Lachlan Mackay was anticipating a variety of responses when he and his uncle, Daniel Larsen, released a new daguerreotype last week that they believe is Joseph Smith after keeping it a secret for two years.
The overall reaction was wide and mixed, he said, as they received inquiries from people in the United Kingdom, Japan and across the United States, with the highest level of interest—not surprisingly—in Utah and the Intermountain west.
“It’s kind of startling to first see something that might be a real person instead of a mythological creature,” said Mackay, a Smith descendant and member of the Community of Christ’s Council of Twelve Apostles. Joseph Smith, of course, was a real person and founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The search for any photo image of him has been going on for decades.
But there was also something Mackay didn’t anticipate.
“I was surprised at how quickly people seem to be swinging towards ‘We think it’s him,’” Mackay said. “I, of course, think it’s him. I just expected that it would take people longer to process, and most of these people have not read the paper yet.”
Mackay is referring to the spring/summer 2022 issue of the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal where he and fellow historian, Ron Romig, published the details of their two-year effort to authenticate the daguerreotype before making it public.
Mackay said a statement released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding the daguerreotype was “a thoughtful statement.” He’s confident Community of Christ won’t release a statement saying the image is of Joseph.
“We don’t take positions on historical matters,” he said. “Our team of world church historians, as individuals, are convinced, as am I, but the church is not going to take a position.”
Mostly people have questions, which Mackay welcomes.
You can read the full article and insights from other Church historians on Deseret News.