Yesterday I met with Joseph Frederick Smith, the great-grandson of Joseph Smith. I heard his account of his involvement with the claims that a man from Brazil has been given the plates of the Book of Mormon. Listening to him I had no reason to doubt his sincerity. If there is mischief afoot, he is not the author of it, but the victim of it.
I offered him a few words of caution because I believe he will be the one who will be scorned if this proves to be a misadventure. If it all proves to be false, as I suspect it will, then the great-grandson of Joseph Smith will be the largest target of the critics. It will potentially be used as additional fodder for condemning his great-grandfather as well.
So far the Brazilian claims are not connected with any translation of a text, but have been confined to witnesses claiming to have seen plates purporting to be the Book of Mormon. I reminded them that the witnesses to the Book of Mormon in 1830 did not testify apart from a published text. There is a great difference between testifying to attract readers to take the text of the Book of Mormon seriously, as was done in 1830, and testifying without a text for anyone to consider, as now being done.
The claimants assure the public that a text will be forthcoming. Until there is such a thing, there is nothing to consider.
So far all that has been advanced is testimony about “signs.” Since “he that seeks signs shall see signs, but not unto salvation. …behold, faith comes not by signs, but signs follow those that believe.” (T&C 50:3.) The news of “signs” does nothing to attract me.
All three of the original witnesses to the Book of Mormon eventually abandoned Joseph Smith. The “signs” to them failed to produce enduring faith. That is because signs do not, indeed cannot, produce faith.
When the saints were condemned in 1832, the words of condemnation stated: “And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things that you have received, which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation rests upon the children of Zion, even all, and they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon, and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do, according to that which I have written, that they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s Kingdom.” (T&C 82:20.)
Coincidentally, I have written nearly 4 million words testifying, explaining, exhorting and teaching primarily from the Book of Mormon, and secondarily from the other works of Joseph Smith. I have labored for years to directly remove the condemnation, by remembering and teaching the Book of Mormon. I know of nothing that the man in Brazil has labored to do to remove the condemnation. I only hear of miraculous events wholly divorced from any sincere effort by those involved to repent and remove the condemnation imposed in 1832 upon all the children of Zion.
If there is ever a text to examine, I will gladly review it. I accept truth from any source. I would like to see what God withheld from the published Book of Mormon because it was too sacred to reveal to the public in Joseph Smith’s day. Since I have seen things which are not lawful for man to utter, nor is man capable of making them known, I would very much recognize a true text that removes the veil and puts on public display those most sacred and unspeakable things. I expect to be able to recognize immediately if the text is authentic. If it proves to be true, it will be an astonishing thing for the world. Heretofore the Lord has commanded, “You shall keep the mysteries of the Kingdom unto yourself, for it is not given to the world to know the mysteries.” (T&C 26:20.) If there is a text, it will no doubt explain why these heretofore withheld precious mysteries are now being published for the world to see.
In the history of the world, God’s greatest mysteries were kept from public display. They become known according to a pattern: “Knowledge of the mysteries of godliness is obtained only through obedience to God. He ordained this method to make His greatest truths universally available to all His humble followers training for the ministry.” (T&C 159:31.)
I very much appreciated the visit, and when our meeting ended, sincerely wished for God to go with Joseph Frederick Smith. We agree on more than we disagree. I regard him as a brother in Christ.