Joseph Smith/Status in LDS belief

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Joseph Smith's status in Latter-day Saint belief

Summary: Do members worship Joseph Smith or treat him as more than a man? Critics charge that since Joseph claimed (or it was claimed in his behalf) the right to "approve whether or not someone gets into heaven," this arrogates to a mortal a right properly reserved for God and Jesus Christ. Some critics have even charged that "Mormons worship Joseph Smith."

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Question: Do Mormons believe that Joseph Smith must approve whether or not they get into heaven?

The Book of Mormon confirms that no mortal's role in the judgment supersedes the role given to Jesus Christ

Critics charge that Joseph claimed, or it was claimed in his behalf, the right to "approve whether or not someone gets into heaven," and that this gives to a mortal a right properly reserved for God and Jesus Christ. Some critics have even charged that "Mormons worship Joseph Smith."

No mortal's role in the judgment supersedes the role given to Jesus, as the Book of Mormon bears witness:

...the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.(2 Nephi 9:41.)

Joseph's participation in the judgment is no more or less than the role assigned to the Lord's apostles at the Last Supper

Joseph's participation in the judgment (at the command and sufferance of Jesus) is no more or less than the role assigned to the Lord's apostles at the Last Supper. Those who condemn Joseph on these grounds must also condemn Peter and the rest of the Twelve.

Members of the Church reserve their worship for God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost. They do not worship Joseph Smith or any other mortal, save Jesus only. Joseph Smith's position in LDS thought is analogous to the role which Peter or Paul plays in traditional creedal Christianity.


Question: What is the origin of the criticism of the idea that Joseph Smith will participate in the final judgement?

The criticism originates with statements made by Brigham Young and Orson Hyde that are recorded in the Journal of Discourses

The criticism originates with statements made by Brigham Young and Orson Hyde that are recorded in the Journal of Discourses. Statements made by these early church leaders are removed from their context in order to make it appear that a belief in Joseph Smith rather than Jesus Christ is the key to salvation.

When read in context, Brigham Young's statement and intent become clear:

Joseph Smith holds the keys of this last dispensation, and is now engaged behind the vail in the great work of the last days...no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith.... I will now tell you something that ought to comfort every man and woman on the face of the earth. Joseph Smith, junior, will again be on this earth dictating plans and calling forth his brethren to be baptized for the very characters who wish this was not so, in order to bring them into a kingdom to enjoy...he will never cease his operations, under the directions of the Son of God, until the last ones of the children of men are saved that can be, from Adam till now.... It is his mission to see that all the children of men in this last dispensation are saved, that can be, through the redemption.[1]

Clearly, Joseph's role is to function under the "direction...of the Son of God," and the primary goal is the salvation of all who will accept any degree of Christ and Joseph's witness of Him.

Similarly, critics extract the second sentence of the following quote from Brigham Young, while ignoring the sentence preceding it (emphasis added):

I have taught for thirty years, and still teach, that he that believeth in his heart and confesseth with his mouth that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith is his Prophet to this generation, is of God; and he that confesseth not that Jesus has come in the flesh and sent Joseph Smith with the fulness of the Gospel to this generation, is not of God, but is antichrist.[2]

It is not a novel idea to have mortal prophets involved in the post-mortal judgment

At the Last Supper, Jesus himself taught that:

Ye [the apostles] are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:28-30; see also Matthew 19:28.)

A similar promise to participate in the judgment of those among whom they were called to serve was given to the twelve Nephite Disciples (see 1 Nephi 12:9-10). This principle is also reiterated in modern revelation (see D&C 29:12).

Since the Latter-day Saints accept the witness that Joseph was called as an apostle and prophet (see D&C 21:1) with the same authority as that given to Peter, James, John, and others, they do not think it strange that he will likewise play a role in judgment. The witness of a prophet will always be brought against those who did not accept his witness of Christ (see Matthew 10:40; John 5:45-47).


Question: Did Bruce R. McConkie state that we must turn to Joseph Smith to gain salvation?

Elder McConkie's intent is clear—salvation is only through Christ, and Christ can only be known through prophets, including Joseph Smith

This claim is made by Richard Abanes in Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 26. ( Index of claims ). This is a classic example of quote-mining. The italicized text is quoted by the author; the other text from this source makes the meaning clear (bold added for emphasis). Here is what Elder McConkie actually said:

Salvation is in Christ. There is no other by whom it comes. He is the Redeemer of men and the Savior of the world. He alone worked out the infinite and eternal atonement whereby all men are raised in immortality while those who believe and obey are raised also unto eternal life. "Salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent." None other has ever lived on earth, none other now lives among us, and none other will ever breathe the breath of life who can compare with him. None other, among all the billions of our Father's children, will ever deserve such eternal praise as all the hosts of heaven heap upon him. Yea, "There shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent." (Mosiah 3:17-18.)

But Christ and his laws can be known only by revelation. His gospel must come from heaven or remain forever unknown. And his word must go forth by the mouths of his servants the prophets, or the message will never be heard. Christ calls prophets. They represent him. Their voice is his voice; their words are his words; and they say what he would say if he were personally present. "I am the vine, ye are the branches," he says to his legal representatives on earth. "He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5.)

And thus, for this dispensation of grace, we come to Joseph Smith. He was called of God to reveal anew the doctrines of salvation. He was called of God to stand as the Lord's legal administrator, dispensing salvation to all men—repeat: all men—in the last days. Christ is the True Vine; Joseph Smith is the chief branch for our day. Moroni 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." (JS-H 1:33.) And as the Prophet, years later, suffered in the jail at Liberty, Missouri, for the testimony of Jesus and the love of the Lord that was his, the voice of the Lord comforted him with these words: "The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee; While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand." (D&C 122:1-2.)

And thus, all men—every living soul who has lived or shall live on earth between the spring of 1820 and that glorious future day when the Son of God shall return to reign personally on earth—all men in the latter days must turn to Joseph Smith to gain salvation. Why? The answer is clear and plain; let it be spoken with seven thunders. He alone can bring them the gospel; he alone can perform for them the ordinances of salvation and exaltation; he stands, as have all the prophets of all the ages in their times and seasons, in the place and stead of the Heavenly One in administering salvation to men on earth....

[335] We do not pretend to have authority and gospel knowledge because we read in holy writ that those anciently were so endowed. Ours is a modern commission; ours is a present-day power; the message we declare has been revealed anew to us. That it conforms to the ancient word is apparent, for it is the same gospel given again....

[338] The Lord sends men to match the message, and Joseph Smith, as a revealer of Christ and a restorer of eternal truth, has been the instrument in the hands of the Lord of preparing the way before him.[3]

Elder McConkie's intent is clear—salvation is only through Christ, and Christ can only be known through prophets, and only legal administrators can perform the necessary ordinances. Thus, to come to Christ, one must use what Joseph Smith offers. But, this is not to say that Joseph is the source of salvation, or that we must turn to Joseph in preference to Jesus. Joseph simply provides what we need so that we can completely turn to Jesus and receive all that He wishes to give us.

The critic has flagrantly misrepresented this text.

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

Notes

  1. Brigham Young, "Intelligence, etc.," (9 October 1859) Journal of Discourses 7:289-289.
  2. Brigham Young, "The Kingdom of God," (13 July 1862) Journal of Discourses 9:312.
  3. Bruce R. McConkie, Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), 333–335, 338. ISBN 0877478961. GL direct link