Monday, April 6, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Thirty-seven: Joseph Smith’s Confidence In The Revelations He Received

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Is A Prophet

Evidence Thirty-seven:
Joseph Smith’s Confidence in the Revelations He Received© 

A hallmark of Mormonism is its belief in direct revelation from God to the Prophet Joseph Smith. This, of course, is prerequisite to the idea of an open canon of Scripture which is another hallmark of the faith. These companion principles are also perhaps the largest bone of contention between Mormonism and other Christian denominations. Joseph’s revelations and his work as a divinely appointed translator of ancient scriptural writings along with his inspired corrections to the Bible have resulted in the impressive production of approximately nine hundred pages of scripture. This alone is a great evidence of his prophetic calling. However, there is another aspect of this work that must itself not be overlooked as evidence that it came from God.  What is it?  Joseph's great confidence in the revelations he received.

That confidence may be seen in a statement he made in an important sermon delivered on 11 June 1843. He was discussing the gathering of Israel which led him into other subjects, in this case baptism for the dead and the spirit world where the dead await resurrection and judgment. To make a point he was discussing about the origin of the word “hell,” he said, “I will now turn linguist. There are many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelations of the Holy Ghost to me.”(1) The reader must admit it is pretty bold to criticize(2) the Bible and say many parts of it do not accord with the revelations he was receiving. Two months before his death, a time when some were considering him a “fallen” prophet, he declared “I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.”(3)

He really did give those revelations more credence than the biblical scriptures, because he knew of their origin and he knew the Bible was deficient in many ways–but that is another story.  This confidence existed in the Prophet from his earliest days.  Here is what George Q. Cannon, who knew Joseph Smith personally, said on this subject. Here the issue is not differences but simlarities.  He tells of Parley P. Pratt’s discovery within five months of the organization of the Church of the many correlations between Joseph’s revelations and what was in the Bible which surprised Joseph Smith. 
It made no difference to Joseph Smith whether he read and was familiar with every doctrine taught by the Apostles; he was under no necessity of framing his teachings therewith that there should be no difference between that which he taught, and that which had been taught, because the same spirit that revealed to the ancient Apostles and Prophets, and inspired them to teach the people, and leave on record their predictions and doctrines, taught him also and enabled him to teach exactly the same truths.
I remember hearing related brother Parley P. Pratt's first interview with the Saints in Fayette, Seneca County, where the Church was organized. Those of you who remember brother Parley  know his familiarity with the Scriptures, especially with the prophecies. On that occasion he was called upon to speak; the Prophet Joseph was not present at the time. He brought forth from the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other prophets, abundant proofs concerning the work which the Lord had established through his servant Joseph, a great many of the Latter-day Saints were surprised that there were so many evidences existing in the Bible concerning this work. The Church had then been organized some five months, but the members had never heard from any of the elders these proofs and evidences which existed in the Bible. And, if I remember correctly, he told me that Oliver Cowdery and the Prophet Joseph himself were surprised at the great amount of evidence there was in the Bible concerning these things. The Prophet Joseph was inspired of God to teach the doctrines of life and salvation, and he did so without reference to what the ancient prophets had said. (4)
So, from the very beginning Joseph Smith trusted in the revelations he was receiving and did not attempt to harmonize them with the Bible, but was evidently pleased when such harmony was found. Indeed, he was at some point in this process assigned by the Lord to work on the Bible to bring it into better harmony with the truths which were being revealed through him.

Confidence in what he produced, however, did not leave him content to just lay out three new books of scripture for the world to judge–which they mightily would do. What is one to think when we know that twice he challenged the world to test for themselves the truthfulness of what he brought forth. The first is not really his, but it came through him as a translator. It is the most famous and well known. It comes from inside the Book of Mormon itself. No other book that I know of contains such a challenge and promise:
4) And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.(5)
Missionaries from the day the Book of Mormon came off the press have urged investigators not to accept their word that the book is true, but to apply the test for themselves. For this reason the Book of Mormon is one of, if not the greatest missionary of the Restoration.

What is lesser known, but equally important in my mind, is that the Prophet made a similar statement which covers the scriptural waterfront more broadly. About two and a half years after the publication of the Book of Mormon, the young prophet wrote the following in an article originally published in the August 1832 issue of the church newspaper, Evening and Morning Star.
Search the scriptures–search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with and eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation.(6)
In an age which seems to consider religious doctrine “relative truth” determined by majority opinion, or at the other end of the spectrum, by the authority of ancient but murky tradition, it is remarkable that Joseph Smith had such confidence in what he was producing that he would leave it in the hands of the Lord to convince readers of its truth. This is another evidence that he had no desire to manipulate or coerce others to his point of view. Would a nave or fraud, names which his enemies often label him with, trust that God would confirm the truth of his writings? Apparently many would answer this question in the affirmative, but I am not among them. To me the promises found in these positive affirmations were beyond his ability to fulfill and he knew it. Yet he trusted that the foundation he was laying was on the firm rock of revelation and not on the sand of the theories and philosophies and theologies of men–which he also knew God would not sustain, support, or confirm. He knew that the church he built on such a foundation would weather the storms that may rage against it and when their energy was expended it would stand. That is confidence indeed, and in it he has not been disappointed.

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Lets think together again, soon.


1.  Joseph Smith, HC 5:425, or TPJS, 310, emphasis added.

2.  In the next paragraph of this same sermon the Prophet remarked, “I will criticise (sic) a little further.”  Emphasis added.

3.  Joseph Smith, HC 6:366; TPJS, 368, emphasis added.

4.  George Q. Cannon, JD 19:105, emphasis added.  He went on to say something similar about Brigham Young: “I have heard President Young make the same remarks.  He said that he never consulted the Book of Covenants, he never consulted the Bible or Book of Mormon to see whether the doctrines and counsels which he was inspired to give, corresponded with these books or not.  It was a matter that gave him no particular concern, from the fact that he endeavored always to be led by the Spirt of the Lord, to speak in accordance therewith; hence these men have had very little care resting upon their minds as to whether their doctrines and counsels were in harmony with the doctrines and counsels of those who preceded them.  It was for them to seek to know the mind and will of the Lord and comprehend his Spirit as it rested upon them, to speak in accordance therewith; and the doctrine that has been taught will be found to be in perfect harmony with the doctrines which have been taught by men inspired of God in ancient days.”

5.  Moroni 10:4

6.  Joseph Smith, “To the Honorable Men of the World,” Evening and Morning Star, (August 1832); see also HC 1:282; TPJS, 11-12.

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