This Sunday, in their Gospel Doctrine Classes, LDS members will be studying 2 Nephi 3-5 from the Book of Mormon. This section is famous because it contains a supposed prophecy of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. (I say, “supposed”, not to be unduly disrespectful, but to be clear that I do not believe this to be a true prophecy.)
One of the most common flashpoints between Mormons and Christians is their vastly different views of Joseph Smith. Mormonism’s viewpoint is probably best summed up by one of their scriptures. D&C 135:3 states: “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.” This is not an obscure reference but one that is quoted frequently. For example, the LDS manual True to the Faith, in its brief treatment of Joseph Smith, quotes it. That Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God is part of every Mormon’s testimony.
Because of Mormonism’s emphasis on Joseph Smith, his life has been the subject of intense scrutiny over the years by both Mormons and non-Mormons. Fawn Brodie’s No Man knows my history is still considered one of the best treatments of his life. Interestingly, Mrs. Brodie was raised Mormon. Many have followed in her footsteps with the result that there is an immense amount of material available on his life. One topic that has especially been in the spotlight has been his polygamy. In her book, Mrs. Brodie lists the name of 48 women who were his wives but also makes the comment that research indicates that he was sealed to 66 or 67 living women.
One popular argument Mormons make to prove that Smith was a true prophet is the position that nothing else can explain how an unschooled boy/young man could produce the Book of Mormon. But the same argument could be used to “prove” that Mohammed was a genuine prophet. He too was unschooled. He too claimed to receive revelations from God. He too claimed to be a prophet of God.
What does the Bible say about determining whether or not somebody is a true prophet? The most important thing to examine is not the person’s lifestyle or his claims, but his teachings especially what he teaches about the gospel. “But though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you then that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)
As has been amply demonstrated on this blog and elsewhere, there is a huge difference between the gospel proclaimed in the Bible and Mormonism’s gospel. The biblical gospel simply consists of the good news (the word gospel means good news) that salvation comes through trusting solely in what Jesus has done for us: his perfect life led for us, his sacrificial death as payment for our sins. Mormonism’s gospel is far different. “In its fullness, the gospel includes all the doctrines, principles, laws, ordinances, and covenants necessary for us to be exalted in the celestial kingdom.” (True to the Faith, p. 76)
Because Joseph Smith preached a vastly different gospel, he is not a true prophet of God. Rather, according to the Bible, he is cursed. Instead of having “done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it”, the sobering truth is that, because he was a false prophet, he has done more than most persons who have ever lived, for the damnation of people.
I realize how harsh that comes off. But that is my sincere and heartfelt conclusion. And that is why biblical Christians continually plead with Mormons to listen only to the Bible. For, if they continue to follow the teachings of Joseph Smith, they will suffer the consequences of that for all eternity.