By Eric Johnson
Joseph Smith, the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made this boast a month before he was shot to death in a gun battle at the Carthage Jail:
“Come on! ye prosecutors! Ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! For I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.”
This was said in a sermon dated Sunday, May 26 at 10 a.m. and it is published in the sixth volume of the official History of the Church, pages 408-409. Listen to another boast made by Smith:
“God made Aaron to be the mouthpiece for the children of Israel, and He will make me be god to you in His stead, and the Elders to be mouth for me; and if you don’t like it, you must lump it” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 363).
Can you imagine having someone say this and stating that, if you don’t accept this, you should “lump it”? Mind you, this was said by the same man who claimed that “God is my ‘right hand man’” (Times and Seasons 4:375).
Many Latter-day Saints might be amazed when they first hear citations like these. They may not have known how high of a regard that Smith had for himself. But those LDS leaders who succeeded Smith also boasted in their predecessor. For instance, second LDS President Brigham Young had much to brag about, even claiming that a person must have Smith’s approval in order to get past the angelic guards to the celestial kingdom:
“If we can pass the sentinel Joseph the Prophet, we shall go into the celestial kingdom, and not a man can injure us. If he says, ‘God bless you, come along here;’ if we will live so that Joseph will justify us, and say, ‘Here am I, brethren,’ we shall pass every sentinel; there will be no danger but that we will pass into the celestial kingdom” (March 8, 1857, Journal of Discourses 4:271)
Young taught that a person had to accept Smith as a prophet or be at risk of being “damned”:
“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).
Consider what the apostle John wrote in 1 John 4:2-3:
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
Using this passage as a background, Young turned these words into a praise to Joseph Smith!
“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, p. 435).
Besides Young, dozens of LDS leaders over the years have touted the fame and greatness of this church’s founder. For instance, John Taylor, who would later become the third president of the LDS Church, wrote in the Doctrine and Covenants that “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it” (D&C 135:3).
Smith’s nephew, sixth President Joseph F. Smith, stated,
“Where shall we go to find another man who has accomplished a one-thousandth part of the good that Joseph Smith accomplished?” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 1998, p. 18)
Referencing a church hymn titled “Praise to the Man,” fourteenth President Howard W. Hunter said,
“When we sing of Joseph Smith, ‘Praise to the Man’ (Hymns, 1985, no. 27), we remember so many praiseworthy things about him. We praise him for his capacity to commune not only with Jehovah but also with other personages of heaven…We praise Joseph Smith, too, for his diligence and capacity to translate and to receive hundreds of pages of revealed scripture. He was the revealing conduit. Through him, it has been estimated, more marvelous pages of scripture passed than through any other human in history. We praise Joseph not only for his capacity to endure but ‘endure it well’ (D&C 121:8)….We praise Joseph for the capacity to endure persecution,…We praise Joseph for enduring bitter and repeated betrayals and disappointments” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter, 2015, pp. 94-95. Ellipses mine).
Smith, who was born in 1805 a few days before Christmas is celebrated, was highly exalted by fifteeth President Gordon B. Hinckley:
“We stand in reverence before him. He is the great prophet of this dispensation. He stands as the head of this great and mighty work which is spreading across the earth. He is our prophet, our revelator, our seer, our friend. Let us not forget him. Let not his memory be forgotten in the celebration of Christmas. God be thanked for the Prophet Joseph” (“Joseph Smith: Restorer of Truth,” Ensign, December 2003, pp. 18-19).
In all seriousness, these leaders seem to have a “man crush” on Smith, a sinful human being whose life was less than exemplary. If there is any doubt in that statement, visit JosephsWives.com.
Are these boasts godly?
The Bible teaches that humility, not boastfulness, should be the primary character trait of someone who claims to be a Christian. James 4:6 says that God “gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (Also see 1 Peter 5:5.) Verse 10 adds, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” While many others could be referenced, let’s just provide four more:
- Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
- Luke 14:11: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
- Romans 12:3: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
- Ephesians 4:2: “Be completely humble and gentle.”
Even the Book of Mormon sounds off on this topic. Alma 5:27-28 says,
“Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins? Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.”
Some may point to the “boasting” done by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12. The context of this passage is necessary to understand what Paul was saying. He was dealing with other so-called “apostles” who were criticizing his credentials. At the conclusion of these verses, Paul explains in verses 9b-10:
“I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Joseph Smith never boasted in his weaknesses. Instead, his life was glorifying himself. An objective witness would never accuse Smith of glorifying Jesus over himself. And nowhere would a Christian ever lift a human being on a pedestal of glory. Yet Smith is practically the object of worship by these leaders. The Bible says in Exodus 20:3, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” I’m not saying that Mormons “worship” their founder, in the sense they bow down and pray to him. However, for anyone to suggest that Smith is necessary for salvation is nothing less than blasphemous. And for Mormons to sing their hymn “Praise to the Man” is not right.
As Acts 4:12 puts it, “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” And that includes Joseph Smith, whose many boasts do not fit well for a man who is supposed to be a man of God.
For an additional look at this topic, go to “Praise to the Man”–Elevating Joseph Smith