Chapter 7: Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Witnesses for Christ
During 2014, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, (2013), 104–15
Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith
Two themes stand out uppermost: that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. We link the names of Jesus Christ and of Joseph Smith. Christ is the Lord; he worked out the atoning sacrifice; he is the resurrection and the life; through him all men are raised in immortality, while those who believe and obey his laws shall also gain eternal life. Joseph Smith was a prophet, called in these last days to receive by revelation the saving truths of the gospel and to stand as a legal administrator, having power from on high, to administer the ordinances of the gospel.
Several observations about this opening.
1) Notice how Joseph Smith is so closely tied to Jesus Christ. A person cannot have a relationship with Christ without accepting Joseph Smith as well. While Mormon missionaries like to point to their name badges and say that they are “Christian” because their church has “Jesus Christ’s” name, please understand that this church is firmly placed on the back of Joseph Smith and his unique interpretations of scripture. To show how Mormons have paralleled “Jesus and Joseph,” see this.
2) I also want to point out that the topic of “Joseph Smith” was mentioned in eighteen different chapters in the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series, with each manual dedicating at least one chapter to the “Prophet Joseph Smith.” Not even one manual was produced without focusing on the work of Joseph Smith; no other topic–even Jesus Christ–had such dedication!
Since these truths revealed through him are the ones which shall go forth to every nation before the Second Coming, it is little wonder that we find Moroni saying to Joseph Smith that his “name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” [Joseph Smith—History 1:33.]
Indeed, there are 15 million people who count Smith’s name for good, but many more deny the name of Joseph Smith. How important is Joseph Smith to this religion? Listen to Smith’s own words:
“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” (Joseph Smith, May 26, 1844, History of the Church 6:408-409).
“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” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 363).
“When did I ever teach anything wrong from this stand? When was I ever confounded? I want to triumph in Israel before I depart hence and am no more seen. I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 368. Also cited by Apostle Neil A. Maxwell, “How Choice a Seer!” Ensign (Conference Edition), November, 2003, p. 100).
“I combat the errors of the ages; I meet the violence of mobs; I cope with illegal proceedings from executive authority; I cut the Gordian knot of powers; and I solve mathematical problems of Universities: WITH TRUTH, diamond truth, and God is my ‘right hand man’” (Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons 4:375).
Granted, many Mormons may not have any problem with these quotes. But if the words to these quotes were given to the average person and the question was asked, “What is your view about someone who would say this about himself?” the response would be, “Braggart.” “Haughty.” “Full of himself.” And “proud.” So why is Joseph Smith–a sinner, as acknowledged by LDS leaders–allowed to say that nobody has ever “done a work as I”?
Nor is it any wonder when we later find the Lord saying to the Prophet: “The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee;
“While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.” (D&C 122:1–2.)
The ends of the earth are now beginning to inquire after the name of Joseph Smith, and many people in many nations are rejoicing in the gospel restored through his instrumentality.
According to President Brigham Young, it is vital to have a belief in Joseph Smith. He said:
“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” (Brigham Young, March 8, 1857, Journal of Discourses 4:271).
He also said:
“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” (Brigham Young, March 29, 1857, Journal of Discourses 4:298).
Those who reject Smith—even if they say they accept Jesus Christ—are in trouble:
“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. What do you suppose I think of them? They cannot conceive their own degradation. If they could, they would turn away from their wickedness.” (Brigham Young, October 21, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:223).
It really comes down to what a person has done with Joseph Smith, according to Young. Romans 10:9-10 says,
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
First John 2:22 adds,
Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
Notice how Young modified these passages to refer to Mormonism’s founder:
“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).
According to Apostle George Q. Cannon:
“SALVATION WITH HIS PERMISSION. If we get our salvation, we shall have to pass by him; if we enter into our glory, it will be through the authority that he has received. We cannot get around him; we cannot get around President Young; we cannot get around President Taylor; we cannot get around the Twelve Apostles. If we ever attain to that eternal glory that God has promised to the faithful, we shall have to pass by them. If we enter into our exaltation, it will be because they, as the servants of God, permit us to pass by, just as the revelation says, ‘pass by the angels, and the Gods, which are set there’ (D&C 132:19), to our exaltation” (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon 1:255, 1974).
Joseph Fielding Smith’s father, Joseph F. Smith, served as the church’s sixth president. It comes down to pure blasphemy when we comprehend what Joseph F. Smith said (and this was quoted in 2003 in the Ensign magazine):
“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, which is indeed the Church of Jesus Christ, possessing all the powers of the gospel, all the rites and privileges, the authority of the Holy Priesthood, and every principle necessary to fit and qualify both the living and the dead to inherit eternal life, and to attain to exaltation in the kingdom of God” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 134)” (Joseph F. Smith, Ensign, “Joseph Smith: Restorer of Truth,” December 2003, p. 17).
Like father, like son, as Joseph Fielding Smith said,
“NO SALVATION WITHOUT ACCEPTING JOSEPH SMITH. If Joseph Smith was verily a prophet, and if he told the truth when he said that he stood in the presence of angels sent from the Lord, and obtained keys of authority, and the commandment to organize the Church of Jesus Christ once again on the earth, then this knowledge is of the most vital importance to the entire world. No man can reject that testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of god. It is, therefore the duty of every man to investigate that he may weigh this matter carefully and know the truth” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:189-190. Italics in original).
If you are not a Latter-day Saint but thinking about joining the Mormon Church, understand this: Rejecting Joseph Smith is equivalent to rejecting God. He’s that important.
Smith’s son-in-law Bruce R. McConkie, a well-respected apostle in the 20th century, said,
“If it had not been for Joseph Smith and the restoration, there would be no salvation” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 670).
As eleventh President Harold B. Lee explained,
“A testimony of Joseph Smith is vital. No man can accept Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, no man can accept this as His church, the Church of Jesus Christ, unless he can accept Joseph Smith as God’s mouthpiece and the restorer of His work in these latter days. First, to say that we are Christians then requires two or three certainties. We must know for certainty in our hearts and minds that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world. We must know that this is indeed the Church of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God on earth in these last days; and finally we must have a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 371).
(For more on this topic related to the salvific role of Smith for humanity today, see here.)
Imagine the audacity of 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” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Joseph Smith: Restorer of Truth,” Ensign, December 2003, pp. 18-19).
Can you imagine, let “God be thanked for the Prophet Joseph” and “let not his memory be forgotten in the celebration of Christmas.” My goodness, isn’t Christmas the time we celebrate Jesus, not Joseph?
Meanwhile, many Mormons have an uplifted idea of who they believe Joseph Smith is. For instance, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a member of the First Presidency, claims that the LDS founder had “integrity.” He said,
“As we remember and honor the Prophet Joseph Smith, my heart reaches out to him in gratitude. He was a good, honest, humble, intelligent, and courageous young man with a heart of gold and an unshaken faith in God. He had integrity.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Precious Fruits of the First Vision,” Ensign, February 2009, p. 7).
Apostle Mark E. Peterson claimed,
“I do not believe we can be good Latter-day Saints and question the integrity of Joseph Smith” (Mark E. Peterson, Conference Reports, April 1953, p. 84).
Fortunately, Joseph Fielding Smith said we should be able to check out Smith’s credentials:
“If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who wilfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false, for the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth. If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect. The doctrines of false teachers will not stand the test when tried by the accepted standards of measurement, the scriptures” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:188. Italics in original).
Even though this last quote was not included in the manual, I must say I would agree. (Could it be that current editors realize how this quote could go over very well in the mid-20th century when something called the Internet was a figment of creative people’s imagination. No longer!) With this being said, throughout the rest of this review, let’s take a closer look at the “integrity” of Joseph Smith.
“Joseph Smith was a prophet called and appointed to usher in the dispensation of the fulness of times.”
I know that he [Joseph Smith] was called, appointed by our Father in heaven; that he received revelation and guidance from the Son of God that would be of benefit and a blessing to all men if they would receive it.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Lord raised the Prophet Joseph Smith up and gave him revelation, commandment, opened the heavens to him, and called upon him to stand at the head of this glorious dispensation. I am perfectly satisfied in my mind that in his youth, when he went out to pray, he beheld and stood in the actual presence of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ; in my mind there is no doubt—I know this to be true. I know that he later received visitations from Moroni, the Aaronic Priesthood under the hands of John the Baptist, the Melchizedek Priesthood under the hands of Peter, James, and John, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized on the sixth day of April 1830, by divine command.
In order not to make this review into a booklet, let me provide some links on our site that will explain our position better.
To show the chronological problems of the “first vision,” see here.
To show how the current “first vision” account comes a couple of decades later after the event supposedly took place in 1820 and how there were at least nine different versions of the story, see here.
And Joseph Smith was known by his neighbors to not have a whole lot of integrity.
In choosing a representative to stand at the head of this “great and marvelous work about to come forth unto the children of men,” [see D&C 4:1] the Lord did not select one who was versed in the learning and traditions of the world. His ways are not the ways of man, neither are his thoughts like the thoughts of men [see Isaiah 55:8]. One taught in the learning of the world would have had too much to unlearn of the traditions and philosophy of men. In his great wisdom the Lord chose an unsophisticated child—a boy fourteen years of age. Unto this youth the Lord revealed the fulness of the gospel, which the world would not receive because of unbelief. Through years of heavenly guidance—for he was instructed by messengers from the presence of the Lord—this young man, Joseph Smith, was prepared to direct the work of the restoration of the Gospel and the building of the Kingdom of God.
Let’s return to this “young man” and his “integrity.” Many Latter-day Saints know about Brigham Young’s polygamy but very little about Joseph Smith and his 34 wives, The Thirty Plus Wives of Joseph Smith including a third who were teens and another third who were married to other men. So much could be said on this topic, so allow me to provide links for the interested person to do research:
- Amorous advances by the Mormon prophet
- Joseph Smith’s aberrational marriage habits
- Joseph Smith and Polygamy
And check out these YouTube videos on the topic:
Joseph Smith as a Sexual Predator (5:41): Sandra Tanner talks frankly about Joseph Smith’s escapades.
The Stories of the Wives of Joseph Smith (41:09): Many people may be surprised to learn that Joseph Smith had 33 wives, including 10 (or 11) who were married to other men and 11 who were teenagers.
And finally, check out this review of a book called Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith that I believe really shows the true character of Joseph Smith. Any man willing to lie to his wife is willing to lie to anyone!
How about another topic: Prophecy? According to Deuteronomy 13 and 18, we can know if a person really was sent forth by the Lord. How? His prophecies would come to pass. Yet Smith had a dismal prophetical record. See the following for just a few of him false prophecies:
- Civil War prediction
- Rocky Mountain prophecy
- Prediction of Second Coming
- The White Horse Prophecy
- A sampling of other false prophecies (offsite, Utah Lighthouse Ministry)
The Lord said that this generation would have His word through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
In every age when the gospel is on earth, it must be revealed to the Lord’s prophets, and they must be called to stand as legal administrators to perform and to direct the performance of the ordinances of salvation for their fellowmen.
Joseph Smith is the prophet whom the Lord called in this day to restore the truths of salvation and to receive the keys and powers to administer these saving truths.
To him the Lord said: “… this generation shall have my word through you.” (D&C 5:10.) And then, referring to the gospel restored through Joseph Smith, the Lord said: “This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come, or the destruction of the wicked.” [Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:31.]14
I now say—
That Joseph Smith is the one to whom all men must look in this day to learn the truth about Christ and his gospel;
That in due course the name of this prophet shall be known in every corner of the earth and among all people;
That the honest in heart will accept him as a prophet and will worship that Lord whom he revealed;
That the church that he organized by divine command prospers because it follows the revelations that came through him;
And that all who believe the teachings of Joseph Smith and labor in the course set by him shall come to a knowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son
of God who was crucified for the sins of the world.
In the same way that I know Jesus is the Christ—and that is by revelation from the Holy Spirit—I know that Joseph Smith is and was and everlastingly shall be a prophet of God. …
In a spirit of testimony and thanksgiving, I [share] these inspired words from the Doctrine and Covenants: “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.)
When it comes to the “gospel” (meaning, good news) of Joseph Smith, let’s consider his view of God and Jesus:
Also watch this short YouTube video (less than 3 minutes) on the topic: From All Eternity to All Eternity, but Not? (Joseph Smith Contradicts Himself) where Bill McKeever shows the difference in Joseph Smith’s God versus what is taught in the Bible.
If Smith was unable to get the idea of God and Jesus correct, where else did he go wrong? Is this really a person of “integrity”?
Together, Joseph and Hyrum Smith sealed their testimonies with their blood.
We raise our voices in thanksgiving for the lives and ministries of the Prophet Joseph Smith, of Hyrum Smith the Patriarch, and of the prophets and apostles and righteous men and women who have built on the foundation they laid.
According to twelfth president Spencer W. Kimball,
“And his hour had come to seal with his blood his testimony, so often borne to multitudes of friends and foes. His Judas came from his own circle—Governor Ford was his Pontius Pilate, Nauvoo was his Gethsemane, and Carthage his Calvary. There were also modern Pharisees to goad the mobs—and another martyr testified” (Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Reports, April 1946, p. 45).
To liken Joseph Smith—as he himself supposed said it—to a “lamb led to a slaughter” is blasphemous as well. See The Martyrdom of Joseph Smith for more information.
To summarize, Joseph Smith is not the man who many Latter-day Saints think he is. Before joining this church, every person should be aware of the truth about this person who is more important than anyone save Jesus Christ.
For more reviews on this manual featuring Joseph Fielding Smith quotes, go here.