Evidence #253 | October 12, 2021

Good and Evil

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Scripture Central


Moroni’s prophecy that Joseph Smith’s name “should be had for good and evil among all nations” has meaningfully come to pass.

An Angelic Prophecy

In connection with the discovery and coming forth of the Book of Mormon,1 Joseph Smith recorded that an angel named Moroni visited him. After introducing himself, Moroni said that God “had a work” for Joseph to do and prophesied that Joseph’s name “should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people” (Joseph Smith—History 1:33).2 While this encounter was first recorded in 1838, it occurred in 1823, when Joseph Smith was only seventeen years old and still little more than an “obscure boy” (vv. 22–23).

As explained by Gordon B. Hinckley,

The boy must have been stunned by what he heard. In the eyes of those who knew him, he was simply a poor, unlearned farm boy. He had no wealth. His neighbors were in the same condition. His parents were struggling farmers. The area where they lived was rural and largely unknown. They were simply ordinary people trying to survive through hard work.

And yet an angel of God said that Joseph’s “name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues.” How could it be? That description fits the entire world.3

For Evil

Alexander Campbell. Image via Wikipedia. 

The negative commentary about Joseph Smith started before the Book of Mormon was published and has continued unabated to the present day. In 1832, two years after the publication of the Book of Mormon, Alexander Campbell declared Joseph Smith to be “as ignorant and as impudent a knave as ever wrote a book.”4 Eber D. Howe, another early critic, described Joseph as being “fully endued with … folly and wickedness.”5

With the rise of the internet and social media, public criticism of the Prophet has only expanded and intensified. While beyond count, the number of tracts, pamphlets, articles, books, films, memes, social media posts, and private and public conversations that in some form or another have criticized Joseph Smith over the past nearly 200 years is surely staggering. Sometimes, the evil spoken of Joseph Smith has even come from rather surprising corners of the world.

As related by Daniel C. Peterson,

Just a few months after the 1978 revelation on priesthood, I found myself in a Christian bookstore in Nairobi, Kenya. I was interested in studying a bit of Swahili and sought to buy a Bible in that language. While picking up my Swahili Bible, though, I was astonished to see two very large shelves of anti-Mormon materials on sale. I don’t know for certain, but it’s possible that there were more anti-Mormon books on those shelves than there were Latter-day Saints in all of East Africa at that time.6

For Good

Yet, just as Moroni prophesied, Joseph’s name and character have also been had for good. Many accounts from those who personally knew Joseph Smith attest to his goodness of character and prophetic calling. Brigham Young, for instance, described Joseph Smith as a “virtuous” man who was “pure, just, and holy.”7 As related by Lyman O. Littlefield, the Prophet’s “conversation and public teaching—all attended by a power truly godlike—established me in the faith and knowledge of his prophetic mission.”8

Portrait of Joseph Smith. Image via Wikimedia Commons. 

James Leithead wrote, “I had many chances of seeing and hearing the Prophet preach on the Sabbath and at other times and can truthfully say I never heard or saw anything in his conduct but what was in accordance with strict morality.”9 Marie J. Woodward, who worked for three weeks in Joseph’s household, related that he “was always kind.”10 According to William Faucett, the Prophet’s “character was unimpeachable among the Saints.”11 In the words of Lorenzo Hatch, “I am rather proud and thankful, too, that I knew Joseph Smith, for I don’t have to take any other man’s testimony as to what kind of a man he was …. And he was a fine man too … brave, fearless, and frank, but he was kind and sympathetic also.”12 Numerous similar accounts could be cited.13

Today, the message of the Restoration and Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling has been shared throughout the world by more than a million missionaries.14 Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now hail from more than 160 countries and territories and collectively speak more than 178 languages.15 They can be found upon every inhabited content and upon many isles of the sea.

As embodied in the beloved hymn “Praise to the Man,”16 a testimony of Joseph Smith’s divine calling and prophetic character are now shared by millions of Latter-day Saints throughout the world in weekly sacrament services, Sunday school classes, family home evenings, and missionary experiences. President Thomas S. Monson explained, “Although those who sought to take [Joseph Smith’s] life felt that the Church would collapse without him, his powerful testimony of truth, the teachings he translated, and his declaration of the Savior’s message go on today in the hearts of over 12 million [now over 16 million] members throughout the world, who proclaim him a prophet of God.”17


Joseph Smith’s global fame wouldn’t have seemed obvious or even likely in 1838, much less in 1823. “How many other frontier farmers born in the first decades of the early American republic are remembered by name today?” asked Peterson. “How many are the focus of international controversy and debate?”18 Instead of slinking into obscurity, Joseph Smith’s name has now been revered and derided by millions. Somewhat ironically, those who have been critical of Joseph Smith over the years have played an essential role in helping fulfill Moroni’s remarkable prophecy, providing yet another evidence to believe in Joseph’s prophetic calling.

Neil L. Andersen, “Joseph Smith,” Ensign, November 2014, online at churchofjesuschrist.org.

Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Stone Cut Out of the Mountain,” General Conference, October 2007, online at churchofjesuschrist.org.

Daniel C. Peterson, “What One Yale Literary Critic Had to Say About Joseph Smith + How the Prophet’s Most Bold Prophecy Is Coming True,” LDS Living, August 10, 2019, online at ldsliving.com.

Joseph Smith—History 1:33

Joseph Smith—History 1:33

Fulfilled Prophecies
Book of Mormon

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