My friend, who is a Mormon, shocked me when she claimed that the Mormon church was the only true church on earth. She was a very sincere person and had this deep desire to save me. Being a true friend, I accepted her challenge to study the Mormon faith and check it out for myself without being biased. My journey to examine her faith started with Joseph Smith the prophet and founder of the church.
To me, the truthfulness of the Mormon religion and the validity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints depended on the role of Joseph Smith as a divinely appointed prophet of God. Mormons themselves plainly throw out the challenge-either Joseph Smith was a true prophet or a fraud:
“Mormonism, as it is called must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p.188,).
As I embarked on this mission, I asked myself, how can I determine a genuine prophet of God from a false prophet?
I was relieved to know that 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, I can find the answer. So, I applied these tests to Joseph Smith using the Mormon publications and here is what I found:
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 those who have spoken for God. But I found 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.
Second test: 1 John 4:2 says, “Hereby know ye the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.”
This test involves more than simply accepting the historical reality of Jesus’ birth as a human being. Smith teaches in Doctrine and Covenants that Jesus became the Son of God gradually as He receives “fullness” from the Father. He also teaches that human beings like Jesus, 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 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…”
To my surprise, I found that Joseph Smith repeatedly claimed “in the name of the LORD” that something would happen when it did not. 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 in September 1832, that the New Jerusalem would be build in Western Missouri and 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.
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 led his followers openly to other gods. Joseph Smith was a polytheist. 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 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, 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.
With deep concern, I ask my Mormon friend to weigh the evidence carefully. If she applies these tests honestly, she will reach the conclusion that the life and wordings of Joseph Smith can’t be harmonized with the test of a true prophet as given in the Bible.
With great anguish I wonder, will she follow God’s word or her own feelings?