Joseph the Prophet

This year's study of the Doctrine and Covenants in Sunday School should have instilled in all Latter-day Saints a greater appreciation for the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

This remarkable collection of scripture testifies of the Prophet's divinely inspired teachings.As John Taylor wrote shortly after the death of Joseph and his brother Hyrum: "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. . . . 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 works with his own blood. . . ." (D&C 135:3.)

Such was the legacy left by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

President Gordon B. Hinckley recently wrote: "We stand in reverence before him. He is the great prophet of this dispensation. He stands at the head of this great and mighty work which is spreading across the earth. He is our prophet, our revelator, our seer, our friend. Let us not forget him. Let not his memory be forgotten in the celebration of Christmas." (December 1997 Ensign, p. 2.)

On another occasion, President Hinckley said:

"I bear testimony of the divinity of his calling. There is not a shadow of doubt in my mind of the fact that he was called of God. . . . I thank the Prophet for his testimony, for his work, for his life, for his sacrifice, for his witness of the living reality of God our Eternal Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 510.)

Through Joseph Smith, the gospel was restored, the priesthood and priesthood keys were received, the doctrine of salvation was revealed, the gospel and temple ordinances, along with the sealing power, were returned, and the Church of Jesus Christ was re-established on the earth. What marvelous blessings! All point to a divine message carried throughout the world that is inclusive, not exclusive. It is for all.

Joseph Smith led the way. His own relationship with the Father was something to behold. Similarly, we too may gain eternal life through the atonement of Jesus Christ if we follow His teachings and heed Joseph's testimony.

Only our own disobedience can keep us from attaining the promised blessings. Only our own wickedness will exclude us from the Father's presence.

Throughout his life, the Prophet Joseph Smith worked to stay in tune with the Spirit and do the will of the Father. His quest was to remain teachable and humble, maintaining an eye single to the Lord's purpose. This he counseled the Saints to do on many occasions. And now millions of Latter-day Saints have accepted the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, seek to live as the Prophet taught and righteously complete their own mission in life.

At this time of year, as we pause to remember his birthdate on Dec. 23, it is good to reflect on the life of the Prophet and his unique relationship with the Lord. It is also ours to realize that we, too, can come unto Christ and be perfected in Him, and serve Him by doing good for others.

President Spencer W. Kimball remarked that Joseph Smith "saw the living God. He saw the living Christ. Few . . . had ever glimpsed such a vision - Peter, James and John, yes, and Moses, Abraham and Adam, but few others. Joseph now belonged to an elite group - the tried and trusted and true. He was in a select society of persons whom Abraham describes as noble and great ones' that weregood' and that were to become the Lord's rulers." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 430.)

This great work that Joseph began with a simple prayer in the grove of trees near his home on that spring morning in 1820 continues today, in scores of countries, in hundreds of languages, in the hearts of millions of followers of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon - the translation of which is Joseph's divine scholarship - touches our conscience with each reading. The translated work from the plates of Nephi testifies of Jesus Christ to a struggling world. The light, provided to the world by Joseph Smith, illuminates the confusion, clarifies the principles of the gospel, and helps lead men and women to their own eternal reward, if they but will endure to the end.

"I love this great seer through whom the miracle of this gospel has been restored," said President Hinckley at a symposium about Joseph Smith at BYU in 1992.

As W.W. Phelps' hymn "Praise to the Man" declares, "Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven. . . . Millions will know `Brother Joseph' again."

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