Did Joseph actually say that?

November 13, 2011    By: Matt W. @ 4:20 pm   Category: Life

Recently, I have come across 2 or 3 sites which attribute the following statement to Joseph Smith: “stay close to the trunk of the tree and don’t get out into the branches”. Today it was also quoted in Sunday School.

However, I can’t find any such statement from Smith, or on any other authority (though I’ve found quite a few sites attributing it to Smith and some attributing it to Harold B. Lee, I can’t find any direct quotes.)

So, all ye mighty church folk, where did this come from?


  1. I have heard this on joseph smith’ tapes by truman g madsen.

    Comment by Sergio — November 13, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

  2. The is actually on page 104 of truman’s joseph smith’s book. The expression is ” cling close to the trunk”

    Comment by Sergio — November 13, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

  3. Not to discount Truman, but he seemed to have falsley attributed a lot to Joseph.

    Comment by dallske — November 13, 2011 @ 6:31 pm

  4. Oral tradition attributes another wise maxim to the Prophet: “Don’t climb to the extreme branches of the tree, for there is danger of falling: cling close to the trunk.” One translation: Avoid the vain mysteries and the discussion of them. Avoid imaginative speculation. But Joseph Smith, one must quickly add, made a distinction between the mysteries of godliness-that is, the deeper things that can only be known by revelation to the soul on the how of living a godly life-and the speculative pursuit of matters that are without profit to the soul. “I advise all to go on to perfection,” he said, “and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness.” The vain mysteries are those of which we know nothing and need not know anything-whether, for example, the pearly gates swing or roll, or what is the ultimate destiny of the sons of perdition. “Cling close to the trunk.” Truman G. Madsen, Joseph Smith the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989), 104.

    Unfortunately, Madsen provides no reference for the statement, so the reader is unable to know where Madsen is getting this oral tradition. It does not appear in Ehat and Cook.

    Comment by aquinas — November 13, 2011 @ 6:59 pm

  5. Yeah, it’s not a JS statement. Or, even if it was, it was a late reminiscence. It was used by the Q12 must later to defend their succession authority.

    I have my notes on it somewhere. I’ll try to find it when I’m home.

    Comment by Ben — November 14, 2011 @ 1:50 am

  6. Is it related to this quote?

    “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it. But in connection with these, we believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost, the power of faith, the enjoyment of the spiritual gifts according to the will of God, the restoration of the house of Israel, and the final triumph of truth.”
    (History of the Church, 3:30; from an editorial published in Elders’ Journal, July 1838, p. 44; Joseph Smith was the editor of the periodical. Copied from Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith)

    Comment by Rich Alger — November 14, 2011 @ 9:08 am

  7. I had a CD on my mission by Robert Millet on the Book of Mormon where he made that statement.

    Comment by Riley — November 14, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

  8. I would be very interested if someone finds the reference to this quote. Thanks.

    Like Ben, I have seen similar statements by members of the Quorum of the Twelve in the Journal of Discourses, but nothing attributed directly to Joseph Smith.

    No doubt it was probably a reminiscence.

    Comment by Believe All Things — November 30, 2011 @ 8:39 am