By Sharon Lindbloom
6 October 2016
Mormonism was in the news a lot last weekend. Saturday and Sunday were the days of the LDS Church’s October General Conference. During the Church’s semiannual conferences, leaders of the Church are understood to encourage, challenge, and educate Mormons with inspired spiritual talks. Last Saturday morning the talk by Craig C. Christensen (of the Presidency of the Seventy), “A Choice Seer I Will Raise Up,” generated somewhere in the vicinity of 175 news stories titled, “Mormon leader: Defend founder Joseph Smith’s Story.”
While Mr. Christensen did not specifically instruct his hearers to “defend” the Joseph Smith story, he did say, “We need not be timid about testifying of Joseph’s mission as prophet, seer, and revelator…” For the following twelve minutes, this is what Mr. Christensen did.
After providing a selective outline of Joseph Smith’s life and accomplishments, Mr. Christensen said,
“To any who may be questioning their testimony of Joseph Smith or are struggling with erroneous, misleading, or superficial information about his life and ministry, I invite you to consider the fruits—the many blessings that have come to us through the miraculous mission of Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration.”
He went on to explain, “Because Joseph was a prophet…” the LDS Church has continuing revelation, the LDS priesthood, saving temple ordinances, and eternal families. And more. Mr. Christensen said,
“Because Joseph was a prophet we have more than a window into heaven; the very doorway to the eternities is open to us. We can know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. Eternal life can be ours.”
In other words – in fact, in the words of another Mormon leader –
“If it had not been for Joseph Smith and the restoration, there would be no salvation.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 670)
There is “No salvation without accepting Joseph Smith,” a past LDS President stated (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:189). Therefore, Mr. Christiansen’s remarks fit well with Mormon doctrine. But not with biblical doctrine.
While Mr. Christensen was pleased to teach that Joseph Smith is the only way to the Father and that Joseph Smith provides access to God that we could have in no other way (“the very doorway to the eternities”), the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father and that Jesus provides access to God (“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” –John 14:6. “For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” –Ephesians 2:18). In Mr. Christensen’s talk, at least to some degree, he allowed Joseph Smith to displace Jesus.
Mr. Christensen told his audience that “the Lord has always worked through prophets,” but within Mormonism, Joseph Smith isn’t like the biblical prophets; he is something quite different. I’ve never heard a Latter-day Saint say, “There is no salvation without accepting the prophet Noah,” or “If it had not been for the faith of Abraham, there would be no salvation.” But regarding Joseph Smith, Mormonism says he and his work are necessary for the salvation of mankind today.
Brigham Young once declared that “no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith” (Journal of Discourses 7:289). Brigham also said that Joseph will justify us (i.e., theologically, “make righteous in the sight of God”):
“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)
In 1988 Ted Cannon (then the director of the Mormon Visitors Centers at Carthage and Nauvoo, Illinois) compared the deaths of Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ. As reported by journalist Doug Schorpp:
“The Old Carthage Jail, where Mormon founder Joseph Smith was murdered in 1844, holds the same significance to his approximately 6.5 million followers as Calvary holds for Christians all over the world. That’s the comparison made by Ted Cannon…” (Journal Star, Peoria, IL, Sunday, June 26, 1988, D3)
Further, an LDS scholar and director of the Church correlation department once explained,
“In the final analysis – when this dispensation is completed – the salvation and happiness of men and women will be determined on how each of us has responded to the name and the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith…” (William O. Nelson, Church News, 7/16/1994, 5)
Finally, consider this summation of Joseph Smith’s contribution to the salvation of mankind:
“As suggested earlier, the life of Joseph Smith was in some degree patterned after that of his Master, Jesus Christ. That pattern holds true even when extended to its tragic conclusion. Like his Master, Joseph shed his blood in order that the final testament, the reestablishment of the new covenant, might be in full effect” (BYU Professor Emeritus Robert L. Millet, “Joseph Smith among the Prophets,” Ensign, June 1994, p. 22).
Within the LDS faith, Joseph Smith was (and is, according to Mormonism) not simply a prophet like Moses, teaching the gospel and directing the Church. No. Because of Joseph, the doorway to the eternities is open. Joseph shed his own blood so the new covenant could be in full effect. Joseph’s Calvary will justify people if they but live worthily. Though a Latter-day Saint would never say this, in practical terms Mormonism has made Joseph Smith a type of co-savior with Christ.
At the end of his talk, Mr. Christensen said, “May we fearlessly declare our witness and our gratitude for this wonderful prophet, seer, and revelator of the Lord, is my prayer…”
Friends, the view of Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ, and salvation as proclaimed by LDS leaders is not only wrong, it is eternally dangerous. Contrary to Mr. Christensen’s counsel, I caution all that there is need to be timid about testifying of Joseph Smith. For to attribute to another the work and the glory that belong to Christ alone is to invite the judgement and wrath of God.
May God have mercy, is my prayer.
“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” –Romans 5:8-11
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