Joseph Smith is rightly famous for writing the Book of Mormon, though Latter-Day Saints wish to say he translated the book. Smith is supposed to be a prophet of God leading the LDS church to the restoration of the church which had gone astray from the teachings of Jesus. Along with the Book of Mormon, Smith also wrote the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine of Covenants which are a part of LDS scripture. According to the LDS beliefs, Smith was a prophet from when he translated the Book of Mormon till he was murdered in 1848. Toward the end of his life, Smith is recorded to say what I believe to be the most damning statement of all of his works. Though the following is not considered scripture to the LDS church, it still does a lot to tell us the character of the Smith:
“I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam… Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.”
-History of the Church, 6:408–409
At face value, I think anyone can discern how audacious such a claim is. Smith is claiming to do something better than Christ himself. Now LDS don’t believe that Jesus is God and so the claim may not be as incriminating for them as it is for Christians, but we know the LDS church surely looks highly upon Christ otherwise they would not call themselves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Furthermore, he is considered part of the LDS Godhead. Based upon this understanding we can know that what Smith is saying is wrong on several counts.
First, this sort of claim is sinful because it is claiming to do something better than part of the Godhead. To claim that you have done something better than Christ himself is clearly a level of pride that is sinful.
Second, it ignores what Christ himself claims about the establishment of his own church. Christ says that any that the Father has given Christ will not be taken from him (John 6:39). This means that Christ did not lose any of his church. There is truth to say that Peter and others ran away, but in the passage mentioned there is a clear understanding that even those never fully left him.
Third, and perhaps most damaging is the fact that many had in fact left LDS church by the time Smith makes this statement. David Whitmer left the church in 1837, Oliver Cowdry and Martin Harris in 1838. Those three men make up all three of the men who were witness to the ‘first vision’ the most significant testimony of the LDS church. Though Cowdry and Harris did eventually return, Cowdry did not return until Smith’s death. This means when Smith writes “the LDS never ran from me” he knows two of his most central founders were not part of the church and had no knowledg that they would be returning.
Furthermore, the next most important group of witnesses for the LDS faith are the eight witnesses. Five of these men had already left the church when Smith spoke this. So when Smith makes this statement over half of his most important leaders had left the church.
When we compare Smith and Jesus record there isn’t much comparison as far as keeping members in the church. Some of the disciples may leave Christ for a time but only Judas never returns. For Smith he is shooting at best 6 for 11 while Christ is shooting 11 for 12.
How Do LDS Apologists respond?
First, they attempt to argue that all men are sinners and even Smith was prone to make mistakes here and there. although this is true we also see that in scripture those who sin are either judged for their sin or repent of it, or both. In the case of Smith, we see that he never repents nor seems to be judged by God for this sin. The LDS church has clearly stood by Smith in this statement not only believing that he said it, but that he was right to say it.
Along that line, other LDS argue that perhaps Smith repented of this statement before he was murdered. The statement was made one month before his murder so he had time to repent of it and perhaps he did. The problem here is that we have no recording that Smith ever did such a thing and with as damning as such a statement as this is and how extensive as the LDS church histories are, we should expect to find such evidence if he ever did such a thing.
Other LDS members may try to argue that what is written down here is inaccurate and Smith didn’t make such a claim. The problem here is that we have no one ever correcting what Thomas Bulluck recorded her in the Church history. If Smith never did say such a thing why didn’t the people who knew Smith correct Bulluck in his error? Yet we have no indication such a confrontation ever occurred.
 Godhead: https://www.lds.org/topics/godhead?lang=eng
For more the LDS view of this issue: https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Joseph_Smith/Narcissism/Boasting?fbclid=IwAR2KBnU65ModwmyRQe5RA_i4avsxnL9j39dmyUVmNC-TPkKhfVYxvJg4j60
For those who would be interested in reading what LDS Apologetics actually says on this topic see https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Joseph_Smith/Narcissism/Boasting . My own view is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that none are perfect save Jesus Christ. We do Not believe in prophetic or apostolic infallibility or inerrancy. Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God and a good man, but he certainly made mistakes and errors as did the Old Testament prophet, Jonah, and the New Testament apostle, Peter. this article is presenting one side (polemics) rather than providing a balanced view and references that can be checked. For instance, Bearded Disciple provides no source for his contention: “The LDS church has clearly stood by Smith in this statement not only believing that he said it, but that he was right to say it.” Thanks to all readers for taking the time to read and thoughtfully consider my response.
Thanks for your thoughts Wayne. I added the article you mentioned to my sources because I did actually look at that when writting this blog.
The fact that the church has never outrightly refuted that Smith said this or condemned his words is standing by this pretty well. If you are able to provide me something that shows I am wrong I’ll be happy to change the article.
Hi Hi from zeb