487: An Outsider’s View of Joseph Smith — Alex Beam’s “American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church”

AlexBeamIn this episode we interview Alex Beam: author of “American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church.” Alex provides an extremely insightful and compelling “outsider’s view” of Joseph Smith’s final years in Nauvoo, along with his murder and legacy.

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81 comments for “487: An Outsider’s View of Joseph Smith — Alex Beam’s “American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church”

  1. Jeremy S.
    July 15, 2014 at 11:44 am

    I think that Hugh B Brown said it best:

    ”I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent–if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression… This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences…. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.”

    March 25, 1958, BYU Speech, “MAN AND WHAT HE MAY BECOME.”

    I’d like to highlight, “Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant.” What is the “marketplace” that he refers to? Is the “marketplace” only internally inside our heads, within our own thoughts, as the church seems to be advocating today? Or, is it external and open, where an exchange of thoughts and ideas can be expressed and intermingled among other thoughts? I believe it to be the latter.

    Why is it wrong to want truth?
    Why is it wrong to talk about truth?
    Why is it wrong to help others learn and process truth?
    Why fear the truth?

    The only way to discover truth is to ask questions and observe answers, making mistakes along the way, but learning from those mistakes. Just ask Joseph Smith, Jr. He believed this. Why are we not allowed to believe this as well, without fear of reprisal? I honestly do not think Joseph Smith, Jr. would approve of this spirit of fundamentalism that hinders progress and discovery of truth.

    The 9th Article of Faith states, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

    If the Quorum of the 12 and the First Presidency are truly receiving revelation, how is revelation suppose to happen without asking questions first? Shouldn’t they be listening to the voice of the people and supplicate God for answers? If not, why are they even there? To be CEO’s, establishing committees, sitting on Boards of Directors, and managing vast business interests? Or are they there to serve God and His people? I hope the true intent is to serve people, not a corporation.

  2. Rude Dog
    July 15, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    I’m wondering why Beam seems so reticent about indicting Joseph Smith where he deserves to be called out. Or are we so sensitive about offense that even the 14 year old girls led like lambs to the polygamy slaughter only get our collective shrug of the shoulders “that’s just the way it was back then” attitudes?

    I caught it early in the podcast about the difference between Alex Beam and John Dehlin, and that is the difference of emotional investment. It is my opinion that John can be so invested as not being able to leave an institution rife with damaging and immoral attitudes, teachings, structures and adherents, whereas Beam came across to me with his liberal sensitivities against offense that his brain almost fell out of his head when confronted with claims made in his own book. Yuck.

    Mr. Beam, perhaps as you lecture and interview around your book in these “area codes” you ought expect responses beyond clinical history and be better prepared for passion and emotion beyond words on pages in books to avoid the stammering and awe shucks rock kicking here today. Mormons if you don’t know it, are required far beyond most gentle protestantism a deep. lifelong and emotional abiding faith commitment from cradle to grave. This was the observation from Michael Coe (My favorite podcast too John), as he also tried almost beyond my comfort level to assure that he would never try to take one’s faith away, although every minute of the podcast falsified the “Most correct book on Earth”, the keystone of our religion, and anyone with any integrity and morality could not come away knowing that the BoM is not a historical account. Coe and perhaps Mr. Beam should understand that it isn’t about the messenger. I understand that religion is hugely important, and that Beam admits to becoming more religious the older he gets, but for us that have escaped this particular religion that is not similar to the Unitarians or Episcopalians who may be able to come and go far much easier, but far more similar to the Jim Jones and David Koreshes of the world where one cannot escape such societies with one’s dignity, reputations, and places in communities intact, it is a big deal. When we learn that we have been wrong about a life long philosophy, not wrong, but really wrong in a big way and about a big thing, it is close to the heart. But also know, we are excited and liberated, like we’ve been saved from a sinking ship. Forgive us when it seems like we’re put off by you not being as excited as we are.

    • John Dwyer
      July 17, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      Rude Dog,

      This is probably overstated *quite* a bit

      “I understand that religion is hugely important, and that Beam admits to becoming more religious the older he gets, but for us that have escaped this particular religion that is not similar to the Unitarians or Episcopalians who may be able to come and go far much easier, but far more similar to the Jim Jones and David Koreshes of the world where one cannot escape such societies with one’s dignity, reputations, and places in communities intact, it is a big deal.”

      I’m sure there are members who feel trapped that have no testimony but have all LDS friends and family; I think the interspousal issues must be the most difficult for all involved.

      For the people who think they have been deceived – i can understand being frustrated – but the organization would not have existed for as long as it has if the leaders did not truly care about the members. If you expect to exist free from judgement perhaps you could offer up the same respect in return.

      But show a *little* respect – none of this strife is about power and repression (certainly not for anybody living in the church today!) it’s primarily about sincere belief coming in conflict with sincere disbelief.

      • Rude Dog
        July 18, 2014 at 5:20 pm

        That’s cute John, using “testimony” as if it were a legitimate term, let alone a term of knowing. Using the term “testimony” outside the Mormon and Born Again Christian paradigm leaves most in a perplexed expression. Perhaps you should go as far as to contact the various national academies and recommend that their methods of epistemology are archaic, and that the “burning bosom” method of knowledge acquisition should be employed. When comes the day when one grows up and leaves a bawling immaturity that defines the infancy of our species will realize that when it comes to the metaphysical, the supernatural, there is nothing that one can “know”, but only what can be believed or not believed. I get it that one can believe, but don’t project upon the true reality, that somehow God has spoken to you but not to me, for greater hubris and solipsism there is none. I don’t think the religious realize how “proud” they really are.

        That we as Mormons have been deceived there is no question. All one has to do is go to the church’s own website and read the essays relating to controversial doctrines to realize that the message there is far different than the message we were raised with, and the message in every Sunday’s GD class. Your comment of leaders caring about members (is there a differentiation between leaders and members?) relating to the longevity of this church seems a non-sequitur to me. Seems there are much older religions with clergy caring over their flocks. Point?

        “Criticism of religion plucks the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall wear the chain without consolation, but that man may throw off the chain and cull the living flower”. I will show no respect John, unless you think lying to children is actually a honorable pursuit in life. It is about repression. It is about being dictated to from an absolute authority. Just ask John Dehlin.

        John Dehlin, you keep it up. You have nothing to apologize for. You have every right to be passionate, and personal passion of speaking truth to authority must abound. Trust your direction. It is away from witchcraft and superstition and towards the slow yet steady progression of the human condition, which is measurable, testable, observable, and lies far away from the black hole of moral chaos and relativism known as “testimony”.

        • Goto
          August 25, 2014 at 11:40 am

          Well spoken sir!

    • July 30, 2014 at 11:09 pm

      Enjoyed your post. I think you describe your experience quite well.

    • August 21, 2014 at 10:52 am

      Dear Rude Dog. I appreciated your letter for its accurate and articulate clarification about the differences between some believers/faiths and others. Mormonism requires so much more than most liberal, progressive Christian faiths, and it is unfortunate but true, that Mormons… “cannot escape such societies with one’s dignity, reputations, and places in communities intact”. I applaud your liberation. I know it came at great personal effort and cost. Bravo!

      The issue of what is true and what is not true is of paramount importance to me. This factors in to my views about religion, politics, the environment, day to day decisions that impact my family, etc. It is difficult, but I must remain open to challenging all my assumptions, and be willing to go where the evidence leads. Otherwise, I’m settling for a group delusion… controlled and manipulated by others.

  3. ChrisWir
    July 15, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    John has tens of thousands of LDS members listening to his podcast and he is as much of a member as any of them. His role was never to defend the Church against the author. If he want to pressure the author from the other direction it must be his right as interviewer to do so – playing devils advocate if you wish.
    http://alwaysquestionauthority.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/jfk-enemy-of-truth.jpg

  4. Bryon Craig
    July 15, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Loved it. I enjoyed the question from the audience that challenged the integrity of his research. Putting a Bostonian on the spot to defend their honesty? I’m surprised that didn’t get more heated! He handled it well and I’m glad you did not intervene. Kudo’s to the questioner, too.
    Thanks for digging in with your questions and for not letting this just be an opportunity for a writer to sell a book.

  5. nolan
    July 15, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    When I first heard of this book about a month ago, I immediately purchased it and thoroughly enjoyed it. For many years I have wanted to see someone who did not have a personal bias cover this history. It was great to read someone’s writing that was not defending or attacking only sharing the information solely because it is interesting material. I also enjoyed this podcast because it confirmed the lack of bias in covering the material. I appreciate all of the work done by the author as well as mormon stories in bringing attention to this great book.

  6. Pete
    July 15, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Enjoyed it. John’s present difficult circumstance shows and i think it takes Alex by surprise. Even though i found it confusing to have the nonmormon defending, it gave Alex some credit as unbiased. I understand Johns frustration but i thought he got a little aggresive and leading at times. Enjoyed it.

    • July 16, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      Pete – I admit that my tone was particularly harsh the day I interviewed Alex. Just as a matter of disclosure — that day (only a few hours earlier) was the day I had received my letter from my stake president threatening a disciplinary council — so my feelings were particularly raw.

      I am going to work hard to be less aggressive in my interviews going forward, and I sincerely apologize for the lapses of late. — John

      • Matthew
        July 17, 2014 at 12:16 pm

        Thank you for all that you have done for Mormon Stories over the years and many lives you have touched. We all fall short. If we all decided to stop doing good in the world for fear of a bad day, or that our sins might be visible, the world would be a poorer place indeed.

      • Anachron
        July 19, 2014 at 8:58 pm

        Hi John,

        I noticed the slight aggressiveness of late as well. (In fact, I was grocery shopping this evening while listening to this podcast and I gasped out loud at one question and I think I scared an old lady buying lettuce!) But I don’t think you can be blamed – I could only imagine all the conflicting emotions you must be feeling right now.

        As Matthew said, thanks so much for all you’ve done for us listeners over the years. I think, quite sincerely, that your family of podcasts are one of the reasons I’ve been able to make my own difficult faith transition and still keep my family together.

        All my best,

        Adam

    • James Norton
      July 16, 2014 at 9:43 pm

      I concur, overall I enjoyed, but it seemed as Alex was more pro-Mormon than John.

      • Jay
        July 19, 2014 at 8:18 pm

        James,

        I think Alex was more publicly polite about mormonism because the history is simply the history to Alex. To mormons the history is a rude awakening that they have been deceived for some portion of their life. Thus, John and Alex may come across somewhat differently in the discussion.

        But as to whether Alex is more pro-mormon, well, he’s not converting, he doesn’t think smith was a prophet, he says Smith was displaying breathtaking hypocrisy and that Joseph’s decision to destroy the printing press and secret polygamy lead to his demise. The facts Alex lays out in the book are a simply recitation of history but a huge embarrassment for the mormon church.

  7. Steve S
    July 16, 2014 at 12:49 am

    Awesome; great book! Very accurate, and Alex showed a lot of respect in the interview. Couldn’t stand the questioner! Laying out her resume, and giving an annoyingly prepared speech. Just picking at the smallest detail. If you can prove Joseph was intimate with even 1 woman, other than Emma, then it’s very safe to assume it was all of them! At the very least there was deception, secret relationships, and lies. I don’t believe God would tell any man to lie to his wife; especially about something so significant!

    • Rude Dog
      July 17, 2014 at 12:37 pm

      Does anyone know, (John do you?) if that annoying questioner was Brian Hale’s wife?

      • July 17, 2014 at 12:51 pm

        Rude Dog – Yes. That was Brian Hales’ wife.

  8. Jess
    July 16, 2014 at 7:44 am

    As with the Christine Clark interview, John, you’re partially replacing your role as an objective interviewer with the role of an editorial commentator. While that is not necessarily a bad thing it marks a change with your hundreds of previous interviews. You’re understandably wound up about the threat of being booted out of Mormondom’s supposedly big tent. I can’t imagine a more opinionated, even strident tone, however, helping shore up your cause against your poor stake president being directed to give you the boot.

    Continued good to strength to you! After nine years of Mormon Stories your podcasts continue to benefit me. Seeing the Mormon experience through the eyes of others helps me weigh what I value in my beliefs and inclines me to stay in the face of questionable or doctrinally-unsupported traditions that have grown up in our faith. My loyalty to Jesus Christ has deepened through your interviews.

    • Doubting Thomas
      July 16, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      I noticed this too. A few times Alex had to calm things down and seemed to play the role of the member.

      Overall I loved this interview. I read that book last week and it was just coincidence that John interviewed him this week. Great stuff and I am as always amazed at John’s ability to get the “get.” Best interviews on the Internet.

    • July 16, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      Jess I admit that my tone was particularly harsh the day I interviewed Alex. Just as a matter of disclosure — that day (only a few hours earlier) was the day I had received my letter from my stake president threatening a disciplinary council — so my feelings were particularly raw.

      I am going to work hard to be less aggressive in my interviews going forward, and I sincerely apologize for the lapses of late. — John

      • Jess
        July 17, 2014 at 8:42 pm

        An extra helping of hugs and kudos to you, John, for motoring forward in the face of unfriendly news from God’s representatives. I agree with Doubting T–your knack for interviewing world-class folks is second to none. Thank you again for the interview with Grandma Tanner. It helped me reject the hatred for her that had seeped from my Mormon upbringing into my own perceptions and biases. Jesus Christ doesn’t hate her–why should we?

  9. Bob
    July 16, 2014 at 8:44 am

    I understand it is a very minority opinion, but (in Rock Waterman style) I simply no longer belief Joseph Smith was a polygamist. It always strikes me as odd to have the idea dismissed so easily by so many. At least give the idea serious consideration. I would love to see a book like American Crucifixion written from the assumption that Joseph opposed polygamy. That book I would buy. This book, meh. I don’t know. Same old narrative that chases the wrong scent in my opinion.

    • Doubting Thomas
      July 16, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      Bob,

      This topic has been fascinating to me. First, to be taught (by omission) that Joseph was only married to Emma and it was a romance for the ages. Then to learn that he may have had 30 plus wives. Finally to hear that Joseph opposed polygamy all together.

      For me it comes down to what happened after Joseph died. At that point in time there is no doubt that Brigham Young and eventually thousands of others in the church would believe in and practice polygamy.

      Now even the LDS church based in Salt Lake acknowledges Joseph was a polygamist.

      What is the main point of denying Joseph practiced the doctrine of plural wives? That Joseph was beyond such immoral behavior and that the LDS church today is teaching false doctrine?

      • Bob
        July 17, 2014 at 10:14 am

        The “main point” is simply to understand, as much as possible, what is historically true. Let the chips fall where they may.

        “Now even the LDS church based in Salt Lake acknowledge Joseph was a polygamist.” Well, yes, of course they do.

        To take just one case, I think the church would have me believe that Joseph Smith wrote a letter to Nancy Rigdon with the famous line “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.” I think the historical evidence points to John Bennett as the author and distributor of that letter. I just don’t see any evidence that Smith was hitting on Nancy Rigdon. Maybe he was. But I don’t see historical evidence of it.

        As I see it, there are two forces causing bias on this topic.
        1. The Salt Lake church needs Joseph to be a polygamist, else it throws Brigham Young (and thus the Salt Lake church) under the bus. Harping on how bad Smith was because of polygamy etc is exactly what the SL church wants from its opposition. It reinforces their position as heirs through Brigham Young.
        2. Those who don’t like Joseph Smith are often highly invested in him being a horrible person and a pedophile. “Joseph married teenage girls” is an important tool in their “Joseph was horrible” tool box. They don’t want to give it up.

        So both the pro and con sides are invested in pushing the idea. Which is all fine, if there is evidence to support it. I just don’t see the evidence. I find back-dated journal entries unconvincing, sorry.

        So to me when I hear the anger toward Smith for molesting little girls, well, I just wish we could pause for a moment. Because I don’t see the historical support for it. But again, I understand this is a minority view. I understand I could be wrong. But as of right now, it is the view that seems a best fit to me.

        • Jess
          July 17, 2014 at 8:57 pm

          Boy, I’m with you on this one, Bob. Perhaps like you I’m a Missourian on the question of polygamy. While I love the stories of my polygamous Mormon ancestors I hold nothing sacred nor believable about their polygamy being the will of God. I’m inclined to Nephi’s brother, Jacob, indicting the priesthood brethren of his day for following the ‘abomination’ of having multiple wives and concubines like David and Solomon. ‘Abomination’ is a remarkably pointed term used in the Old Testament among others to describe the cult of Milcom, Moloch and Chemosh followed by some of Solomon’s wives that required the burning of one’s children as sacrifices.

        • jman
          July 18, 2014 at 1:34 pm

          If we need to start worrying about back-dating in the Church, than a lot of things, polygamy included, become suspect. Like Priesthood authority. The whole thing is such a huge mess when you start to dig into it all. Better just take the correlated story and be done with it if you feel you need to stick around. Because otherwise, you are going to find trouble around every possible corner.

        • Bobby
          July 19, 2014 at 8:39 am

          “1. The Salt Lake church needs Joseph to be a polygamist, else it throws Brigham Young (and thus the Salt Lake church) under the bus.”

          But the narrative we all learn growing up in the church is exactly this. In over 37 years in the church, I never heard once that Joseph was a polygamist. Not sure why you think the church “needs” this now. There are plenty of other facts that throw the church under the bus.

          • Bob
            July 20, 2014 at 6:54 pm

            We all must not have learned the same exact narrative growing up in the church. I was taught pretty consistently that Joseph was a polygamist. What causes most people trouble, in my experience, is not so much the polygamy as when they hear he married teenagers or married women who were already married to someone else. That usually comes as a shock. But I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know the basics about Joseph Smith and polygamy. Did your D&C not have a section 132?

            The need to portray Joseph as a polygamist is nothing new or modern for the church. They really don’t want to teach polygamy and they don’t want to talk about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, but they also CANNOT suggest it did not happen. They are stuck defending Brigham Young’s (and others) stories about Joseph and polygamy so as not to undermine their own line of authority and right of succession. To question Joseph’s polygamy is to question Brigham Young and all that early history of succession between the Salt Lake and Missouri churches. They can’t do it. Out of the question.

            So in my view, LDS history has this bias. I think it’s time to take a fresh look at the source documents and see what’s real. At least be open to the possibility.

      • August 21, 2014 at 11:01 am

        To me the issue is this: if Joseph was a liar about so many things, then there is no reason to believe he was contacted by angels and gods, found the golden plates… yada yada yada. I can respect the individual human beings that make up the LDS church, but I cannot respect the dogma, the false doctrines, and the fairy tales about the universe. This is teaching lies to children who grow up to teach these same lies to their children, and on it goes. Everything a “good Mormon” does can be done without believing in false doctrines.

    • Jay
      July 19, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      Bob, while it may make you feel better to think Joseph was not a polygamist the facts just don’t substantiate your (or Rock’s) belief. In fact both Elder Marlin K. Jensen (Former LDS Church Historian) and Richard E. Turley, Jr. (Assistant Church Historian) both admit to both his polygamy and polyandry during the Swedish Rescue. It’s very safe to say these two have access to documentation that will never see the light of day. Even with the data we have though, no credible historian could write what you would like to see and still call it non-fiction.

      • Bob
        July 20, 2014 at 11:16 pm

        Jay,
        What evidence leads you to believe that Joseph was trying to marry Nancy Rigdon? Or that he proposed marriage to Helen Mar Kimball? Point me to something compelling and change my mind. Helen Mar Kimball’s own story told years later in Utah after a lifetime of polygamous living? Do you find that credible? Why exactly? Because a “credible historian” said so? Sorry, but that doesn’t work for me.

        Yes, LDS Church representatives “admit” to all the stories that LDS Church representatives have been telling from the beginning. Surprise, surprise. What exactly happens to the church’s succession and authority claims if they DENY the polygamy stories? Hint: It doesn’t end well for the church. So if the church is suppressing documents as you claim, doesn’t it make sense that the suppression could flow the other direction – to suppress documents that exonerate Smith of polygamous involvement? Can you imagine the church releasing a document proving that Brigham Young faked up Section 132? I can’t.

        I honestly don’t care one way or the other if he was or was not a polygamist. But if he was NOT a polygamist, if none of those accusations are true, it’s one of the biggest, dirtiest, most successful smears in history. And if it’s a smear, I don’t want to participate in it. So I’d really like to get the facts straight.

    • Meg Stout
      July 25, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      Hi Bob,

      Given the DNA data (none of the testable children turn out to have been fathered by Joseph, including Josephine) and the motives for those who did allege sex (both detractors and supporters had reason to posit the marriages were sexual), it is at least plausible that Joseph might not have consummated the marriages.

      However there is significant evidence that he did teach polygamy and that he did not feel polygamous marriages should remain celibate.

      However it is also interesting to note that only a small handful of children were conceived by all plural wives prior to Joseph’s death. So even though Joseph obviously taught polygamy and that plural marriages should involve procreation, no one was doing much procreative activity prior to 27 June 1844. That’s a lot of not having sex, considering the numbers of men and women involved.

      As for the lovely ladies who euphemistically claimed to have been sexual with Joseph, remember the reasons they give for failing to conceive. Then remember Todd Akins’ reasons for saying women are less likely to conceive when “legitimately” raped. If Todd was wrong (and he was), then why do we believe the stories of Mormon women who claimed sex but never conceived a child by Joseph?

      • Rude Dog
        July 25, 2014 at 8:35 pm

        Your argument only makes sense in the case that all consumations result in pregnancy. I know we believe the 19th century to be barbaric but believe it or not, there were birth control methods even back then, and the question should be in context, did Joseph with his propensity to lie to Emma and his outer circle have motivation to “hide” any sexual conduct by preventing pregnancy or even terminating the few that may have come up, or was he honest in all of his polygamous unions with his claims they were “chaste” at least physically. (Meg, imagin your husband saying to you “I’m not sleeping with her, but I do love her. I understand that they are sisters and serving as our help, you must share together in our relationships, and prepare for more. The Lord wills it, and you, in order to stand worthy before The Lord, will have to accept it. Nevermind the revelations brougth forth by my hand about polygamy being instituted for the raising of seed unto The Lord, I’m not about ‘raising of seed conduct’, trust me.” The fact that the sexual question seems to be formost for some says much more about the questioners i.e, Hales and yourself, than it does about anything else.) There seems to be much harsher moral questions about the betrayal of emotional fidelity and the mathematics after telliing a man to leave his parents and cleave unto his wife, so they may be one flesh, only to find the sum of gender approximation of one man one woman to be thrown out the window due to the hoarding of women by the inner cirlcle of the chosen circle of blessed in numbers of “prophets and apostles”, and many of the “followers” out in the cold, due to numbers, and becoming the “lost” among them.

        On the other hand one finds it peculiar that Brigham Young practiced a sexual polygamy that would according to your argument went contrary to Joseph’s practice and revelation to set his presidency at odds to Josephs making him a fallen prophet and the RLDS the chosen line after Joseph.

        If your argument is to have it both ways. Joseph was chaste, Brigham was called, then don’t even respond to my post for yours is truly the laziest of all arguments. One that has it both ways with no chance of being falsified, contridicted. Basically your saying that every action by the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS was sactioned by God. Joseph was right. Brigham was right. Everybody was right. It’s all context. Meg Stout, do you at all miss your critical faculties?

      • Bob
        July 26, 2014 at 10:09 pm

        “Joseph obviously taught polygamy”? Can you show me where?

      • tropical animal
        July 28, 2014 at 4:13 pm

        The main method of birth control during the slavery years and Joseph Smith’s time was abortion. This is why during these years, the abortion rate sky-rocketed to the highest in history. And was also the reason why, during the slavery years, there was not more scandalous bi-racial offspring. Laws against abortion, and how to do it, did not emerge until later. Joseph kept a doctor in his hierarchy, though it did not require a doctor to do it.

    • July 31, 2014 at 11:35 am

      It is insulting to disbelieve dozens of women in favor of believing one man who was known to lie, occasionally, when convenient.

      • Bob
        July 31, 2014 at 2:29 pm

        To quote Rock Waterman:
        “But the startling conclusion I came to is that most historians, both Mormon and non-Mormon, who have taught that Joseph Smith was a secret polygamist, were proceeding from a false assumption. Several false assumptions, actually; not the least of which was that the many women who claimed to have been Joseph Smith’s plural wives had no reason to lie. The truth is the precise opposite. They had some very good reasons to lie.”

        • August 21, 2014 at 11:07 am

          No one had more reason to lie than Joseph Smith… the “prophet”. Everything he created would fall down around him if he were to admit the truth. These women had very little power in this male-dominated culture and religion. They were not equal citizens, let alone equal marital partners. When Joseph tells you your eternal salvation depends on following his dictates… you do! Present day examples of this happen all around us in 2014… among women and men that are much better educated and living in a “free” democracy.

          • Bob
            September 12, 2014 at 4:01 pm

            It is insulting to believe a dozen men (Young, Kimball, Richards, Taylor, etc) who were known to lie, occasionally, when convenient, in favor of not believing one woman (Emma).

            Brigham Young had more reason to lie than Joseph Smith did. Everything he created would fall down around him if he were to admit the truth.

            The women who had even less power in Utah than in Nauvoo went along with Young’s desire for them to lie about their marriages to Smith. When Brigham tells you your next meal depends on following his dictates… you do!

  10. Jared
    July 16, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Bought and read the book a month ago. After years of study following my initial faith journey started, not much was new or particularly shocking. I actually appreciated the lack of bias Beam displayed throughout the book and the interview. I feel like this is something I could share with many friends and family who engage in the JS “worship” John spoke of.

    Regarding the interview, I too was taken aback by your tone John. I have defended the podcast in the past as unbiased, citing as well the balance of believers/non-believers, your tone and also the benefits to those struggling in their faith. The past month has shaken me, as I had believed I was carving out a safe place for myself so in many ways I get where you are coming from. The attempts to draw Beam into the emotion of the moment were appropriately rebuffed, again a testament to his lack of bias. I want more insight into the character of JS and a cohesive weaving of people and events that led to his ultimate demise. I was hoping Beam would have a little more to offer in that regard beyond what he wrote in his book.

    Excellent book, disappointing interview. John, many of us feel your pain. All my best to you in your search for peace.

  11. Adam
    July 16, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    I have to agree with some of the comments made here already. This isn’t much of an interview, it’s more John trying to get the author, who does not have his deep-seated anger, to validate his view of Joseph Smith, which is a very negative one. Much of the discussion to me seemed like Mr. Beam getting a little blind-sided that he was just there to corroborate John’s personal view.

    I get why John is mad. I have been mad too. I guess I just see little value in these podcasts lately where John tries to feed questions and comments to the guests along a trail of supporting his conclusions about Joseph Smith and the early Church.

    I don’t know how John initially portrays himself to those he requests to interview but I kind of take issue with him presenting himself, especially to non-Mormons, as simply a Mormon. He says things as “we Mormons”. I get that he is in fact a Mormon and that he has a right to identify himself as such, but, especially when discussing his views of the Church, I think there should be a qualifier in there to say that he is “unorthodox” or something like that. There are many Mormons that have read the books, done a lot of the investigations he has, and have come to a different determination than he has. Many of these Mormons have still left the door open, however slightly, for the possibility of truth or divinity in the Church and are far less skeptical and express much less negative criticism, even after investigating these “difficult issues”.

    I have been listening to these podcasts for only a month or so now but I have listened to a lot of them and I have to say that the tone of these interviews lately have been far less objective, in favor of a view that this is all just garbage. I think that is fine if that is where John is ending up, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking that we are listening to, or participating in, a thoughtful and objective discussion about things in a non-condescending manner.

    I appreciate the forum for those of us Mormons who have serious questions. I think that there has been a lot of good to me personally but I just feel like this is all turning into a repetitive, rhetorical argument with the sole purpose of supporting the argument that Joseph Smith was a bad guy and that Church leaders are, and have been, nothing but deceitful men who do much more harm than good. That is one view, and often I find myself with a similar view, but it certainly isn’t an objective one.

    • July 16, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Adam – I admit that my tone was particularly harsh the day I interviewed Alex. Just as a matter of disclosure — that day (only a few hours earlier) was the day I had received my letter from my stake president threatening a disciplinary council — so my feelings were particularly raw.

      I am going to work hard to be less aggressive in my interviews going forward, and I sincerely apologize for the lapses of late. — John

  12. Brandon Dayton
    July 16, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    I’m another listener concerned about the tone these interviews have been taking lately. This interview in particular seemed to be more about John’s own positions framed in the form of a question.

    I don’t care if Beam knows how modern day Mormons perceive Joseph Smith. I want to know about his own experience and insights in writing this book.

    • July 16, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Brandon – I admit that my tone was particularly harsh the day I interviewed Alex. Just as a matter of disclosure — that day (only a few hours earlier) was the day I had received my letter from my stake president threatening a disciplinary council — so my feelings were particularly raw.

      I am going to work hard to be less aggressive in my interviews going forward, and I sincerely apologize for the lapses of late. — John

  13. July 16, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Hey everyone – I admit that my tone was particularly harsh the day I interviewed Alex. Just as a matter of disclosure — that day (only a few hours earlier) was the day I had received my letter from my stake president threatening a disciplinary council — so my feelings were particularly raw.

    I am going to work hard to be less aggressive in my interviews going forward, and I sincerely apologize for the lapses of late. — John

    • anita
      July 17, 2014 at 9:59 am

      Thank you for clarifying, John. Very understandable.

  14. George
    July 16, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    John Dehlin, my son Spencer attended St. John’s College in Annapolis and Santa Fe. He has left the church, which dissatisfaction began in college.

  15. Eric
    July 16, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    I found most interesting the question Brian Hales asked near the end. Referring to Alex Beam’s treatment of polygamy Brian said:

    “If [Joseph Smith’s hypocrisy] was so ‘breathtaking,’. . . what would you surmise [were] the thoughts of Brigham Young and John Taylor and Zina Huntington and Eliza Snow – these were very devout people, and apparently they were either confederates, going along with all this, or I’d see them as being so dog gone stupid or indiscerning [sic] that they couldn’t figure out all these debaucheries and these immoralities that you portray him as having been performing or attempting to perform. So how do you factor this in? The fact that they still believed in him and followed him and never really broke away.”

    Hales seems incapable of seeing how it’s possible for a devout person, particularly a smart Mormon one, to be deceived into along with Joseph’s immoral behavior – or of acceding to the proposition, “that which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.” Well, this supposition is a naïve assessment of what devout religious – or otherwise dogmatic and ideological – people are psychologically capable. It seems like a bit of question begging also.

    These weren’t just devout Mormons. They were devout followers of Joseph Smith. They had already received everything worthy of their devotion from Joseph’s mouth: exclusive truths, divine authority, elevated social status, and assurances of celestial kingdoms. They had already bought his claim to have “communed with Jehovah.” So, with these beliefs in place, and so much at stake, it’s hardly surprising that they would submit to Joseph’s “reframing” of polygamy and polyandry as celestially sanctioned plural marriage. Their basis for their accepting this new belief was identical to the basis for the rest – line upon line going back to golden plates that never materialized.

    What’s more, their intelligence likely enhanced their motivated reasoning as they quickly worked through the cognitive dissonance that apparently attended their “first blush” indoctrination of the new law. We’ve seen his mental process again and again. Consider all the smart and devout LDS scholars who worked out how Blacks forfeited their right to the priesthood in the pre-Existence. Seems to me that constitutes going along with immoral behavior, unless you sill insist it was God’s will.

    Equating devout and smart with having an independent moral compass, or with being insulated from deception – including self-deception – is the demonstrably mistaken conception of devout believers living inside bubbles of exclusive truth. And finally, let’s not forget those smart and devout people, such as William and Jane Law, who preserved their independent moral compasses and rejected polygamy. “How do you factor this in?”

  16. Scott Roskelley
    July 16, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Not sure what the deal was with Laura Hales critical pounce in a public forum on Beam’s use of the phrase “raven-haired poetess and lover”. Eliza had dark hair, she published over “20 poems in local newspapers by 1832” according to wikipedia – yeah a secondary source so look up the primary references yourself before scolding a writer after an interview. The urban dictionary entry for lover states that the word refers to someone you love in a romantic sexual sense, a sweetheart. Eliza was Joseph’s wife in “very deed” and told Heber C Kimball that she was not a wife in name only, and thought Heber knew “Joseph better than that”.

    • Bobby
      July 19, 2014 at 9:02 am

      I figured right away while listening that she was probably Brian’s wife (and actually came here to confirm it). It’s maddening to me how someone can be worried about something so trivial as the word “lover.” Eliza was married to Joseph. She admitted having slept with him. Ridiculous.

    • Jay
      July 19, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      I agree with you. Laura Hales was grasping at straws to try to discredit the author, but she only made herself look foolish.

    • Bob
      July 22, 2014 at 9:24 am

      Of course, I would replace the word “lover” with “liar”. Eliza Snow lied about her relationship with Smith. After being a plural wife of Brigham Young for many years she had every incentive to lie about being married to Smith in order to support Young’s lie that polygamy originated with Smith.

      • David Macfarlane
        July 23, 2014 at 11:41 am

        Where is the evidence to support that accusation? I’m sincerely interested.

        • Bob
          July 25, 2014 at 9:23 am

          (This is my 4th attempt to post a reply. The other’s have gone “poof” and disappeared. I’ll keep this one short.)

          Read Rock Waterman’s post at Pure Mormonism called “Why I’m Abandoning Polygamy”.

          Consider what it means if Section 132 was produced by Brigham Young instead of Smith. Look at how much history was rewritten by Young (et al) and how those rewrites painted Smith. Eliza’s claims are simply part of that revisionist history.

  17. Mark
    July 17, 2014 at 12:40 am

    Another great podcast John. I could sense your anger in this one, but understandable now knowing about you receiving the letter from your Stake President that morning.

    I did find it comical that Brian Hales was out to troll Alex Beam. Brian came across as a loser, not someone with a PhD. In fact, Alex was so calm and collected during the entire interview even when John was clearly trying to get him to say something negative about Joseph and when Brian was trolling that it made Alex even more credible. Good job to Alex Beam.

    I can’t wait to read the book.

    • anita
      July 17, 2014 at 9:57 am

      I truly do not understand the negative tone of some people’s comments. Brian Hales question was perfectly reasonable and asked very respectfully. There should be no reason why all comments, whether for or against, can’t be respectful.

  18. nolan
    July 17, 2014 at 8:29 am

    It certainly is understandable the pressure of the letter he received and that it would have an impact on the interview. People need to understand that it is very difficult to hold back the emotions on something that you have spent your whole life invested in only to find out there was so much deception involved. I know all of us listeners have felt this way many times and should not be judging. To me it shows how authentic these podcasts really are, because they capture the emotions that we all feel, and no one of us feels the same every day. Sometimes we can feel positive and try to be fair and balanced and on other days feel deceived and angry. I hope everyone who has criticized John for his emotions coming out can look at themselves to see if they have not had those moments.

    • Adam
      July 17, 2014 at 10:24 am

      While I think some of them are criticisms of John’s emotions, I think that some of these comments (mine included) are not necessarily being critical. These podcasts are not presented to the listeners as us “following John along his path” but more to have real interviews with real questions. John’s emotions may be up and down, as mine are on all these issues, from day to day and that it would be impossible to set all emotions aside, especially given the news he had received that day. I don’t think, however, that John would want us to be listening to his interpretations or to have what we hear tainted by the ebb and flow of his personal emotions. I genuinely think that he wants to provide a forum for open discussion from people that stand on all sides of an issue. That may not be possible though.

      All I’m saying is that we ought not kid ourselves into thinking that we are considering all sides of an argument when these interviews are led in a certain direction. If a conclusion is our starting point and will frame an entire conversation, then all we are listening to is a bunch of people with comments solely in support of that conclusion.

      For me, there is no judgement except for the fact that I judge (for me personally) how this interview was conducted by John as to be biased with a narrow viewpoint. Generally, I don’t think John’s interviews are this way, which is why I posted my comment.

  19. Joe Geisner
    July 17, 2014 at 9:53 am

    If I recall correctly, I think Alex discusses this interview in his Radio West interview: http://radiowest.kuer.org/post/american-crucifixion

    I have not listened to this interview with John yet, but I am not surprised John feels he was “harsh.” Mormonism is personal to us. We gave two years, we gave 10%, we gave 1000s of hours, and gave our minds and bodies, we gave our all, and in the end we discovered we were lied to about everything. As Michael Coe said in his interview, being an Episcopalian doesn’t define Michael Coe, but being a Mormon defines Joe Geisner (he did not say this last part, but you get the idea). So Alex is removed from the emotional stuff. I love Alex’s book, I think he did a great job. Same with John Turner’s bio of Young and Jan Shipps look at the beginnings of Mormonism. But each of them really has not written all they could about the ugliness of Mormonsim. I don’t know if that is good or bad. Turner has written a paper that covers events about Young and his cruelty. He has not published this paper, most of us speculate that he is holding back because it is so raw and Turner does not want to offend his believing friends. Maybe Alex would prefer not to do the same. Some call this being polite; I am fine with their being polite.

  20. Tunflog
    July 17, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Loved this podcast and I’m very excited to read the book. I am constantly seeking unbiased information regarding the early years of the church, especially when it concerns some of the hot-button issues we hear about often.

    I think many of the previous comments have addressed the actual interview along with John and Alex’s performances. I feel both did an exceptional job discussing the major points of the book on staying on topic. Thank you again John for all the work you do and keep it up!

  21. Charles
    July 17, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Yeah, this one was painful. Leading questions. Beam seemed genuinely dismayed. I kept expecting him to say, “This is not the interview I wanted to have”. But painful experience like this is good, because it reminds you viscerally what you never want to do again.

  22. David Macfarlane
    July 18, 2014 at 10:57 am

    I found this to be a truly remarkable interview. John, you really are working through some of your emotions on stage, and while it apparently makes some listeners uncomfortable because you don’t hew to the traditional interviewer role, in this instance it created an amazing dynamic for someone (me, actually) who is also working through similar issues. Alex is trying to be impartial and journalistic, and you are putting his work in disaffected Mormon context. Alex does sound like the interview was not what he expected, but he’s not green and has certainly suffered slings and arrows previously. I found most interesting the few moments he lets his true feelings come out–when he alludes to the predations of Joseph. At the bar round midnight, I think Alex Beam just might concede that he thinks Joseph Smith was a sexual predator. If he was not aware of how offensive that characterization would be to believing Mormons, he certainly is now.

  23. Grant
    July 18, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    Hey John – why the harsh tone in this interview? Having a particularly rough day? Maybe try to be less aggressive in your interviews going forward.

    🙂

    • Anachron
      July 19, 2014 at 9:20 pm

      Grant, he received his “church court” letter that very same day. It was an emotional time for him but he had to press on admirably, considering the circumstances.

  24. Jay
    July 19, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Alex wants to sell some books. He’s polite in the interview. The facts in his book tell the story. It’s the facts about Joseph that leave so many mormons angry. Angry at the truth.

  25. Snj
    July 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Fantastic interview. I felt endeared to Alex beam after the podcast and bought the book. I can’t wait to read it! Thanks john for another interesting and thought provoking interview.

  26. Adrie de Jong
    July 26, 2014 at 2:24 am

    Thank you so much for this wonderful podcast, especially it’s length, I could have listened to it hours more ! I felt a bit hurt for Alex everytime he had to defend, that the harsh question had nothing to do with his book, lol, but I understand John wanting to point out the ideas that hurt so many people.

    I especially was happy with what was shared about Joseph Smith’s death. These last few months I came to the conclusion Joseph was not killed, because of polygamy – that was already going on for years, so, should have happened earlier – but I came to the conclusion Joseph was killed short after he wanted to give women access to the priesthood. The idea rose in me that patriarchy minded mormon males wanted to avoid this from happening.

    At 135.00 minutes from this podcast I learned I was pretty close: it is said that the masonry didn´t want women to participate in anything of their rituals and so Joseph was killed so it couldn´t be continued.

    Yesterday, I ‘accidentely’ got lost via MormonThink, short tempelvideo, unto a large interview from William Cooper about masonry on youtube. To hear from Alex how Joseph Smith was held in jail 3 days longer by the magistrate [at 137.00 min.], which is questionable, cos made it possible for the masonry-mob to kill Joseph. As I learned from William Cooper, that influential people mostly are in masonry, it was very easy to organise Joseph Smith’s death this way.

    Even though John makes a joke, blaming the women, I hope everyone also sees, how patriarchy works against women and blaming women for everything. Patriarchy makes sick rules, like to exclude women. And when healthy minded men want to correct these rules, patriarchy harms the healthy minded men, even murder them, and women got the blame ! (For instance: Kate Kelly gets excommunicated for asking valid questions) But it IS patriarchy that is sick and should be blamed !

    Thank you John for underlining it with a joke, but as soon as men are starting to get over and kick out the sickminded patriarchy fantasies, we can start creating a healthy world, a healthy society, and healthy lives of inclusion: no matter what gender, color, family it’s raised in, etc etc. Everyone has talents to share and everyone is important on the same level on every spot in society to make society a pleasure to live in and to make society work. My dream is that it may work out this way someday !

    Peace,
    Adrie de Jong
    The Netherlands

  27. Benjamin
    July 26, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    After listening to this podcast I realized that though I knew the vast majority of this historical information presented here, there was still some new information that I did learn. I had dinner with Mike Quinn one time several years ago and he told me what a complex man Joseph was. He also gave me the impression that anyone who attempts to tell Joseph’s story is in for a huge project because it’s no small feat to tell his story.

    My hat is off to Alex Beam for writing this book and also for being such a gentleman in the interview as I think he really was on the hot seat or at least he perceived he was as he was in the room with several LDS people. I also admire Alex Beam for his natural objectivity in writing this book. Being objective in writing is a tough thing to do especially in our day and age.

    • Benjamin
      July 27, 2014 at 12:55 am

      This is an excellent critique of Beams polygamy chapter. I think my previous fears have been realized. When people get paid to write books these days like Alex Beam did I don’t know why in the world they don’t use primary source documents very often. Just like the Hollywood drama many popular writers of today are not only sensationalistic but a bit shallow on their historical writing. These writers want the narrative to fulfill their preconceived notions and make for a dramatic read that will leave the reader unable to put the book down.

      I don’t trust very many of these writers who are not authentic historians. I realize that history of Joseph is complex just like Mike Quinn explained to me a long time ago. So is the early history of the LDS Church. There are possibly thousands of books written about Joseph Smith, Jr. It is very difficult to be objective (on all sides) especially with such a fascinating and complex historical figure as Joseph.

      http://blog.fairmormon.org/2014/06/20/a-review-of-alex-beams-treatment-of-polygamy/

      • Jay
        July 27, 2014 at 5:30 am

        ROFL!! You have to be joking right. You talk about poor history and sensationalism and then you provide a link to FAIR. Is this a serious comment or are you being satirical?

        • Bob
          July 27, 2014 at 12:06 pm

          Jay, Do you consider Brian Hales’ writings to be generally poor history and sensationalism? Or are you just reacting to the FAIR brand name?

          • Jay
            July 27, 2014 at 12:14 pm

            Yes, Brian Hales is a wonderful researcher, but he then proceeds to draw conclusion that are not substantiated by all the research. His research is impeccable, his conclusion are terrible.Unfortunatley for him His own bias for Joseph makes him less credible as a scholar and that is really too bad.

        • Jay
          July 27, 2014 at 7:46 pm

          Resorting to Ad Hominem? Seriously. If you can’t critique the facts of history just don’t say anything. We should be beyond resorting to the tactics of FAIR and FARMS.

          • Benjamin
            July 27, 2014 at 10:42 pm

            LMAO!! That is funny. Oh well… I haven’t seen you comment except to just state personal opinions about Brian Hales “bias” and that his conclusions are “terrible” which says virtually nothing except for stating your personal opinion. If someone likes Joseph Smith, Jr. they are biased but if they do not like him they are objective? Hmmm. I have an important message for you Jay. We are ALL biased. There is absolutely no scholar who is not. We are not robots.

          • Jay
            July 28, 2014 at 4:56 pm

            Touche Benjamin. That is a valid critique. Thanks for calling my attention to it.

  28. July 30, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Had promised myself that I wouldn’t read anything about religion or Mormonism for awhile. then, I heard this interview. I immediately bought the audible book and have been enjoying it for several days. Entertains like great historical fiction. And best of all, I’m learning things about that time period that I never knew!

  29. August 12, 2014 at 11:20 am

    American crucifixion: truth or fiction

    Author Alex Beam’s deceptive title, is the first of his ethical compromises when attempting to describe the life and times of Joseph Smith founder of our only authentic, exceptional, poly-deist and meta-meta-physical chauvinist theocracy created through the Divine Right Rite and the law of witnesses.

    I da-no, making it up as you go along has its tender moments.
    The crucifixion of Joseph Smith is a stretch when making it up as you go along. Seems one can only make so much up before it looks by the tribals as “THE CHURCH IS TRUE” or, “Oh, my Gosh what have I gotten into.”

    How is it possible for an unreliable narrator, general officer, commander of a three thousand man standing army, printer and minter of Nauvoo Bogus money, land speculator, sexual predator, Necromancer and Psychopath CAN CLAIM THE MANTEL of BEiNG CRUCIFIED –– If so Hyrum was Crucified too.
    When describing a charlatan, poser thief, thug and hypocrite; one might lightly toss off the conjecture and go for full blown Messianic Martyrdom.

    Lest we forget the American Exceptionalist Jacksonian era, where on the frontier fringe anything was possible and magic was easy with the personalities drawn to that flux ridden, morally vacabt boundary –– on the frontier many were dispatched with vigor.

    The zeitgeist went on further westward to found yet another New Zion.
    Enough with the crucifixions already. By Alex Beam’s lights, Brigham Young was the Messiah Incarnate.

    I know the title is sexy, seductive and sensational but not very honest / true.

    QED

    • August 14, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      I meant to write:

      Lest we forget the American Exceptionalist Jacksonian era, where on the frontier fringe anything was possible and magic was easy with the personalities drawn to that flux ridden, morally vacant boundary –– on the frontier many were dispatched with vigor by far less just punishments than the execution of the Lt. General Joseph Smith Jr.

  30. Richard
    August 21, 2014 at 10:06 am

    I found his comments on the Oaks and Hill book on the Carthage Conspiracy interesting. He praised the historical depth and fairness of the book but said that the legal argument re: Smith’s right to destroy the Expositor was “laughable.” I think this reflected the authors–the history was provided by Hill, while the legal arguments were provided by Oaks.

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