The Salvific Role of Joseph Smith

By Bill McKeever

The following was originally printed in the Nov-Dec 2012 edition of Mormonism Researched. To request a free subscription, please visit here

One of the major points of concern when it comes to the unique aspects of the Mormon faith is the emphasis of Joseph Smith’s role in the salvation of mankind. LDS leaders have not hidden the fact that without Joseph Smith, true salvation is elusive, for it was Joseph Smith who was allegedly called by God to reintroduce the principles of salvation after being lost for several centuries.

This emphasis on Joseph Smith was carried to an abnormal extreme in the nineteenth century when LDS leaders actually inserted Joseph Smith’s name when making reference to New Testament Bible verses that specifically referred to faith in Jesus for salvation.

For example, on September 9, 1860, Brigham Young addressed the “unbelievers” listening to him in the crowd. By partially citing both 1 John 4:2 and 1 John 5:1, Young made it clear that believing in Jesus was not enough, adding those who did not accept that Joseph Smith was sent of God were “of Antichrist.” Young declared:

For unbelievers we will quote from the Scriptures— “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” Again— “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God.” I will now give my scripture— “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 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, nor how much divinity it may profess, nor what it professes with regard to revealed religion and the account that is given of the Saviour and his Father in the Bible. They may say that they acknowledge Him until doomsday, and he will never own them, nor bestow the Holy Spirit upon them, and they will never have visions of eternity opened to them, unless they acknowledge that Joseph Smith is sent of God. Such people I call unbelievers. They tell about believing in Jesus Christ, but they might as well talk about birds understanding the Hebrew language. This statement is no more positive than true. (Journal of Discourses 8:176-177).

Young went on to say in that same speech, “The spirit that confesses that this is the kingdom of God and his Church has the kingdom of God and his Church has the Spirit that fills the heavenly worlds, and every other spirit is of Anti-christ.”

Three years earlier, Joseph Young, a member of the First Council of the Seventy, inserted the name of Joseph Smith and his brother Brigham in his paraphrase of Romans 10:9. Said Young:

Believe in God, believe in Jesus, and believe in Joseph his Prophet, and in Brigham his successor. And I add, “If you will believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Christ, and Joseph was a Prophet, and that Brigham was his successor, you shall be saved in the kingdom of God,” which I pray, in the name of Jesus, may be the case. Amen.  (Journal of Discourses 6:229).

In Philippians 2:9 the apostle Paul noted that God the Father has highly exalted Jesus and given Him a name that is above every name. In verses 10-11 he stated that one day, all humankind will acknowledge Jesus’ rightful position. “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Heber C. Kimball, a member of the First Presidency, took this concept a step further when he insisted,

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).

More than once, LDS leaders have stated that Joseph Smith will have some say as to who will, and will not, enter the highest form of Mormon heaven known as the celestial kingdom. On March 8, 1857, Brigham Young stated that there was safety for those whom Joseph Smith justified:

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 (Journal of Discourses 4:271).

Three weeks later, Young proclaimed, “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). While speaking in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on October 9, 1859, Brigham Young again emphasized Smith’s role as judge when he said,

. . .no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are—I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent. He holds the keys of that kingdom for the last dispensation—the keys to rule in the spirit—world; and he rules there triumphantly, for he gained full power and a glorious victory over the power of Satan while he was yet in the flesh, and was a martyr to his religion and to the name of Christ, which gives him a most perfect victory in the spirit-world. He reigns there as supreme a being in his sphere, capacity, and calling, as God does in heaven. Many will exclaim— “Oh, that is very disagreeable! It is preposterous! We cannot bear the thought!” But it is true (Journal of Discourses 7:289).

Some might argue that these nineteenth century quotes are no longer a part of modern-day Mormonism. Sadly, they most certainly are. The modern LDS Church still teaches that Joseph Smith has a salvific role as judge of mankind. For example, page 133 of  the 1984 church manual titled Search These Commandments insists, “Joseph Smith’s mission did not end with his death.” It then proceeded to cite Young’s October 9, 1859 comment above. Even with three sets of ellipses, the manual made it obvious that “no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith.” The chapter ended with the following question: “Do you sense the magnitude of Joseph’s calling? It is evident that the Lord selected one of his most noble sons to preside over this dispensation.”

The consequences for lacking faith in Joseph Smith as a prophet were made clear in an April 1971 conference message by Seventy A. Theodore Tuttle titled “The Message of the Restoration”:

There is no greater prophet in any dispensation than Joseph Smith… Joseph Smith was a prophet, and all the calumny and aspersion to the contrary cannot controvert that fact. Anyone who has concern for the welfare of his eternal soul should give attention to this message. Every man who has lived since the days of Joseph Smith is subject to accepting him as a prophet of God in order to enter into our Heavenly Father’s presence.

The above portion of Tuttle’s speech was reprinted on page 14 of the March 17, 2001 edition of the Church News in an article “No greater prophet: Joseph Smith re-established fullness of true gospel, Church.”

There are two reasons why no one need fear the judgment of Joseph Smith. One, contrary to the claims of LDS leaders, Joseph Smith did not meet the requirements of a true prophet of God. Smith will be judged rather than be a judge. Two, Jesus said in John 5:22 that the Father has given ALL judgment unto the Son. Because He is the Son of man, the Father has given Jesus the “authority to execute judgment” (John 5:27). Be sure, the judgment of Jesus will be just, because He will seek not His own will, but the will of the Father who sent Him (5:30).

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