"The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit,
the greater your capacity to create."

~Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Saturday, November 7, 2009

“He Was a Prophet of God”: Contemporaries of Joseph Smith Testify of His Prophetic Mission

Has it been a month already? Time always seems to go by too fast this time of year. Another teaching Sunday has rolled around and here's my lesson for this week...


CHAPTER 43
“He Was a Prophet of God”: Contemporaries of Joseph Smith Testify of His Prophetic Mission

“I feel like shouting, hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith, the Prophet.” (Brigham Young)


Dallin H. Oaks: During my college studies at BYU, I was introduced to the History of the Church, an edited compilation of the writings of Joseph Smith and others. After I graduated from law school, I carefully read all seven volumes. I also pursued personal research in original records in Illinois, where the prophet Joseph lived the last five years of his life. The man I came to know in this way was not the man I had imagined. When I was a boy, growing up in the Church, I imagined the Prophet Joseph to be old and dignified and distant. But the Joseph Smith I met in my reading and personal research was a man of the frontier – young, emotional, dynamic, and so loved and approachable by his people that they often called him “Brother Joseph.” My studies strengthened my testimony of his prophetic calling. What a remarkable man! At the same time, I could see that he was mortal and therefore subject to sin and error, pain and affliction. Overarching the Prophet Joseph’s entire ministry were his comparative youth, his superficial formal education, and his incredibly rapid acquisition of knowledge and maturity. He was 14 at the First Vision and 17 at the first visit from the angel Moroni. He was 21 when he received the golden plates and just 23 when he finished translating the Book of Mormon (in less than 60 working days). Over half of the revelations in our Doctrine and Covenants were given through the Prophet while he was 25 or younger. He was 26 when the First Presidency was organized and 30 when the Kirtland Temple was dedicated. He was just over 33 when he escaped his imprisonment in Missouri and resumed leadership of the Saints gathering in Nauvoo. He was 38-1/2 when he was martyred.

Amasa Potter recalled being present at a powerful sermon the Prophet Joseph Smith preached to a large group of Saints in Nauvoo: “When [the Prophet] had spoken about thirty minutes there came up a heavy wind and storm. The dust was so dense that we could not see each other any distance, and some of the people were leaving when Joseph called out to them to stop and let their prayers ascend to Almighty God that the winds may cease blowing and the rain stop falling, and it should be so. In a very few minutes the winds and rain ceased and the elements became calm as a summer’s morning. The storm divided and went on the north and south of the city, and we could see in the distance the trees and shrubs waving in the wind, while where we were it was quiet for one hour, and during that time one of the greatest sermons that ever fell from the Prophet’s lips was preached on the great subject of the dead.”

The Saints who heard the Prophet Joseph Smith speak bore powerful and vivid testimonies of his prophetic mission. Many of them recorded their memories of discourses they heard him give and experiences they had with him, for they wanted the generations that followed them to know, as they knew, that Joseph Smith was truly a prophet of God.

For a testimony of the restored gospel to be complete, it must include a testimony of Joseph Smith’s divine mission. The truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the truthfulness of the First Vision and the other revelations the Lord gave to the Prophet Joseph.


LIKE THE EARLY SAINTS, WE CAN KNOW THAT JOSEPH SMITH IS THE PROPHET THROUGH WHOM THE LORD RESTORED THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL.

President Gordon B. Hinckley: An acquaintance said to me one day: “I admire your church very much. I think I could accept everything about it – except Joseph Smith.” To which I responded: “That statement is a contradiction. If you accept the revelation, you must accept the revelator.” It is a constantly recurring mystery to me how some people speak with admiration for the Church and its work while at the same time disdaining him through whom, as a servant of the Lord, came the framework of all that the Church is, of all that it teaches, and of all that it stands for. They would pluck the fruit from the tree while cutting off the root from which it grows… We do not worship the Prophet. We worship God our Eternal Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ. But we acknowledge the Prophet; we proclaim him; we respect him; we reverence him as an instrument in the hands of the Almighty in restoring to the earth the ancient truths of the divine gospel, together with the priesthood through which the authority of God is exercised in the affairs of His Church and for the blessing of His people.

Eliza R. Snow, the general president of the Relief Society from 1866 to 1887: “In the cause of truth and righteousness – in all that would benefit his fellow man, his integrity was as firm as the pillars of Heaven. He knew that God had called him to the work, and all the powers of earth and hell combined, failed either to deter or divert him from his purpose. With the help of God and his brethren, he laid the foundation of the greatest work ever established by man – a work extending not only to all the living, and to all the generations to come, but also to the dead. He boldly and bravely confronted the false traditions, superstitions, religions, bigotry and ignorance of the world – proved himself true to every heaven-revealed principle – true to his brethren and true to God, then sealed his testimony with his blood.”

Wilford Woodruff, the fourth President of the Church: “I have felt to rejoice exceedingly in what I saw of Brother Joseph, for in his public and private career he carried with him the Spirit of the Almighty, and he manifested a greatness of soul which I had never seen in any other man.”

Mary Alice Cannon Lambert, an English convert who emigrated to Nauvoo in 1843: “I first saw Joseph Smith in the Spring of 1843. When the boat in which we came up the Mississippi River reached the landing at Nauvoo, several of the leading brethren were there to meet the company of saints that had come on it. Among those brethren was the Prophet Joseph Smith. I knew him the instant my eyes rested upon him, and at that moment I received my testimony that he was a Prophet of God… He was not pointed out to me. I knew him from all the other men, and, child that I was (I was only fourteen) I knew that I saw a Prophet of God.”

What impresses you about these testimonies?
  • This was a man who was so filled with the Spirit that those around him could feel and see it
  • Despite possible persecution, they were compelled to testify that Joseph Smith was truly called of God

What is the foundation of your own testimony of Joseph Smith?
  • I have a personal testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and, therefore, believe that Joseph Smith – as the man who brought this great book forward – must be a true prophet of God.

How did you obtain this testimony?
  • [Invite class members to share their personal experiences. I plan to share mine during my lesson but it's very sacred & personal and not really appropriate for posting on the internet.]

You may wish to write your testimony in your journal or share it with your family.


JOSEPH SMITH WAS AN EXAMPLE WE CAN FOLLOW IN DEVELOPING A CHRISTLIKE CHARACTER.

John Needham, an early English convert: “Joseph Smith is a great man, a man of principle, a straight forward man; no saintish long-faced fellow, but quite the reverse. Indeed some stumble because he is such a straight forward, plain spoken, cheerful man, but that makes me love him the more.”

John M. Bernhisel, a medical doctor who boarded in Joseph and Emma’s home in Nauvoo for several months during 1843 and 1844: “Joseph Smith is naturally a man of strong mental powers, and is possessed of much energy and decision of character, great penetration, and a profound knowledge of human nature. He is a man of calm judgment, enlarged views, and is eminently distinguished by his love of justice. He is kind and obliging, generous and benevolent, sociable and cheerful, and is possessed of a mind of a contemplative and reflective character. He is honest, frank, fearless and independent, and as free from dissimulation [false appearances] as any man to be found… As a religious teacher, as well as a man, he is greatly beloved by this people.”

William Clayton, an English convert who served as a clerk to Joseph Smith: “The more I am with him, the more I love him; the more I know of him, the more confidence I have in him.”

Joseph F. Smith, the sixth President of the Church: “He was brimming over with the noblest and purest of human nature, which often gave vent in innocent amusements – in playing ball, in wrestling with his brothers and scuffling with them, and enjoying himself; he was not like a man with a stake run down his back, and with his face cast in a brazen mold that he could not smile, that he had no joy in his heart. Oh, he was full of joy; he was full of gladness; he was full of love, and of every other noble attribute that makes men great and good, and at the same time simple and innocent, so that he could descend to the lowest condition; and he had power, by the grace of God, to comprehend the purposes of the Almighty too. That was the character of the Prophet Joseph Smith.”

How do these statements describing Joseph Smith’s appearance, personality, and character influence your feelings about Joseph Smith?
  • Preparing this lesson has really helped me to see how great and marvelous his accomplishments were

Think about ways you might develop some of these same character traits.
  • Post a favorite quote/testimony on my bathroom mirror
  • Pray for strength to develop our own spiritual character
  • Read scriptures and other good works for inspiration and greater understanding

Joseph Smith: I shall speak with authority of the Priesthood in the name of the Lord God, which shall prove a savor of life unto life, or of death unto death… If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses, for if we are not drawing towards God in principle, we are going from Him and drawing towards the devil… Search your hearts, and see if you are like God. I have searched mine, and feel to repent of all my sins.

Thomas S. Monson: I love the words of President Brigham Young, who said, “I feel like shouting Hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith, the Prophet whom the Lord raised up and ordained, and to whom He gave keys and power to build up the kingdom of God on earth.” To this fitting tribute to our beloved Joseph, I add my own testimony that I know he was God’s prophet, chosen to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days. I pray that… we may learn from his life. May we incorporate into our own lives the divine principles which he so beautifully taught – by example [courage, faith, honesty, patience, diligence, missionary work, love]– that we, ourselves, might live more completely the gospel of Jesus Christ. May our lives reflect the knowledge we have that God lives, that Jesus Christ is His Son, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that we are led today by [a] prophet of God.


AS THE PROPHET THROUGH WHOM THE GOSPEL WAS RESTORED, JOSEPH SMITH TAUGHT GOD’S PLAN OF SALVATION WITH CLARITY AND POWER.

Brigham Young: “The excellency of the glory of the character of Brother Joseph Smith was that he could reduce heavenly things to the understanding of the finite. When he preached to the people – revealed the things of God, the will of God, the plan of salvation, the purposes of Jehovah, the relation in which we stand to him and all the heavenly beings – he reduced his teachings to the capacity of every man, woman and child, making them as plain as a well defined pathway. This should have convinced every person, that ever heard him, of his divine authority and power, for no other man was able to teach as he could, and no person can reveal the things of God, but by the revelations of Jesus Christ.”

Joseph L. Robinson, a counselor in a bishopric in Nauvoo: “We have long since believed and verily known that Joseph Smith was a true and humble Prophet of God, but now our eyes do see him, and our ears hear his voice, which is like the voice of the mighty thunders of Heaven, yet his language is meek and instructive, edifying much. But there is a power and majesty that attends his words and preaching that we never beheld in any man before, for he is a mighty Prophet, a holy man of God. He truly had been educated in the things pertaining to the kingdom of God and was highly charged with the Holy Ghost, which was a constant companion.”

How can these testimonies about the way the Prophet Joseph taught the gospel and explained the scriptures help us as we study and teach the gospel?
  • Sometimes we may think the Gospel is too complex but its principles are simple and beautiful
  • Let the Spirit guide us in our study and in the things we say to others when sharing our beliefs

LIKE THE EARLY SAINTS, WE CAN TREASURE UP THE WORDS OF JOSEPH SMITH AND LIVE THE PRINCIPLES HE TAUGHT.

Wilford Woodruff, reporting an April 6, 1837, sermon: “President Joseph Smith Jr. arose and addressed the congregation for the term of three hours, clothed with the power, spirit, and image of God. He unbosomed his mind and feelings in the house of his friends. He presented many things of vast importance to the minds of the elders of Israel. Oh, that they might be written upon our hearts as with an iron pen to remain forever that we might practice them in our lives. That fountain of light, principle, and virtue that came forth out of the heart and mouth of the Prophet Joseph, whose soul like Enoch’s swelled wide as eternity – I say, such evidences presented in such a forcible manner ought to drive into oblivion every particle of unbelief and dubiety from the mind of the hearers, for such language, sentiment, principle, and spirit cannot flow from darkness. Joseph Smith Jr. is a prophet of God raised up for the deliverance of Israel as true as my heart now burns within me.”

What do you think it means to allow the truth to be “written upon our hearts as with an iron pen”?
  • To have a testimony that will stick with us, no matter what comes
  • Job described using an “iron pen” to carve his testimony on a rock to stand as a witness for all time – our testimonies should be shared with others as well [see Job 19:23–24].

Brigham Young: “From the first time I saw the Prophet Joseph I never lost a word that came from him concerning the kingdom. And this is the key of knowledge that I have to-day, that I did hearken to the words of Joseph, and treasured them up in my heart, laid them away, asking my Father in the name of his Son Jesus to bring them to my mind when needed. I treasured up the things of God, and this is the key that I hold to-day. I was anxious to learn from Joseph and the Spirit of God.”

How can you follow the examples of Wilford Woodruff and Brigham Young in your study of this book and as you study the teachings of the living prophets?
  • Hunger after the words of our prophets & leaders to gain a greater understanding of God’s plan for us
  • Cherish the words of God’s servants
  • Study diligently so that we can recall these things in times of need

2 comments:

Pretty Things said...

I read a very interesting book at him. I'm not of his faith, but I think it important to be understanding of ALL religions.

Distressing Delilah a.k.a. jenn said...

I grew up in the Mormon church, though no longer am practicing. These men did have great faith, some of them endured much.