“The Holy Ghost is now in a State of Probation..”

Many many years ago when I was just getting addicted to my obsession of searching the scriptures and the history of the church, I came upon one of the most extraordinary and exhilarating quotes from Joseph Smith that really turned me upside down and inside out.

It went something like this

“..the Holy Ghost is now in a state of Probation which if he should perform in righteousness he may pass through the same or a similar course of things that the Son has”

It blew my mind.

I thought that was one of the most astounding and illuminating concepts I had ever heard!

Of course it was also quite disruptive, not only to all of my preconceived ideas  about the Holy Ghost, but it also appeared to contradict scripture.

At that time I was really into prophet worship in general, and Joseph Smith worship specifically, and I just knew that it was impossible for the prophet Joseph Smith to ever say anything false.

Did I remember to tell you that I was also pretty damn gullible?

Anyway, I mindlessly accepted this new doctrine as a fact and went my merry little way thinking I had discovered one of the mysteries of Godliness, although I had a little higher degree of cognitive dissonance whenever I would read about the Holy Ghost in the scriptures.

As the years went by, I finally began to have my awakening about the true history of the church, the latter day apostasy, the fact that most of what I had been taught in the church was erroneous. I learned that Joseph was not infallible and in fact, that he had his eyes covered about many things shortly after the fulness of the gospel was rejected. Hence, he did and taught things during the Nauvoo era that were not correct.

At that time, I began to re-evaluate all of the doctrine that I had ever taken for granted.

first, I composed a pecking order of credible resources, based on perceived credibility, that I could use to determine true vs false doctrines.

Obviously, the Holy Ghost is a very important key in determining truth, and avoid being deceived, but it is easy to over ride the subtle promptings of the spirit, or not even get promptings, if we are using bad resources that we categorically deem to be credible.

One of the quotes from a modern president of the church that had a profound impact on my thinking and on my quest for truth is as follows:

“It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine.

“You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works.

“Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted.” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:203–4; also cited in Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], p. 609.)

That quote changed my life and it changed the way I began to discern doctrinal truth.

Before that time, my number one resource for studying the gospel was the words of the modern general authorities.

After pondering the above statement by President Smith, everything changed for me.

After that, my number one priority was studying the scriptures.

  • The Inspired Version of the Bible
  • The D&C as presented by Joseph Smith and accepted by common consent which included the Lectures on Faith, as the “doctrine” portion of the “Doctrine and Covenants”. (I discarded all of the revelations that BY added to the D&C including section 132, unless they were congruent with the rest of the standard works)
  • The Book of Mormon (original text)
  • The Pearl of Great Price

I knew that the word of God had said that treasuring up God’s word in the scriptures is a method by which we can avoid being deceived so the scriptures became my number one priority. They became my number one criteria of credibility as far as written source material is concerned.

Joseph Smith’s teachings were next on the list, with a very high credibility quotient, but each quote, from “Teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith”, “Words of Joseph Smith”, and any other sources quoting Joseph Smith, needed to be scrutinized and verified for historical accuracy. If when Joseph would make doctrinal declaration that did not square with the scriptures I would simply discard it. I began to realize that 95%+ of the teachings of Joseph Smith in the early Kirtland era were congruent with the scriptures, with regard to the Nauvoo era, not so much.

context is very important.

All quotes from early general authorities like Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon needed a second witness from the scriptures to maintain a high status and “credibility quotient” on my new list of credible doctrinal sources.

Eventually the sermons of Brigham Young and modern church presidents no longer had the highest “credibility quotient” in fact I discovered so much BS in the Journal of Discourses that I simply quite wasting my time reading them, except for historical reasons and for documenting the trajectory of the latter day apostasy. .

I had been raised to believe that living prophets were more inspired than dead prophets and that a conflicting doctrine taught by a “living prophet” trumped the doctrine in the scriptures taught by a dead prophet. But the quote from President Smith rang true to me loud and clear.

The cold hard fact of the matter is that when modern presidents of the church said something true, it was already in the scriptures and when they didn’t, it needed to be discarded.

I simply needed to be drenching myself in the word of God from the most holy written source. I didn’t need some modern authority to reinterpret the scriptures for me. The above quote by Joseph Fielding Smith for instance, as profound as it was, should have already been understood by me and it would have been understood by me if I had made the scriptures my number one priority.

Once I created my listing of worthwhile resources based on my new method of assigning “credibility quotients” I was able to reevaluate many of my previous doctrines I had been taught in the church and I was flabbergasted at how many false doctrines are taught in the church. It was a real eye opener how many false teachings there are in the church. In fact, it is much easier to count the number of true doctrines that are being taught in the church because you only need one hand to do it.

I began discarding numerous false doctrines that I had inherited from the false traditions of my fathers.

Needless to say, the quote from Joseph Smith about the Holy Ghost being a man living on an earth during Joseph’s ministry, having a probationary experience, went by the way side pretty quickly when weighed in the balance against the scriptures, Lectures on Faith, other credible, verifiable, scripturally backed statements by Joseph Smith, etc.

However, one night while pondering that statement about the Holy Ghost, that I once found so illuminating, and assuming, the thought occurred to me that perhaps Joseph Smith actually never even taught it.

That thought caused me to jump out of bed and run to my computer and get on the trusty Internet.

I quickly pulled up the boap website that shows the five known diary entries of that particular Nauvoo discourse that Joseph gave.


They were conveniently listed side by side and they were matched up by topic horizontally which left gaps in the column anytime any of the dairies did not make note of the same narrative in the discourse. This made it really easy to compare what each of these five people heard and how they articulated it as they heard it.

The five people and corresponding diaries are listed below:

  • Joseph Smith Dairy (written by Willard Richards but reviewed by Joseph Smith)
  • Franklin D. Richards “Scriptural Items,”
  • William Clayton diary,
  • James Burgess notebook
  • Levi Richards diary

According to the dairy entries that were placed side by side, according to similar content, only one person out of five heard Joseph Smith make that statement.


That didn’t make any sense.

I thought to myself, perhaps only one of the five felt that the statement was noteworthy enough to note.


That definitely did not make any sense either.

There was something very very wrong with the picture I was seeing.

After analyzing things for awhile I had a series of other questions come into my head.

How is it that Joseph Smith’s own diary did not record this new doctrine?

How is it that the Holy Ghost as a general topic does not even show up in the other four diary notes?

Why is there no record of anyone else in the congregation noting this in their personal diaries?

There must have been hundreds if not thousands of people in the congregation that day who would have also heard the statement and been blown away by it, and yet, I have never, in all of my searching in the history of the church seen another witness that the statement was made. If any of you have, please send it to me. 🙂

Why is it that the current newspapers and church periodicals said nothing about it?


Below is a screen shot of the five diary entries.

As you can see by the yellowed areas, all five of the diaries noted that Joseph Smith was speaking about the Melchizedek priesthood and fulness of priesthood just prior to when F D Richards claims Joseph made the statement.

Holy Ghost is a man

Conversely, not one of the other entries mentioned the statement F D Richards noted. In fact, not one of the entries notes any narrative relating to the Holy Ghost at all!

It became obvious to me that Frankly D. Richards did not hear Joseph make that statement on that day, in that sermon.

It occurred to me that there could have been countless reasons why Richards might have inserted the crazy blurb that he did into his personal diary.

There is one other interesting thing that I noticed. You will see it highlighted in puke-green

The phrase “state of Probation” is used in the F D Richards diary in regard to the Holy Ghost, and the phrase “probationary state” is used in the Burgess Notebook with regard to the topic of the purpose of “man’s” probationary state.


Either that is quite a coincidence, OR, F D Richards got confused as he was taking notes and really meant to convey something about man’s probationary state and the importance of the Holy Ghost in our progression. Frankly, I think that is where the discrepancy comes from.

Anyway, after going through that little exercise I am now convinced that brother Joseph never even taught the doctrine, he simply got blamed for teaching it.

Nauvoo would have been buzzing about this new disruptive doctrine the next day if Joseph Smith actually would have stated it.

The more I think about it, the more appalled I am with myself that I ever believed it.

I wonder how many other things we blame Joseph for, that he did not say or do?! ?!

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