In 1844, while the Mormon Church was in the middle of a crisis involving dissention in the Church, The Prophet Joseph Smith preached a Sunday morning sermon in which he exclaimed,
“In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil—all corruption. Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.” (History of the Church 6:408-409)
Due to the blatant arrogance of these words preached by Joseph Smith, this passage from History of the Church has received plenty of attention from critics of Mormonism over the years. We talked about it here on Mormon Coffee a while back. But apart from the boasting and the shocking revelation that Joseph Smith believed he had done “a work” greater than Jesus, I’ve always wondered why Joseph would have made the assertion (about keeping a whole church together) in the first place.
According to historians Newell G. Bringhurst and John C. Hamer, “Schism has been a persistent theme within Mormonism from its earliest days” (Scattering of the Saints, 1). Bringhurst and Hamer note that this dissent and schism began in 1831 and, by the time of Joseph Smith’s death in 1844, ten new religious groups had formed as a result.
Joseph Smith had lost many of his close associates (including men in Church leadership and many designated witnesses to the Book of Mormon) as they lost faith in the Prophet and began their own “true” churches.
So why did Joseph Smith boast about keeping a whole church together? In thirteen short years his church had broken into almost a dozen pieces.
After the Prophet’s death, when he was no longer here to “keep [the] whole church together,”
“The pace of Mormon schism and fragmentation accelerated… Among the noteworthy Latter Day Saints opposing [Brigham] Young and the Twelve were members of Joseph Smith’s own family, specifically his legal wife Emma, his mother Lucy, and his younger brother William – all of whom eventually joined and/or affiliated with various Midwestern expressions of Mormonism.” (Scattering of the Saints, 5)
The fifteen-plus “important groups” that emerged after Joseph Smith’s death, along with those formed during the Prophet’s lifetime, in turn fragmented into yet more Mormon churches, reaching (cumulatively) well over 400 distinct groups. Based on information from Steven L. Shields, a noted expert on schisms of the Mormon Restoration movement, “as of 2007, the number of distinct Latter Day Saint groups large enough to field an active congregation is estimated to be approximately eighty” (Scattering, 9).
Did Joseph do a greater work than Jesus in keeping a church together? Did “the followers of Jesus [run] away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never [run] away from [Joseph]”? History proves that Joseph’s was an empty boast. What’s more, it was a foolish boast.
The biblical prophet Jeremiah recorded,
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
The apostle Paul repeated this admonition twice:
“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17)
In opposition to Scripture, Joseph Smith boasted in his self-perceived might. And rather than boasting in the Lord, he boasted against the Lord.
Why did he do that?
Excellent article Sharon.
What I thought upon reading Joseph Smith’s quote was that this looks like a guy who was on the verge of losing it mentally. I don’t know what the rate was of him adding more “wives” to his stable but it would be interesting to know if he had accelerated the pace. This sort of activity can be known as a “spree”. The perpetrator gets so far out of control that he finally cracks-up in one glorious final act or series of acts.
When you read of Smith making such preposterous claims, you get a view of his mental state. What he was claiming about holding his group together was the opposite of what was going on. He was out of control and when William Law, one of his trusted leaders called him on it, Smith had his printing press and office destroyed.
Doesn’t sound like a guy who was doing much holding together.
Most of Joseph Smith’s wives were taken between 1841 and 1843, including one of my ancestors.
Joseph may very well have been losing touch with reality — or morality — by then.
Thanks for providing that link. It’s overwhelming when you do a quick cursory overview of the list of women Smith took as wives. The year 1843 showed Smith to be a busy boy. I think I counted 18 women who were sealed to him in that year alone. It was like the “Book of the Month Club” only with women.
One has to wonder how Smith pulled this off. How could he keep all the balls in the air at the same time without dropping a couple. What a juggling act. But it helps if you have the skills that are necessary for a cult leader. Smith did this because he could. He showed no restraint or ability to handle his own impulses. It reminds me of when an alcoholic loses control and is no longer what’s called a “functioning alcoholic”. But, in-the-end, there wasn’t anyone who was going to stop him although William Law tried to draw attention to what was going on.
I’ve often thought that if Smith had lived, the whole deal would have fallen apart. Ironically, his death allowed the Mormon church to make a martyr out of him and create the “prophet” scenario with its myths and legends.
It’s my understanding that Mr Smith died in jail one month after making the statement mentioned in this stellar article.. ?
Interesting when you read this in Doctrines and Covenants Section 3 : 4
4” For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him.”
Looks to me like God and the Angels were wearing those big foamy thumb gloves you sometimes see spectators wear at ball games pointing them downwards.
On a more serious note.
Ironic that Mormonism having supposedly risen from the ashes of the fall out from the reformation fell into the very same hole within a single generation.
Excuse the double post,
But thank you to everyone for their prayers and thoughts over the past few days regarding my chat with my LDS friend. Interest was at least peaked and I believe it to be the beginnings of a long but worthwhile journey.
No man gets left behind is my motto in this…
So thanks everyone….Things were learned.
I’ve said it before but I think had Smith not died, then the LDS church would cease to exist today. But he did, and Young was able to isolate them and let them grow.
I also find it fascinating that the current version of the LDS church looks very little like what Smith had developed.
Smith was a failure despite his boasting. Look at the number of people he deceived. Even all those strains of Mormonism carry his sinful pride.
Did you ever wonder how Smith identified and picked his prey? I also wonder how many women turned him down? What was his closing rate? Please don’t take this wrong, but was he picking “babes” or insecure women? I looked at some of the pictures of his “wives” and man some of them look pretty severe. I suppose the pictures were taken when the women were heading towards elderly.
Could you imagine letting Smith loose at an LDS youth event today? I was on the campus of a Utah college decades ago and the kids showed up for some weekend event as my wife and I were leaving after spending a week there. I was taking a workshop. Both my wife and I agreed that the place looked like it was hosting a convention of Barbie Doll look alikes.
But my final question, why was Smith doing this? Did he really buy his own line about increasing his chances of becoming a top god in the Celestial Kingdom if he had a large number of women sealed to him?
I don’t know. The guy was just plain weird. At least some of his followers had sense enough to bail out on him. Unfortunately, too many of them started their own cults.
John 7:18- Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.
So where do “Mormons” go with Smith’s claim?
Well I guess it would depend on what sect of Mormonism a person is affiliated with. The LDS would try to come up with some sort of creative interpretation to explain that Smith didn’t really mean what he said. The FLDS would embrace Smith’s claim. The CoC would say they’ve moved on. The Temple Lot group would say, “Oh you mean the fallen prophet!”
Great article Sharon . It’s important because those persons who may be thinking about joining the Mormon church have an opportunity to see that another of the exclusive claims made by Mormon authorities is simply false . Mormonism likes to claim that a great apostasy occurred soon after the deaths of Jesus’ apostles . One sign of this great apostasy was that many churches arose , and Mormon leaders use this to prove that their church is the original christian church reestablished .
Persons can easily be persuaded to accept Mormonism because they have heard it’s claims of exclusiveness . But through the use of half truths and clever advertising these claims have fooled many people into thinking that the Mormon church is so unique that it must be the one true fold
of Jesus Christ .
I have asked in the past, which sect of Mormonism has/is the real restored gospel? Which one of them is the “one true church”. Well we know none of them are because a restoration wasn’t needed. If we look at the various elements of the many sects of Mormonism, we can’t find any of it in the first century Christian Church. Those embracing some form of Mormonism, are really without excuse. The information is available that makes the claims of Joseph Smith evident of a total scam.
Was the Adam-God doctrine, blood atonement, banning of blacks in the priesthood, polygamy, forever families, men becoming gods, temples and temple rituals and even the priesthood part of the Gospel that was preached by the Apostles as a revelation from Jesus Christ?
Joseph Smith and those who followed him, made it up as they went along and called it progressive revelation. It should be called progressive confusion.
Each sect of Mormonism has as its core belief, that their group has the real revelation. I would suggest that these folks open up the NT and find out exactly what the Good News is and how they can receive eternal life.
Well said !
There really isn’t a lot of freedom in these sects like the LDS. It’s a controlling atmosphere. The “one true church” holds the ticket to the big dance for Mormons and if the member doesn’t do the jig the way the band directors want, all is at risk.
I find Mormons really hung up on this one true church scenario; as if a certain religious sect holds the keys that will unlock the secrets of the universe. If only these folks could make it past this concept and understand that eternal life is not contained within a religious sect but within the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the truth, the way and the life. No one gets to the Father accept through Him.
The LDS church has fooled their membership into thinking that their religious system will provide them with the rites necessary to seal their eternal spiritual fate. How tragic that sort of thinking is.
When I came to Christ in faith, I understood that I was a sinner and was in need of a Savior. Realizing that Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection secured for me eternal life through faith, I took the plunge.
I didn’t have to join a particular church or any church in particular. This is totally mind-blowing for the average LDS member. They may well ask, “Well why then would I need the LDS church?” Short answer? You don’t!
falcon, you’re about salvation being received by coming to Jesus as the way to God’s home above , it’s not by joining a religious group .
The Bible , especially the New Testament , is God’s written standard which He has preserved for anyone today who wants to know about Him . The Bible has been called ” the bedrock of all Christianity” . That is why if those Mormons who realize the importance of Jesus’ warning in Matt 24:11 , might be referring to their leaders can make sure by using the Bible to double check and compare what those men have taught with what the Bible’s prophets and apostles taught . That’s a vital test recommended by a true apostle — 1 Jn 4: 1 .
For those Mormons who are leaving the Mormon church and wondering what to do next , that can be a very difficult time . They need help in the form of patience and understanding . I can only say to such ones that what false prophets can damage , Jesus can heal . The New Testament contains answers for souls who may struggle after walking away from false prophet led organizations .
There’s a big difference between being focused on the “one true church” that will make all of your Celestial dreams come true, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mormons have no clue who God the Father and Jesus are and what God’s plan of salvation is. When you’ve been told that God’s revelation in the Bible is not only corrupted but incomplete, you’re in big trouble.
” The one true church of Jesus ?” That is a valid question to ask , and while we say things like ” the church on the corner ” or similar phrases that can tend to focus more on organizations/ institutions than what the New Testament reveals about ” the one true church ” . The New Testament apostles did’nt talk like Mormon leaders do , Mormon leaders want to focus on the institution which has the right title above it’s door as a way to find ” the one true church ” , etc. But the New Testament seems to speak much of Jesus and not of which church organization is true . Now where people fellowship is important but a church organization does not grant eternal life , Jesus alone does . The New Testament message is Jesus , it’s all about Jesus , He is the Way , the Truth , and the Life .
The apostles did’nt spend time exhorting people to join a organization , people were invited to come to Jesus the risen Savior , and by uniting with Him they automatically became part of the universal Body of Christ — the one true church . The Body of Christ , the church , is not an organization , a structure , instead it’s a body , a organism . Mormons may not understand this since they’ve been taught to think of the one true church in terms of rigid structure / formalistic religion with a certain title with the words ” Jesus Christ ” MUST be in it . But that’s not necessarily true — at least according to the New Testament ( 1 Cor 1:2 ; Heb 12:23 ) , as a “official ” name was’nt crucial , but the gospel being preached was — Gal 1:8 .
May those LDS who have walked away from the Mormon church and are struggling come to realize that where false prophets have hurt them and robbed them of hope , in Jesus they can find peace and healing and salvation . Belonging to the one true church of Jesus is all about bowing before Him in prayer and asking to be rescued . The gospel that saves is not complicated : Rom 3:23 ; 5:8-10; 6:23 ; 10:9-13 .
I often wonder what a dedicated Mormon or even a questioning Mormon for that matter, thinks when they show-up here and read the article. Are they even aware of the subject that is being presented? I know they are really stuck on the “one true church” scenario so what goes through their head when they find out there are all these break-off groups? I’m sure it’s that all of those other groups are apostates but they belong to the genuine “one true church” with the genuine “restored gospel”.
Here’s something to think about. All of the other sects of Mormonism think that the LDS and the other sects are apostates. This isn’t one of those things that you can pray about and wait for a feeling. You have the responsibility before God to follow-up with study because the Lord God brought you here for a purpose. Have the courage to question.