Do Mormons worship Joseph Smith? That’s a question that has been asked of many a Mormon, and in many cases the Mormon will kind of groan inside, and very honestly say “No we absolutely do not”!
They will then explain that they worship only God and they will then likely emphasise the significance of Christ in their lives, and this is what Mormons seem to generally do today, emphasise Jesus and their love for Him and generally avoid having too long a discussion about Joseph Smith.
However like many people reading, I have been to a Mormon sacrament meeting when the hymn “Praise to the man” starts being sung, and felt uncomfortable about the words of devotion being sung about a man who Mormons apparently do not worship.
Recently the talk “Millions Shall Know Brother Joseph Again” Which is going to be the main focus of this article has made me ask the question, In Mormonism, is Joseph Smith worthy of worship?
This is not me saying do Mormons worship Joseph Smith, but instead I am asking, should they be worshipping him if the statements from their leaders are to be taken seriously.
The talk given by Jayson Kunzler, a business management faculty member at BYU Idaho, was given at a devotional at that location.
I will say from the start that I appreciate Kunzler does not have any authority to speak for the LDS church. However he spends a lot of time quoting people who do.
Kunzler starts by saying that in 1984 a number of LDS missionaries were asked to evaluate their testimonies regarding a number of “truths”, it was found that the one that these missionaries were weakest in their certainty of, was that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God. Bruce Mcconkie an LDS Apostle at the time said of this result that “Something’s wrong, something’s terribly wrong”.
This opening story starts what is essentially a lesson to these missionaries and all LDS members in general of just how important Joseph Smith and his ministry is. And seriously, this talk holds nothing back, I recommend you listen to it or read it in full yourself.
Kunzler says this:
“Brothers and sisters, Elder McConkie is right. If Joseph Smith—and the Restoration of the gospel through him—is not a fundamental part of our testimony, then something is definitely wrong. As President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “we link the names of Jesus Christ and of Joseph Smith.” President Brigham Young taught the same principle. He said, “What I have received from the Lord, I have received by Joseph Smith…If I drop him, I must drop these principles…no man on the earth can say that Jesus lives, and deny, at the same time…the Prophet Joseph. This is my testimony.”
So you cannot have Jesus without Joseph according to this. If you drop Joseph, then you drop Jesus. The implications of this are clear, the work of Christ is useless without Joseph. To some degree this helps explain why so many people who leave Mormonism walk away from all things faith in Christ as well, for years they will have been taught that this is how it is. This is maybe one of the biggest tragedies of Mormonism, that it makes Jesus useless, without Joseph.
I could quote this entire talk as there is so much material here but I will try to stick with a few.
Kunzler goes on to say this:
We should expect intense opposition to surround Joseph Smith because the experiences of his life represent, in the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, “the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to salvation and eternal life.” After the angel Moroni introduced himself to Joseph Smith, he told him that his “name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.”
I have heard Mormons before use this as evidence for the truthfulness of Joseph Smith’s ministry. Joseph being told by this angel that his name should be had for good and evil is confirmed in the mind of many a Mormon whenever someone speaks critically of Joseph. The problem is that anyone in history that has made bold claims can have this said of them. However here I think it is again used for the purpose of confirming Joseph as a Prophet.
Kunzler then gives this startling quote from Brigham Young, second Mormon Prophet.
No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, Junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are—I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent. He holds the keys of that kingdom for the last dispensation.
I was blown away when I heard this, I think this is actually the first time I had heard this quote used by someone speaking in favour of the church, generally I have seen this used by critics and seen Apologists trying to explain it away. But here we have it, you do not get into the Celestial kingdom, or the presence of God, without the consent of Joseph. We see in 1 Timothy 2:5 in the New Testament that there is one mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus, again Jesus has been found to be insufficient without Joseph.
Now if there is one problem the LDS church has had in the last few years in upholding their faithful claims about Joseph Smith, it’s the internet and books, stating the historical aspects of Joseph that have had little or no mention by the LDS church. As a result this has led to a number of “Gospel Topic Essays” put on LDS.org attempting to state and deal with these issues in a positive light. However what has been particularly uncomfortable, has been faithful LDS members pointing these things out, the likes of D Michael Quinn, Grant Palmer being examples.
Kunzler has this to say about them
“Our beloved President Boyd K. Packer, who departed this life just a few months ago, echoed President Benson’s warning. He said, “I have on occasion been disappointed when I have read in writings of those who are supposed to be worthy members of the Church statements that tend to belittle or degrade…past leaders of the Church.” President Packer continued, “That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weakness and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith—particularly one within the Church—places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master, and unless he repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities.”
So LDS members if you write anything negative about Joseph, you must be seeking to destroy faith, and you will not be among the faithful in eternity, your motives must be evil. I am not sure how much closer to being Spiritual blackmail this could be.
Which is something that is often said of anyone speaking critically of the LDS church, their motives must be bad.
Carrying on this line of thought Kunzler says that pointing out a “perceived”, character flaw in Joseph to make us feel better about our own sins is the work of the devil, and dwelling on the faults of anyone especially the Lords anointed only leads to destruction. This also seems to assume that to point out character flaws in Joseph must be because of your own sin, rather than just seeking to be true to history.
Which is an interesting point as many faithful LDS scholars such as Richard Bushman have sought to honestly state many aspects of Smiths life, good or bad to show that he was a normal human with faults, but still called as a Prophet. It seems Kunzler has no time for this, he goes on.
“As President John Taylor testified:
I was acquainted with Joseph Smith for years. I traveled with him; I have been with him in public and in private…I was with him when he died…I have seen him under all these various circumstances, and I testify before God, angels, and men that he was a good, honorable, and virtuous man, that his private and public character was irreproachable, and that he lived and died a man of God.”
“Joseph Smith declared, “I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent…” And he was innocent! “He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people.” He said, “…I do not the wrongs that I am charged with doing…Do you think that even Jesus, if He were here, would be without fault in your eyes? His enemies said all manner of evil against Him—they all watched for iniquity in Him.”
So it seems that Joseph was completely without any flaws at all, and never sinned, or at least all accusations of sin are false, does that remind you of anyone? As it seems often with Joseph, the comparison is made, between him and Jesus. As the song “Praise to the man” says. “Endless is His Priesthood”, “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.” When you stand back and look at the things said of Joseph, you cant help but feel uncomfortable at times.
And remember that while Kunzler cannot bring authoritative teaching as such, he is using quotes from Prophets and Apostles to support everything he says.
Here is Kunzlers concluding point
I invite all to gain a sound and enduring witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, which has come through him. It is my prayer that each of us will reverence the name of Joseph Smith in word and in deed, that in a future day many of us—perhaps millions—“shall know Brother Joseph again.” In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
The concluding hope here is that we might one day know Joseph again, which is of course taken from the hymn “Praise to the man”. In some ways its refreshing to hear a talk like this which is full of such clear and unashamed Mormon teaching, but mostly it’s disheartening to see just how far Mormonism is from Christianity, by robbing Jesus Christ of His absolute sufficiency. I think of these words of the Apostle Paul.
Philippians 1:20-26 (KJV)
“20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.”
While it would be unfair to expect Paul to have mentioned Joseph at this point, as he was obviously not born yet and also not of this dispensation as Mormons would say. We can see that Paul had one vision in mind, Christ. Nothing else, no Prophet, no Priest no King, Other than Jesus who is really all of that anyway.
Is Joseph worthy of worship? What do you think? ,
- Joseph makes the work of Christ efficacious for you
- He decides whether you go to Gods presence for eternity
- You must never speak critically of him (or take his name in vain),
- He was without sin.
If we let anything stand in the way of Christ, or let any human be essential to make Christ effective in our lives, then we have missed the power and glory of Christ completely. I pray that those reading will cast down any desire to know Joseph in the afterlife, and look to Christ alone.