30 July 2012

Joseph: Charismatic Joe

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 2003, Excerpts

Charisma is a quality that’s hard to define and even harder to explain, but Joseph was flush with it. The term is derived from the Greek kharis, meaning “graced” or “a special gift from God.” And the Latin word charisms, defined as “gift of the holy spirit.” It’s meaning has evolved through the centuries and is now seldom associated with sanctity, but Joseph’s brand of charisma seems to have been true to the original definition. He was imbued with that exceedingly rare magnetism possessed by history’s most celebrated religious leaders – an extraordinary spiritual power that always seems to be wrapped in both great mystery and great danger.

“He was big, powerful, and by ordinary standards very handsome, except for his nose, which was aquiline and prominent. His large blue eyes were fringed by fantastically long lashes which made his gaze seem veiled and slightly mysterious.”

Joseph’s budding religion was both a reflection of the era’s Jacksonian ideals and reactionary retreat from them. On the one hand, Joseph was a champion of the common man and a thorn in the side of the ruling elite. But on the other, he was deeply suspicious of the confusing babble of ideas sweeping the country, and was made nervous by the fickleness of democratic government. His church was an attempt to erect a wall against modernity’s abundance of freedom, its unbridled celebration of the individual.

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