The twelfth item in the LDS Articles of Faith reads, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” On the surface this seems like a respectable ideology and one certainly in cooperation with the Bible. Paul writes, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God :and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” (Rom. 13:1-2) However, an investigation will expose the hypocrisy of such a statement originated, defended and encouraged by Joseph Smith, their prophet who ultimately violated it. Most in the Mormon religion will dismiss such claims as “propaganda,” but facts are facts regardless of how much they attempt to rewrite history.
Evidence will reveal how Joseph Smith was the recipient of numerous criminal charges and arrests. He and his contemporaries at the beginning of the Mormon organization were not the martyrs of which they are portrayed. In 1826 in South Bainbridge, New York, Smith was arrested, tried, and convicted for the misdemeanor crime of pretending to find lost treasure. Wesley P. Walters, a Reverend in the United Presbyterian church in Marissa, Illinois who was critical of the Mormon Church based on his investigations uncovered some records verifying the case in the basement of the sheriff’s office in Norwich, New York. A historian further discovered that Joseph Smith had been in fact arrested on four occasions in the mid-1820’s. (Spencer)
In 1830 in New York, Smith was arrested and tried for disorderly conduct when he tried to perform an exorcism in Colesville but he was acquitted. In May 1837 in Kirtland, Ohio, Joseph Smith was accused by Grandison Newell of a plot to have him killed. Smith was acquitted, but Wilbur Denton and Sidney Rigdon both testified that the alleged conspiracy took place in April or May of 1835. (unknown)
In 1838 in Kirtland, Ohio, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Smith based on a charge of banking fraud. Fawn M. Brodie (1915 – 1981), a biographer and one of the first female professors at UCLA, offers much insight into this affair based on her extensive research.
All that was required to start a bank in the West was an unlimited amount of nerve and the necessary capital to pay the engraver and printer for making the notes. One bank in Ohio was chartered as an Orphan’s Institute; another was founded on the charter of a moribund library association, its total assets a remnant of dog-eared books. The number of authorized banks operating in the state had jumped from eleven in 1830 to thirty-three in 1836.
Besides these there were nine unauthorized institutions also issuing money…The bank was said to have been established by a revelation from God, and rumor skipped through the town that the prophet had predicted that like Aaron’s rod it would swallow up all other banks “and grow and flourish, and spread from the rivers to the ends of the earth, and survive when all others should be laid in ruins.” From its beginning the bank had been operating illegally.
The toppling of the Kirtland bank loosed a hornets’ nest. Creditors swarmed in upon Joseph armed with threats and warrants. He was terribly in debt. There is no way of knowing exactly how much he and his leading elders had borrowed, since the loyal Mormons left no itemized account of their own claims. But the local non-Mormon creditors whom he could not repay brought a series of suits against the prophet which the Geauga country court duly recorded. These records tell a story of trouble that would have demolished the prestige and broken the spirit of a lesser man. Thirteen suits were brought against him between June 1837 and April 1839, to collect sums totaling nearly $25,000. He was arrested seven times in four months, and his followers managed heroically to raise the $38,428 required for bail. Joseph had many additional debts that never resulted in court action.
One by one the weak in faith left the ranks…Joseph threatened to excommunicate any Saint who brought suit against a brother in the church… (Brodie)