Brigham Young’s Test of a Prophet

Brigham Young taught,

Brigham and Joseph“[The wicked] found fault with Joseph Smith, and at length killed him, as they have a great many others of the Latter-day Saints. What for? Because of his wickedness? No. But the cry was, ‘Away with him, we cannot do with this man nor with his people.’ Did they hate him for his evil works? No. If he had been a liar, a swearer, a gambler, or in any way an evil doer, and of the world, it would have loved its own, and they would have embraced him, and nourished and kept him. If he had been a false prophet they never would have lifted a hand against him, because he could have spread still more delusion through the world around him.” (Journal of Discourse 4:78, November 9, 1856)

But Joseph Smith was much more complicated than the “good man,…as good a man as ever lived,” that Brigham Young described a little earlier in his sermon.

Most active Mormons believe that Joseph Smith was an exemplary man. Brigham Young expressed it this way:

“Well now, examine the character of the Savior, and examine the characters of those who have written the Old and New Testaments; and then compare them with the character of Joseph Smith, the founder of this work — the man whom God called and to whom he gave the keys of Priesthood, and through whom he has established his Church and kingdom for the last time, and you will find that his character stands as fair as any man’s mentioned in the Bible. We can find no person who presents a better character to the world when the facts are known than Joseph Smith, jun., the prophet, and his brother, Hyrum Smith, who was murdered with him.” (Journal of Discourses 14:203, August 31, 1871)

Joseph Smith himself believed he had much to boast of:

“I combat the errors of the ages; I meet the violence of mobs; I cope with illegal proceedings from executive authority; I cut the Gordian knot of powers; and I solve mathematical problems of Universities: WITH TRUTH, diamond truth, and God is my ‘right hand man.’” (Times and Seasons 4:375)

Nevertheless, many people have a different opinion of Joseph Smith. Based on historical research, historian and former Mormon D. Michael Quinn noted,

“Few Mormons today can grasp the polarizing charisma of their founding prophet. Some may feel uncomfortable when confronted with the full scope of Joseph Smith’s activities as youthful mystic, treasure-seeker, visionary, a loving husband who deceived his wife regarding about forty of his polygamous marriages, a man for whom friendship and loyalty meant everything but who provoked disaffection by ‘testing’ the loyalty of his devoted associates, an anti-Mason who became a Master Mason, church president who physically assaulted both Mormons and non-Mormons for insulting him, a devoted father who loved to care for his own children and those of others, temperance leader and social drinker, Bible revisionist and esoteric philosopher, city planner, pacifist and commander-in-chief, student of Hebrew and Egyptology, bank president, jail escapee, healer, land speculator, mayor, judge and fugitive from justice, guarantor of religious freedom but limiter of freedom of speech and press, preacher and street-wrestler, polygamist and advocate of women’s rights, husband of other men’s wives, a declared bankrupt who was the trustee-in-trust of church finances, political horse-trader, U.S. presidential candidate, abolitionist, theocratic king, inciter to riot, and unwilling martyr.” (The Mormon Hierarchy – Origins of Power, 261- 262)

Joseph Smith was a complicated man with a complicated history.

Brigham Young said Joseph was not hated for any “evil works”; he was not killed for any “wickedness.” Yet he did marry other men’s wives. He did physically assault his detractors. He did deny his critics their First Amendment rights. He did have himself crowned a theocratic king. And he did not always practice what he preached. Throughout history many men – and women — have been killed for far less.

Joseph Smith’s murder proves nothing either way regarding his claim of being a prophet of God. To determine the truth of that assertion we must apply God’s biblical tests of a prophet. In so doing, Joseph Smith’s genuine character is brought to light and his false claim of being a mouthpiece for God is exposed.

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 Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, Mormon Leaders and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Brigham Young’s Test of a Prophet

  1. historybuff says:

    Mr. Quinn could also add to his list of Joseph Smiths “achievements” that Smith –

    (1) married 14-year-old girls, two of them, in 1843.

    (2) fabricated demonstrably false “revelations” such as his published scripture denying that he practiced polygamy ( ) , and his “Book of Abraham,” which the LDS Church has now conceded in its new introduction to the purported scripture to be a common Egyptian funerary papyrus that never mentions Abraham.

    (3) wore for all of his adult life a talisman referred to as a “Jupiter stone” associated with black magic and the occult.

    Unlikely achievements for a true Prophet of God.

    And Mormon leaders have tried to conceal these facts from members of their Church for over 170 years, unlikely achievements for true disciples of Christ.

  2. Mike R says:

    Since Jesus pre warned all who are living in the latter days to be on alert for false prophets , we need to take His warning very seriously . It goes without saying that the most “successful ” false prophets are bound to be those who are counterfeits , imitations of God’s true prophets ( and apostles ) . For those who have been raised with even a little Bible influence in their lives it is these counterfeit prophets who will especially fool them into following them and accepting their teachings . Mormon leaders are such latter days counterfeit prophets Jesus warned would come — Matt 24:11 .

    What seems to be a major stumbling block for the Mormon people in recognizing false prophets is that their leaders dress well , act polite , talk about the importance of living a moral lifestyle etc ., so therefore their leaders could’nt possibly be false prophets . Unfortunately these things tend to divert LDS attention away from a proper testing of their leaders to make sure they are who they claim to be .

    Prophets are teachers . While predicting future events is a qualification of a prophet , teaching is the main characteristic of a prophet . What have Mormon leaders taught about important spiritual truths ? Since they claim to be personally appointed by Jesus to lead His church and teach His followers , what does an examination of their teaching record reveal about them ? Have they been reliable as guides ? Brigham Young claimed his duty was to see that only sound doctrine was taught /condoned to his flock . If he was a false prophet should LDS today trust their church now ?

    Remembering that we are in the latter days and that Mormon leaders ever since they appeared on the scene have claimed to be leaders in the exact same church Jesus had established through His apostles and with the very same gospel of salvation they preached , 1700 years earlier , now
    “restored” , so it is vital to test Mormon prophets / apostles to see if they were appointed by Jesus
    to teach His followers or if they are only religious men who feel Jesus has chosen them when in fact He has’nt.

    Sincere and decent people can be fooled by counterfeit prophets . LDS are such people .

    Mormonism is not the answer .

  3. falcon says:

    One of the selling points of Mormonism is that supposedly they have a living prophet and apostles so that follows the first century church model.
    Would the LDS folks be surprised if I told them I believe in what the NT says about the offices in the church and the gifts? I don’t know where the other Christians who post here stand on this matter but I see no indication that these things were to end at the closing of the cannon of Scripture.
    Would these LDS folks be surprised to learn that Phillip had daughters and they were prophetesses? It’s all in the Book of Acts. Really, women who had the gift of prophesy.
    I must admit that I’m extremely cautious around people who claim this gift and exercise it. But I have the freedom, duty and responsibility, as we all do, to judge what is being brought forth as a prophesy. Often times a prophetic message is more in line with exhortation. Foretelling events is a little harder to fake because it can be checked-out.

  4. historybuff says:

    Let’s all face the hard fact: It’s very possible, and highly probable, that Joseph Smith taught some basic religious truths and created a religious community known for its decency and honesty. Indeed, even Protestant ministers have praised Mormons for their morality and some of their doctrines.

    And another hard fact: Joseph Smith taught some demonstrably false and contradictory doctrines, and gave us false scriptures like those noted above.

    Given these facts, thinking Mormons have two options: (1) they can stay in the LDS Church and try to figure out which LDS scriptures and doctrines are divine and which are fabricated; or (2) they can seek a pure form of religious philosophy. Since the first option is difficult if not impossible to achieve, it would seem that thinking Mormons must try to seek a pure form of religion, and we would highly recommend Christianity for obvious reasons.

    Non-thinking Mormons are fortunate to have an additional option: they can ignore their Church’s fatal defects and continue to participate in all the meetings, callings, temple work, genealogy, and other ward activities that presently fill their days. Many Mormons have taken this approach and regard their Church as something of a social club that also does charitable work, kind of like the Freemasons. They place little importance on Mormonism’s truth claims. They value the sense of community. I have spoken with Mormons who feel this way and are even proud of their decision.

    Being a member of a social club is certainly not a cardinal sin, and many clubs perform good works and serve the community. Be forewarned, however, that this is not the same as accepting Christ and serving God. It’s not the same as seeking God’s truth. It’s not the same as being truly free. John 8:32.

    The inescapable conclusion? Non-thinking Mormons have an obligation to God to become thinking Mormons and to make some important decisions. Joshua 24:15.

  5. falcon says:

    David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, 1887, p. 30-31:

    “Joseph looked into the hat in which he placed the stone, and received a revelation that some of the brethren should go to Toronto, Canada, and that they would sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon. Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery went to Toronto on this mission, but they failed entirely to sell the copyright, returning without any money. Joseph was at my father’s house when they returned. I was there also, and am an eye witness to these facts. Jacob Whitmer and John Whitmer were also present when Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery returned from Canada.”

    “Well, we were all in great trouble; and we asked Joseph how it was that he had received a revelation from the Lord for some brethren to go to Toronto and sell the copyright, and the brethren had utterly failed in their undertaking. Joseph did not know how it was, so he enquired of the Lord about it, and behold the following revelation came through the stone: “Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil.” So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copyright was not of God, but was of the devil or of the heart of man.”

  6. falcon says:

    Well OK, maybe the rock in the hat doesn’t always work as a method of gleaning information. It was probably all worn out from having had to relay the BoM to Joseph Smith. It could have had a virus or maybe some corrupted files. You know how it goes with magic rocks.

  7. Mike R says:

    historybuff , very well said !

    I’ve said on this blog many times that most Mormons are decent, sincere , people . I believe that to be a fact . As you rightly noted not everything Joseph Smith taught was false , and Mormons do strive to be moral individuals . If the Mormon church was only a organization that provided an atmosphere where good morals were taught then this ministry ( MRM) would not be necessary .
    But as we know the claims of authority made by Mormon leaders means that it is not just a wholesome civic club to belong to . Mormon leaders have made the most serious claims of authority that men can make , so either they are who they claim to be or they are well meaning and self convinced religious individuals who have no special spiritual authority today . It’s either one or the other . Joseph Smith , and his successors , introduced many serious teaching errors concerning important doctrines and those are serious enough to rightly render a guilty verdict against these men as thus render them to be gospel preachers not worthy of following — Gal 1:8 .

    The facts confirm that Mormon leaders are actually the kind of prophets that Jesus warned everyone ( rank and file LDS included ) would appear in the latter days — Matt 24:11 .
    Therefore the Mormon people need to be faithful to God and dismiss their leaders as authorities from their lives because following false prophets does not pay good dividends in the end , no matter how many good deeds a rank and file Mormon may do in their life .

  8. historybuff says:

    I guess we should add that failed revelation about the Book of Mormon’s copyright to the list, which started out pretty long and is getting longer over the years, especially now that the Mormon Church is conceding that a lot of its doctrines and scriptures are not what Joseph Smith or Church leaders have previously declared. (We shall not use the word “lie” here…) For example:
    The Book of Abraham is –“A Translation of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, WRITTEN BY HIS OWN HAND, UPON PAPYRUS.” –Joseph Smith, then

    “None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham… They catalyzed a process whereby God gave to Joseph Smith a revelation about the life of Abraham, even if that revelation did not directly correlate to the characters on the papyri.”
    –LDS Church, now

    Or, the scripture declaring that Joseph Smith and the Church didn’t practice polygamy: “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.” 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, C1, p. 251 (1835). — Joseph Smith, then.

    “WRONG! I guess we fibbed a bit on that… for 170 years. ” –LDS Church, now.
    Oops again…

    And the list goes on.

  9. falcon says:

    When you’re a “prophet” anything you declare is true, at the time, if you’re invoking “progressive” revelation. It’s good that you didn’t use the word “lie” because it doesn’t take this fact into consideration and also if you believe something to be true, it then is true.
    I’ve been at this a long time and have learned how to “think Mormon”. You see in Mormonism, once a person receives the “burning in the bosom” that means that the LDS church is true, Joseph Smith is true, the current prophet is true and the BoM is true. Any evidence to the contrary is not true because it makes you feel bad and is in opposition to these four “facts” which are covered by the burning in the bosom.
    It’s really a spiritual playground for Mormons since they can always be sure that what they’ve come to believe in is true because of how they feel about it.

  10. historybuff says:

    Falcon —

    By that standard, I seem to have a spiritual experience whenever I eat a bowl of chili…

  11. Mike R says:

    It’s interesting to observe how sincere people are detoured into following false prophets these days .
    Do Mormons ,for example ,even know of Jesus’ warning in Matt 24:11 about latter days prophets not appointed by Him? And Mormons are’nt the only ones who seem to busy to stop and ponder this warning . There are t.v. preachers who claim to speak for God , or have new information from Him that supposedly people need to know in order to be in His will etc . , but sadly these “prophets’ only get richer and their followers become fleeced of their hard earned money . There’s also men like Harold Camping who predicted ” the end ” on Oct 21,2011 ( this date was advertised in newspapers/billboards all over the country ) but it did’nt , he tried to save face by downplaying his false prophecy and it worked because most of his followers kept on following him . Then there’s the poor Jw’s , these sincere individuals have long been tossed to and fro by the false prophecies / doctrinal flip flops of their Governing Body who is supposedly “Jehovah’s prophet ” .

    So why do people keep on following proven false prophets ? I think fear plays a huge role , fear that to doubt the prophet will bring God’s displeasure and even His judgement . To doubt the prophet is to doubt God etc . To criticize the prophet is to be spiritually weak and , as Mormon leaders Harold B.Lee once said in Conference :
    ” I want to bear you my testimony that the experience I have had has taught me that those who criticize the leaders of this Church are showing signs of a SPIRITUAL SICKNESS , which unless
    curbed , will bring about eventually spiritual death .” [ Conf report . Oct 1947 ] .

    Adding to that is the following warning to LDS about doubting the teachings of Mormon leaders :

    ” It should be remembered that Lucifer has a very cunning way of convincing unsuspecting souls that the General Authorities of the Church are as likely to be wrong as they are right . This sort of
    game is Satan’s favorite pastime .” [ Deseret News 5-26-1945 ] .

    In autocratic religious organizations (like the Mormon church) especially , it is a spiritually
    dangerous environment to belong to because leaders can more easily get away with being false prophets ( by drifting into doctrinal error ), and because of their power and use of veiled threats ( see above ) scare most members into keeping their mouths shut and stay in line .

    We need to have compassion on those who don’t see they’re in a false prophet led organization . Truly Jesus’ warning in Matt 24:11 is so needed today to remind them to test their leaders who claim to be prophets authorized by Him . The Mormon people deserve to hear the truth . Mormonism is not the answer .

  12. falcon says:

    I guess people believe what they are taught without question. After all, the people doing the teaching would never lead you astray and it all seems so spiritual. There’s Heavenly Father and Jesus, a living prophet and a founding prophet that had miraculous appearances by God, angels and hidden golden plates. And it makes people feel so good. It’s another testament of Jesus so how could it not be a true actual history. Really, think about it. It has Jesus in it.
    OK so the prophet was a little marginal at times but some of the prophets in the OT also did some bad things. Didn’t they?
    A little serious study without threats and fear would take the average Mormon a long way to discovering the truth. Isn’t it worth it to find the Biblical Jesus who has the gospel message that leads to eternal life?

  13. historybuff says:

    Falcon —

    The way I look at it, sure, the ancient prophets and apostles did bad things on occasion. Noah had alcohol problems, Peter had cowardice problems, Paul was something of a misogynist. Moses was kept out of the Promised Land for being arrogant, as I recall. But in a more rational moment, these men regretted their actions, and more importantly, none of these men took their sins and turned them into “doctrines.”

    Joseph Smith, on the other hand, tried to establish his sins as directives from God. Joseph liked his women, so he introduced polygamy as a commandment of God. No repentance there. Joseph liked astrology and the occult, so he claimed to translate his golden plates with seer stones and magic spectacles. Joseph loved the rites of the Freemasons, so he borrowed those rituals and established them as Mormon temple rituals. As a youth, Joseph regaled his family with stories about warring tribes in the Americas, so he included that in his Book of Mormon.

    There’s more, but you get the idea. If Joseph went astray, then certainly one of his flaws was to establish his sins and foibles as part of his religion rather than do what the ancient apostles and prophets did: repent of those sins.

    But Joseph was handsome and charismatic. People love that in a film star or a sports hero, and they love it in a prophet, too. And they bought it. There’s a lot of blame to spread around.

  14. falcon says:

    Well said.
    What Mormons need to understand is that we are complete in Christ. He is the focal point of our devotion and the author of our salvation. Joseph Smith set-up a “system” where by a lot of things were added to Jesus and what He did for us on the cross. So, in-other-words, the LDS system actually provides the reward. It’s obedience to the system that allowed the Mormon god to become a god. In that, Jesus is just a player in the system.
    No wonder it’s so difficult for Mormons to understand the grace-works paradigm when it means something totally different from the revelation in God’s Word.

  15. historybuff says:

    Falcon –

    You mentioned the importance of obedience in Mormon theology. In fact, obedience is so important to Mormons that they have great difficulty comprehending the Christian concept of grace. For Mormons, any gift from God is the result of obedience:

    “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated — And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” Doctrine & Covenants 130: 20-21.

    For Mormons, because of God’s grace EVERYONE goes to heaven: it’s universal salvation regardless of faith, works, or anything else. For Mormons, grace requires nothing on anyone’s part. The true blessings come after Judgment when Mormons and others will be assigned to degrees of glory within heaven, and that’s where obedience rules. According to the scripture above, obedience – not grace – determines where Mormons and others will finally come to rest.

  16. falcon says:

    You wrote:

    “For Mormons, grace requires nothing on anyone’s part.”

    You’re going to have to explain that one to me because I was under the impression that it was through works rather than grace, that a Mormon man becomes a god. At least he has to work like a dog and in the end the Mormon god fills in the gap where the Mormon (man) has fallen short.
    I’m just trying to understand how the LDS system works so explain further.

    ……..and another thing. In the LDS system, there are three levels of “heaven”. Even Christians like me make out pretty well in the system; we just don’t get to become gods. I think we get level two. But what really ticks me off is that Adolf Hitler got the work done for him in the London temple and he’s probably a god now in the Celestial Kingdom. I don’t know if Ava Braun is there with him or not but I guess it would serve him right if they sealed some Jewish women to him for eternity.

  17. historybuff says:

    Falcon —

    Regarding grace, we were always taught that Christ suffered in Gethsemane — not on the cross — so that everyone could be resurrected. The resurrection will apply to everyone, good, bad, believer, non-believer. Only those who were absolutely evil and knowingly rejected Christ will not be resurrected. They go straight to Outer Darkness to dwell with Satan. We were told that only a handful of people go to Outer Darkness, and Mormons debate whether people like Judas or Hitler will qualify.

    Once we die, our righteousness on Earth determines if we go to Paradise or the Spirit Prison. In both those places we continue to work toward exaltation by obedience. At some point, all those souls face Judgment and will be assigned to the Telestial Kingdom (much better than this life), the Terrestrial Kingdom (much better than the Telestial Kingdom), or the Celestial Kingdom (much better than the Terrestrial Kingdom). And those who become gods and goddesses, live polygamous sexual lives, bear spirit children and rule new worlds will be assigned to the top glory of the Celestial Kingdom.

    In other words, God’s grace grants us all physical resurrection, but obedience determine what happens after that. It may sound strange to non-Mormons, but it makes perfect sense to Mormons.

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