John Johnson and Loss of Faith

John Johnson harbored Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon (Joseph in the house, Rigdon in a nearby cabin) for a time in Hiram, Ohio when the “translation” of the scriptures was in progress. A number of important old families in the region (as old as it got on the frontier) had also joined the Church, but then lost faith for various reasons. Johnson however, did not. Instead he stood by Smith and Rigdon, doing what he could to further the progress of the work, accepting Smith’s revelatory claims and providing for his needs on the strength of those beliefs. But Johnson became embroiled in the Kirtland financial boom/bust whose causes seem clear today, but were faith rending for many. David Boruchoff writes:

In religion, as in love, the burden of disillusion is most difficult to bear when it results, not from doubt as to the preeminence of one’s objectives and aspirations, but instead from the sense that one cannot achieve them. Hope is a terrible thing to lose, particularly when one still believes in the necessity of ideals left in abeyance, perhaps never to be realized.[1]

The watch I wear claims that it is water resistant to 200m. While I have done a little fish watching, I’ve certainly never gone to 600 feet. That is a cold dark world where sunlight never penetrates. The pressure is immense and highly specialized equipment would be needed to assist such a dive. Even then, it’s not safe. I’ve wondered about Johnson’s dive and why it came to that – reaching the limits of his faith. While some family members remained in or rejoined Mormonism, I wonder what John would have thought had he stayed the course.[2]

[1] “New Spain, New England, and the New Jerusalem.” Early American Literature. 43/1 (2008):5.

[2] For Kirtland see the last two chapters of Mark L. Staker’s Hearken, O Ye People. (Kofford, 2010).

3 Responses to John Johnson and Loss of Faith

  1. Steve Evans says:

    When looking at the lives of those early Saints, I find it hard to judge them for leaving. So many of them were tested so deeply and so often that I simply cannot imagine how it must have felt. We all have our breaking points.

    • WVS says:

      They were tough times. Hard to measure the extremity. And you’re right, we all have our breaking points. I wonder what that says about the rest of us who are never pushed to it.

  2. Steve Evans says:

    Right, exactly. I guess JSJ would argue that we all sooner or later will have some sort of Abrahamic test. Not sure what to make of that.

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