From a talk given to the Stone Creek Ward on June 12, 2016
Seven and a half years ago, my youngest son and I flew to California in October. We were flying out to attend the birthday and baptism of my nephew Tyler. It didn't hurt that we discovered that if we went to California for Tyler's birthday, we could trick or treat in shorts instead of coats. I was looking forward to relaxing from teaching school and from the preparations of getting our oldest daughter ready to serve a mission. She would leave about two weeks after our visit.
The morning after our arrival, Stacy, my sister-in-law, said that we would need to mix in some church service with our play time. I thought, "Even better, I can feel good about my getaway." That weekend was the week prior to the voting in California on Prop 8, a controversial law that would decide whether or not same-sex marriage would be allowed in California, and local church leaders had asked the members to help support efforts to maintain marriage between a man and a woman. When I found out what we were doing, I was a little anxious. I hate confrontation. I don't like people to be upset with me, even strangers, but I knew that if the local leaders had asked for these activities to be done, it was what needed doing.
Saturday morning, we left bright and early to hang pamphlets supporting marriage between a man and a woman on doors. We had two people ask us to remove them and get off their driveways, but no truly angry experiences. As we reported our section back to the elders quorum president in my sister's ward, I felt like all was well. We left and attended a soccer game for me nephew. As we returned, Mark and Stacy said, "Now for the fun part!" Their tone left no doubt that fun was not coming.
Each family had been asked to have an adult hold signs on different corners around town. The signs simply said: "Vote Against Prop 8, Vote for Families." As we stood on our corner, I quickly discovered that their beautiful little community had a lot of people with different views than mine. For two hours I was repeatedly called names, honked at, and had a few more choice experiences.
From there we went home and changed and attended my nephew's baptism. As I went to the chapel for the baptism program, the stark contrast of the Spirit stood out dramatically. As I sat there, I pondered many things. First, what was I about to do in sending my daughter out on a mission into a world that clearly didn't share her views? This sweet, shy girl wasn't ready for that, I thought.
Then a different thought came to my mind. "Do you believe in what you were doing?"
The answer was simple: I did.
Did I believe that my daughter to had a testimony to share with the world? I knew she did. Finally, I remembered a line from my patriarchal blessing that told me that there would be times in my life when I'd need to stand in defense of the gospel and that I would know what to do. I did, and I still do.
That is an awfully long introduction to my message here, but one I felt necessary. As I stood on the street corner that day, and as I sent my kids off to teach the gospel, I was living my testimony of that gospel. I was showing that no matter what the world thought, I knew the truth.
|Image from LDS.org. Used by permission.|
Now, with that story in mind, I want to tell you the topic I was asked to speak on: It is Joseph Smith, an obedient, courageous servant through whom the Lord restored essential knowledge and authority.
After being asked to speak, I spent several days and read several talks before deciding what I wanted to share with you about Joseph Smith, but the answer came as I recalled my own testimony of him. Sister Boothe from the stake asked me a few months ago to record of video of my testimony of Joseph Smith to show in Young Women. I thought, "Well, I hate the way I sound on recordings, but I know I have a testimony of Joseph Smith, so I will do it."
I was amazed how much time I spent pondering a story I have always known and have always believed. I have never doubted it. When I was young I remember my dad debating his brothers, who were not LDS, about Joseph Smith. I remember even as a young girl thinking how foolish their arguments were. Why, I wondered, would someone go through what Joseph and his family endured if they didn't have to? They didn't become rich, and the fame he received was much more negative than positive. I have always felt Joseph Smith to be a true prophet of God.
The prophecy Moroni shared when Joseph was just 17, that his name would "be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues" is more true that ever. Today, there are more than 29,000 congregations gathering to rejoice in the gospel restored through the prophet Joseph; however, there are more people than ever seeking to destroy his good name and weaken those congregations by getting people to doubt the honor, integrity, and goodness of that same man.
In a talk given by Elder Neil L. Anderson in 2014, he said, "Why does the Lord allow the evil speaking to chase after the good? One reason is that opposition against the things of God sends seekers of truth to their knees for answers." I believe that with all my heart. In the times that we currently live in, as the lines that separate those who will and those who will not follow the guidance of our church leaders is becoming more black and white, we must each take a stand and find for ourselves what we truly believe.
The day I stood on a street corner in California was the first time in my life when I really realized that the world I was living in now, and the one my children and grandchildren would live in, would be one where there would be no fence-sitters. We must each know and firmly value the testimonies that we have. Elder Heber C. Kimball said, "To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess this personal knowledge or witness will fall. The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light."
I realized that the world I was living in now, and the one my children and grandchildren would live in, would be one where there would be no fence-sitters.
Elder Anderson has said, "Each believer needs a spiritual confirmation of the divine mission and character of the prophet Joseph Smith. This is true for every generation." President Harold B. Lee said, "How could one accept the gospel without accepting him who was the instrument in its restoration, I will never know." President Lee continued, "We must know for a certainty in our hearts and minds that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world. We must know that this is indeed the Church of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God on earth in these last days; and finally we must have a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God."
|Image from LDS.org. Used with permission.|
So, I want to touch upon some of the things about Joseph Smith that I have a testimony of.
First, I love the youth, I love being with them and learning from them. I truly feel like I have the best calling ever. So, as I ponder them, I love the significance that our Heavenly Father--who could have chosen anyone to restore the gospel--chose a 14-year-old boy. The world we live in does not have high opinions of teenagers. But the Lord's opinion is completely opposite: He chose someone whom He felt He could trust, someone with a sincere heart. I love the permanent stamp of approval that gives to our youth. Your Father in Heaven believes you are capable of great things!
Second, I love the pattern that was established through Joseph's example. Here was a boy with questions. We all have questions, even if we don't always want to admit it. Having questions is good. It means we are thinking deeply and pondering things of value. However, instead of remaining in doubt, Joseph went first to the scriptures. He looked for answers, and he found them. He took literally the mandate in James 1:5 which said, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not." He went directly to the source, and so can and so should we!
What a different world we would live in if when we began to doubt, we went to our Father in prayer rather than to the Internet to search for critics. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, "Studying the Church through the eyes of its defectors is like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus." Yet oftentimes when people doubt, they look for other doubters to find solace. What if Joseph hadn't gone to the Source? He would have spent years feeling the same contention that he had been feeling prior to his first uttered prayer. I am grateful that Joseph established the perfect pattern for us to gain true knowledge.
I love that Joseph Smith has shown us the true nature of our Father in Heaven. It was the standard belief of his time that modern revelation did not exist and that it had ended with the death of the apostles. However, as a parent, I know that my love for my children is eternal, so I know that a Heavenly Father wouldn't leave his children without a way to lead and guide them for good. Joseph Smith reestablished the connection to receive ongoing revelation to lead and guide the people of our day. In doing so, he also showed that our Heavenly Father is interested in us personally and knows us by name. Throughout the Doctrine and Covenants we can read revelations that name individuals. While I am not sure I would like my name in there as well for all the world to see, I love that it shows how our Heavenly Father knows us each personally.
The New Era in April had a story that linked Joseph Smith with our current youth theme, Press Forward with a Steadfast Faith in Christ. It listed examples of how Joseph pressed forward through the trials in his life. He remained steadfast as he encountered persecution, as he dealt with personal trials, as he repented, as he continued to seek for wisdom and guidance. I love the example Joseph Smith set of being one who does press forward. I know that he is continuing to press forward today.
What a different world we would live in if when we began to doubt, we went to our Father in prayer rather than to the Internet to search for critics.Finally, whenever I ponder Joseph Smith, I think of the scripture in Matthew 7:20: "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." Ponder for a while the fruits that Joseph has given the us and the world. He restored to us baptism, the priesthood keys, the gift of the Holy Ghost, temple covenants, and eternal families. He has given a guide to love all and help serve all, including to those not of our faith.
During 2014, humanitarian assistance was provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 131 countries through the following initiatives:
- Clean water and sanitation: 26 countries; 1,000,000 beneficiaries
- Wheelchairs: 48 countries; 57,800 beneficiaries
- Vision: 34 countries; 81,600 beneficiaries
- Maternal and newborn care: 42 countries; 30,200 beneficiaries
- Food: 17 countries; 24,800 beneficiaries
- Immunization aid: 9 countries
That same year, the Church responded to 132 disasters (natural and man-made) in 60 countries in 2014, such as the Philippines Typhoon and earthquake, West Africa Ebola virus, Ukraine Civil unrest, Syria Refugee aid, and the Tonga Hurricane.
These are the fruits of the church Joseph Smith restored. Can any one who really looks with a heart desiring to see the truth really speak ill of him? Rather than take as truth the unfounded rumors on the Internet, look to those who knew him. Just one example: The Prophet John Taylor, who was shot by the same mob that killed Joseph, declared, "I testify before God, angels, and men, the Joseph was a good, honorable, and virtuous man, and that his private and public character was unimpeachable and that he lived an died as a man of God."
The current wave of disillusionment with Joseph Smith is much like those who have slandered the church for opposition to same-sex marriage and not allowing women the priesthood. They are attempts by the adversary to dim our light. If we question the origin or restoration of the Church, if we question those who lead, Satan has an in to lead us astray. However, President S. Monson said, "This great cause...will continue to go forth, changing and blessing lives... No force in the entire world can stop the work God. Despite what comes, this great cause will go forward." Let us choose to go forward as part of this great cause.
If it has been a while since you read the words of the boy Joseph who knelt to pray, I would strongly urge you to do so. When Joseph pressed forward with his simple request, he restored a light to the world, the true light of Jesus Christ. As I read his words in the Joseph Smith History in the Pearl of Great Price, I can feel that light.
I have loved the opportunity to strengthen my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and as I have studied, it has renewed my desire to keep the light of my testimony burning brightly and to help me and my family remain steadfast. For this I am also grateful! I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.