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Why Do You Trust in Joseph Smith for Your Salvation?

Donna Morley

      In 1996 the Mormon church was (and still is) running national television ads for a video entitled Family First. Intrigued, I called the phone number on the screen to ask if they could mail the video to me.

      The woman operator taking my request informed me, “It’s our custom to have a missionary deliver it to your home.”

      With an upbeat voice I replied, “I appreciate that, but I have to be honest with you. While your missionaries are welcome to come to my home, you need to know that I’m not searching for truth. I have already found it. It’s in the Bible from Genesis to the book of Revelation. I’m just curious about what the Mormon church says in this video.

      The operator said, “Well, I’ll have to get permission on this one.”

      A few minutes later she returned and said she would send me the video. When I got it, I put it right in the VCR. It basically portrayed Mormon families as the happiest people in the world.

      Anyway, four years later, the Mormon church had a glitch in their system (perhaps we can credit divine intervention), and for over a week I was getting at least a phone call a day from young male Mormon missionaries at the Salt Lake City church headquarters. Their first question was always, “Did you receive our video Family First?

      I responded the same way to each one of them: “Yes, four years ago.”

      Their embarrassment broke down some barriers and I was able to start informal discussions and ask many questions--which they gladly answered. In turn, I tried to show them answers from God’s word.

      I’ll never forget one missionary who called. We’ll call him Elder Ted (although most missionaries only give their last name). He couldn’t speak highly enough about Joseph Smith. Ted had such high esteem for the prophet that I couldn’t help but ask, “Are you basing your whole eternal destiny upon this one man, Joseph Smith?”

      “Absolutely!” he replied.

      Now, let me break from my conversation with Ted for a moment and tell you why Ted and other Mormons base their salvation upon Joseph Smith. Mormon scripture says, “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...” (D&C 135:3). Joseph Young, the brother of Brigham Young (second Mormon prophet) as well as the brother of one of Joseph Smith’s polygamous wives, and senior president of the First Council of Seventy, said,

      Believe in God, believe in Jesus, and believe in Joseph his Prophet, and in Brigham his successor. And I add, If you will believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Christ, and Joseph was a Prophet, and that Brigham was his successor, you shall be saved in the kingdom of God. [1]

The tenth Mormon prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith, said there is

NO SALVATION WITHOUT ACCEPTING JOSEPH SMITH...no man can reject that testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God. It is, therefore, the duty of every man to investigate that he may weigh this matter carefully and know the truth [2] (emphasis in original).

      One of the verses that some Mormon missionaries use to explain their belief in Joseph Smith is found in Acts 3:22, which they believe is a prophecy about him. It reads, “Moses said, `The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren: to Him you shall give heed in everything He says to you.”

      We can share with the missionary that it’s important to consider a verse’s context before deciding how to interpret it. In this case, this verse could refer to a number of prophets. For instance, Muslims believe this verse refers to Muhammad. [3] That’s why it’s important to look at this verse in its context. Doing so, we see it points to none other than Jesus Christ.      

Mormon Friend--Please Consider:

*Acts 3:22 is not about Joseph Smith, but about Jesus. This is confirmed in the preceding verses (read Acts 3:14-21).
* Acts 3:22 can’t be about Smith because he was a false prophet. Smith wrongly prophesied many things (for instance, he said the second coming of Christ would occur between 1890 and 1891). God’s Word says we aren’t to believe false prophets (Matthew 24:23-24, 26).

      Between the comments of Mormon leaders and the Bible “prophecies” that are interpreted as referring to Smith, it’s easy to understand why our Mormon friends are very much focused on their prophet. In fact, they sing about him in their churches and homes: “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,” [4] “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer,” [5] and “Praise to the Man.” [6]

      By the way, if your Mormon friend doesn’t bring up the supposedly biblical prophecy of Joseph Smith, you will want to show her in other ways that it is tragic to rely upon a mere man for one’s salvation. This is what I had to convey to Ted.

      I said with great concern, “Ted, there are people who consider Smith to have been a fraud. How do you know he wasn’t?”

      With great confidence Ted replied, “Had Smith been a fraud, Mormonism wouldn’t have grown the way it has. As well, had he been a fraud, he would have been exposed by now.”

      I said to Ted as gently as possible, “Joseph Smith has been exposed as a fraud.”

      He answered, “There have been attacks on Smith, but they have failed.”

      “Are you sure?” I asked him.

      I continued by inquiring about a particular command found in their Mormon scripture, Doctrine and Covenants. “Ted, do you believe that the Word of Wisdom was a revelation from God passed down to Joseph Smith?”

      Ted responded, “Certainly. The Word of Wisdom and all the Mormon scriptures–Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Mormon, and the

Pearl of Great Price

came from God, just like the Bible did. These scriptures are the cornerstone to our beliefs.”

      I continued, “Isn’t it true that the Word of Wisdom stresses a Mormon is to abstain from drinking wine, strong drink, and tobacco?” (It also says they aren’t to drink hot drinks, but I didn’t address that issue.)

      Ted quickly replied, “That’s right. I guess you can say that the Word of Wisdom proves Smith was a prophet of God. Even before these things were known to be bad for the body, Smith gave us the revelation by God not to have them.”

      I asked Ted, “do you abide by the Word of Wisdom?”

      With conviction in his voice Ted replied, “Yes I do!”

      “Well Ted, your prophet didn’t.”

      “What do you mean?”

      Answering the question, I said, “Joseph Smith drank liquor and smoked.”

      A bit startled, he said, “That can’t be true. If there is record of him doing so, it had to be before he became a Mormon.”

      “No Ted, it was after. The years in his own diary verify quite clearly it was not only after he started Mormonism, not only after he wrote the Mormon scriptures, but after he wrote the Word of Wisdom command” (D&C 89).

      My husband Brian, having heard what I was saying to Ted, quickly brought to me The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith. Fortunately, a few years earlier, I had tabbed all the references to Smith’s drinking, so I was able to quickly refer to many of those episodes.       I quoted for Ted an entry dated January 18, 1836, which told of Smith and several Mormon elders at a wedding. They were drinking wine and, in Joseph’s words, “Our hearts were made cheerful and glad...we had taken our fill.” [7]

      Ted answered, “Well, that’s innocent, it was a wedding.”

      I asked, “Does the prophet make allowances for Mormons, telling them when drinking is acceptable?”

      Ted was silent, so I continued on. I read about Elder Hyde commenting to Joseph about an “excellent white wine he drank in the east [Palestine].” In response to Hyde, Smith “prophesied in the name of the Lord that he would drink wine with him in that country” (January 20, 1843). [8]

      The last account I read to Ted was “Drank a glass of beer at Moissers...” (June 1, 1844, weeks before Smith’s death). [9]

      I also explained to Ted that Joseph Smith had no objection to a bar starting up in town. [10] In fact, he obtained a liquor license so that he could “sell or give spirits of any quantity...to...travelers or other persons as shall visit his home from time to time.” [11] Joseph had even put a bar in his home while his wife Emma was out of town (upon Emma’s return she told Joseph he had to choose between the bar or her [12]). Also, the formerly Mormon-owned store called Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution sold tea, coffee, and tobacco--all forbidden under the Word of Wisdom. [13]

      With resolve I said, “Ted, while all this is hypocritical, it’s still nothing compared to many other things Smith did in his life, such as having plural wives, and creating an illegal church `bank’ that went into bankruptcy and impoverished many of his followers.”

      “Ted, I could go on and on. I could tell you about him being a Mason, [14] his conversation with the devil, [15] his instigation of the salt sermon that called for a formation of `Gideonites’ [who were all dedicated followers] who would drive out anyone who disagreed with the church; [16] and his [with the help of others] defrauding non-Mormons out of their property in Missouri. [17]

      “But,” I said, “the greatest atrocity was Joseph Smith’s false prophecies.”

      I then gave Ted a verbal resume of those prophecies.

      Ted then lowered his voice to a whisper (remember, he’s calling from the Mormon church headquarters). He said, “If what you are saying is true, I am stunned.”

      “I can imagine.” I then pleaded, “Ted, you’ve got to get more background on the prophet and the church. Why don’t you start by reading Joseph Smith’s own diary? You’ll find some amazing things, such as his King Follet sermon. In that sermon Smith distorts the true God as found in the Bible. It’s a real eye-opener.”

      Ted answered, “I can’t read Smith’s diary. I’m a missionary for the next two years. I’m only allowed to read the Book of Mormon.”

      It was my turned to be stunned. I asked, “You’re not even allowed to read your prophet’s own diary?

      Ted replied, “No. We’ve never been encouraged to read it anyway.” (Ted’s statement later prompted me to go to a local Mormon bookstore to see if they even sell Joseph Smith’s journal or anything comparable. To my surprise, they didn’t--at least they didn’t in that store. When I asked the two Mormon employees why the prophet’s own writings weren’t sold, one of them answered, “I didn’t know Joseph Smith wrote a diary.”)

      Anyway, I began to wind down my conversation with Ted by asking him to search for truth not in the Book of Mormon but in the Word of God--the Bible. I recommended he start with the book of John.

      Ted again reiterated to me that the only book he could have on his person for the next two years was the Book of Mormon. Not until after his mission was completed could he read the Bible. I thought Ted’s comment was peculiar because I’ve had some Mormon missionaries come to my door with both a Book of Mormon and a Bible in their possession.

      I couldn’t help but say, “Ted, listen to your own words. You have told me that currently you can’t read your own prophet’s diary. Now you tell me you can’t even read God’s own Word. Doesn’t this sound cultish?”

      Ted gave a hint of a laugh and then said quietly, “Yeah, it does.”

      With alarm I added, “Ted, cults not only distort who Christ is--which Mormonism does--but they tell their followers everything they can and cannot do.”

      Then I said, “Ted, when you have the courage to step out and read the bible, you will probably have questions, especially as you discover Mormon doctrines that conflict with the teachings of the Bible. If you feel okay about this, I want you to write down my name and my husband’s, and our phone number. Put it in your wallet; call us anytime.”

      Ted responded, “One day I just may call you back.”

      I replied, “I hope you will. In the meantime, I’ll pray for you and your journey. I hope you find `the way, and the truth, and the life’” (John 14:6).

      I ended the conversation with a few points to think about from God’s Word:

Mormon Friend-- Please Consider:

* Salvation is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 5:10).
* Salvation is in no one else (Acts 4:12).
* We are to confess Jesus only (Romans 10:9).

      In Ted’s case, a few facts about Prophet Joseph smith were enough to make him wonder if he really had the truth and to motivate him to start searching. As you converse with your Mormon friend, you may find that she, too, trusts in Joseph Smith for her salvation.

      While you don’t want to be rude or denigrating, if the situation is right, you can use some of the preceding information (or information from chapter 1) to ask a few serious questions about Smith. And, if the opportunity seems right, you can also point your friend to a few of Smith’s false prophecies, some of which are given here.

A Sampling of Joseph Smith’s False Prophecies

You Are to Go to Toronto

      Early in his prophetic career, Joseph received a revelation from God to send a few Mormon men to Toronto, Canada, and there, they would sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon. Wanting to obey god, the faithful men made the long and uncomfortable wagon ride. Once in Toronto, the men soon discovered that no one was interested in the Book of Mormon. Wanting to obey God, the faithful men made the long and uncomfortable wagon ride. Once in Toronto, the men soon discovered that no one was interested in the Book of Mormon. They couldn’t give the copyright away free if they so dared. Defeated, they made the long journey back home, arriving exhausted, disappointed, and deeply puzzled.

      Faced with failure of his prophecy, Joseph offered an explanation that would astound anyone used to the biblical standards of prophecy: “Some revelations are from God; some are of man: and some are of the devil.” [18]

      To their credit, Mormon church officials don’t cover up this incident. They explain that Smith received his revelation “through the Seer stone,” and admit that it “fails its purpose.” [19] Unfortunately, blaming the stone won’t absolve their prophet, who relied on it.

The New Jerusalem to Be in Missouri

      Joseph prophesied that the New Jerusalem (also referred to as Zion--D&C 84:2) and the temple, “appointed by the finger of the Lord,” shall be built “in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri [Jackson County 20]...this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord” (D&C 84:2-3, emphasis added).

      Understandably, those who heard the original prophecy were quite excited, and in 1832 they left their jobs and property because they believed Joseph’s “vision” of the promised land. Mormon Ezra Booth said that when they arrived at their destination, “we discovered that prophecy and vision had failed, or rather had proved false” [21] (emphasis in original).

      This false prophecy became notorious, the evidence against it being so clear that no one could miss it. Sidney Rigdon (one of the most important Mormon leaders at the time) said that “Joseph’s vision was a bad thing” [22] (emphasis in original).

      Joseph, as we know, was speaking to the 1832 generation. He prophesied that their “generation shall not all pass away” until the New Jerusalem and temple were established in Missouri. Even if we take the statement in the Book of Mormon that a generation equals 100 years (4 Nephi 1:22) we still have a problem. The two-hundredth anniversary is looming and still nothing has been built.

      Now, the Mormon church still defends this prophecy. They say that the New Jerusalem wasn’t built in Smith’s day because they were “hindered by their enemies,” [23] and that it will indeed be “built before the Second Coming.” [24] In the meantime, Salt Lake City is the church’s headquarters. [25]

      But of course, that’s not what the prophecy said.

There Will Be a Civil War

      The Civil War prophecy is the one Mormons are most proud of. Many are convinced that Joseph Smith is a true prophet because of it. [26] In Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph prophesied that there would be a rebellion in South Carolina, that the Southern states would be divided against the Northern, and that many would die (D&C 87:1-3). Regarding this prophecy, tenth president and prophet Joseph F. Smith said this:

I will refer the congregation to the revelation given December 25, 1832, in relation to the great war of the Rebellion, with which all are more or less familiar (Doctrine and Covenants 87). A portion of that revelation has been literally fulfilled, even to the very place indicated in the prediction where the war should commence; which, as was therein stated, was to terminate in the death and misery of many souls. [27]

Let’s consider three facts our Mormon friends are probably unaware of:
* The Civil War prophecy in Doctrine and Covenants wasn’t in the first edition of the book. The prophecy was made, then suppressed when it looked as though it would not come to pass. It was first published in 1851 in the Pearl of Great Price [28] (seven years after Smith’s death).
* Predictions of a civil war appeared in U.S. newspapers six months before Joseph’s December 25, 1832 prophecy. It was a common belief that there would be a civil war.
* Five months prior to Joseph’s prophecy, Congress passed a tariff act (July 14, 1832) that South Carolina refused to accept. This raised tensions and everyone looked to South Carolina as the likely flashpoint for future conflict.

      With a bit of objectivity, our friends can see that forecasting a civil war beginning with souther Carolina is not remarkable--others were predicting the same at the time. Even the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville predicted America’s Civil War. [29]

The Overthrow of the United States

      In 1843, Joseph Smith said,

I prophesy in the name of the Lord God of Israel, unless the United States redress the wrongs committed upon the saints in the state of Missouri and punish the crimes committed by her officers that in a few short years the government will be utterly overthrown and wasted, and there will not be so much as a potsherd left. [30]

Smith also said,

I prophesied...in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that, if Congress will not hear our petition and grant us protection, they shall be broken up as a government....[31]

      These prophecies were never fulfilled, for the United States never broke up, nor was it overthrown and wasted despite the fact that Congress did not grant Smith’s petition, nor did the government redress any wrongs. Incidently, documents show that the Mormons weren’t entirely innocent victims in Missouri. [32]

The Revelation of Apostle David W. Patten:

      Doctrine & Covenants 114:1 (April 17, 1838) provides a specific revelation, from the Lord. David Patten was to "settle up all his business as soon as he possibly can, and make a disposition of his merchandize, that he may perform a mission unto me next spring, in company with others, even twelve including himself, to testify of my name and bear glad tidings unto all the world."

      With Patten's other companions they were to "next spring let them deaprt to go over the great waters, and there promulgate my gospel, the fullness thereof, and bear record of my name. Let them take leave of my saints in the city of Far West, on the twenty-sixth day of April next, on the building-spot of my house, saith the Lord" (D&C 118:4-5, July 8, 1838).

    There's only one problem with this prophecy. Patten was to leave with the others in the spring of 1839 (April 26, 1839, to be exact). I guess the Lord didn't know that Patten would die six months earlier, in October 1838, while defending Mormon Territory in the Mormon Missouri War. In Joseph Smith's own words, he tells us that "Captain Patten, who instantly fell, mortally wounded, having received a large ball in his bowels" (History of the Church, 3:171).

      This false prophecy has been excused by Mormons saying that the Lord changed his mind, due to Patten being found unworthy. While this argument could be plausible, it won't hold water only because Joseph Smith said, "Brother Patten was a very worthy man, beloved by all good men who knew him." (Ibid.)

The Second Coming of Christ

      Joseph wrote in his diary, “There are those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes....I prophecy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written, that the Son of Man will not come in the heavens till I am 85 years old, 48 years hence or about 1890.” [33] As we know, the “rising generation” is gone; 1890 has come and gone; and Smith never made it to age 85. He died at the age of 38.

      We can lovingly show our friend that Jesus Himself said no one can predict the date of His return (Matthew 24:36).

The Messiah Would Be Born in Jerusalem

      During Christmastime it’s a certainty that everyone from little children to the elderly in the Mormon church will sing the song “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” In their singing, however, they are confirming that their prophet gave a false prophecy.

      The prophecy, which can be found in the Book of Mormon (Alma 7:10), is that the Messiah would be born in Jerusalem. The Mormon defense is that the Book of Mormon was just referring to the general area of Christ’s birth. This is a weak argument, for the Book of Mormon refers to Jerusalem as a distinct city (1 Nephi 1:4). Though Bethlehem is near Jerusalem, it too, is a distinct town. We can share with our Mormon friend that the Holy Ghost (it’s best to use the word Ghost with our friend rather than Spirit, at least until you talk to them about the Trinity), who inspires Scripture, wouldn’t make such an error. Nor would the Holy Ghost contradict Himself by stating two different birth places for Jesus. The Bible said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and this prophecy was correctly fulfilled, according to Matthew 2:1.

The Prophet Will Be Protected

      “And thus prophesied Joseph, saying, `Behold, that seer [meaning Joseph Smith] will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded....Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise” (2 Nephi 3:14). William Clayton, Joseph Smith’s personal secretary, wrote that Joseph “prophesied [sic] that `not all the powers of hell or earth combined can ever overthrow this boy’ for he had a promise from the eternal God.” [34]

      But contrary to his prophecy, Joseph was killed by those who sought to destroy him. The prophecy, in 2 Nephi 3:14, found in the Book of Mormon, disillusioned many Mormons of that era. Sarah Hall Scott wrote to her parents after Smith’s murder, saying, “Joseph also prophesied on the stand a year ago last conference that he could not be killed within five years from that time; that they could not kill him till the Temple would be completed, for that he had received an unconditional promise from the Almighty concerning his days” [35] (emphasis added).

      In August 1843, when Joseph gave his prophecy to the Mormon congregation, he had assumed he still had a long life ahead of him. Now some Mormons may still argue this point. They will insist that Joseph prophesied an early death. We can mention to our Mormon friends that Apostle Erastus Snow and other early Mormons didn’t think that Joseph prophesied his death. Instead, according to Snow, they “supposed that our Prophet was going to continue with us, to lead us on until the coming of the Savior.” [36]

      It’s true that the possibility of death crossed Smith’s mind during his six-month imprisonment (1838-39) in Missouri for treason (he escaped) [37]; and again in 1842-43 when he feared being extradited or kidnaped back to Missouri. [38] Yet thoughts of death are common when a person is nervous about what might happen to him. We shouldn’t interpret such thoughts as a sign of prophecy.

      Quite to the contrary, after Smith’s fear of extradition to Missouri was laid to rest, and after he felt safe from the law, he gave his prophecy of protection from his enemies. Believing firmly in the prophecy he gave in 1843, Smith became an enthusiastic candidate for the U.S. presidency in January 1844. [39]

      This makes it clear Smith expected to live many more years and that he truly did believe his enemies would be confounded, he would live to see the temple completed, and he would live at least another five years. Well, as we know, he didn’t. Five months after Smith announced his candidacy, his enemies killed him.

The Bible’s Standard for a True Prophet

      Joseph Smith once said that “every man has a right to be a false prophet, as well as a true prophet.” [40] We must ask our friend, “Which type of prophet was Joseph Smith?” We can help our friend answer this question by reminding her of the true biblical standard for a true prophet.

Mormon Friend-- Please Consider:

* All it takes is one false prophecy to mark a man as a false prophet. Scripture tells us “when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken” (Deuteronomy 18:22). The passage also says “the prophet shall die” (verse 20). Smith died an early and tragic death.
* We are to avoid anyone who gives a false prophecy. The Bible says, “Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 29:8- 9).

      After sharing with our friend about Joseph Smith and his false prophecies, we can point out that no false prophecies have ever been found in the Bible--and that every biblical prophecy about Jesus Christ first coming was fulfilled perfectly. That’s why we can tell our friend that Jesus alone is all she needs.

I’ve tried in vain a thousand ways,
My fears to quell, my hopes to raise,
But what I need, the Bible says,
Is ever only Jesus!

My soul is night, my heart is steel,
I cannot see, I cannot feel,
For light, for life, I must appeal,
In simple faith to Jesus! [41]

Thinking It Over

1.       Mormons believe that Acts 3:22 is a prophecy about Joseph Smith. How can we show that this verse is speaking about Jesus Christ?

2.       Mormon theology teaches that there is no salvation without Joseph smith. What Bible verses can we share that shows salvation is in Christ alone.

3.       What are some of Joseph Smith’s prophecies?

4.       Describe Smith’s prophecy regarding the Civil War. How can we explain to a Mormon that this wasn’t really a unique prediction on Joseph’s part?

5.       Read Deuteronomy 13:1-6. Is a false prophet considered false only because he is wrong about a prophecy, or is there more we need to keep in mind? (Notice in verse 2 that the false prophet’s sign comes true).

6.       What can we share with our Mormon friend about those who prophesy falsely? What does God say in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 about those who prophesy falsely?

Taken from: What Do I Say To Mormon Friends and Missionaries? Copyright © 2003, 2011 by Donna Morley. Published by Faith and Reason Press, Santa Clarita, California 91321.