THE FOUNDING PROPHET: An Administrative Biography of Joseph Smith, Jr.

by Maurice L. Draper

This is an administrative biography. It is not intended to be an exhaustive study of Joseph Smith, Jr.'s personal and family life. It is not greatly concerned with many of the personal and public aspects of his experience. Its focus is on the origin and development of the movement generally known as Mormonism or the Restoration movement.

There are many aspects of the political, economic, and family activities of Joseph to which no attention is given. The purpose of this study is to examine his relationships to major aspects of the organization and to the early life of the Church under his leadership.

As a biography, this book is neither a defense of nor an attack on Joseph Smith's beliefs and actions. It is an effort to understand them. To do so requires us to look forthrightly at issues that have been controversial through the years.
We are not required to believe that these issues are either true or false just because Joseph Smith was involved with them. Many of us have said for years that because Joseph Smith was a prophet does not mean that he was infallible. Indeed, an argument supported by many of Joseph's followers over the past 150 years or more is that nothing is infallible about human religious experiences or accounts about them. Human beings are involved in them and interpret them within the context of human intelligence and reason, neither of which is infallible.

I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet through whom inspired insights have come to us. I also believe he was a human being who made mistakes. Some of his major errors involved ordinances for the dead and speculations about multiple deities.

I have tried to treat these concepts forthrightly in the biographical context. There is no place for some of them in my own theological thought, so I must also explicitly reject them as part of my own beliefs. This in no way diminishes my respect for Joseph Smith as a prophet. Indeed. I have concluded that if God chose to use Joseph Smith so effectively, despite his human flaws, perhaps it is appropriate to believe God also may use us in developing the divine purpose in human life.