This question has long been asked, especially by those followers of Joseph Smith who were born or who converted to the Mormon faith after the boy prophet’s martyrdom. Many paintings and illustrations have been created in an attempt to give a face to the name so well known to people within and without the faith. But of all the curious and at times divergent images of the prophet, which is the most like his real person?
The Death Mask
Thanks to the work of Philo Dibble, an early Mormon pioneer and friend to Joseph Smith, a plaster mold of Joseph’s face has been preserved from the time of Joseph’s burial to today. The practice of making a plâtre de Paris mask following the death of a loved one was not an uncommon practice in Joseph Smith’s day, though, perhaps due to lacking materials on the American frontier, Joseph’s mask did not preserve as much detail—or the mask was not well preserved—when compared to others from the time.
Suffice it to say that where all other portrayals of the prophet exist based on speculation and imagination (or the form of the death mask), the death mask has stood alone as a rendering of the prophet that undisputedly came directly from the person of Joseph Smith, though evidence suggests that some extensive skull trauma may have warped the prophet’s face at the time of death:
But what if there existed an actual photograph of him?