Before I begin my analysis of G.azelem’s breakdown of the supposed atonement offerings of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, I want to state that I believe that it is possible that Joseph Smith’s suffering and death were a sacrifice for the sins of the people to offer a temporal salvation to them. Certainly his statement that he was going as a lamb to the slaughter leaves that possibility open.
On the other hand, if Joseph was offering up such a sacrifice at his death it is strange that the Lord didn’t at least hint at this when he revealed to Brigham Young the reason why Joseph had to die.
In D&C 136 the Lord gave Brigham Young a revelation. In it He stated the following about Joseph Smith and his death:
37 Therefore, marvel not at these things, for ye are not yet pure; ye can not yet bear my glory; but ye shall behold it if ye are faithful in keeping all my words that I have given you, from the days of Adam to Abraham, from Abraham to Moses, from Moses to Jesus and his apostles, and from Jesus and his apostles to Joseph Smith, whom I did call upon by mine angels, my ministering servants, and by mine own voice out of the heavens, to bring forth my work;
38 Which foundation he did lay, and was faithful; and I took him to myself.
39 Many have marveled because of his death; but it was needful that he should seal his testimony with his blood, that he might be honored and the wicked might be condemned.
There is nothing here to indicate that Joseph was atoning for the sins of the people in his death. Nor is there any indication that Joseph was currently in hell as G.azelem will later suggest in his article.
Rather, the Lord states that “[He] took Joseph to [Himself]” and that Joseph died to “seal his testimony with his blood, that he might be honored and the wicked might be condemned.”
So with that in mind, if Joseph was indeed offered up as a sacrifice for the sins of the people to provide a temporal salvation for them, the question remains whether this possible sacrifice was the ultimate fulfillment of the marring of the Lord’s servant in Isaiah or if it was merely a shadow fulfillment of it.
Let’s examine G.azelem’s breakdown to see which of his points are concrete and which of his points are either speculation or erroneous.
Evidence that Joseph was offering his soul as an offering for sin is hinted at in the first verse of Section 124, where the Lord says unto Joseph, “I am well pleased with your offering […] for unto this end have I raised you up, that I might show forth my wisdom through the weak things of the earth.”
The idea that the Lord is hinting at Joseph Smith making an atonement offering in D&C 124:1 is very problematic.
First of all, the Lord stated that he was “well pleased with [Joseph’s] offering.”
If the Lord was well pleased with Joseph’s offering then that offering had already taken place. Yet Joseph wouldn’t be killed for several more years.
So clearly whatever offering the Lord was well pleased with , it was not Joseph offering up his life as a sacrifice for sin.
It’s also interesting that G.azalem chose not to provide the entire quote from D&C 124:1.
The entire verse states,
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, I am well pleased with your offering and acknowledgments, which you have made; for unto this end have I raised you up, that I might show forth my wisdom through the weak things of the earth.
G.azelem took out the phrase “and acknowledgements.”
Why he did that is not clear, but that additional phrase is enlightening.
The 1828 Webster dictionary defines acknowledgment as:
- The act of owning; confession; as, the acknowledgment of a fault.
- The owning, with approbation, or in the true character; as the acknowledgment of a God, or of a public minister.
- Concession; admission of the truth; as, of a fact, position, or principle.
- The owning of a benefit received, accompanied with gratitude; and hence it combines the ideas of an expression of thanks. Hence, it is used also for something given or done in return for a favor.
The primary definition of acknowledgement has to do with confession, as in confession of sins. Other definitions are similar as in conceding or admitting the truth or an expression of gratitude for a blessing and promising to do something in return for it.
This seems to correlate with the following passage in Omni:
26 And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.
It would seem to me that the Lord was well pleased with Joseph’s prayers and his efforts overall, not that He was well pleased with Joseph’s supposed future atonement offering.
Again there is no indication in D&C 124:1 that the Lord was accepting a future offering of Joseph Smith, rather a past or current offering by him is suggested.
In fact there are several other men in the D&C who are told by the Lord that he had accepted their offerings, including Brigham Young. Were these men also being told that the Lord had accepted a future atonement offering by them?
The other weak thing of the earth is Sidney Rigdon—who, not surprisingly, is told in the very same revelation, “to offer an acceptable offering,” (verse 104) by remaining with the people he clearly knew to be apostate. He carried the burden of their sins when they banished him to consume their lusts and go after other gods than the God of Israel.
Here we yet again have nothing but speculation.
Let’s look at D&C 124:103-110 to see exactly what the Lord said to Sidney.
103 And again, verily I say unto you, if my servant Sidney will serve me and be counselor unto my servant Joseph, let him arise and come up and stand in the office of his calling, and humble himself before me.
104 And if he will offer unto me an acceptable offering, and acknowledgments, and remain with my people, behold, I, the Lord your God, will heal him that he shall be healed; and he shall lift up his voice again on the mountains, and be a spokesman before my face.
105 Let him come and locate his family in the neighborhood in which my servant Joseph resides.
106 And in all his journeyings let him lift up his voice as with the sound of a trump, and warn the inhabitants of the earth to flee the wrath to come.
107 Let him assist my servant Joseph, and also let my servant William Law assist my servant Joseph, in making a solemn proclamation unto the kings of the earth, even as I have before said unto you.
108 If my servant Sidney will do my will, let him not remove his family unto the eastern lands, but let him change their habitation, even as I have said.
109 Behold, it is not my will that he shall seek to find safety and refuge out of the city which I have appointed unto you, even the city of Nauvoo.
110 Verily I say unto you, even now, if he will hearken unto my voice, it shall be well with him. Even so. Amen.
We see that the Lord repeatedly uses the word if in His words to Sidney. Sidney would only be blessed if he did what the Lord commanded.
Sidney was commanded to stay with the Saints and not leave Nauvoo to head to the eastern lands.
Sidney initially kept this command and moved to Nauvoo, but by 1843 the relationship between Sidney and Joseph had deteriorated to the point that Joseph tried to have Sidney removed as his councilor. At the time of Joseph’s death Sidney had left Nauvoo and had moved to the eastern land of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in direct violation of the Lord’s command.
He was not sent away by Brigham Young. He had already left.
He came back after Joseph’s death. Then when he wouldn’t sustain the voice of the people, who by common consent chose Brigham Young and the 12 apostles to lead them, he was excommunicated.
He was not sent off to die as the scapegoat in Leviticus 16. Rather he could have sustained the voice of the people and he could have repented and been reconciled to the church, as men like Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, or Thomas B. Marsh did. He chose not to do this. He did not remain with the saints as the Lord commanded, he pridefully took off.
Another question is where G.azelem gets the idea that the people were collectively in apostasy and consuming their lusts on false gods other than the God of Israel? That does not appear to be the message of D&C 124 at all. There is also absolutely zero indication in any of the scriptures, or anywhere in church history, that the sins of Israel were to be carried by Sidney Rigdon.
In the past I believed the atonement of Joseph and Sidney and others was for the terrestrial souls who refused to be sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ and instead put their trust in their own works. The latter-day atonement was to preserve the Jews in a preparatory gospel which would enable them to receive a terrestrial glory rather than that of a telestial.
My realization that that the arm of the Lord is both Joseph and Sidney has made me reconsider this. Joseph and Sidney are extensions of the Lord, and the implications of that are too great to ignore. In Section 35, God refers to the weak things—Joseph and Sidney—as his very own arms, and that they will fight in behalf of God. “Their enemies shall be under their feet.” (verse 14)
This is reminiscent of Section 76, where God is to “subdue all enemies under his feet”—but this only occurs in the “fulness of times” when God has “perfected his work.” (verse 106)
God has not perfected his work!
G.azelem is correct that God has not yet perfected his work and “subdued all enemies under his feet.” This is still a future event when the earth will be cleansed of all wickedness, Satan bound and ultimately cast into outer darkness, and the earth transformed into its celestial state as a home for the saints of God.
Lehi speaks to his son, Jacob: “I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men.” (2nd Nephi 2:3)
Although we can be redeemed and receive the promises of salvation during any point of time within the earth’s temporal existence, this is due to the works of God wrought in the first, second, and third watch. It appears that it is only in the third watch—the fulness of times—that God completes his work of salvation.
Before dying on the cross, Christ’s last words were, “It is finished.” But notably, Christ expounds on this in Section 19: “I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” (verse 19)
Amulek prophesies that the sacrifice which is infinite and eternal will not be a sacrifice of man, implying that what differentiates Christ’s atonement from the atonement of Joseph is that Christ was not a man, he was God. Christ did not have mortal blood! (JST John 1:13) The other important thing Amulek brings up in Alma 34 is that the blood of man cannot atone for the sins of another.
JST John 1:13 states, “He was born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
While it is of course true that Christ was not a typical mortal man, He was God, this verse does not state that He did not have mortal blood flowing through His veins. I would suggest that Christ had to have mortal blood flowing through His veins or He could not have felt hunger or physical pain, and ultimately experienced death.
The atonement of Joseph Smith was not to atone for sins, but was because of sins.
Nevertheless, God was manifesting himself through this offering to show forth his wisdom to us in hidden darkness that we may understand how to receive salvation in the dispensation of the fulness of times when it is clear that we have not been sanctified during this time of apostasy.
Ether 12:27: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
If we learn humility and have a saving faith in Christ, weak things will become strong unto us. And what are the weak things? Joseph and Sidney!! Our weaknesses were expertly reflected in the mortals of Joseph and Sidney.
This yet again all speculation and wresting of the scriptures. There is no indication anywhere in the scriptures that “Our weaknesses were expertly reflected in the mortals of Joseph and Sidney” or that those two men are the weak things that will be made strong to us if we humble ourselves. In fact the Lord says that if men come unto Him, He will show unto them their weaknesses. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon are not our weaknesses, therefore they are not being referred to when the Lord states that the humble will have weak things made strong unto them.
We will not be sanctified until we exercise the same faith as the brother of Jared. (Ether 4:7)
This an interesting conclusion. Where does it state in the scriptures that people must rend the veil and see God before they are sanctified?
Joseph and Sidney exercised this faith but due to the iniquity of the early Saints—and all of us—the weak things were not made strong in the second watch.
Where is the evidence that none of the weak things were made strong during the second watch?
When we have rended the veil of unbelief and repented of our iniquity, the weak things of the earth will fulfill their missions and bring salvation unto us, perfecting the work of God.
1 Nephi 11 explains that the condescension of God was his ministry as Jesus Christ in the meridian of time. 2nd Nephi 4 refers to this condescension as one of mercy. 2nd Nephi 9 then lets it slip that there are multiple condescension’s of God.
Section 88 teaches there are three laws: the law of mercy, the law of justice, and the law of judgment. If God’s first condescension was of mercy, does it not make sense to conclude that two more condescension’s would occur, one in the spirit of justice and another in judgment? Is Joseph Smith’s life an example of God’s justice, reflecting unto us the reality of having not accepted the law of mercy through a saving faith?
“We like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
We have not been born of God and continue to sin, and this is a result of not coming unto Christ and accepting the mercy and grace that comes through relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
Does being born of God mean that a person no longer sins at all? I’m not aware of this doctrine. All men sin, even the most righteous.
“If the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief. And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one.” (Moroni 10:24-25)
The day prophesied of Moroni has come. We live in a time where the power and gifts of God are not on the earth, where none doeth good. We are not living under the law of mercy.
I agree that it does not appear that the gifts of the spirit are currently present on earth. As Moroni stated, this is due to unbelief.
The daily sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit (D&C 59) has been taken away as prophesied by Daniel.
Daniel did prophecy that the daily sacrifice would be taken away, but he did not say that this daily sacrifice was that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Men are always free to repent with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. To state otherwise is a mockery of the atonement of Christ. It takes a lot of gall to state that God no longer allows anyone to offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit and be forgiven of their sins.
I’m curious where G.azelem gets the idea that the daily sacrifice referred to by Daniel has been take away already. This is to happen at the hands of the anti-Christ when the abomination of desolation is set up. This has not happened yet.
Joseph Smith did not die that we may be forgiven of our sins. That was accomplished by Christ. However, Joseph took the justice of God upon himself by acting out our sins and dying justly for them. Isaiah 53:11 implicitly states that the marred servant will justify many. It does not state that he will bring mercy and grace.
For committing iniquity the Davidic servant was chastened by God through the stripes of men (2nd Samuel 7:14) and now resides in hell.
This is more speculation and misinterpreting of the scriptures. Here’s what the Lord says to King David in 2 Samuel 7:12-16:
12 ¶ And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:
15 But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.
16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
I don’t see a match to Joseph Smith here.
The Lord says that after David dies, He will set up David’s seed after him, and establish his kingdom. The Davidic Servant shall build a house unto the Lord and the throne of his kingdom will be established forever. The Lord will be his Father and he the Lord’s son.
First of all what evidence is there that Joseph Smith is a descendant of King David? Joseph is identified as a gentile and as a descendant of the tribe of Joseph, not a Jew of the Davidic line.
Now of course it’s possible that he is of both lines as one of the servants from Isaiah 11, but that is speculation.
Joseph’s kingdom was not established, let alone forever. The Lord never had Joseph anointed as king or declared that the throne of David was reestablished through Joseph Smith.
It’s apparent that another man besides Joseph will fulfill this prophecy in the future. In fact Joseph taught the following about David and the Davidic servant:
“David sought repentance at the hand of God carefully with tears, for the murder of Uriah; but he could only get it through hell: he got a promise that his soul should not be left in hell.
Although David was a king, he never did obtain the spirit and power of Elijah and the fullness of the Priesthood; and the Priesthood that he received, and the throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him and given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage (TPJS, 339).”
When was Joseph Smith ever referred to as David? Clearly Joseph understand the Davidic Servant to be someone in the future, not himself.
As for the Davidic Servant being chastened by the stripes of men if he shall commit iniquity, there is no indication that he will spend any time in hell, like Joseph Smith said David had to do.
In fact the Lord specifically stated that his mercy shall not depart from the Davidic Servant.
Through those stripes we have the opportunity to be healed (Isaiah 53:5) but only once the marred servant himself is healed and once again brings salvation to the world through faith in the atoning blood of Christ.
D&C 97:2: “I, the Lord, show mercy unto all the meek, and upon all whomsoever I will, that I may be justified when I shall bring them unto judgment.”
Joseph Smith has justified us that we may be converted and healed by the Lord’s mercy at a further time after having rejected him. This is particularly relevant to those of us who are very likely the descendants of the Jews who collectively crucified Christ and suffer from the curse in which our ancestors put upon us.
“His blood be on us and our children.” (Matt 27:25)
G.azelem offers no evidence for why he believes that “we are very likely the descendants of the Jews who collectively crucified Christ.” Most of us are Ephraimites and therefore cannot be descendants of the Jews who crucified Christ.
We are only free from generational curses if we seek the Lord with all of our heart and soul and are obedient to his voice. (Deut 4:29-30) Being honest with myself, I’ve concluded that I have not done this. Just as the Jews rejected Christ and the Gentiles rejected him again in the second watch, I too have rejected him. Even during our time of apostasy where the holy order and ordinances thereof are not to be found on the earth, we are still accountable for not rending the veil of our unbelief when we have a knowledge of the fulness of the gospel. It appears in Ether 12:27 that the weak things becoming strong is contingent on us having a true faith Christ.
I appreciate G.azelem’s humility here. The question remains however how he can claim that even in a time of apostasy, were the ordinances are not found on the earth, that we are still accountable for not rending the veil, after declaring that one must have the Melchizedek priesthood in order to rend the veil and see God earlier in his article?
Furthermore, how does G.azelem expect us to rend the veil if the ability to offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit has been taken from us as he claims?
We are not relying on Joseph and Sidney to save us. They are relying on us! “If there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them.” (Ether 12:12)
Joseph Smith took the justice of God upon himself on behalf of those that have continually rejected Christ while Joseph himself did not. Having rejected Christ’s infinite and eternal atonement, we definitively deserve the justice of God,
G.azelem presents absolutely no evidence for his claim that all of the Saints from Joseph’s day to the present have continually rejected Christ and His infinite and eternal atonement. That is quite the condemnation to make, let alone without one shred of evidence to back it up.
…but we have been justified by Joseph and will either humble ourselves and become meek to receive mercy, or we will be brought unto judgment.
“The life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.” (3rd Nephi 21:10)
The marring and healing of God’s anointed servant is to show forth God’s wisdom! Which is exactly what God relates when he accepts Joseph’s offering in Section 124: “I am well pleased with your offering […] for unto this end have I raised you up, that I might show forth my wisdom through the weak things of the earth.”
As I explained earlier, G.azelem is misunderstanding the offering the Lord accepted from Joseph in D&C 124:1.
The 1828 Webster dictionary defines marring as, “To injure; to hurt; to impair the strength or purity of.”
The purity of Joseph Smith was impaired by the atonement offering he made after the world rejected the sanctifying power he offered.
Actually this is how the 1828 Webster dictionary defines mar:
- To injure by cutting off a part, or by wounding and making defective; as, to mara tree by incision.
I pray you, mar no more trees by writing songs in their barks.
Neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. Leviticus 19:27.
- To injure; to hurt; to impair the strength or purity of.
When brewers mar their malt with water.
- To injure; to diminish; to interrupt.
But mirth is marred, and the good cheer is lost.
- To injure; to deform; to disfigure.
Ire, envy and despair
Marr’d all his borrow’d visage.
His visage was so marred more than any man. Isaiah 52:1.
As we can see, G.azelem only gave us one of the meanings, the only one that could possibly fit his claims.
According to Noah Webster, the marring in Isaiah 52:1 referred to injuring, deforming, or disfiguring.
Instead of being translated and leaving the corrupted vineyard behind, he made an intercession, telling the Lord of the vineyard to, “Spare it a little longer.” (Jacob 5:50)
Why would Joseph have to be translated if he didn’t die making an intercession? This is a strange idea. Most true prophets are either slain or die of old age. Very few are translated that we know of.
G.azelem presents no evidence for associating Joseph with the Lord’s servant from Jacob 5. I do agree that the servant mentioned in Jacob 5 is the Davidic servant, but this is not Joseph Smith.
In the next post in this series I will continue to address G.azelem’s claims in his article including when I believe G.azelem unintentionally speaks blasphemy against our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.