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Joseph Smith

by William Jackson on 2016-06-26

[This is the transcript of a talk I gave in church on Sunday, June 26, 2016.]

When Christ was on the earth he organized a church so that the gospel could be taught to all nations. He chose certain men as his apostles and gave them authority to preach the gospel and perform ordinances. Even after his death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven Jesus Christ directed his church through visions and revelation to his apostles.

These apostles were prophets. They taught the true doctrine of Christ. Through revelation, they helped to answer questions and clarify misunderstandings about Christ and his gospel. Above all, they testified of Jesus Christ: that he was the Son of God; that he died and was resurrected; and that through his atonement all mankind may be saved from sin, become perfect, and live with God again.

When these early apostles died, the authority to lead the church was gone. Members of the early Church of Jesus Christ could still rely on the Holy Ghost for personal revelation, but there was no longer a man called by God to direct the church. Without this revelatory link, many truths of the gospel were lost. Argument and division splintered the church.

The apostle Paul prophesied of this. Referring to the second coming of Christ, he said, “for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first”.

The prophet Nephi also foresaw this. He said,

For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lordʼs; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lordʼs; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord — And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.

Along with this falling away, ancient prophets also foretold of a restoration. The apostle Peter called it “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” Isaiah called it “a marvellous work and a wonder”. It was even prophesied that the Lord would raise up a prophet named Joseph.

And so this is the situation we find the world in. There are many churches, all claiming to be the Lordʼs church and fighting with one another. The authority to speak in the name of Jesus Christ and to perform the ordinances of his gospel is nowhere to be found on the earth.

Through prophecies given anciently, God promised to restore the truths of the gospel. To do this, God needed a prophet on the earth again. In the words of Elder Neil L. Andersen, “[Jesus Christ] chose a holy man, a righteous man, to lead the Restoration of the fulness of His gospel. He chose Joseph Smith.”

President Wilford Woodruff taught, “Joseph Smith was kept in the spirit world for thousands of years to be born in the flesh at the right time, and to be inspired of God, to be visited by Him, and to be qualified and prepared for the mission given into his hands.”

Brigham Young likewise testified, “It was decreed in the counsels 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.”

Joseph experienced first-hand the religious confusion of his day. Reflecting on that time in his life, he wrote, “so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.”

Fortunately, Joseph was raised by righteous parents who taught him the importance of the scriptures. He studied the Bible on his own. Joseph recalled this feeling after reading James 1:5: “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart.”

Joseph had most likely read this scripture before, or heard someone else in his family read it. When you read the scriptures, do you ever get the feeling that you are hearing a verse for the very first time, even though you know youʼve read it before? Pay attention to that feeling. That is the Holy Ghost telling you that that scripture is important for you at that moment. It may be an answer to a question that is troubling you, or, like it was for Joseph, instructions for what to do to obtain an answer.

Joseph learned that “spiritual questions deserve spiritual answers from God.”

And so when he was 14 years old, Joseph Smith went to a quiet spot in the forest near his home to pray for direction. What were you doing when you were 14 years old? Iʼll tell you what I was doing. I was writing in my journal about how much I love Star Wars.

What happened in answer to Joseph Smithʼs prayer was the beginning of the dispensation of the fulness of times. In his own words:

[…] I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. […] When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other — This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ, visited Joseph Smith. Christ told Joseph that none of the churches on the earth at that time taught the fulness of the gospel. None of them had the authority to act in the name of Jesus Christ. Joseph was promised that the truths of the gospel and the authority to organize Christʼs true church would be given to him.

Joseph Smithʼs work was just beginning. When he was 17 years old, Joseph was visited by an angel named Moroni. Joseph learned about an ancient record that he would later translate by the power of God, The Book of Mormon.

What were you doing when you were 17 years old? Iʼll tell you what I was doing. I was writing in my journal about being excited to check my email.

As part of his message, the angel Moroni told Joseph “that [his] name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” In what way are you fulfilling this prophecy? Do you speak good or evil of the prophet Joseph Smith? Neil L. Andersen said, “Gain a personal witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Let your voice help fulfill Moroniʼs prophetic words to speak good of the Prophet.”

When he was 21 years old, Joseph received the record that Moroni had told him about. After some moving around to escape constant persecution, he was 23 years old when he took about two months to translate a book that is over 500 pages long. What were you doing when you were 23 years old? I was in college and I donʼt think I could even read 500 pages in two months.

While translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph learned much about the gospel of Jesus Christ. He learned about priesthood authority. He was visited by John the Baptist, and later by the ancient apostles Peter, James, and John. These angelic visitors conferred on Joseph Smith the priesthood, or the authority to act in the name of Jesus Christ.

When Joseph was 24 years old, now holding the proper authority, he formally organized the Church of Christ. After hundreds of years, the church that Jesus Christ himself had organized was now back on earth. And Joseph Smith was the prophet that Christ had chosen to do this work.

In the years that followed, revelation continued to flow to the church through the prophet Joseph. He called other men as apostles. He organized missionary work. He directed the construction of temples and the Lord revealed to him the temple ordinances such as baptism for the dead and the endowment, and eternal marriage. Many of the revelations he received were recorded in what is now the book of Doctrine and Covenants.

The Lord Jesus Christ said:

[…] I have sent forth the fulness of my gospel by the hand of my servant Joseph; and in weakness have I blessed him; And I have given unto him the keys of the mystery of those things which have been sealed, even things which were from the foundation of the world, and the things which shall come from this time until the time of my coming […]

Josephʼs testimony of Jesus Christ is this:

And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father — That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

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.

I have a testimony that Joseph Smith was chosen by Jesus Christ to restore the gospel and organize his church. I know that the authority to lead the church and speak in the name of Jesus Christ has been conferred through latter-day prophets in an unbroken line and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is directed by Jesus Christ through a prophet today.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.