During 2013, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow. 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.
“I knew Joseph Smith to be an honest man, a man of truth, honor and fidelity, willing to sacrifice everything he possessed, even life itself, as a testimony to the heavens and the world that he had borne the truth to the human family.”
Should it be a surprise that, since these “Presidents of the Church” manuals have been produced since 1998, every single edition has had at least one chapter completely dedicated to Joseph Smith. No other topic—including Jesus Christ—has had as many chapters dedicated in this series than the LDS founder. So it is no surprise that, once again, Smith is being highlighted. For proof, see here.
From the Life of Lorenzo Snow
“Perhaps there are very few men now living who were so well acquainted with Joseph Smith the Prophet as I was,” President Lorenzo Snow said in 1900. “I was with him oftentimes. I visited him in his family, sat at his table, associated with him under various circumstances, and had private interviews with him for counsel.”
In addition to these private interactions, Lorenzo Snow witnessed Joseph Smith in public—in his ministry as a friend to the Saints and as the Prophet of the Restoration. He told of a meeting Joseph Smith attended in the partially constructed Nauvoo Temple. The Prophet walked to the stand, accompanied by a minister of another faith. The minister “was intensely solemn. When anything was said that created merriment or laughter among the people, [he] remained perfectly quiet, not even showing the least change of countenance.” In contrast, Joseph Smith “felt very well that morning” and made a comment that “caused some laughter among the people” before the meeting began. “After the opening of the meeting,” Lorenzo recounted, “President Smith got up, and I never heard him speak with more power than on this occasion. The people were delighted, he was filled with the Spirit of God and spoke with great force and eloquence.”
And should we be surprised that this “minister of another faith” is made to look like the fool when compared to Smith. Of course, this event may (or may not) have happened, as we’re left with Snow’s remembrance of the affair. We have no doubt that the charismatic Smith wowed the people, as he was known for his presence. But the point is, was he really “filled with the Spirit of God”? If he was, then his teaching should have been on the biblical God, not the heretical God.
According to Joseph Smith, there were some differences between his version of God and the Bible’s version. The following is what Joseph had to say about God:
“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 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 as a man . . . . We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see . . . God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345-356).
In addition, see Smith’s Sermon at the Grove. I could pull out many other quotes to show how different from biblical Christianity is His view of God, but the point is, either Joseph Smith was filled with the Spirit, or he was not. Just because he made people feel good—even testifying that this man has the spirit—is not enough. The proof is in the pudding. For more information on Mormonism’s version of God, see here.
Although President Snow was impressed by the experiences he had with Joseph Smith, his testimony of the Prophet’s mission was not based on those experiences. He repeatedly declared that he had received his testimony from the Holy Ghost. He said: “As to [Joseph Smith] being a man of truth and honor I, nor any one else that knew him, have any reason to question for a moment. But then I never went forth to preach the principles of this Gospel depending entirely upon any information I received through him or any other man; but I believed on his words, coming as they did to me as the words of truth, from an inspired man of God. … The Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost which all men may receive and enjoy, … confirmed the truth of what he had told me, and it became knowledge to me of that nature which no man can give nor take away.”
Perhaps Snow would have been better off questioning this man instead of allowing his charisma to enchant him. The Bible certainly seems to teach that we should be wary of anyone who brings another gospel to the table. (See Gal. 1:8-9.) Consider these other passages:
Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
Acts 17:11: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
1 Thessalonians 5:21: “Test everything.”
1 John 4:1: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
Besides claiming to have a personal testimony, every Latter-day Saint ought to put Joseph Smith (and the Mormon religion) to the test. If Smith is who he was made out to be, then the test will prove it; if it’s not true, then isn’t it wise to remove yourself from the pathway leading to a heretical God?
Teachings of Lorenzo Snow
When Joseph Smith received his divine calling, he was a pure, sincere, honest young man.
Wow, how things get changed over time. Many Mormons may not know their history, but history shows these adjectives (“pure,” “sincere,” “honest”) to be the figment of the church leaders’ imagination. I invite you to read the following articles to determine if his character is what it’s made out to be:
- Should Joseph Smith appear today
- Was Joseph Smith a Magician?
- Testimonies of Roswell Nichols and Joshua Stafford
- Quotes on Joseph Smith’s Character
The point is, Smith was well known for being a teller of tall tales. With more than a hundred affidavits from those who knew Smith that was published by E.D. Howe in 1832, Smith responded in 1834:
At the age of ten my father’s family removed to Palmyra, N.Y. where, and in the vicinity of which, I lived, or, made it my place of residence, until I was twenty one—the latter part, in the town of Manchester.
During this time, as is common to most, or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies; but as my accusers are, and have been forward to accuse me of being guilty of gross and outragious violations of the peace and good order of the community, I take the occasion to remark, that, though, as I have said above, “as is common to most, or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies,” I have not, neither can it be sustained, in truth, been guilty of wronging or injuring any man or society of men; and those imperfections to which I alude, and for which I have often had occasion to lament, were a light, and too often, vain mind, exhibiting a foolish and trifling conversation.
Somebody will say, “See, Joseph Smith is just human.” Of course he is. And it’s true that many of us are not particularly proud about our childhood past. So why, then, must the church paint Smith as some innocent babe when the hisotrical records (and even Smith’s own testimony) do not support this idea? The way Smith is portrayed is Orwellian.
Joseph Smith, whom God chose to establish this work, was poor and uneducated, and belonged to no popular denomination of Christians. He was a mere boy, honest, full of integrity, unacquainted with the trickery, cunning and sophistry employed by politicians and religious hypocrites, to accomplish their ends.
Once more, a version of Smith not known by history is presented. Snow paints a portrait of Smith that is nothing less than manipulative.
Like Moses of old, he felt incompetent and unqualified for the task, to stand forth as a religious reformer, in a position the most unpopular—to battle against opinions and creeds which have stood for ages, having the sanction and support of men, the most profound in theological lore; but God had called him to deliver the poor and honest-hearted of all nations from their spiritual and temporal thralldom [bondage]. And God promised him that whosoever should receive and obey his message—be baptized for the remission of sins, with honesty of purpose—might receive divine manifestations, should receive the Holy Ghost, the same Gospel blessings which were promised and obtained through the Gospel, when preached by the ancient Apostles. And this message, this promise, was to be in force wherever and to whomsoever it should be carried by the Elders, God’s authorized messengers. So said Joseph Smith, the uneducated, the unsophisticated, the plain, simple, honest boy.
Let’s talk about the word “honest” by referring to Smith’s polygamous ways. It is a historical fact that Smith’s wife, Emma, was never in favor of this practice. For instance, when Joseph’s brother Hyrum took the revelation on plural marriage to Emma in the summer of 1843 to get her approval, he returned with his head down, saying, “I have never received a more severe talking to in my life. Emma is very bitter and full of resentment and anger,” he said. (Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 152.) In addition, “Emma would eventually know about some of Joseph’s plural wives, her knowledge of seven can be documented conclusively, and some evidence hints that she may have known of others.” (Ibid., 98.)
However, she was deceived by Smith on a number of occasions, and when she found out that certain women—including some of her best friends—were married to her husband, she became angry and even defiant. For instance,
“when the full realization of the relationship between her friend Eliza [Snow] and her husband Joseph came to her, Emma was stunned. . . . Although no contemporary account of the incident between Emma and Eliza remains extant, evidence leads to the conclusion that some sort of physical confrontation occurred between the two women.” (Ibid., 134. Ellipsis mine.)
History shows that Emma disdained plural marriage. After her husband was killed in 1844, she denied to her dying day that her husband had ever married other women. When Joseph finally convinced his wife to accept plural marriage in May 1843, Emma told him that she would allow him to get married to others women as long as she got to choose the new brides. As reported by Newell and Avery:
“Emma chose the two sets of sisters then living in her house, Emily and Eliza Partridge and Sarah and Maria Lawrence. Joseph had finally converted Emma to plural marriage, but not so fully that he dared tell her he had married the Partridge sisters two months earlier. Emily said that ‘to save family trouble Brother Joseph thought it best to have another ceremony performed. . . . [Emma] had her feelings, and so we thought there was no use in saying anything about it so long as she had chosen us herself.’” (Ibid, 143. Ellipsis in original.)
Is this truly be a depiction of an honest man?
The first time I saw the Prophet Joseph Smith I was about eighteen years of age. It was about the year 1832, in the fall of the year. It was rumored that the Prophet was going to hold a meeting in Hiram, Portage county, Ohio, about two miles from my father’s home. Having heard many stories about him, my curiosity was considerably aroused and I thought I would take advantage of this opportunity to see and hear him. Accordingly, in company with some of the members of my father’s family, I went to Hiram. When we reached there the people were already assembled in a small bowery; there were about one hundred and fifty or two hundred people present. The meeting had already commenced and Joseph Smith was standing in the door of [John] Johnson’s house, looking into the bowery and addressing the people. I made a critical examination as to his appearance, his dress, and his manner as I heard him speak. His remarks were confined principally to his own experiences, especially the visitation of the angel, giving a strong and powerful testimony in regard to these marvelous manifestations. At first he seemed a little diffident [hesitant] and spoke in rather a low voice, but as he proceeded he became very strong and powerful, and seemed to affect the whole audience with the feeling that he was honest and sincere. It certainly influenced me in this way and made impressions upon me that remain until the present day. As I looked upon him [that first time] and listened, I thought to myself that a man bearing such a wonderful testimony as he did, and having such a countenance as he possessed, could hardly be a false prophet.
Hitler had a commanding presence. Does this mean he was telling the truth? I’m not trying to be flippant, but the point is that one’s demeanor or charismatic presence does not guarantee the person is telling the truth. To even suggest that a person “having such a countenance” as Smith “could hardly be a false prophet” is dangerous, to say the least. Wouldn’t a “false prophet” come across as honestly as he could to fool as many as possible? Of course, nobody tries to pass of counterfeit $30 orange bills; their goal is to make it as authentic (close to the original) as possible.
Throughout his life, the Prophet Joseph maintained his honesty and high moral character.
Joseph Smith, the Prophet, with whom I was intimately acquainted for years, as well as I was with my brother, I know him to have been a man of integrity, a man devoted to the interests of humanity and to the requirements of God all the days in which he was permitted to live. There never was a man that possessed a higher degree of integrity and more devotedness to the interest of mankind than the Prophet Joseph Smith. I knew Joseph Smith to be an honest man, a man of truth, honor and fidelity, willing to sacrifice everything he possessed, even life itself, as a testimony to the heavens and the world that he had borne the truth to the human family.
I’m surprised that Snow didn’t mention about how “humble” Smith was. Wait a minute, he wasn’t even that. Listen to several boasts made by Smith in the sixth volume of the History of the Church:
“I combat the errors of 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.’” (History of the Church, 6:78. The footnote to this passage says that Smith’s ending comment was “reverently said,” and “not in the blasphemous sense attributed to him by some anti-Mormon writers; namely, that God was subordinate to him—his right hand man.” This was obviously written well after the fact of this statement, so we’re curious how the editor (who wasn’t there) knew that it was “reverently said.”)
“God made Aaron to be the mouthpiece for the children of Israel, and He will make me to 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.” (Ibid., 319–20.)
“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.” (Ibid., 408–9.)
Despite the bravado displayed by Mormonism’s founder, Alma 5:27–28 in the Book of Mormon warns:
“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.”
If the Book of Mormon is scripture, as many Mormons believe, would it not appear that Smith was not prepared to meet God and therefore did not have eternal life?
I knew him to be a man of God, full of the spirit of his calling—a man whose integrity could not be disputed, and who was honest in all his endeavors. No one that was as intimately acquainted with him as I was could find any fault with him, so far as his moral character was concerned. … I bear testimony of the good character of Brother Joseph Smith, of his honesty, his fidelity, his faithfulness, his generosity, and benevolence, as a man and as a servant of God.
Let’s talk more about how humble he was. In the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, a whole section to Genesis chapter 50 was added by Smith. Verses 24-38 included a missing prophecy about a certain seer named Joseph who had a father named Joseph. Mormons believe this speaks about Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church. One teacher’s manual says,
The great latter-day Joseph. The Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 50:24–38 contains prophecies that Joseph made about one of his descendants who would become a “choice seer.” The Book of Mormon prophet Lehi restated these prophecies in 2 Nephi 3:5–15. The descendant referred to in these prophecies is the Prophet Joseph Smith. (Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, 53.)
To be able to add a prophecy about oneself—in the Bible, no less—and then pass it off as if Moses had originally written it is, no doubt, audacious, especially when there is no even one ancient Old Testament manuscript to support this addition. Smith thought very highly about himself, as Smith’s grandnephew Joseph Fielding Smith explained:
According to D&C 135:3,“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.” Smith’s role was said to be so important that God allowed him to be visited by a number of heavenly messengers, more than double any other individual as recorded in the Bible. As listed on page 63 of the October 1994 Ensign, these were God the Father (Joseph Smith—History, 1:17); Jesus Christ (D&C 110:2–10); Moroni (Joseph Smith—History, 1:30–49, 59); John the Baptist (D&C 13:1; History of the Church, 1:39–40); Peter, James, John (D&C 27; History of the Church, 1:40–42); Moses (D&C 110:11); Elias (D&C 110:12); Elijah (D&C 110:13–16); Adam (Michael); Noah (Gabriel); Raphael; various angels (D&C 128:21); Lehi, Nephi (Journal of Discourses, 16:266); Mormon (Watt, ed., Journal of Discourses, 17:374). In addition, there were a number of times when Smith was supposedly visited by God, as taught by Apostle Russell M. Nelson at a general conference: “Our Eternal Father and Jesus Christ made multiple appearances to the Prophet Joseph Smith.” (Ensign (May 2013), 46.)
Brigham Young said Smith’s character was on the same level as that of Jesus and others of both the Old and New Testament. He stated in 1871:
Well, now, examine the character of the Savior, and examine the characters of those who have written the Old and New Testaments; and then compare them with the character of Joseph Smith, the founder of this work . . . and you will find that his character stands as fair as that of any man’s mentioned in the Bible. We can find no person who presents a better character to the world when the facts are known. Brigham Young in Watt, ed., Journal of Discourses, 14:203. Ellipsis ours.
Free from hypocrisy, Joseph Smith could participate in innocent amusement as well as teach with the power of God.
I attended … meetings in the Temple regularly and heard the Prophet discourse upon the grandest of subjects. At times he was filled with the Holy Ghost, speaking as with the voice of an arch-angel and filled with the power of God, his whole person shone and his face was lightened. …
At times he spoke lightly, and at other times he explained the mysteries of the kingdom. The change was so noticeable that it seemed he was elevated into heaven while addressing the people who were on the earth, and then returned again to more familiar themes. …
Joseph Smith was always natural and extremely calm, he never became confused or irritated by persons or things around him. Many ministers called upon him and endeavored to catch him when not upon his guard, doing something with which they might find fault, but when he was not in company his actions were always the same. He never was guilty of hypocrisy.
Never guilty of hypocrisy? Joseph Smith said that God gave him the principle known as the Word of Wisdom. Yet throughout his life, Smith often used tobacco and liquor. He even stated:
We then partook of some refreshments, and our hearts were made glad by the fruit of the vine. . . . Elders Orson Hyde, Luke S. Johnson, and Warren Parrish, then presented the Presidency with three servers of glasses filled with wine, to bless. . . . It was then passed round in order, the cake in the same order; and suffice it to say, our hearts were made glad while partaking of the bounty of earth which was presented, until we had taken our fill. (History of the Church, 2:369, 378. Ellipses ours.)
In his book Hearts Made Glad: The Charges of Intemperance Against Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet (Salt Lake City, Utah: Lamar Petersen, 1975), LaMar Petersen documented “the statements and testimonies of scores of witnesses and redactors regarding Smith’s interest in ‘the fruit of the vine.’”
According to the 22 January 1935 Saint’s Herald, a newspaper owned by the Independence, Missouri–based Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Smith ran a tavern from his home. His wife, Emma, disapproved and ordered him to get rid of it, which he did. Mormon Oliver B. Huntington told of one story concerning Smith and a man named Robert Thompson. Smith told Thompson that he should “get drunk and have a good spree. If you don’t you will die.” Robert did not do it. He was a very pious exemplary man and never guilty of such an impropriety as he thought that to be. In less than two weeks he was dead and buried. (Life of Oliver B. Huntington, typed copy at the University of Utah, Special Collections Department (Marriott Library).)
Mormon Church leaders and historians have sanitized some things in LDS publications to protect the reputation of their founding prophet. For instance, Joseph Smith is quoted as saying:
“It was reported to me that some of the brethren had been drinking whisky that day in violation of the Word of Wisdom. I called the brethren in and investigated the case, and was satisfied that no evil had been done.” History of the Church, 5:450. The original account found in the Millennial Star adds these words: “and gave them a couple of dollars, with directions to replenish the bottle to stimulate them in the fatigues of their sleepless journey.” (Millennial Star 21, 283.)
He indulged in all healthful sports, and did not think it was unbecoming to play at ball, to run a foot race or to indulge in any other outdoor sports. One minister, while at the Prophet’s home, happened to look out of the window and saw the Prophet engaged in wrestling in the garden with a friend. This, with other instances of innocent amusement convinced the minister of the Prophet’s honesty and entire freedom from hypocrisy. … On another occasion, Joseph Smith had indulged in playing a game of ball with some of the young men in Nauvoo. When his brother Hyrum saw it he wished to correct the Prophet and even rebuked him, saying that such conduct was not becoming in a Prophet of the Lord. The Prophet answered in a mild voice, “Brother Hyrum, my mingling with the boys in a harmless sport like this does not injure me in any way, but on the other hand it makes them happy and draws their hearts nearer to mine.”
I’m not sure how playing sports gives Mormonism’s founding prophet a free pass to the label of hypocrisy. Someone please explain. But let me return to the subject of polygamy once more, as I find this man’s behavior atrocious, whether it took place in the 1840s or the 21st century.
For example, many Mormons may have never heard that one-third of Smith’s thirty-three plural wives were teenagers when they were married to Smith. According to Todd Compton,
“eleven (33 percent) were 14 to 20 years old when they married him. Nine wives (27 percent) were twenty-one to thirty years old. Eight wives (24 percent) were in Smith’s own peer group, ages thirty-one to forty. In the group aged forty to fifty, there is a substantial drop off: two wives, or 6 percent, and three (9 percent) in the group fifty-one to sixty. The teenage representation is the largest, though the twenty-year and thirty year-groups are comparable, which contradicts the Mormon folk-wisdom that sees the beginnings of polygamy as an attempt to care for older, unattached women.” (Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, 11.)
Smith did not limit his secret marriages to single women, as one-third of Smith’s wives were already been married to other men. Compton explains:
“A common misconception concerning Joseph Smith’s polyandry is that he participated in only one or two such unusual unions. In fact, fully one-third of his plural wives, eleven of them, were married civilly to other men when he married them. If one superimposes a chronological perspective, one sees that of Smith’s first twelve wives, nine were polyandrous. . . . none of these women divorced their ‘first husbands’ while Smith was alive and all of them continued to live with their civil spouses while married to Smith.” (Ibid., 15, 16. Ellipsis ours. For a list of Smith’s wives and more information, see here.)
Some might argue that these relationships were strictly platonic. Compton disagrees:
Because Reorganized Latter-Day Saints claimed that Joseph Smith was not really married polygamously in the full (i.e., sexual) sense of the term, Utah Mormons (including Smith’s wives) affirmed repeatedly that he had physical sexual relations with them—despite the Victorian conventions in nineteenth-century American culture which ordinarily would hae prevented any mention of sexuality. . . . Some, like Emma Smith, conclude that Joseph’s marriages were for eternity only, not for time (thus without earthly sexuality). But many of Joseph’s wives affirmed that they were married to him for eternity and time, with sexuality included. (Ibid., 12, 14. Italics in original. Ellipsis ours.)
Compton concluded that
“though it is possible that Joseph had some marriages in which there were no sexual relations, there is not explicit or convincing evidence for this (except, perhaps, in the cases of the older wives, judging from later Mormon polygamy). And in a significant number of marriages, there is evidence for sexual relations.” (Ibid., 15.)
While there is no DNA evidence to prove that Smith had children with these plural wives, “persistent oral and family traditions insist that Joseph fathered children by at least four of his plural wives.” (Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 98.) Most of Smith’s wives were very quiet about their relationship with the Mormon prophet, as Newell and Avery add on page 99 that these women “refused either to confirm or deny whether they had given birth to his children.”
It is difficult to justify Smith’s behavior by marrying other men’s wives. Leviticus 20:10 declares that an adulterous act was punishable by death: “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” Besides teenagers and women who were married to living husbands, Smith married a mother and her daughter (Patty Bartlett (Sessions) and Sylvia Porter Sessions Lyons) as well as pairs of sisters (Huntington, Partridge, and Lawrence). This certainly seems in conflict with Leviticus 18:17-18 and 20:14.
Smith also targeted the young daughters of two of his closest associates. For instance, Joseph Smith attempted to make nineteen-year-old Nancy Rigdon one of his secret plural wives but was soundly rebuffed. When her father, Sidney, heard of the incident, he confronted Smith. Van Wagoner noted that Smith at first denied the story but recanted when Nancy failed to back off from her accusation. Shortly thereafter Smith had a letter sent to Nancy justifying his proposal when he said, “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.” (Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 295–96.)
In May 1843 the thirty-seven-year-old prophet of Mormonism convinced fifteen-year-old Helen Mar Kimball to be sealed to him as his plural wife. The daughter of Heber C. Kimball stated how Smith promised that if she would “take this step,” it would insure the eternal salvation and exaltation of her father’s household and kindred. Helen was led to believe that the relationship was more of a spiritual nature and claimed she would have never gone through with it had she known otherwise. (Ibid., 293–94.)
I realize that Mormonism practices one man, one wife marraige for today’s life. But how can their founding prophet, who lived the philanderous life that he did, be somehow considered as pure as the driven snow? It makes no sense.
The Prophet had the power to impress in a remarkable manner all who approached him. There was something about him which went to their hearts. This was particularly the case with brethren when receiving from him their appointments to go forth and preach the Gospel. The inspiration that flowed from him possessed their souls and his words penetrated to the innermost recesses of their being. They loved him, and believed in him, and were ready to do whatever he directed for the furtherance of the work of God. He filled them with the power of his presence, and thrilled them with the testimony of his prophetic mission. There are many people in the world who possess an extraordinary spirit of friendship and warmth that everyone feels who meets them. I have met many such men, but never yet have I met another person in whose company I felt the peculiar and powerful influence that I felt while in the presence of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It was due to the great portion of the Spirit of God that he possessed, merely the shake of his hand would cause a person to become filled with this influence, and any sensitive nature would know that he was shaking the hand of an extraordinary person.
We’re supposed to believe that this was a man who could do no wrong? Remember, this is a current LDS Church manual, indoctrinating the Mormons who don’t have time to do any research.
Each of us can gain a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the gospel was restored through him.
In the integrity of my heart, with honesty of purpose to know the truth, I received [Joseph Smith’s] message—I obeyed this form of doctrine, and I received, in the most tangible and satisfactory manner, a divine manifestation—the promised blessing—a knowledge of this work. Am I the only witness? How is it with the experience of thousands whom I now address? Are you also witnesses?
What is the nature of our testimony? It is this: That this is the dispensation of the fulness of times; that the angel that John the Revelator saw flying through the midst of heaven having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred and tongue and people—that that angel has made his appearance and restored the Gospel to the earth, Joseph Smith being the instrument through which the restoration was effected [see Revelation 14:6].
Joseph Smith affirmed that Peter, James and John visited him, and conferred on him authority to administer the holy ordinances of the Gospel through which every honest-hearted man and woman were promised the Holy Ghost, and a perfect knowledge of the doctrine.
Joseph Smith was authorized to open up a channel and lay down a plan through which man could receive a knowledge of these things, so that we might not be left to depend upon the testimony of the Prophets, or the testimony of the ancient Apostles, or to the testimony of the Apostles of the present day, or to the Book of Mormon, or to anything that was done or said in the past, but that we might know for ourselves. It is an individual knowledge.
I know that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet of the living God. I testify that he saw and spoke with God and with His Son Jesus Christ. The Lord gave me this living testimony and it has been burning within my soul ever since I received it. I now give it unto the whole world. I not only testify to all mankind that Joseph Smith was sent of God and that the work that was established through him is the work of God, but warn all the nations of the earth concerning the predictions made by the Prophet, and testify in the most solemn manner that I know them to be true.
It must be understood that Joseph Smith is not just revered but practically worshipped by people who are mesmerized like Snow was. According to a student manual, Joseph Smith is guaranteed the celestial kingdom and eternal life. Referring to a temple ceremony that certain members can receive, the manual states:
“D&C 132:49–50. Exaltation Assured to Joseph Smith. The Prophet Joseph Smith received the promise of eternal life—he had his calling and election made sure. God will extend the same promise to all of his children if they will obey him. Verse 49 explains why the Prophet Joseph received this promise. He was willing to lay all he had on the altar. He was hunted and persecuted, sued in courts of law, torn from family and loved ones, and all because he had testified that the heavens were not closed and that God speaks to His children. The Prophet Joseph is an example in this dispensation of how children of God should act.” (Doctrines and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324 and 325, 334. Bold in original.)
Despite the fact that Christians throughout the centuries have pointed to Jesus Christ as the only way to eternal life, early Mormon leaders taught that Joseph Smith will apparently be a deciding factor as well. Brigham Young said:
“If I can pass brother Joseph, I shall stand a good chance for passing Peter, Jesus, the Prophets, Moses, Abraham, and all back to Father Adam, and be pretty sure of receiving his approbation. . . . 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.”(Brigham Young in Watt, ed., Journal of Discourses, 4:271. Ellipsis ours.)
Concerning judgment day, Young stated that entrance into the celestial kingdom was conditional on Smith’s consent.
“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.” (Ibid., 7:289. This quotation from Young was reprinted in the 1984 church manual Search These Commandments” Melchizedek Priesthood Personal Study Guide as well as in an article “Joseph Smith among the Prophets” printed in the June 1994 issue of the Ensign magazine.)
George Q. Cannon agreed that Smith holds the keys to everyone’s salvation when he wrote:
“He stands, therefore, at the head of this dispensation and will throughout all eternity, and no man can take that power away from him. If any man holds these keys, he holds them subordinate to Joseph Smith. . . . 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.” (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1987), 199. Ellipsis ours.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith–whose manual will be studied in 2014–affirmed this, saying that nobody could reject this “testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:189–90.)
Either Smith was called of God or he wasn’t. Mormon Church historian Andrew Jenson wrote:
If Joseph Smith is what he professed to be: A true Prophet of God, no one can reject his testimony without being condemned, while on the other hand, if he was an impostor, or a false prophet, we can reject him without fear of Divine punishment, and the condemnation will rest upon the man who assumes to speak in the name of the Lord presumptuously. (Andrew Jenson, Collected Discourses 2:149-50, 16 January 1891.)
This veneration for Smith even extends to the point of modifying Scripture to accommodate the Mormon prophet. For instance, on 9 September 1860 Brigham Young referred to 1 John 5:1 and proclaimed:
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.” (Brigham Young in Watt, ed., Journal of Discourses, 8:176–77.)
Young went on to say in the same sermon that those who refuse to acknowledge that Joseph Smith was sent of God will “never have visions of eternity opened to them.” Such people, he said, are “unbelievers.”
The Bible states that Jesus, not Joseph, will be the final judge. Jesus said in John 5:22–23a, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.” (ESV) Both believer and nonbeliever alike will someday acknowledge that Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:9–11). Unfortunately, those who refuse to submit themselves to the lordship of Christ in this life will only have Him to be their judge in the next.
Check out more Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow articles.