In the LDS church there is without a doubt a general understanding that all changes will come through the proper channels which means the leaders. In every single discussion on this concept someone always references a scripture like D&C 132:8 which says, God’s “house is a house of order … and not a house of confusion”. While I certainly agree that order is important, I think it is important to also remember that God operates fundamentally different from the ways of men according to Isaiah 55:6-9. We are like ants trying to philosophize about quantum physics and then proclaiming that we have a grasp on all of creation. It is an exercise in unrestrained hubris and destined for ruin. We are nothing without God, yet we think God is nothing without us.
Wisdom of the Wise
When I first heard about the concept of Joseph Smith coming back to finish what he started, I was certainly intrigued. However, I didn’t think it really made any sense. I thought how would that actually work? Wouldn’t he have to come back as a resurrected being which would be pretty obvious? After thinking about it some more then it actually started making a lot of sense and further showed that the plans of God transcend time and space.
In the LDS church today, we make many assumptions about how God has to operate and that he has to operate according to those very limited boundaries. For instance, the LDS church teaches that if an angel appears then they have to be a translated or resurrected being. Each of these categories has very specific limited boundaries that must be followed. We are taught that any deviation from this pattern is not allowed.
The issue with this though is a very simple one. Lazarus was dead for 4 days and then brought back to mortality. Presumably at that point, if it was God’s will, then he could have been taken to whatever physical location that God needed and done God’s work there. If it is possible for Lazarus, then why not anyone else? Is that not a trivial thing for the creator of all of creation. If it was possible to raise Lazarus after 4 days, then why not 5? If 5 then why not 6? Is there a specific amount of time that someone can be dead for and then God no longer has power to bring them back?
The following is a list of evidences to suggest that Joseph Smith and others will at the very least play a pivotal role in the future work of God’s kingdom. Of course, each can be explained away or wrested to mean whatever anyone wants it to mean. However, when taken as a whole I think the picture is pretty clear. This is a bit long however I think it is very important to analyze each in a way that fully explains its significance to the overall picture.
1. D&C 1
On November 1st, 1831 Joseph received a revelation in which he was told to put as the preface to the then Book of Commandments. This revelation was an introductory explanation for the Book of Commandments or what we call the Doctrine & Covenants today. It is widely misunderstood, which we will discuss shortly.
D&C 1 starts off with introductory information and then in verse 6 describes a group of people called “servants” which are the ones who were given authority to publish the revelations in the Book of Commandments.
Behold, this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants, and my preface unto the book of my commandments, which I have given them to publish unto you, O inhabitants of the earth. … The day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people; … Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.D&C 1:6-14, 37
The most important thing to keep in mind from that passage is that God specifically mentions that everything is going to be fulfilled. He doesn’t say somethings or most things, he says everything. This is problematic for people that want to pick and choose.
The next thing is that those that don’t heed the “prophets and apostles” will be cut off from God’s people. Of course, the LDS church defines this as all modern-day apostles and Presidents of the church, however D&C 1 was received almost 3 1/2 years before the modern apostles were even called. Therefore, it seems to make far more sense to conclude that God is saying if people don’t listen to him, or Joseph and the other servants, or the scriptural prophets and apostles, then they will be cut off since they are spiritually lost. Concluding that it means all future leaders seems like willful ignorance actually.
Concerning the word “servants” used, the LDS church today defines this group of servants as an ever-growing group including every leader. This is the justification used in verse 38 to suggest that everything spoken by the leaders is the same as if God had spoken it. Of course, upon inspection that is a strange claim to make however that is the current stance of the church. We can however see who God defined this group of “servants” to actually consist of.
Less than 2 weeks after Section 1 was received, Joseph received D&C 70. In the current Doctrine & Covenants this is hard to tell since they are so far separated however Section 70 clarifies who the servants are and affirms that they have a stewardship role over the revelations. There are multiple servants defined however for simplicity I will focus on Joseph.
Behold, and hearken, O ye inhabitants of Zion, and all ye people of my church who are afar off, and hear the word of the Lord which I give unto my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., … For I give unto them a commandment; wherefore hearken and hear, for thus saith the Lord unto them— I, the Lord, have appointed them, and ordained them to be stewards over the revelations and commandments which I have given unto them, and which I shall hereafter give unto them; … Now, this commandment I give unto my servants for their benefit while they remainD&C 70
I am honestly tempted to read the entire revelation since it is so informative. This revelation is however very clear that a certain small group of people, which included Joseph Smith, were to be stewards over the revelations. This group was not an endless list but a small, confined set of highly capable individuals. If anything is unclear, then I would read D&C 1 then D&C 70. The two should really go together.
D&C 1 itself is not an indicator of Joseph’s future work. However, it is important to lay the foundation of Joseph and others being classed as a group of “servants” for God’s future work.
2. D&C 29
About one year before D&C 1 was received then Joseph received D&C 29. The preface to this section, which was not included in the text, says that this particular revelation was given to six elders which included Joseph. The revelation overall describes a future work of gathering God’s elect with unprecedented power.
I say unto you that ye are chosen out of the world to declare my gospel … as with the voice of a trump. And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; … wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.D&C 29: 4-8
While part of this happened during Joseph’s life, most of it did not. The elect haven’t all been gathered and certainly were not gathered to one spot like Zion. The law of consecration was abandoned almost right away so the members were most certainly not prepared for the desolation to come as God said. In order to fully prepare for Christ’s return then his people need to physically gather and fully live the law of consecration.
3. D&C 84
D&C 84 is another revelation to Joseph and a specific group of individuals. In this revelation these individuals are mentioned as having the power of God and commanded to teach others.
A revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and six elders … Verily, verily, I say unto you who now hear my words … Therefore, go ye into all the world; and unto whatsoever place ye cannot go ye shall send, that the testimony may go from you into all the world unto every creature. And as I said unto mine apostles, even so I say unto you, for you are mine apostles, even God’s high priests.D&C 84:1-63
Joseph and these other individuals, specifically called servants, were commanded by God to go into all the world as apostles and teach the Gospel. To my knowledge, not a single individual in the list from D&C 70 actually went into “all the world” to teach about the restoration. Certainly 1 or 2 of them may have, however as a whole the group never did. This of course is a problem since it was a commandment. God did mention that where they couldn’t go then they were to send their testimony, presumably in writing. However, if you never go anywhere then it is difficult to see how this was fulfilled at all. Of course, it could just be a missed opportunity for these individuals, or it could have a future fulfillment like we will see. However, as we have seen in D&C 1:37, if God says something is going to happen then it will happen.
4. D&C 88
In late 1832, Joseph received Section 88 which were various instructions and teachings on how the people should prepare themselves to more fully receive the Gospel and become acceptable for Christ’s return. Starting in verse 74 however the Lord makes a seemingly strange statement.
And I give unto you, who are the first laborers in this last kingdom, a commandment that you assemble yourselves together, and organize yourselves, and prepare yourselves, and sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean; … that I may fulfil this promise, this great and last promise, which I have made unto you, when I will. … That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you. … Therefore, tarry ye, and labor diligently, that you may be perfected in your ministry to go forth among the Gentiles for the last timeD&C 88:74-80,84
There are two very important points pertaining to these scriptures.
For context it is important to keep in mind that Joseph and the other Elders of the church were referred to as the “first laborers in this last kingdom” and this was about 2 years before Brigham Young and the other apostles were even called to that position. Therefore, this group of “first laborers” is a fundamental shift from the apostles themselves.
Another very important point is God mentioning that he wanted the Elders to prepare themselves because at some future time he was going to send them “again”. This of course doesn’t make much sense if you think of a single monolithic event like Joseph’s ministry. However, it certainly makes sense if these Elders had another commission which God wanted them prepared for.
This matches the language used in D&C 110, where God mentions the endowment of power which took place in the Kirtland temple and a future endowment that would take place. It is instructive to know that the phrase, “have already been endowed and shall hereafter be endowed in this house” was removed in reference to the Kirtland temple. It seemed very inconvenient to have that promise from God when the LDS church didn’t control the Kirtland temple. However, if God said it then it is going to happen regardless of how we feel about it.
On November 9th, 1835, Joseph Smith was meeting with a man calling himself, “Joshua the Jewish minister”. This man had a very colorful past that he was trying to escape from however he met with Joseph over the course of 2 days during which they discussed many things. In the account of this interaction, that was placed in the History of the Church, it seems like the wording comes from the visitor Joshua. That account was also edited to remove key phrases which we will see. If we look at the original though, the wording makes it very clear that Joseph is the one speaking and not the visitor as the LDS church claims.
It is not necessary that God should give us all things at first, or in his first commission to us, but in his second. John saw the angel deliver the gospel in the last days, which would not be necessary if it were already in the world. This expression would be inconsistent. The small lights that God has given are sufficient to lead us out of Babylon and when we get out we shall have the greater light.Second Commision
Since we know that Joseph was the one speaking then this becomes a very curious statement to make. Joseph is saying a few key things that are totally inconsistent with the current mainstream understanding. The History of the Church account also removed the phrase, “which would not be necessary if it were already in the world”. This would seem to indicate a desire to hide the fact that the gospel needed to be restored again due to apostasy.
The key points from the statement though are first that in some way God had another work for some individuals which very likely included Joseph. The next is that John witnessed of an angel delivering the gospel back to the world “in the last days”. This of course is strange considering the fact that as of 1835, according to the LDS church, the gospel was already in the world. The last key point is that at some future time God’s people would have to leave Babylon in order to gain further light from God.
It is also important to keep in mind that this statement was made about 11 months after Joseph received a revelation which essentially condemned the church and the leaders. God was no longer pleased with the church or his people.
Verily, condemnation rests upon you, who are appointed to lead my Church, and to be saviors of men: and also upon the church: And there must needs be a repentance and a reformation among you, in all thingsCondemnation revelation
Based on this then it is clear why Joseph would think the Gospel needed to come back into the earth because it seems the early church had lost it by not living according to the way God wanted them to.
As we saw earlier, D&C 84 was a revelation given to Joseph and six elders. We already looked at several aspects however it is important to remember that it was directed to a specific set of individuals. At the end starting in verse 114 God commands these individuals to go into specific places and call them to repentance in preparation of the desolation which is to come. As we saw, this never happened however it must happen according to the way God works, which is described in Amos 3, so he can hold these cities accountable for their actions. Without a call for repentance then the great destruction can’t happen according to the law of heaven.
Nevertheless, let the bishop go unto the city of New York, also to the city of Albany, and also to the city of Boston, and warn the people of those cities with the sound of the gospel, with a loud voice, of the desolation and utter abolishment which await them if they do reject these things. For if they do reject these things the hour of their judgment is nigh, and their house shall be left unto them desolate. … And verily I say unto you, the rest of my servants, go ye forth as your circumstances shall permit, in your several callings, unto the great and notable cities and villages, reproving the world in righteousness of all their unrighteous and ungodly deeds, setting forth clearly and understandingly the desolation of abomination in the last days. For, with you saith the Lord Almighty, I will rend their kingdoms; I will not only shake the earth, but the starry heavens shall tremble.D&C 84:114-118
This global call to repentance most certainly never happened. Many will say that the current set of missionaries are performing this role. However, this is without a doubt wrong. I was a missionary and I never really called anyone to repentance or warned them of the desolation to come. I taught about the church and invited people to be baptized. I certainly didn’t go into large cities and tell people to repent or face God’s wrath.
Regardless though, it is very important to keep in mind the last phrase. God specifically says to Joseph and these 6 Elders that they are the ones that God is going to use. He says, “with you … I will rend their kingdoms”. Honestly this didn’t happen and since they are all dead then it can’t happen according to the current understanding. Therefore, why did God say it? Of course, though if Joseph and these other individuals could come back in some form then it makes perfect sense. D&C 1:37 says that it will happen, we just don’t know the specifics.
7. D&C 101
D&C 101 is a very interesting revelation concerning why the church failed to achieve Zion and how they can do so in the future. In the middle of 101, God gives a parable concerning the failure and redemption of Zion. It is a bit long and can’t fully be shared here, however I would certainly encourage you to read the parable which is contained in verses 43 to 81.
And now, I will show unto you a parable, that you may know my will concerning the redemption of Zion. A certain nobleman had a spot of land, very choice; and he said unto his servants: Go ye unto my vineyard, even upon this very choice piece of land, and plant twelve olive trees; and set watchmen round about them, and build a tower …
And the enemy came by night, and broke down the hedge; and the servants of the nobleman arose and were affrighted, and fled; and the enemy destroyed their works …
And the lord of the vineyard said unto one of his servants: Go and gather together the residue of my servants, and take all the strength of mine house … and go ye straightway unto the land of my vineyard, and redeem my vineyard; for it is mine; … Therefore, get ye straightway unto my land; break down the walls of mine enemies; throw down their tower, and scatter their watchmen. …
And the servant said unto his lord, “When shall these things be?” And he said unto his servant: When I will; … And his servant went straightway, and did all things whatsoever his lord commanded him; and after many days all things were fulfilled.D&C 101:43-62
This parable is an amazing overview of the church and God’s people in general. It is similar to Jacob 5 in that it describes things at many different levels. Due to length, I can’t really analyze this in any great depth here, however I would encourage you to think about the parable and what it can mean for you. Regardless though, it is clear that God’s leaders were asked to build a tower, they became slothful then the enemy came and cast out the true servants and setup their own tower with false servants instead.
The question though becomes, who is the servant that is going to cast down the enemies’ false tower and build the master’s tower instead? God actually tells us who this individual is in D&C 103.
Behold, I say unto you, the redemption of Zion must needs come by power; therefore, I will raise up unto my people a man, who shall lead them like as Moses led the children of Israel. … and ye must needs be led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm. …
Verily, verily I say unto you, that my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., is the man to whom I likened the servant to whom the Lord of the vineyard spake in the parable which I have given unto you. Therefore let my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., say unto the strength of my house, my young men and the middle aged, “Gather yourselves together unto the land of Zion,” upon the land which I have bought with money that has been consecrated unto me.D&C 103:15-22
There is a lot to discuss from this passage. God is likening the deliverance of his people to the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity. From the Bible we know that the Israelites were delivered in miraculous ways and God is saying his latter-day people will be as well. Thus, when God’s people are led to Zion then it strongly seems it is going to be a time of miracles again.
The key to this whole thing though is in verse 21 where God directly says that Joseph Smith is the person who is going to deliver the vineyard back to the master. This is after the enemies had destroyed the Lord’s tower and after they installed their own watchmen. This of course has not happened historically, and I don’t think anyone can even make a claim that it did even if they seriously stretch facts. This would require God’s people to be decimated and then reinstated with divine power. God’s people were instead scattered and God’s tower, which was likely the Nauvoo temple, was destroyed by the enemies as God mentioned in D&C 101. God’s vineyard has not been reclaimed and we are still waiting for the appointed time. Therefore, since we know that Joseph is the individual to redeem Zion then how can this happen since he is dead? Of course, as we know death is not even a minor inconvenience for the creator of life.
8. D&C 90
Section 90 is a revelation that establishes Joseph’s and others authority over the Lord’s work. It offers general guidance and can easily be skipped however in the revelation God makes a very specific statement that offers very little wiggle room.
Thus saith the Lord, verily, verily I say unto you my son, thy sins are forgiven thee … Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come; nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church.D&C 90:1-4
In this passage God is quite clearly stating the Joseph held the keys to God’s work and will always hold them. The keys “shall never be taken from [him]”. Of course, today the church interprets the word oracles to mean ability to receive revelation which to them means the keys. This is essentially what Brigham claimed and many modern leaders with their phrase “living oracles“. However, this is fundamentally a misunderstanding. When this revelation was given, the word oracles meant the scriptures, which we can easily see in the 1828 Websters dictionary. There was no other meaning. Therefore, God is saying Joseph will always hold the keys however the scriptures will be given to the church to take care of. This makes so much sense in the context of this discussion.
If Joseph continues to hold the Keys, then wouldn’t it make sense that he continues to direct and assist the work and will do so during the culmination? Of course, this passage like all others can be interpreted 1000 ways. When viewed together with the other evidences, then it really only has a single meaning. It is though just one more evidence that Joseph was separate in many ways from his peers.
9. D&C 65
Section 65 is a prayer that Joseph received by revelation which essentially expounds on Daniel 2. This revelation describes the stone that rolls forth to encompass the entire earth. In this section God clearly tells how Daniel 2 is going to be fulfilled.
The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from [them] shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.D&C 65:2
In this verse, God is saying that those who hold the keys of the kingdom are going to be the ones who cause the gospel to fill the earth. As we saw in D&C 90, Joseph and a few specific individuals were the ones who held the keys and would always hold the keys. Therefore, it would be logical to conclude that Joseph and these other individuals will be the ones who are instrumental in causing God’s work to reach its fulfillment in the last days.
10. D&C 124:1-7
In early 1841, Joseph received D&C 124 which is a very long revelation in which we can sometimes get caught up in certain parts of it and ignore other parts. However, at the very beginning Joseph is asked to make a “solemn proclamation” of the gospel to the “kings of the world” and to other leaders of nations. This was not to be a minor statement or general newspaper article. It was a proclamation and a global call to repentance. This is abbreviated for the sake of time, however I would encourage you to read the entire statement from God.
Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph Smith … You are now called immediately to make a solemn proclamation of my gospel. This proclamation shall be made to all the kings of the world, to the four corners thereof, to the honorable president-elect, and the high-minded governors of the nation in which you live, and to all the nations of the earth scattered abroad. … For it shall be given you by the Holy Ghost to know my will concerning those kings and authorities, even what shall befall them in a time to come. For, behold, I am about to call upon them to give heed to the light and glory of Zion, for the set time has come to favor her. Call ye, therefore, upon them with loud proclamation, and with your testimony, fearing them not.D&C 124:1-7
This certainly didn’t happen. We do know that Joseph worked with his scribe Robert B. Thompson to draft a proclamation. However, the draft we have is very much incomplete and was certainly never published to all the “kings of the world”. It seems like some effort was put into it, however the letter was quickly abandoned and then forgotten.
This statement from God however matches perfectly with 3 Nephi 21 which talks about a latter-day servant issuing a proclamation to the kings of the earth which will stun them into silence.
They may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel.3 Nephi 21: 7-9
And when that day shall come, it shall come to pass that the kings shall shut their mouths at him, for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them; and there shall be among them those who will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them.
Many will say that this statement from God doesn’t matter because Joseph was killed before he had a chance to fulfill this. While that may be correct, I do however think that it is rather short sided. God in verse six says that he is about to call upon the leaders of the nations to give heed to Zion. Then in verse 9 he mentions that he is going to soften their hearts, and some will actually listen to the message. Lastly in verse 11, God says the kings will benefit the people of Zion by offerings of money and materials. This is all rather specific and fits perfectly with other last-days scriptures. Therefore, I seriously doubt God just said, “oops sorry you died” to Joseph.
On December 9th, 1834, Joseph was given a blessing from his father. It was of course given directly to Joseph however was written in 3rd person form in the revelation style of the day. The blessing is amazing in what it says about Joseph and the last days events that he is stated as participating in. It is not very long, and I would encourage you to read the whole thing which I linked to.
No weapon formed against him shall prosper, and though the wicked mar him for a little season, he shall be like one rising up in the heat of wine— he shall roar in his strength, and the Lord shall put to flight his persecutors: he shall be blessed like the fruitful olive, and his memory shall be as sweet as the choice cluster of the first ripe grapes. Like a [sheaf] fully ripe, gathered into the garner, so shall he stand before the Lord, having produced a hundred fold. …
Therefore, my son, I know for a surety that these things will be fulfilled, and I confirm upon thee all these blessings. … Thou shalt hold the keys of this ministry, even the presidency of this church, both in time and in eternity. … Thou shalt speak the word of the Lord and the earth shall tremble; the mountains shall move and the rivers shall turn out of their course. …
Thou shalt stand upon the earth when it shall reel to and fro as a drunken man, and be removed out of its place: thou shalt stand when the mighty judgments go forth to the destruction of the wicked: thou shalt stand on mount Zion when the tribes of Jacob come shouting from the north, and with thy brethren, the sons of Ephraim, crown them in the name of Jesus Christ.Joseph Smith Sr. Blessing
No one can claim anything remotely similar to what is described in the blessing actually happened in Joseph’s life. Therefore, either this is an indication of something in the future or Joseph Smith, Sr. was simply wrong.
In the blessing however Joseph is clearly stated as having a future work, being on the earth again and directing that work when Christ returns. The mighty judgements and the unimaginably large earthquakes are all signs immediately preceding Christ’s return. In addition, Joseph was told in the blessing that he will be on the earth as a physical witness of these events.
Almost one year after Joseph received a blessing from his father, Oliver Cowdrey gave Joseph, in 1835, what is referred to as his patriarchal blessing. In fact, it was even recorded in the official patriarchal blessings book of the church. In order to understand some context pertaining to this, Oliver stated that he wanted to know from God concerning Joseph and so approached God through “prayer and fasting”. After this then he recorded that God “opened the heavens to me” and the blessing is a result of the vision that he witnessed.
This blessing is another case where I would encourage you to read the entire thing. It is not very long however unfortunately is too long to fully quote here. I will try to do it justice however have to skip parts which absolutely would be helpful to understand concerning Joseph’s future work.
Blessed of the Lord is my brother, for the integrity of his heart and the steadfastness of his soul. Upheld by the arm of the Almighty he shall never fall, but shall be strengthened by his right hand till he overcomes. … ere his foes are aware he shall be hid under the pavilion of the Lord Jehovah; for, with the voice of his thunder shall he strike terror to their hearts, and as with the wings of an eagle shall my brother be carried beyond all harm, by the power of the Anointed. …
For, like Joseph of old shall he be: he shall save the just from desolation, by the wise counsel of the Almighty; for by his direction shall they gather into store-houses and barns, till they overflow with the richness of the fruit of harvest: and by this means shall the just be saved from famine, while the nations of the wicked are distressed and faint.
In due time shall he go forth toward the north, and by the power of his word shall the deep begin to give way and the ice melt before the sun. By the keys of the Kingdom shall he lead Israel into the land of Zion while the house of Jacob shouts in the dance and in the song. …
His fame shall be sounded in foreign lands, even to the ends of the earth, as well as nigh at home: for in this the times shall change— a prophet shall have honor in his own country. His learning and wisdom shall astonish the great, for they shall acknowledge that by his intelligence he has far surpassed their learning and their science. In palaces of governors, rulers and kings shall he be honored, even in his person, for God shall give him power to prevail. …
The records of past ages and generations, and the histories of ancient days shall he bring forth: even the record of the Nephites shall he again obtain, with all those hid up by Mormon, and others who were righteous, and many others, till he is overwhelmed with knowledge. …
He shall have peace after a little; for his enemies shall be consumed, many of them, and many shall turn and be his friends in very deed: he shall remain to a good old age, even till his head is like the pure wool. Behold, there is no end to the vision, of the multiplicity of blessings and glories which shall come upon my brother Joseph.Joseph Smith Patriarchal Blessing
Oliver had to know this was a future prophecy since there were so many things that pertained to immediately before the Second Coming of Christ. This also ties many prophecies together into one place. Therefore, either Oliver was very skilled at making things up or this is a true vision from God.
The vision itself states that Joseph will be acting in a very central role in the last days and will “remain to a good old age, even till his head is like the pure wool”. None of these things happened or even remotely happened. Therefore, this has to be a false blessing or Joseph is going to come back and continue his work.
Whenever I think of this, I always think of 3 Nephi 21, where Christ says that when this great and marvelous work is declared to people then many will not believe it even though “a man shall declare it unto them”. Today if someone claimed to be a reanimated Joseph, then very few people would believe it since it is so far outside of normal human thought. Most believe God is all powerful, but maybe not that powerful.
Over the course of Lucy’s life she recorded a series of dreams in which Joseph or Joseph’s father, Lucy’s husband, would visit her and relate various messages. Each was specific to certain circumstances, however Lucy was very clear that she in no way wanted these visions to dictate the governance of the church. Lucy had no aspiration towards any form of leadership in the church and simply wanted her family to be safe and God fearing.
In her second vision Joseph appeared to her and stated:
That day is coming when I shall wave the sceptre of power over my enemies. Be patient my brothers and sisters the day is coming when you shall have eternal life and be rewarded for all your troublesLucy Mack Smith Vision
The vision itself doesn’t seem like it indicates much, however scripturally the “sceptre of power” has very important connotations. For instance, we can see in Genesis 49:10, that the scepter of power will not depart from the lawgiver until Shiloh, who is Christ, returns. This links directly to D&C 65 and D&C 90, which we already looked at, which indicated that Joseph had the presidency of God’s kingdom and continues to have that presidency.
This vision also matches the language in D&C 85 which states:
I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, … whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; … to set in order the house of GodD&C 85:7-9
A lot of people have written a lot of things about the “one mighty and strong” in scripture. However, it is remarkable how it ties into Lucy’s vision and all the other things we have looked at. Joseph holds the scepter of power and in some critical way is going to come back and reorder the house of God because it has gotten out of order. I don’t claim any insight into what that is going to look like. However, if anyone cares to actually critically think for a moment, then anyone can see that the philosophies of men have entered the church of God and corrupted it. This has happened numerous times historically and God has always needed to correct things. We are no different today. According to Lucy’s vision and many other things, Joseph is the one to correct things which logically makes sense when you think about it.
Before looking at the statement itself, it is important to consider that after Joseph’s death there was an almost universal acceptance that Joseph would be returning to continue the work. This idea was regularly spoken about and mentioned in meetings. Today however this has vanished and if mentioned people would think you were delusional.
In May 1868, Heber C. Kimball recorded a vision that he received which we refer to today as the “yellow dog” prophecy. Many are familiar with it however most of the time it is referenced then the end is cut off which is what we are focused on here. The vision as a whole though is very much not positive for the LDS people and most of it already has direct fulfillment in history.
Salt Lake will be classed among the wicked cities of the world. A spirit of speculation and extravagance will take possession of the Saints, and the result will be financial bondage.
Persecution comes next, and all true Latter-day Saints will be tested to the limit. … The judgments of God will be poured out upon the wicked to the extent that our elders from far and near will be called home. Or in other words, the gospel will be taken from the Gentiles and later on will be carried to the Jews.
The western boundaries of the State of Missouri will be swept so clean of its inhabitants that … when we return to that place, `There will not be left so much as a yellow dog to wag his tail.’
Before that day comes, however, the Saints will be put to a test that will try the integrity of the best of them. … Then the Prophet Joseph and others will make their appearance and those who have remained faithful will be selected to return to Jackson County, Missouri, and take part in the upbuilding of that beautiful city, the New Jerusalem.Heber C. Kimball Vision
This vision is remarkable in its directness. Salt Lake City was organized as a city devoted to God, however over time it has become secular and classed among the wicked cities of the world. We also have many other prophecies about desolating sicknesses that will clear entire areas of their populations. Therefore, I have no reason not to believe this either. Many think the future will be filled with sunshine and rainbows if you simply go to church and follow your leaders. However, that is a fundamentally flawed misunderstanding of how God works. God certainly wants our obedience, however that obedience doesn’t always look the same. Sometimes that obedience to God is actually disobedience to your leaders like in 1 Kings 13, and Jeremiah 35.
I will be honest, I do have mixed feelings about Brigham Young. I certainly regard him as a great frontiersman and think that without him the members of the early church would have suffered much more. I do think however that because of him the early church suffered needlessly and believed many things that we would hold as apostate today. That is however besides the point for the purposes of this discussion.
As mentioned earlier, there was a widespread understanding that Joseph would return again and continue the great work that he started. This was made very evident in a talk given by Brigham Young on October 9th, 1859. Brigham mentions:
I will now tell you something that ought to comfort every man and woman on the face of the earth. Joseph Smith, junior, will again be on this earth dictating plans and calling forth his brethren to be baptized for the very characters who wish this was not so … and he will never cease his operations, under the directions of the Son of God, until the last ones of the children of men are saved that can be, from Adam till now.Brigham Young statement
Brigham Young also mentioned a very similar thing which was published a few years earlier in the 1854 Millennial Star. He mentioned:
Will the Saints arise from the dead? Yes. Who will know it? But a few. When the resurrection commences, I say but few will know it; and allow me to inform you, when you have seen Joseph, and Hyrum, and Father Smith, and many others, risen from the dead, and you elders go abroad preaching, you will not tell the world of their resurrection, for they will not believe it. You may testify that Father Smith has arisen, that Joseph and Hyrum again possess their bodies; that they again live in the flesh, and they will laugh you to scorn, and persecute you to the death, if they have the power, for your testimony’s sake.
Will the Saints rise from the dead before the world is converted? Yes.Brigham Young discourse
There was certainly a very widespread belief that Joseph was going to come back in the flesh and finish what he started. Many early leaders echoed this sentiment and it had to have been reassuring considering the prominence that Joseph held in many people’s lives. They had sacrificed so much to assemble with the early church and then Joseph was violently taken from them which had to have been quite alarming.
Parley P. Pratt was on a mission when news of Joseph’s death reached him. It was very concerning to him and must have been devastating. He immediately started back to Nauvoo and began to pray as to know what this meant for the church overall. He remarked:
The Spirit said unto me, ‘Lift up your head and rejoice. For behold, it is well with my servants Joseph and Hyrum. My servant Joseph still holds the keys of my kingdom in this dispensation, and he shall stand in due time on the earth, in the flesh, and fulfill that to which he is appointed.Parley P. Pratt revelation
This concept was actually so foreign to Parley that he asked God to repeat it which God did. This revelation excited Parley to a great degree and when he returned to Nauvoo, he started teaching it openly. This was great news to the members who highly revered Joseph.
On June 22nd, 1844, which was the day before Joseph left Nauvoo intending to flee from the intense persecution, he gave a speech before the Nauvoo Legion rallying them. Based on many factors, it is evident that Joseph knew he had a future work, but he didn’t really understand how it would all unfold. During his speech though he clearly mentioned he had plans to continue to lead the people.
You will gather many people unto the fastness of the Rocky Mountains, as a center for the gathering of the people. And you will be faithful because of what you have been through.
And many of those that come in under your ministry, because of their much learning, will seek for high positions, and they will be set up and raise themselves in eminence above you. … This I will promise to you, that when I come again to lead you forth, for I will, to prepare a place for you, so that where I am you shall be with me.Nauvoo Legion speech
As mentioned, I am not fully convinced that Joseph knew he would be dead in 5 days. However, he did believe that wherever he was going he was going to go there to prepare a place for everyone else. He was deeply upset that the church had rejected God more than once. However, he still would have done almost anything for the people and in fact sacrificed greatly for them already.
Joseph had a number of dreams during his last few days. These have all been recorded and I think hold unique meaning individually. His actual last dream holds a lot of significance for the discussion here, however. It is deeply meaningful that just a few hours after this dream was recorded that Joseph was dead and the church undertook a permanent shift in direction.
I was back in Kirtland, Ohio, and thought I would take a walk out by myself, and view my old farm, which I found grown up with weeds and brambles, and altogether bearing evidence of neglect and want of culture. I went into the barn which I found without floor or doors, with the weather boarding off, and was altogether in keeping with the farm.
While I viewed the desolation around me, and was contemplating how it might be recovered from the curse upon it, there came rushing into the barn a company of furious men, who commenced to pick a quarrel with me. The leader of the party ordered me to leave the barn and the farm, stating it was none of mine, and that I must give up all hope of ever possessing it. …
He then grew furious, and began to rail upon me and threaten me, and said it never did belong to me nor the Church. … While he was thus engaged, pouring out his bitter words upon me, a rabble rushed in and nearly filled the barn, drew out their knives, and began to quarrel among themselves for the premises; and for a moment forgot me, at which time I took the opportunity to walk out of the barn about up to my ankles in mud.Joseph Smith’s Last Dream
This dream has a number of meanings, depending on how deeply you view things. It does however match exactly with the conditions dictated by God in D&C 101. God mentioned that his vineyard would become dilapidated, and that Joseph would be the one to restore it to glory. In the dream the barn was the church and was overrun by the cares of the world. It was no longer the way that God wanted it, but the way that men wanted it. Joseph wanted to reclaim it however was met with stiff resistance. In D&C 101, God says that in order to reclaim the vineyard then the tower of the enemy needs to be destroyed and their watchmen scattered. In the context of the dream then, to reclaim the farm the barn would have to be destroyed instead of just simply fixed.
I think this was one more way that Joseph was being told that the church had lost its way and that it needed to be corrected by God. It honestly must have been so heartbreaking for Joseph to see what the church could have been as compared to what it was. Imagine seeing God in a vision and then witnessing people rejecting him in order to participate in the most trivial of all activities.
As we have seen there are many compelling reasons to believe that Joseph is going to return and continue from where he left off. Of course, we don’t know the specifics as to what this is going to look like, however it seems to me at least to be pretty obvious. When taken as a whole then the evidence is very clear.
As was mentioned at the start, then each piece of evidence can be explained differently or can be ignored altogether. However, some are very clear that Joseph is going to preside over the work, and according to things like D&C 101 & 103, he is going to take a very active role in the end times. It is certainly not a stretch to think of this active role as being in the flesh like some of the other evidences suggest.
If this is a foreign concept to you, then I would highly encourage you to maintain an open mind and be receptive to whatever God has planned. Regardless of our study or learning, there are many things that we don’t understand about God or his future work. Therefore, whatever happens we will have to be challenged in some way and show that our trust and faith in God is more than our trust and faith in ourselves.
Regardless of what happens in the future, we know it is going to be so unbelievable that when it is spoken of then it will be openly dismissed. If we think about it though, is anything too much for God? Would Joseph coming back to mortality, possibly even with a different body, be believable to an average person? Wouldn’t they say that it’s impossible according to science? Or that it’s unnecessary according to the church leaders? Or that it’s against the workings of God according to our understanding?
We ultimately know almost nothing about God, yet we think we know so much. If God wants to bring Joseph back, then I am fine with it and I think it would be amazing to help him in his efforts. When God unveils things to us, then it will be so simple and obvious that we will be surprised that we misunderstood things. Unfortunately though, almost everything about our experience here in mortality encourages us to misunderstand the simple workings of God.
For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them; and there shall be among them those who will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them.3 Nephi 21:9