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Mormons believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Mormons define a prophet as a special witness for Christ, testifying of His divinity and teaching His gospel and commandments to all mankind. A prophet teaches truth and gives understanding to the word of God. He calls the unrighteous to repentance. He receives revelations and directions from the Lord for our benefit. He may see into the future and foretell coming events so that the world may be warned. A prophet also has God’s authority (called the priesthood) to act in His name and make available sacred religious ceremonies, called ordinances, to all of God’s children. The written words of God’s prophets are called scriptures (see 2 Peter 1:20-21).
Jesus Christ called Joseph Smith as a prophet in our day to restore to the earth the gospel, priesthood authority, and His Church, the same as was established by Him when He was alive. Mormons believe Jesus Christ established His church, but after the Apostles died people fell away and the truth and God’s priesthood authority was lost. Jesus eventually restored his Church and called prophets to lead it, starting with Joseph Smith.
Jesus Christ Brought His Church Back to the Earth Through the Prophet Joseph Smith
On April 6, 1830, Joseph Smith officially established Christ's Church again on the earth. As part of this restoration, foretold in the New Testament (see Acts 3:19-22), Jesus Christ brought forth The Book of Mormon through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph also received additional direction from God about the establishment of Christ’s Church upon the earth. These revelations are found in a book of scriptures called the Doctrine and Covenants.
Joseph Smith was born in 1805. At the age 14, he was confused about the various teachings of the different churches. He was searching for the true church of God. Joseph read in the Bible that if you lack wisdom in your life, you can ask God through prayer and He will give you direction and help (see James 1:5). Joseph decided to pray and ask God which church he should join. In answer to his prayer, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph in a vision (see Joseph Smith History: 1:8-17). This vision is a continuation of God’s pattern of reaching out to His children through living prophets (see Amos 3:7). God has done so from the beginning with prophets such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, and continues to follow this pattern in our day. Through this and other experiences, Joseph Smith became the first modern-day prophet.
Mormons Do Not Worship Joseph Smith
Some think Mormons worship Joseph Smith, but that is not true. Rather we deeply revere him. We worship God the Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ. We respect Joseph Smith as a prophet of God and an instrument of Heavenly Father in restoring back to the earth the Church of Jesus Christ in its fullness.
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We admire Joseph Smith and consider him a prophet of God and follow his teachings as we do with Moses and other prophets of old. The thing that makes Joseph Smith unique amongst prophets is that he helped to bring the Church of Jesus Christ back to the earth after a period of darkness which is known as the Great Apostasy.
Mormons see Joseph Smith in the same way Jews see Moses - while we respect and honor their lives and their contributions, we understand that they are real people, worthy of our veneration but not our worship. We understand that they were selected for important duties that God called them to complete and we respect the work that they performed. Joseph does occupy a unique place in Mormon theology because so many doctrines of the re-established church can be traced to revelations that were given to him.
Ryan Kinley answered...
I do not "worship" Joseph Smith, but if there was a man, other than Christ himself, who deserves mankind's respect, it is Joseph Smith the Prophet! We celebrate his life, and sing of his success in bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ back to the Earth. We believe he (notice the lower-cased "h") is a normal man, like Moses was, with a special mission here on the earth to free God's people. His mission was to free this generation of the religious confusion and discord after the Great Apostasy; a the period following Peter's death until Joseph Smith's reception of the Priesthood.
The 1st commandment is very clear in stating: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." We worship God only. Joseph Smith was an incredible prophet of God, the one through whom the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth after approximately 1400 years without it!
He served an incredibly important role in God's plan for us and he also suffered great personal losses in order to fulfill his divine mission. We all owe him a great debt of gratitude and I love him very much.
We talk a lot about Joseph Smith because he is an important prophet. He is the prophet that was called to help restore the original church that existed during the time of Christ.