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Did Joseph Smith think that he was better than Jesus?

by Rusty Lindquist on January 25, 2011 · 5 comments

Daniel, in the post “Do Mormons have more than one God“, asked why Joseph Smith said he did a better job than Paul and Jesus for keeping the church together.

Daniel,

Thanks for asking this question.  First and foremost, this was not the belief, or attitude, or teaching of the prophet Joseph Smith.  In fact, Joseph Smith said the following:

“Who, among all the Saints in these last days, can consider himself as good as our Lord?  Who is perfect?  Who is pure?  Who is holy as He was?  Are they to be found?  He never transgressed or broke a commandment or law of heaven – no deceit was in His mouth, neither was guile found in His heart… Where is one like Christ?  He cannot be found on earth.”  (History of the Church, 2:23)

He later said:  “None ever were perfect but Jesus; and why was He perfect?  Because He was the Son of God, and had the fullness of the Spirit, and greater power than any man.” (Ibid 4:358)

So then, what’s all this about?

It’s about a statement that was taken out of context and is commonly proliferated in anti-Mormon literature for the intent to mislead. 

So what did Joseph Smith say?

His quote “I am the only man that has been able to keep the whole church together… Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it.”

Taken as an independent sentence, one would think the Prophet was insinuating that he was better than even Jesus.  But as we see from his quote above (and numerous others, along with his very life and teachings), this was not his belief.

So then what was the real context of the quote?

Joseph Smith was speaking tounge-in-cheek in a discourse and testimony against the dissenters at Nauvoo.  He was speaking against the very people who had beaten, tarred, feathered, spit upon, and would ultimately kill him.

In so doing, he had just read Corinthians, chapter 11, in which the apostle Paul said “Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly:  and indeed bear with me.  I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.  That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.  Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also…. Are they ministers of Christ (I speak as a fool) I am more;  in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.  In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:  And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.”

Understanding that this was Joseph’s introduction to the congregation puts his comments into perspective.  Like Paul, he was asking the saints to “bear with him” in his “folly”, while he “boasted foolishly” about his “labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent”.  His quoting of this passage was to provide the context that what he was about to say would not be “after the Lord, but as it were foolishly”, to “glory in the flesh”, as Paul had done.  It was to mock the fools with foolishness, while making the point that no matter what they do to him, he would prevail.

So, as you see, Joseph’s attitude was not that he was in any way, shape, or form, better than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is perfect – the only perfect person to ever walk the earth.

But there’s a larger point to this.  And that point, aptly illustrated here, is that the content composed by critics of the church cannot be trusted.  It was built to mislead, that is the sole intent, and so they’ll go to any measure to do so, even when dishonest. 

I’ve seen some of the most ridiculous claims propagated around the internet, and by congregational leaders.  It’s one of the primary aims of this blog, to be one source to which people can turn to get answers to things they hear, such as this, hence the page “Ask a Mormon“.

For truly, Joseph Smith had more respect, understanding, admiration, and deep desire to worship Jesus Christ than I can ever comprehend.  He was a prophet of God, called by the Lord Himself.  As such, his testimony of the Lord was pure and powerful.  You can read more about it at www.josephsmith.com.

Rusty

P.S.  Related posts:  “Is ‘anti’ contrary to Christianity?” discussing the un-Christian nature of critics (or “anti’s”.  Also, “Commercialized Religion” discussing the motivation behind such anti material.

Originally posted 2009-05-15 00:04:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Doug July 13, 2010 at 8:11 PM

Good job.

Reply

2 John July 18, 2012 at 6:50 AM

Why didn’t you quote more of the passage in your post, especially if your point is the context. I find it interesting that you left out the part that is most disturbing about his ‘boasting’.
==============================
God is in the still small voice. In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil–all corruption. 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.

Reply

3 Toyn February 21, 2014 at 10:44 AM

I have a few things to consider about Joseph Smith. Because the entire faith of Mormonism rests on this one “man”. If he is proven false he cannot be a prophet and shouldn’t be trusted.

Joseph Smith made a false prophecy (one of several).
“. . .I prophesy in the name of the Lord God of Israel, unless the United States redress the wrongs committed upon the Saints in the state of Missouri and punish the crimes committed by her officers that in a few years the government will be utterly overthrown and wasted, and there will not be so much as a potsherd left . . . ” (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 394). Click here to see this quote in context.

Joseph Smith said mothers have babies in eternity and some are on thrones.
“A question may be asked, ‘Will mothers have their children in eternity?’ Yes! Yes! Mothers, you shall have your children,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 10). “Eternity is full of thrones, upon which dwell thousands of children reigning on thrones of glory, with not one cubit added to their stature,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 10).

Joseph Smith said that God was not always God.
“We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did, and I will show it from the Bible” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp.345-346. Italics in original).

Joseph Smith said there are many gods.
“Hence, the doctrine of a plurality of Gods is as prominent in the Bible as any other doctrine. It is all over the face of the Bible . . . Paul says there are Gods many and Lords many . . . but to us there is but one God–that is pertaining to us; and he is in all and through all,” (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 474). “In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 5).

Joseph Smith said the Trinity is three gods.
“I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods,” (Teachings of Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 370).

Joseph Smith said God was once a man.
“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens…I say, if you were to see him to-day, you would see him like a man in form — like yourselves, in all the person, image, and very form as a man….it is necessary that we should understand the character and being of God, and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away and do away the veil, so that you may see….and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 3).

Joseph Smith said our greatest responsibility is to seek after our dead.
“The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 7).

Joseph Smith said that there are men living on the moon who dress like Quakers and live to be nearly 1000 years old. Since he was wrong about the moon, is it safe to trust him regarding the way to Heaven? (The Young Woman’s Journal, vol. 3, p. 263-264. See reprint in Mormonism — Shadow or Reality? by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, p. 4.)

For more info on these questions and more visit carm.org

Reply

4 Rusty Lindquist February 21, 2014 at 12:01 PM

It’s going to be easier for me to inject my responses into your comment above…

Reply

5 Josh June 3, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Joseph Smith said mothers have babies in eternity and some are on thrones.
“A question may be asked, ‘Will mothers have their children in eternity?’ Yes! Yes! Mothers, you shall have your children,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 10). “Eternity is full of thrones, upon which dwell thousands of children reigning on thrones of glory, with not one cubit added to their stature,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 10).

Joseph Smith said that God was not always God.
“We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did, and I will show it from the Bible” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp.345-346. Italics in original).

Joseph Smith said there are many gods.
“Hence, the doctrine of a plurality of Gods is as prominent in the Bible as any other doctrine. It is all over the face of the Bible . . . Paul says there are Gods many and Lords many . . . but to us there is but one God–that is pertaining to us; and he is in all and through all,” (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 474). “In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 5).

Joseph Smith said God was once a man.
“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens…I say, if you were to see him to-day, you would see him like a man in form — like yourselves, in all the person, image, and very form as a man….it is necessary that we should understand the character and being of God, and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away and do away the veil, so that you may see….and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 3).

Please answer these for me.

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