THE MISSION OF JOSEPH SMITH:
“Joseph Smith the prophet was little understood by the people of the 19th century and may even be more of an enigma to those who live in our time. Even the saints of God, those who stand and bear witness of the Prophet’s divine calling-little understand what manner of man he was. ‘You don’t know me. You never knew my heart,” he said. ‘I don’t blame anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself.” (Joseph Smith: The Choice Seer by Joseph McConkie).
Joseph had a remarkable mission to perform, one that he was pre-ordained in the life before. His grandfather Asael predicted that “God was going to raise up some branch of his family to be a great benefit to mankind.” Many years later his son Joseph Smith, Sr. gave him a recently published Book of Mormon which he read and fully believed. George A Smith (Joseph’s cousin) said, “Asael died in the fall of 1830, confident that his grandson Joseph was the long-anticipated prophet and that he had heralded in a new religious age. “
Brigham Young said this of the prophet’s mission and calling: “It was decreed in the counsel of eternity . . . in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to his people . . . The Lord had his eye upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father’s father . . . He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its fountain to the birth of that man. He was foreordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation, as much so as . . . was Jesus to be the Saviour of this world.” (Journal of Discourses 7:289-90; Joseph Smith: The Choice Seer Joseph McConkie).
Joseph who was sold into Egypt, the great-grandson of Abraham, spoke specifically of him who would be his namesake (unusual that Joseph was their third son, behind Alvin and Hyrum—usually give the father’s name to the first son). His prophecies, of which Nephi recorded said “there are not many greater” (2 Nephi 4:2) spoke of the coming of a “choice seer” out of the fruit of his loins. “He shall do a work . . . which shall be of great worth unto them . . . unto him will I give power to bring forth my word (the Book of Mormon) saith the Lord, “to the convincing them of my word. He shall be like unto me. . . by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation.” (2 Nephi 3:15).
Joseph said, “Truly this is a day long to be remembered . . . a day in which the God of heaven has begun to restore the ancient order of His Kingdom to bring about the completion of the fullness of the gospel . . . to prepare the earth for the return of His glory.” Joseph Smith
Look up on lds.org, “Ask of God: Joseph Smith’s First Vision” and watch it now (6:35 minutes) (I would also recommend the new church DVD to your families–it’s an hour long: “Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration.”)
After Joseph received the 1st vision, he recorded his feelings on leaving the grove several days later and wrote: “My soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great joy and the Lord was with me . . (Madsen, p 17)
Truman Madsen wrote in Joseph Smith the Prophet (p 10), “There is no greater example of familial endurance in history than that of the Smith family. “ They immediately believed their brother and son when he shared his vision with his family—character . Joseph’s father counseled him not to be disobedient to the heavenly vision.
Lucy Mack: “I think we presented the most curious peculiar aspect of any family who ever lived upon the earth. All of us giving the most profound attention to a boy 17 years of age, who had never read the Bible in its entirety in his life.”
All the family believed him: Alvin’s dying words to Joseph were—“do everything you can to obtain the record—everything.”
If you didn’t have GPS on your phone or car, (foreign to some of you), and were trying to find your way around LA by using a map of Chicago, and if that map were your only source of information, you’d be hopelessly lost and after a while you would probably get discouraged and quit in frustration. It would be foolish if someone told you to try harder or to start thinking positive –hoping that would help, it would do nothing because the map did not reflect the territory. It was not an accurate map.
Now, in Joseph’s words, “on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of 1820” came forth a prayer from a young man who had been prepared for generations through his heritage to ask the deepest question from his soul. He saw the Father and the Son, and the Father called him by name, saying, “Joseph, this is my beloved Son, hear Him.”
So when he left the Sacred Grove, Joseph Smith understood the world differently from when he went in. He had a NEW MAP. Because of this experience, he was beginning to understand who God was, who Christ was, and who he was. And he also learned a little about his role in life. He saw everything in a new light and that was only the beginning of truth being restored. “Truth is knowledge of things as they were, and as they are, and as they are to come.” (D&C 93:24) Truth is eternal and Joseph Smith was the prophet of the “restoration of all things” that would bless us all & the whole earth.
Elder Callister explained, In many ways the gospel of Jesus Christ is like a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. When Joseph Smith came on the scene, perhaps 100 pieces were in place. Then through the miracle of the restoration, Joseph the prophet came along and put many of the other 900 pieces in place so that people could say, “Oh, now I understand where I came from, why I am here, and where I am going.” As for Joseph Smith’s role in the Restoration, the Lord defined it clearly: “This generation shall have my word through you” (D&C 5:10). (Callister)
Told at 17 by Moroni his “name would be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues.” (imagine his shock hearing this at 17).
Good came slowly—the evil immediately. Joseph:
“How very strange that an obscure boy . . . should be thought . . . of sufficient importance to attract . . . the most bitter persecution”
“I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; . . . why persecute me for telling the truth? . . . I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it . . . ” (Joseph 2:22, 25)
Ended when he was killed by 150 men with painted faces when he was only 38.
Why had for good & evil when he is a prophet of God? Is this typical?
Truth never popular—always persecuted –pattern of the prophets from the beginning
Paul called mad & deranged/Jesus labeled gluttonous, a winebibber, and possessed of a devil
The Lord told Joseph of his destiny: “The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee; while the pure in heart . . . the wise . . . and the virtuous, shall seek . . . blessings constantly from under thy hand.” (D&C 122:12)
Why did the adversary fight so hard against Joseph Smith right from the start? And why do you think the Prophet Joseph Smith has so many critics and enemies now, even though many years have passed since his death? A testimony of the Restoration hinges on whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet who performed God’s work. Therefore, Satan continues to strive to discredit Joseph Smith.
This is why: if Joseph is a prophet then we still have revelation from heaven, then the Book of Mormon is true, and then the church is true. It’s a domino affect so Satan works hard to attack Joseph still—“his name will be had for good and evil.”
Elder Anderson said, “The negative commentary about the Prophet Joseph Smith will increase as we move toward the Second Coming of the Savior. The half-truths and subtle deceptions will not diminish. There will be family members and friends who will need your help. Now is the time to adjust your own spiritual oxygen mask so that you are prepared to help others who are seeking the truth.”21 (Neil Andersen) You have seen this.
“The internet doesn’t have a truth filter. Some information, no matter how convincing, is simply not true. “ (Andersen)
“Studying the church . . . through the eyes of its defectors, Elder Maxwell once said, is ‘like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus. Defectors always tell us more about themselves than about that from which they have departed.”
Attempts have been made by some to focus on or magnify some minor weaknesses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, but in that process they have missed the mark, the man, and his mission. Joseph Smith was the Lord’s anointed to restore Christ’s church to the earth.
When JS emerged from the grove of trees, he eventually learned four fundamentals truths not then taught by the majority of the contemporary Christian world.
First, he learned that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are two separate, distinct beings. (understanding the nature of God & man)
The second great truth Joseph discovered was that the Father and the Son have glorified bodies of flesh and bones. (understanding eternity)
The third truth is that God still speaks to man today—that the heavens are not closed. (understanding communication—God to man)
And the fourth truth that Joseph Smith learned was that the full and complete Church of Jesus Christ was not then on the earth.
(this was the mission of Joseph Smith—be an instrument to restore it).
I’ve cut up a “map” so to speak of many of the important things restored to the earth by the Lord through the prophet Joseph. Like the quote I read about the puzzle, let’s put the pieces back together so that we have a correct map like was restored to the earth with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Find piece #1: PURPOSE OF LIFE—THE PLAN OF HAPPINESS
Answers to the most asked questions:
Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?
Our primary kids could answer these questions with no problem—the song, “I Am a Child of God” teaches what we may consider basic, fundamental truths for us, but actually to most, they are extraordinary.
Walter Cronkite after a full career interviewing the best and the brightest in the world, still said he’s searching for answers to those 3 questions.
#2: CONTINUOUS REVELATION FROM THE HEAVENS —GOD CONTINUES TO SPEAK TO PROPHETS TODAY—IN OUR TIME
Joseph, the revelator. Looking at our scriptures is evidence of the revelations he received—translated the B of M, the D & C is full of revelations for our time, also Pearl of Great Price. (show quad).
Article of Faith 9: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” To many Christians this is unbelievable, since they believe that revelation stopped after the apostles died (which it did during the apostasy).
Hugh B. Brown in Profile of a Prophet asked three questions to determine if revelation is to continue.
First: does God love us as much today as He loved the people to who he spoke in New Testament times?
Second: does God have the same power today as He did then?
Third: Do we need Him as much today as they need Him anciently?
If the answers to those questions are yes and if God is the same yesterday, today, and forever as the scriptures declare, then there is little doubt: God does speak to man today exactly as JS testified.
Joseph was a seer. He had the gift to translate ancient records. “I calculate,” he said less than two months before his death, “to be one of the instruments of setting up the kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord, and I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world.” (Madsen, p 4)
Elder Holland said that Joseph the translator, though untrained in theology, has given us more printed pages of scripture than any other mortal.
The process of translation was truly “a marvelous work and a wonder,” or, as rendered in Hebrew, “a miraculous miracle.” (Isa. 29:14.) Depending upon his sequence of translation, scholars estimate Joseph in 1829 was translating at a rapid daily equivalent of from eight to thirteen of today’s printed pages. An able, professional translator recently told me he considers one page a day productive.
(See John W. Welch and Tim Rathbone, “The Translation of the Book of Mormon: Basic Historical Information,” Preliminary Report, F.A.R.M.S., Provo, Utah, 1986, pp. 38–39.)
He also became an articulator. President Young said the Prophet Joseph had the “happy faculty” of communicating things “often in a single sentence throwing … light into the gloom of [the] ages … in one blending flood of heavenly intelligence.” (Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 9:310.)
#3 PLAN OF SALVATION THROUGH JESUS CHRIST RESTORED — PLAN TO SAVE ALL THE LIVING AND ALL THE DEAD
Many people wonder how God is just when some people are born without ever hearing the name of Jesus and know nothing of the church, or of baptism, or saving ordinances.
The Church of Jesus Christ of LDS is the only church in the world with a plan to save all the living and all the dead—it’s inclusive and miraculous.
God is no respector of persons and will give all the same opportunity.
These truths have been restored to the earth through the doctrine in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
# 4 GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST
When JS met with Pres Van Buren and was asked what the difference was between our church and others, he said we differ in our mode of baptism, we have the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Joseph had many gifts of the spirit, discernment, visions, tongues and used them to bless others.
Those with kids on missions know can’t prove church is true. Message always the same—Moroni 10:3-5 “pray, study, qualify and find out for yourself—HG will manifest truth to sincere seekers.”
“And when ye shall receive these things, ye shall ask God, if these things are not true. And if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, He shall manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
This is the vehicle where the truth will be known to those elect who harden not their hearts and receive the word with gladness. (example?)
It is the mission of the HG to testify of truth. Feel the spirit here.
#5 ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST — AS IN THE “PRIMITIVE CHURCH” –POWER, PRIESTHOOD, AUTHORITY, ORDINANCES, KEYS, ORGANIZATION
Elder Callister taught, Through Joseph Smith have been restored all the powers, keys, teachings, and ordinances necessary for salvation and exaltation. You cannot go anywhere else in the world and get that. It is not to be found in any other church. It is not to be found in any philosophy of man or scientific digest or individual pilgrimage, however intellectual it may seem. Salvation is to be found in one place alone, as so designated by the Lord Himself when He said that this is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30).
In 1834, all the priesthood in the Kirtland area met, not in a tabernacle, but in a small log cabin with a small group. There, Joseph prophesied, “I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap . . . This church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world.” (See Wilford Woodruff, Millennial Star, 19 Sept. 1892, p. 605; see also Conference Report, Apr. 1898, p. 57.)
As it says in Article of faith #12, Joseph Smith established the same organization as the primitive church with all it’s offices, power, priesthood, authority, ordinances, and keys. He was the final Elias (forerunner) before the Messiah; he was an Elias of the restoration.
The Prophet Joseph was a very good man. Though he wasn’t perfect and his critics focus on his faults, we need not suppose him “guilty of any great or malignant sins,” for such, he said, “was never in my nature.” (JS—H 1:28.) Near the end of his life, he meekly said, “I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 368.)
He described himself in this way: “I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain, and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, . . . Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty.”
He had a wonderful relationship with Emma and helped her a lot with the home and children, more than was the custom for men in those days. He cared for her diligently and for days on end when she was sick, and when she hovered between life and death after delivering a baby who died at birth. When he was chided for it by other men, he encouraged them to follow his example. He enjoyed having a good time, and loved to play with his children. He loved to wrestle and often challenged others. Some pious men came to argue about the scriptures with him, and upon leaving Joseph said, “well gentlemen, you haven’t bested me with the scriptures, now do you want to wrestle?” They went away much incensed.
Love Brigham Young’s description:
“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.”
It is vital that each of us gain and maintain a testimony of Joseph Smith being the prophet of the restoration. For if he is, then the Book of Mormon is true, and the church is true, being the Lord’s. The significance of the first vision is reflected in our beliefs and have shaped us as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I testify that he is a true prophet of God and was foreordained to fulfill his mission of being an instrument in the Lord’s hands to bring about the restoration of the gospel.
Read D&C 135:3
Study the words to Praise to the Man
Study Hugh B. Brown’s talk: Profile of the Prophet and God is the Gardener (great FHE’s and discussions).