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Joseph Smith - Honest Seer or Lying Polygamist

12. The story of an angel with a sword telling Joseph he must practice plural marriage.

As reported here, it is easy to create false memories without even realizing that you are doing it. Notice how all the reports of the angel coming to command Joseph to start plural marriage are many years later and how the stories change even with the same person.

Lawrence Foster has said:
Accounts of the "angel with a drawn sword" story are widespread, although manuscript evidence for such a story apparently does not exist from the period when Joseph Smith was alive. (Dialogue 9.4 (Winter 1974) p. 32)
Angel Stories

Notice that Eliza R. Snow is the only person to mention that it was a flaming sword and in that account he is not even threatened with his life or the loss of his priesthood. Also notice that it is only the latest accounts that start to be specific about when the angel first appeared to Joseph, with Mary Rollins even making it into a visit by an angel three times.

One of the foundation principles of heaven is the principle of agency. Agency is very important to God the Father. He does not force us to do anything, but gives us according to our wills. It is the Adversary that uses force and even suggested force as a useful method for this life.
Moses 4:1-3
1 And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
2 But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
3 Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
Also God has outlined the principles of priesthood governance and God isn't going to violate those same principles.
D&C 121
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
An author recorded Joseph Smith's recent comments on this subject in The Temporal Dispensations p. 205-218. He also commented in a recent blog.
The Adversary will visit people as an angel of light. This occurred to Joseph Smith when he was commanded to practice polygamy or he would be destroyed. This second hand account is often used to show that Joseph was reluctant, but obedient. In fact, he cast out the dark spirit in the name of the Lord. . . . A true messenger doesn’t threaten you in the name of God. Their light is pale in comparison to an angel from the Throne. Their words are not uplifting or point to Christ, but often speak to our comfort, pride, and carnal desires. . . .  The account with the “flaming sword” did occur, but it was a dark angel and Joseph cast him out. Much different than the narrative that was shared in church history. PR blog