Speaking at the October 1999 General Conference, LDS Apostle M. Russell Ballard warned his audience to “beware of false prophets and teachers.” Ballard stated “there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the [LDS] Church.”
There is little question that some of his comments were directed to a group within the LDS Church who speak on issues considered sensitive by LDS authorities. Ballard likened those who sponsor “symposia, books, and journals who contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church” as emulating such Book of Mormon characters as Nehor and Korihor. Both names are synonymous to Mormons as representing that which is philosophically evil.
Ballard stated that false prophets also declare that Joseph Smith was a “duplicitous deceiver.” Such persons also challenge Smith’s “First Vision as an authentic event” and “declare that the Book of Mormon and other canonical works are not ancient records or scripture.” Apparently there are many historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists that also qualify under Ballard’s definition of “false prophets.” Many such experts (not all of which are non-Mormons) have found numerous problems with the lack of consistency in Smith’s claims. To this day we know of no non-Mormon archaeologist or anthropologist that will grant any amount of historicity to the Book of Mormon. Nor have we found any non-Mormon Egyptologist that will support Smith’s alleged “translation” of an ancient funerary text he called the Book of Abraham.
Amazingly, Ballard also claimed that a false prophet can be a person who attempts to
“redefine the nature of the Godhead” and “arrogantly attempt to fashion new interpretations of the scriptures to demonstrate that these sacred texts should not be read as God’s words to his children but merely the utterances of uninspired men, limited by their own prejudices and cultural bias. They argue, therefore, that the scriptures require new interpretation and that they are uniquely qualified to offer that interpretation.”
This is a charge Christians have been raising against Joseph Smith almost from Mormonism’s inception. Smith certainly did attempt to redefine the nature of the Godhead by rejecting the Trinitarian concept in favor of one that represents tri-theism. He mocked the generally accepted view of the Godhead when he stated,
“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, p. 372).
Smith introduced a modern version of polytheism that allows for the existence of virtually millions of deities. He rejected the idea that God is a God of spirit who eternally existed as God. Instead he introduced a deity that once existed as a human being and later became a God at a particular point in time. Said Smith,
“I am going to tell you how God came to be God. 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” (Teachings, p. 345).
Smith demonstrated his arrogance (to use Ballard’s term) by “retranslating” the Bible and inserting phrases and expressions that are not found in any ancient texts. He even inserted a prophesy concerning his own birth in Genesis 50:33. It reads, “And that seer will I bless, and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise I give unto you; for I will remember you from generation to generation; and his name shall be called Joseph, and it shall be after the name of his father; and he shall be like unto you; for the thing which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand shall bring my people unto salvation.”
Ballard went on to say, “
False prophets and false teachers are also those who attempt to change the God-given and scripturally based doctrines that protect the sanctity of marriage, the divine nature of the family, and the essential doctrine of personal morality. They advocate a redefinition of morality to justify fornication, adultery, and homosexual relationships.”
It is assumed that Mr. Ballard’s comment regarding sexual morality was in defense of the LDS position against same-sex marriage. The Mormon Church has been very outspoken in its defense of traditional marriages and I too applaud their efforts in this regard. However, in light of how Joseph Smith behaved, I find it odd that in this context, he would include adultery in his list of socially offensive behaviors. Could it be possible that Ballard is totally unaware of how his American prophet attempted to change the God-given and scripturally based doctrines that protect the sanctity of marriage? Certainly Ballard must know that Smith secretly practiced plural marriage. How does this protect the sanctity of marriage? Smith justified his actions by claiming God had given him divine permission. Wouldn’t this qualify Smith as one who was trying to “redefine” morality to justify his adultery?
No doubt unwittingly, Mr. Ballard has adequately demonstrated that Mormonism’s founder must not be accepted as God’s chosen representative in these “latter-days.”