Do Mormons Worship Joseph Smith?

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This post may be considered part II of the “Are Mormon’s Christian?” post I wrote a month ago. The goal of this post is to clear up any misconceptions there may be, and to attempt to set forth simply our prophetic premise in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As always, I’m not an official spokesman for the church and am solely responsible for this post.

Recently I came across a scripture in the Book of Mormon that I quickly realized was a very important verse, perhaps the most important scripture, at least from a missionary stand point, in the entire canon of scripture.

11 Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant. (3 Nephi 21:11, emphasis added)

These are the words of the resurrected Savior to the people of ancient America. He is talking about the prophet who would bring “these things” (meaning the Book of Mormon) forth. The Savior is talking about Joseph Smith. His message is straight forward, you can’t get to the Savior without going through Joseph Smith.

This aspect of our faith has been attacked and misrepresented by anti-Mormons. The accusation is that we worship Joseph Smith, that we talk too much about him, and not enough about Jesus. Sadly, these accusations cause some members of my church to under emphasize the role of Joseph Smith in an attempt to be considered more “Christian”. But under emphasizing Joseph Smith is not something the Savior Himself is willing to do.

10 But this generation shall have my word through you; (D&C 5:10, emphasis added)

Joseph was told this early in his revelations from Jesus. But this prophetic expectation is not new. Consider what Moses was told when he spoke to Jehovah from the burning bush and was called to deliver Israel and use Aaron as a spokesman,

15 And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.

16 And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God. (Exodus 4:15-16, emphasis added)

Even in the dispensation where Christ Himself was among the people, He declared to Peter:

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18, emphasis added)

This is how God has always performed His work with us. He sends prophets. And occasionally there is a reset after a major period of apostasy, where a prophet restores the lost faith. This prophet will act as the head of that dispensation and will be the one through whom all people of that time period must go through to get to Jesus Christ.

I understand that this is a hard thing to believe. But when has faith ever been easy? How many struggled to follow Moses, or the ancient Apostles?

I simply challenge anyone who contests Joseph Smith’s prophetic claims to apply the test Jesus Himself prescribed for determining true prophets from false, “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt 7:20). You could observe our people and our values as the fruits of Joseph Smith. But his claim centered on the Book of Mormon. By this fruit you will know him. And once you know him, you’ll be invited to join us in this important work.

We are given enough to believe

jm_300_BOM2.p-P5.tiffOne of my heroes in the Book of Mormon is a man named Samuel. Not because of what this epic painting portrays, especially when you consider he’ll cast himself off that wall (maybe that cape is a flying squirrel suit, you never know).

He’s my hero because of who he was. What the scriptures gives us about his background is actually quite limited. All we know is that he was a Lamanite (meaning he was ethnically different than his traditional enemy Nephite audience). What the scriptures say about him after his wall sermon is equally limited. All the record says is that he went back among his people and was never heard of again. Yet I’m given enough insight into who this man was simply from this event recorded in scripture about him.

1. Helaman 13: 3– He was both willing and able to stand and say whatever the Lord put into his heart. (This is different than simply “winging it”, as this ability requires paying a price. See DC 11:21)

2. Helaman 13: 26-29- He declared truth that was very unpopular to the people he was teaching. He told them what they needed to know, not what they wanted to know.

3. Helaman 14- He was entrusted with the assignment of revealing specific signs concerning the birth and death of the Savior that no other prophet revealed. I’ll talk more on this later in the post.

4. Helaman 16:1-7–  He was willing, but not required to give his life. The Lord very miraculously spared it. (It’s even more miraculous if the wall he was on was more like 10 feet rather than 100 feet.)

These different points of example are enough to write a post on alone. But in this post I want to discuss the signs Samuel was privileged to reveal.

Why does God produce signs when sign seeking is said by the Savior to be the thing that an “evil and adulterous generation” seeks after?

The answer is given by Samuel in Helaman 14:

28 And the angel said unto me that many shall see greater things than these, to the intent that they might believe that these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men—

29. And this to the intent that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment might come upon them; and also if they are condemned they bring upon themselves their own condemnation. (emphasis added)

In other words, there is a difference between sign seeking, and sign watching. And that difference is faith. There will always be given enough reasons to believe, enough evidence to choose faith. On the other hand, there will also always be enough reasons to doubt, and choose unbelief. This way, our freedom to choose stays in tact. Since this life is a test to see whether we will choose God or not, we are given enough reasons either way to choose according to where our heart really is.

Recently the Church came out with a new gospel topic page on DNA (you can check it out here). The article is very careful to explain that the Book of Mormon was never meant to be proven by science. A witness that this book is true must come by faith, and confirmed by the power of the Holy Ghost (see Moroni 10:4-5). On the same token the Book of Mormon also cannot be disproved by science. There will always be enough reasons to believe if a person chooses to.

President Boyd K Packer (a modern apostle) said:

Science is seeking; science is discovery. Man finds joy in discovery. If all things were known, man’s creativity would be stifled. There could be no further discovery, no growth, nothing to decide—no agency. All things not only are not known but must not be so convincingly clear as to eliminate the need for faith. That would nullify agency and defeat the purpose of the plan of salvation. Tests of faith are growing experiences. We all have unanswered questions. Seeking and questioning, periods of doubt, in an effort to find answers, are part of the process of discovery.

(“The Law and the Light,” in The Book of Mormon:Jacob through Words of Mormon, To Learn with Joy, eds. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr., (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1990), 1–31. emphasis added)

Last night my 19 month old daughter was inconsolable. She has been sick, she hasn’t been eating well, she’s teething, it was king of a perfect storm. Our first bout with her came just as we were preparing to go to bed at 10pm. We stayed up with her for about 30 minutes until she calmed down. Then at about 1am she was once again inconsolable. It was my turn, so I got up with her. She didn’t want to be held and she fought me. I held her tight and gave her a priesthood blessing. She was asleep by the time I was done. I’d like to say she slept the rest of the night, but she woke up once more asking for milk, or “milt” as she says it. But then she went back to sleep. Now I know not all blessings are so immediately answered, but this one was. There is room to say, “it was a coincidence, she just needed to be held, that’s why she fell asleep.” But there is also room to believe that a blessing was answered upon her head by the authority of the priesthood I hold. That’s the one I choose to believe.

An average Mormon guy’s perspective on homosexuality

00 no on 8So this subject has been on my mind for years, and I’ve wanted to write on it, but then it got all heated with what happened in December in Utah and I’ve been hesitant to write on a sensitive topic during a sensitive time. My goal with this blog is not to have debate, or to get controversial. But my goal is to offer an average Mormon perspective on all sorts of things. As with all my other posts, I do not represent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I’m fully responsible for these thoughts.

The doctrinal premise for the way Latter-day Saints view same sex marriage involves a plan God has for our salvation. We believe that we lived before we were born. In this premortal life we lived with God who is our Father, and He taught us all about who He was, and who we were, and who we could become. We had the same gender there as we do here. We have unique rolls and responsibilities based on our gender. He taught us His plan which would require us to come into a mortal test where we learn by our experience the good from the evil. Here we must walk by faith, and deal with our fallen condition. Here we would prove by our choices whether we want and can handle the fullness of what God is willing to give us.

Then we were born. Because of the fall of Adam and Eve, our condition is fallen as well. This doesn’t mean that we were born sinful, we do not believe in original sin. But we were born carnal, sensual, and devilish- although innocent for the first years of life. Satan is not allowed to tempt us for our first 8 years but we are still left to deal with our fallen nature. As we grow in accountability, we will sin. We will yield to temptation in varying degrees and severity. We all have tendencies and weakness that can only be overcome in and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

If we endure to the end of our life, relying on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and participating in the covenants and ordinances of His gospel (or for those without a full knowledge of Christ’s gospel- living a good, honorable life, and accepting the gospel in its fullness in the spirit world) then we will overcome our fallen condition. Then we can inherit our full potential as sons and daughters of God. This includes an eternal marriage of husband and wife which extends beyond this life.

With this doctrinal foundation laid, I can now talk about same gender attraction. In our premortal condition there was no homosexuality. Coming into this fallen world produces all kinds of conditions. Whether a person is “born that way” or not misses the point. We are all born fallen. Our mortal test is whether we will rely wholly on the Savior, and accept His gospel. I understand that for a person with same gender attraction, this is a severe test indeed. But there is hope. There is a plan. There is always a choice. All the blessings of the gospel are available to them. But God’s laws are unalterable, and “wickedness never was happiness.”

Where does that leave faithful Mormon’s? Honestly I think it’s good that we struggle with our feelings on this issue. Extremes in either direction are inappropriate, whether that be permissive Mormon’s fully embracing the redefinition of marriage in the name of equality, or mean Mormon’s viciously attacking or dismissing those with same gender attraction as lost souls on their way to hell.

I feel we should love as much as possible. We should want to accept as much of these people as we can without accepting a homosexual lifestyle. We should be kind and attempt to understand what they’re going through. I think our hearts should break over the way we must vote on same sex marriage because we truly love these people. But we should stand with the Lord, and with the Apostles that represent Him on Earth by loving these people enough to stand by truth. We should try to explain that truth by what has been revealed to prophets and leave alone the cultural speculations which are not part of the church’s doctrine. We should trust God and His plan.