As a student of psychology, I'm interested in what makes people tick. Understanding why people do what they do is the most basic concentration of my discipline, along with eventually being able to predict behavior (some take it even further and argue that the ultimate goal is to control behavior, which is probably at least partially true).
One thing most people tend to agree on is that a person's past behavior can often tell us a lot about present and future behavior. That's why character witnesses are called in trials before deciding on guilt, why we get asked about our past work history in job interviews, why colleges want to know our high school GPA before admitting us, and so on. Past behavior often (though not always) is predictive of future behavior. If a person has been fired from the last four jobs, the interviewer has pretty good reason to believe that he won't do much better in this job.
Similarly, looking through Joseph Smith's character before the founding of the LDS church may give us some insight into the type of person he was. Of course, all believers are aware of the stories of him refusing alcohol for his leg operation, reports of his strength of character, his spiritual mindedness, etc. But what about his profession of locating buried treasure for a fee (source)? The fact that he told trusting individuals that he had the ability to see things that no one else could see, and then was unable to deliver the promised goods, I think, tells us quite a bit about his character (discussion and history).
Whether he believed he could see more than others is for another discussion. My point is that he was able to convince people that he had special powers, and not by actually delivering anything. Smith was actually fairly successful in getting money out of people who trusted him. And so what does this tell us about his later behavior? Did he make the most of his ability to convince others of anything he wanted? Did he really have special powers? Was it just a short step from getting people to believe he saw buried treasure to convincing them that he had visions of angels?
What was his motivation in peeping through stones before the Book of Mormon? Was it God's will that he look for treasure? Was it to better mankind? Or was it for a quick buck? And again, what does this tell us about Smith's character?