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Joseph Smith's Place in Biblical Prophecy

October 6, 2008

Mormonism teaches that God revealed Himself in the 1800s to a young man named Joseph Smith so that the true gospel could be restored to the earth. They teach that prior to the 1800’s the true gospel had become perverted and God did not preserve a remnant of true Christians from the 1st century AD until the 1800s. They teach that the Mormon temple rituals and divergent teachings regarding sin, salvation, the nature of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are original, restored Christianity and that the rest of professing Christians are part of the apostate church.

I would like to examine this incredible claim in light of the divine revelation that Mormons and Christians both agree is from God: “the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

Serious students of the Bible can see that God has revealed Himself throughout history so that we can know how He works and can discern His revelations in our time in order to avoid falling prey to the deception of the false prophets that Jesus promised would come in the last days (Matt. 24:11).

A quick review of Biblical prophecy reveals that the OT made specific predictions concerning the Messiah so that those who were studying the Scriptures were expectantly waiting and ready when Christ arrived (Luke 2:25-38). The exact timing of the Messiah’s coming was predicted and fulfilled on the exact day it was prophesied in the book of Daniel. The OT had ended by declaring the next thing on God’s calendar: the coming of a prophet (Malachi 4:5) who would prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah (Isaiah 40:3). Jesus declared that this prophecy was fulfilled by John the Baptist (Matt. 11:14).

During Jesus’ ministry, the authority of Scripture was emphasized. Jesus did not question the reliability of the OT scriptures. He said “scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35) and emphasized His power to keep and preserve His words (Mark 13:31). He treated the OT as a literal history (Matt. 24:37-39) and told the Sadducees their beliefs were in error because they did not know the Scriptures (Matt. 22:29-32). He scolded His disciples for not believing all that the prophets had spoken in the OT and then He proceeded to expound to them “in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25-27).

We see Jesus’ example of a high view of Scripture continued with the early Christians in the book of Acts. The apostle Apollos is described as a man who was “mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24). He “mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ” (Acts 18:28). Paul declared that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16) and the Bereans were commended for checking his teachings against the OT scriptures (Acts 17:11). The Bible calls their method of scripture study “noble.”

After the coming of the Messiah, a pronounced change is described in Scripture concerning the dealings of God with man. We catch a hint of the change early in Jesus’ ministry when He said:

“For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:13-15).

The indication that the dispensation of the prophets was ending is made even more clear in Hebrews 1:1-2:

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds”

Did you catch the change noted in this inspired piece of Scripture? Remember, Jesus rebuked the disciples for not believing ALL of the scriptures. This scripture clearly states that God spoke “in time past” by the prophets, but in these last days by His Son.

Peter says the same thing in II Peter 1:20-21: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Peter contrasts the prophecy which came “in old time” by the OT prophets with “a more sure word of prophecy” which we now have because of the personal revelation of Christ Himself and the eyewitness accounts of His life, death, and resurrection (II Peter. 1:18-19).

At the very end of the apostle John’s prophecy he writes this: “If any man add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18).

We will now consider how the prophet Joseph Smith, following in the example of Christ and the apostles, expounded upon Scripture to reveal the prophecies in previous scriptures that spoke about him and how he demonstrated from the scriptures that he was prophesied to come and restore the true gospel to the earth:

“There are many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelations of the Holy Ghost to me.” (Joseph Smith, Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q.Cannon)

“I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 327)

Did Joseph Smith read ALL of the previous scriptures as Jesus commanded His disciples to do? Was he “mighty in the scriptures” like Apollos? Was he able, like Apollos, to “mightily convince” people “from the scriptures”??

Or do we notice a divergence from the Biblical model of revelation? Do we see a shift in view concerning the authority and reliability of the Bible? Joseph Smith is not proving the new revelation from the previous revelation. He’s getting rid of the old revelation to introduce the new. This is a departure from the Biblical model and all serious students of the scriptures notice the striking change.

Following Joseph Smith’s example, other Mormon leaders have made similar comments regarding the Bible:

“The Bible has been robbed of its plainness; many sacred books having been lost, others rejected by the Romish Church, and what few we have left, were copied and re-copied so many times, that it is admitted that almost every verse has been corrupted and mutilated to that degree that scarcely any two of them read alike.” (Apostle Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 213.)

“Many insertions were made, some of them ‘slanted’ for selfish purposes, while at times deliberate falsifications and fabrications were perpetrated.” (Apostle Mark Petersen, As Translated Correctly, p. 4.)

But I thought Jesus said “scripture cannot be broken” and He promised to preserve His words… Who are we trusting here? Jesus or Joseph Smith/other Mormon leaders?

As I stated earlier in the post, the OT had ended with the next prophecy on God’s calendar: the coming of the prophet “Elijah” (John the Baptist) who would prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. We see the NT ends in a similar way. The book of Revelation ends with the apostle John looking ahead to the next thing on God’s prophetic calendar: the coming of Jesus Christ.

Where does Joseph Smith fit in here?

The only prophecy I can find that he fulfilled is in Matthew 24:11 where Jesus said that in the last days “Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.”

References:

http://www.mormonchallenge.com/ref_quotes.htm

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