In the Bloggernacle, it seems that the main players are atheists, liberal Mormons, and Orthodox Mormons.  It is pretty rare that an evangelical Mormon enters the debate, and I think is even more rare for a Mormon to become an evangelical.  (Granted, my view could be biased by my experience.  From my experience, most former Mormons tend to be atheists here, so hearing one turn evangelical seems unusual.)  Kullervo happens to be one of these rare people—a Mormon turned evangelical, and I thought it would be interesting to bring his perspective for a topic.

Back in March, Hawkgrrrl had a popular post:  Is Belief in Polygamy Required for Church Membership?  In the comments, Kullervo and I got into a debate about whether polygamy is a false revelation, and whether Joseph Smith is a false prophet.  In my unorthodoxy, I said that I think Joseph Smith was deceived about polygamy, and that it was a false revelation.  I think more than one biblical prophet has issued a revelation that was not God’s will.  I am on record as saying

Immorality comes from man, no question, and often men blame immorality on God. It happens all the time, and when it happens, man takes God’s name in vain and offends God. Men blame genocide on God, and I have a post about Joshua’s Unholy War. I take exception to the idea that God commanded circumcision in Abraham’s day. Circumcision was a pagan practiced adopted by Abraham as godly. I don’t think God had anything to do with his marriage to Hagar. God didn’t command (but permitted) sex slavery in Exodus 21. Balaam wasn’t a true prophet. I could go on and on.

Man blaming such atrocities on God is an affront to God. This type of God is like Zeus, or Apollo. It is a primitive belief in God. We need to grow up and quit blaming God for atrocities, rather than rely on primitive tales of 3000 years ago. We used to blame floods on God, and now we blame them on the weather because we understand it. (We come close to calling this an “Act of God”, but it is an act of nature that can often be predicted, thanks to our better understanding of the planet and satellites. Nobody blames this on God anymore.)

So I find Joseph in a bit of company with biblical prophets. Furthermore, I stated previously in comment 30

“Implying or outright stating that historical polygamy was not inspired when we have canonized revelation to the contrary accuses [1] Joseph Smith of being a liar (or [2] being deceived by Satan) and other church leaders as accomplices.”

I vote option #2. I don’t think it is out of the realm of possibility that Satan is capable of counterfeit revelations. (1) He claims to be the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4, also referenced in temple ceremony),

(2) Satan tried to tempt Jesus (Matt. 4:6, Luke 4:9) “Since you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here..”

I’d love to hear your take on some of these biblical issues, rather than piling on Joseph (which it seems you relish doing lately.) But maybe that should be the subject of another post, instead of threadjacking this one. Let me know if you’d like me to create a post on false prophets/immorality of the Bible.

Kullervo responded

Well, there’s no question from Scripture that even the prophets were pretty regularly moral disasters. But I’m not asking whether Joseph Smith had moral failings. I’m asking whether he made a false prophecy in the name of the Lord, because that has massive Biblical implications.

If your answer is “well, so what, because I think all the Old Testament prophets made false prophecies too,” meaning that you are admitting that the Bible itself contains bona fide false prophecy, then obviously the discussion about whether or not Joseph Smith was a false prophet is a non-starter between us, because our view of scripture is so radically different.

It was interesting to me that Kullervo said, “even the prophets were pretty regularly moral disasters,” so I guess that means we don’t really need to delve into a prophet’s actions as prophet.  In an email exchange Kullervo focused on another definition of a prophet that I’d like to discuss further.  He said,

  1. A prophet is someone who speaks the will of God. In the more dramatic sense, we think of Old Testament prophets who were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak God’s revealed word, but in a more common sense, if you or I speak God’s will, we are also acting prophetically. The touchstone of prophecy is “Thus Sayeth the Lord.”

The role of a prophet is to call God’s people to faith, repentance, obedience and covenant relationship with God.  Moses led God’s people because he was specifically called to do so, not automatically by virtue of his role as prophet.

  1. So, if a prophet is someone who speaks God’s will, a false prophet is someone who claims to speak God’s will, but in fact does not. Joseph Smith was a false prophet because he falsely claimed to receive direct revelations from God. Contra Mormonism, there is no office of prophet granting special authority to lead God’s people or act in God’s name beyond declaring God’s will.

Even if you think that all of the D&C is true prophecy (and you yourself have said that you do not), Joseph Smith made many specific prophecies about the future that did not come to pass.

The threshold for false prophecy is pretty low. In Deuteronomy, God mandated the death sentence for even one false prophecy: “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak . . . that same prophet shall die.”

And this is not just an Old Testament law-of-Moses issue we can conveniently brush under the rug. We get warnings about false prophets and false teachers over and over again in the New Testament, and some of the most serious warnings against false prophets came from Jesus himself. If we take the Bible seriously, and I do, then we have to take false prophets extremely seriously and be watchful for them. And Joseph Smith is objectively a false prophet.

So that’s Kullervo’s biblical definition from Deuteronomy:  “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak . . . that same prophet shall die.”  I guess on the one hand, it could be argued that Joseph’s martyrdom was a fulfillment of this verse if polygamy is a false revelation.

On the other hand Kullervo, let me have you answer some questions.

  1. Do you believe that God commanded Joshua to kill every man, women, child, and cow in Jericho? Was that truly God’s word to kill all the innocents?
  2. Was Balaam a true prophet? Supposedly he saw an angel, and proclaimed God’s word to Balak using the altar of Baal.  But ignoring Balaam’s moral failings, why would the same God who in the chapter before blessed Moses’s conquest of the polytheistic Ammonites and Amorites (and told Moses “thou shalt have no other gods before me” under penalty of death), give a revelation to Balaam on the altars of Baal?
  3. Do you find these scriptures as God’s word? (Numbers 31:7-18 NLT)

They attacked Midian just as the LORD had commanded Moses, and they killed all the men.  All five of the Midianite kings – Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba – died in the battle.  They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword.  Then the Israelite army captured the Midianite women and children and seized their cattle and flocks and all their wealth as plunder.  They burned all the towns and villages where the Midianites had lived.  After they had gathered the plunder and captives, both people and animals, they brought them all to Moses and Eleazar the priest, and to the whole community of Israel, which was camped on the plains of Moab beside the Jordan River, across from Jericho.

    Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the people went to meet them outside the camp.  But Moses was furious with all the military commanders who had returned from the battle.  “Why have you let all the women live?” he demanded.  “These are the very ones who followed Balaam’s advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the LORD at Mount Peor.  They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the LORD’s people.  Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man.  Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.

Is this an example of God’s word, or can it be explained as Moses’ moral failings in killing women but “saving” the virgins as sex slaves?  Do you believe this is God’s word, or should Moses be put to death (according to Deuteronomy) for putting false words in God’s mouth?