Was Joseph Smith a Prophet?

by
February 4, 2010

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Joseph Smith is a very divisive figure in American religion–to found a church is one thing, but to have God and Jesus Christ appear to you is quite another.  Joseph Smith has been maligned time and time again, but his story, his life, and the events surrounding God calling him to be a prophet are not absurd, rather it is all congruent with how God has called a prophet and spoken to his children in all ages of the world.

The crux of any claim or statement that attempts to malign or discredit a Mormon’s belief, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in general, originates in the validity of Joseph Smith’s testimony of The Father and The Son coming to visit him (Please see Joseph Smith History 1:13-20).  Either They did in fact visit him, or They didn’t.   It is not my wish to convince you that Joseph Smith was God’s prophet, rather it is my hope that you will see that Joseph Smith meets the qualifications of a prophet as found in the Bible.  I urge you to ponder these points as you read them, and please do so with an open mind and heart.

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  1. According to the Bible, God has always led His church and people through a prophet.  “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7, emphasis added).  This doctrine of governing the affairs of the church through a prophet was reaffirmed when Christ established the new covenant and built His church upon prophets and apostles, Jesus, Himself, being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-22).  This is shown clearly by Christ giving Peter the keys of the kingdom, or the right to direct the affairs of Christ’s church, when Christ himself was not on the earth (Matthew 16:18-19).  Joseph Smith received instructions from Jesus Christ on how to govern His church, and these were compiled into what is now known as the Doctrine and Covenants.
  2. Prophets have always had direct authority from God to act in His name.  They did not just “feel” that they were called of God, they were actually given this right by either God Himself, or by another who could trace his authority back to God.  As clear example of this, before Aaron could officiate in the ordinances of the tabernacle, he was anointed and given the authority to do so by Moses who was a holder of this priesthood.  This same pattern of conferring the priesthood is still employed today in Jesus Christ’s church.  Furthermore,  this practice is in accordance with what Paul teaches the Hebrews, “No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Hebrew 5:4).  John the Baptist who held the right to administer baptism for the remission of sins visited Joseph Smith in May 1829 and gave this authority to Joseph Smith (D&C 13:1 and section heading); furthermore, Peter, James, and John, Christ’s head apostles, came to Joseph and gave to him the authority to govern Christ’s church shortly after John the Baptist visited Joseph (D&C 27:7-8, 12).
  3. Prophets have always written down their revelations to be handed down to the future generations.  Their writings, however, weren’t to be intended as the end of all revelation (and no where in the Bible does it say there will be no more revelation).  Thus, we now have the Bible–it is the compilation of some 4000 years of God’s revelations and teachings.  Once again, this has been the pattern and will continue to the pattern.  Through Joseph Smith came The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.  These are physical evidences that God not only spoke to those of his children in Israel and the regions round about, but to others on a different continent and continues to speak to us today through prophets.
  4. Peter himself prophesied that before Christ would come again, all things would be restored (Acts 3:19-21).  Paul taught of a dispensation of the fulness of times when all things would come together (Ephesians 1:10) and he also taught that before the second coming of Jesus Christ there would come a falling away, or a turning from the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Timothy 4:3-4).  Furthermore, there is evidence from the New Testament that this falling away was already beginning to happen (Acts 20:29-31; 1 Corinthians 11:18; 2 Timothy 1:15; 1 John 2:18-19).  This restoration of all things began with Joseph Smith being visited by The Father and The Son.
  5. God has always had only one church that He personally endorses.  Paul taught this to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:5) and it is clear that Jesus Christ (Jehovah) was leading only one house of Israel.  As another example, if Jesus Christ is the head of multiple churches, then why was Paul not content with letting the wolves enter the flock and lead them astray?  Why was he so concerned that the doctrine is being corrupted and changed by others?  This further underscores that Christ leads only one church.  Yes, there are many good churches who do many good things in Christ’s name and sincerely strive to do what Christ taught-they have many pieces, but not the whole pie.  Through Joseph Smith, Christ declared, “And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually–” (D&C 1:30, italics added).
  6. A prophet of God does not doubt who God is–His character and attributes, because he knows God personally.  This pattern was established with Adam and has been reaffirmed over and over again down through history.  Joseph Smith and his prophetic calling is not out of context, rather it fits perfectly with the pattern that has long been established for God’s calling of a prophet.  He did not doubt if they came or what they looked like, he knew who it was that came to him in the spring of 1820.  He firmly declared the true character of God and His Son, Jesus Christ from that spring day until he gave his life.
  7. The last point is that a prophet giving his life for the Gospel of Jesus Christ is something that has frequently occurred throughout the course of time.  Joseph Smith was true to his testimony–of the restoration of the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ–to his death.   There will always be those that scoff and point the finger of scorn towards Joseph Smith.  There will always be those who try to lay subtle traps and search for supposed loop holes in the teachings and doctrine that Jesus Christ gave to the world through him.  But just as the prophets of old, Joseph Smith’s blood was shed as a final testimony of the validity of Jesus Christ restoring His church and authority once more.  How can a man suffer what he suffered–beatings, being tarred and feathered, whippings, persecution wherever he went, being arrested multiple times and being incarcerated in the worst of circumstances, being rejected and maligned by even some of his closest associates, seeing his fellow disciples be beaten, driven from their homes multiple times, and suffering all manner of cruelty, and then to finally lay down his life, and all the time be living a lie? (Please see Elder Jeffrey Holland’s most recent General Conference address, text and on YouTube.)

I wish to emphasize that it cannot be proven empirically by me or any other human being that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.  There will always be those who want this type of proof, but God does not work this way.  He teaches his children truth when they are willing to hear it and when they are willing to believe, and act accordingly.  God does not confirm his words through complex philosophical methods, rather through the undeniable feelings of the Holy Ghost, a burning in the heart so to speak.  In this way, I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.  I cannot deny those feelings–I know it and I know that God knows I know.  You, too, are free to embrace the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and you are free to accept Joseph Smith as one of God’s prophets.  This will take belief and action, pondering and sincere prayer, but the answers will come.  Please feel free to contact me through the question box by leaving your e-mail address, or by contacting the missionaries of our church through the link on the side bar of our website.

The Prophet Joseph Smith- Alvin Gittins

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15 Responses to “Was Joseph Smith a Prophet?”

  1. Rich

    I understand the “burning” description if it refered to a revelation but “feelings” as we all know can be misguided.

    Joseph Smith said, “Would
    to God I could tell you who I am. Would to God I could tell you what I
    know. But you would call it blasphemy and there are men on this stand that
    would want to take my life.” 

    I’ve been trying to get an answer of “Who did Joseph Smith think he
    was to say that?” 

    Thank you.

  2. I have studied to answer the question you pose for many years. In the spirit of “honesty is a greater virtue than faith” I have concluded that the answer is no. I have based this conclusion on many evidences. First of all I don’t believe that God would condone some of Joseph Smiths conduct such as pursuing other mens wives and then lying about it. Then there is the issue of the source of The Book of Abraham document surfacing in the 1960 which turns out to be something other than the writings of Abraham. Then there is The Kinder-hook Plates, false teachings and failed prophecies by Joseph and later prophets. I don’t have space here to document all of this but a little research on any ones part will uncover it. Lastly, the tremendous ego of Joseph Smith that is revealed in much of his communications that the “cleaned up” histories seem to omit is troubling to me. I view J. S. as the proverbial “BIG FROG IN A SMALL POND” in Aesop’s fables.

  3. Thaddeus

    Rich, I finally found a source for that quote in Life of Heber C. Kimball, pg. 333. I don’t know for sure who Joseph thought he was, but in the context of the book, the prophet’s quote is used to emphasize that we don’t know all that God has to reveal to us and we may not be in a state to handle the revelations that are forthcoming. In other words, they may be so opposed to our imagined view of the Kingdom that we will reject them out of hand, even if they are true.

    One possible meaning is that Joseph was referring to the potential man has for divinity through the Lord’s great plan of salvation. In fact, he was murdered just a few months after preaching that very thing at King Follett‘s funeral.

    Dave, I have done a lot of research on this question as well and I came to a different conclusion. Read my thoughts in Book of Mormon Evidence, and Testimonies of Witnesses. Also, you can find responses to the evidence you cited at the FAIR wiki.

  4. To whomever responded back to my comments of June 1, 2011 or owns this web site.
     I have studied church history, its doctrines and the lives of many individuals involved. My reason for doing the research was to answer the question; was Joseph Smith acting under divine appointment? I am not 100% sure of my conclusion but am reasonably sure that he was not. I don’t limit myself to the approved and official version of church history but limit my sources to testimony and information I consider to be truthful. Many of the events I talk about are alluded to in the official church history.  I have, over the years, had many discussions with church members who protest to some of the things I have told them saying that they are either not true or taken out of context on my part. They then refuse to continue any further discussion with me. They take the view that some things are either too painful to look at or too sacred to put under scrutiny. In the two cases where friends were willing to have a “no holds barred” discussion and study of things pertaining to church history, both conceded that I was correct in the things I had told them. One left the church and the other, although still active has spent much time reconciling himself to the new understanding of things. I refuse to shun controversy because it is too painful or the notion that some things are too sacred to explore or beyond my capacity to understand. I find it difficult to engage any church member in the “no holds barred” discussion of things with out ostracizing them from me so I avoid attempting to do so in the interest of retaining them as friends. Both of the individuals mentioned above are still my friends but others I have attempted to engage in this type of discussion have dropped me as a friend after they refused to continue any further discussion. I have also discussed church history with non members but find they have little interest. I am open to a dialogue on the matter with any one who is interested. It doesn’t have to be made public although I would rather it be available for others. I am just happy for a forum for a dialogue.
      I am of the opinion that there should be nothing under the sun that reasonable people cannot discuss respectfully no matter what the outcome.
    Dave   

  5. Thaddeus

    Hi Dave! Thanks for returning. I hope you are well.

    You indicated that you have done independent research and found convincing evidence that Joseph Smith was not a prophet. You believe that anyone with the courage to face these evidences will acknowledge that Joseph was not a prophet, and you are disappointed that so few people are interested in hearing your argument. You are proud of your own courage in resolutely facing these difficult issues and accepting their ramifications. You imply that a person’s unwillingness to debate is directly related to their position’s inherent weak defense. Is that all true?

    There are many options for you to find someone willing to debate these matters. A great resource is mormondialogue.org, where you will find knowledgeable latter-day saints who are equipped with the necessary background information to talk about these topics with you.

  6. Lisa

    Hi Dave and Thaddeus,
    Joseph Smith had many failed prophecies and the bible does say that if a man or woman is a true prophet then all of what they say will come to pass.  I have also done a lot of research on Joseph Smith and the church.  I have spoken to church members as well as some who have left the church. 


     

  7. Thaddeus

    Hi Lisa!

    You may be surprised to learn that many of the “prophecies” Joseph is said to have given were either hearsay or were not actually prophecy. Take a look at this list of links for more information on specific prophecies.

  8. this is just funny.
    asking if joseph smith was a prophet is like asking if santa claus lives in the north pole.
    the answer is yes only to the people that believe in him.
    You can never convince Mormons that they are wrong. for gods sake they brainwash their kids into believing their religion and shut out all science and other beliefs for fear that if their kids hear anything else they will realize that its all a bunch of bullshit and run off ( like most do that get a glimpse at the outside world).
    personally we all know the answer to this question.

    oh, and by the way, when it comes to people pretending to be prophets, joseph smith wasn’t even a good one.
    i think the fact that he was accepted by mormons is due to their extreme need to break away from typical christian beliefs and make a religion of their own, so that they can have sex with multiple partners, and treat women like shit, and be rewarded by their god for it.
    sorry mormons, if there is a god, you all are going to hell

  9. Jodie

    Noisebleed,

    It sound like you’ve had bad experiences with Mormons somewhere. I’m sorry. However, if it’s all right, I’d like to clarify our stand on a couple points.

    Having sex with multiple partners merits excommunication in our church. We believe in chastity (no sex) before marriage, and fidelity (only with spouse) afterwards. Also, I recently had the opportunity to listen to the General Relief Society President (leader of the women in our church). She told a story of meeting with the United Nations leader over the women in the world. This leader asked how we organize and enable our women – and took notes. This may not mean much to you, but as a female, I don’t feel like I’ve ever been treated poorly. And as a physicist, if there’s anything I’ve learned from science, it’s that science doesn’t have all of the answers either. Otherwise, there would be no more need for additional research. We are constantly making new discoveries that prove our previous understandings wrong. My opinion is that if you are looking for religion, you should develop a relationship with God – probably through prayer rather than a lab.

  10. dan

    why do mormons still teach “sealing marriages” when Jesus made it VERY clear that there is no marriages in heaven?

  11. Ben

    Dan, thanks for your question. I would like to get have more info on your views of marriage so that I can better answer you. What do you think the purpose of marriage between a man and woman on this earth is? Also, would you mind expressing your thoughts on why God married Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?

  12. shannen

    HI.
    In the Christian bible, it says that no one should add or change the word of God, so how is it that Joseph Smith can create a whole book of mormon as something that mormons study and almost place higher than the Holy Bible. And, if Jesus Christ himself visited him as he claims, why would he tell him to rewrite things that Jesus taught about in the bible and totally contradict everything that he taught,and DIED for while he was here on earth. Everything adds up in the bible, but never did just one man come in and change everything. All of the apostles and disciples were of one mind and one spirit.

    “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever” Isaiah 40:8

    “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many”- Matthew 24:11

    “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” – Jesus Matthew 11:28

    I don”t think anyone should be told what “ward” of what church they are allowed in or what temple they are sanctified enough to go into, Jesus hung out with the lowest of the low , and nobody will ever be good enough for God because he is perfection. We all know no one is perfect. The only bride between God and man is the acceptance of Jesus Christ in your heart as the only son of God and having a personal relationship with him.

  13. shannen

    And reading your comment above mine God clearly states he created Eve for Adam so he would not be alone. “Then the Lord God said, it is not good for man to be alone;i will make him a helper suitable for him” Genesis 2:18

    “The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from man, and brought her to the man The man said this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh, she should be called woman because she was taken out of man. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” Genesis 2:22-24

    God’s word never returns void.

  14. Bob

    Every other prophet in the bible, has been documented through scripture. Why do mormans take this man, Joseph smith, and without any biblical basis, or any other basis, by the way, and call him a prophet? The only answer I’ve gotten is faith. If I was to say I have “faith” that aliens live on the moon, does it make it so? No. Reading, and study of the BIBLE, builds faith. There has to be a basis to build faith on. And as far as I know, Joseph smith is only mentioned in his own book.

  15. Ben

    Bob, thanks for your comment. I appreciate your perspective. One must remember that Abraham was not documented in the Bible before he was a prophet, nor was Noah and so forth. We believe that God still speaks to his children today through a prophet and the first prophet of our time was Joseph Smith.