Joseph Smith/Office of the Holy Ghost
The office of the Holy Ghost
Question: Did certain Church leaders claim that Joseph Smith "held the office of Holy Ghost"?
It is true that some Mormons in the 19th century apparently believed that Joseph was the Holy Ghost incarnate
It is true that some Mormons in the 19th century apparently believed that Joseph was the Holy Ghost incarnate. Some have also speculated that the Holy Ghost is a "calling" filled over the eons by various individuals, and that Joseph Smith took this position following his death.
This is, of course, not a doctrine of the Church and was repudiated by leaders when it appeared: It is also contrary to LDS scripture
Vern G. Swanson has written:
The most widespread is the belief that Smith was the Holy Ghost; or more correctly stated, that he represented the emanating spirit of the Father and the Son. This theory arose from several sources. In a 9 March 1841 discourse Joseph Smith apparently discussed three gods who covenanted to preside over this creation: "[An] Everlasting Covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth, and [it] relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth." These three gods, some argue, were Father Adam for the beginning of the mortal world, Christ for the Meridian of Time, and Joseph Smith for the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. Others have seen Doctrine and Covenants 135:3 as evidence for Smith being the Holy Ghost: "Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world than any other man that ever lived in it." Accordingly, Christ did the most to save humanity and is the second member of the Godhead; therefore, Smith, who did second to the most, is the third member.
That such notions have circulated in the church since 1844 is made clear by comments from church leaders contradicting these views. In August 1845 Orson Pratt wrote to church members responding to rumors that Joseph Smith was the Holy Ghost incarnate: "Let no false doctrine proceed out of your mouth, such, for instance that the tabernacle of our martyred prophet and seer, or of any other person, was or is the especial tabernacle of the Holy Ghost, in a different sense from that considered in relation to his residence in other tabernacles. These are doctrines not revealed, and are neither believed nor sanctioned by the Twelve and should be rejected by every Saint."
In D&C 130:21, a statement spoken by the Prophet Joseph Smith also makes it clear that during Joseph Smith's lifetime the Holy Ghost was a personage of spirit.
The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.
This canonized statement makes the concept that Joseph Smith was the Holy Ghost theologically impossible, since Joseph was clearly a mortal human being with a physical body, despite his description of the Holy Ghost as a spirit.
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- That Orson Pratt (see below) had to preach against this doctrine demonstrates that it had at least some currency. We  an example, if possible
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- Vern G. Swanson, "The Development of the Concept of a Holy Ghost in Mormon Theology," in Line Upon Line: Essays on Mormon Doctrine, Gary James Bergera, ed., (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 97.