“The thoughts of the righteous are right: but the counsels of the wicked are deceit.” – Proverbs 12:5
When I first joined the Mormon Church, I was introduced to a variety of “prophets” from both the Mormon past and present day church. The concept of a modern day prophet was both interesting and encouraging. It was nice to know that God had not abandoned us, that He still spoke through men and women, that He wasn’t a God afar off but a God close at hand.
What discouraged me, however, was how many times these prophets not only disagreed with each other, but also with the Scriptures—and even at times with the Mormon’s own Book of Mormon. Whereas having a prophet that could speak for God was exciting and exhilarating, having one that seemed to contradict God was deflating and conflicting.
The question invariably arose: how do we really know that a man is a true prophet of God? Many would answer this question with a simple, “You must have faith in God,” response. Having faith in God is not the issue here. What is actually being asked of us is to have faith in the man who claims he is a prophet. Having faith in God is not the same as having faith in a man.
“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”
– Psalms 118:8 (KJV)
“Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.” – Psalms 146:3
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” - Proverbs 29:25
That a prophet is undeniably human is obvious. It is also true that God uses men to further His Kingdom. These verses do not imply that all men are untrustworthy, but they do teach us that all men are capable of making mistakes. They teach us that it is better to trust in God than in them. Does God give us principles to teach us who and who is not a prophet? Does God give us qualifications and examples to hold those who claim to be a prophet accountable? And if so, should we not trust what God says over what man says?
I would hope so.
Prophets are to bring truth and clarity about who God is. He used Moses to not only free the Israelites from bondage, but to inform them of all His commandments. Imagine these people, wandering in the wilderness without a home. They needed someone who would stand before them and speak to God. In fact, they desperately wanted this because having someone like that brought them comfort (Exodus 20:19). When people drift away into idolatry God uses prophets to help guide His people back to the fold. Prophets are shepherds for God.
To be a prophet of God would require that this person be deeply connected to the Lord in such a way that his life would bear the fruits of a prophet. This is a position of authority, and like all authority it is subjected to a series of checks and balances to prevent the authority from exceeding itself. Much like an elder or pastor of a church is held to a higher standard in order to remain in his position, so must a prophet be guided by similar checks and balances of authority.
“An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.” – Titus 1:6
It is true then, that a person’s life is crucial to one’s ability to fill this God ordained role. There must be a measure of accountability to God’s Word in how a person chooses to live his life in order to acquire and maintain the authority invested in the office of a prophet. Indeed, a person’s history has an impact on how we view their words and teaching.
For example, if we were to be lectured by a burn victim on the proper means and methods to avoid being burned, we may heed the man’s warning when we find out that his burns were the result of his attempt to rescue a family from a burning house. But, if we find out, instead, that he was burned because he poured gasoline all over himself and his family in a murder-suicide attempt, we would probably not give the man much credibility.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”- Matthew 7:15-16
We are commanded to examine a prophet’s fruits to see if they have adhered to the Word of God. We aren’t to take what they say as Gospel until the fruits of their commands—and of their life—has been evaluated against the Word of God and is upheld by it. No man of God should fear using the Word of God to evaluate a life. Having a proper fear of God is not about cringing from His Word, it is about having the proper respect and submission to His Word.
Was Joseph Smith a Prophet?
Mormons place all their beliefs on what one man, their prophet Joseph Smith, has said. He alone brought forth the Mormon Church and proclaimed it to be God’s “true church” on earth. It would then only be fair to look at the fruits of this man’s life and test out his “beliefs” to see if they line up with God’s Word. Is this prophet bringing clarity or confusion about who God is? Is he teaching God’s truth only from the Bible? An examination of his fruits may reveal to us the truth of his claim to be a prophet.
Galatians chapter 5 warns about falling away from grace and to be wary of new doctrines being preached. Paul warns us that a little yeast has an effect on the whole batch of dough (Galatians 5:9). This means that if you add truth with falsehood, you don’t get a partially pure doctrine. You get a doctrine wholly defiled. The man who brought such confusion to God’s people will be judged as described in Galatians 5:10, “The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.” Since the bible warns us of false prophets, we must be prudent and investigate anyone claiming to be a prophet of God.
Many claim to know God. In order that we may discern whether this is true or not, we must investigate their actions and words. God demands truth and tells us it will set us free (John 8:32). We must put their fruits to the test (Matthew 7:15-20). We must try every spirit (1 John 4:1). Is everything this man, Joseph Smith, claiming to be truth? He claims to be a prophet of God. Should we not then examine his fruits to discover the truth of it?
Mormons laud Joseph Smith as a martyr. According to the Latter Day Saints (LDS) Church, Smith was a great prophet who translated the Book of Mormon, wrote the Doctrines and Covenants and did a great deal of work to bring these teaching to mankind, hitherto in darkness about the veracity of God’s plan and will.
The Fruit of Polygamy
Joseph Smith is portrayed as an amazing prophet who has done more except Christ himself and then died a martyr. Yet one of his decrees was to declare the absolute need for the practice of polygamy. The justification for this practice, according to Smith, was the need to help women who were widowed or needed help because of lack of a husband, yet many of the women he took for wives were already married.
This sudden shift to polygamy, although convenient for Smith, was incredibly painful for Emma Smith, Joseph’s first wife. Not only did she have to deal with his extramarital affair—which in itself is incredibly painful as anyone who has been through it can attest—she is now being told that it is God’s will that she share her husband with another woman…or two.
Actually, in the end, Joseph Smith had somewhere around 33 wives. Apparently, Smith had compassion on a great many number of widows, although some of these ‘widows’ were as young as 14 years of age (Helen Kimball). It is, however, just not possible to care for that many women and give them the time and attention that is required—not to mention the attention the various children of so many marriages require. I can’t imagine having thirty-three anything and doing a good job with all of them. Imagine thirty-three dogs…or thirty-three children…or thirty-three of anything!
As to his first wife Emma, she was told in essence that she would go to hell if she did not accept this doctrine (Doctrine and Covenants 132:54).
This woman loved her husband. She married him and shared vows that they would keep themselves for each other only. She expected him to be her one and only husband and she his one and only wife. Breaking of a vow, particularly a marriage vow is a betrayal in the cruelest way. Imagine being in her position. Your husband is claiming to be a prophet of God; he is giving you commandments in the name of God that forces you to accept something contrary to God’s word. His new command breaks his vow to you, betrays your trust, and now you must live in a marriage that is no longer a marriage or in Smith’s word “be damned to hell.” Had God’s Word not been discredited to her by the so called “prophet” of God, she might have had a moral ground to resist this assault on her marriage. For in the Bible, there is no place where God commanded a man to take a second wife. People did it, but not on God’s command (1 Timothy 3:2).
The current LDS Church has distanced itself from this New Everlasting Covenant (polygamy) and now claims that this is no longer a teaching of the church. But how can an Everlasting Covenant—proclaimed to be from God by the prophet himself—be overturned? Doesn’t everlasting mean always? Did God change His mind, or did He forget? Or maybe God had nothing to do with it in the first place.
Another implied danger of this type of disregard for what the Bible says is that power is transferred from what God says to what man says. Faith, therefore, must transfer until we have faith in the man more than in God. We must know God’s word and search out those that claim to be prophets of God to see if their works match up with God’s teachings. God said that He does not change; yet every month the current prophet and general authorities of the Mormon religion are declaring new laws through their Ensign magazine and General Conference proclamations. They claim to be the mouthpiece of God, yet they circumvent God’s Word.
Joseph Smith’s New and Everlasting Covenant was more than just a new doctrine delivered, supposedly, from God. It was justification for adultery. This is often the result (fruits) of new doctrine. It becomes a conscience effort for a guilt free means to sin, a way to indulge in inappropriate behavior without having to hide it or feel judged by others. No matter who you are whether you think you are guilt free or you feel a sense of conviction from God, the bottom line is God’s truth will prevail and His commands are not to be altered. Terrible consequences from actions that go against His will always surface and unless you repent and turn from this sin it will be held against you.
The Fruit of Pride
According to Mormon doctrine, attaining the celestial kingdom of heaven is not just up to God and/or Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith must be consulted. “…no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of Godwithout the consent of Joseph Smith. . . . Every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance. . . I cannot go there without his consent. . . . He reigns there as supreme a being in his sphere, capacity, and calling, as God does in heaven.”
Mormons place Joseph Smith on the same level as God and make it so that man no longer answers to God alone (Exodus 34:14), but to this man, Joseph Smith. In such a role, Joseph Smith steps into the position of savior. Thus this becomes another gospel. The Gospel in scripture is about Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone. Adding Joseph Smith as part of that process is, in effect, creating a whole new gospel.
“As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” – Galatians 1:9 (KJV)
 Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, 289.