Note: NPD falls along a spectrum. In other words, not every person with NPD is the same, some have more symptoms than others, and some have a mild form of NPD; and some have more severe forms of NPD. I believe Joseph Smith had severe NPD. Sometimes those writing about Smith have referred to him as an Egoist or Egomaniacal, this is another way of referring to his severe NPD.Also note that by saying Smith likely suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) I am in no way using this psychological diagnosis as a “put down.” For there are self-aware people with NPD who overcome a lot of their self grandiosity and lack of empathy to become caring and well adjusted individuals. In fact, some psychologists would argue that we are all narcissistic to some degree. In this post I am merely pointing out Smith’s apparent lack of management of, and lack of help for, his NPD; which I believe lead to his extremist religious claims; for his narcissism reached the point that he elevated himself to the most learned man on earth, a prophet, king, general of an army, aspiring US President, husband to numerous wives, and a god; and soon to be a God in the afterlife.
- Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
- Requires excessive admiration
- Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
- Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
- Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
For more information on NPD see psychdaily.com.
To begin, this short video summarizes the case of Smith having severe NPD.
Joseph Smith mastered the 48 laws of power cataloged in Robert Green’s book by that title. For not only has he conned masses of people into believing what every non-Mormon historian considers a pure work of fiction about the American Indians, and turned an Egyptian funeral scroll into the alleged writings of Abraham, but Smith was rather ambitious toward gaining greater power and control. On his web page, Paul C. Graham, lists Joseph's many titles and accomplishments:
I believe Smith’s pathological narcissism began early. In his youth Joseph Smith pretended he had the power to unearth hidden treasure with a seer stone, gathering around him believers as he arrogantly claimed to have occult powers of scrying via the stone. When the people he duped into digging for lost treasure came up empty he’d often make up a story that the treasures moved beneath the earth (see The Changing World of Mormonism, chapter 4).
If we pick individual phrases from a lot of different physical descriptions of Smith by people who knew him as a man, we end up with the following list below:
As we can see Smith was not a small insecure man but a man of great stature as described by all those who knew him.
"I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book" (B.H. Roberts, History of the Church 4:461. Source: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith,_Jr).
He claimed that God told him that all Christian creeds were an abomination. Smith said that when he was visited by God the Father and Christ that they answered his question as to which church to join with:
Joseph Smith didn't just claim to speak to Jesus, he also claimed that he was the only man on earth who could channel the voice of Jesus! Smith begins his book Doctrine & Covenants with an alleged revelation from Jesus, who says that the Mormon Church is "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, ..." (D&C 1:30).
So Smith claims to speak for Jesus who Smith claims, said that all Christian churches are false, and only the church that Smith leads is true. So basically, Joseph Smith claimed to do what no one else on earth could do, that is restore true Christianity and channel the actual voice of Jesus which is what much of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants is. Raising himself above the other ministers of his day, at one point Smith said:
"But meddle not with any man for his religion: all governments ought to permit every man to enjoy his religion unmolested. No man is authorized to take away life in consequence of difference of religion, which all laws and governments ought to tolerate and protect, right or wrong. Every man has a natural, and, in our country, a constitutional right to be a false prophet, as well as a true prophet. If I show, verily, that I have the truth of God, and show that ninety-nine out of every hundred professing religious ministers are false teachers, having no authority, while they pretend to hold the keys of God's kingdom on earth, and was to kill them because they are false teachers, it would deluge the whole world with blood" (History of the Church 6:304; Source: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith,_Jr.).
As the video above covers, Smith also claimed to be visited by angels, and several persons found in the Old and New Testament. Ironically, his extravagant claims and over the top confidence (which I believe were a hallmark of his severe narcissism), only served him well in gaining more and more followers; which likely fueled his need for more admiration and power.
After discussing in his essay how Smith claimed to translate the ancient writings of Abraham in the LDS Book of Abraham as a reinterpretation and a retelling of the Old Testament, author states:
Smith’s vanity was indeed an artistic strength, but unfortunately, it was also the single most detrimental aspect of his disposition, largely contributing to the events leading to his death.
Source: The Mormon Masterpiece: Joseph Smith Was Prophet, Seer And Artist By Mike Furness
As the video above covers, Joseph Smith was a man who sought to be above the crowd. He declared himself a self-proclaimed prophet, seer, and revelator. Even going so far to say in his Book of Mormon of himself that he was predestined by God to be a "choice seer" (that is seer stone gazer), who'd be "esteemed highly," and would "be great like unto Moses" (2 Nephi 3: 6-9). He also became the Mayor of Nauvoo, and was even a general of his own army. His quest for power did not end there as he also ran for President of the
According to an online pamphlet:
‘Joseph Smith requested and received from Governor Carlin the commission of Lieutenant General and thereafter frequently jested about his outranking every military officer in the
Image Source: http://mtpleasantpioneerofthemonth.blogspot.com/2009/12/moses-martin-sanders-and-amanda.html
For more information on Smith’s warmongering see the book, The Mormon Hierarchy : Origins of Power by Mike Quinn. To read a summary of the details that led to “The [Mormon] theocracy in Nauvoo [that] ran both religious, civil and military affairs. [With information on the] Mormon army [that] grew to a third the size of the United States Army,” see The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power--A Review by Garn LeBaron. Also see page 114 of, The Theory and Practice of the Political Kingdom of God in Mormon History, 1829-1890. Masters Thesis, Klaus J. Hansen of Brigham Young University.
Joseph Smith The Charmer & Seducer
Many pathological narcissists display a charisma and charm that is attractive to many. Smith apparently displayed great charm even among non-members:
When his closest followers began leaving the church at Nauvoo over his doctrine of polygamous Gods and other issues, on Sunday May 26, 1844, Smith responded to them with seriousness saying:
Smith also said, “The soul, the mind of man, the immortal spirit. All men say God created it in the beginning. The very idea lessens man in my estimation; I do not believe the doctrine, I know better…The mind of man is as immortal as God himself…God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all” (Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 615). For Smith turned God into "the Gods" that evolved from men who have eternal souls (this is actually made scripture in The Book of Abraham 3:18). In Mormonism, God evolved from man, and man's soul is eternal and self-created. Thus Smith had found a way to exalt himself to the status of a God.
This is what we would expect if Smith was a pathological narcissist: a man driven to expand his ego by not only claiming to become a God, but claiming his very soul was eternal and un-created by a God; and then, with excessive vanity, he extended his ego needs by continuing his self-image into the eternities through producing millions of eternal children that in turn would worship him as God.
In Smith's scheme of things man could become God and God was once a man before earth. Man was to perfect himself until he turned himself into a God. Smith explained:
"You have to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one: from grace to grace FROM EXALTATION TO EXALTATION until you ATTAIN THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD." (History of the Church; Vol. 6 Pg. 306; Source: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith,_Jr).
Today, most Mormons are unaware that they are reenacting Smith’s sexual theology that crowns men king of celestial wives, children, and worlds without end. For the Mormon temple has the following fertility rite, where members parrot the incantation sounding phrase: "… strength in the loins and in the sinews, power in the Priesthood be upon me and upon my posterity through all generations of time and throughout all eternity." You can watch a video clip on the internet of this ritual reenacted in the HBO cable series Big Love.
Smith was apparently not satisfied with exalting man to the seat of Godhood but man would save the dead as well. Smith said, "The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us, is to seek after our dead...They without us cannot be made perfect" (Times and Seasons 5:616; Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 147; History of the Church 6:313; Source: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith,_Jr.).
Smith himself said, "Although I do wrong, I do not the wrongs that I am charged with doing; the wrong that I do is through the frailty of human nature, like other men. No man lives without fault" (History of the Church 5:140; Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 29;Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 258; Source: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith,_Jr.).
Keep in mind, that when Smith wrote a private letter to Nancy Rigdon after she turned down his request for her to be another one of his plural wives; he was not claiming to channel the voice of Jesus this time but was writing as himself. And his motives appear to be quite clear in his letter as he tries to persuade Nancy to marry him; for he equates happiness with sexual pleasure as he attempts to woo Nancy with scriptural references and romantic prose. In the letter Smith writes the following [words in bold added for emphasis]:
Be wise today; 'tis madness to defer:
Next day the fatal precedent may plead.
Thus on till wisdom is pushed out of time
Smith nearly sounds Shakespearean when he writes, “Be wise to-day, 'tis madness to defer. Next day the fatal precedent may plead; Thus on till wisdom is pushed out of time.” It’s amazing what a man is capable of writing when a woman arouses his interest. Smith is attempting to persuade her to be his mistress or God will punish her since she’s not using her “talents,” isn't taking advantage of God’s “blessings,” and is disobeying God’s commands. Joseph's references to "Solomon," God’s “liberal views,” and God warning to listen “to the voice of my servant whom I have sent” did not convince
In order to carry out his polygamous affairs, Smith not only lied to his wife Emma but he was, fitting Wes Cauthers’ criteria of narcissistic personality disorder above, “interpersonally exploitative, i.e., [taking] advantage of others to achieve his … own ends. [Also, he was lacking in] empathy: … unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.” Just read In Sacred Loneliness by Todd Compton to see the misery he caused his plural wives.
As previously mentioned, in their book The Changing World of Mormonism, the Tanners discuss Smith’s fighting ways, his egotism, and desire for unlimited power in chapter 17. Read this chapter to get a fuller understanding of Smith’s big ego.
Source: The King Follett Sermon at http://www.lds.org/ensign/1971/04/the-king-follett-sermon
This quote is also part of a larger context in which Smith often boasted that he was privileged with special knowledge no one else was privy to. Smith said on another occasion:
"Paul ascended into the third heavens and he could understand the THREE PRINCIPLE ROUNDS of Jacobs ladder - the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdoms, when Paul saw and heard things which were not lawful to utter. I COULD EXPLAIN A HUNDREDFOLD MORE THAN I EVER HAVE of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision were I permitted and were the people ready to receive them." (DHC 5:402 Source: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith,_Jr.).
"If I revealed all that has been made known to me, scarcely a man on this stand would stay with me"? (“The Prophet said to me [Brigham Young] about sixteen years ago [at Kirtland], 'If I was to show the Latter-day Saints all the revelations that the Lord has shown unto me, there is scarce a man that would stay with me, they could not bear it'" (MS 13 [September 1, 1851]: 257); Source: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith,_Jr.).
These statements found in official church sources match those non-Mormons like Charlotte Haven (quoted above) who have commented on Smith’s self aggrandizement and boasting.
So far we see that Smith exalted man to Godhood, claimed to be able to perfect the dead, and said animal sacrifices would return in the future. Smith also said in the King Follet Discourse, quoted above, that matter precedes the God of this earth and man's spirit was not created by God but is eternal matter, which is contrary to what most Christians believe. Smith said:
"You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing; and they will answer, 'Doesn't the Bible say He created the world?' And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. Now, the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end. . . . [T]he mind of man—the immortal spirit. Where did it come from? All learned men and doctors of divinity say that God created it in the beginning; but it is not so: the very idea lessens man in my estimation. I do not believe the doctrine; I know better. Hear it, all ye ends of the world; for God has told me so . . . We say that God himself is a self-existent being. Who told you so? It is correct enough; but how did it get into your heads? Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles? Man does exist upon the same principles. God made a tabernacle and put a spirit into it, and it became a living soul. . . . How does it read in the Hebrew? It does not say in the Hebrew that God created the spirit of man. It says 'God made man out of the earth and put into him Adam's spirit, and so became a living body.' The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is [co-eternal] with God himself. I know that my testimony is true . . . Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it had a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are [co-eternal] with our Father in heaven. . . . I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man—the immortal part, because it has no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man. As the Lord liveth, if it had a beginning, it will have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation, who say that the spirit of man had a beginning, prove that it must have an end; and if that doctrine is true, then the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the house-tops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself." (History of the Church 6:308-309; Source:
This statement by Smith may have been a sign of Smith's NPD, for those with NPD will become attached to their narcissistic supply, sometimes at any cost. When his narcissistic supply was threatened with his followers seeking to remove their affection and adoration, he was willing to risk his life to sustain their approval of him. This is merely a hypothesis but it seems plausible in the context of the rest of this blog post. For more on Narcissistic Supply see http://samvak.tripod.com/faq28.html
Throughout this blog post we have seen how Smith claimed to speak for Jesus. When Smith decided to head back and be arrested, according to "the testimony of John Taylor, Smith commented, 'I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer's morning. I have a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me. 'He was murdered in cold blood'" (D&C 135:4)." (Source: http://www.mrm.org/death-of-joseph-smith). If Smith was comparing himself to Jesus by saying he was going "like a lamb to the slaughter" this is one more self inflated statement by Smith, one of many where he compares himself to Jesus in some manner. For evidence that the LDS church believes this is what Smith meant by the statement see http://www.mrm.org/death-of-joseph-smith.
Today the Mormon Church continues this legacy of celebrating Smith's narcissism by plastering his picture all over church walls; and singing the hymn, Praise to the Man, which enthusiastically praises Joseph Smith with great reverence, a rising musical melody, and exalting lyrics.
No Man Knows My History : The Life of Joseph Smith by Fawn M. Brodie (niece of David O' McKay).
Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith by Linda King Newell, Valeen Tippetts Avery (for another review of this book see here).
In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith by Todd Compton (a Mormon): (for a review of the book click here). For a summary of Compton's book click here. For Todd Compton’s response to LDS apologists click here.
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Lyman Bushman (a Mormon)
Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism by Richard Lyman Bushman (a Mormon).
Early Mormonism and the Magic World View by D. Michael Quinn