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Was Joseph Smith a true prophet?
How can a Christian determine a true prophet of God from a false prophet? The Bible gives certain tests of a true prophet. By applying these tests to the life and teachings of those who claim to speak for God, we can find the answer. Let us apply these tests to Joseph Smith:
First test: Isaiah 8:20 says, “to the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
The law and the testimony refer to the divinely inspired instruction given by God in the Holy Bible-both Old and New Testaments. The teachings of a true prophet of God will never contradict the clear teachings of the Bible. But we find that the teachings in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, contradict the Bible in major topics such as the trinity, nature of God, nature of man, sin, salvation, state of the dead, heaven, hell and many other doctrines.
This test involves more than simply accepting the historical reality of Jesus’ birth as a human being. Joseph Smith teaches in Doctrine and Covenants that Jesus became the Son of God gradually as He received “fullness” from the Father. He also teaches that human beings are also potentially sons of God in the same sense as Jesus (Doctrine and Covenants 93:13, 14, 20, 22, 23; Articles of Faith pp. 471-473). Thus, for Mormons, the only real difference between Jesus and a human being is that Christ was the first born of Elohim’s children, whereas we in our pre-existent spirit state were “born” later. Mormon theology teaches that the goal of mankind is to progress to the point of attaining to the godhead. Therefore, the divinity of Jesus is not unique.
Third test: Deuteronomy 18:21-22 says, “You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken…”
Joseph Smith repeatedly made claims “in the name of the LORD” that did not happen. In 1835, Joseph Smith prophesied that the Lord’s coming was only a few decades in the future, specifically, he predicted that the Lord would come in fifty-six years (History of the church vol. 2 p.182). Fifty six years from 1835 would reach 1891. Clearly the Lord did not appear at that time.
Joseph Smith again prophesied in a ‘revelation’ given through him on September 1832 that the New Jerusalem would be built in Western Missouri and that within the New Jerusalem would be erected a temple during the lifetime of those hearing his revelation (Doctrines and Covenants 84:1-5). This did not happen either. Also, Joseph Smith prophesied that New York would be destroyed if its people rejected the [Mormon] gospel (D&C 84:114-115).
He also prophesied that the rebellion of South Carolina and the War between the States would result in war being poured out upon all nations; slaves would revolt; the inhabitants of the earth would mourn; famine, plague, earthquake, thunder, lightning, and a full end of all nations would result (D&C 87). Needles to say all these prophecies did not come to pass.
Fourth test: Deuteronomy 13:1-3 says that “if a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Joseph Smith was a polytheist, he openly led his followers to other gods. History of the Church 6:474 records Smith stating, “I wish to declare I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods.” Joseph Smith declared that “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345). This is not the biblical teaching about God.
Fifth test: Mathew 7:15, 16 says, “beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits…”
By his own testimony Joseph Smith was naturally combative and willing to attack his opponents physically (History of the Church vol. 5 P.316; 524). Several contemporary accounts exist of Smith challenging opponents with physical violence and at times following up his challenge with action-boxing the ears, kicking, thrashing, and throwing blows to the head. The Bible promotes peaceful living and dying for one another, so clearly Smith contradicts the Bible in this sense as well.
Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.
In His service,
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