I was having a discussion with someone about prophets and how Joseph Smith wasn’t a true prophet because he practiced polygamy. I told him that Joseph Smith was a prophet in a new dispensation and he stated that he wasn’t because he didn’t follow the guidelines of being a prophet from biblical times (New Testament). Any answer to that?
It seems like, in every generation, there are individuals who will come up with their own litmus test as to who can and who can’t be a prophet. When it came to Laman & Lemuel and their litmus test it was their authority as the older siblings, thus Nephi could not be the ruler, nor the prophet as this was their calling. AND indeed it may have been if not for their rebellion as the Lord declared to Nephi (1 Nephi 2:21-22):
21 And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
22 And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.
When Adam was the Patriarch/Prophet, was it because he had one wife or because he was called and chosen by God? What about Moses who grew up among the Egyptians, and who killed a priest. What allowed Moses to be a prophet? One wife? Or was it because he was called and chosen by God? As to both, it is because they were called and chosen by God.
What about Noah, Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob? Were they called and chosen because they had one wife? Well, with Noah, it seems he had only one wife (although there is some debate). Abraham had a child with another woman. Isaac appears to only have had Rebecca. Jacob had four wives. Did the idea of having more than one wife stop Abraham and Jacob from being patriarchs/prophets? No. Their marriage relationship did not determine if they could or could not be a prophet. What determined that they were prophets is that they were called and chosen by God.
When we read the New Testament we can find the following verse of scripture referring to “one wife” statement in 1 Timothy 3:2,12:
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
It appears the bishops and deacons are being counseled to only have one wife, and yet I don’t find any direct statement regarding a litmus test for a prophet to only have one wife, especially if God command it or allows it (as he definitely did with the Old Testament prophets). If we use this litmus test then we would have to consider Abraham and Jacob to be false prophets, as they clearly had more than one wife. Or is this individual trying to say, it was OK for them (Old Testament) but not OK for them (New Testament). Or maybe he is saying, “Well, that may have been the Law of Moses,” then there is a problem also because Abraham and Jacob lived long before the Law of Moses was ever the law.
The only true litmus test as to the calling of a prophet is whether or not a prophet was called and chosen by God. Peter did not become the Prophet because he only had one wife. He became the Prophet because he was called and chosen by Jesus Christ. All the other prophets and apostles were called and chosen by God, and that is the only litmus test to a chosen prophet.
This is the message we send to all, that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ (as described in the First Vision), and from there he was prepared further and then called and chosen to be the Lord’s servant, his prophet, in these the last days. Remember, his calling to a prophet was long before he was a polygamist (and was called to be a prophet long before polygamy was even a part of the Church).