Today is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. I wanted to write a post to pay tribute to him.
It wasn't until my mission that I had a specific testimony of the prophet's divine call. That testimony was something I had desired for years. I knew he was a prophet because I knew the Book of Mormon was true. But as I taught people about the First Vision and saw the change in their countenances, and felt the Spirit as I taught, I gained my own testimony that he saw what he said he saw, and that he did indeed restore the true church of Jesus Christ to the earth.
I have since had other experiences that have strengthened that testimony. I visited the Sacred Grove where he was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ. I was deeply moved when I visited Liberty Jail while living for a summer in the midwest. Later, I walked the streets of Nauvoo, reflecting on all that transpired in that great city of Joseph, the city beautiful. I saw his gravesite, his home. I attended church in the city. My spirit was sobered as I stood in the room at Carthage where the prophet and his brother were martyred. I stood in the place where the Church was organized in this dispensation.
I have also been moved by artistic expressions of faith. Music of the restoration such as Joseph Smith's First Prayer, An Angel from on High, The Morning Breaks, The Spirit of God, High on the Mountain Top, We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet, and many, many others, have brought the Spirit in a powerful witness that the restoration is real! The movie that the Church has made about Joseph Smith filled me with the Spirit, and with gratitude for his devotion and sacrifice. I also came to see him more as a person as well as a prophet by watching that film. Other church films, particularly those on the Church History collection, have become favorites as I watch them over and over again with my children, and we feel together the power of the Spirit bearing witness that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet, and that this Church is true!
Recently, I attended a performance at the Salt Lake Tabernacle. called Joseph Smith, the Prophet. (If you go to byu.tv and download the Move Media player, you can watch a rebroadcast of the program that I just found out was shown today at 4 p.m. MDT.) What an amazing tribute! Music has a way of stirring my soul perhaps unlike almost anything else, and this was a presentation that reinforced my conviction that Joseph was called of God.
Even my current reading of an historical novel series from the time of Church history is strengthening my testimony of the prophet.
There are frequent quiet moments of personal study when the Spirit bears witness to my soul that what Joseph restored is real. I thrive on the feelings of light and truth that come when I feast on the words of God as they come through the scriptures and through living prophets and other inspired leaders of God in general conference messages. I repeatedly marvel at the simplicity of the gospel and its ability to change lives as I read the testimonies and experiences of people in our Church magazines. (My kids know that I can't read to them from The Friend without tearing up.) This is especially refreshing in contrast to the often unnecessarily complicated conversations that occur online, or are spurred on by enemies of the Church. Reading our Church materials helps me remember how simple it all really is. The Lord has said we should have faith like a child. Even a child can feel the truthfulness of the gospel, perhaps sometimes more than adults. (We sometimes want to make things harder than they are!)
Speaking of children, mine are like spiritual sponges. I love teaching moments in Family Home Evening, family scripture study, and just in those fleeting times during the day when the Spirit nudges me to take advantage of a chance to teach and testify. Even in a brief interaction, the Spirit can confirm to me that what I believe really is true. I see the light in my children's eyes and lives, too, as they are learning -- and coming to love and recognize the light and truth in this work. It's not that they don't have questions -- they do! But they are learning that we can find answers to many questions by trusting God and His prophets -- and that when we can't, we can trust that someday we'll understand. The key right now is to be faithful to what we do know, so we can learn and receive more -- and someday be received by the Lord.
I'll never forget my son's first experience with his testimony of Joseph Smith. It was Joseph Smith's birthday, and I think we watched a church video to celebrate it. He described the way he felt as something over 6,000 blankets (I can't remember the exact number) surrounding his heart. He's now nine, but he still clearly remembers that moment two and a half years ago.
There are few things that I love to do more than study and talk about the gospel. The gospel is the most important thing in my life. It brings light, joy, peace, and understanding to my life. It brings strength and perspective to me in my roles as wife and mother. It helps me in times of trial and fear. It helps me understand who I am, why I am here on earth, and a little of what awaits in the life to come.
When I set out to write this post, I wasn't sure what I would say, but now I realize that all that I love about the gospel reinforces my testimony of Joseph Smith. I am so grateful for what he did and for who he was.
The angel Moroni [who gave Joseph the plates that would be translated to be the Book of Mormon] once said to 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." I find that happens even within the Church, and surely without.
No matter. While some voices will always seek to defame him, I testify that he was and is a prophet of God. He stands at the head of this dispensation, a stewardship given him by the Lord Himself. I know that through him, the true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ was restored, with all its necessary authority, ordinances, and doctrines -- all that is necessary to bind us to Christ and make possible the eternal blessings of salvation and exaltation.
"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." (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3)
Dear Brother Joseph, someday I hope to be able to thank you face to face for all you did to bring forth the marvelous work and a wonder that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I will be eternally grateful for your life, your faith, your courage, your integrity, and your willingness to do all that you were asked to do, even in the face of opposition and even death. I love and honor you as a blessed servant of God.