Julie & Julia & Joseph
I just saw Julie & Julia. A cute movie, I thought. Like many experiences in life, this made me think about my Mormon journey.
As the movie progresses, Julie models her life after Julia Childs. She sees her as an inspiration to be a better person in all aspects of life, not just in the kitchen. Julia becomes a hero to Julie through her writings (collections of letters, primarily).
This admiration is suddenly thrown in jeopardy when Julie learns that the real-life Julia doesn't like her blog at all. All along she had fantasized about Julia reading her blog, but now she learns that Julia doesn't even like her. She is traumatized as her imagined Julia collides violently with the real Julia.
Ultimately she works through this, as she realizes that the Julia in her mind has helped her life, even if the real Julia was a bit of a disappointment
I think Joseph Smith could be considered in this way. As a child I lionized him, but as I learned about his indiscetions and poor choices later in life that sheen wore off. But is there something good he can still represent? I think this is dangerous if someone is alive, as they might use that aura of perfection inappropriately, but if someone wants to use Joseph Smith (or Lincoln or Gandhi or Reagan or Kennedy) as a deceased idol, how is that harmful?