Some said that he was a deliberate imposter, driven by the devil to deceive the people and lead them away from God. It is reported that he associated with known prostitutes, lived a hedonist's life, whose close friends had reputations of low morals and character. Certainly not at all fitting of one who purports to be sent of God to lead the people back to Him.
It is true, he was betrayed by close friends into the hands of a bloodthirsty mob and brutally killed. How could this happen to the only perfect man ever to walk the earth?
Oh wait, did you think I was talking about Joseph Smith? Oh no, I was talking about Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Their lives did indeed have a lot in common, though: profound teachings, scores of miracles and prophecies, a devout following, and yet in the end misinformation was spread far enough that the masses were blinded and had them killed.*
The internet is full of libelous publications about Joseph Smith that crush the curiosity, as if to say "How could anyone with that reputation be a true prophet of God?" It's only natural, I check the reviews on Amazon before I even buy a toaster. But in this case, consider what stories of Jesus might have made the Jerusalem Evening News the night before the crucifixion:
"Jesus' doctrines inconsistent, losing popularity"So let's assume that public opinion is not necessarily a good indicator of someone's status in the eyes of God.** What are we to do? Look for unpopular leaders? How can we know which group the Lord would have us join?
"Area man wanted for sedition and perjury"
"Scores consider themselves lucky to have escaped Jesus' web of deceipt and lies"
Turns out Jesus himself gives us the answer in the Bible:
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits." - Matt 7:15-16 (italics added)What are the fruits you see in various religious organizations? Scandal and abuse? or love and service? If from a distance the fruit looks good, don't ask a competing grower what he thinks -- instead go stand under the tree and take a closer look. Don't worry, the tree can't grab you!
If it still looks good up close, don't just rely on your eyes:
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" - John 16:13Doesn't appear that God has left us on our own here -- we just have to ask, then seek...
"For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." - Matthew 7:8
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all [men] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." - James 1:5
* Some have said that Mormons worship Joseph Smith, but that's absolutely ridiculous. Joseph Smith was called to be a prophet of God, just like Elijah or Ezekiel in Old Testament times.
** Elijah's my favorite example, the people wanted to kill him, even after the miracle with the priests of Baal. He later asked the Lord to just let him die. (1 Kings 18:21-40, 19:4,14)