Joseph prophet or not

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Joseph prophet or not

Post by Cadence » 10 Dec 2009, 14:02

Given what we have come to learn about the personal conduct of Joseph at times is it possible or more correctly can you still believe he was a prophet receiving revelation from God? Was he a prophet in the beginning but not in the end? Was he a prophet until he died? Was he ever a prophet? I want to believe on some level all that that he put forth has some truth in it. Does questionable personal conduct nullify a prophetic calling?
Last edited by Cadence on 01 Mar 2010, 19:43, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Joseph prophet or not

Post by Rix » 10 Dec 2009, 16:12

Cadence wrote:Given what we have come to learn about the personal conduct of Joseph at times is it possible or more correctly can you still believe he was a prophet receiving revelation from God. Was he a prophet in the beginning but not in the end. Was he a prophet until he died. Was he ever a prophet. I want to believe on some level all that that he put forth has some truth in it. Does questionable personal conduct nullify a prophetic calling.
I'm going to play politician and answer this very obliquely. Of course, as's my opinion only, so fwiw: I think Joseph was as much of a prophet as Moses, Noah, Abraham...etc, all were. They each lived at times that were VERY different than today. Their understanding/perception of "God" and "Spirit" was unique for their times. They were charismatic people in their own ways and taught the people of their clans helpful ways to live. I'm sure each of them had their positive and negative traits.

I do think it is becoming a challenge for many today to learn of his real history and assume "he" should not have done certain things. It really bothered me for a while. (Here come the phrase I'm hated for... ;) ) "He" did the best he could with what he had been given. And I think today's leaders are the same.
Überzeugungen sind oft die gefährlichsten Feinde der Wahrheit.
[Certainty (that one is correct) is often the most dangerous enemy of the
truth.] - Friedrich Nietzsche

God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that. -- Joseph Campbell

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Re: Joseph prophet or not

Post by hawkgrrrl » 10 Dec 2009, 16:30

Prophets are all pretty "out there" (those in the scriptures are anyway). The ones who get off light are the ones with no biographical information at all! Consider a few:
- Moses killed an Egyptian.
- Abraham tried to perform a human sacrifice and married the housekeeper, then chucked her and her son out on their ear when they irritated the wife he really loved.
- Jacob married sisters and two servants. He also "wrestled" with an angel and put his hand under the angel's thigh to compel the angel to bless him. Sounds like something from the BYU police beat!
- Nephi cut off Laban's head and then put his clothes on. You would think he would undress the guy first, THEN cut off his head. How did he explain the bloody clothes? Shaving accident? Just how nearsighted was Zoram?
- Alma (the elder) was a member of King Noah's wicked and adulterous court for years before becoming a prophet. Kind of like a modern day political figure becoming a prophet. Prophet Harry Reid maybe?
- Adam thought snakes could talk.

It's difficult to fathom human foibles on a grand scale being compatible with revelation, so I understand your sentiment. Maybe people capable of great sin are also more capable of great repentance, empathy and spirituality than those who have never plumbed the depths of their human experience.

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Re: Joseph prophet or not

Post by allquieton » 10 Dec 2009, 17:36

For me, the strongest evidence that Joseph was a prophet is the Book of Mormon. I realize some have issues with the BoM, but I don't, so that settles it for me. I think it is sound on a reasonable and on a spiritual level.

I always like to stick up for Joseph. I think he has been lied about and slandered to an extraordinary degree. I may post about this later on.

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Re: Joseph prophet or not

Post by swimordie » 10 Dec 2009, 17:38

I don't know where it comes from and I've said it elsewhere but, in my lifetime, I've also just presumed that the Q12 and the prophet are essentially sinless. They never speak of adult struggles with sin, never point to historical instances of sin in past prophets, etc.

I don't know if it's the mantra "The prophet will never lead the church astray" that sets this paradigm up but...

My point being that our modern idea of a prophet is essentially a sinless man with exceptional powers of discernment and judgment. Not sure if that's totally fair, but in my TBM days, I totally believed that.

Using that as a "definition" of "prophet", I can see how disheartening it would be to find out things in JS' past, BY's past, etc.
Perfectionism hasn't served me. I think I am done with it. -Poppyseed

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Re: Joseph prophet or not

Post by Heber13 » 10 Dec 2009, 20:39

I like the quote (can't remember where I got it from--paraphrased by memory):
Catholics teach Pope is infallible, but the members don't believe it.
Mormons teach the prophet is fallible, but the members don't believe it.
To me, I have found value in gaining a testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith the same way I place my faith in my ward's bishop as a man called of God, and the same way I have love and appreciation for my mother. I do not trust those people because they are greater than others, but because they desire to follow God's will as they understand it, and their example and testimony teach me truths that benefit my life. My mother has done some things wrong in her life, but she is still my mother and I can honor and respect her for the sacrifices she has made that benefit me. I also honor and respect the man Joseph Smith, as much as Moses or Thomas S Monson.

A prophet is a calling, like motherhood or fatherhood. You don't become certified in it through accomplishments, it is thrust upon the person, and then that person must live to make the most of what they are called to do.
Last edited by Heber13 on 13 Dec 2009, 22:49, edited 1 time in total.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Re: Joseph prophet or not

Post by Brian Johnston » 11 Dec 2009, 09:37

I absolutely still believe Joseph Smith was a prophet. I have a much different view of that title now though after going through much the same disappointment and frustration. I think we've built up a false view of what it means to receive revelation. It isn't based on any good precedence in prior scripture. Somehow we've (LDS) come to expect something of flawlessness in, even reliance upon prophets. I like what others have said about this being a form of relying on the "arm of flesh" in our spiritual development.

Yeah, I totally hear what you are saying though. Some things really are hard to accept. So maybe we decide to actually believe these "prophets" when they tell us they are not infallible, no matter how many times they tried to tell people who listened to them.

I find that, after a time of settling into the new view, that I actually enjoy Joseph Smith a LOT more, and find him more inspiring in a lot of ways compared to when I was more TBM.

There's a classic two-liner:

Catholics teach that the Popes are infallible but refuse to believe it.
Mormons teach that the Prophets are fallible but refuse to believe it.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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Re: Joseph prophet or not

Post by Peaceandjoy » 11 Dec 2009, 09:45

If God knows all things, then you would think that He would know what Joseph would do, marrying women already married, financial disaster for the church, etc, etc, etc,..... Why would he pick someone like that knowing what he would do??? I know you will say he was only human, but I just don't know... I think he would have picked someone like President Monson. And I'm am sure there were people like him then. Just my opinion.

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Re: Joseph prophet or not

Post by Brian Johnston » 11 Dec 2009, 09:59


What can I say?

I find many of the things Joseph explored, his ideas on many topics, and the way he built a dramatic new twist on Christian theology from the eclectic sources he seems to have valued both fascinating and inspiring. In a lot of ways, his uninhibited nature made him the perfect tool. Two edged sword? Yeah, I think it was his genius and his downfall (downfall in the sense that he produced a lot of drama, including his eventual assassination).

Some things are just plain baffling.

And there were some things that he just plain wasn't good at, not at all -- like politics and especially economics and business.

I just can't think of any other person in history that becomes a historical figure, especially a religious/social change leader that was a boring person. Boring and tame people just aren't interesting enough to make a dent in the minds of humanity. We all have thought it. Lots of people say it -- "Wouldn't the Lord have picked someone better?" I don't know. Who? Was there ever someone in existence that meets our expectations? Not even Jesus Christ meets that bar. Jesus was perfect, and humans still nailed him to a cross for what he said and did.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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Re: Joseph prophet or not

Post by Curt Sunshine » 11 Dec 2009, 10:46

Hence, the misery caused by unrealistic expectations.

Also, if there is one prophet of the Restoration who would roll around screaming in his grave at the idea that he was infallible, it is Joseph Smith. It is SO easy to forget that he is the most chastised person in the D&C - and it's not close! If he was willing to record those chastisements - and if he was willing to say what he said OFTEN about his own failings, we are judging him by a vicious standard if we turn around and expect him to be some super genius wonderkind.

I know many members do it, and I have no issue with the organization he founded highlighting almost entirely his good qualities (since EVERY organization does it), but we as individuals don't have to do it. I think we owe it to him to recognize his faults but honor him regardless for all the extraordinary qualities he really did have.

Finally, to add to what valoel said about alternatives:

Brigham Young had his issues as I look at him, but, seriously, who else could have held the Church together in those HELLISH, HELLISH, HELLISH times? When I try to look at the big picture with a charitable eye, I thank God Brother Brigham was around to lead the Church when he did. I truly believe it would have shattered and disappeared without him - as it was threatening to do after Joseph's death.

Life is a two-edged sword, and it's VERY easy to criticize even those who did remarkable things - since nearly ALL who do remarkable things fail mightily before, during and after the remarkable. Those on the edges fall often, and the ones I admire are the ones who keep getting up and living a life guaranteed to knock them down every time they rise. When you fall from greater heights, it's much more visible to those around you; when you get back up and climb again to even greater heights every, single, stinking time . . . I will be the last one to condemn. Criticism of specifics? Absolutely fine. Dismissal and condemnation? Absolutely not.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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