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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