Prophet-Preferred Prophet-Test

On November 1, 1831 Joseph Smith convened a conference of ten Mormon elders. The agenda for the meeting was to make decisions regarding the publication of Joseph’s revelations. According to an article in Mormon Times,

“Joseph said that since the Lord had given the great blessing of so many revelations, the elders should decide what testimony they were willing to attach to the book. After several present arose and said they were willing to testify to the world, Joseph prepared a statement for the witnesses to sign. The contemporaneous minutes described it as a revelation.”

However, some of the “potential witnesses” had doubts about some of the revelations. They were not prepared to testify to the truthfulness of Joseph’s revelations until God confirmed it. Before they would sign their names, they wanted a spiritual witness similar to that which had been reported by the Book of Mormon witnesses. “The conference was deadlocked.”

But then Joseph received a revelation (Doctrine and Covenants 67). Mormon Times reports,

“The Lord gave a challenge for the elders to choose the ‘least’ of Joseph’s revelations and then choose the ‘most wise among you’ to see if he can write a similar one. If he could, then their reticence over the language was justified. If not, ‘ye are under condemnation if ye do not bear record that they are true'”

Nobody was able to write a revelation on par with Joseph’s, so five elders (and later thirteen others) signed their names to the document, which read in part,

“We, the undersigners, feel willing to bear testimony to all the world of mankind, to every creature upon the face of all the Earth and upon the islands of the sea, that God hath borne record to our souls, through the Holy Ghost shed forth upon us, that these commandments are given by inspiration of God and are profitable for all men and are verily true.”

I don’t know in what manner the latter thirteen men believed God bore witness to them about the Book of Commandments, but for the initial five, it was under fascinating circumstances.

The men had doubts about some of Joseph’s revelations; nevertheless, when Joseph claimed that God, via another revelation, was granting them a test whereby they could know if Joseph’s revelations were true, they accepted it. The test was highly subjective at best. Could anyone write a revelation like Joseph? For whatever reason–whether because of scruples over falsely claiming to speak for God, or a lack of creative writing skills, or a biased judgment of the results–that group of men couldn’t do it. Hence, the only possible conclusion was that Joseph’s revelations were true. Is this really a sound test of a prophet?

Joseph was not the first man to use this argument to “prove” his position. Muhammad did the same thing.

“While Muslim apologists today tend to focus on supposed scientific evidence for Islam, Muhammad offered a very different argument. The central argument of the Qur’an may be called the ‘Argument from Literary Excellence,’ which claims that the Qur’an is so masterfully written, so brilliant and awe-inspiring in every detail, it could only have come from God. We find the basic reasoning in Surah (Chapter) 2:23-24. It reads:

“And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call on your witnesses besides Allah if you are truthful. But if you do (it) not and never shall you do (it), then be on your guard against the fire of which men and stones are the fuel; it is prepared for the unbelievers. (Qur’an 2:23-24)

“According to many Muslims, no one has ever been able to meet this challenge, and the Qur’an must therefore be from God.” (David Wood, Is The Qur’an a Literary Miracle?)

Are you convinced?

The question has been asked, if the Book of Commandments was true, why did it require such extensive revision just two years later (for its publication as Doctrine and Covenants)? Maybe these revisions are part of the reason why, despite the testimony that God bore record to their souls, at least eight of the Book of Commandment witnesses later abandoned the church that is built on Joseph Smith’s revelations.


Comments within the parameters of 1 Peter 3:15 are invited.


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.
This entry was posted in D&C and Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith, Mormon History, Mormon Scripture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

110 Responses to Prophet-Preferred Prophet-Test

  1. liv4jc says:

    Has anyone else ever considered the similarities between Mohammed and Joseph? I believe that if Joseph had restrained himself just a little better in public in his violent outbursts toward his neighbors that he may have become more like Mohammed the conqueror. He had already declared himself a general of his own militia and was intent on gaining the Presidency. He believed that it was his destiny to set up a theocracy based upon his “revelations”. One can only imagine if he had actually succeded in his ambitions and been allowed to institute his version of Sharia law with men like BY (blood atonement, doctrine of vengeance, Mountain Meadows Massacre, etc.) leading the charge. His ambitions would have been resisted by representatives in Congress, but remember we were dealing with men who had no problem using fear and violence to advance their cause.
    Like Islam, smithism has its version of religious courts with the bishopric conducting investigations, asking members to reveal and confess even the most personal areas of their lives (sexual practices between husband and wife). But unlike Islam the smithian law is not formalized and canonized, but is left up to the “revelation” of the Melchizedek priesthood holder issuing the punishment.
    One can only thank God that Smith’s life was cut short, alleviating that problem, but unfortunately his death is viewed as almost equal to Christ’s by some of his followers.

  2. Enki says:

    “One can only thank God that Smith’s life was cut short…”

    I think you should rethink that a bit. Wasn’t there a banking scandal smith was involved with? Wouldn’t it have been better if he had gone to trial? There is also a question of supressing the local newspapers, an illegal tactic.

  3. grindael says:

    smith would have run, like he did from NY, Ohio, & Missouri. It would have been him running things in Salt Lake, not Young and who knows what kind of havoc he would have wreaked. I think we can thank providence for the outcome as it played out in history.

  4. liv4jc asked

    Has anyone else ever considered the similarities between Mohammed and Joseph?


    I have commented that Mormonism is the Islam of North America; and I don’t say it in the perjorative sense that some North Americans will hear it.

    A focus on the mechanics of religion as the right way to please God, “new” revelations, the “restoration” and “clarification” of the Gospel, the lessening of the divinity of Christ, the resort to theodicy; the establishment of an earthly kingdom (guided by the prophet), several wives; the list of similarities goes on.

    Mohammad also instituted some much-needed civil reform. Did Joseph do anything similar?

  5. Mike R says:


    You made some valid points( as you always do),
    but let’s be careful how we describe Joseph
    Smith’s death.This is a very sensitive issue
    with LDS.I’m sure we all agree in not condoning
    the violence that took place in that Carthage

  6. liv4jc says:

    You’re absolutely right, Mike. I wouldn’t condone vigilante justice and I don’t take joy in the fact that JS was murdered by his enemies. My point was that it was God’s providence that he never lived to see the fruition of his kingdom, and the manner of his death was also God’s providence. We are better off for it as a nation. Thankfully the men who follow Joseph now reject many of the teachings of Joseph and his earlier followers, and the church takes great pains to hide them.

    The men who killed Joseph were not the men who had him arrested for destroying the printing press which revealed the secret that he was having sexual liasons with other men’s wives. The men who killed Joseph were enemies that he had previously made, and they were not just enemies of Joseph, but enemies of the poor people who he duped into following him with his magical mystery religion. Somehow the 1800’s were very fertile ground for false prophets and preachers (some (I) would say we have many of them among us today with huge followings). Wasn’t Sydney Rigdon a former Millerite, or was it Brigham Young? When I read of the suffering and death that attended the poor people who happened to fall under his spell my heart breaks. If Joseph had been rejected for the liar he was all of that suffering and death in his name would have been alleviated. The same is true with all false prophets: Mohammed, JS, Jim Jones, David Koresh, etc.

  7. grindael says:

    Jesus said those that live by the sword die by the sword. smith with his legion of 5,000 – his arrogant megalomaniac attitude, his drinking, smoking brawling, spiritual wifery and breaking of the law, (repeatedly) was definitely a threat to all those around him. Obviously, smith’s past caught up with him. It happened to smith, happened to many that went before him, and unfortunately will probably happen to many in the future.

  8. setfree says:

    Deut 18:20
    “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.”
    and… opes, yep, that is what happened…

  9. Ralph says:


    JS died? Wow what a blow! I guess he was just a mortal man and not a prophet.

    So does this mean Moses is also just a man and not a prophet because he also died (Deut 34:1-8)? How about Isaiah? Jeremiah? Ezekiel? David? Paul? Stephen? Peter? The list goes on from the Bible. All these men died according to the Bible, BUT they were also prophets. JS dying does not prove a thing as he was mortal just like anyone of us and any other prophet.

  10. setfree says:

    Actually, no, not all of those were prophets.
    And Moses died of way old age. Not in his prime, for committing acts AGAINST God, the way JS did.

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