By Marvin W. Cowan
Mormon scripture in Doctrine & Covenants (D. & C.) 1:30 says the LDS Church is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” The Pearl of Great Price (P. of G. P.), Joseph Smith 1:18-19 also says other churches are “all wrong,” that “all their creeds are an abomination” and that “those professors are all corrupt.” LDS should realize that such claims encourage others to examine and even challenge them. LDS also claim that they alone have the authority or priesthood that God recognizes to do His work and that a prophet founded their Church and it is always led by a living prophet. Our recent articles have examined that last claim and raised questions about some of Joseph Smith’s “prophecies” in the D. & C. We will continue that examination now.
Sections 121, 122 and 123 of the D. & C. are unique because all three came from parts of two letters Joseph Smith wrote between March 20 and 25, 1839 while he was in jail in Liberty, Missouri. Smith said his second letter was the completion of the first letter, so it was really just one letter. Smith’s complete letter is in the History of the Church, vol. 3, pp. 289-305. Joseph Fielding Smith, the 10th LDS Prophet said of this letter, “This is one of the greatest letters that was ever penned by the hand of man. In fact, it was the result of humble inspiration. It is a prayer and a prophecy and an answer by revelation from the Lord. None other but a noble soul filled with the spirit of love of Christ could have written such a letter. Considering their sufferings, it is no wonder that the Prophet cried out in the anguish of his soul for relief. Yet, in his earnest pleading, there breathed a spirit of tolerance and love for his fellow man” (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, pp. 295-296, pub. by the LDS Church in 1981).
Page 296 in the D. & C. Student Manual goes on to say this about Smith’s letter, “Sections 121, 122, and 123 were extracted from this communication and included in the 1876 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants by Elder Orson Pratt under the direction of Brigham Young. The edition of the Doctrine and Covenants that included these three sections was sustained as scripture in the October 1880 conference of the (LDS) Church.”
Smith didn’t claim that his letter was scripture when he wrote it in 1839 and he had been dead for 32 years when Pratt selected parts of that letter to add to the D. & C. in 1876. Although the D. & C Student Manual says that Pratt selected parts of Smith’s letter under the direction of Brigham Young, the LDS Prophet at that time, it is doubtful that Brigham had much to do with it. And when those parts of Smith’s letter were sustained (voted) as scripture in 1880, Young had been dead for three years. Less than half of the contents of Smith’s letter are in the three Sections of the D. & C., so why and how did only part of Smith’s letter become scripture in 1880? If Smith’s letter was “a prayer and a prophecy and an answer by revelation from the Lord” as LDS Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith said why isn’t the whole letter “scripture”? Did Smith write part of it under “humble inspiration” and the rest of it by his own human wisdom? Pratt was not the LDS Prophet, so how did he determine which part was inspired and which was not?
President Joseph Fielding Smith said that Joseph Smith was crying out in the anguish of his soul in this letter because of his persecution and imprisonment, “Yet, in his earnest pleading, there breathed a tolerance and love for his fellow man.” Notice some of the “tolerance and love” Smith expressed in his letter: “Let thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy sword avenge us of our wrongs… And not many years hence, that they and their posterity shall be swept from under heaven, saith God, that not one of them is left to stand by the wall. Cursed are all of those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed (Joseph Smith), saith the Lord …They shall not have right to the priesthood, nor their posterity after them from generation to generation. It had been better for them that a millstone had been hanged about their necks, and they drowned in the depth of the sea. Wo unto all those that discomfort my people, and drive, and murder, and testify against them, saith the Lord of Hosts; a generation of vipers shall not escape the damnation of hell. Behold mine eyes see and know all their works, and I have in reserve a swift judgment in the season thereof, for them all.” (D. & C. 121:5, 15-16, 21-24).
If the things Smith said in the above verses express “love and tolerance,” what would his cursing’s sound like? In spite of the above threats and warnings against Smith’s persecutors and their descendants, whenever the descendants of those persecutors join the LDS Church LDS proudly publicize it! Such descendants have never been excluded from the LDS priesthood as Smith said in D. & C. 121:21. The fate of every single “enemy” of Joseph Smith in Missouri is not known, but we do know that most of them lived the rest of their lives very much like other people in Missouri. There is no record that all of Smith’s enemies received “swift judgment” as D. & C. 121:24 says they will. Less than a month after Smith’s letter was written the Mormons were forced to leave Missouri and go to Illinois and Smith escaped from his guards and also went to Illinois according to the History of the Church, vol.3, pp. 306-327. Smith lived in Nauvoo, IL for five years and then was killed while in jail in Carthage, IL on June 27, 1844. While in jail in MO, Smith had written in D. & C. 121:7-8 “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but for a moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” But adversity followed Smith to Illinois and ended when he was killed by his foes. Joseph Fielding Smith’s claim that Smith’s letter was the result of “humble inspiration” and was “a prayer and a prophecy and an answer by revelation from the Lord” was not true in the light of what really happened to Smith or to his “enemies!”