MORMONISM: Joseph Smith Was a Young Man Who Lost His Way In His Search for Answers

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EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 140 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Joseph Smith Jr. (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844) was an American religious leader and founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement. When he was 24, Smith published the Book of Mormon. By the time of his death, 14 years later, he had attracted tens of thousands of followers and founded a religion that continues to the present with millions of global adherents. Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont. By 1817, he had moved with his family to western New York, the site of intense religious revivalism during the Second Great Awakening. Smith said he experienced a series of visions, including one in 1820 during which he saw “two personages” (whom he eventually described as God the Father and Jesus Christ), and another in 1823 in which an angel directed him to a buried book of golden plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history of an ancient American civilization. More on this below.

Fourteen-year-old distraught Joseph Smith was down on his knees in fervent pray one morning, as the sun came down on him though filtered by the trees. He was suffering from inner turmoil over the religious divisiveness of his day. The church had become so divided, a different denomination on every corner it seemed! The burning question in the heart of the young lad that day was, ‘Which group should I join?’ On his knees, a tearful face to the earth, he asked, “Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?”  (Smith 2005 ed., 75)

The above words of Joseph Smith summarize the spiritual crisis that faced this young man. There are good reasons for his inner turmoil as to what he should do, as the was rural northeastern New York 1800-1850, which was in the Second Great Awakening,[1] and religiously afire with revivals.[2] The United States was often portrayed as the land of opportunity in those days, but it was a land of struggle, with life so difficult it could put out the fire of the spirits of the strongest soul. Many sought something better and was enticed by accounts of buried Indian treasures. Therefore, they scoured the hills, equipped with magic seer stones, incantations, and divining rods. Native folklores told of a great Indian society that perished in a terrible battle somewhere in New York State.

Sadly, some of the most liked preaches of the day increased the fires of gossip, saying that the American Indians had descended from the lost ten tribes of Israel. For example, in 1823, Ethan Smith, unrelated to Joseph Smith, a New England Congregationalist clergyman penned the book View of the Hebrews; or the Tribes of Israel in America, which argues that Native Americans were descended from the Hebrews. It is suspected by many scholars that this publication may have provided source material for the Book of Mormon.

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A Prophet and Golden Plates

Joseph Smith grew up in this element of folklore and religious fervor. No doubt, both himself and his family were swept away by the excitement that surrounded them. Even Joseph’s mother wrote that they had personally experienced healings, miracles, and visions. However, Joseph refused to join a local church with his mother and his siblings. He writes later in his life that it was by prayer for help that brought him the answer he had deeply sought.

Joseph claimed that he had received a vision from God, who had told him not to join any of the denominations because they erred in the understanding of His Word. In 1823, then seventeen-year-old Joseph came to his family with a claim that while praying for forgiveness from his sins an angel named Moroni had visited him, showing him a set of ancient golden plates. The next morning Smith had attempted to remove the plates but claimed that he was unsuccessful because the angel prevented him. Over the next few years, Smith would return each year to the hill but would come away empty-handed, as he claimed the angel would refuse him the plates because he not brought along the right person.

In the meantime, Smith would travel to western New York and Pennsylvania, in search of treasure, also working as a farmhand. In 1826, Joseph was arrested and tried for a crime called “glass-looking,” which is pretending that one has found lost treasure. In January of 1827, he would meet Emma Hale, who he would fall in love with, but having to elope because her parents despised his treasure hunting schemes. He claimed that his seer stone informed him that Emma was the person that the angel had been waiting for; therefore, he and Emma on September 22, 1827, went back to the hills, where they were given the plates that he promptly locked away.

He claimed that the angel had informed him that he was not to show the plates to anyone else, but was to go about the task of translating them, as they were the religious records of the Native Americans. Further, he claimed that it was he alone, who had the divine power to translate the plates with his seer stone (Urim and Thummim)[3] and a pair of magic silver spectacles. To maintain his secrecy, he prayed on the fears of others, warning them that if they gazed upon the plates, it meant instant death for them! This would have to take place elsewhere though, as his associates in the treasure hunting business felt double-crossed, and were breaking in places where they believed the plates might have been hidden away.

Although Smith could read, he could not write well, so he dictated the “translation” of the plates to multiple scribes. Continuing the ruse of others being unable to look on the plates, he would sit behind a curtain, as he related a story that a Hebrew man named Mormon had compiled. Joseph explained that the plates were inscribed in “reformed Egyptian” writing, which was more compact than Hebrew.

Young Christians AN ENCOURAGING THOUGHT_01

Smith would have all but given up on his translation project, as the in-laws were strongly opposed, be he received a visit from Martin Harris in February of 1828, who excited Joseph anew. Harris claimed that he took the characters and their translation to some very prominent scholars, and one in particular, Charles Anthon was able to confirm the characters and the translation. However, it was further claimed that Anthon withdrew his conclusions the moment that he heard that Smith had come by these plates by way of an angel. Charles Anthon would go on to deny this claim altogether. Harris would return to Smith’s side in 1828, to act as his scribe.

As the translation progressed through the first half of 1828, Harris began to doubt the existence of the golden plates. It was at this point that Harris began to persist; if not demand that Smith allow him to take the 116 pages, they had at that point, to his family in Palmyra. The account goes that Harris lost the only copy they had of the manuscript, which coupled with a simultaneous tragedy of Emma, Smith’s wife giving birth to a stillborn son; causing Smith to lose his ability to translate because the angel took the plates away; they’re being restored again on September 22, 1828.

It would not be until April of 1829 that Smith would really get the translation fully underway, which coincided with his meeting Oliver Cowdery, who was a teacher, and one, who used a divining rod to search for underground water or minerals. This forged a new translating energy, as Cowdery became the scribe for Smith, resuming a full-time schedule. There came a point in the translation process when it spoke of the need for a church and baptism. At this point, Smith baptized Cowdery and the other way around. The historical account goes on to say that John the Baptist made an appearance, ordaining them to be priests. Finally, in July 1st of 1829, the translation was completed.

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Joseph Smith being the con man that he was knew very well that there were going to be doubters as to the existence of the plates. Therefore, Smith chose eleven witnesses, to sign a paper that stated they not only saw the plates, but many had touched and lifted the plates. Smith taking this ruse a bit further to cover anyone’s desires to see the plates, stated that the angel Moroni took the plates back from Smith after he had finished the translation.

As the account goes, Moroni, the son of Mormon was the last survivor of a people called the Nephite nation. It is claimed that they were pale-skinned descendants of the Hebrews of the Old Testament, who migrated to America in about 600 B.C.E., attempting to escape the destruction of Jerusalem.

The account states that after Jesus’ death and resurrection, he appeared to this nation in America, choosing twelve Nephite apostles. God cursed another group of Hebrew descent, the Lamanites, who were rebellious, warlike, and so, with dark skin. Thus, Mormon recounted the battles that went on between these two nations. The Nephites would grow into an evil nation, eventually being crushed and conquered by the Lamanites, who were ancestors of the American Indians.

Here again, it was Smith, who claimed that it was Mormon’s son, now the spirit Moroni, who gave him the golden plates, as well as the commission to restore Christ’s church. Soon Smith would have followers. Martin Harris financed the publishing of Smith’s manuscript by mortgaging his farm. It would be called The Book of Mormon. Finally, in 1830, it was published and appeared in print. It was Joseph Smith who chose his own official title some two weeks later, “Seer, a Translator, a Prophet, an Apostle of Jesus Christ.”  (Bushman 2007, 111) the Mormon Church or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was born on April 6, 1830.[4]

Smith was a very charismatic man, who had little trouble drawing followers. However, his new and strange religion also brought the wrath of others. The young church pursued and harassed. Because of continuous persecution, the members had to flee from New York to Ohio, and then to Missouri, searching for their New Jerusalem. Smith certainly did not shirk his responsibilities as a prophet, as he uttered one prophecy after another. These revelations ranged from financial donations to the instruction that they were to take numerous wives for themselves. The polygamous life brought much of their persecution. Because of the constant disbelief and opponents at every turn, the Mormons chose to rely on arms instead of God.

The conspiracy and chaos that characterized the early years of Joseph Smith’s life not once declined. Frontier towns, overwhelmed with incursions of Smith’s followers, put up a rigid confrontation. There was little interest in another holy book, as well as some self-declared prophet. However, in 1939, the Mormons set up a thriving colony in Nauvoo, Illinois, to the disappointment of the local people. They had their own university, mills, factory, and militia. The hostility from this found Smith arrested and jailed in Carthage, Illinois. Things came to an abrupt end for Smith on June 27, 1844, as a mob broke into the jail, where they shot and killed him.

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The Prophet is Martyred:
The Church Survives

We do not end the story with the death of Joseph Smith. The president of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, Brigham Young, took over with a quickness, traveling dangerous trails west with many of the believers. The journey ended in the Great Salt Lake valley in Utah, where the Mormon headquarters are to this day.

Joseph Smith’s branch of the church that survived those treacherous beginnings has been a missionary church, drawing in millions around the world. Regardless of being viewed as a cult, and having the hardship of constant antagonism from those that see their beliefs as unorthodox, to say the least, the LDS Mormon Church has actually prospered and grown far beyond expectations. The question that begs to be asked, ‘is it the restored Church of Jesus Christ?’ ‘Is it the true Christianity for which men have long awaited? 

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Mormon Doctrine

Although the LDS Church uses Christian terminology to express its beliefs, LDS theology is accurately categorized a polytheism rather than Christian monotheism. Mormon general authorities including the tenth prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith, teach that God, our “Heavenly Father,” is married to “Heavenly Mother.” Through procreation, God and his wife produce “spirit children” who live with them in the “pre-existence” near a huge star called Kolob (Abraham 3:3, Pearl of Great Price).

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Spirit Children

All humans, according to LDS teachings, are children of these heavenly parents and lived with them in the “First Estate” before being born physically to human parents on this earth. Two of God’s sons desired to be savior of the earth—Jesus and his spirit-brother, Lucifer. Lucifer planned to require all of Heavenly Father’s children to be obedient, thus effectively eliminating their free agency. Jesus’ plan preserved human freedom and was in accord with Heavenly Father’s wishes. Ultimately, Heavenly Father (whose name is Elohim—Hebrew, “God”) rejected Lucifer’s plan. In anger, Lucifer rebelled against Elohim and recruited about one-third of the preborn human spirit children to join in his insurgence. Lucifer and his forces were defeated and he was cast out of the pre-existence with his followers. Lucifer became Satan, and his followers became demons.

The remaining two-thirds of the spirit children who were valiant and loyal to Heavenly Father, were blessed to be born to human families on earth. Some, however, lacked valor and were cursed not to be able to hold the Mormon priesthood in that dispensation. To differentiate these humans from those who were more valiant, Heavenly Father placed a mark on them—a dark skin color. Thus, for most of its history, the LDS Church has denied the priesthood for people of color. Although they could always join the church, people of African decent were not allowed to go into a temple, receive their endowments, perform baptism for the dead, or be married for all eternity. In 1978, however, the Mormon prophet Spencer W. Kimball had a new revelation that allows all worthy LDS males to hold the priesthood and partake of all church activities and offices regardless of color. The subsequent edition of the Book of Mormon (1981 edition) was changed to reflect this new revelation. The church originally taught that those who had dark skin did so because they were wicked, and 2 Nephi 30:6 stated that those who repented turned “white and delightsome.” Current editions of the Book of Mormon read “pure and delightsome,” with no reference to a change in skin color (2 Nephi 30:6).

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Salvation by Progression

The LDS gospel, called the Restored Gospel or the Law of Eternal Progression, teaches that the purpose of human life is to progress to full salvation. To achieve this state, called Celestial Exaltation, humans must be obedient to all of the “laws and ordinances of the gospel.” These include leaving the pre-existence and gaining physical bodies on earth, repenting of all sins, and being baptized “by one having the proper authority” (meaning an LDS priesthood). Any other baptism is invalid.

Following proper baptism and “the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost,” followers must become worthy to enter into the temple. While local Mormon wards (churches) are open to the public, all Mormon temples are off limits to nonmembers. Even most Mormons are not allowed inside the temples. To gain entrance, LDS members must be determined to be “temple worthy” during interviews with their bishops and stake presidents. To be worthy, Mormons must abstain from coffee, tea, and tobacco products. Worthiness also requires payment of a “full tithe” (10 percent of one’s gross income) to the LDS Church.

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS

Temple Rites

There are about 120 Mormon temples in the world, the most famous being the landmark edifice at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Patrons who gain access are led through a series of secret ceremonies, including being married and sealed to one’s spouse “for time and all eternity.” Some rites are virtually identical to Masonic Temple rites. Before being expelled, Joseph Smith was a Mason and was apparently influenced by what he had learned in the Masonic Temple. In April of 1990, however, much of the Masonic-sounding portions of the temple ceremony were removed from church practices—including controversial signs, gestures, and blood oaths, such as swearing to have one’s throat cut open rather than reveal any of the temple secrets. Patrons in the temple still receive special clothing known as “temple garments.” These undergarments contain special markings and are to be worn at all times underneath the clothing to protect them from harm and remind them of their covenants with God.

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Second Chance Salvation

LDS leaders teach that after death, everyone goes to one of two places: paradise and spirit prison. Faithful Latter-day Saints go to paradise, and non-Mormons go to spirit prison. Church leaders teach that Mormon missionaries in paradise may come down to spirit prison to make converts there. Potential converts include the dead who have never heard the Restored Gospel, such as those who died before Joseph Smith restored the Gospel in 1830, and others who have never been taught by Mormon missionaries.

Those who accept the Restored Gospel in spirit prison must be baptized for the dead. These rites can take place only in a Mormon temple when living Latter-day Saints, by proxy, take on the names of and are baptized “ for and on behalf” of dead people. Marriage for the dead also takes place in the temples—living Mormons take the names of dead couples and go through the marriage and sealing ceremonies on behalf of the dead.

Mormon Eschatology

According to Mormon leaders, eventually everyone will be released from spirit prison and paradise and will progress to one of three heavens (or three levels of heaven). The lowest heaven, the telestial kingdom (which is far more beautiful and wonderful than earth), is for the wicked, such as murderers and criminals. The middle heaven, the terrestrial kingdom, is the abode of religious and moral people who never became LDS. The highest heaven, the celestial kingdom, is reserved for Latter-day Saints who were fully obedient and worthy.

The celestial kingdom is also divided into three sections. In order to progress to the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, one must be worthy and married to a spouse who is also worthy. If one is worthy and married in the temple (or converted after death and has the works performed vicariously by others in the temple), celestial exaltation may then follow. Faithful Mormons and their spouses will achieve the state of godhood and become the Heavenly Fathers and Heavenly Mothers of new earths. They will potentially procreate millions of their own spirit children, who will populate a new earth and seek their own exaltation.

Likewise, LDS leaders have consistently taught that our Heavenly Father, Elohim, was once a man on some other earth before achieving exaltation. One Mormon prophet, Lorenzo Snow, summarized this doctrine in his famous couplet: “As man is, God once was, as God is, Man may become” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism 4:1474).

The Epistle to the Hebrews Paul PAUL AND LUKE ON TRIAL

EVALUATION

Mormon doctrine stands in stark contrast to Jewish and Christian monotheism, which teaches that there is only one true God and that every other “God” is a false god (Isaiah 43:10). LDS theology also denies the biblical gospel of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 1:6). The Book of Mormon teaches, “Be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23, emphasis added). Those who trust in their own “obedience to the laws and ordinances” or who add even one good work to the gospel are not trusting Christ alone as their Savior. That is not the gospel of grace.

Latter-day Saints should be respected for their hard work, dedication, and sincerity. Evangelicals should be aware, however, that the LDS have a “different gospel” and a different Jesus than theirs (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). In 1998, the Mormon prophet Gordon B. Hinckley confessed that he believed in a different Jesus than the “traditional Christ” worshipped by those outside of the LDS Church. He explained, “The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak” (LDS Church News, June 20, 1998). Evangelicals should be cognizant of these important doctrinal differences while “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) to bring their Mormon friends to the traditional Christ through the gospel of grace.[5]

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The church founded by Joseph Smith continues to attract converts, with, according to LDS sources, some nine million members worldwide. It has spread far beyond its cradle in New York State to places as diverse as Italy, the Philippines, Uruguay, and Zaire. Despite continued antagonism, the remarkable Mormon Church has prospered. Is it, indeed, the restoration of true Christianity for which men of faith have waited? No, certainly not. It is a non-Christian religion that has lost its way, yet tries to cling to the coattails of Christian to claim some semblance of legitimacy. In a future article, we will deal with this some more. But for now, consider more of Joseph Smith’s views and teachings below.

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Views and Teachings of Joseph Smith

Cosmology and theology

Smith taught that all existence was material, including a world of “spirit matter” so fine that it was invisible to all but the purest mortal eyes.[1] Matter, in Smith’s view, could neither be created nor destroyed; the creation involved only the reorganization of existing matter. Like matter, Smith saw “intelligence” as co-eternal with God, and taught that human spirits had been drawn from a pre-existent pool of eternal intelligences.[2] Nevertheless, spirits could not experience a “fullness of joy” unless joined with corporeal bodies, according to Smith. The work and glory of God, then, was to create worlds across the cosmos where inferior intelligences could be embodied.[3]

Though Smith initially viewed God the Father as a spirit,[4] he eventually began teaching that God was an advanced and glorified man,[5] embodied within time and space.[6] By the end of his life, Smith was teaching that both God the Father and Jesus were distinct beings with physical bodies, but the Holy Spirit was a “personage of Spirit.”[7] Through the gradual acquisition of knowledge, according to Smith, those who received exaltation could eventually become like God.[8] These teachings implied a vast hierarchy of gods, with God himself having a father.[9] In Smith’s cosmology, those who became gods would reign, unified in purpose and will, leading spirits of lesser capacity to share immortality and eternal life.[10]

In Smith’s view, the opportunity to achieve exaltation extended to all humanity; those who died with no opportunity to accept saving ordinances could achieve exaltation by accepting them in the afterlife through proxy ordinances performed on their behalf.[11] Smith said that children who died in their innocence would be guaranteed to rise at the resurrection and receive exaltation. Apart from those who committed the eternal sin, Smith taught that even the wicked and disbelieving would achieve a degree of glory in the afterlife.[12]

How to Interpret the Bible-1 INTERPRETING THE BIBLE how-to-study-your-bible1

Religious Authority and Ritual

Smith’s teachings were rooted in dispensational restorationism.[13] He taught that the Church of Christ restored through him was a latter-day restoration of the early Christian faith, which had been lost in the Great Apostasy.[14] At first, Smith’s church had little sense of hierarchy; his religious authority was derived from visions and revelations.[15] Though Smith did not claim exclusive prophethood, an early revelation designated him as the only prophet allowed to issue commandments “as Moses.”[16] This religious authority encompassed economic and political as well as spiritual matters. For instance, in the early 1830s, he temporarily instituted a form of religious communism, called the United Order, that required Latter Day Saints to give all their property to the church, which was divided among the faithful.[17] He also envisioned that the theocratic institutions he established would have a role in the worldwide political organization of the Millennium.[18]

By the mid-1830s, Smith began teaching a hierarchy of three priesthoods—the Melchizedek, the Aaronic, and the Patriarchal.[19] Each priesthood was a continuation of biblical priesthoods through patrilineal succession or ordination by biblical figures appearing in visions.[20] Upon introducing the Melchizedek or “High” Priesthood in 1831, Smith taught that its recipients would be “endowed with power from on high”, thus fulfilling a need for a greater holiness and an authority commensurate with the New Testament apostles.[21] This doctrine of endowment evolved through the 1830s, until in 1842, the Nauvoo endowment included an elaborate ceremony containing elements similar to Freemasonry and the Jewish tradition of Kabbalah.[22] The endowment was extended to women in 1843, though Smith never clarified whether women could be ordained to priesthood offices.[23]

Smith taught that the High Priesthood’s endowment of heavenly power included the sealing powers of Elijah, allowing High Priests to effect binding consequences in the afterlife.[24] For example, this power would enable proxy baptisms for the dead and priesthood marriages that would be effective into the afterlife.[25] Elijah’s sealing powers also enabled the second anointing, or “fulness [sic] of the priesthood,” which, according to Smith, sealed married couples to their exaltation.[26]

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Theology of Family

During the early 1840s, Smith unfolded a theology of family relations called the “New and Everlasting Covenant” that superseded all earthly bonds.[27] He taught that outside the Covenant, marriages were simply matters of contract, and that in the afterlife individuals married outside the Covenant or not married would be limited in their progression.[28] To fully enter the Covenant, a man and woman must participate in a “first anointing”, a “sealing” ceremony, and a “second anointing” (also called “sealing by the Holy Spirit of Promise”).[29] When fully sealed into the Covenant, Smith said that no sin nor blasphemy (other than the eternal sin) could keep them from their exaltation in the afterlife.[30] According to Smith, only one person on Earth at a time—in this case, Smith—could possess this power of sealing.[31]

Smith taught that the highest level of exaltation could be achieved through “plural marriage” (polygamy), which was the ultimate manifestation of this New and Everlasting Covenant.[32] Plural marriage, according to Smith, allowed an individual to transcend the angelic state and become a god, accelerating the expansion of one’s heavenly kingdom.[33]

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Polygamy

By some accounts, Smith had been teaching a polygamy doctrine as early as 1831, and there is unconfirmed evidence that Smith was a polygamist by 1835.[34] Although the church had publicly repudiated polygamy, in 1837 there was a rift between Smith and Oliver Cowdery over the issue.[35] Cowdery suspected Smith had engaged in a relationship with his serving girl, Fanny Alger.[36] Smith never denied a relationship, but insisted it was not adulterous, presumably because he had taken Alger as an additional wife.[37]

In April 1841, Smith wed Louisa Beaman. During the next two-and-a-half years he married or was sealed to about 30 additional women,[38] ten of whom were already married to other men. Some of these polyandrous marriages were done with the consent of the first husbands, and some plural marriages may have been considered “eternity-only” sealings (meaning that the marriage would not take effect until after death).[39] Ten of Smith’s plural wives were between the ages of fourteen and twenty; others were over fifty.[40] The practice of polygamy was kept secret from both non-Mormons and most members of the church during Smith’s lifetime.[41]

Polygamy caused a breach between Smith and his first wife, Emma.[42] Although Emma knew of some of her husband’s marriages, she almost certainly did not know the extent of his polygamous activities.[43] In 1843, Emma temporarily accepted Smith’s marriage to four women boarded in the Smith household, but soon regretted her decision and demanded the other wives leave.[44] In July 1843, Smith dictated a revelation directing Emma to accept plural marriage,[45] but the two were not reconciled until September 1843, after Emma began participating in temple ceremonies.[46]

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Political Views

While campaigning for President of the United States in 1844, Smith had opportunity to take political positions on issues of the day. Smith considered the U.S. Constitution, and especially the Bill of Rights, to be inspired by God and “the [Latter Day] Saints’ best and perhaps only defense.”[47] He believed a strong central government was crucial to the nation’s well-being, and thought democracy better than tyranny—although he also taught that a theocratic monarchy was the ideal form of government.[48] In foreign affairs, Smith was an expansionist, though he viewed “expansionism as brotherhood.”[49]

Smith favored a strong central bank and high tariffs to protect American business and agriculture. He disfavored imprisonment of convicts except for murder, preferring efforts to reform criminals through labor; he also opposed courts-martial for military deserters. He supported capital punishment but opposed hanging, preferring execution by firing squad or beheading.[50]

On the issue of slavery, Smith took different positions.[51] Initially he opposed it, but during the mid-1830s when the Mormons were settling in Missouri (a slave state), Smith cautiously justified slavery in an anti-abolitionist essay.[52] Then in the early 1840s, after Mormons had been expelled from Missouri, he once again opposed slavery. During his presidential campaign of 1844, he proposed ending slavery by 1850 and compensating slaveholders for their loss.[53] Smith said that blacks were not inherently inferior to whites, and he welcomed slaves into the church.[54] However, he opposed baptizing them without permission of their masters, and he opposed interracial marriage.[55]

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Smith declared that he would be one of the instruments in fulfilling Nebuchadnezzar’s statue vision in the Book of Daniel: that secular government would be destroyed without “sword or gun,” and would be replaced with a “theodemocratic” Kingdom of God.[56] Smith taught that this kingdom would be governed by theocratic principles, but that it would also be multidenominational and democratic, so long as the people chose wisely.[57]

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[1] Bushman (2005, pp. 419–20) (arguing that Smith may have been unaware of the other religious materialism arguments circulating in his day, such as those of Joseph Priestley); Brooke (1994, pp. 3–5);Smith (1830, p. 544) (story from the Book of Ether of Jesus revealing “the body of my spirit” to an especially faithful man, saying humanity was created in the image of his spirit body).

[2] Widmer, Kurt (2000), Mormonism and the Nature of God: A Theological Evolution, 1830–1915, Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 119.

[3] Bushman (2005, pp. 420–21); Bloom (1992, p. 101) (“Smith’s God is hedged in by limitations and badly needs intelligences besides his own.”)

[4] Vogel, Dan, The Earliest Mormon Conception of God in Bergera (1989, pp. 17–33) (arguing that Smith’s original view was modalism, Jesus being the embodied manifestation the spirit Father, and that by 1834 Smith shifted to a binitarian formulation favored by Sidney Rigdon, which also viewed the Father as a spirit); Alexander, Thomas, The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine: From Joseph Smith to Progressive Theology in Bergera (1989, p. 53) (prior to 1835, Smith viewed God the Father as “an absolute personage of spirit”).

[5] Widmer (2000, p. 119); Alexander, Thomas, The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine: From Joseph Smith to Progressive Theology in Bergera (1989, p. 539) (describing Smith’s doctrine as “material anthropomorphism”); Bloom (1992, p. 101) (“Smith’s God, after all, began as a man, and struggled heroically in and with time and space, rather after the pattern of colonial and revolutionary Americans.”)

[6] Bushman (2005, pp. 421, 455) (“Joseph redefined the nature of God, giving Him a form and a body and locating Him in time and space” with a throne situated near a star or planet named Kolob); Bloom (1992, p. 101) (“Joseph Smith’s God … is finite … Exalted now into the heavens, God necessarily is still subject to the contingencies of time and space.”)

[7] Vogel, Dan (2004), Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 325.

[8] Larson, Stan (1978), “The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text”, BYU Studies, 18 (2): 193–208, archived from the original on August 26, 2010, 119.

[9] Widmer, Kurt (2000), Mormonism and the Nature of God: A Theological Evolution, 1830–1915, Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 535, 544.

[10] Bushman, Richard Lyman (2005), Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, (pp. 455–56, 535–37).

[11] Bushman, Richard Lyman (2005), Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 422.

[12] Bushman, Richard Lyman (2005), Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 199.

[13] Brooke, John L. (1994), The Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644–1844, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 33.

[14] Remini, Robert V. (2002), Joseph Smith: A Penguin Life, New York: Penguin Group, 84.

[15] Quinn (1994, p. 7) (describing Smith’s earliest authority as charismatic authority).

[16] Quinn (1994, pp. 7–8); Bushman (2005, pp. 121, 175); Phelps (1833, p. 67) (“[N]o one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church, excepting my servant Joseph, for he receiveth them even as Moses.”)

[17] Brodie, Fawn M. (1971), No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (2nd ed.), New York: Alfred A. Knopf, (pp. 106, 112, 121–22)

[18] Quinn (1994, pp. 111–12, 115) (describing the expected role of the Council of Fifty).

[19] Quinn (1994, pp. 27–34); Bushman (2005, pp. 264–65).

[20] Quinn, D. Michael (1994), The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 7.

[21] Brodie (1971, p. 111);Bushman (2005, pp. 156–60); Quinn (1994, pp. 31–32);Roberts (1902, pp. 175–76) (On June 3, 1831, “the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders.”); Prince (1995, pp. 19, 115–116, 119).

[22] Ostling & Ostling (1999, pp. 194–95); Prince (1995, pp. 31–32, 121–31, 146); Bushman (2005, p. 451) (that the Nauvoo endowment is more akin to aspects of the Kabbalah).

[23] Prince, Gregory A (1995), Power From On High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood, Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 140, 201.

[24] Brooke (1994, pp. 30, 194–95, 203, 208) (Smith introduced the sealing power in 1831 as part of the High Priesthood, and then attributed this power to Elijah after he appeared in an 1836 vision in the Kirtland Temple).

[25] Brooke, John L. (1994), The Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644–1844, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 286.

[26] Brooke (1994, pp. 256, 294); Bushman (2005, pp. 497–98) (The second anointing ceremony “was Joseph’s attempt to deal with the theological problem of assurance” of one’s eternal life).

[27] Roberts (1909, pp. 502–07) (1842 revelation describing the New and Everlasting Covenant); Foster (1981, pp. 161–62).

[28] Foster, Lawrence (1981), Religion and Sexuality: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community, New York: Oxford University Press, 145.

[29] Bushman (2005, pp. 497–98) (those who were married eternally were then “sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise” through the second anointing); Brooke (1994, pp. 256–57).

[30] Roberts (1909, pp. 502–03); Bushman (2005, pp. 497–98); Brooke (1994, p. 257).

[31] Roberts (1909, pp. 501) (“I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the Earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this Priesthood are conferred.”)

[32] Foster (1981, pp. 206–11); Compton (1997, pp. 11, 22–23); Smith (2008, pp. 356); Brooke (1994, p. 255); Brodie (1971, p. 300); Bushman (2005, p. 443) (noting that a modern Mormon interpretation of Smith’s 1843 polygamy revelation ties both polygamy and monogamy to degrees of exaltation).

[33] Bloom (1992, p. 105); Foster (1981, p. 145) (“[I]f marriage with one wife … could bring eternal progression and ultimate godhood for men, then multiple wives in this life and the next would accelerate the process, in line with God’s promise to Abraham that his seed eventually would be as numerous as the sand on the sea shore.”); Brodie (1971, p. 300) (“[I]f a man went to heaven with ten wives, he would have more than ten-fold the blessings of a mere monogamist, for all the children begotten through these wives would enhance his kingdom.”)

[34] Compton (1997, p. 27); Bushman (2005, pp. 323, 326); Hill (1977, p. 340).

“Gospel Topics: Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo”, churchofjesuschrist.org, LDS Church

[35] Bushman (2005, pp. 323–25); Hill (1977, p. 188) (noting that Benjamin F. Johnson “realized later that Joseph’s polygamy was one cause of disruption and apostasy in Kirtland, although it was rarely discussed in public”.)

[36] Probably between 1833 and 1836 Bushman (2005, p. 323) (noting that Alger was fourteen in 1830 when she met Smith, and her involvement with Smith was between that date and 1836, and that the relationship may have begun as early as 1831). Compton (1997, p. 26); Bushman (2005, p. 326) (noting Compton’s date and conclusion); Brodie (1971, pp. 181–82); Bushman (2005, pp. 323–25); Smith (2008, pp. 38–39 n.81) (Cowdery questioned whether Smith and Alger were actually married, and called it “a dirty, nasty, filthy affair”).

[37] Bushman (2005, pp. 323–25): “In 1838, [Cowdery] was charged with ‘seeking to destroy the character of President Joseph Smith jr by falsely insinuating that he was guilty of adultry &c.’ Fanny Alger’s name was never mentioned, but doubtless she was the women in question.” Smith “wanted it on record that he had never confessed to such a sin. Presumably, he felt innocent because he had married Alger.” “Only Cowdery, who was leaving the Church, asserted Joseph’s involvement.”)

[38] Compton (1997, p. 11) (counting at least 33 total wives); Smith (1994, p. 14) (counting 42 wives); Brodie (1971, pp. 334–36) (counting 49 wives); Bushman (2005, pp. 437, 644) (accepting Compton’s count, excepting one wife); Quinn (1994, pp. 587–88) (counting 46 wives); Remini (2002, p. 153) (noting that the exact figure is still debated).

[39] Foster (1981); Quinn (1994); Compton (1997); Bushman (2005, pp. 437–9); Van Wagoner (1992); Newell & Avery (1994); Hales (2012) (Hales discusses the historical records and context of 5–11 such sealings, which indicate they were eternity-only unions.); Quinn (2012, p. 5) (Quinn acknowledged in 2012 that a recently discovered historical record regarding Ruth Sayers indicates that the union applied “only to the eternities after mortal life,” disproving his previously-held “decades-long” assumption that excluded eternity-only sealings.).

[40] Compton (1997, p. 11); Remini (2002, p. 154); Brodie (1971, pp. 334–43); Bushman (2005, pp. 492–498); Smith’s last marriage was in November 1843 to Fanny Murray, a fifty-six-year-old widow; his youngest plural wife, Helen Mar Kimball, was fourteen.

[41] Bushman (2005, p. 491); Roberts (1909, pp. 501, 507); Bushman (2005, p. 438) (noting Smith’s statements that unless he started to marry plural wives, an angel would slay him); Brodie (1971, p. 342) (The 1843 revelation “threatened destruction to any wife who refused to accept the new law.”)

[42] Bushman, Richard Lyman (2005), Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 494-5.

[43] Bushman, Richard Lyman (2005), Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 439.

[44] Brodie (1971, p. 339); Bushman (2005, p. 494); Remini (2002, pp. 152–53).

[45] Hill (1989, p. 119) (“By assuring Emma that her salvation would be virtually certain and all but the unpardonable sin would be merely visited ‘with judgment in the flesh,'” the revelation “placed enormous pressure on [Emma] to accept plural marriage.”); Bushman (2005, pp. 495–96); Brodie (1971, pp. 340–341) (revelation indicated Emma would be “destroyed” if she refused polygamy).

[46] Bushman (2005, pp. 496–7) (Saying that Emma’s participation in the endowment ceremonies may have contributed to softening her stance on plural marriage); Quinn (1994, p. 638) (Emma participated with Smith in the later “sealing” ceremony); Bushman (2005, p. 494) (Sealed on May 28, 1843).

[47] Bushman, Richard Lyman (2005), Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 377.

[48] Bushman, Richard Lyman (2005), Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 522.

[49] IBID. 516.

[50] Roberts, B. H., ed. (1909), History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5, Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 296, 435.

[51] Harris & Bringhurst (2015, p. 1) (saying that Smith went through a threefold change of position on slavery, initially opposing it in the 1830s, then supporting it with a strong anti-abolitionist position in the mid-1830s, then opposing it again in the early 1840s.

[52] Bushman (2005, pp. 289, 327–28); Hill (1977, pp. 380–383); Brodie (1971, pp. 173,212).

[53] Hill, Donna (1977), Joseph Smith: The first Mormon, Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., 384.

[54] Bushman (2005, p. 289); Hill (1977, pp. 381–85).

[55] Bushman (2005, p. 289); Hill (1977, p. 379).

[56] Brodie (1971, pp. 356–57); Bushman (2005, p. 521); Bloom (1992, p. 90).

[57] Bushman (2005, pp. 522–23).

[1] Great Awakening is a term used to refer to a period of religious revival in American religious history.
[2] Historians later dubbed this area in western New York State “the ‘burned over district’ on account of the numerous revivals that had broken out in the area.” Timothy Larsen, D. W. Bebbington, and Mark A. Noll, Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 132.
[3] Objects Israel, and especially the high priest, used to determine God’s will. Little is known about the Urim and Thummim. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1643.
[4] Originally named The Church of Christ, on April 26, 1838, it became The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or LDS.
[5] Hindson, Ed. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics (Kindle Locations 13200-13281). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Bibliography

  • Bushman, Richard Lyman. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. Toronto: Random House, 2007.
  • Cares, Mark. Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons. Milwaukee: Wels Outreach Resources, 1998.
  • Marquardt, Michael H. The Rise of Mormonism: 1816–1844. Longwood, FL: Xulon Press, 2005.     
  • Rhodes, Ron. Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Mormons. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1995.     
  • Tanner, Jerald, and Sandra Tanner. Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? Salt Lake City, UT: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1987.
  • Smith, Joseph. The Pearl of Great Price. Commerce, CA: Neeland Media LLC, 2005 ed.

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2 thoughts on “MORMONISM: Joseph Smith Was a Young Man Who Lost His Way In His Search for Answers

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  1. In the second paragraph after A Prophet & Golden Plates you have “moronic” should this be either Mormon or Moroni?

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