The Truth About Mormonism (part 4): Oracles of the Prophets
In the previous parts of this essay, we examined the written scriptures of the LDS (latter-day saints) church, discovering the flaws in them. In this part, we will examine the spoken scriptures of the Mormon church, demonstrating that the Mormon view of Scripture is incompatible with the orthodox Christian view. We will also examine these spoken scriptures to determine their trustworthiness.
The spoken scriptures of the Mormon church are basically the words of their prophets or of the President of the Church. The Mormons accept any and every word from the mouth of their presidents and prophets as the Word of God. There need not be any “thus saith the Lord;” every word of the prophets is inspired according to Latter-day Saints. These spoken scriptures are not placed as secondary or even as equal to the written scriptures, but are rather considered to be of greater importance and authority than their written scriptures.
Brigham Young, the second president of the LDS church after Joseph Smith, is recorded as having said, “There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now, when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.” Neither is this teaching unique to Brigham Young, for Joseph Smith declared Young’s words to be “the truth” and “the Word of the Lord.”
Indeed, the LDS church takes this teaching one step further, essentially stating that the written scriptures are of little value to us and in fact do not apply to us today. “We are differently situated from any other people that ever existed upon this earth; consequently those former revelations cannot be suited to our conditions; they were given to other people, who were before us.” (History of the Church 5:22)
The teachings of Christianity could not be further from this. Rather than simply accepting the words of a mere man as the Word of God, Scripture commands men to “test the spirits, whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). Yet the Scriptures do not simply leave us with a command to “test the spirits.” Instead, they provide numerous tests for one who claims to be a prophet of the Lord.
One major test is that of fulfilled prophecy. “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously.” (Deuteronomy 18:22). With this in mind, let us examine some prophecies made by Mormon prophets and see whether they meet this criterion: whether they come to pass.
In 1835, Joseph Smith claimed: “it was the will of God that those who went to Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh—even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.” According to this prophecy, Christ should have returned more than 100 years past. Yet, as we can clearly see, Christ has still not come. This failed prophecy in itself would give excellent reason to doubt the words of Smith. And yet, it is only one of many such prophesies.
At another time, Smith said, “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.” Since that time, the United States government has given no redress and yet continues in its existence. Again, we see that Smith’s prophesy failed to come about. But Joseph Smith was not alone in his failed prophesies.
Wilford Woodruff, fourth Prophet of the LDS church, prophesied, “there are many children now living in the mountains of Israel (Utah) who will never taste death, that is, they will dwell on the earth at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Five years later, in June of 1880, he again prophesied, “We live in the generation itself when Jesus Christ will come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” That generation has all passed away and yet Christ has not yet returned. Yet another failed prophesy.
Lorenzo Snow, the fifth LDS Prophet, claimed, “There are many – hundreds and hundreds within the sound of my voice – that will live to go back to Jackson County (Missouri) and build a holy temple to the Lord our God.” In this same sermon he said, “Many of you will be living in Jackson County and there you will be assisting in building the temple.” This prophecy has yet to be fulfilled, and all those that heard this sermon have long since passed away.
These are just a few of the numerous false prophesies that have been made by the first five Mormon Prophets, following which, there have been no new prophecies by any Mormon prophet. Thus, we can see that at least the first five prophets of the Mormon church were not truly of the Lord. But what of those who proceeded after? How are we to discern, apart from the test of prophecy, whether a President of the LDS church speaks truly from the Lord?
Scripture provides yet another test for the testing of any teaching. If any teaching or dogma, creed or doctrine does not agree with previously revealed Scripture, then it is void. We see this in the example of the Bereans, who were praised as being “of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
This stands in stark contrast with the Mormon’s teaching, for they claim, as we have already seen, that the spoken scriptures are of greater importance than the written scriptures, which no longer apply to us today, having been written long ago. The Scriptures, on the other hand, claim that all new teachings are to be tested against previously revealed Scripture. Second Peter 2:16-19 demonstrates this:
“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
For Peter, the chief evidence that his words were from God was found in that his message agreed with “the prophetic word,” which he says we “do well to heed.” He does not say, “which you do well to heed…until it is outdated or until a new revelation comes along.” Instead he says we do well to heed the previous Scriptures “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,” thus speaking of our glorification and the return of Christ. Until that day, we are to test all new teachings by previously received Scripture.
Paul also speaks of this matter, saying, “even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Any revelation which is not in agreement with previous Scriptures is not from God. Indeed, he who gives this revelation is “accursed.” We would do well to remember this, not forsaking the former things but instead testing all spirits to the Words of Scripture, “which are able to make you wise for salvation.” But before we move to this, I would like to examine one further belief that the Mormons hold about their spoken scriptures.
Because Latter-day Saints place their spoken oracles above the “standard works of the church,” their spoken scriptures become the final authority on all things. There is no greater authority to which they can appeal. If one of their prophets speaks, that word is final. As was stated in the Improvement Era, official magazine of the LDS church, “Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes, whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the ‘prophets, seers, and revelators’ of the Church is cultivating the spirit of apostasy.... Lucifer ... wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to ‘do their own thinking.’ ...When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan—it is God's plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy” (emphasis added).
Because this is the stance of the Mormon church, many evils have come about, two flagrant examples being racism and polygamy. As Heber C. Kimball, first councilor to Brigham Young once wrote, “... learn to do as you are told,...if you are told by your leader to do a thing, do it, none of your business whether it is right or wrong.” (emphasis added) Why must they do this? It is because “We are commanded to give heed to their words in all things, and receive their words as from the mouth of God, in all patience and faith.” (Apostle Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses)
How different from the teachings of Scripture, which tells us “The Spiritual man makes judgments about all things.” (1 Corinthians 2:15) We ought never to simply accept the word of man, for as Jeremiah 17:5 tells us, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.” Instead, let us turn to the words of John, who writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
As we continue through this essay, we will be doing this very thing. We will “test the spirits” to see whether they are of God. Let us continue, therefore, and discover the truth about Mormonism.