Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Birthday Joseph Smith December 23, 1805

Joseph Smith, Prophet of the Restoration
Born on December 23, 1805 (209 years ago)

In honor of Joseph, and in celebration of his birthday last week, we had a training meeting taught by Elder Doug Brinley. I initially thought I would only include a few facts here on our blog from the meeting, but when it came right down to it, I didn't feel inspired to leave much out. So feel free to glean what you can in whatever time element you are in. I hope you'll find a few things that you've never heard before.

Joseph Smith’s parents – Joseph Smith, Sr., and Lucy Mack Smith 
                                     -   married 1796 in Tunbridge, Vermont.

Joseph was the fifth of eleven children –
(1)   unnamed son died soon after birth - 1797
(2)   Alvin    (1798) -----------died in 1823
(3)   Hyrum (1800) -----------died in 1844 in Carthage
(4)   Sophronia (1803)-------died in 1876
(5)   Joseph (1805)-----------died in 1844 in Carthage
(6)   Samuel (1808)-----------died in 1844
(7)   Ephraim (1810) – lived 2 weeks
(8)   William (1811) -----------died in 1893   RLDS HPriest
(9)   Katharine (1812)--------died in 1900 – lived longest
(10)  Don Carlos (1816)-----died in 1841 - Nauvoo
(11)  Lucy (1821)--------------died in 1882

Joseph Smith:  “I was born . . . of goodly parents who spared no pains to instruct me in the Christian religion.” Joseph’s mother, two brothers, and Sophronia initially joined the Presbyterian church, but not Joseph, Alvin, or their father.

Joseph’s grandfather Asael had predicted: “God was going to raise up some branch of [my]  family to be a great benefit to mankind.” Asael died in 1830, the year the Book of Mormon was published and the Church established. He read the Book of Mormon before he died.

Asael’s wife, grandma Mary Duty Smith outlived Asael by 6 years. “The meeting (in Kirtland) between grandmother and her prophet descendant and his brother (Hyrum) was most touching; Joseph blessed her and said she was the most honored woman on earth.” (Edward W. Tullidge, History of Salt Lake City, 157.)

She accepted the testimony of her grandson and fully intended to be baptized.  Unfortunately, her age (93) and health prevented it.  She died 27 May 1836, 10 days after arriving in Kirtland.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said,

“Joseph Smith sat with Father Abraham in the councils of eternity, and Joseph Smith was ordained as Abraham was ordained to come down and be the head of a gospel dispensation here. . .

The spirit men who were associated with Christ and with Adam in the pre-[mortal] eternities, and who were more valiant than all their fellows, were the ones chosen to head the various dispensations of the gospel. One of these was the Prophet Joseph Smith. 

It doesn’t take much reflection then, it seems to me, for us to know that Joseph Smith was one of the dozen greatest spirits that God the Eternal Father had in all the councils of eternity; that he came so as to be here at the appointed time and at the express hour and at the very moment that the Lord designed to open this dispensation.
 I do not think that the Father and the Son would have appeared to an ordinary fourteen-and-a-half-year-old boy if he had gone out into the grove of trees to ask the Lord which of all the churches was right.  I think the Lord had been preparing Joseph Smith for that event from all eternity; that Joseph Smith had the spiritual stature, the strength for righteousness that enabled him to endure the vision; that he had the talent and ability to press forward in righteousness in the kingdom of God on earth:  first, to establish it; and then, somewhat, to perfect its organization before he was taken home, before he sealed his testimony with his blood” (Conference Report, October 1951, 148-149.)

Joseph F. Smith-- Joseph’s uncle and Hyrum Smith’s son

The greatest event that has ever occurred in the world since the resurrection of the Son of God from the tomb and His ascension on high was the coming of the Father and of the Son to that boy Joseph Smith . . .

Having accepted this truth, I find it easy to accept of every other truth that he enunciated and declared during his mission of fourteen years in the world (Gospel Doctrine, 495-96.)

The Lord told Joseph: “This generation shall have my word through you” (D&C 5:10).

Joseph Smith - given the responsibility to restore doctrines of the gospel to a world that had lost or changed them during the past millennia.

D & C 1:17, 22-23:  Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him  commandments; . . . That mine everlasting covenant might be established; That the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple (18-19 year olds) unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.

Prophets of old knew of Joseph Smith’s role in restoring the gospel and priesthood in this dispensation.

Joseph (in Egypt) as quoted by Nephi: “He (Joseph) truly prophesied concerning ALL his seed.  And the prophecies which he wrote, there are not many greater.”

“And he (Joseph) prophesied concerning us (Lehites, Mulekites) and our future generations; and they are written upon the plates of brass” (2 Nephi 4:2).

Reason to go back for the Brass Plates!

2 Nephi 3:7: “Thus saith the Lord unto me:  A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins (Ephraim and Manasseh).
And unto him (JS) will I give commandment that he shall do a work . . . which shall be of great worth unto them (Joseph’s descendants), even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers” (gather Israel in the latter days.)
(October Conference: “In more than 90 languages; broadcast to more than 170 countries & territories,” Ensign, Nov. 125.)

Nephi 3:8-9: “And I will give unto him (Joseph) a commandment that he shall do none other work, save the work which I shall command him.  And I will make him great in mine eyes; for he shall do my work. 

And he shall be great like unto Moses, whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel. . . .”

(Joseph lived 1700 B.C. - Moses 1500 B.C., - He knew Moses’ name long before Moses was raised up; (similar to Isaiah knowing the name of Cyrus over a century later who would allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem.)

Vss. 11-12: “But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins (Joseph Smith) and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word (Book of Mormon) unto the seed of thy loins (Israel) — and not to the bringing forth of my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them” (Bible).

Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write (Nephi – 22%, Jacob – 4%, Mormon – 63%, Moroni – 10%); and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write (Psalms, Kings, Chronicles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc.) and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins (Book of Mormon), and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah (Bible), shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their father (in Heaven) in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.

Latter-day Saints study the Old Testament one year, the New Testament the next, the Book of Mormon the next, and the Doctrine & Covenants & Covenants; Church History the next, thus we see the unity of the standard  works and gospel principles. This is worldwide – no matter where you attend meetings.

Vss. 13-14: “And out of weakness (no formal education) he (Joseph Smith) shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring thee, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.”

And thus prophesied Joseph (in Egypt), saying: “Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded (42 court cases after over 200 writs for his arrests); for this promise, which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled.

Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise;

Vss. 15-16: “And his name shall be called after me (Joseph); and it shall be after the name of his father (Joseph Smith, Sr.) 

And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation (as did Joseph in Egypt). 

Yea, thus prophesied Joseph: I am sure of this thing, even as I am sure of the promise of Moses (yet unborn); for the Lord hath said unto me, I will preserve thy seed forever.”

The resurrected Savior: 3 Nephi 21:9-11: “For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them. . . .  

Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus    Christ, which the Father shall cause him (Joseph Smith) to bring forth unto the Gentiles (title page - Book of Mormon “to come forth . . . by way of the Gentile,” (Latter-day Christians), and shall give unto him power  that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles . . . they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant.

Mormon 8:14-16 - (Moroni) “And I am the same who hideth up this record unto the Lord; the plates thereof are of no worth, because of the commandment of the Lord. . . and whoso shall bring it to light, him (Joseph Smith) will the Lord bless.

And blessed be he that shall bring this thing to light; for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God; yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness, and come unto the knowledge of the people; and it shall be done by the power of God.”

Mormon 8:25-26: (Moroni)“And behold, their prayers (Lehi, Nephi, Alma, Helaman, etc.) were       also in behalf of him (Joseph) that the Lord should suffer to bring these things forth.

And no one need say they shall not come, for they surely shall, for the Lord hath spoken it; for out of the earth shall they come, by the hand of the Lord, and none can stay it; and it shall come in a day when it shall be said that miracles are done away; and it shall come even as if one should speak from the dead.”

Oliver Cowdery: “A vision was opened to him (Joseph), and the glory of the Lord shone       round about and rested upon him. . . . He beheld the prince of darkness. . . .Moroni told him: ‘All this is shown [to you], the good and the evil, the holy and impure, the glory of God and the power of darkness, that you may know hereafter the two powers and NEVER be influenced or overcome by that wicked one.’ . . . You now see why you (at age 17) could not obtain this record (for 4 years); that the commandment was strict, and that if ever these sacred things are obtained they must be by prayer and faithfulness in obeying the Lord.’”

(An observation that I made was that Joseph was not allowed to translate the plates until he was married. I believe that fact has significance.)

“They are not deposited here for the sake of accumulating gain and wealth for the glory of this world: they were sealed by the prayer of faith and because of the knowledge which they contain they are of no worth among the children of men, only for their knowledge” (Oliver Cowdery, in Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1835, 198.)

D&C 121:26-29: “God shall give unto you knowledge (Joseph) . . . that has not been revealed since the world was until now; which our forefathers (Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Lehi, Nephi, Alma, etc.) have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels . . . A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld. . . . All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set for upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (The Lord to Joseph while a prisoner in Liberty Jail.)

President Young
President Brigham Young: “It was decreed in the councils of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that he, Joseph Smith, should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people, and receive the fulness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God.

The Lord had his eye upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father’s father, and upon their progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, from the flood to Enoch, and from Enoch to Adam.
(in Discourses of Brigham Young, selected by John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1954, page 108; emphasis added).

Robert Millet: “Save Jesus Christ only, the world has never known a more competent scriptural authority than Joseph Smith. It is one thing to read a book of scripture and quite another to be personally instructed by its authors. Who among the world’s scholars and religious leaders can lay claim to having stood face to face with Adam, Enoch (Raphael), Noah, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John?

Elder McConkie
(Raphael. Who Raphael was we do not know. But we do know that someone came from all  the dispensations having distinctive keys and powers. No one else is named as having come from the dispensation of Enoch, and we suppose Raphael is either Enoch or someone else from that day of grace.)
Who can speak with authority about life in ancient America because of lessons learned from Nephi, Mormon, Moroni, and other ancient American Hebrews? (See Journal of Discourses, 13:47; 17:374; 21:94, 161–64; 23:362.)

Many of Joseph’s heavenly visitors laid their hands on his head and conferred their   priesthood keys and authorities.

The work of bringing forth the Book of Mormon  was known by ancient prophets (Isaiah 29, Ezekiel 37;15-20; Moses 7:62), and required careful preparation--four years of tutoring. Joseph met annually with Moroni at the Hill Cumorah. . . .

Other Nephite prophets with a vital interest in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon also played a significant role in Joseph’s tutoring. Nephi, Alma, the twelve Apostles chosen by the Savior in America and Mormon all instructed Joseph. His education was intense during this period (HC, 4:537; George Q. Cannon, in JD, 3:47; John Taylor, JD 17:374; 21:94.

President John Taylor: “Joseph Smith in the first place was set apart by the Almighty according to the councils of the gods   in the eternal worlds, to introduce the principles of life . . . [which] placed him in communication with the Lord, and . . . with the ancient apostles and prophets; such men, for instance, as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah (Elias), Adam, Seth, Enoch, and Jesus and the Father, and the apostles that lived on this continent  as well as those who lived on the Asiatic continent.”
He seemed to be as familiar with these people as we are with one another. Why? Because he had to introduce a dispensation which was called the dispensation of the fulness of times, and it was known as such by the ancient servants of God” (in Journal of Discourses, 21:94; emphasis added).

Joseph Smith not only knew the scriptures, precepts, but he knew the authors-- prophets and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Joseph F. Smith, nephew of the Prophet:

“I believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, because more than ever I come nearer the possession of the actual             knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, through the testimony of Joseph Smith … that he saw Him, that he heard Him, that he received instructions from Him, that he obeyed those instructions”(Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1919, page 495; emphasis added).

President Brigham Young: “Joseph Smith holds   the keys of this last dispensation, and is now engaged behind the veil in the great work of the last days. … No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are.

“He holds the keys of that kingdom for the last dispensation—the keys to rule in the spirit world.”. . .

“Should not this thought comfort all people? They will, by-and-by, be … thankful for such a man as Joseph Smith, Junior. … It   is his mission to see that all the children of men in this last dispensation are saved, that can be, through the redemption” (in Journal of Discourses, 7:289; emphasis added).

President George Albert Smith:

“Many have belittled Joseph Smith, but those who have will be forgotten in the remains of mother earth, and the odor of their infamy will ever be with them, but honor, majesty, and fidelity to God, exemplified by Joseph Smith and attached to his name, will never die” (cited by Harold B. Lee in Conference Report, October 1973, page 166).
President Brigham Young: “Who can justly say aught against Joseph Smith? … I am bold to say that, Jesus Christ excepted, no better man ever lived or does live upon this earth” (Discourses of Brigham Young, page 459).
 Wilford Woodruff: “There is not so great a man as Joseph standing in this generation. … His mind, like Enoch’s,  expands as eternity, and only God can comprehend his soul” (In Journal History,        9 April 1837).

Joseph Smith:
“I am tired, I have been mobbed, I have suffered much. Some of the brethren think they can carry this work out better than I can, far better. I have asked the Lord to take me out of this world. I have stood all I can. I have to seal my testimony to this generation with my blood. I have to do it, for this work will never progress until I am gone, for the testimony is of no force until the testator is dead.”

People little know who I am when they talk about me, and they never will know until they see me weighed in the balance in the kingdom of God. Then they will know who I am, see me as I am” (Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, in They Knew the Prophet, Hyrum and Helen Mae Andrus, Salt  Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974, 26–27).

Pres. Young
If a thousand hounds were on the Temple Block [and were] let loose on one rabbit, it would not be a bad illustration of the situation at times of the Prophet Joseph.  He was hunted unremittingly.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 464.)

This glorious First Vision . . . was the parting of the curtain to open this, the dispensation of the fulness of times.  Nothing on which we base our doctrine, nothing we teach, nothing we live by is of greater importance than this initial declaration.  I submit that if Joseph Smith talked with God the Father and His Beloved Son, then all else of which he spoke is true.  This is the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to the path of salvation and eternal life” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71).

“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” (Joseph Smith, Teacher by Example, Ensign, Oct. 2005.).

D & C 135:3: 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. . .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 brought 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 work with his own blood; and so           had his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated! (John Taylor)

Elder Brinley concluded the training with his testimony. He said, "We are blessed here in Nauvoo to bear testimony concerning the great prophet of the Restoration! We need never be ashamed of that opportunity!"

If you are struggling with your testimony of this truth, will you visit this site?
 Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth

One last story:
The following story is told in the book To My Friends Messages of Counsel and Comfort by Jeffrey R. Holland pgs 18-20. It is a bit wordy but speaks so clearly to the character of Joseph Smith that I want to tell it in it's entirety.

In the early years of the developing Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith had no more faithful aide than William Wines Phelps. Brother Phelps, former newspaper editor, had joined the Church in Kirkland and was of such assistance to those early leaders that they sent him as one of the first Latter-day Saints to the New Jerusalem--Jackson County, Missouri-There he was called by the Lord to the stake presidency of that "center stake of Zion."

But then troubles developed. At first they were largely ecclesiastical aberrations, but then there were financial improprieties. Things became so serious that the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that if Phelps did not repent, he would be removed out of [his]p[lace." He did not repent and was excommunicated on March 10, 1838.

The Prophet Joseph and others immediately tried to love Phelps back into the fold, but he would have nothing of it. 

Then in the fall of that violent year W.W. Phelps, along with others, signed a deadly, damaging affidavit against the Prophet in a public setting, they identifying them for arrest by local officers of the law. The result was that Joseph Smith was sentenced to be executed on the town square in Far West, Missouri, Friday morning, November 2, 1838. Through the monumental courage of General Alexander Doniphan, the Prophet was miraculously spared the execution Phelps and others had precipitated, but he was not spared spending five months--November through April--in several Missouri prisons, the most noted of which was the pit known ironically as Liberty Jail.

I do not need to recount for you the suffering of the Saints through that period. The anguish of those not captive was in many ways more severe than that of those imprisoned. The persecution intensified until the Saints sought yet again to find refuge from the storm. With Joseph in chains, praying for their safety and giving some direction by letter, they made their way toward Commerce, Illinois, a malarial swamp on the Mississippi River where they would try once more to build the city of Zion. And so much of this travail, this torment and heartache, was due to men of their own brotherhood like W. W. Phelps.

Mayors of Nauvoo

But we're speaking here of change and repentance, of forgiveness and happy endings, and this story has one. Two very difficult years later, with wrenching anguish  and remorse of conscience, Phelps wrote to Joseph Smith in Nauvoo.

"Brother Joseph: . . . I am as the prodigal son. . .  I have seen the folly of my way, and I tremble at the gulf I  have passed. . . 'I' ask my old brethren to forgive me, and though they chasten me to death, yet I will die with them, for their God is my God. The least place with them is enough for me yea, it is bigger and better than all Babylon. . .

"I know my situation, you know, and God knows it, and I want to be saved if my friends will help me. . . I have done wrong and I am sorry. . . I ask forgiveness. . . I want your fellowship; if you cannot grant that, grant me your peace and friendship, for we are brethren, and our communion used to be sweet."]


In an instant the Prophet wrote back, I know of no private document or personal response in the life of Joseph Smith or anyone else, for that matter-- that so powerfully demonstrates the magnificence of his soul. There is a lesson here for every one of us who claims to be a disciple of Christ.
He wrote:

"Dear Brother Phelps:. . . You may in some measure realize what my feelings. . .were when we read your letter. . . .

"We have suffered much in consequence of your behavior--the cup of gall, already full enough for mortals to drink, was indeed filled to overflowing when you turned against us. . . .

"However, the cup has been drunk, the will of our Father has been done, and we are yet alive, for which we thank the Lord. And having been delivered from the hands of wicked men by the mercy of our God, we say it is your privilege to be delivered from the powers of the adversary, be brought into the liberty of God's dear children, and again take your stand among the Saints of the Most High. . . 

"Believing your confession to be real, and your repentance genuine, I shall be happy once again to give you the right hand of fellowship, and rejoice over the returning prodigal.
"Come on dear brother, since the war is past, For friends at first, are friends at last.' Yours as ever, Joseph Smith, Jun."

What an expression! What magnanimity of heart! That little letter is one of the many evidences in the Church of the inspired service and noble character of Joseph Smith. It only adds to the poignancy of this invitation to Brother Phelps that exactly four years later--almost to the day--it would be WW Phelps who would be selected to preach Joseph Smith's funeral sermon in that terribly tense and emotional circumstance. Furthermore it would be W. W. Phelps who would memorialize the Prophet after the martyrdom at Carthage with his hymn of adoration, "Praise to the Man," for me, one of the most moving hymns in our Church.

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