One of the twelve apostles in modern times, Henry B. Eyring [now a counselor in the First Presidency], said this, “The Prophet Joseph [Smith] is an example and a teacher of enduring well in faith. I do not worship him, but I thank and love him as the Lord’s prophet of the Restoration.”
The answer to the question is a unequivocal “No.” But I would like to give you more insight into what Joseph Smith does mean to the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by sharing my journey to understand him and his role.
I have been a member of the Mormon Church my whole life. My parents have been members their whole lives. I have ancestors that literally rubbed elbows with Joseph Smith. Despite all of this, I have not always understood his mission or had a personal witness of his prophetic calling.
While in high school I read the Book of Mormon as part of a daily teenage gospel class called seminary. As I read the book, my seminary teacher explained things I didn’t understand, encouraged all of us to pray about what we read, and urged us to use what we learned in our lives. Through this process I gained a spiritual witness of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Book of Mormon. As I enjoyed my newly forged faith someone told me something similar to what Gordon B. Hinckley said, “If you accept the revelation, you must accept the revelator.” But I struggled, for the Joseph Smith story was just so incredible!
Just as I couldn’t possibly read an entire set of encyclopedias in a day, I couldn’t know everything about the gospel immediately either. Eventually there came a time in my life that not understanding Joseph Smith really bothered me. I decided to find out exactly what was true, and what I felt about it. I followed a pattern similar to what my seminary teacher taught. I read LDS church history, prayed about what I read, and tried to implement what I learned in my life. As I did these things with a good attitude, I felt my seed of testimony begin to grow. As I read about the service Joseph Smith performed on behalf of the entire modern world I was inspired to learn more. I read about his life, I read doctrine written by his own hand, I read experiences of people that surrounded him, and I continued to read the Book of Mormon – scripture translated with the help of God by Joseph Smith.
Through all of this I gained a belief in Joseph’s prophetic calling and his unique mission. I knew that he didn’t write the Book of Mormon, but that he translated it in accordance with the will of God. Gaining knowledge about Joseph Smith was a doorway to a spiritual confirmation of the truth.
My knowledge and spiritual witness was strengthened even further when I visited historic church sites that were prominent in the life of the prophet Joseph Smith. With my family I have seen Nauvoo, the city beautiful, so named by the prophet Joseph, and where the early pioneers of the church established a city and built a temple.
I visited Kirtland, Ohio where Joseph taught the leadership of the church the doctrines of God in the School of the Prophets. We have been to the Sacred Grove, where Joseph Smith knelt in humble prayer as a young boy and received his first lesson at the feet of God the father and Jesus Christ. Our family prayed together in that special place, a memory we hold dear.
Most recently I have been to the site of Joseph Smith’s baptism in the Susquehanna River. Where, nearby, the priesthood was restored to the earth so that God’s children would have access to all the blessings necessary to return to him.
Because of Joseph Smith’s role in restoring the full gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth in the last days, as Mormons we honor and revere him. We even make efforts to remember his birthday, which is this week, on December 23rd. But we also obey the commandment that God presented in the time of Moses, “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer and we worship him. God is our Eternal Heavenly Father and we worship him. Joseph Smith was a man, a prophet called by God to do a special work, and so we are grateful to him, but we do not worship him. Joseph Smith worked to his very last breath to bring men to Christ and I believe he would desire our worship to be directed in no other direction than to Jesus Christ and God the Father.