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Biblical Keys for Discerning True and False Prophets/Considering Joseph Smith/Preliminary test
A Preliminary Test of Joseph Smith
Those familiar with even Joseph Smith's 1838 testimony, as published in the Pearl of Great Price, the Articles of Faith, and the Book of Mormon should see much that indicates that his claims should be taken seriously in light of the Bible tests.
Claims a True Prophet must make
- He recounts his first vision of deity
- He reports that he has been visited by an angel and called by God for a work.
- His most important claims come with witnesses, not just people he convinced, but people who have seen what he had seen. This includes the three witnesses of the angel and the plates, the eight formal witnesses of the plates, other informal witnesses, and the important shared visions with Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery.
- He reports ordinations to the priesthood following the pattern of Aaron.
Teaching of Christ
- He testifies that Jesus is the Christ, that he came in the flesh., that he will judge all men.
- He talks about faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism.
- He affirms the need for apostles and prophets.
- He affirms the Bible witness in his use of the Bible, his prayers, his identification with Paul, his fulfillment of the Bible prophecy of the sealed book.
Character of Teaching
- He teaches belief in God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, and that these constitute in unity One God.
- He teaches the need for faith, repentance, baptism, and the laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
- He restores knowledge of the covenants and ordinances. (See D&C 1)
- He teaches about the heavenly council.
- His revelations teach us to expect trials, and that our sufferings can be “consecrated to our gain” (2 Nephi 2:2).
- He lived his life in the face of constant, often violent, and ultimately fatal opposition, demonstrating that he learned by experience (D&C 3, D&C 121-2, and D&C 135) to fear God more than men.
- He led by example, including working with his own hands, facing danger, placing himself in danger rather expending his followers for his benefit.
- He freely admitted his own personal weakness, even including, in his official history, his involvement in money digging.
- He reports a prophecy, now unambiguously fulfilled, that his name should be had for good and evil among all nations.
- He produced the Book of Mormon
- He admits his own personal weakness, including his celebrated money digging. He provides accounts and revelations of the secrets of the divine council in 1 Nephi 1:, Moses 4:1-4, Abraham 3:19-28, and DC 76:.
- Many of his prophecies have been fulfilled.
- He provides knowledge about the ordinances and covenants.
- He provides insights opening understanding of the scriptures.
- He makes impressive predictions about the Book of Mormon (such as D&C 3) and in the Book of Mormon.
- Many of the objections raised against him and against the Book of Mormon have been superseded by later events and discoveries. A recent example has been the recent collapse of the claims for DNA evidence against the Book of Mormon.
- He teaches by example and precept that we should pray to find the truth for ourselves.
In comparison with the Biblical standard, all of this invites further consideration. Not only does Joseph Smith impress compared to the Biblical standard, but I have found no rival candidates that come close. This does not prove his claims, nor exhaust the testing that can and should be done. It should invite us to take Joseph Smith seriously, to consider his works, such as the Book of Mormon, to explore the testimony of the witnesses, to try living the gospel, to carefully compare LDS teaching with the scriptures, and to pray.
Participation in a religious tradition also demands a more total personal involvement than occurs in science. Religious questions are of ultimate concern, since the meaning of one’s existence is at stake. Religion asks about the final objects of a person’s devotion and loyalty, for which he will sacrifice other interests if necessary. Too detached an attitude may cut off a person from the very kinds of experience which are religiously most significant. Reorientation and reconciliation are transformation of life-pattern affecting all aspects of personality, not intellect alone. Religious writings use the language of actors, not the language of spectators. Religious commitment, then is a personal response, a serious decision implicating one’s whole life, a willingness to act and suffer for what one believes in.