Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints claims to worship Jesus Christ (re: their official name) and, I assume, God, the members seem to worship and deify Joseph Smith, a mortal man. Just read through the lyrics of Praise To The Man:
(Opening verse:) Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah, Jesus anointed that prophet and seer. Blessed to open that last dispensation, Kings shall exalt him and nations revere!
Hail to the prophet, ascended to heaven. Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain. Mingling with Gods he can plan for his brethren; death cannot conquer the hero again.
Or view this YouTube video of the hymn if you prefer (note the accompanying video description, which I read with great irony: “For a testimony of the restored gospel to be complete, it must include a testimony of Joseph Smith’s divine mission. The truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the truthfulness of the First Vision and the other revelations the Lord gave to the Prophet Joseph. President John Taylor, the third President of the Church, wrote, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it”.”).
If you’ve never criticized Joseph Smith’s personality or actions in the presence of a mormon, let me just tell you that they take criticism–or skepticism–regarding Joe’s motives or mannerisms in the same way they receive “blasphemous” observations about God: poorly!
A family member once asked me if I was calling Joseph Smith a liar–and did I really think that a garden-variety liar would subject himself to the persecution that Brother Joseph did?? What I wanted to say was that, not only was Joe a liar, but I’m pretty sure he was a narcissistic sociopath. I held back, though–regrettably.
Mormons are so enamored by Joseph Smith that they have even improved and upgraded his likeness in their modern-day materials, to make him more appealing to a modern-day audience, I assume.
This is the likeness that I was familiar with, which was included on the inside cover of Books of Mormon published in the 1980s:
Since that time, this image has been circulated:
And I’ve recently discovered that this is an official Joe Smith portrait circulated by the LDS organization:
It’s unfortunate that Brother Joseph didn’t live in the age of photography, so we could see his actual image–or did he??
This site asserts that the picture below might very well be a photo taken of Joe Smith around 1839. They include digital comparisons between this photo and his death mask.
The author at the death mask comparison site makes a pretty convincing argument, including the dates he might have visited a Pennsylvanian photographer.
Here are early portraits of Joe, the second of which graces the cover of Fawn Brodie’s Joseph Smith biography, No Man Knows My History:
He appears to be decidedly brunette, just as his first wife Emma described him in her journal.
So, why does the LDS organization want him to appear more blonde and beautiful? Maybe we can get a clue from the current Primary (LDS children’s organization) presidency:
To re-cap, here are the side-by-sides of the Joseph Smith likeness over the 186-or-so years of the existence of the LDS organization:
The LDS marketing organization is hard at work, crafting an ever-more appealing likeness, I’m sure. Marketing is sort of a lie, though. It is the duty of a marketing department to create a need within potential customers to convince them to buy the product or service (or religion!) they’re selling.
I don’t find the new packaging appealing–but that’s because I’m fully aware of what’s included in the fine print on the package they’re selling.
Is this appealing to you?
Edit: I recently realized that I neglected to include an assertion by Brigham Young that bolsters my claim that Latter-Day Saints have deified Joseph Smith and, therefore worship him. (I’m only human, so I hope the reader will forgive this oversight.) Brother Brigham claimed that Joseph Smith approves or rejects those who desire to enter into heaven.
Brigham Young recorded this in the Journal of Discourses (a record of speeches given to members):
“Joseph Smith holds the keys of this last dispensation, and is now engaged behind the vail in the great work of the last days. I can tell our beloved brother Christians who have slain the Prophets and butchered and otherwise caused the death of thousands of Latter-day Saints, the priests who have thanked God in their prayers and thanksgiving from the pulpit that we have been plundered, driven, and slain, and the deacons under the pulpit, and their brethren and sisters in their closets, who have thanked God, thinking that the Latter-day Saints were wasted away, something that no doubt will mortify them – something that, to say the least, is a matter of deep regret to them – namely, that no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are – I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent. He holds the keys of that kingdom for the last dispensation – the keys to rule in the spirit-world; and he rules there triumphantly, for he gained full power and a glorious victory over the power of Satan while he was yet in the flesh, and was a martyr to his religion and to the name of Christ, which gives him a most perfect victory in the spirit-world. He reigns there as supreme a being in his sphere, capacity, and calling, as God does in heaven. Many will exclaim – “Oh, that is very disagreeable! It is preposterous! We cannot bear the thought!” But it is true.” – Journal of Discourses 7:289 (Oct 9, 1859)
Notice that Brother Brigham used the persecution complex tool that Brother Joseph established for the organization while he was alive.
As per usual, apologists for the LDS organization have rationalized Brother Brigham’s comments on this subject by using circular logic and biblical sources. Note that the third of the three apologists goes to great lengths to justify Young’s claim. However, if you know anything about human nature, over-explaining things is usually an indication that it is a lie. Truth is simple.
Brigham Young claimed many other interesting (and blasphemous? despicable?) things during his tenure as president of the mormon church. Luckily, they were recorded for our perusal and consideration. This site has compiled many of them. If the reader suspects that these statements are taken out of context and desires to read the full speeches, they can be searched for within LDS sites, including this Journal of Discourses site.