Joseph Smith is my great, great, great grandfather, though these days I prefer to claim Emma because she's a badass.
As a member, I struggled being directly related to Joseph Smith because of my own father through whom I was related. I learned at church that Joseph Smith was the second most righteous person to live on the face of the earth, next to Jesus Christ. His blood was watched through generations of time to create "The Man, the Prophet of the Restoration." And that sacred blood ran through my veins.
Yet, my dad was not a good man. He was abusive. He used his charismatic "righteousness" as a fake guise at church, and his "priesthood authority" to control and dominate at home. He was dishonest and illegal in his entrepreneurial enterprises, always looking for big, easy money, while my mom worked full-time to support the family financially. He eventually left my mom for another woman, and went on to marry and divorce about 7 times that I'm aware of. Women were property to own, according to him. It didn't make sense to me how I was related to both my dad and the “perfect” Joseph Smith.
When I deconstructed Mormonism, I remember deconstructing Joseph Smith and all of the things I learned at once: he was dishonest, a con-man, a treasure digger, a polygamist, he coerced women and teens to marry him, and he was a narcissist. The Mormon in me was in disbelief, but the Smith in me recognized my father in Joseph Smith immediately. I read the D&C 138, the section on polygamy, again, with new eyes, and saw how HE threatened Emma, not God, with destruction if she didn't go along with his polygamy. How he spoke easily for God and used scriptural language, just like my dad.
Yep, that's the real Joseph Smith. We're definitely related.
Abhorrent in the extreme.
I was angered to learn Joseph Smith had over 30 wives, and the youngest was 14! I also wanted to cry when I found out how Emma was treated after discovering Joseph in the barn with another woman. They treated her like a mad woman, when any woman in her right mind would have reacted the same. I can not justify a “Man of God” treating his wife this way.
This is an example of a leader using doctrine for personal gain.