Analyzing Smith’s famous speech
By Jacob Howard
In Joseph Smith’s famous speech “The King Follet Discourse” he dedicated a long part of the speech to the nature of God (this is not a review of the entire speech). He claims:
My first object is to find out the character of the only wise and true God, and what kind of a being He is; and if I am so fortunate as to be the man to comprehend God, and explain or convey the principles to your hearts, so that the Spirit seals them upon you, then let every man and woman henceforth sit in silence, put their hands on their mouths, and never lift their hands or voices, or say anything against the man of God or the servants of God again.
Joseph Smith said the above and he uses it as a platform for the rest of his speech exploring his comprehension of God. Take note that Smith said, “the only wise and true God”. We will see more about that later on in his message.
I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of a being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth, for I am going to prove it to you by the Bible, and to tell you the designs of God in relation to the human race, and why He interferes with the affairs of man.
Smith says he will prove his “comprehension” by the Bible. Whether on not he does that depends on what he will teach further on.
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another.
Some people have paraphrased this idea as, “as God once was, man is, and as God now is, man may become.” But, although it is rooted in Mormon doctrine, the Bible does not teach this. In John 4:24 it says (KJV):
God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
It then says, in Colossians 1:17:
And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.
In this verse it is talking about Jesus, and in earlier verses it says how Jesus was there when everything was created! If this is true then it must mean that God was already existent before anything was created. This means He definitely could not have been a man or even been created. What Smith is saying undermines all of what God stands as.
In order to understand the subject of the dead, for consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how He came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.
These ideas are incomprehensible to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with Him as one man converses with another, and that He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.
Smith says he will prove from the Bible what he says is true, but he also says, “We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.” But, God says, in the Bible, “I AM THAT I AM”, as revealed here, this means God has always been. This is only one reference of many.
I wish I was in a suitable place to tell it, and that I had the trump of an archangel, so that I could tell the story in such a manner that persecution would cease forever. What did Jesus say? (Mark it, Elder Rigdon!) The scriptures inform us that Jesus said, as the Father hath power in himself, even so hath the Son power—to do what? Why, what the Father did. The answer is obvious—in a manner to lay down his body and take it up again. Jesus, what are you going to do? To lay down my life as my Father did, and take it up again. Do you believe it? If you do not believe it you do not believe the Bible. The scriptures say it, and I defy all the learning and wisdom and all the combined powers of earth and hell together to refute it. Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. And I want you to know that God, in the last days, while certain individuals are proclaiming His name, is not trifling with you or me.
Smith again says he will use the Bible to prove his sayings, but all he can prove is that the Father gave power to the Son, the rest is made up by Smith. None of the rest of what he says is in the Bible.
The Second Commandment clearly refutes what Smith is saying. Man cannot become gods, that is blasphemy and breaking the Third Commandment.
What did Jesus do? Why, I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. My Father worked out His kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to My Father, so that He may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt Him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take His place, and thereby become exalted myself. So that Jesus treads in the tracks of His Father, and inherits what God did before; and God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all His children. It is plain beyond disputation, and you thus learn some of the first principles of the gospel, about which so much hath been said.
Again, Smith follows through with his claim of using the Bible, but what he says is from the Bible is not. Some phrases come from the bible but they have a completely different meaning then he says. For example “fear and trembling” is in the Bible three times:
2 Corinthians 7:15:
And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him.
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
None of these come close to what Smith said. None of the other “references” are from the Bible. Look for yourself if you don’t believe me.
I suppose I am not allowed to go into an investigation of anything that is not contained in the Bible. If I do, I think there are so many over-wise men here that they would cry “treason” and put me to death. So I will go to the old Bible and turn commentator today.
I shall comment on the very first Hebrew word in the Bible; I will make a comment on the very first sentence of the history of creation in the Bible—Berosheit. I want to analyze the word. Baith—in, by, through, and everything else. Rosh—the head, Sheit—grammatical termination. When the inspired man wrote it, he did not put the baith there. An old Jew without any authority added the word; he thought it too bad to begin to talk about the head! It read first, “The head one of the Gods brought forth the Gods.” That is the true meaning of the words. Baurau signifies to bring forth. If you do not believe it, you do not believe the learned man of God. Learned men can teach you no more than what I have told you. Thus the head God brought forth the Gods in the grand council.
I don’t know if I’m “learned” enough but I do have a version of the old Hebrew Bible. The first word is “re’shiyth” not “berosheit”. This word means “beginning” and is only related to the word “ro’sh” which means “shake”. Smith has no evidence for what he says and no way does the Hebrew say what he says. He has completely made it up.
I will transpose and simplify it in the English language. Oh, ye lawyers, ye doctors, and ye priests, who have persecuted me, I want to let you know that the Holy Ghost knows something as well as you do. The head God called together the Gods and sat in grand council to bring forth the world. The grand councilors sat at the head in yonder heavens and contemplated the creation of the worlds which were created at the time. When I say doctors and lawyers, I mean the doctors and lawyers of the scriptures. I have done so hitherto without explanation, to let the lawyers flutter and everybody laugh at them. Some learned doctors might take a notion to say the scriptures say thus and so; and we must believe the scriptures; they are not to be altered. But I am going to show you an error in them.
Smith makes a claim that tries to ruin any chance someone has off defeating his argument. He is using a logical fallacy known as “abusive ad hominem”. He says that if someone disagrees with him, they are not learned like he is, or as enlightened as he.
I have an old edition of the New Testament in the Latin, Hebrew, German and Greek languages. I have been reading the German, and find it to be the most [nearly] correct translation, and to correspond nearest to the revelations which God has given to me for the last fourteen years. It tells about Jacobus, the son of Zebedee. It means Jacob. In the English New Testament it is translated James. Now, if Jacob had the keys, you might talk about James through all eternity and never get the keys. In the 21st [verse] of the fourth chapter of Matthew, my old German edition gives the word Jacob instead of James.
The doctors (I mean doctors of law, not physic) say, “If you preach anything not according to the Bible, we will cry treason.” How can we escape the damnation of hell, except God be with us and reveal to us? Men bind us with chains. The Latin says Jacobus, which means Jacob; the Hebrew says Jacob, the Greek says Jacob and the German says Jacob, here we have the testimony of four against one. I thank God that I have got this old book; but I thank him more for the gift of the Holy Ghost. I have got the oldest book in the world; but I have got the oldest book in my heart, even the gift of the Holy Ghost. I have all the four Testaments. Come here, ye learned men, and read, if you can. I should not have introduced this testimony, were it not to back up the word rosh—the head, the Father of the Gods. I should not have brought it up, only to show that I am right.
Smith is trying to show the Bible has errors by saying different translations of the book have a different name for one of the sons of Zebedee. It is extremely trivial but Smith uses the example trying to prove that the Bible is erroneous.
If Smith had looked into the original Greek word (in which it was written, instead he read a Greek Bible), he would see that the word was “Graecized” from Hebrew. Meaning, they took the Hebrew word for “Jacob” and and turned into what would make sense for the culture of that day, which would be “James”! The Bible is not erroneous, just the original word was read different from culture to culture.
What Smith said next leaves no room for argument because if you do, you fall for his abusive ad hominem trap:
Now, I ask all who hear me, why the learned men who are preaching salvation, say that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing? The reason is, that they are unlearned in the things of God, and have not the gift of the Holy Ghost; they account it blasphemy in any one to contradict their idea. If you tell them that God made the world out of something, they will call you a fool. But I am learned, and know more than all the world put together. The Holy Ghost does, anyhow, and he is within me, and comprehends more than all the world; and I will associate myself with him.
See what the Bible says about what he said. Once again, he has not used the Bible to found his claims, but says that people who cross him will be going against someone who knows “more than all the world put together.”
You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing, and they will answer, “Doesn’t the Bible say he created the world?” And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. Now, the word create came from the word baurau, which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time He had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end.
The word Smith is looking for is “bara'” and literally means to “absolutely create”. Can’t argue with the original Hebrew.
We say that God Himself is a self-existing being. Who told you so? It is correct enough; but how did it get into your heads? Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles? Man does exist upon the same principles. God made a tabernacle and put a spirit into it, and it became a living soul. (Refers to the Bible.) How does it read in the Hebrew? It does not say in the Hebrew that God created the spirit of man. It says, “God made man out of the earth and put into him Adam’s spirit, and so became a living body.”
I wish to know where he referred to the Bible, but that is all the account says. The King James Version, which is the only version Mormons will accept, says of Smith’s verse, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
I am dwelling on the immortality of the spirit of man. Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it has a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal [co-eternal] with our Father in heaven.
I want to reason more on the spirit of man; for I am dwelling on the body and spirit of man—on the subject of the dead. I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man—the immortal part, because it had no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man. As the Lord liveth, if it had a beginning, it will have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation, who say that the spirit of man had a beginning, prove that it must have an end; and if that doctrine is true, then the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the housetops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself.
Here Smith crosses the line. To say that there are other “spirits” equal with God violates so many Biblical principles it would take most of the Bible to list them all. The entire Bible is a testament that there is only One God. Only One! God did not have to create Himself because he is not made of created material. That is what Smith misses. Our spirits are not made of material like our bodies are. Our spirit is a spirit without flesh and bone.
The discourse goes on for awhile from there, but the talk of God being a man ends there. I will discuss soon the rest of what Joseph Smith said in his discourse about his friend. What has this article taught you so far?