Posted by: Jay | January 21, 2008

Worshiping Joseph Smith


Do LDS members really worship Joseph Smith? I’ve heard this claimed numerous times by critics of the LDS faith. The problem is I’m not sure what they are talking about. I have never felt that I am worshiping Joseph Smith, perhaps honoring him but not worshiping. Any thoughts.



  1. I think this is one where evangelicals and Mormons are speaking different languages.

    I think any objective observer would say that there is a “cult of personality” of sorts that has been built around Joseph Smith. We only talk about the good things he did and do not ever talk about the negative things. This is not the norm in Protestant Christianity.

    Take Martin Luther, the most visible representative of the Reformation. He was an anti-semite and justified the German lords in slaughtering German peasants. My impression is that most Protestants don’t have any problem in admitting this, even Lutherans. However, ask most Mormons about things that Joseph Smith did that were wrong and you will get stunned silence. It’s just not considered good form to ask or answer that question in Mormon circles.

    Now, and average Christian sees that we have elevated Joseph Smith to be more than a man and says we worship him. In this case they are correct, it is a form of hero worship. A Mormon says that we don’t worship him because worship is reverence before Deity and Joseph Smith is not a deity, hence we don’t worship him. Two different definitions, both can be true.

  2. I agree completely.

    I wish we would talk about the more human side of our leaders, especially prophets. By ignoring their shortcomings we set ourselves up for disappointment.

    I also see this a lot with critics of the LDS faith. They use word semantics to drive a wedge between Mormons and non-LDS creating conflict where little or none should exist otherwise. I see this a lot in the argument over faith vs. works, what is a Christian, considering Mormonism as a cult, etc.

  3. I think your are most accurate in your last comment where you say they “use” semantics people usually don’t have much of a problem communicating when they really want to. Unfortunately one of the innate characteristics we each has as humans (this was true even long before each of us was born , I guess with the war in heaven and all) is that we feel a really strong desire to be superior or at least feel so. You could call it “self glorification” I guess and a easy way to feel a little of that is to focus on others problems. It is a lot more effective if you can do it without thinking otherwise you start to remember some of the truth of ourselves and then it is hard to glorify one’s self. If you actually try to understand another’s perspective that is one of those ways you start thinking and then it is just not nearly as much fun do be judgmental.

  4. th,

    I’m not quite sure how to take your comment. Are you implying that by trying to come to peace with difficult Mormon issues that I and others are trying to glorify ourselves?

  5. Not at all! I was using “you” the totally generic sense. I will try to be more careful.
    I was actually trying to say that we all seem to be prone to such judgmental thought patterns. I was alluding to how some people seem to build their lives around promoting these thought patterns in others. I didn’t relate these comments as well as I would have hoped to the original comment. Was trying to get to the point that this is probably why there is so much conflict over semantics and inflammatory speech. I believe that the concept of “worship” in regards to Joseph Smith, by the LDS community is largely due to these patterns. I actually was expressing that what I believe to be my motivation to similar judgmental thought patterns. I believe this motivation to be universally part of the human experience. I see this self glorification, or pride (the root of all sin), as the exact opposite of love. So the struggle against this tendency is the main purpose in life. I guess the only real way to get to the point it doesn’t matter at all is finally be able to admit that each of us are really not that great and surrender the struggle, and I suppose this is where the Atonement comes in…. and I could go on with trying to work this out but it is way off subject from your original post (sorry). I guess I just got interested in semantics issue in the first two comments, partly because I think it really is the root of the issue in the original post.

  6. th,
    Thanks for clarifying again, I wasn’t sure if you were getting at something deeper than what I was reading. I think I understand what you are trying to say.

    The way we talk to each other across faith boundries is important. Perhaps that would be a really good post to do. Thanks.

  7. I don’t think the LDS church encourages worship of Joseph Smith. I think LDS culture does in many cases encourage worship of Smith. Sadly, I think there are indeed a great many who worship and revere him.

    There are hymns dedicated to him. There are nativity sets built in honor of him. And there is discussion about whether or not JS is serving as “Holy Ghost”.

    • Ignorant comment. If there is such discussion as you suggest it is certainly not among anyone who knows anything about the LDS church.

  8. It seems to me that we can get so used to the idiom and culture of our own church and background (whatever that is) that we fail to see how other’s view us. Consider the following from the official Mormon Hymn Book:

    “Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!…
    Praise to his memory…

    Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,
    Plead unto heav’n while the earth lauds his fame.

    Great is his glory…

    Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;…” (Hymns 1985, No.27)

    Now, I am sure that no one here considers themselves as “worshipping” Joseph Smith when they sing this hymn and I understand that, to Mormons, Joseph is a hero whose qualities are to be celebrated.

    But here we have a man to be praised. Whose glory is sung of as “great” and whose blood is believed to “plead unto heav’n”. A man who mingles with gods (an issue in itself).

    Members of other faiths have their heroes too, but I have never seen or heard a traditional Christian Church laud theirs in this way. Certainly it doesn’t happen in the Bible (see 1 Corinthians 3). Especially among Evangelicals, with whom many Mormons most identify, this sort of thing is anathema. They might be forgiven for thinking that a man who is to be praised, whose glory is considered great, and whose blood is efficatious in pleading to heaven is being somehow worshipped and put on the same level as Jesus – notwithstanding all the quotes to the contrary that might be drummed up to deny this charge.

    I think David is spot on when he writes about a cult of personality, but I also think it goes deeper in that this attitude to JS is founded in a doctrine of dispensationalism and men becoming gods.

    The observation about Luther is also apposite. I recall a conversation with a Mormon in which he raised the issue of Luther’s anti-semitism. I immediately recognised that Luther was grossly wrong in his views and asked him if he could point out any errors in any of his leaders, past or present. There was an embarrassing silence.

  9. there are nativity sets built in honor of him. And there is discussion about whether or not JS is serving as “Holy Ghost”.

    Really?! I know I haven’t seen everything, but I’ve never seen a JS nativity set and JS as the HG, wow! That sounds like another one of those Mormon myths I just hate.

    [I] asked him if he could point out any errors in any of his leaders, past or present.

    This is something I have become keenly aware of in the past two years. As LDS members we are told so many faith promoting stories about our leaders that we almost forget they are mortal, had tempers, sinned, and fell short of what a prophet should be. I understand why the Church chooses to do this. However, this unbalanced view gives us a false sense of superiority to others. Thus, your Mormon conversant bringing up Luther’s anti-semitic past, but failing to acknowledge the racist past of his own leaders.

    Luther’s anti-semitism was wrong, as was Brigham Young’s racism. They both did good things and were not wholly bad individuals despite their shortcomings. I know those in the LDS faith admire Luther and what he did to try and reform the Catholic Church.

  10. I am afraid the JS crib is not a Mormon myth. If you want to see it you can at

    The strength of feeling expressed there is genuine and perhaps will give you some measure of how distressing people find this kind of thing. I do understand faith-promoting stories but really this does go too far and whoever thought of it really should have done what you are doing here, i.e. looked at the bigger picture.

    Christian leaders of every stamp have always had feet of clay, from Peter who denied the Lord and who, later, stood rebuked by Paul for his favouring the Judaisers in Acts, through Augustine who prayed, “Lord make me holy, but not yet”, to Luther who has already been discussed, and beyond. But what can a Mormon do when they are officially taught:

    “Save Jesus Christ only, the world has never known a more competent scriptural authority than Joseph Smith. It is one thing to read a book of scripture and quite another to be personally instructed by its authors. Who among the world’s scholars and religious leaders can lay claim to having stood face to face with Adam, Enoch, Noah, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John?” (Robert Millet, Ensign, June 1994, p.20)

    Its a bind for someone who wants to take a reasonable approach but finds that this is counter to the way you are meant to think.

  11. Here’s a funny thing….My mom HATES the song “Ave Maria” because it’s sung to ‘worship’ Mary. But what about “Praise To the Man”? To me, both songs are more about honoring those two people than worshiping them.

    As far as worshiping JS – in my state of confusion about the church, I wish that leaders, teachers, and testifying members would teach and testify more of Christ than of Joseph. It seems that so much emphasis is placed on Joseph that usually people mention Christ but discuss Joseph.

    OTOH, I don’t know any LDS faithful that would say they worship Joseph. I never felt like I worshiped Joseph but to an outsider, it might have appeared that way.

  12. MT,
    Thanks for the link. I’m not sure what to think about that. Someone must have been asleep on the job at BYU. Hopefully, this was a one time thing (I think it probably was). They probably felt justified doing it because it was the 200th year of his birth and that just happens to come a few days before December 25th, oddly enough, so they combined the two celebrations. I guess it’s a lot like Christians combining the celebration of Christ’s birth with pagan symbols like the Christmas tree. No I’m not saying that Joseph Smith is a pagan symbol, just combining two beliefs together is very common even among orthodox Christians:)

    You’re right!

    In the broadest sense of the word we do worship Joseph Smith. Most members don’t think of worship in that way though. We worship Christ because we take sacrament and perform other rituals in his name – we don’t do this for JS. We do at times place too much emphasis on JS and not enough on Christ. I think having a two year manual about JS might not be helpful in mollifying critics on this point.

  13. Jay

    You are probably right. Here in the UK we sometimes refer to Londoners as “orbitally challenged” because they don’t seem to see beyond the M25 motorway, or orbital ring road that surrounds them. Maybe the guys at BYU didn’t look beyond their immediate idea and that is a real danger in these things.

    Here in Wales, where I am specifically, the great name in preaching was Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones and people still hang on every word of “the good doctor”. In N. Ireland the sense of respect for Ian Paisley is the same. However, there is a difference with JS it seems to me, and it has to do with the claim made in the tableau and many other places, i.e. it all started with Joseph Smith. It seems to give him a place in Mormon lore that is unparalleled in any other place I know of and makes him unassailable and beyond criticism.

    I know that Mormons don’t worship JS, but I am aware of a sense that the veneration they have for him is not altogether healthy and shuts down honest discussion and inquiry and that is a shame. As you are demonstrating here, the end of the world doesn’t follow such honesty.

  14. I know that Mormons don’t worship JS, but I am aware of a sense that the veneration they have for him is not altogether healthy and shuts down honest discussion and inquiry and that is a shame.

    I agree, it is the same veneration that LDS members have for all the prophets that makes it hard to have honest discussions about their lives. I think it also has a lot to do with the heavy emphasis on not “speaking ill of the Lord’s anointed” within the LDS Church. Members feel that if they point out any character flaw or misstatement of prophets or leaders that this is somehow speaking evil of them. IMO, that is just not so. It simply reminds us that they are mortal beings just like ourselves.

  15. I think this is a great quote by Van Hale that I completely agree with:

    As a believing Mormon who is also a
    historian, I confess that I worry about
    those who learn about all the mistakes and
    suddenly find themselves on the verge of
    apostasy. What is the basis of their faith?
    Is it some mythological or idyllic concept
    that in some strange way Mormon prophets
    are totally immune from error? That
    kind of faith is, of course, easily torn to
    shreds. But I still believe that most Mormons
    are mature and rational enough to
    recognize that even Church leaders, including
    Joseph Smith and his successors,
    are human and that neither God nor his
    prophets have ever claimed that they were
    above making mistakes.

    As a believing historian, however, I also
    feel some deep concerns for my students
    in terms of what impressions they may be
    receiving. As I look at all that has been
    written about Joseph Smith among the
    Mormons, I find a myriad of miscellaneous,
    sometimes even misleading or erroneous,
    images being created. I am almost
    as concerned about this tendency as
    I am about the penchant of others to debunk,
    for I think it could create some unrealistic
    expectations in my students and,
    in the long run, set them up to be hurt.

  16. I think it could create some unrealistic
    expectations in my students and,
    in the long run, set them up to be hurt.

    Exactly my point! Thanks for sharing the quote Ben.

    I still believe that most Mormons
    are mature and rational enough to
    recognize that even Church leaders, including
    Joseph Smith and his successors,
    are human and that neither God nor his
    prophets have ever claimed that they were
    above making mistakes.

    I think it is optimistic to believe that most members have this type of mature faith. I know I didn’t; even though if you were to ask me I would have freely admitted prophets aren’t perfect. However, my previous understanding of prophets not being “perfect” meant that they could on occasion get upset or commit a sin of omission. Being a racist, marrying other mens’ wives, and lying about important subjects like polygamy were not what I expected! I think most members hold the prophet to a higher standard than that. When that standard is challenged, watch out! They will either mature rapidly or leave the Church.

    And did I miss something or did Van Hale say that God can make mistakes? That troubles me a little. I really like Van Hale, but there are a few times I wonder about his reasoning.

    Thanks again Ben!

  17. I think you are right. The way we talk about and view prophets needs to be different. I don’t think it’s easy to teach this to children. My first exposure was at a bioethics class at BYU, when we covered “When is a Prophet’s words scripture?” I had previously thought, always. But that class opened some doors for me, and showed me that the correct answer was, between sometimes to very rarely depending on one’s view.

    And anything JS did was not as bad as some prophets of the Bible. Elisha had some bears kill some kids for calling him bald. Polyandry doesn’t seem so bad in comparision 🙂

    And Van Hale at least opined that God never said He didn’t make mistakes. (It is kind of a weird comment). There are passages in the Old Testament where God repents of thoughts/deeds.

  18. There are passages in the Old Testament where God repents of thoughts/deeds.

    Ah, but I believe the JST corrects that error:) How can a perfect being repent, doesn’t make much sense.

    Polyandry doesn’t seem so bad in comparision

    LOL! Maybe not, but then again many things in the OT make polyandry look like a cake walk and I think those things are wrong too.

    The polyandry of JS, if you accept the apologist version (which could be true), was only for after this life. This explanation makes sense given the Mormon doctrine (I don’t even know what that is anymore) of eternal families. However, if anyone is ever able to show he fathered children by those married women I would have a serious problem with it. To date no one has despite some very good attempts to do so.

    Thanks again Ben, you sound like someone I could get along with.

  19. Thanks, same to you.

    I’ve always been an “inspired commentary” JST type of guy, but I’ll have to look those up.

    That’s the version of polyandry that I can live with. History/Science (as with many things in the church) will have a hard time definitively proving or disproving much that dwells in the realm of faith/religion.

  20. My understanding is that there are potentially 1000’s of descendants of JS that have yet to have their DNA tested to see if they are biologically related to him. Sooner or later this will happen and then we will have a better understanding of what kind of polyandry Joseph was living. For now I give him the benefit of the doubt. I really hope the apologists are right on this one.

  21. My first exposure was at a bioethics class at BYU, when we covered “When is a Prophet’s words scripture?”

    What was your major at BYU? Mine was Zoology. I also took that Bioethics class. It was one of the best classes I took at BYU. It was there that I found out it was OK for Mormons to believe in evolution as well as that a prophet isn’t always inspired by God (though still I had no idea how true that was).

  22. Yep, that’s the class. It was awesome. It should be a required class. Evolution topics were great (I had a bad experience with a seminary teacher on the topic.)
    Prophet inspiration topics were great–they rang very true.

    I was a philosophy major. I’m an MD now. Are you PdDing in something?

  23. What’s PdDing?

  24. Typo. PhD. Sorry. Your about me page says you are in grad school, with the zoo major I figured you might be going for the PhD in something.

  25. I sent you an email.

  26. Do LDS members really worship Joseph Smith?

    Yes, they do, because anyone who has the courage to admit it is quickly shunned as a critic.

    Take for example the persistent belief that Joseph Smith, Jr. was the Holy Grail.

    This is what I would call “worshipping Joseph Smith as greater than other humans.”

    It’s hardly possible to think of Joseph as human when you have a false indoctrination that he is the proxy of Jesus Christ.

    Joseph Smith sought to reach the level of Grail King and appoint two of his sons as the foretold two Grail Kings that would rule the earth for a thousand years of peace. New Jerusalem and old Jerusalem belong to the two Grail Kings according to the scriptures. However, Joseph Smith was quickly struck dead and his son David was cursed by God, and David who was chosen by Joseph Smith to be the future king of Jerusalem, the new King David, the Lord’s proxy on earth, but David was cursed by God and lived out the rest of his life and died in the asylum. Yes, it is a blind faith and foolish worship of Joseph Smith when you cannot admit that he disobeyed God, and was struck down by God.

    Whenever you try to bring up the evidence, the members of the church are quick to brand you as evil.

    Take for example my case, when I reveal the evidence that Jesus had many children, according to the LDS prophets, I don’t have any problem revealing this to other Mormons, for example:

    When talking about the possibility of their being literal children of Jesus Christ we have the following by the LDS Church Brethren:

    Brigham Young (2nd Pres. of the Mormon Church) stated: “The Scripture says that He, the LORD, came walking in the Temple, with HIS TRAIN; I do not know who they were, unless HIS WIVES AND CHILDREN: . . .”(Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, page 309)

    Now, while many agree with Prophet Brigham Young about Jesus having children, one who think that we could find traces among the people, claiming to be literal descendants of Jesus of Gamala in Galilee.

    But whenever you bring up the topic that someone in the church else besides Joseph Smith is the literal descendant of Jesus Christ, then the members no longer believe that Jesus had other “children”, but that Jesus only had the lineage of Joseph Smith, Jr..

    Therefore, do LDS members really worship Joseph Smith? I think they do, because they think that only Joseph Smith is a direct descendant of Jesus Christ.

    However, there is no historical evidence to prove that this was so. Joseph Smith can only trace his line back to Robert Smith.

    Know that I have been able to trace lineage back to a Robert Smith also, but this proves nothing at all that I am a descendent of Jesus Christ.

    Anyway, one would think that Joseph Smith would have been related to all the lineages of the Holy Grail. For example, we know that lineage of Jesse was taken to Zarahemla (near the city of Antigua, Guatemala, the Chimaltenango Valley), his name was Mulek, the son of Zedekiah the last King of Jerusalem who was a descendant of Jesse.

    However Prophet Joseph Smith never had family that came from or lived in Guatemala, so why would it be unreasonable to think that God has been mixing the same bloodline of Jesse over and over again? One would think that if Joseph Smith was of the lineage of Jesse that he would have family down in Guatemala, but he doesn’t.

    Now, I have family down in Guatemala, and they own houses in Antigua, Guatemala, which is the oldest Spaniard city in America, so if we are taking points, Joseph has 1 point for Robert Smith in southern east England, and I have 2 points in my favor, for I have Robert Smith in southern east England, and family down in where Mulek lived.

    Now, one who think that if Joseph Smith were the Holy Grail his family coat of arms on this father and mother side would have some evidence to back this belief up, but Joseph Smith has nothing.

    However, I have two coat of arms, my father has the lion of Judah as its crest, and the Latin motto that says that my DNA is Christ! “Crux – Hereditas – Mea” (Christ – Heritage – Mine), and my mother’s coat of arm has the Emperor’s Black Eagle on a gold field, this the most noblest charge you can have on a coat of arms, there is no more honorable item on a coat of arms than the Emperor’s Eagle, and that is on my mother, this Emperor’s proves that my mother is a direct descendent of the King of Ephraim. And the lion arms of King David is further proof that my father is a direct descendant of King David. So the tally is not Joseph Smith 1 point, and Joshua Israel Gemmell 4 points.

    Now, Joseph Smith was a Freemason, and he was told by God that their teaching were true but had been corrupted, so the Prophet Joseph Smith work to fix the teachings of the Freemasonry, and he then incorporated some of the Freemasonry teachings within the LDS Temple works. One would think that if Joseph Smith was the Holy Grail, his family would have had some involvement with Freemasonry in past, right? Prophet Joseph Smith has none, but my family, the Gemmell Family of Dunlop Temple (Templehouse) was discovered recently by A.J. Morton to have been the family who founded Freemasonry, yes, my family founded the first Mother Lodge of Freemasonry in the world, at Kilwinning Abbey. Now, Kilwinning Abbey was built in 1040 AD to house the artifacts that were found under the Temple Mount at Jerusalem by the Knights Templar, and my family’s ancestral home was called Mount Heredom, and my family ancestral home is the Holy House of Freemasonry.

    There was a prophecy of the coming of “One Mighty and Strong” who would set in order the House of God, but it’s not the priesthood or LDS Temples, but the Holy House of Freemasonry that needs to be set in order.

    Now, the tally is Joseph Smith 1, and Joshua Gemmell 4 points + 1 point for having founded Freemasonry, and another point for having a direct connection with the Holy Grail artifacts of 1040 AD, so my tally is now 6 points, so far I am winning.
    Now, there are many more points, I can give you, but what would all this lead? I will tell you, it will bring up jealousy in most Mormons, and they will feel offended that I can be more Holy Grail than their Prophet Joseph Smith.

    But I will tell that when I was a young man, I prayed to God to send the next king of Israel to my family, and God answered my prayer and he was born in June 1979. Now, how many points should I get for this event?

    When the child was born, in the south, over a thousand miles away from Salt Lake City, Utah, do you know what happened? The LDS Prophet Kimball, sent a group of men to bless the child, they would not allow for anyone to touch the child until they had a special meeting with the Bishop, Stake President, and other leaders of the ward. These men that came from Salt Lake City to bless the child said, “We have come to bless the child for he is special unto God and has a mission to do for the world.” And after the child was blessed all the elders of the ward wanted to know who’s child this was for never in the history of the LDS church has child been given such great blessings as the blessing that were given to that child, for they even gave him the power of God in this right hand! And he can get anything he wants from God by prayer alone! Yes, how many points to I get now?

    However, whenever anyone in the LDS church hears what happened, they quickly get offended that Prophet Joseph wasn’t the Holy Grail lineage. So, do they worship Joseph Smith, I think they do, and I am in the position to prove it, for they treat me like the Holy Grail lineage, and I am.

    I remember once asking God to send fire down the sky. Yes, I told God that if I was of his lineage, and if I was a prophet, then to allow fire to come down from the sky, and instantly a bluish-green fireball came down within feet of me. So, what must I do to get the Mormons to consider that my family is the family of Christ? I have lost count of all the signs, and my whole life goes unmatched by anyone in the LDS Church, and in the world. Many things have transpired, many signs have followed, and David will be 33 in 2012, and continue where Jesus left off at his age of 33, and continue the mission to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. So, I will stop for now, for the Spirit restraints me from revealing more, but just know that on the day that David was born, even the stars in heaven formed a perfect 3D Star of David, with the earth in the center! And this never happened to David the son of Joseph Smith.

    Now, Joseph Smith is related to me, so the church cannot speak evil of me without speaking evil of Joseph Smith. But all the proof of the Holy Grail is in my family, yes, Gemmell comes from the third letter of the Hebrew alphabet ‘gimel’, which means ‘camel’. And Jesus lived in Gamala, and Gamala means ‘camel’, and when Jesus went to visit his kinfolks in Avalon, he first landed at the river Camel. And even Camel-ot which deals with the Holy Grail legends has “camel” in it. Yes, it is easy to see how my family came to be called the family of Gamala, then Orm Gamal, the Gemmill, and then Gemmell, because we were from Gamala, where the royal family of King David went into exile.

    So, yes, the church does worship Joseph Smith, and some fractions which have broken off the main branch, even think that Joseph Smith was the Holy Ghost!

    Now, I love Joseph Smith, but he wasn’t the Holy Grail, but the Mormons will reject everything I have said, until they see me standing next to King David in 2012. Yes, something is very wrong when the Mormons are not lead of the Holy Ghost, who teaches all things, but only believe that the Prophet at the head of the church must first reveal it to them that I speak the truth. Empty vessels of the Holy Ghost they are! And those that know that I speak the truth, and keep quiet, shall the Lord reject them, for the Lord said, “Whosoever reject the least of my brethren (Gemmell family), has rejected me.” But don’t worry I shall forgive them in 2012, and ask the Lord to have mercy upon them.

    Joshua Israel Gemmell

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