Paying Allegiance to Joseph Smith

Note: The following was originally printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Mormonism Researched. To request a free subscription, please visit here.

By Bill McKeever

The dictionary defines “allegiance” as “loyalty or commitment of a subordinate to a superior or of an individual to a group or cause.” Mormons are often quick to deny that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worship their founder, Joseph Smith. Technically, this is true if the definition of worship is an expression of reverence or adoration “for a deity.” Still, Mormon leaders have made comments about Joseph Smith that would, and should, make Christians very uncomfortable.

Joseph Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, didn’t hide the fact that believing Joseph Smith was a prophet of God was imperative if a person desired to be saved, “I know that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God, that this is the Gospel of salvation, and if you do not believe it you will be damned, every one of you” (March 29, 1857, Journal of Discourses 4:298).

Young went so far as to insist that failing to acknowledge Smith’s role as prophet was akin to being opposed to Jesus. “Every intelligent person under the heavens that does not, when informed, acknowledge that Joseph Smith, jun., is a Prophet of God, is in darkness, and is opposed to us and to Jesus and his kingdom on the earth” (October 21, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:223).

Young categorized the same kind of people as being “of Antichrist.” “Whosoever confesseth that Joseph Smith was sent of God to reveal the holy Gospel to the children of men, and lay the foundation for gathering Israel, and building up the Kingdom of God on the earth, that spirit is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that God has sent Joseph Smith, and revealed the everlasting Gospel to and through him, is of Antichrist, no matter whether it is found in a pulpit or on a throne” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 435).

On July 26, 1857, Heber C. Kimball, First Counselor to Brigham Young, stated,

“You call us fools: but the day will be, gentlemen and ladies, whether you belong to this Church or not, when you will prize brother Joseph Smith as the Prophet of the Living God, and look upon him as a God, and also upon Brigham Young, our Governor in the Territory of Deseret” (Journal of Discourses 5:88).

A similar thought was echoed by Mormonism’s sixth President, Joseph F. Smith.

“The day will come—and it is not far distant, either—when the name of the Prophet Joseph Smith will be coupled with the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Son of God, as his representative, as his agent whom he chose, ordained and set apart to lay anew the foundations of the Church of God in the world…” Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 134).

It should be noted that the above comment was reprinted in the December 2003 edition of Ensign magazine in an article titled, “Joseph Smith: Restorer of Truth,” (see page 17).

Amid this discussion, I find the words of LDS Church historian Andrew Jensen to be of particular importance. He said,

“If Joseph Smith is what he professed to be: A true Prophet of God, no one can reject his testimony without being condemned, while on the other hand, if he was an impostor, or a false prophet, we can reject him without fear of Divine punishment, and the condemnation will rest upon the man who assumes to speak in the name of the Lord presumptuously” (LDS Historian Andrew Jenson, January 16, 1891, Collected Discourses, 2:149-150).

This challenge is what compels us at MRM. Researching the life and teachings of Joseph Smith has led us to reject Smith’s claim of being a modern-day prophet; however, millions of LDS members are not aware of these same facts. If Smith was a false prophet, the thought of these people being condemned should cause us great concern.