- Written by Kirsten Hofeling
- Category: Joseph Smith Jr.
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This week will mark the 209th anniversary of the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Prophet of the fullness of times. He was born in Sharon, Vermont on the 23rd day of December 1805. While members of the Church worship the Savior as the Redeemer of the world, their hearts also reverence the man Joseph, the Prophet and Seer, who did “more for the salvation of men in this world, save Jesus only.” You are invited to join us in this journey of light and understanding about the Prophet of the fullness of the dispensation of times… a man raised up from the foundations of the earth.
Acting through Joseph, the Lord and Savior of the world restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ to earth. This restoration included all the ordinances and sealing powers of the Priesthood of God to bind in heaven what is bound on earth. As families begin to gather together to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior what wonderful and powerful knowledge it is to know and to remember that these very powers and ordinances can seal us for time and all eternity to our precious families and loved ones!
Through Joseph all the light and power of Heaven again shines upon the earth so that we, living our lives in these “latter” days, might be blessed to be cloaked from power on high during this most challenging and yet most wonderful time in man’s earthly habitation. The Prophets of old saw our time and knew that the restoration through Joseph would bless, lift and sustain us in this final dispensation. The Prophets of old rejoiced that the restoration in our day would be complete. They and countless others have waited on the other side of the veil for the very restoration that is blessing our lives and the lives of all mankind even from the beginning of time.
As the modern day Apostle, Neil A. Maxwell, taught:
From Joseph Smith, one unlearned and untrained in theology, more printed pages of scripture have come down to us than from any mortal, including Moses, Paul, Luke and Mormon combined. But it is not only a matter of impressive quantity; it is also a qualitative matter. Doctrines that came through the Prophet included key doctrines previously lost from the face of the earth, a loss which caused people to “stumble exceedingly.” “Plain and precious things,” because of faulty transmission, had been “kept back” or “taken away,” and thus do not appear in our treasured Holy Bible. (See 1 Ne. 13-34, 39-40).
We invite all to journey with us as we remember the extraordinary Prophet and friend to all, on the special occasion of his birthday, through the eyes of the ancient Prophets, modern day Prophets and Church leaders and even the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Testimonies of the Ancients of Joseph Smith
Brigham Young said concerning Joseph Smith:
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 fullness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. (in sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1954, p. 108; emphasis added).
Many others knew and foretold of the coming of Joseph Smith in the last days and of the vital role he would play in the restoration and the winding-up scenes. Joseph of old (see ), the resurrected Savior to the Nephites (see ), Moroni (see ), and John the Baptist (see JST, John 1:20–22) all spoke of a great Prophet that was to come.
Referring again to Neal Maxwell, we are taught:
Joseph Smith was probably first made intellectually aware of the special relationship he had with ancient Joseph, whom we commonly refer to as Joseph in Egypt, when the Prophet Joseph translated the third chapter of 2 Nephi. It was not until Liberty Jail, however, that the record indicates any public affirmation of this unusual relationship. In one of his last letters from Liberty Jail, Joseph wrote, “I feel like Joseph in Egypt.” (comp. Dean Jessee, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984, p. 409) It was not an idle comparison, for it reflected an important verse in the third chapter of 2 Nephi. Ancient Joseph spoke of the latter-day seer, saying, “And he shall be like unto me.” (.) When Joseph Smith, Jr., was given a blessing by Father Smith in December 1834, an extensive portion of that blessing informed modern Joseph of his special relationship to ancient Joseph. (See Joseph Smith, Sr., blessing, 9 Dec. 1834, Church Historical Department, 1:3–4).
In many places in the Doctrine and Covenants we learn that the restorational role played by Joseph was not only necessary for the salvation of the mankind, but it was long ago prophesized and long anticipated. Citing but one example, we learn in Doctrine and Covenants 128:18 that Joseph Smith was raised up to make known “those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, [things that] shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fullness of times”
In Joseph’s own account, he relates the words Moroni spoke to him about his long anticipated role in the restoration:
He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my 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. (See History of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Chapt. 1:33).
Testimonies Of the Prophet By His Friends
Lorenzo Snow, a close friend of the Prophet from his early days in Hiram Ohio, and who later became the 5th President of the Church said these words about Joseph: “I heard the Prophet discourse upon the grandest of subjects, at times he was filled with the Holy ghost, speaking as with the voice of an archangel and filled with the power of God”.
Lorenzo Snow further testified:
…As long as memory continues and reason shall assert its throne, I never can permit the powerful testimony and knowledge that was communicated to me to remain silent. It was revealed to me. I knew that God had sent His angels and restored the fullness of the Gospel as taught in ancient times; that He sent angels to authorize Joseph Smith, and gave him authority to administer in the ordinances of the Gospel, and to promise the Holy Ghost to all who would be obedient. ( Millennial Star, Apr. 18, 1887, 242. )
Before Brigham Young met Joseph, he offered his own words about his search for a choice seer:
The secret feeling in my heart was that I would be willing to crawl around the earth on my hands and knees, to see such a man as Peter, Jeremiah, Moses, or any man that could tell me anything about God in heaven. When I saw Joseph Smith, he took heaven figuratively speaking, and brought it down to earth; and he took the earth, brought it up, and opened up, in plainness and simplicity, the things of God; that is the beauty of his mission. (As quoted by Hugh W. Nibley, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, 1978, p. 234.)
After many years of association and the martyrdom of our dear Prophet, Brigham Young declared that:
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 and sustain it” (456) . . . “I can truly say, that I invariably found him to be all that any people could require a true prophet to be, and that a better man could not be, though he had his weaknesses; and what man has ever lived upon this earth who had none? (Brigham Young to David P. Smith, 1 June 1853, BYP).
“President Young’s lifelong conviction of the Seer and his work was confirmed at his deathbed in a final expression of recognition and anticipation: ‘Joseph, Joseph, Joseph’” (362).
John Taylor added his voice in claiming that Joseph “was ignorant of letters as the world has it, but the most profoundly learned and intelligent man that I ever met in my life.”
Wilford Woodruff lamented that “[t]he people could not bear the flood of intelligence which God poured into [Joseph’s] mind.”
Eliza R. Snow testified of Joseph that
In the cause of truth and righteousness—in all that would benefit his fellow man, his integrity was firm as the pillars of Heaven. He knew that God had called him to the work, and all powers of earth and hell combined failed either to deter or divert him from his purpose. With the help of God and his brethren, he laid the foundation of the greatest work ever established by man—a work extending joy not only to all the living, and to all generations to come, but also to the dead.
He boldly and bravely confronted the false traditions, superstitions, religions, bigotry and ignorance of the world—proved himself true to every heaven-revealed principle—true to his brethren and true to God, then sealed his testimony with this blood. (“Anniversary Tribute to the Memory of President Joseph Smith, “ Woman’s Exponent, Jan. 1, 1874, 117; punctuation modernized).
Emmeline B. Wells said of Joseph:
In the Prophet Joseph Smith, I believed I recognized the great spiritual power that brought joy and comfort to the Saints. . . .
He was beyond my comprehension. The power of God rested upon him to such a degree that on many occasions he seemed transfigured. His expression was mild and almost childlike in repose; and when addressing the people, who love him it seemed to adoration, the glory of his countenance was beyond description. At other times the great power of his manner, more than his voice (which was sublimely eloquent to me) seemed to shake the place on which we stood and penetrate the inmost soul of his hearers, and I am sure that then they would have laid down their lives to defend him. I always listened spell-bound to his every utterance—the chosen of God in this last dispensation. (In "Joseph Smith, the Prophet," Young Woman's Journal, Dec. 1905, 556).
Vilate Murray Kimball, the wife of Heber C. Kimball bore yet another powerful witness of Joseph:
We marvel at the wonderful work he [Joseph] accomplished during his brief life. From the time God heard his humble prayer, and suffered him in vision to behold His face, Satan with all his hosts was arrayed against him. Contempt, reproach and ridicule were poured in black profusion o'er his youthful head as if to blast the bud of character—to wither reputation, ere it could be strengthened by maturing years. But what availed the malice of the world with him? He'd seen a heavenly vision, and heard the voice of the eternal God who cannot lie; and all the powers of darkness, speaking through the human tongue, could never teach him to unknow what he authentically knew. “His eyes had seen, his ears had heard, he'd felt the power of the Great Eternal One." (In "Joseph Smith, the Prophet," Young Woman's Journal, Dec. 1905, 548).
Jacob Butterfield stated that
God has set his hand the second time to recover the remnant of his people Israel and . . . Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. I am not afraid to declare it unto the ends of the earth and invite all to embrace it with all their hearts that they may receive the blessings of the gospel and be saved in the celestial kingdom of God. Joseph is a good looking man, a man that sets good examples in his family and in the streets and labors diligently to have the church deal justly, walk humbly and to have mercy." (Letter from Jacob Kemp Butterfield to Persis Butterfield, May 10, 1837, Kirtland, Ohio, Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; punctuation modernized).
William Clayton, clerk and scribe for Joseph said of him:
We have had the privilege of conversing with Joseph Smith Jr. and we are delighted with his company. We have had a privilege of ascertaining in a great measure from whence all the evil reports have arisen and hitherto have every reason to believe him innocent. He is not an idiot, but a man of sound judgment, and possessed of abundance of intelligence and whilst you listen to his conversation you receive intelligence which expands your mind and causes your heart to rejoice. He is very familiar, and delights to instruct the poor saints. I can converse with him just as easy as I can with you, and with regard to being willing to communicate instruction he says, 'I receive it freely and I will give it freely.' He is willing to answer any question I have put to him and is pleased when we ask him questions. (Letter from William Clayton to Church members in Manchester, England, Dec. 10, 1840, Nauvoo, Illinois, Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; spelling and punctuation modernized).
Parley P. Pratt wrote of Joseph:
In short, in him [Joseph] the characters of a Daniel and a Cyrus were wonderfully blended. The gifts, wisdom and devotion of a Daniel were united with the boldness, courage, temperance, perseverance and generosity of a Cyrus. And had he been spared a martyr's fate till mature manhood and age, he was certainly endued with powers and ability to have revolutionized the world in many respects, and to have transmitted to posterity a name associated with more brilliant and glorious acts than has yet fallen to the lot of mortal. As it is, his works will live to endless ages, and unnumbered millions yet unborn will mention his name with honor, as a noble instrument in the hands of God, who, during his short and youthful career, laid the foundation of that kingdom spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, which should break in pieces all other kingdoms and stand forever. (In Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. (1985), 32, 34).
From humble beginnings, not unlike the Savior himself, to the First Vision in the very presence of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ in that beautiful grove in New York, to the translation of the Book of Mormon, to the restoration of the Priesthood and all the saving ordinances, to the founding of the Church, to Ohio, Missouri, Illinois to Carthage, all the prophecies, ancient and modern, regarding our beloved Prophet have come to pass.
And even with the great prophecies and his great works and his willingness to sacrifice all, even his life in the cause of Christ, there is another wonderful side of Joseph. Perhaps Margarette McIntire Burgess put it best when she recalled an experience with the Prophet in Nauvoo:
My older brother and I were going to school, near to the building which was known as Joseph’s brick store. It had been raining the previous day, causing the ground to be very muddy, especially along that street. My brother Wallace and I both got fast in the mud, and could not get out, and of course, child-like, we began to cry, for we thought we would have to stay there. But looking up, I beheld the loving friend of children, the Prophet Joseph, coming to us. He soon had us on higher and drier ground. Then he stooped down and cleaned the mud from our little, heavy-laden shoes, took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped our tear-stained faces. He spoke kind and cheering words to us, and sent us on our way to school rejoicing. Was it any wonder that I loved that great, good and noble man of God? (See Margarette McIntire Burgess, in “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor, Jan. 15, 1892, pp. 66–67).
Is it any wonder we admire and revere this great man, Prophet of the restoration and friend to all. Happy Birthday Brother Joseph.