Joseph Smith’s Handwriting

This entry is part 10 of 50 in the series 2011A

John Crane asked me to analyze Joseph smith’s handwriting and gave me this reference to some samples.

Handwritten Documents Here

The first two samples are consistent with Joseph’s handwriting but the third one from Carthage in 1844 looks like a dictated letter – as it doesn’t look like his handwriting. The mystery is who wrote it? It definitely does not match Hyrum or John Taylor’s writing. That leaves Willard Richards who was also in prison. I can only find a small sample of poor resolution handwriting belonging to him and the match is possible but there are differences. The other possibility is that Emma made a copy or had one made after she received it. I do not have a sample of her handwriting handy so I cannot compare it to hers. The back of the page does have the word “copy” on it.

That said I will give a few details from the handwriting that we know belongs to him.

Joseph had an outgoing friendly personality and came across with lots of warmth, empathy and a sense of emotional understanding.

He had very strong feelings, was very passionate and had a magnetism about him. He liked sharing on an emotional level whether it be romantic or strong outward expression. He didn’t like to keep his feelings in and if he was pleased, displeased or angry he usually communicated these feelings quite clearly and honestly.

His consciousness was not centered on any one aspect of living, but all aspects. We know he was interested in the spiritual side but he was equally at home when centered on he social side of life, the material side, or the intellectual side.

Most people as emotionally centered as he was are not that intellectual yet he had a strong desire to explore new knowledge and would leave no stone unturned in discovering it. He was also very perceptive and a quick thinker. He would have been a good debater.
He was one of those people who could come across as all things to all people. He had a good sense of charm and could get people to do things his way when they did not realize they were being influenced. He was very inclusive and would associate with the high and the low. He was very trusting but difficult to fool.

He was more of an extrovert than introvert and loved variety and change. He didn’t have strong feelings of self importance and was fairly humble for such an outgoing personality.

He had secrets but did not like keeping them forever and was always pleased to find someone he thought he could trust to share them with.

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13 thoughts on “Joseph Smith’s Handwriting

  1. Susan C. wrote:

    In discussing Joseph’s handwriting it caused me to look this up. I think it
    is naive to believe Joseph did not have sex with his plural wives:

    One piece of speculation there that Joseph fathered Oliver Buell has been proven
    incorrect by DNA testing.

    It is interesting that all DNA testing so far has proven that Joseph did not
    father the suspected kids tested.

    This seems to indicate that some of the claims and affidavits are suspect.

    The linked handwriting sample of Joseph is very poor quality so I cannot tell if
    it is a forgery or not.

    I believe he did get Eliza Snow pregnant but am suspect of other claims as 100%
    that can be proven have turned up to be false speculation. I will look forward
    to results of ongoing DNA testing.

    I am talking sex not proven children. It is quite obvious from letters and
    journals and so forth that he had sex with many of his wives.

    The evidence is pretty strong that he had sex with some of his plural wives but
    if all the stories are true there should have been some provable little Josephs
    show up, especially since he was very fertile with Emma. The fact that there is
    none and some of the best prospects have been disproven by DNA gives some weight
    to the Reorganized Church’s claim that many stories were fabricated and such
    fabrication was encouraged by Brigham after the plural marriage revelation was

    The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

    On the other hand, maybe it is the fault of the women? Let’s say you have a
    powerful man. Wouldn’t many woman just “fall over themselves” to have sex with
    him? Imagine you are a man perceived as the leader of a large group of people.
    How hard would it be to not have sex with an endless number of candidates who do
    everything possible to trip you up?

    I would imagine the temptations in such a position would be very difficult to
    resist. You have to wonder how many times Jesus had to resist women trying to
    come onto him. No wonder he had to have a lot disciples around him all the time
    to protect him.

  2. John W
    Did you get a chance to look at any of the manuscripts from the Book of Mormon?
    Were they written by a different person, maybe Oliver Cowdery

    I took a look at Oliver’s handwriting. He has many characteristics in common
    with Joseph. He didn’t have the depth of searching things out that Joseph did,
    but had more focus for intellectual endeavors that required patience.

  3. We see many evidences indicating JS did not write the Book of Mormon. JJ here adds a couple more important evidences to this list. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is a distillation from many inspired writings teaching hard won spiritual truths and understanding. Also like the Bible, it bears some flaws of those who wrote it. However, as an inspired history, it teaches us much good helping to lay a sound foundation providing many insights for our further spiritual development as individuals. Finally, like the Bible, if you did not yet very carefully read and glean from the Book of Mormon, you are missing out on a very important resource which the BOL provides for us. Let me list a few evidences that JS did not simply “make it up”.

    1) JS’s personality, as observed through handwriting analysis, would have made it difficult for him to perform such a work.

    2) The simple fact that JS never produced another book, as JJ pointed out, shows he did not have the personality type normally needed to write books. We see many books about JS and we see many books compiled from his sermons and from his short essays and from recorded revelations given through JS. But we do not see any book written by JS as a whole book. As JJ says, a personality capable of such a huge creative effort does not stop at just one.

    3) Very sophisticated use of Chiasmus (an ancient Hebrew poetical form) and other literary forms wholly unknown to JS makes it impossible that he could have produced it. Chiasmus was not known to modern scholars until near the beginning of the 20th century.

    4) Such depth and sophistication, obvious when you seriously study the book, is unprecedented for any 23 year old man in our entire world history.

    5) The book added 180 proper nouns to the English language, Shakespeare added only 30.

    6) JS produced it in 60 days of actual work. The detractors do not realize it but they ascribe super human intelligence to this 23 year old when they claim he wrote it.

    7) JS wrote of horses while contemporary scholars even up to 1960 believed horses did not exist in America until the Spaniards brought them in their conquest of the Aztecs. But archeology now shows many examples of horses in ancient America. Another such seeming anomaly is Nephi’s steel bow. Once again modern research validates the probability that a wealthy caravan family such as the Lehi/Nephi family would, in fact, own such a treasure when previous scholarship had assumed steel was not available until hundreds of years later. So once again we see scholars “catching up” to the Book of Mormon and not the other way around. I will not list all the myriad of such evidences but keep in mind this basic pattern repeats over and over many many times. So very many seeming mistakes of JS end up like this one becoming a proof rather than a disproof. Vindication of detail after detail from later research totally unknown at the time of writing means something. They all get resolved in favor of the Book of Mormon. Try to duplicate that with a fake!

    8) Nephi’s use of Hebrew and of local idioms seemed all wrong again until verified by later scholarship. For example, Nephi describes the Laman River in the Valley of Lemuel as a “river of water”. Scholars said this phrase was redundant and typical if the writer inventing it had only a third grade education (JS’s formal schooling ended at the third grade). Therefore, said earlier scholars, JS wrote the book rather than translated the book. But now the discovery and translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls from Wadi Qumran sheds new light. The very word wadi means “river of sand”. They have gullies between sand dunes in Arabia where wind blows like a river of sand. Here Nephi’s family originated and it is the only place in the world were local language distinguishes a river of sand from a river of water. One more detail Joseph Smith could not know yet it finally fits with updated information only available more than century after it is written.

    9) The coronation of King Benjamin, chronicled in the first few chapters of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, gives much detail previously unknown concerning the coronation ceremony of a Hebrew king. Scholars never regarded this as too significant because these details were unknown from any other source including the Bible. But then the Persian King Darius Library from ancient Babylon was found to embody the complete coronation ceremony of a Hebrew king during their Babylonian captivity around the time of Daniel the Prophet. It took a team of scholars working together at Cambridge University over six years to piece together the complete ceremony from this ancient cuneiform record on metal (silver) plates. Imagine their shock when they discovered a 23 year old back woods man with a third grade education put it all on paper in less than 60 days 150 years before (also taken from metal plates but translated through the JS seer stone and through the urim and thumim). Hugh Nibley, a Brigham Young University professor of ancient scripture, says the two accounts of this traditional ceremony agree in every detail and that it constitutes the greatest single physical Book of Mormon authentication.

    10) New archeological evidence of the Hebrew language in ancient America discovered by Cyrus H. Gordon confirms that the Hebrews were in ancient America. In 1984 Doctor Gordon discovered that writing on a burial stone (found in Tennessee in 1885 and dating back to the time of Christ) is Hebrew writing. The stone was stored at the Smithsonian Institute had been misidentified as Cherokee instead of Hebrew. He said scholars read it upside down and he could not imagine they concluded it was Cherokee. Many others now confirm his findings and say it is easily recognizable and readable Hebrew. Also, scholars studying the Zapotec language (from an ancient tribe in the North part of South America near Mexico) is 16% recognizable Hebrew. So evidence continues to trickle in making a strong case for the Book of Mormon. Not enough to conk you over the head and force you to believe, but just enough to confirm authenticity for those who already believe by means of personal answer to prayer resulting from the Prophet Moroni’s promise to all those who sincerely ask of God: Moroni 10:4.

    11) Cortez, the Spanish explorer, was greeted as a god by Montezuma in the plains near what is now Mexico City. Montezuma turned his kingdom over to this white man whom he thought was the god who visited their ancestors and promised to return. Montezuma lost his kingdom and his life because he mistakenly worshipped Cortez. Read about this in any library book about Montezuma.

    12) Captain James Cook received a similar welcome in the Hawaiian islands. Incredibly Cook landed during the Maka Hiki festival that celebrated the hoped for return of the great white god who also had blue eyes and a beard and who had visited their ancestors. Within a short time the natives realized that Cook and his men were no gods. Once again, this information is readily found in any library.

    13) Our laws give much credibility to first hand witnesses – even unto convicting of murder and evoking the terrible consequences thereof. Well the Book of Mormon has witnesses who saw the Angel, Moroni, and who heard the Voice of God declare its authenticity. Both JS and these three men bear this witness. Interestingly, eight more witnesses handled the book physically and examined the writings on the gold plates. Some say the first witnesses could possibly be victims of extreme enthusiasm. But contrast that to the second set of witnesses who examined the book in a totally mundane setting. These three and these eight along with JS constitute twelve witnesses. All of these witnesses maintained their word on this to their dying day despite the fact that some of them had a falling out from the Church and from JS and despite extreme persecution, at times, pressuring them to renounce their witness. Very few works of any kind can produce such strong evidence of authenticity.

    I could cite many more “proofs” but this short list gives you the idea.

    It is clear to me that JS had help from the BOL to create the Book of Mormon and to reveal many important truths and insights leading us toward higher spiritual development. His great work, founded upon the very best Piscean Age principles, stands as a monument to his preparation, his truth, his dedication, his courage, his vitality, and to every other virtue ever displayed by a Prophet of God. He also displayed, as we see in all our other records about Prophets, some mortal weaknesses and imperfections. If you see some problems with the Mormon Church as now constituted, do not make the mistake of holding JS responsible for some of the mistakes in the current Mormon Church a century and a half after his passing. I studied JS and his writings since 1968. I love the man. Living up to the highest I know means living up to his awesome example. God bless us all to partake of his gifts, his courage, his insights, his love, and his virtue. “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

    Your brother,
    Larry Woods

  4. One typo I saw – did you mean to say “We know now…” instead of “We k now …”?

    “We k[now] now he was interested in the spiritual side but he was equally at home when centered on he social side of life, the material side, or the intellectual side.”

  5. From wikipedia –
    “According to Latter Day Saint belief, the golden plates (also called the gold plates or in some 19th century literature, the golden Bible)[1] are the source from which Joseph Smith, Jr. translated the Book of Mormon, a sacred text of the faith.
    Non-believers and some liberal Mormons have advanced naturalistic explanations for the story of the plates. For example, it has been theorized that the plates were fashioned by Joseph Smith or one of his associates, that Joseph Smith had the ability to convince others of their existence through illusions or hypnosis, or that the plates were mystical and should be understood in the context of Smith’s historical era, when magic was an accepted part of reality.” –

  6. He sounded like someone worthwhile knowing in life.

    What did you mean by this statement “exactly”?

    “The handwriting then gives evidence that it would have been difficult for him to write the Book of Mormon himself. Most people capable of such creativity rarely stop at one book.”

    Do you mean that he did not write the Book of Mormon, or that he had help writing it with another person, or that someone else wrote it? Or he only wrote the book because of instruction from God?


    1. None of the above. I meant that his temperament would have made it improbable that he would have had the patience to fabricate and write a book like the Book of Mormon.

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