“Come on, ye persecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! For I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.”
History of the Church Vol. 6, p. 408-412
These words uttered by the prophet Joseph Smith have long been a favorite of anti-mormons. In them they think they have discovered an indefensible attack on the character of Joseph Smith. The believe it demonstrates once and for all that Joseph Smith was not a true prophet, because, in the words of Matt Slick:
This quote angered me terribly. I couldn’t believe that anyone would be so arrogant as to boast he had done more to keep a church together than even Jesus had. To me, this was unfathomable and blasphemous.
FAIR has dealt with this issue in their short wiki article: http://en.fairmormon.org/Did_Joseph_Smith_%27boast%27_of_keeping_the_Church_intact
In this article some doubt is expressed as to the accuracy of the recording of this statement. Because this statement was not written by Joseph, but penned by a second hand source in History of the Church, its authenticity is subject to some doubt.
I recommend the FAIRwiki article to anyone, and also suggest a perusal of the links found at the very bottom of the wiki site for further information.
I think it is important to add that even if Joseph did say this (and he certainly may have) it still isn’t a big deal.
Critics, especially CARMites, are quite fond of this quote. It’s often used as a sort of safety blanket when they run out of other excuses to hate Joseph. In fact, Matt Slick claims that it was this exact quote which first propelled him into apologetics!
When evaluated with equal standards, which can we say is worse, claiming to have done something better than Jesus did, or completely denying any association to Jesus 3 times in a row?
For over 2000 years Christianity has thrived unperturbed by the fact that the leader of the post-Resurrection church erred in judgement at such a crucial moment. He certainly has received his share of criticism, but he has not been denounced as a false prophet for the episode.
Is it consistent to brush off Peter’s denial of Jesus while emphasizing, almost rabidly, Joseph’s remark?
Critics may claim that while Peter did err, he also demonstrated intense repentance. This is true. Peter experienced godly sorrow and repented of his sin. Throughout his life Peter more than demonstrated that he was a humble servant, willing to give God the glory in all things. He ought to be evaluated with that kept in mind.
It can also be demonstrated that the prophet Joseph Smith was similarly humble. Throughout his life he sought to give God the glory, and did not revel in his own strength. Did he have a weak moment? Maybe, maybe not. We may never know. But if he did, that one weak moment cannot be fairly emphasized without equally emphasizing the almost countless examples of humility and service to his God. The man dedicated his life to service to God and his brethren.
“I will try to be contented with my lot, knowing that God is my friend. In him I shall find comfort. I have given my life into his hands. I am prepared to go at his call. I desire to be with Christ. I count not my life dear to me [except] to do his will.”
– Joseph Smith
(Letter from Joseph Smith to Emma Smith, June 6, 1832, Greenville, Indiana; Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, Illinois.)
Also, I recommend this article by the Backyard Professor, Kerry Shirts: