I desire to say a few words here concerning prophets falling into error. Solomon, David, Saul, Uzziah and many great and gifted prophets in Israel fell into gross error, and some of them into crime. Paul said he kept his body under subjection, lest he should become a castaway, after having preached to others. Many of the Latter Day Saints believe that it is impossible for Brother Joseph to have fallen. I will give you some evidence upon this matter which I suppose you will certainly accept, showing that Brother Joseph belonged to the class of men who could fall into error and blindness. From the following you will see that Brother Joseph belonged to the weakest class — the class that were very liable to fall. I quote from a revelation which came through the stone, July, 1828. It is a revelation to Brother Joseph, chastising him for his errors after he had commenced to translate the Book of Mormon, telling him how often he had erred and transgressed the commandmants and the laws of God; telling him that if he was not aware, he would fall, and have his gift to translate taken from him. Also telling him, that although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet, if he boasts in his own strength, etc., he must fall.
“Remember, remember, that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men: for although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet, if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, HE MUST FALL and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him. Behold, you have been entrusted with these things, but how strict were your commandments; and remember, also, the promises which were made to you, if you did not transgress them, and behold, HOW OFT HAVE YOU TRANSGRESSED THE COMMANDMENTS AND THE LAWS OF GOD, and have GONE ON IN THE PERSUASIONS OF MEN; … Behold thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, (was given a gift to translate the Book) but because of transgression, IF THOU ARE NOT AWARE, THOU WILT FALL, but remember God is merciful: …. thou hast suffered the council of thy Director to be trampled upon from the beginning.”
So we see that Brother Joseph was very weak and liable to fall, even while translating the Book, the time when he should have been strong, because he was in constant communion with God. Now if he was so weak and liable to err at that time, is it any wonder that he erred in 1830, and after that time? Of course not! Ah brethren, great are the mysteries of God! His ways are not man’s ways. He chooses the weak things of earth — weak men — so that man should not put his trust in man and make flesh his arm, but put his trust in God only, and rely upon that which is written. God put man on the earth to be a free agent unto himself, to choose and discern between good and evil, between truth and error in doctrine. It is necessary for man to be tempted and tried in every way conceivable, in order for him to prove himself, and overcome every snare, device, and stumbling-block of satan, to fit him for a higher state of happiness hereafter. You know the Scriptures teach that Satan’s devices may appear as an Angel of Light; for instance, a false doctrine being revealed to a prophet who gives it to a church as if it came from God. When the devices of Satan do appear in this way, every man who is not living sufficiently humble to have a good portion of God’s Spirit to detect the error, is led into believing it: and it is justice in God’s wisdom that he should be thus led, because of his not living as he should live so as to have more of the Holy Ghost.
Now you have thought that because Brother Joseph was given a gift to translate the Book, that he could not fall into error; and you worship and give credit to the man, when all the credit is due to God. You should think of this matter. Brother Joseph did not write a word of the Book of Mormon; it was already written by holy men of God who dwelt upon this land. God gave to Brother Joseph the gift to see the sentences in English, when he looked into the hat in which was placed the stone. Oliver Cowdery had the same gift at one time. Now when we look at it aright, the fact of Brother Joseph having the gift to translate the Book, is that any reason why you should put any more trust in him than any other man? Not at all. Is that any reason why he should be a man who could not fall? Not at all. As you see from what the Lord told him, he was very weak man, and liable to fall even while translating the Book. “How oft have you transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men. … If thou art not aware thou wilt fall. … Thou hast suffered the counsel of thy Director to be trampled upon from the beginning. … Thou wilt again be called to the work; and except thou do this (repent) thou shalt be delivered up and become as other men, and have no more gift.” (To translate.) I give you my testimony that the Lord had to chastise Brother Joseph time and again, as a father would a disobedient child, to help him through the translation of the Book. God knows that I do not mean to persecute Brother Joseph. As I have said, I loved him. I am not crying him down or preaching self-righteousness, but I desire to get you to comprehend the sin of trusting in an arm of flesh, by receiving Brother Joseph’s revelations as if they were from God’s own mouth, when some of his revelations conflict with the teachings of Christ in the two sacred books. I tell you brethren, you are trusting in an arm of flesh and being in blindness you cannot see it.
I will now pass over a recital of the errors which came into the church by revelation from time to time, and speak of them hereafter. I desire to speak here on the subject of polygamy. A few years ago I had doubts in regard to Brother Joseph’s connection with the Spiritual Wife doctrine, but I have recently seen Vol. I, No. 1, of the old Latter Day Saints Herald, which has settled this matter in my mind. The great majority of the Reorganized Church do not believe that Brother Joseph received the revelation on polygamy. I will say to them, that on their account it is with reluctance that I speak upon this subject; but on account of the honest in heart who have not yet read and believed the Book of Mormon, it is not with reluctance that I speak of it. I believe that this matter of polygamy is to-day the great stumbling-block to many who would accept the Book of Mormon, but they cannot understand how the Book could be true, if Joseph Smith received that revelation on polygamy. The fact cannot be denied that the world (with very few exceptions outside of the Reorganized Church) believes firmly that Brother Joseph received that revelation, or that he taught and practiced polygamy near the close of his life in Nauvoo. Now, on account of honest enquirers as to the truth of the Book of Mormon, it is necessary that I speak upon this matter. I am constantly receiving letters of inquiry as to my belief and knowledge concerning the question of polygamy. I have also another important reason for speaking upon this subject: There are false doctrines of importance in the book of Doctrine and Covenants, and I desire to prove them false doctrines, and get you to lay them aside and believe only what Christ taught and meant for us to believe. This was Christ’s mission into the world. It is the mission of all the servants of God; to root out all false doctrine and error. So do not think that I mean to persecute you, or that I am striving for the mastery.
If Brother Joseph received the revelation on polygamy and gave it to the church, the book of Doctrine and Covenants must be laid down, because the commandment is, “His word ye shall receive as if from mine (God’s) own mouth.” Then you must receive the revelation on polygamy, or else you must lay aside the Doctrine and Covenants:
For his word (all of his word) ye shall receive as if from God’s own mouth.
I now have as much evidence to believe that Brother Joseph received the revelation on polygamy and gave it to the church, as I have to believe that such a man as George Washington ever lived. I never saw General Washington, but from reliable testimony I believe that he did live.
I have the evidence regarding this revelation, that is recorded in Vol. 1, No. 1, Latter Day Saints’ Herald; being evidence from your own side, which you are bound to accept. It is the evidence of some of the leaders of the Reorganization in the beginning, some of whom were with Brother Joseph in Nauvoo up to the time of his death. These articles appeared in the first number that was ever printed of the Saint’s Herald. This number of the Herald is very scarce now: they seem to have been hid away and destroyed. I see that when the Reorganized Church was established, the fact that Joseph received this revelation was then known and acknowledged in editorials in the Herald. The reason why these articles were written in the Herald, was to explain why the Reorganized Church rejected the revelation received by Brother Joseph on polygamy, and to explain that he repented of his connection with polygamy just previous to this death.
As time rolled on, many of the Reorganization saw that to continue to acknowledge that Brother Joseph received this revelation, would bring bitter persecution upon themselves, as the public feeling at that time was very bitter. Will God approve of a church being built up upon representations of the innocence of Joseph Smith regarding polygamy, if he is not innocent in matter? Nay, verily! And I tell you that the efforts of the Reorganized Church in this regard have not been acceptable to God! He does not want any truth covered up. The inspired writers did not try to hide the polygamy of David and Solomon. Their transgressions do not make the Psalms and Proverbs untrue, neither do the errors of Joseph make the Book of Mormon untrue. God does not want any one in the church whose faith is so weak that he stumbles because of the transgressions of any man or men. Our faith and trust must be in God, and not in any man! I hope you understand this. It is the secret of your trouble. All of you believe the revelations of Joseph Smith as if they were from the mouth of God. You should have acknowledged belief in the errors of Joseph Smith, and not tried to hide them when there is so much evidence that he did go into error and blindness; you should have explained by the scriptures how that many of the prophets of old did the same thing, but that does not make the Book of Mormon untrue. There is abundant scripture to make his question very clear to any one. The leaders of the Reorganized Church, after a time, began to suppress their opinions concerning this matter. They would answer the question when asked about it, “I do not know whether Joseph Smith received that revelation or not.” This was a truthful but evasive answer, as it was not a matter of knowledge, except with a few. All, or nearly all, of the pioneers of the Reorganization who were living in Nauvoo in 1843 and 1844 have now passed away, and you see what time has done in this regard. To-day nearly all of the Reorganization do not believe that Brother Joseph received that revelation on polygamy, or ever had any connection whatever with the doctrine of polygamy, openly and firmly denying this fact; some through ignorance, and some who should not be so ignorant about this matter. They charge it all to Brigham Young. Now, all honest men will understand, after they have read this pamphlet through, that I am doing God’s will in bringing the truth to light concerning the errors of Brother Joseph. They will see that it is necessary, as he is the man who introduced many doctrines of error into the Church of Christ; and his errors must be made manifest and the truth brought to light, in order that all Latter Day Saints shall cease to put their trust in this man, believing his doctrines as if they were from the mouth of God.
I quote from Volume 1, Number 1, of The True Latter Day Saints Herald, page 24, from an article written by Isaac Sheen, who was a leader in establishing the Reorganization.
“The Salt Lake apostles also excuse themselves by saying that Joseph Smith taught the spiritual wife doctrine, but this excuse is as weak as their excuse concerning the ancient kings and patriarchs. Joseph Smith repented of his connection with this doctrine, and said that it was of the devil. He caused the revelation on that subject to be burned, and when he voluntarily came to Nauvoo and resigned himself into the arms of his enemies, he said that he was going to Carthage to die. At that time he also said that, if it had not been for that accursed spiritual wife doctrine, he would not have come to that. By his conduct at that time he proved the sincerity of his repentance, and of his profession as a prophet. If Abraham and Jacob by repentance can obtain salvation and exaltation, so can Joseph Smith.”
Here we have Isaac Sheen’s testimony as follows: That Joseph Smith did have connection with this spiritual wife doctrine; that he repented of it just before his death, having come to the conclusion that the revelation was not of God, but was of the devil; and he caused the revelation to be burned. Brother Sheen does not state how long Brother Joseph had connection with this doctrine, but of course we suppose from the time the revelation was given, July 12, 1843, until the time of his repentance just before his death, in June, 1844; at which time he concluded that the revelation was not of God, but was of the devil, and caused it to be burned, voluntarily giving himself up to his enemies, saying he was going to Carthage to die.
I will now quote from the same number of the Herald, page 8. It is an editorial, being the second article in the first number of the paper.
“This adulterous spirit (polygamy) had captivated their hearts and they desired a license from God to lead away captive the fair daughters of His people, and in this state of mind they came to the Prophet Joseph (not Brigham Young). Could the Lord do anything more or less than what Ezekiel hath prophesied (answer a prophet according to his iniquity). The Lord hath declared by Ezekiel what kind of an answer he would give them, therefore he answered them according to the multitude of their idols; (giving them an answer through Joseph — the revelation on polygamy; and Joseph gave the revelation to them — the church). Paul had also prophesied that for this cause ‘God shall send them strong delusion, that they shall believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.’ Both these prophecies agree. In Ezekiel’s prophecy the Lord also says, ‘I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet (or, allowed the prophet to be deceived because of his iniquity — W), and I will stretch out my hand upon him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity; the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him; that the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord God.’ We have here the facts as they have transpired, and as they will continue to transpire in relation to this subject. The death of the prophet is one fact that has been realized; although he abhorred and repented of this iniquity before his death.”
Here we have also the testimony of the editor of the Herald.
On page 22, in the same number of the Herald, is an article of like testimony, by Wm. Marks, who, as he states in his article, was Presiding Elder at Nauvoo in 1844, when Brother Joseph was killed, and was with Brother Joseph up to his death. His testimony is the same as that given in the two foregoing articles.
He states that Brother Joseph said to him just before his death, concerning polygamy as follows: “He (Joseph) said it eventually would prove the overthrow of the church, and we should soon be obliged to leave the United States unless it could be speedily put down. He was satisfied that it was a cursed doctrine, and that there must be every exertion made to put it down, etc.”
The reader will please notice this fact in regard to Wm. Marks’ statement; and that is the time when Brother Joseph told him that polygamy must be put down in the church. The time when Brother Joseph said this to Wm. Marks, was just before his (Joseph’s) death. Polygamy had then been in the church almost a year, and it was just before his death that Brother Joseph saw that polygamy was a cursed doctrine, and repented of his connection with that doctrine — believing then that the revelation was not of God, but was of the devil — and he then caused the revelation to be burned.
The foregoing evidence is sufficient to convince any one that Brother Joseph received the revelation on polygamy; that he gave the doctrine to the church; that he had connection with this spiritual wife doctrine himself; and afterwards became convinced that this revelation was of the devil, and repented of this iniquity just before his death.
Now brethren of the Reorganization, you must accept this revelation on polygamy, or else you must lay aside the book of Doctrine and Covenants; for the commandment is, His word ye shall receive as if from God’s own mouth. Words would not come from God to practice polygamy, and after his people had practiced it for some time, then the word come that the revelation was of the Devil, and to repent of it. So we see that the commandment to receive Brother Joseph’s words as if from God’s own mouth was false. Now, this commandment is in the revelation given April 6, 1830, the revelation for Brother Joseph to be ordained Seer to the Church. Now, can you not see that this revelation for Brother Joseph to be ordained Seer to the Church was false? Of course it was. There is no doubt about it. “Some revelations are of God; some revelations are of man; and some revelations are of the Devil.” This is what God gave us through the stone in 1829 as I have before stated, for a warning to us all. The revelation given through Brother Joseph as mouthpiece on April 6, 1830, that he should be ordained Seer to the Church, after God had commanded him that He would grant him no other gift but to translate the Book of Mormon, I give you my testimony brethren that this revelation is not of God.
Now, how can you place full confidence in the revelations in the book of Doctrine and Covenants?
Why, oh! why is it that you will continue to trust in an arm of flesh? Why will you cling to Joseph Smith, who was only a man, and believe all his revelations as if they were from God’s own mouth? Joseph Smith cannot save you in eternity! Cease to trust in him or in any other man; turn away from man entirely, and do not consider any man, but look to God and to his written word, for BY IT shall you be judged at the last day, and not by the book of Doctrine and Covenants.
If Christ did not mean for Brother Joseph to be ordained a Seer to the church, it is a most serious error. If Christ did not mean for three first presidents to be ordained in his church, it is a most serious error to have ordained them. If Christ did not mean for high priests to be ordained in his church, it is a most serious error to have ordained them. If Christ did not mean for the doctrine of “baptism for the dead” to be an ordinance in his church, it is a serious error. If you are in error concerning the “gathering” and building the city New Jerusalem, it is a serious error. If Christ did not mean for them to change the name which he gave the church in 1829, it is a serious error; and likewise other errors taught in the book of Doctrine and Covenants; as the doctrine of revenge — cursing one’s enemies in the name of the Lord; etc. For the Salt Lake church, I will also add, the doctrine of polygamy and other doctrines which are not to be found in the teachings of Christ. So you see that if you are in error in taking the book of Doctrine and Covenants as the law of God to the church, you are in many grave and serious errors. The object of this epistle is to show you that you are in serious error in taking that book as a law of God to the church; and that God’s law is all contained in the written word — the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
Concerning the matter, if Joseph Smith received the revelation on polygamy, how can the Book of Mormon be true? I must say that all who stumble because of the errors of Joseph Smith, are weak indeed. It is on this account, and on account of the transgressions of some who have believed the Book of Mormon, that the world will not read and investigate as to the truth of that book, which claims to be the word of God to this generation. All those who reject it on this account should also reject the Psalms and Proverbs, because of David and Solomon’s connection with polygamy. In the first place, the revelation on polygamy did not come by the same means as did the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon was translated from golden plates by the gift and power of God, by means prepared of God — the stone of which I have spoken. Soon after Brother Joseph finished the translation, he gave up the stone, and all his revelations after that — including the one on polygamy — he gave by his own mouth. The revelation on polygamy was given fourteen years after the translation of the Book of Mormon, and after Brother Joseph had drifted into error and blindness. As I have stated, the scriptures are plain concerning the matter of a prophet or any man once chosen of God, being afterwards deceived and led into error.
When a prophet, or any other man, prays to God and asks wisdom concerning a matter, his conscience will reveal an answer to him just according to the desires of his heart. If his desires are in any way carnal, he being deceived, an answer will be revealed to him accordingly; and he will think it is the revealed will of God. Satan reveals his will to a man, mixed with much truth and scripture in order to deceive him, and makes it appear as an Angel of Light. (2 Corinthians xi:14.,) “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an Angel of Light.” This is a mystery to a great many people, but only to those who are weak and have need of milk that they may grow in spiritual knowledge to understand the word of God. It is Satan who deceives the man, but God permits it because of the wicked desires of the man, and it is right and justice in God’s wisdom to permit the persistent transgressor to be led off and deceived by a delusive false doctrine. Paul, in 2 Thess. ii:11, says: “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” Why would God do this? Verses 10 and 12 give the reason why; “because they received not the love of the truth.” … because they “believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” In Isaiah lxvi:2-4, the Lord says: “But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” But to the people who “have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations (polygamy), I will also choose their delusions.” In Ezekiel xiv:4-9 we read: “Thus saith the Lord God; every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet, I, the Lord, will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; that I may take the house of Israel in their own heart.”
Brother Joseph must have set up his idol in his heart, or he would not have prayed to the Lord to know wherein David and Solomon were justified in polygamy, when God says in the Book of Mormon that they were not justified in it; that it was abominable before Him. David, Solomon, Saul, and many chosen men of God, afterwards drifted into error and lost the spirit of God, and why not Joseph Smith? Will you answer? Was not Joseph Smith a man subject to like passions? Had you been with him as much as I was, and knew him as I knew him, you would also know that he could fall into error and transgression: but with all his weaknesses, I always did love him. No man was ever perfect but Christ. Uzziah fell into the snare of Satan, through pride, after serving God in humility for fifty-two years, (2. Chron. xxvi). “I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria.” (Jer. xxiii:13). “I have seen in the prophets a horrible thing,” (Jer. xxiii:14). “The prophets prophesy falsely,” (Jer. v:31). “For the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests,” (Lam. iv: 13). “Thus saith the Lord, woe unto the foolish prophets,” (Ezek. xiii:3). There were many prophets and chosen men of God, who afterwards fell into error, and who lost the Spirit of God, and produced false prophecies and revelations in the name of the Lord. Why should any one refuse to investigate as to the truth of the Book of Mormon, because Joseph Smith went into error after being called of God to translate it? Kind reader, think of this, and beware how you hastily condemn that book which I know to be the word of God; for his own voice and an angel from heaven declared the truth of it unto me, and to two other witnesses who testified on their death-bed that it was true. You say that angels do not appear unto men in these days, but the Word of God says: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Heb. i:14.) There are now heirs of salvation upon earth, and I tell you of a truth that angels do minister unto them in these days. I hope the reader now understands this matter, viz: that no one who is seeking for truth honestly and without prejudice, will refuse to investigate the Book of Mormon because of Joseph Smith’s errors. The teachings of the Book of Mormon are pure and holy, for it is the religion of Christ, set forth in plainness and simplicity.
I desire to say a few words especially to the Latter Day Saints who believe in the doctrine of polygamy. Why it is that you can put your trust in a man, and believe a revelation of his that contradicts the Word of God in the Book of Mormon, is very strange indeed. The revelation on polygamy begins thus: “Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand, to know wherein I the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines: … I will answer thee as touching this matter.” The Book of Mormon says (Jacob ii:6): “David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was ABOMINABLE before me, saith the Lord.” Then David and Solomon’s polygamy was a great sin and an abomination before God. Joseph Smith’s revelation says that it was NOT a sin, for it says that God JUSTIFIED David and Solomon in it!
So you see that revelation is a plain contradiction of the Word of God in the Book of Mormon. This is plain enough for any one to see and understand. Can you not see that this revelation is not of God? Why, oh why are you trusting in an arm of flesh? Again, the Book of Mormon says (page 116, Jacob ii:6), “Hearken to the word of the Lord: for there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife: and concubines he shall have none.” In the face of this, you are believing in a revelation purporting to come from God, that He had changed and allowed his people to practice what He says is a sin and an abomination in his sight! Verily, you know not God nor his ways! Again, did Christ teach that a man is exalted to the highest glory hereafter through the principle of polygamy? Nay. The Book of Mormon says (1 Nephi iii:43), that all men must come to Christ “according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of (Christ) the Lamb: and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy (Nephi’s) seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (the New Testament). The revelations of Joseph Smith do not even claim to be translated from the sealed records of the Nephites. This alone should convince you that the revelation on polygamy is not of God. The scriptures say that if an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than that preached by Christ and his apostle, let him be accursed!
In the revelation on polygamy, it says that Emma Smith — Brother Joseph’s wife — must receive the revelation to allow Brother Joseph to have more wives, or she shall be destroyed. But in less than a year after giving this revelation, Brother Joseph himself was destroyed, and Emma lived for many years after. I will quote it: “And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph. … And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed.” You are blinded and cannot understand the scriptures. Many prophets of old were deceived by revelations which they thought were of God, but were of Satan, given to deceive and blind them and the people because of their iniquities. The decrees of God in the Book of Mormon are; that if his people who live upon this land obey the laws of God and the laws of the land, that they shall live in peace and prosperity; and their enemies should not have power over them. My soul cries unto you, repent! repent! and go to God in mighty prayer that he may open your hearts to see and understand that you are deceived in believing that the doctrine of polygamy is a revelation from God. I know there are many honest hearts among you, and I pray to God continually for those, that their eyes may be opened to understand the truth as it is in Christ.