Post-Mortal Appearances of Joseph Smith

JT Hillman wrote a letter to the editor of Louisiana’s towntalk.com. In an effort to point people to Christ, JT wrote (in part),

“I read in The Town Talk, some dear person was thanking St. Jude. St. Jude cannot help you. Mary, St. Paul, St. Peter, my deceased mother, they are dead. Only Jesus can help you.

“Buddha founded Buddhism. He died in 483 B.C. Muhammad founded Islam. He died in 632 A.D. Joseph Smith Jr. founded Mormonism. He died in 1844. Mary Baker Eddy founded the Christian Science Church. She died in 1910.

“All these well-known people lived and died never to be seen from or heard from again.”

It may be because few people have left comments responding to JT’s letter, or it may be that people are unaware, but I was a bit surprised that no Mormons have challenged JTs assertions.

This painting hangs in the Winter Quarters LDS Visitors Center. Note the image of (post-mortal) Joseph Smith directing the Saints' move west.

It is a fact that Joseph Smith, the founding Prophet of Mormonism, died in 1844, and his bones remain in the grave. But some Latter-day Saints have claimed that they have seen and heard from the Prophet again.

The February 1998 issue of Ensign magazine included a lengthy article about Brigham Young and how he lived his life as a “Student of the Prophet.” In this article several post-mortal “appearances” of Joseph Smith are related. For example, a report of a vision of the Prophet received by Brigham Young:

“In an 1869 sermon, President George A. Smith, First Counselor in the First Presidency, recalled that when ‘every trouble and calamity’ seemed to beset the Saints in Nauvoo, President Young fasted and prayed frequently for guidance. Thereafter he experienced ‘a vision of Joseph Smith, who showed him the mountain that we now call Ensign Peak, immediately north of Salt Lake City, and there was an ensign fell upon that peak, and Joseph said “Build under the point where the colors fall and you will prosper and have peace.”‘ President Young knew he was to settle in the Salt Lake Valley.” (Ronald W. Walker, “Brigham Young: Student of the Prophet,” Ensign, 2/98, pp. 55-57)

The Ensign article continued on to tell of a “vivid dream” in which the Prophet Joseph taught Brigham Young about the “organization of God’s family under the priesthood’s sealing ordinances.”

Another time, “after a good deal of praying,” Brigham Young experienced a “significant dream” in which Joseph delivered a “message” that “became an important guide in [Young’s] conduct of Church affairs.”

At General Conference in November 1998 an LDS apostle told of “an experience of President Wilford Woodruff when he told of a visitation he received from the Prophet Joseph Smith some time after the Prophet was martyred. According to President Woodruff’s own account: ‘[Joseph Smith] came to me and spoke to me.'” During this “visitation,” Joseph reportedly delivered “new doctrine” to President Woodruff (M. Russell Ballard, “Are We Keeping Pace?” Ensign, 11/98, p. 6).

All of these alleged post-mortal appearances of Joseph Smith took place over 100 years ago but, according to Mormonism, that should not make us think we’ve seen the last of the Prophet. During the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the death of Joseph Smith, by way of consolation, LDS Church News said, “Lift up your heads and rejoice; for behold! it is well with my servants Joseph and Hyrum. My servant Joseph still holds the keys of my kingdom in this dispensation, and he shall stand in due time on the earth, in the flesh, and fulfill that to which he is appointed” (Church News, week ending July 9, 1994, p. 5; quoting early LDS apostle Parley P. Pratt).

So, according to the LDS Church, Joseph Smith has given direction to subsequent leaders of the Mormon Church from beyond the grave, and he is coming again to “preside over Zion” (D&C 93:32 as interpreted by Rodney Turner, emeritus Professor of Ancient Scripture (BYU), Jesus & Joseph: Parallel Lives, p. 194).

And Mormons wonder why Christians are concerned about LDS teachings.

—–

(For a Biblical perspective on the living communing with the dead see Deuteronomy 18:10-12)

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

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67 Responses to Post-Mortal Appearances of Joseph Smith

  1. wyomingwilly says:

    falcon, Thanks for the comment. I'm aware of what the Bible has to say in relation to
    angels, and I'm sure Billy Graham's book is excellent on the subject. Having lived in
    through the "angel craze" in the 90"s I try and put that perspective, not only Biblically,
    but also how it related to our society here . In the 1960's it seemed that God was demoted
    and man promoted. There was agreat article in the CRI journal [Spring 1995 ] on all this:
    " As secular humanism reigned supreme, westerners increasingly lacked a sense of the
    transcendent—something people yearn for in the deepest part of their being.The inadequacy
    of secular humanism made people crave for something more—something divine,something
    sacred. "

  2. wyomingwilly says:

    cont.
    " What should be of concern to christians, is that in reaction to Western secularism,
    many today have found a new sense of the transcendent by relating not to God but
    God's angels—-not to the Creator but to the Creator's celestial creatures……In the
    words of John Calvin, ' As God does not make [the angels] ministers of His power
    and goodness to share His glory with them, so He does not promise us His help
    through their ministry in order that we should divide our trust between them and
    Him. " Bottom line with all this : It's JESUS. He's our focus. Heb.7:25 . He was
    for Paul, and Paul reminded us of Gal. 1:8-9.

  3. falcon says:

    "Friday, August 6, 1801-wagons and carriages bounced along narrow Kentucky roads, kicking up dust and excitement as hundreds of men, women, and children pressed toward Cane Ridge, a church about 20 miles west of Lexington, the state capital. They hungered to partake in what everyone felt was sure to be an extraordinary 'Communion'. By Saturday, things were extraordinary, and the news electrified this most populous region of the state; people poured in by the thousands. One traveler wrote a Baltimore friend that he was on his way to the 'greatest meeting of its kind ever known' and that 'religion has got to such a height here that people attend from a great distance; on this occasion I doubt not but there will be 10,000 people.' …..At this Cane Ridge Communion, though, sometimes 20,000 people swirled about the grounds-watching, prying, preaching, weeping, groaning, falling. Though some stood at the edges and mocked, most left marveling at the wondrous hand of God…..It ignited the explosion of evangelical religion, which soon reached into nearly every corner of American life."
    This excerpt is from an article titled "Revival At Cane Ridge" and appears in issue 45 of Christian History which covers "Camp Meetings & Circuit Riders: Untamed Faith on America's Early Frontier". I present it here because it gives a feeling for the spirit of revialism that was present in the days just prior to Joseph Smith and his founding of Mormonism. In fact there had been so many revivals in Smith's area that it was labeled "burnt over". Actually all of this revivalism gave birth to an era of religious experimentation in America.
    What were some of the "manifestations" at Cane Ridge? There was "falling". A person would let out a piercing scream, fall like a log on the floor, earth or mud, and appear as dead. There was something labeled "the jerks". In this case a person migh have some member of their body or the whole body jerk. A person's head migh jerk backward and forward or side to side very quickly so that the facial features couldn't be distinguished. There was dancing. It was said to begin with the jerks and "the smile of heaven shone on the countenance of the subject, and assimilated to angels appeared the whole person….they continued to move forward and backward in the same track or alley till nature seemed exhausted, and they would fall prostrate on the floor or earth." There was also "barking", "laughing", "running" and finally "singing". The latter was said to be "melodiously, not from the mouth or nose, but entirely in the breast, the sounds issuing thence. Such music silenced everything, and attracted the attention of all. It was most heavenly. None could ever be tired of hearing it."
    Is it any wonder then that with these reports sweeping the country and the effects and memory of Cane Ridge at the forefront of the minds of people, that just about anyone with a story and a lot of confidence could convince a certain segment of the population that angelic beings, God the Father, Jesus, and an array of apostles had appeared to them. Aberrant religions with their false prophets thrive off of the gullibility of people with their desires for spiritual experiences.

  4. f_melo says:

    Well… i still have a problem with that though, but thank you anyways!

    I almost feel tempted to get my own crystal ball and try to contact John the Apostle, i really need him to answer some questions for me – who knows if the real one doesn´t show up…

  5. f_melo says:

    Jesus had a physical body before He was born?

  6. Jesus did not have a body before He was born, in the sense that it was Jesus that came, But God did walk among us at various times in the OT, I am not sure of the proper spelling but it was/is called a Christofiny.

    Now if you go and read through the various accounts of angels visiting humans this is what happens. Satan wanted to be worshiped, he was kicked out of heaven. The Bible tells us not to worship demons or angles. We agree so far?

    Angles, when they came to visit people, many times the people would fall down in fear, but also try and worship the angles, What did the angels always do? They said, Get up and do not do that. They were not allowed to be worshiped and refused it. We agree so far?

    Well their are a few cases were we see what appears to be the appearance of an angel and when the person He is visiting falls down to worship this angel, He allows it, Why is that? It's because it really is God. See Here is one problem, Angels are only messengers, Their are many types of angels, but an angel is nothing more than a messenger, So God can and did come to bring messages.

    Read the account of the battle of Jericho, It seems as if a angel came to deliver a message in that story correct? Well what happened? Joshua fell down and the angel allowed Himself to be worshiped and then said remove your sandals for your on holy ground.

    Jos 5:14 And he said, Nay; but [as] captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?

    Jos 5:15 And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest [is] holy. And Joshua did so.

    Note also, Moses was told, Remove your shoes, when he encountered the burning Bush, so Joshua was also told to remove his shoes. Another term is, the pre- incarnate appearance of Jesus.

  7. f_melo says:

    Thank you for the response! I´ve heard that term before…

    i agree with you here!

  8. enki says:

    Rick,
    Thats odd. I recall in college reading about the jacob/angel story before going to bed one night. I felt something special in reading about it, yet wondered 'why'? I didn't know of any particular reason why it should impress me. But one night soon after that, I did get something which attacked me at night, and when it left it was like a physical person left the bed. Of course I was sleeping, and it left as soon as I awoke. It was pretty freaky.

    But as things of this sort always seem to be, there is always a possibility of another explanation. Something to do with dream states and neurotransmitters, imagination, suggestion etc. How do you get the idea that is was Jesus? I certainly didn't think my experience, or his had anything do with with him.

  9. enki says:

    Martin,
    Sounds like I never want to see a real angel. I am a bit surprised about angels being terrifying. I can't really see 'hopeless unworthiness' as being a feeling that is positive. I generally thought angels should inspire hope, and inspire one to love god and believe, if a god really exists. I can't see the mundane in an angelic message.

    I have talked to people who believe in frae folk, and gnomes. Those I am clueless about.

  10. enki says:

    I just got the imagery of the 'travel gnome' appearing to someone after praying the moroni challenge! yes, the church is true. You gotta have some humour in all of this! I can just see an lds member, saying what the? thats not what is supposed to happen!

  11. I just left this comment on your blog on Romans 13:1-7 (http://ldsanarchy.wordpress.com/2007/10/19/romans-13-1-7-and-joseph-smith/#comment-5136). (I'm not sure if it will get through because I didn't fill in the field with my email address.)

    Though Paul does not have what we might call religious authority in view, Joseph Smith deems it appropriate to insert the words "in the church", even though such a phrase is missing in the Greek from which this is supposed to be a translation (see http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=roman….

    Note "translation", not "interpretation". (Inserting extraneous phrases that are not there in the original is not a "translation". If you did this, you could be rightly accused of corrupting the scriptures.)

    It seems to me that Joseph Smith is attempting to authenticate his own ecclesiastical authority. Maybe civic authority. Maybe both, as he had ambitions to a kind of theocracy with himself as Governor and Chief Executive Prophet. So, no longer is the passage concerned with civic obedience and paying taxes, it's now a death-threat against churchgoers who don't pay their tithes to the church.

    Given that Joseph Smith had about 34 wives in contravention of the prevailing civil law and religious culture (and he wasn't exactly forthcoming about it to his own church), the last thing he was interested in, I think, was submitting to any authority, be it religious or civil. It makes sense then, that he would co-opt (re-write) Romans to his own agenda to get others to submit to him.

    Strange, though, that a blog with "anarchist" in its title should appear to promote the kind of authoritarianism that anarchists are supposed to hate.

  12. f_melo says:

    Enki, what Rick is saying is based on Genesis chapter 32

    24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. 26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. 27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. 28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. 29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. 30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

    If it wasn´t from God, Jacob would have known and it would have been stated so in the Bible. The angel didn´t just attack him for the fun of it…

  13. LDS Anarchist says:

    It got through.

  14. LDS Anarchist says:

    Martin, my presence here and the reply of "yep" was sufficient argument, I think, to answer the question posed: "Just a question, do any active LDS members post here at all? "

    Btw, thanks for the welcome.

  15. One of your examples is NT, and it doesn't have anything to do with rites.

    For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

    1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV.

    Or, as the NIV puts it

    For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    In context, Paul is writing that we can't fully see what we are, but we will when we reach maturity. He's using the "mirror" (glass) imagery to say that we only get a partial picture of ourselves to start with (the mirrors of his day were pretty poor). He's also chiding the Corinthians with a kind of "You guys really need to take a look at yourselves ".

    Oh yes, there's the white stone thing from Revelation 2:17

    Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

    This is apocalyptic language, which is highly figurative. Personally, I think is inappropriate to try to interpret such language too literally, however, it's quite possible to understand the significance of the imagery. My reading is that the white stone is a kind of Ebenezer, like 1 Samuel 7:12 (a permanent marker or monument). The new name typifies a change in ownership (a common practice in the OT, e.g. Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah). The secrecy thing is a bit more problematic – I suggest that the change in ownership would not be "known" or acknowledged by the unbelieving World, which is why it would only be "known" by the person who received it.

  16. Jersey_Tomato says:

    Martin,
    You say the mirrors in Pauls day were poor? did it require some time to adjust ones eyes when looking in a mirror?

    As for the white stone, there isn't any example of anyone in the bible looking in a crystal, stone or mirror?

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