Sunday, June 24, 2007

Praise to the Man!

On June 27, 1844, at 5:00 in the evening, a mob of more than one hundred men, their faces daubed with mud to conceal their identities, stormed the jail in Carthage, Illinois. The guards posted at the jail fired into the air and stepped aside as the mob rushed up the stairs to a room where Joseph Smith—President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints— Hyrum Smith—Assistant President and Patriarch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—John Taylor—a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—and Willard Richards—also a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—were. The four men attempted to block the door, so members of the mob fired through it, striking Hyrum in the face. He fell calmly, exclaiming, "I am a dead man."

The mob continued to fire, wounding John Taylor, who rolled under a bed in the room for cover. Joseph, in an apparent attempt to save Taylor and Willard Richards, ran for the window and was shot in the back. When he reached the window, members of the mob who were outside shot him several more times. Joseph exclaimed, "O Lord, my God," and fell through the window to the ground.

Joseph Smith, the Prophet, Seer, Revelator, and Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ was dead.

Willard Richards escaped the attack without a hole in his clothing, in fulfillment of a prophecy by Joseph, and because he was a doctor, he was able to tend to John Taylor’s wounds. Several weeks later, Taylor, who was recovering from his wounds, penned a tribute to Joseph:

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. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has bought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!

I write today to add my own praise to the man through whom Jesus Christ restored the fulness of His Gospel to the earth.

Certainly, at first glance, few names are as unassuming as Joseph Smith. Countless teachers and professors use "Joe Smith" as a hypothetical character. Perhaps only the name of "John Doe" would grant a man greater unanimity. But in the context of religious discussion—whether in the Andes of Ecuador, the ports of Hong Kong, the humidity of Texas, or anywhere else in the world—few names will arouse greater adulation or controversy than Joseph Smith. Many accept Joseph Smith as a prophet, called of God to restore the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; others call him a charlatan and a fraud. Truly, the name of Joseph Smith is had throughout all nations for both good and evil. Yet although his name is had for both good and evil, Joseph Smith must be one or the other.

There is no middle ground.

As I consider the life and ministry of Joseph Smith, it shocks me to consider how young he was when his ministry began. Unlike the great reformers, such as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and the Wesley brothers, Joseph had never received formal religious training. In fact, he barely had received any educational training at all, just enough to read, write, and do simple arithmetic.

And Joseph was only a boy when his work began. At the age of fourteen, he had a vision in which God, the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to him: The many churches in his area said that it didn't matter which church you joined, as long as you accepted Jesus. But Joseph recognized that the several churches' good-will disappeared once people joined separate churches. The different churches fought over the meaning of the Bible and how to be saved.

Joseph was so confused that he turned to the Bible himself. One day, Joseph read James 3:5 which says if anyone lacks wisdom, he can ask God, and God will give him the wisdom he seeks. Joseph decided that if anyone lacked wisdom, it was him and decided that he would ask God which church to join.

On the morning of a spring day in 1820, Joseph went to a grove of trees and knelt to pray. As he prayed, he felt Satan attack him. He could not speak and feared that he would be destroyed. Joseph called out to God, and in the moment that he thought Satan would overcome him, Joseph saw a pillar of light above the brightness of the sun. And the light descended upon him. In the light, Joseph saw two Men standing above him in the air. One of them spoke, calling Joseph by name and pointing to the other, "This is my Beloved Son, hear Him!"

In response to Joseph's prayer, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him!

Among other things, Jesus taught Joseph that no church on the earth had the fulness of His Gospel, and through Joseph, Jesus would establish the fulness of His Gospel and His Church on the Earth again.

Joseph did not want attention, so he told only family members. Later, in confidence, he told his mentor, a Methodist minister, of his vision. Joseph’s mentor chastised him and spread the news of Joseph’s vision throughout their community. And although Joseph was nothing more than a poor farm boy, men of high stature within his community would stop to ostracize him whenever they saw him. At an age when mankind most feels the need to fit in, Joseph became an outcast. But he never denied what he saw.

At the age of twenty-three, Joseph published the Book of Mormon, a book surpassing all others except the Holy Bible. Twelve men and one woman testified they saw and handled the Golden Plates from which Joseph translated the Book of Mormon. Another woman testified she handled the plates beneath a cloth covering.

And the simplicity, beauty, and depth of the Book of Mormon’s doctrines and the way which it corroborates the doctrines of the Bible bolster my belief that a mere twenty-something could not have written it.

Consider the doctrine of salvation as taught in the Book of Mormon. For centuries, if not millennia, theologians have squabbled over how we are saved: by Grace through faith or by Works. The Book of Mormon teaches we are saved through an interplay of both. Faith is a gift made possible by the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His Grace. (Alma 34, Ether 12). Faith comes by giving the word of God a place in our souls to grow and by acting on it. (Alma 32). Faith compels us to perform righteous works. (Mosiah 5, Alma 22, Alma 32). Works are possible only through the Grace of Jesus Christ. (Mosiah 2). Works do not save us from our prior sins, but through them, we exercise faith unto repentance and submit our wills to that of the Father, placing ourselves in the power of the Redeemer. (Helaman 5:11). Once we have submitted ourselves to Jesus Christ, His Grace, and only His Grace, is sufficient to save us from our sins, for although righteous living will bring us blessings, it cannot pay the debt we owe as the result of our sins. (2 Nephi 2; 2 Nephi 9; Mosiah 3; Mosiah 15; Alma 5; Alma 34:8–9; Alma 42).

When he was twenty-four, Joseph Smith established the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with six members in 1830 which have grown to nearly 13 million members. The opponents of the Church thought it would crumble if Joseph were to die, so they murdered him. But the Church moved forward because it was not the Church of Joseph Smith; it was and is the Church of Jesus Christ.

I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. He saw what he said he saw. I know it. The Book of Mormon and other scriptures we have received through him prove it. The growth and success of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prove it. His life and martyrdom prove it. But most importantly, the power of God, through the Holy Spirit, proves it: As you have read these things, you have felt peace, calm, and even a burning in your bosom. This is how God communicates to us through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. These feelings testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

I feel to shout hallelujah when I think of Joseph Smith, and I thank God for sending him to restore the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. For without Joseph Smith, I would not know my Savior, Jesus Christ, in the way I know Him now.

At Joseph's funeral, William W. Phelps read the following poem which has been set to music:

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him and nations revere.
Praise to his mem'ry, he died as a martyr;
Honored and blest be his ever great name!
Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,
Plead unto heav'n while the earth lauds his fame.
Great is his glory and endless his priesthood.
Ever and ever the keys he will hold.
Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom,
Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.
Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven;
Earth must atone for the blood of that man.
Wake up the world for the conflict of justice.
Millions shall know "Brother Joseph" again.
Hail to the prophet, ascended to heaven!
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;
Death cannot conquer the hero again.

As I add my "praise to the man" Joseph Smith, I testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

To learn more about Joseph Smith, visit

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