Monday, December 9, 2013

Mormon Monday: Do Mormons Worship Joseph Smith?

This is a question I have heard from people before.  The answer is simple, but often it is followed by other questions.

The answer is no.  No we don't.

We believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet and received direct revelation from Heavenly Father for his church.  However, though we respect and admire him, we recognize that he was as much a man as Moses, Peter, James, or John.  He was not perfect, nor do we pretend that he was.

He was a terrible business man.  His business often failed because he gave too much away for free and allowed people who could never pay him back to purchase things time after time.  He made mistakes, but he tried his best.  He was a good man of real integrity and virtue. 

Joseph Smith was a fourteen-year-old boy when he realized that he had a very important question.  He lived in time of great religious tumult where many churches were vying for his membership.  He attended one after another, and became more and more confused.  In his own words, he said:

During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.
So, Joseph did what all people do who believe in God and have questions.  He turned to the scriptures.  He read James 1:5-6 which says:
 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
Joseph wanted to know which church to join.  In the scriptures, God had told him to ask if he had any questions and that he would answer them. So, after some preparation, he decided to do what James had said and ask God which church was His church on earth. 

On a bright spring morning, Joseph went into a grove of trees and began to pray.  In his own words, this is what happened:

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.  When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
If you want to read the complete account, go to Joseph Smith History.

Joseph was told that none of the churches on the earth were God's church.  They preached the words of God, but they sought for their own gain.  God's church has always had a prophet and has been led by direct communication from the Lord.

Later on in his life, Joseph Smith became that prophet.  Why would God change the way that he had dealt with humanity for thousands of years?  God doesn't change and he has a prophet on earth today.  Does this sound strange to you?  Why do so many people accept this as truth?

It is because we have prayed about it and asked the Lord if it was true or not.  If Joseph Smith is a prophet, then God's church has been restored on the earth.  If Joseph Smith is a prophet, there is a place where you can go to hear the Lord's words for our day and age in this changing, tumultuous world.

If Joseph Smith is a prophet, that vision in that grove of trees was the most important event in our time. 

I know this event happened.  I have prayed and received a witness that it is true.  I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet like Abraham and Noah.  I know that President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet today.  I know this is true. 

Do we worship Joseph Smith? 

No.  However, if you know whether or not he is a prophet, you know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ still care about us today and still want to give us revelations.  Visions have not ceased, people have just stopped believing.  The focus of our church is Christ.  We only worship him and Heavenly Father.  We don't worship Joseph Smith anymore than people should worship Samuel the prophet.

However, his vision is central to our beliefs because it means that God still speaks to man today and hasn't left us with only his past words.  He still new revelation for our day and age.

And that is a message of hope.