What did Joseph Smith Look Like?

When it comes to the image of the Prophet Joseph Smith, hundreds of gifted artists and researches have produced a myriad of images over the past 200 years to help others visualize the man. Some artists painted his likeness while he lived, but paintings—depending on the skill of the artist—can often misconstrue the subject in unintended (or fully intended) ways. The holy grail of depictions would be an actual portrait photograph of the man. If only such a thing could be found. Or has it been found?

This blog post will attempt to present evidence supporting a recently discovered, mysterious portrait photograph claiming to be that of Joseph Smith. The author has taken time restoring the photograph with the aid of modern imaging tools and artificial intelligence. His hope is that others wanting a satisfying answer to the question of what the Prophet looked like may read this article and feel that they have perhaps come closer to knowing “Brother Joseph again.”

Contemporary Descriptions

Many firsthand accounts survive to this day from those who met and inspected the person of Joseph Smith for themselves. Their accounts help paint the portrait in the mind’s eye as to the general nature of his appearance. Notable examples include the following:

DescriptionUnique Points
“When he had achieved the prime of his manhood, he seemed to combine all attractions and excellencies. His physical person was the fit habitation of his exalted spirit. He was more than six feet in height, with expansive chest and clean cut limbs—a staunch and graceful figure. His head, crowned with a mass of soft, wavy hair was grandly poised. His face possessed a complexion and of such clearness and transparency that the soul appeared to shine through. He wore no beard, and the full strength and beauty of his countenance impressed all beholders at a glance. He had eyes which seemed to read the hearts of men.”
—George Q. Cannon

Wavy hair

Piercing Eyes
“Brother Joseph was a man weighing about two hundred pounds, fair complexion, light brown hair. He was about six feet tall, sound bodied, very strong and quick—no breakage about his body. He most always wore a silk stock [neckwear], and was smooth faced [clean shaven].”
—Elam Cheney, Sr.
Light brown hair

Silk neckwear
“He was rather large in stature, some six feet two inches in height, well built, though a little stoop shouldered, prominent and well developed features, a roman nose, light chestnut hair, upper lip full and rather protruding, chin broad and square, and eagle eyed, and there was something in his manner that was bewitching and winning.”
—John D. Lee
Stooped shoulders

Straight nose

Broad, square jawline
“He was a man of fine form and stature, measuring over six feet in height. He was of light complexion. His hair was of a flaxen color. He wore no whiskers. His chin was a little tipped [forward]; his nose was long and straight; his mouth narrow, and his upper lip rather long and a little inclined to be thick. He had a large chest and intelligent eyes….”
—James Palmer
Forward chin

Full upper lip

Narrow mouth
“President Joseph Smith was in person tall and well built, strong and active; of light complexion, light hair, blue eyes, very little beard, and of an expression peculiar to himself, on which the eye naturally rested with interest, and was never weary of beholding. His countenance was ever mild, affable, beaming with intelligence and benevolence; mingled with a look of interest and an unconscious smile, or cheerfulness, and entirely free from all restraint or affection of gravity; and there was something connected with the serene and steady penetrating glance of his eye, as if he would penetrate the deepest abyss of the human heart, gaze into eternity, penetrate the heavens, and comprehend all worlds.”
—Parley P. Pratt
Blue eyes

Resting smile

Sparse facial hair
“[He] is a large, stout man, youthful in appearance, with light complexion and hair, and blue eyes set far back in the head, and expressing great shrewdness, or should I say cunning. He has a large head…. He is also very round shouldered.”
—Charlotte Haven
Youthful look

Large head
“General Smith is in stature and proportion a very large man; and his figure would probably be called a fine one, although by no means distinguished for symmetry or grace.
“His chest and shoulders are broad and muscular….
“His forehead is white, without furrow, and notwithstanding the small facial angle, somewhat symmetrical. His hair is quite light and fine—complexion pale—cheeks full-temperament evidently sanguine [ruddy; red-colored]—lips thin rather than thick, and by no means indicative of boldness or decision of character.
“But the Prophet’s most remarkable feature is his eye; not that it is very large, or very bright—very thoughtful or very restless—even very deep in its expression or location; for it is usually neither of these. The hue is light hazel, and is shaded, and at times, almost veiled, by the longest, thickest light lashes you ever saw belonging to a man whatever the facts respecting the ‘dear ladies.’
“The brows are, also, light and thick—indeed, precisely of that description called beetle-brow. The expression of the Prophet’s eyes when half closed and shaded by their long lashes was quite as crafty as I ever beheld.
“His voice is low and soft, and his smile, which is frequent, is agreeable.”
—Reporter for the St Louis Weekly Gazette
Flushed cheeks

Light and thick eyebrows

Low and soft voice
“When I was introduced to [Joseph Smith], he laid his hands upon my shoulder and said unto me, ‘I suppose you think that I am a great, green, lubberly fellow.'”
—Joel Hills Johnson

Large and awkward

In summation, we discover the following:

General Joseph Smith, by Sutcliffe Maudlsey c. 1842

Joseph was viewed as a youthful-looking man of large stature by those who met him (and apparently by himself too). Atop his tall frame and stooped shoulders was a large head with a clean-shaven, broad, square chin. For the large size of his head, he appeared to have a small mouth with thin, balanced lips (the bottom lip no larger than the upper). His long, straight nose led up to smiling blue eyes that seemed to pierce the soul as they gazed out from beneath full eyebrows. Atop his head was a pile of wavy brown hair, combed backward on the top and forward on the sides; from the sides half of his earlobes could be seen; and beneath his head was his customary silk stock, paired with either short or tall shirt collars depending on the occasion as was the fashion in early 19th century America.

(The profile featured at right was drawn by Sutcliffe Maudsley based off his original dated circa 1842.)

With this description fueling the imagination, let us now turn to the most reliable image that exists of the prophet—as claimed by his own son, Joseph Smith III—to see how it compares to the descriptions we have just read.

The 1879 Library of Congress Photograph

The Library of Congress Joseph Smith photo

Joseph Smith III submitted the above photo to the Library of Congress in 1879 and labeled it as a photograph of his late father (hereafter referred to as the 1879 LOC photo). This is a significant endorsement by reason of Joseph Smith III’s relationship to the subject (his father) and also that many within his circle of friends had personally known the Prophet as well. Joseph Smith III would have been 12 years old at the time of his father’s death, ensuring a vivid memory of his beloved father’s appearance.

Some have argued that Joseph Smith III’s description of the submitted photo as being a photograph of his father is sufficient to establish it as a true photograph of him. Let us consider this claim for a moment against the description gained from the firsthand accounts:

1879 Library of Congress ImageContemporary DescriptionsMatch?
Hair volume may indicate wavinessWavy light brown hairPossible
Clear, visible eyesBlue eyesPossible
Sloping shouldersStooped shouldersMatch
Straight noseStraight noseMatch
Narrow, rounded jawlineBroad, square jawlineNo Match
Narrow mouthNarrow mouthMatch
Thin, balanced lipsThin, balanced lipsMatch
Substantial chinForward chinMatch
Resting smileResting smileMatch
Youthful lookYouthful lookMatch
Light and thick eyebrowsLight and thick eyebrowsMatch
Half-concealed earlobesHalf-concealed earlobesMatch
Hair combed forward at the sidesHair combed forward at the sidesMatch

Overall, Joseph’s depiction in the 1879 LOC photo is a very good match to nearly all of the points observed by contemporaries. Only in one point do we find a significant divergence: the chin in the photo is neither ‘broad’ nor ‘square’ as described by John D. Lee. This is not a point to be discarded lightly by giving less weight to the testimony of John D. Lee than that of Joseph Smith’s own son; however, in light of a fuller analysis, it will be shown that there is no actual contradiction but simply an illusion fabricated by a fatal combination of an artist’s inability and a conspicuous choice of collar length.

The 1842 RLDS Painting

RLDS Painting of Joseph Smith owned by Joseph Smith III

Considered by Joseph’s children as their favorite image of their father, the above painting was owned by Joseph Smith III and is now the property of the Community of Christ (formerly the RLDS church). According to them, the provenance of the portrait goes back to 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois. The artist remains unknown to them. Clearly, this portrait bears a striking resemblance to the 1879 LOC photo submitted by Joseph Smith III. In fact, observe the following:

The 1842 RLDS painting overlaid with the 1879 LOC photograph

When the 1879 LOC photo is tilted slightly, as if to correct for a camera having taken an image from a slightly lower angle, and then overlaid atop the 1842 RLDS painting, the features and clothing (buttons, folds, seams, etc.) match 100% perfectly.

What appear as differences in the collar length is really the result of the 1879 LOC photo having its background cut out and placed over a bright, white background. In fact, the softening and loss of details generally in the photograph all appear to stem from aberrations derived from the photo development process, including problems introduced from working with film such as exposure and grain. This demonstrates simply that the if the 1879 LOC photo submitted by Joseph Smith III is “the egg,” the 1842 RLDS painting is “the chicken” that came first—the original likeness and source of the former.

As the 1842 RLDS image introduces more details than the 1879 LOC photo, let us note that the painting is also (being materially the same as the 1879 LOC photo) faithful in all the particulars when compared to the contemporary descriptions of Joseph Smith; but it additionally includes the light brown hair color, the fair complexion (especially in his forehead, which would have been protected from the sun by a hat when outdoors), and his ruddy cheeks—all the color elements derived from his observers—along with additional features by which to judge the largeness of his stature.

1842 RLDS PaintingContemporary DescriptionsMatch?
Voluminous, light brown hairWavy light brown hairMatch
Blue eyesBlue eyesMatch
Sloping shouldersStooped shouldersMatch
Straight noseStraight noseMatch
Narrow, rounded jawlineBroad, square jawlineNo Match
Narrow mouthNarrow mouthMatch
Thin, balanced lipsThin, balanced lipsMatch
Substantial chinForward chinMatch
Resting smileResting smileMatch
Youthful lookYouthful lookMatch
Light and thick eyebrowsLight and thick eyebrowsMatch
Half-concealed earlobesHalf-concealed earlobesMatch
Hair combed forward at the sidesHair combed forward at the sidesMatch

This may explain why Joseph Smith III submitted a photograph of this painting to the Library of Congress—there simply was not a more faithful image of his father made while he was living to his knowledge (or in his possession). There is, however, an artifact that preserves the likeness of Joseph Smith that is, in a way, even more accurate than the beloved family painting. The key to considering this artifact is in understanding what it reveals and what it does not reveal.

The 1844 Death Mask

A cast made from Joseph Smith’s death mask in 1844

As was common in the early 19th century when access to photographic resources was rare and inconvenient, the faces of the beloved dead were placed into plaster so that a faithful form of the deceased could be retained before decomposition took its full toll. This too was done for Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum Smith.

Author Reed Simonsen has done quite a bit of helpful analysis of the death mask, informed by the several firsthand accounts of the violence done to Joseph’s body in the events surrounding his death, primarily those of the injuries sustained by his face-first impact with the ground after he was shot out from the 2nd floor window of the Carthage jail. As Simonsen points out, this type of blunt force trauma to the skull results in predictable fractures that effectively dislocates the lower portion of the face, as he has illustrated:

Reed Simonsen, photographfound.com

This understanding, that the death mask is a perfect representation of Joseph’s imperfect face while dead, explains how certain features (or the lack thereof) can be accounted for in the death mask, such as:

  • The recessed chin
  • The elongated philtrum
  • The sunken, dried ocular cavities
  • The lack of definable eyebrows
  • The epidermal tension on the nasal bridge

Too many artists have attempted to execute a faithful image of the living prophet using the mask of his deformed and dead face as their basis for imagining what his living face looked like. Adjustments need to be made when considering the death mask as a primary source in ascertaining the faithfulness of other images being of Joseph Smith when compared.

Further, the details confirmed by the 1842 RLDS painting are mostly absent or unconfirmable in the death mask. The faultiness of reliance on the death mask alone becomes apparent when comparing what precious little the death mask offers compared to the contemporary descriptions presented above:

1844 Death MaskContemporary DescriptionsMatch?
Hairline is presentWavy light brown hairN/A
Sunken, dried ocular cavitiesBlue eyesN/A
Nothing below the chinStooped shouldersN/A
Deflected tip from epidermal tensionStraight noseNo Match
Jaw line not fully cast / jaw brokenBroad, square jawlineNo Match
Narrow mouthNarrow mouthMatch
Thin, balanced lipsThin, balanced lipsMatch
Recessed chin / displaced lower faceForward chinNo Match
Resting smileResting smileMatch
Cannot ascertain / Dead lookYouthful lookN/A
Eyebrows not captured by castLight and thick eyebrowsN/A
Ears not captured by castHalf-concealed earlobesN/A
Hair styling would not be captured by castHair combed forward at the sidesN/A

If we are to use the mask as a reference in identifying potential photographs of Joseph Smith, we must realize where its strengths and weaknesses lie:


  • Placement of major, upper skull features relative to one another
  • Placement of major, lower skull features relative to one another
  • Shape of lips


  • Placement of upper and lower skull features as a whole may be inaccurate
  • Membranous soft tissue has dried out, distorting features
Possible 1844 death mask reconfiguration (right) from original (left) by compression of the area highlighted in blue

The above image shows the author’s attempt to possibly resolve some of the placement issues caused by the blunt force fracturing, which result will be used in conjunction with the 1842 RLDS painting in analyzing the proposed new photograph of Joseph Smith. As demonstrated below, the 1842 RLDS painting, though imperfect, matches fairly well the adjusted death mask dimensions:

The 1842 RLDS painting compared to the 1844 death mask (animated)

With our primary sources established—the contemporary descriptions, the 1842 RLDS painting, and the adjusted 1844 death mask—we are now ready to inspect the proposed, newly discovered photograph of the prophet.

The Spiritus Photograph

An undated photograph purportedly identified by AI as Joseph Smith and debuted by the YouTube channel, Spiritus.TV

The origins of the above photo are obscure and, to date, untraceable by the author’s attempts. The received narrative is that the photos were discovered for sale in St. Louis, Missouri, and identified by an AI algorithm developed in the UK as being Joseph Smith after analyzing contemporary paintings and profile drawings. The photo and some little information regarding it was presented by a YouTube channel, Spiritus.TV, whose only published video at the time of this writing was that of the debut of this photograph.

Even without restoring the photo or comparing it to the placement of Joseph Smith’s features in our primary visual sources, the Spiritus photograph appears to be a good candidate relative to the contemporary descriptions:

Spiritus PhotographContemporary DescriptionsMatch?
Hair volume may indicate wavinessWavy light brown hairPossible
Clear, visible eyesBlue eyesPossible
Stooped shouldersStooped shouldersMatch
Straight noseStraight noseMatch
Broad, square jawlineBroad, square jawlineMatch
Narrow mouthNarrow mouthMatch
Thin, balanced lipsThin, balanced lipsMatch
Forward chinForward chinMatch
Resting smileResting smileMatch
Youthful lookYouthful lookMatch
Light and thick eyebrowsLight and thick eyebrowsMatch
Half-concealed earlobesHalf-concealed earlobesMatch
Hair combed forward at sidesHair combed forward at sidesMatch

The test then is to clean up the photo and compare the facial features in a more detailed and minute manner to the primary portrait images we have analyzed above.

The Prophet of the Restoration Restored

The final proposed image of the Prophet Joseph Smith as restored from the original Spiritus photo

Through the use of digital image manipulation software, with the aid of artificial intelligence algorithms programmed to enhance the details lost in old photographs, and with a bit of elbow grease, the above photo was produced by the author. With it in hand we are now prepared to analyze this new candidate of the prophet’s likeness in relation to our primary sources established thus far.

The choice of color is of course the prerogative of the photo restorer (in this case, the author) and so it will be noted that the hair has been made light brown; the eyes, blue; the forehead, fair (visible in the Spiritus original); and the cheeks have been given a sun-burnt, sanguine redness. These color additions make the restored image a perfect match with all the physical attributes identified in the contemporary descriptions, including the “broad and square chin” mentioned by John D. Lee.

The “square-versus-round” chin issue mentioned above finds its resolution at this point. The unknown artist who executed the 1842 RLDS painting seems to have captured Joseph Smith’s features accurately in individual pieces but apparently failed in some degree to assemble them into a convincingly realistic whole. The decidedly round chin he painted is perhaps then the result of the tall shirt collars Joseph posed in that day, skewing the artist’s vision. In the Spiritus photo, however, we can see that John D. Lee was accurate in describing the prophet’s chin in more angular terms. The taller collars are transposed at left and below for illustrative purposes.

It will be recalled that the 1844 death mask only captured a portion of the prophet’s face. This means that when comparing the Restored Photo to it we are not enabled to make a comparison of his jawline, hairline, or other peripheral yet informative attributes of the head. Despite this, when compared with the 1844 death mask, the results are intriguing to behold:

The Restored Photo compared to the 1844 death mask (animated)

Using the altered death mask—which, it should be noted, as a whole is still only a perfect representation of an imperfect and dead face—and aligning it to the features of the Restored Photo, the distribution of all the major and minor facial features and structures can be found to be the same. This includes the distance between the eyes, the length of the nose, the width of the lips, the distance from the lips to the chin crease to the bottom of the chin, the corners of the mouth, etc.—all in perfect relation one to another. Even the difference between the living and the dead version of both orbital sockets correspond exactly as in a living body versus a corpse.

The Restored Photo, the 1844 death mask, and the 1842 RLDS painting compared in three major color-coded regions (animation): forehead, brow, and ears (yellow); eyes and nose (blue); and mouth and chin (green).

The above illustration allows us to make a comparison on along certain groups as highlighted by different colors:

Yellow itemsDescription common to all three images
HairlineHis hair was done in a then-popular Romantic era, early American style where the sides would be combed forward and the center combed backward. That said, his left part had a decidedly angular hairline when compared to his right, the widow’s peak in between forming nearly a straight line if not protruding slightly.
Note: hairline is not fully visible in the death mask.
EarsThe ears were half-concealed by his hair so that only the lower portion, the lobules, were fully visible. The Restored image shows earlobes that appear quite large, but as we shall see below, this is a trait his sons seem to have inherited in precisely the same size and shape.
Note: earlobes are not visible in the death mask.
Right EyebrowHis right eyebrow is more condensed in the medial third and spreads out more thinly toward the lateral end, the overall eyebrow showing a minor rise and arching and reaching its tallest spread about the lateral third.
Note: eyebrows are not visible in the death mask.
Left EyebrowUnlike his right eyebrow, the left eyebrow is more uniformly distributed with the more condensed portion running about halfway in from the medial end and maintaining peak tallness from that point through to the lateral end. Additionally, both right and left eyebrows are separated by a glabella the exact width of the nose at its root.
Note: eyebrows are not visible in the death mask.
blue itemsDescription common to all three images
Upper EyelidsWhen open, the superior palpebra (lid) folds into a thin line of equal thickness from the medial to the lateral canthi (corners) on either the right or left eye. The hooding area above the superior palpebral fold is more substantial in the lateral aspect and appears narrower and relatively recessed compared to elevation of the nose root toward the medial aspect. The death mask appears to corroborate the definition of the hooding area particularly on the lateral portion of his right side where the skull’s lateral supraorbital process would force the superior palpebral fold.
Note: when closed in death, eyes appear to flatten and sink into unusually large depressions as the membranous tissue of the ocular cavities dry out. This makes it difficult to draw further comparisons with the death mask for the shape of the eyes in this portion of the analysis.
Outer Corner of EyesThe medial canthi appear uniform and otherwise unremarkable, but there is interesting detail to note in the lateral canthi. In his right side, two folds converge from the superior palpebra at this point—the superior palpebral fold and the lateral end of the palpebral fissure (where the eye opens)—but in his left side, these two points diverge. This marked feature—possibly due to scarring from physical altercations—is wonderfully preserved by the 1842 painter. Even in the death mask, it is possible to see a line of scarring on the left lateral superior palpebra that may be the source of this deformation.
Lower EyelidsThe inferior palpebral folds (line defining bags under the eyes) appear mostly uniform and descend from the palpebral fissure a distance roughly equal to that of the opened fissure. His right palpebral fold, toward the medial, draws near the right medial canthus with marked definition whereas the left fold is emphasized in mostly horizontal placement below the center of the palpebral fissure.
NoseThe width of the nose appears equal from the root down toward the pronasal (tip), which widens perceptibly in both the Restored face and, notably, the death mask, which indicates that the narrowness of the pronasal and columella (exterior of septum) in the 1842 RLDS painting is the painter’s error, as is also the case with the painting’s impossibly narrow nostrils; however, the the artist has preserved how that the right and left ala (nose wings) appear uniform and tall—which give the lower end of the nose a width roughly twice that at the root—and has preserved the conjunction of the columella and philtrum (dip between the nose and the lips) beneath the pronasal. The infraorbital furrows and nasofacial angles on either side of the nose, though not as visible in the Restored photo’s lighting, appear to descend in perfectly matched angles (roughly 40° from the medial line) away from the nose root and ocular canthi.
Green itemsDescription common to all three images
Lines Between Cheeks and MouthNo unusual or uniquely identifying characteristics to the nasolabial sulci except to note that the 1842 RLDS painting seems again to be exaggerated or inaccurate, especially on the right side, and that the descending sulci terminates substantially distant from the labial commissures (corners of the mouth) on either side.
Mouth LineThe oral fissure deviates slightly downward in the center where the procheilon (centermost flesh of upper lip) is full and rather protruding. Here it is pertinent to point out again the even distribution of the superior and inferior labial bodies (lips).
Note: that the labral, philtral, and labial distances are perfectly proportionate should only speak credit to the 1842 artist since the death mask has been altered by the author specifically in this place to account for possible skull fracturing.
Cupid’s BowThe philtrum ridges are rather peaked with the vermillion border (outer edge of lip) of the peak on his left side finding slightly higher placement than the right peak. This combined with the unusual prominence of the procheilon may be the reason his upper lip was described as “a little inclined to be thick” by James Palmer.
Chin CreaseThe mentolabial sulcus is positioned roughly a lip’s width from the lower vermillion border and is prominent, indicative of a forward-tilted chin. It is inclined to extend downward to the left more than the right, an identifying feature that the 1842 artist seems to have exaggerated only in terms of depth of the crease.
Corners of the MouthThe labial commissures are set slightly behind the elevation of the surrounding cutaneous buccae (cheek flesh) resulting in vertical lines and prominent shadowing at their junction. This indicates that his cheek bones and jaw bone were prominent enough to drape the buccae fore of the labial commissures, an anatomical argument in favor of the square and wide jawline being accurate (as shown in the original Restored image) but merely obscured from the 1842 artist’s perception by the tall collars the prophet chose to wear for his portrait painting.

Keep in mind that the descriptions provided above were of elements common to all three images (exceptions noted). This preponderance of correspondence between all three images when combined with the remarkable proportionality exhibited by the features in relation to one another truly cements the Restored (and thus also the Spiritus) image of the prophet as being an exceptional candidate for an actual photograph of Joseph Smith.

As astonishing as the disappearance and mysterious advent of this photo is, let’s waste no time in welcoming the image home amongst those of his immediate family members to see just how well he fits in as the father of his known children.

Bringing Joseph Home

Below are black and white photographs of Joseph and Emma followed by a collage of all of Joseph’s grown sons. The photos have been minimally enhanced using AI algorithms to bring out more detail in some key features. (One exception is Emma’s left eye, which had moved down her face a small distance after enduring a stroke during child birth. This has been remedied for this presentation.)

The Restored image of Joseph Smith next to an enhanced photograph of Emma Hale (post-stroke eye position remediated for illustrative purposes)

Joseph and Emma’s sons:
Joseph III, Frederick, Alexander, and David

In comparing the faces of Joseph’s sons, features from either Emma or Joseph can be readily discerned. This provides us with a convincing phenotypical genetic witness of the paternity of the man in the Restored photo, adding yet another layer of evidence to the identity of the photo being that of the Prophet. Following is a table of traits inherited by the children correlated to the observed parent who passed the feature on:

TraitJoseph IIIFrederickAlexanderDavid
Predominantly horizontal and arches downward at the lateral ends
Arches upward with a condensed focus in the medial third of the right brow
Almost identical to Joseph’s including the narrow glabella
Predominantly horizontal and arches downward at the lateral ends
Half-lidded eyes when open due to superior palpebra height
Narrow superior palpebra and substantial hooding area
Palpebral fold runs near the palpebral fissure when open
Half-lidded eyes when open due to superior palpebra height
Large lobules, a deep conchal bowl, and protruding aspect
Small lobules, a deep conchal bowl, and protruding aspect
Large lobules, small shallow conchal bowl, and normal aspect
Large lobules, a deep conchal bowl, and protruding aspect
Straight dorsum, narrow root, and tall ala
Wide root and wide ala
Almost identical to Joseph’s including nasolabial sulci
Even labial bodies and narrow mouth width
Joseph’s narrowness but upper labial body is thin
Mustache obscured yet labial bodies appear even
Joseph’s narrowness but upper labial body is thin
Obscured by beard
Chin is a bit pointed but otherwise the jawline is wide and square
Depth of chin appears to be the same as Joseph with a wide and square jawline
*Zygotic traits are those that may be the result of recessive parental genes being phenotypically expressed in a child, as is the case when a red hair skips a generation among other features not seen in either parent but coming from some previous generation.

As we can see, the traits of the man in the Restored photo can easily account for many of the deviations from Emma’s traits in her children, allowing for a satisfactory, albeit superficial, investigation into the paternal probability of the man in the photo being the father of these children. For instance, where Emma’s ears do not protrude, unlike some of her children, we would expect to find a father whose ears do protrude to possibly account for this trait. The above table shows that nearly every major feature of the children’s faces that cannot be accounted for in Emma can be found in the Restored image of Joseph.

As an interesting footnote to this analysis, artificial intelligence was employed (once again) to compute what a possible offspring of Joseph, from the Restored image, and Emma would look like. As can be seen in the results, in color at right, the similarity to Joseph’s actual son, David, is striking. Though far from conclusive, this result is nonetheless indicative of a positive link between the Restored image and the prophet’s likeness, whatever it truly is.


Many artists have attempted to paint a picture of the Prophet Joseph Smith over the years. Too many have relied on faulty source materials having neglected to research the history behind those materials sufficiently. Sometimes the result has been underwhelming, producing a weak feeling in the breast like something is inexplicably missing; other times the results have cast the prophet in an almost epic, superhuman light—also producing a sensation of want.

Why does this happen? Whence the fascination to see his truest likeness possible? Whence this reverential pursuit? Could it be that his memory wrestles the minds of his followers? “Truly he was great,” they think nearly two centuries since he was martyred, “and I would know it if I met him, unlike those who believed him not.” In a word, this line of thinking by his modern followers amounts to their being haunted by his legacy—”Would I have hailed Joseph Smith as a true prophet sent by God or not? Would I cast flowers or cast stones if I saw him?” His modern followers wish to look him in the eye and feel convinced by his singular presence once and for all.

However, it is not reasonable that an observer should expect anything beyond the ordinary in Joseph Smith’s appearance—there are no mystical perfections that ought to overpower the beholder at the very sight. Even the prophet’s contemporaries who knew him in life did not wholly accept him at first glance; people were divided by his presence. Those who wished that there would be something in the spirit of the man, some indefinable essence coming from within the windows of his soul, were apt to be disappointed when they met him. Comparing him to their false traditions of what a prophet should be, they lament, “He is neither a pious nor a good man—just a man!” Joseph replies:

“I do not think there have been many good men on the earth since the days of Adam; but there was one good man and his name was Jesus. Many persons think a prophet must be a great deal better than anybody else. Suppose I would condescend—yes, I will call it condescend—to be a great deal better than any of you; I would be raised up to the highest heaven; and who should I have to accompany me?…
“I do not want you to think that I am very righteous, for I am not; God judges men according to the use they make of the light which He gives them….
“I had no disposition to proclaim myself [a prophet]. But I do say that I bear the testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of prophecy….
“The burdens which roll upon me are very great…. Although I was called of my Heavenly Father to lay the foundation of this great work and kingdom in this dispensation, and testify of His revealed will to scattered Israel, I am subject to like passions as other men, like the prophets of olden times” (Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [STPJS], p. 303, 315, punctuation modernized).

The desire to see Joseph Smith’s face is akin to running to the street to see what a commotion is about with anxious preconceptions passing through one’s mind. If, as Shakespeare said, life is just “a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing,” maybe, one hopes, this is finally something real! Maybe this time it means something. But what happens when it is your turn to face the spectacle and the crowd steps out of your way that you may see for yourself? Will you see what you hope to see? And what will he see in you?

It calls to mind an interesting anecdote from the life of Joseph Smith. The day before his murder, a curious crowd did meet him, but they did not see what they expected:

“Several of the officers of the troops in Carthage, and other gentlemen, curious to see the Prophet, visited Joseph in his room. General Smith asked them if there was anything in his appearance that indicated he was the desperate character his enemies represented him to be; and he asked them to give him their honest opinion on the subject.
“The reply was,
“‘No, sir, your appearance would indicate the very contrary, General Smith; but we cannot see what is in your heart, neither can we tell what are your intentions.’
“To which Joseph replied,
“‘Very true, gentlemen, you cannot see what is in my heart, and you are therefore unable to judge me or my intentions; but I can see what is in your hearts, and will tell you what I see‘” (STPJS, p. 381, punctuation modernized).

“Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah / Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer”

It is the author’s hope that in reading this analysis and viewing the Restored photo, you may feel that you have come a little closer to knowing “Brother Joseph again.”


  1. The one thing that was not discussed at length in the above analysis was Joseph striking eyes (which was heavily mentioned in an article in one of the Church magazines on this same subject).
    There, a comment was recorded by an eyewitness that Joseph Smith’s eyes were blue and very remarkable. Since Joseph had to draw people to him and lead them and have unbridled loyalty by at least a certain critical mass of them, there must have been something that was over-the-top charismatic. The eyes must have been it.


  2. Hello! I was redirected to this stellar article from the website link “millionsshallknowbrotherjosephagain.com” and was wondering if you are the owner of that webpage? If so, there was a fascinating article on Joseph Smith and what he sounded like, and it provided a great linguistic analysis and chart. If you are the owner of that article, would you be willing to post that again on this blog, or do you have a link to it that’s on another page? Thank you for your time.


    1. Yes, I was the author of that website too and I had it redirect to this blog post since the post contained more recent conclusions and newer evidence. I hadn’t thought that anyone would miss the linguistic analysis of what Joseph Smith sounded like, but I will be more than happy to publish those things here as well. Thank you so much for your interest! I will reply to this comment again when the post is live (assuming that by so doing you will receive a notification; if another method of alerting you is preferred, just let me know).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your fast response! I’m thrilled to read that that post belonged to you. Thank you, also, for being willing to post it again. It’s so valuable. I know that I tried my hand at the accent by taking the analysis and reading one of his letters aloud based on the linguistic breakdown. On a side note, I think I remember you had a section that hinted at you possibly recording the accent yourself at some point? Is that something you would still be willing to do? Just curious! Thank you again for your response. Also, I should be notified if you comment, so no worries regarding that.


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