Joseph the Usurper
By: Michael Flournoy
“Hail to the prophet
Ascended to heaven!
Traitors and tyrants
Now fight him in vain
Mingling with Gods he can plan for his brethren
Death cannot conquer the hero again.”
At first glance, you wouldn’t be crazy to think these phrases were meant for worshiping Jesus. After all, He is our prophet, He has ascended to heaven, and death shall never subdue Him again. However, this isn’t about Jesus at all, it’s actually about Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. This hymn, entitled “Praise to the Man”, makes a number of messianic claims. For example its lyrics say, “Great is his glory and endless his priesthood” and it claims that Joseph will be “crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.”
Why would Mormons have a hymn that attributes such things to Joseph? Stated plainly, it’s because Joseph isn’t just a leader in their eyes- he’s the object of their worship. He’s not a prophet pointing to Jesus, he’s Christ’s replacement.
Think about it. What tribe did Joseph claim to be from? Ephraim. And just why would that be significant? Quite simply, the tribe of Joseph had the birthright, and this is the family that Ephraim was from. 1 Chronicles 5:2 (ESV) says this:
Though Judah became strong among his brothers and a chief came from him, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph.
Possessing the birthright in ancient times gave you special status as the firstborn, and a double portion of the inheritance. One could rightly assume that if Joseph was making this claim, he could present greater rewards than what Jesus offers.
And that is exactly what the LDS church teaches. Trusting in Jesus only gets you as far as the Terrestrial Kingdom (the middle heaven). In order to reach the highest heaven, you must be baptized by someone holding the LDS priesthood. But if you are sealed in their temples and adhere to their commandments, you can even reach godhood. In other words, the rewards for following Joseph are infinitely better than what Christ can offer alone.
A Latter-day Saint would insist that Jesus still gets the credit, as Joseph was only acting under His authority. But when you leave the church, even if it’s to follow Jesus, all your temple blessings are revoked. You are viewed as a sinner and an apostate.
In regards to my own departure, a number of Latter-day Saints have compared me to Esau, claiming that I sacrificed my inheritance for a cheap meal. To think that Jesus is so insignificant in Mormonism that He’s compared to a morsel of meat! Latter-day Saints may not admit that Joseph overshadows Jesus, but they certainly believe it. And Joseph believed it too.
In Deuteronomy 18:15-19 (ESV) Moses says that God will raise up a prophet like him. As Christians, we know that he was referring to Jesus. Here is the full text:
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.”
But unsurprisingly, Joseph made this passage about himself. Compare Doctrine and Covenants 103:15-24:
Therefore, I will raise up unto my people a man, who shall lead them like as Moses led the children of Israel.
For ye are the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham, and ye must needs be led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm.
And as your fathers were led at the first, even so shall the redemption of Zion be.
Therefore, let not your hearts faint, for I say not unto you as I said unto your fathers: Mine angel shall go up before you, but not my presence.
But I say unto you: Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land.
Verily, verily I say unto you, that my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., is the man to whom I likened the servant to whom the Lord of the vineyard spake in the parable which I have given unto you.
Therefore let my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., say unto the strength of my house, my young men and the middle aged—Gather yourselves together unto the land of Zion, upon the land which I have bought with money that has been consecrated unto me.
And let all the churches send up wise men with their moneys, and purchase lands even as I have commanded them.
And inasmuch as mine enemies come against you to drive you from my goodly land, which I have consecrated to be the land of Zion, even from your own lands after these testimonies, which ye have brought before me against them, ye shall curse them;
Here we see that a leader will be sent who is like Moses, in the sense that he will lead the Latter-day Saints from bondage into a “promised land.” The text then says that this leader is Joseph Smith.
Doctrine and Covenant 28:2 also compares Joseph to Moses. It reads:
But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses.
Moses 1:41 seals the deal by stating:
And in a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write, behold, I will raise up another like unto thee; and they shall be had again among the children of men—among as many as shall believe.
According to this, the books of Moses would be corrupted, but the prophet like Moses would come and restore them. This is notable because Jesus respected Moses’ words by treating them like they had authority. He said, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” (John 5:46 ESV) Jesus thought the writings of Moses were so reliable, He was willing to bet His own integrity on them. Joseph, however, claimed he was retranslating Moses’ words from Genesis into what is now known as the Book of Moses. In this way, he placed himself as the subject of the Deuteronomy prophecy alongside Christ, making himself equal to God.
Many of Joseph’s own claims put him in the place of, or even above Jesus. For example, he said, “Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. 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, pg 408-409)
Prophet Brigham Young, in 1859, stated, “From the day that the priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are — I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent.” (Journal of Discourses 7:238)
This statement flies in the face of John 14:6, where Jesus says that He is the way to the Father. In Mormonism, Joseph is the door to salvation.
Joseph also takes the place of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:7 (ESV) which states:
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
As Christians we know this is about Jesus. But according to Doctrine and Covenants 135:4, Joseph made the following statement before his death:
“I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me—he was murdered in cold blood.”
Certainly this is just a coincidence, right? Joseph couldn’t have been trying to take Jesus’ place as the Lamb who was slain. As much as I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, the second part of his statement makes it impossible. In saying that his conscience was void of offense toward God and man, and that he would die innocent, he blatantly set himself up as the new Christ since only a deity could pull off sinlessness. Sadly, that wasn’t the first time Joseph made such an audacious claim.
In 1844 during his King Follett discourse, he said, “You don’t know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don’t blame anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself. I never did harm [to] any man since I was born in the world. My voice is always for peace…
…I cannot lie down until all my work is finished. I never think any evil, nor do anything to the harm of my fellow-man. When I am called by the trump of the archangel and weighed in the balance, you will all know me then. I add no more. God bless you all.” (History of the Church, 6:304–5, 312, 317)
Not only did Joseph claim sinlessness, but he claimed he had never harmed anyone since birth. The implication is he never had to repent for wronging someone or thinking a sinful thought. Apparently, he lived a sinless life.
To that I say, blasphemy! No human being can claim perfection. Romans 3:10-12 teaches that there is none righteous and 1 John 1:8 says that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Sadly, Joseph idolatry only becomes more aggressive in dismissing Christ’s mission. Robert Millett, a scholar in the LDS church wrote the following:
“…the life of Joseph Smith was in some degree patterned after that of his Master, Jesus Christ. That pattern holds true even when extended to its tragic conclusion. Like his Master, Joseph Smith shed his blood in order that the final testament, the reestablishment of the new covenant, might be in full effect.” (BYU Professor Emeritus Robert L. Millet, “Joseph Smith among the Prophets,” Ensign, June 1994, p. 22).
This is a nod to Hebrews 9:11-17 (ESV) which explains the role of Christ’s blood:
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.
To summarize, a new covenant had to be enforced by the death of the testator. Only then could his will go into effect. But the new covenant is more effective than the old because Jesus’ blood is pure. He gave himself as an offering without blemish or sin, therefore his death secures eternal redemption.
Making the claim that Joseph’s blood allowed the establishment of a new covenant is worse than simply preaching an apostasy- it’s taking the position that Jesus’ blood wasn’t good enough so Joseph had to shed his. It couldn’t be more obvious that Joseph is the true Messiah of Mormonism.
If you are a Latter-day Saint reading this, and you are consoling yourself with thoughts that I’m spewing anti-Mormon lies, let me prove it to you. Watch this devotional from one of your own members (https://www.byui.edu/devotionals/jayson-kunzler) and then tell me your church doesn’t put Joseph on the same level as God.
In case you’re wondering, this obsession with Mr. Smith is what keeps us from embracing you as fellow-Christians. If you trust in Joseph’s gospel, then you are not the bride of Christ. You’re nothing but an adulterer.
In light of the evidence, I admonish you to change your views. If you want to revere Joseph, that’s your prerogative. But you must believe what he claimed about himself and accept him as your Lord and Savior.
There’s no way to accept Jesus and Joseph. As Christ taught, no one can serve two masters because he will only love one of them. If you’re still under the delusion that you’re in Christ’s corner, I challenge you to let go of Joseph Smith and trust completely in Jesus.
Your reaction to my challenge will reveal your heart. Which master do you love and which do you despise?
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Joshua 24:15 ESV