II. PILLARS BUILT ON SAND
THE STRUCTURE OF THE LDS CORPORATION
PROPHETS AND PROPHECY
This article is the second in the series of four discussing the Four Pillars of the LDS Corporation. As stated in the first article, you will not find these described this way in Latter-day Saints materials. They are however, the four essentials which provide their leaders with theological control over the members, as well as administrative accountability.
Before we discuss the October subject, PROPHECY, I ask the questions, what was Joseph Smith’s view of the ‘Prophets’? Did he comprehend how God used prophets in the Old Testament? Did he understand the working limitations of an Old Testament prophet? Did he understand how prophecy was used in 1 Corinthians 14? Did he confuse Old Testament prophets with the New Testament prophecy of Corinthians? Were they handled the same Biblically? Did he have other clandestine purposes for ‘The Prophet’ with the idea of ‘continuing revelation’? These logical questions cry out for answers.
Again, I quote Jesus in Matthew 7:24-27:
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I say? Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Our second PILLAR BUILT ON SAND is ‘PROPHET AND CONTINUING PROPHECY’!
During the process of historic research surrounding Joseph Smith, there are court records and eye-witness affidavits filed showing young Joseph being involved in an interesting lifestyle. What were the conditions of Joseph’s young life? What were the surrounding life pressures which developed his personality and molded his future approach to life?
THE NATURE AND LIFESTYLE OF JOSEPH SMITH
Because the total development of Mormonism revolves around Joseph Smith, an investigation of his nature and personality should be done. Fawn M. Brodie, historian, did a thorough investigation of his life. She states in her historic investigation, No Man Knows My History, the life of Joseph Smith:
The road that led Joseph Smith into the career of “prophet, seer, and revelator” is overgrown with a tangle of legend and contradictions. – – –
The evidence, however, leaves no doubt that, whatever Joseph’s inner feelings, his reputation before he organized his church was not that of an adolescent mystic brooding over visions, but of a likable ne’er-do-well who was notorious for tall tales and necromantic arts and who spent his leisure leading a band of idlers in digging for buried treasure. – – –
This description seems also to be the earliest public document that mentions him at all. The document, a court record dated March 1826, when Joseph was twenty-one, covers his trial in Bainbridge, New York, on a charge of being “a disorderly person and an imposter.” On the basis of the testimony presented, including Joseph’s own admissions of indulging in magic arts and organizing hunts for buried gold, the court ruled him guilty of disturbing the peace. – – – fifty-one of Joseph’s neighbors signed an affidavit accusing him of being “destitute of moral character and addicted to vicious habits,” there is no evidence that viciousness was a part of his nature. – – – Actually, he was a gregarious, cheerful, imaginative youth, born to leadership, but hampered by meager education and grinding poverty. – – –
Joseph’s neighbors later poured out tales of seer stones, ghosts, magic incantations, and nocturnal excavations. Joseph Capron swore that young Joseph had told him a chest of gold watches was buried on his property. – – –
Joseph’s money-digging began in earnest with his discovery of a “seer stone’ when he was digging a well for Mason Chase. Martin Harris stated that it came from twenty-four feet underground, and Joseph Capron testified that Joseph could see wonderous sights in it, “ghosts, infernal spirits, mountains of gold and silver.” (Pages 16-20)
From Professor Brodie’s research it is obvious that Joseph Smith was a natural leader with his contemporaries. He had an active imagination and a bent for the supernatural. His poverty seemed to lead him to get-rich-quick efforts built on mysticism. He also had an appealing and winsome personality, providing influence over most he met. Professor Brodie, in her early writing, establishes the poverty of the family over many years. Joseph’s life was strongly influenced by this. He was constantly looking for ways to underwrite his family’s needs. By the time he was twenty-five years old he was beginning to embrace his influential personality. This combined with his fascination with buried treasures, seer stones, and gold led him to his ‘miraculous discovery’ of gold plates (never really seen and tested for gold quality) inscribed in “reformed Egyptian” language (never known to ever exist in the world). All this combined to produce the Book of Mormon, which just happened to become a source of new prosperity.
This book was the subject of Pillar #1. Once God’s Word was neutralized and replaced by the Book of Mormon it was time to implement current authority. Joseph’s unverifiable account reported him to be selected by the God of this world as current Prophet and leader of the new organization. Again, Professor Brodie reports:
A fortnight (a period of 14 days) after the publication of the Book of Mormon Joseph Smith announced to his following his official title as “Seer, a Translator, a Prophet, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, and Elder of the Church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is easy to trace the steps by which Joseph assumed this role. Apparently, he slipped into it with ease, without the inner turmoil that preceded the spiritual fervor of so many of the great religious figures of the past. (Page 84)
Joseph’s selection of assumed titles covers just about everything religious which one could think of. Thus, he draws his authority by claiming direct succession from God the Father and Jesus Christ, His son. He claims to be an Apostle, Prophet, and an Elder, all in one. No one in the Bible was all three. The position of Prophet provided instant direction and pronouncements for Joseph. This provides us with the question, what is a Biblical Prophet?
THE BIBLE AND PROPHECY
If we want to gain insight into God’s concept of a prophet, the ONLY source for that is the Bible. Prophets (noun) and prophecy (verb) both appear in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament there are a large variety of God’s servants who are identified as prophets. Only a very few were used by God for major historical purposes.
- Revealing God’s message. (Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and Nathan are just a few)
- Performing a particular event for God. (Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samson, Gideon, David, and others)
- Direct verbal or written communications. (Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Nathan, and the major and minor Prophets of the Old Testament)
- Leading God’s chosen nation. Leading a group for a particular time and purpose and terminating. (Moses, Joshua, Saul, David, Solomon)
- Predicting God’s Messiah. (One scholar has stated there are 456 of these prophecies. However, the main ones are
- Genesis 12:1-3 a descendant of Abraham
- 2 Samuel 7:12-13 I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever
- Isaiah 7:14 the virgin will conceive and bear a son who will be Immanuel
- Isaiah 9:6-7 a child is born His name Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
- Isaiah 53 The Suffering Servant
- Zechariah 9:9 The humility of Messiah. He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Micah 5:2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.
All Biblical prophets were limited to particular actions for particular purposes. The ONLY one not limited was THE MESSIAH. No individual was lifted to prominence except Jesus, himself. New Testament prophets and prophecies maintained this Old Testament pattern.
The Bible never has a single incidence of any prophet being lifted to personal importance! Humility was/is a characteristic of all Godly people who were/are prophets.
BIBLICAL HISTORY HAS NEVER HAD A CONTINUING PROPHET EXCEPT THE MESSIAH, IMMANUEL (GOD WITH US).
Jesus is our living Prophet who did not leave us alone; He gave us His Holy Spirit as the Comforter. We are God’s temple where the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 6:19).
A ‘living prophet’ leading a specific group of followers has never existed except for God’s leader, Moses. Moses was a humble servant who spoke for God as he was directed. He was never elevated to personal importance; in fact, he did disobey God and was disciplined. When he died, his leadership was passed to Joshua quietly with no emphasis of personal prominence.
In a paragraph above I mentioned that Joseph claimed to be an Apostle, a Prophet, and an Elder, establishing preeminence. He used continuing prophecy to establish policy, control followers’ movements, and to correct uncomfortable previous prophecies. He even claimed in a sermon of May 26, 1844, (32 days before his death) to be greater than all the prominent New Testament leaders including Jesus, God’s son. Being a leader with prophetic control was very important to him.
Joseph stated: 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, Vol.6, by the LDS Church, pg. 408-409)
You decide, was continuing prophecy a real thing? Did it meet the concept of Biblical Prophets? Is the LDS current prophesy anything like Biblical prophecy?
MY CONCLUSION: JOSEPH SMITH’S CONTINUING PROPHECY WAS HIS NON-BIBLICAL INVENTION FOR PERSONAL AUTHORITY AND CONTROL, A PILLAR BUILT ON SAND.
What is your conclusion?
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