I frequently hear claims that Joseph Smith was a convicted con artist. While looking into this, the claim is usually in reference to being driven from New York for taking money to find some treasures supposedly hidden in some native american trove, which he then never found.

When this claim is brought up to mormons, they categorically dismiss that Joseph Smith was a con-man, etc.

Does any record of this exist? Was he convicted? Where's the evidence?

  • 2
    Can you link to some notable source where the claim is given?
    – nico
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 15:00
  • 1
    'Exmormon.org' has helped to spread this claim based off of interpretations of documents that came to light in 2005. They have since redacted some of the more dubious claims but maintain the position that Smith was a convicted con artist. exmormon.org/mormon/mormon430.htm
    – Snesticle
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 15:52
  • hardly a notable source, and certainly not independent...
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 6:31
  • He's got quite a rap sheet on Wikipedia. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Mark
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 23:26
  • Good find, @Mark. There's even a specific mention of banking fraud in 1838. Care to summarize the article into an answer?
    – Ehryk
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 23:55

1 Answer 1


This is an urban legend. No reputable source claims Joseph Smith was ever convicted of fraud.

Edit: I have removed my elaboration as it appears that this issue has now become controversial.

https://byustudies.byu.edu/showtitle.aspx?title=5004 :

Peter Bridgeman, a nephew of the wife of Josiah Stowell, presented a written complaint against Joseph Smith at South Bainbridge, New York, which led to his arrest and trial as a “disorderly person.”

http://en.fairmormon.org/Joseph_Smith/Legal_issues/Trials/1826_glasslooking_trial :

It was likely that the court hearing was initiated not so much from a concern about Joseph being a money digger, as concern that Joseph was having an influence on Josiah Stowell. Josiah Stowell was one of the first believers in Joseph Smith. His nephew was probably very concerned about that and was anxious to disrupt their relationship if possible. He did not succeed. The court hearing failed in its purpose, and was only resurrected decades later to accuse Joseph Smith of different crimes to a different people and culture.

http://www.omninerd.com/articles/The_1826_Trial_of_Joseph_Smith_Jr :

Fawn Brodie’s biography of JS provides perhaps the most famous allegation concerning the 1826 event. She claimed, "On the basis of the testimony presented, including Joseph’s own admission of indulging in magic arts and organizing hunts for buried gold, the court ruled him guilty of disturbing the peace."4

http://www.lightplanet.com/response/1826Trial/1826Trial_Hill.html :

Image of Court Bill

  • 2
    Welcome to Skeptics! We require answers to reference every significant claim they make. It would be great if you could find some reputable sources for this and add them to your answer.
    – Mad Scientist
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 15:41
  • 1
    It is hardly a significant claim that Joseph Smith was not a convicted con-artist. Calling this a significant claim is, in and of itself, a significant claim as it implies that this is now a contentious issue.
    – Snesticle
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 16:25
  • 7
    You have provided a lot of links, but its best to extract key parts from them as block quotes to provide sufficient context to your answer and guard against link rot.
    – Ryathal
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 20:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .