By Eric Johnson
Note: The following was originally printed in the November/December 2023 edition of Mormonism Researched. To request a free subscription, please visit here.
Many of us struggle with pride. As the Bible teaches in Proverbs 16:18, “pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before the fall.” In my life I’ve learned that pride gets me into more trouble than any other sinful attribute ingrained in my sinful life.
Joseph Smith, the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was certainly not a man of humility. This is something that many Latter-day Saints ought to know about the man they revere. With that, here is what I consider t o be ten of Smith’s most boastful or arrogant statements (in no particular order).
#1 Many are familiar with a quote given by Smith on May 26, 1844 that is found in a reliable church source:
“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.”History of the Church 6:408-409.
When it is considered how the church fragmented into so many groups after Smith’s death, should this citation be considered an accurate assessment of his leadership? Still, a former BYU professor disagreed that this quote portrays Smith as boastful or arrogant. For a response to this curious claim, see Sharon Lindbloom’s article.
#2 The book Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith contain some audacious citations. For instance, consider this:
“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, 363.
Smith certainly was not a likely candidate to have written the book How to Win Friends and Influence People.
#3 This next quote by Smith was cited in a general conference a few years ago:
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, 368. Cited by Apostle Neil A. Maxwell, “How Choice a Seer!” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2003, 100.
Smith claimed that he wasn’t perfect but that all his teachings were correct. When we consider how Smith so often contradicted his prior teachings during the last few years of his life, this claim seems weak.
#4 Consider this citation from Smith:
“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.’”Times and Seasons 4:375.
Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, yet according to the Mormon founder, God the Father is Smith’s “right hand man.” Quite a switch, don’t you think?
#5 This next quote might not be considered “bragging,” but to talk in the manner Smith does is nothing less than ostentatious:
“I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth, for I am going to prove it to you by the Bible, and to tell you the designs of God in relation to the human race, and why He interferes with the affairs of man. God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret, if the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another.”Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345. Italics in original. See also Achieving a Celestial Marriage, 129.
This seems to disagree with some teaching given in the unique LDS Standard Works, including Moroni 8:18 and D&C 20:17.
#6 Joseph Smith prophesied as if he had been given special insight on a variety of issues. Yet most of what he prophesied did not come true, despite his insistence that he spoke with divine authority. For instance, consider what he said on January 4, 1833, in an authorized church history source:
“And now I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ, that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation; pestilence, hail, famine, and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land, to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country.”History of The Church 1:315.
Smith’s proponents have claimed this predicts the coming American Civil War. However, many details in this “prophecy” did not happen. For example, the “wicked of this generation” were not swept off the face of the land. For more on this topic, see Bill McKeever’s article “Did Joseph Smith correctly predict the American Civil War?”
#7 Sometimes Smith said things that raises eyebrows. Consider this quote:
“I see no faults in the Church, and therefore let me be resurrected with the Saints, whether I ascend to heaven or descend to hell, or go to any other place. And if we go to hell, we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven of it.”Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 316.
If a person gets resurrected to hell, it’s a bit too late for him to hit the “redo” button according to biblical teaching (2 Cor. 6:2; Heb. 9:27). Although his statement may have been facetious, it is presumptuous for anyone to think he can possibly turn hell into heaven.
#8 Murder is certainly a heinous sin, but listen to what Smith said about the future of murderers:
“Remission of sins by baptism was not to be preached to murderers. All the priests of Christendom might pray for a murderer on the scaffold forever, but could not avail so much as a gnat towards their forgiveness. There is no forgiveness for murderers.”Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 221.
This teaching is found in Doctrine and Covenants 42:18 that reads, “Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come.”
According to LDS teaching, King David (murderer of Uriah the Hittite) cannot be forgiven and apparently could never receive celestial glory. (See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 339.) Saul/apostle Paul is also a murderer since he participated in the killing of Stephen. And since the Bible teaches that hate is the same as murder (1 John 3:15), who could ever outlast that judgment? Consider also that Alma 24:10 has King “Anti-Nephi-Lehi” thanking God that he “hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed.”
#9 Smith claimed that he did not practice polygamous ways when the facts show otherwise. Consider this:
“Gave instructions to try those persons who were preaching, teaching, or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives; for, according to the law, I hold the keys of this power in the last days; for there is never but one on earth at a time on whom the power and its keys are conferred; and I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise. (Oct. 5, 1843.).”History of the Church 6:46; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 324; the Book of Mormon Student Manual Religion 121 and 122, 1989, 46. Italics in original.
Even the Gospel Topics essay on polygamy published on the LDS Church website admits that, though he kept it a secret from most people during his lifetime, Smith was married to 30 to 40 women. His arrogant statement is certainly nothing less than a lie. Should Latter-day Saints be OK with this? Many have left the church over the past decade based on this fact.
#10 Smith’s knowledge of God (and misunderstanding of Christian theology) is legendary. This is his false impression of the Trinity:
Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God! I say that is a strange God anyhow—three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization. All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God —he would be a giant or a monster.”Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 372.
His mockery of the God whom Christians worship is blasphemous.
For an excellent God Loves Mormons video on this topic, click here.
Conclusion: Some Mormons may not know that quotes from reputable LDS Church sources like these exist. Yet they do. In the right timing, this is information that ought to be shared with our LDS friends and family members. Joseph Smith was certainly not a humble man and is not someone who should be emulated or adored.