      >>An organization that defends mormonism has a great website found at:

      that site provides NO contrary evidence to the 1826 charges. All it does is try to deflect the argument by claiming that “money digging” was unpopular at the time. But Smith wasn’t brought up on trial for being a “money digger” alone. He was brought up on trial for being a “disorderly person”, the definition of which included “all jugglers [i.e., conjurors], and all persons pretending to have skill in physiognomy, palmistry, or like crafty science, or pretending to tell fortunes, or to discover lost goods”. The key word “pretending”. In the words of Benton “Although he constantly failed in his pretensions, still he had his dupes who put implicit confidence in all his words.” He “constantly failed”. The evidence is that he was a conman, plain and simple.

      >>Joseph said that he…

      Who believes the word of a conman? Only the most gullible.

      >>I could easily de-bunk your beliefs just as you can mine.

      No, you couldn’t, because I don’t have any ‘beliefs’. I only accept to be true those ideas that are supported by scientific enquiry. And, by definition, you would not be able to de-bunk them because the evidence supports them. This is why taking a rational view of the world is superior to a perspective based on ‘faith’.

      >>why are you going to all the trouble in blogging and posting things about our church?

      Because your church is using its wealth and influence over the minds of brainwashed members to interfere in basic rights for other human beings. Because your church has a track record of being intolerant of basic human rights, for blacks, for women, for gays.

      >>Please respect those you love

      Okay I know this isn’t a question, but here’s the point Doug – telling people the truth about their religion *is* a sign of great respect and love. Allowing people to remain brainwashed and manipulated into doing acts of intolerance towards other human beings is allowing them to remain brainwashed. Trying to help them understand, peacefully and respectfully, that their religion is based on the words of a proven conman is our way of trying to help them.

      Well Doug, you’re now officially blocked. As a suggestion – in future, when you comment on blogs, try not to be such a fraud. You’ll get found out.

  8. Wow, Doug. I mean I knew you were fabricating all these names and pretending you were all these different characters, but then you admit doing it and lie AGAIN about your motives for doing it. As Cameron said, you started doing this *before* Cameron blocked you, called you out on it, and you claimed that they were all your co-workers who worked in the same office. Clever. And then you kept doing it, but this time going around to different IP addresses and to post under false names/aliases. But Cameron only blocked you because he knew you were doing it in the first place.

    Shame, Doug. May I remind you of an LDS gem we all saw on TV? NEVER TELL A LIE:

    I can see why you did it, though, Doug. Your religion is based on lies and its members lie to themselves all the time. Coming up with elaborate justifications for everything with no grounded evidence. I pity you if you cannot have the integrity to at least see things for what they are, and using sound reasoning and logic.

    Oh, one more gem, however I cannot find a clip of it online. I used to listen to LDS tapes as a child about basic values: Honesty, Work, Charity, etc. This song is etched in my head – here are the lyrics:

    When you tell one lie, it leads to another
    So you tell two lies to cover each other
    Then you tell three lies and,
    Oh Brother, You’re in trouble up to your ears!

    So you tell four lies to try to protect you
    Then you tell five lies so folks won’t suspect you
    Then you tell six lies and you’ll collect
    A life filled with worries and fears

    ‘Cause you can’t remember how many lies you’ve told
    And half the things you say aren’t true
    And sometime you’ll slip up, you’ll trip up and then
    Whatever will become of you?

    So you lie and lie without even trying
    And each lie you tell will keep multiplying
    ‘Till the whole wide world will know you’re lying
    Then you’ll be
    And you should!
    When you lie, you’re closing the door
    On everything good.

  9. My favourite character of Doug’s was the guy who wasn’t Mormon, but had some Mormon family members, and can only see good in the LDS church. But he won’t join the church just yet because, in his words, ” I can’t fully follow the doctrine so I won’t be a member until I do give those things up!”

    That is FUNNY! What were those things, Doug? Coffee? Alcohol? Drugs? “Immorality”? I’m curious! I liked that character!

  10. Lucy Mack Smith, who is Joseph Smith’s mother, in her book about the history of Joseph Smith said, “…a man by the name of Josiah Stowell came from Chenango County, New York, with the view of getting Joseph to assist him in digging for a silver mine. He came for Joseph on account of having heard that he possessed certain means by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye. Mr. Stowell came into the Palmyra district with Joseph Knight Sr. to buy grain. In that way he became acquainted with the Smith family. This project of Stowell’s was undertaken from this cause–an old document had fallen into his possession, in some way or other, containing information of silver mines being somewhere in the neighborhood in which he resided. Joseph endeavored to divert him from his cain pursuit, but he was inflexible in his purpose and offered high wages to those who would dig for him in search of said mine, and still insisted upon having Joseph to work for him. Accordingly, Joseph and several others returned with him and commenced digging. After laboring for the old gentleman about a month without success, Joseph prevailed upon him to cease his operations, and it was from this circumstance of having worked by the month, at digging for a silver mine, that the very prevalent story arose of Joseph’s having been a money digger(Smith, Lucy Mack. The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith By His Mother. Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, Bookcraft, 1996).”
    This experience Joseph had working for Josiah Stowell began in the year 1825. Josiah hired Stowell to help him dig. Joseph himself gave an account of the experience in the Joseph Smith Papers (“History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834],” p. 7, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed June 1, 2018, You gave no evidence that Joseph Smith pretended that he could see treasure, and neither did this “Evangelical Magazine & Gospel Advocate.” You gave none because…there is none. It was Joseph himself who convinced Stowell to stop digging. It is intriguing that the “Evangelical Magazine & Gospel Advocate” would wait for five years before publishing an article about this, which just so happened to be after Joseph Smith restored the gospel. Why would they wait so long before publishing the article? Could it possibly be because they wanted to wait until most people would have forgotten the details of the case so no one would be able to defend what really happened? It is very likely. The article was written by a man who was very against Joseph Smith after all.
    Joseph Smith was not a conman. He worked for Josiah Stowell, but he was not doing it with the purpose of personal gain. It was his job. Now think Joseph Smith went on trial many times in his life, yet how many times was he actually guilty? Not a single time was he actually guilty of the crime he supposedly committed. Did they convict Joseph Smith of actually being a conman? No, of course not, because he was not a conman. He didn’t scam people. He worked for Josiah Stowell because Josiah Stowell insisted that Joseph work for him.
    Now think about this, who were the ones who were constantly putting Joseph Smith on trial for things he didn’t do? It certainly wasn’t any good, honest men. A good, honest man wouldn’t get drunk to then strip a man of his clothes before pouring hot tar all over the man’s body and dumping feathers on him. Those were the kind of men who lied about what Joseph did and who he was. Joseph was a good man, who did his best to do what the Lord asked him to do.

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