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Is Joseph Smith Greater than Jesus Christ?

Mormons teach that Jesus isn't the authority on who gets into heaven, but Joseph Smith.

Can you explain to me how one of your leaders, Brigham Young stated in the Journal of Discourses Vol 7 Page 289 "no man or woman in this dispensation will ever inter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith."  This clearly goes against scripture because in John 14:6 Jesus responds to Thomas by stating that "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me you would know my Father as well."  If you truly believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God then how can you possibly believe that Joseph Smith has authority of equality with Jesus or above Jesus.

Joseph Smith Boasted he was greater than Jesus Christ!

W. John Walsh
Stephen R. Gibson
Mike D. Parker

by W. John Walsh

Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus is truly the Only Begotten Son of God.   We consider Joseph Smith to be a Prophet of God and Apostle of Jesus Christ similar to those men mentioned in the Bible like Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, and John. Latter-day Saints do not worship Joseph Smith or consider him to be equal to Christ.  He is simply a servant of Christ, called to the holy ministry by Jesus himself, despite his mortal imperfections. 

(See Do Mormons Woship Joseph Smith?; Teachings About Jesus Christ home page; The Prophet Joseph Smith home page)

by Stephen R. Gibson

The detractors are referring to a statement Joseph Smith delivered in Nauvoo, Illinois, in May, 1844, shortly before his death. It is true that he was boasting, having patterned his address after a talk by Paul recorded in 2 Corinthians chapter 11. In that sermon, Paul the Apostle was doing some boasting of his own to the Gentiles. Joseph Smith picked up on Paul's theme when he said,

I have more to boast of than 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 work as I (History of the Church, Vol.6, pp. 408-09).

While we aren't sure this is a completely accurate quote, let us assume that it is. Detractors read into this statement that the Prophet was saying he did a greater work than Jesus Christ. Considering the entire text and the circumstance of the time, he seems to be saying only that he was able to keep the Church together better than others did, including Jesus Christ. Surely Joseph Smith would be the first to agree that keeping a church together is not a greater or a more significant work than what was done by Jesus.

There is nothing as significant as being the God of Israel, taking upon oneself the sins of the world, dying for all mankind that they might live, nor being resurrected. Surely, everlasting life is the greatest gift anyone could give.

Nevertheless, the Lord himself said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father" (John 14:12). To what greater work could the Savior be referring? Perhaps the Lord means a larger work, but certainly not more significant. For example, John the Baptist presumably baptized more people than Jesus, Paul may have converted more as a missionary, Moses led more Israelites out of bondage, Noah built a bigger ship, and Joseph Smith kept the Church together longer.

The point should be clear: if greater means quantity, there are many who fulfilled the Savior's promise that his followers would do "greater works," and this includes Joseph Smith.

One Minute Answers, p. 65-66
Copyright by Horizon

by Mike D. Parker

I will address this by first discussing our belief in Jesus Christ, then the issue of prophetic authority, and finally the subject of Joseph Smith and the final judgment.

Jesus Christ: Our Lord and Savior

Let me state unequivocally that Latter-day Saints believe and accept the ultimate authority of and salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh, and the only Being through whom we can be saved:

The Book of Mormon echoes the message of the Bible, urging us to:

And reminding us that:

On page after page, the Book of Mormon testifies of the divinity and completeness of the atonement of Jesus Christ. As Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recently said,

Joseph Smith's later revelations confirmed and reemphasized Christ's central and overriding position in our doctrine:

Joseph Smith himself, in response to the question "What are the fundamental principles of your religion?" answered:

This is the principal and primary message of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and our scriptures and the words of our leaders and members proclaim it loudly! While a selective reading from antagonistic sources might make it seem otherwise, an honest and complete reading of Latter-day Saint literature cannot help but bear this out.

The role of prophets

As I just stated, the Savior is preeminent in our faith. Latter-day Saints also accept the witness and authority of prophets sent by Christ.

All men and women must accept the testimony of the prophets to receive salvation. Why? Christ himself left no written testimony—we only have information about him through the word of the prophets and apostles.

The scriptures testify that accepting the testimonies of the prophets is the first step to accepting Christ. The Savior declared to his apostles:

He also warned of the grave consequences of rejecting the apostles' testimony:

The apostle Peter, recalling his experience at the Mount of Transfiguration,7 wrote:

Peter's testimony is critical to our understanding of the divinity of Jesus Christ, because it is through him that we learn about the marvelous event on that mountain where the Father bore record of the Son. Likewise, John the Beloved is our primary source of majestic teachings of Jesus at the Last Supper, including the incomparable Great Intercessory Prayer.8

Amos taught the importance of prophets by declaring that:

Joseph Smith explained:

Following this teaching, Latter-day Saints believe that the history of the world has been marked by one gospel dispensation after another. In this pattern, the Lord reveals his will to a prophet (or prophets), who then share their witness with the people. If the people listen to and heed the prophet's message, the Lord then establishes his covenant with them—he will be their God and they will be his people.10 The prophets are given the "keys," or authority, to administer this covenant and its ordinances to the people.11

Invariably throughout history, though, God's people eventually fall away, breaking their covenant with him and pursuing false teachings and ideologies. Isaiah described the condition of Israel thus:

Fortunately the Lord is merciful, and after a periods of apostasy he has always reestablished his covenant. He promised Jeremiah:

This cycle of restoration-apostasy-restoration has been at work since the beginning of time. The Lord revealed his will to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others, each of whom headed up their own respective dispensation of the gospel.

During his mortal ministry, Jesus Christ established the "new covenant" prophesied by Jeremiah,12 which opened a new and great dispensation.13 Paul called this era "the dispensation of the grace of God" (Ephesians 3:2), and declared that he was a minister of it (Colossians 1:25).

Paul also prophesied that there would be a final dispensation, one to come after the time of the New Testament church. This would be the "dispensation of the fulness of times" during which the Lord would "gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him" (Ephesians 1:10).14

Peter called this last dispensation "the times of restitution of all things," following which the Lord himself would return (Acts 3:20-21).

Latter-day Saints believe that Joseph Smith was the prophet chosen by the Lord to usher in this last dispensation. As with former prophets, Joseph was given the "keys," or authority, to administer God's covenant and ordinances, to reveal the will of the Lord, and to reestablish Christ's church.

Joseph Smith was the last in a long succession of prophets who received a dispensation of the gospel. Down through time, each of these prophets was commissioned by Christ, each of them holding the keys to exercise the authority of God for their dispensation. Adam, the first prophet, presides over all the dispensations under authority from Christ (D&C 107:55). Joseph Smith described this "chain of command":

But while each prophet holds the keys for his respective dispensation, only one Person holds all the keys of all dispensations—the Lord Jesus Christ:

Joseph Smith clearly taught:

With this background in mind, let us proceed to the subject you raised.

Joseph Smith and the final judgment

Both the Bible and other Latter-day Saint scriptures testify that all people will one day stand before Christ to be judged.17

However the scriptures also speak of Christ giving others the authority to execute judgment at this Last Day:

From these verses we learn that Christ's twelve apostles will "sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Even beyond that, we are told that "judgment [is] given to the saints of the most High"—Christ's covenant people—and that the saints "shall judge the world," and not just the world but angels also.

So in regard to the great and final judgment, the scriptures make plain the fact that others, under authority from Christ the Lord, will exercise judgment upon all mankind and angels.

When Christ visited the people of the Book of Mormon after his resurrection, he called twelve Nephite disciples to lead and teach the people. Previous to this, around 600 B.C., the prophet Nephi was shown a vision of these twelve and also the twelve apostles who would minister in Jerusalem:

Based on these and other scriptures, LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie summarized:

A very precise treatment of this subject came from John Taylor, the third president of LDS Church:

President Taylor describes an organized structure, set up by Jesus Christ for the purpose of carrying out the final judgment. Note how he says that the authority and final decision is "in the hands, firstly, of the Great High Priest and King, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God," after which each group holding the keys of their own dispensation will judge those who lived in their dispensation. He concludes, "it would seem to be quite reasonable . . . that the First Presidency and Twelve who have officiated in our age, should operate in regard to mankind in this dispensation."23

Now to the statements from Brigham Young you used. You claim that "in Young's eyes [Joseph] Smith was at least as important as Jesus Christ."24 Let's review Brigham's words, keeping in mind the doctrine of judgment being given to the saints.

In this first example, I will also include the preceding paragraph, as it throws added light on the subject:

Note very carefully Brigham's language in this statement. Does he teach that Joseph Smith is at least as important as Jesus Christ is? No, nor does even imply it.

You claim that "the Bible shows us that Jesus holds the keys" [with which I agree] but "Brigham Young said that Joseph Smith holds the keys."26 According to Brigham, what keys does Joseph hold?

You claim that "in the words of Brigham Young, if you want to get into the part of the Kingdom where Jesus is—you must have the permission of Joseph Smith."27 That depends on who the "you" is to whom you refer:

As I discussed at the beginning of this letter, Doug, context is everything. Once the doctrine of judgment being given to the saints is understood, Brigham's statement falls right in line with scripture. You may not believe that Joseph Smith will be given the authority at the final judgment, but if you believe the Bible you certainly must believe that judgment will be given to Christ's followers. Brigham Young is merely extending that doctrine to include Joseph Smith, whom Brigham accepted as a follower of Christ and a prophet to whom was given a dispensation of the gospel.

You also quoted Joseph Fielding Smith to support your thesis:

I don't understand how this could be taken to mean, "Joseph Smith is as important as Jesus Christ." Joseph Fielding is merely stating a fact that even you should accept as a hypothetical—that if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God then we are required by God to believe his testimony.

Let me rephrase this last quote in a way that may help you understand its importance:

As I discussed above, the testimony of the prophets is critical to our belief in Christ. If Peter was an apostle of the Lord, then our faith in Christ rests partly in his witness, as described by himself in his epistles29 and by the authors of the Gospels. If we reject Peter's testimony, we reject the Lord who said that Peter gained that testimony by revelation from the Father (Luke 10:16; Matthew 16:15-17).

You also use another statement of Brigham Young:

First, note that Brigham sets straight the relationship between Jesus and Joseph: "Jesus is the Christ and . . . Joseph Smith is his Prophet to this generation . . ." Joseph Smith is not placed on the same level as Christ—he is clearly defined as subordinate.31

Regarding the statement as a whole, perhaps I would choose different words, but I fully accept the premise. To accept Christ we must accept what his prophets have said about him. (Remember "He that receiveth [you] receiveth me" but "he that despiseth you despiseth me"?) We cannot believe Christ without believing Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Since Christians already accept these testimonies, the next step is to accept the testimony of Joseph Smith—Jesus Christ's prophet in the last days.

Finally, you use Joseph Smith's own words against himself:

I will be first in line to admit that Joseph was perhaps getting a little worked up.34 But is it true? Is it possible that Joseph, in keeping the church together, had done a greater work than even Jesus Christ had? Jesus himself promised:

Whether or not Joseph had done a greater work is a matter of opinion. Joseph seemed to believe it, and Jesus' own words declare it could be done.

This does not mean that Joseph Smith is equal or superior to Jesus Christ! As I demonstrated earlier, we can only be saved through the holy name and atoning blood of Christ, the Only Begotten of the Father.

Doug, as I have just demonstrated, Latter-day Saints from Joseph Smith to the present day worship and revere Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer. We teach and preach that there is "no other way nor means whereby man can be saved" (Helaman 5:9). We witness that he is utterly incomparable in who He is and what He has accomplished.

In an attempt to prove otherwise you have abused your sources and have borne false witness against the Latter-day Saints.


2. Cf. 2 Nephi 31:21; Mosiah 3:17; 5:8.

3. Boyd K. Packer, "The Peaceable Followers of Christ," address given at Brigham Young University, 1 February 1998, see Ensign, vol. 28, no. 4 (April 1998), p. 65-66. Packer cites Susan Ward Easton, "Names of Christ in the Book of Mormon," Ensign, vol. 8, no. 7 (July 1978), p. 60-61.

4. Hereafter cited as D&C.

5. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Press, 1938), p. 121 (emphasis added; hereafter cited as Teachings). Joseph Smith said that he "published the foregoing [answer] to save myself the trouble of repeating the same a thousand times over and over again." (Ibid.)

6. Cf. Matthew 10:40; Luke 9:48; D&C 39:5; D&C 84:36-38, 89; 99:2; 112:20.

7. Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36.

8. John 13-17.

9. Teachings, p. 271; see also History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, edited by B. H. Roberts. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1980), 5:256-57 (hereafter cited as HC).

10. See, for example, Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 7:23; Ezekiel 36:28; 1 Nephi 17:40; D&C 42:9.

11. Matthew 16:18-19.

12. The word testament in Matthew 26:28 literally means "covenant."

13. "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days [i.e., recently] spoken unto us by his Son . . ." (Hebrews 1:1-2.)

14. Cf. D&C 27:12-13.

15. Teachings, p. 169; cf. Daniel 7:9-14. Joseph also said, "The keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent. When they are revealed from heaven, it is by Adam's authority" (Teachings, p. 157), meaning, of course, Adam's authority under Christ.

16. Teachings, p. 323 (emphasis added).

17. See, for example: John 5:22, 27; Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:12; 1 Nephi 15:32-33; Alma 11:41; Mormon 3:20; D&C 76:68; 133:50.

18. esomai, future first person singular of "to be." Compare NIV: "Peter answered him, 'We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?'"

19. Cf. D&C 29:12.

20. pragma, a matter at law, a case or lawsuit. Compare NIV: "If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?"

21. Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), vol. 1, pp. 558-59. As I will discuss later, McConkie's writing is not authoritative, but it does fairly summarize the general LDS viewpoint on this doctrine.

22. John Taylor, The Mediation and Atonement of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Company, 1882), pp. 155-57 (emphasis added).

23. On the issue of whether this concept is "official" LDS doctrine, note President Taylor's words: "who it appears are under the presidency," "seem to take the next prominent part," "This combined Priesthood, it would appear," "it would seem to be quite reasonable." It strikes me that he is couching his language very carefully so that the reader understands that this is his (Taylor's) belief as far as he understands it, and not a subject on which he has personally received direct revelation. As promised, I will deal with the subject of "official" doctrine later.

24. Doug Harris, letter to Mike Parker, 6 March 1998.

25. Journal of Discourses, 7:288-89 (emphasis added; hereafter cited as JD.) I find the last two sentences intriguing in light of our present dialogue.

26. Harris, 6 March 1998.

27. Ibid.

28. Doctrines of Salvation: Sermons and Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith, compiled by Bruce R. McConkie. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954), 1:189-90 (emphasis in the original). You miscapitalized "kingdom of god" [sic] in your letter, an error transmitted from your source—Infobases' LDS Collector's Edition CD-ROM.

29. See also Peter's testimony, preached in power and recorded by Luke in Acts 2-3. (Acts 2:32—"This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.")

30. JD 9:312.

31. Brigham Young said on another occasion, "It is his [Joseph Smith's] mission to see that all the children of men in this last dispensation are saved, that can be, through the redemption" of Jesus Christ (JD 7:289). Notice again the clear subordination of Joseph to Jesus Christ.

32. Which is true—John 6:66.

33. HC 6:408; see also The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, edited by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook. (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book Company), p. 373-74.

34. In his defense, this sermon was delivered in Nauvoo on 26 May 1844, one month before he was killed by an angry mob of over 150 anti-Mormons. At this time he and the Latter-day Saints were being constantly attacked by mobs and indicted by false accusers.

35. In your polemic against Jehovah's Witnesses you claim the meaning of greater in this verse is "quantity although not quality." Unfortunately your analysis of the Greek is flawed.
    The Greek word here is meizona, which is the adjectival, pronominal, comparative, accusative, neuter, plural form of the root word meizwn (the w representing omega or long o), which means "greater works." It represents a comparative number of things greater in value or in hierarchy than what is being compared—i.e., quality of works, not quantity. The word is used most often to compare relative greatness of things or persons compared to other persons or things. See Matthew 11:11; 12:6; Mark 4:32; 12:31; Luke 7:28; John 10:29; 13:16; 14:28; 15:20; where "greater" (meizona) is used in this fashion.
    You might have had a stronger case if the Greek word been based upon the root perissoteros. The Greek perissoteros is never used to indicate a greater quality of persons or things in the Bible—instead, it indicates more abundance of a thing or attribute rather than expressing a qualitative concept. See 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2:4; 7:13; 7:15; 11:23; 12:15; Galatians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:17; Hebrews 2:1 for examples of this usage.
    Since the Greek meizwn, rather than perissoteros, is used in the Greek text of John 14:12, this fact lends more support to the position that the works referred to by Jesus would be greater in quality, rather than more abundant in a numerical sense.
    (My thanks for D. Charles Pyle for his assistance with this analysis.)

Copyright by Mike Parker

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