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S A I N T S: ROOT problems (part 1)…

“Bad luck and unsuccessful investments [by Joseph Smith, Sr.] had kept the family poor and rootless.”

Saints: The Standard of Truth 1815-1846, 1:1:6

Sometime between late 1802 and mid-1803…

“Joseph Smith, Sr. learned that ginseng root was prized in China. This root grew wild in Vermont, so Joseph used the opportunity to invest in it.

“By this time, Joseph had already been the victim of a series of financial setbacks, and he looked at the opportunity of investing in ginseng as a sure way of ending that series of bad luck. After he worked hard to obtain a substantial amount of the root, he was offered $3,000 for his crop by a Mr. Stevens who resided in Royalton, which offer Joseph declined, expecting to get more elsewhere.

“Joseph traveled to New York to arrange for the shipment of his product, but Mr. Stevens followed him to find out on which ship Joseph had placed his ginseng. Then Mr. Stevens sent his son to represent himself as well as Joseph in selling the ginseng, unbeknownst to Joseph. Mr. Stevens’ son sold the ginseng at a good profit but lied about how much he had received for the product and gave Joseph only a chest of tea in return. After Joseph discovered Stevens’ deception, Stevens fled to Canada with the money. His desertion left Joseph with a $1,800 debt. Joseph was forced to sell his $1,500 farm for a mere $800 to help cover the debt. Lucy then had to sacrifice the $1,000 she had received as a wedding present to cover the rest. This covered the Smiths’ debt but left them with nothing.”


Although there are good indications Joseph Smith Senior’s heart was in the right place, he never seemed to get ahead of the game. It’s disingenuous to blame their troubles on only “bad luck” or “unsuccessful investments.” Clearly, the Ginseng debacle was the ‘BIG’ setback that left the family destitute. But was it the deception, or the lack of focus that was to blame for it? It is well known that Joseph Smith, Sr. was actively involved with magical/occult practices, and others in the community questioned his sanity at times relating to these obsessions. He was also an alcoholic, which could have played a significant role in his decisions. History is clear that much of the family’s trouble can be linked to self-infliction and wild ideas.

RE-rewrite: “Joseph Smith Senior’s battles with alcohol and a magnetic pull toward the occult undoubtedly weighed heavily in the despair which kept the family poor and rootless.”