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Sarah Jane Weaver: Why it is fitting that Joseph Smith was born during the Christmas season

Joseph Smith reminds all of us that opposition can ‘refine us for an eternal, celestial destiny,’ Elder Quentin L. Cook noted

Elder Quentin L. Cook, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stands in the Historic Liberty Jail in Liberty, Missouri on Friday, May 28, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
The Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vt., on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
The sun sets at the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vt., on Oct. 18, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

On May 28, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — fulfilling an assignment that took him to several of the Church’s historic sites before dedicating a portion of historic Nauvoo — stood in Liberty Jail.

Reflecting on the Prophet Joseph Smith’s unjust imprisonment and the persecution of early Latter-day Saints, Elder Cook opened the Doctrine and Covenants and read from section 121.

He read Joseph’s sincere and seeking question: “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?”

The Savior’s response, Elder Cook added, is precious: “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high.”

As Elder Cook read, the room stilled.

I thought both about Joseph Smith and about today.

Joseph was imprisoned in Liberty Jail in December 1838; within weeks he would mark his 33rd birthday and Christmas in the jail.

Elder Cook said Liberty Jail “is a place where we recognize the depths of the hardships and yet the sacredness of the Doctrine and Covenants sections. The revelations that came to him are powerful and bless us and give us hope. What a remarkable history, what a remarkable blessing it is to us.”

For me, that moment listening to Elder Cook, was sacred. I had always thought of Joseph Smith’s story being a story of faith, sacrifice, obedience, dedication and spiritual refining.  But, as Elder Cook read the Savior’s words recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith’s story felt most like a story of hope. A story of a 14-year-old boy restoring a sacred work that — in spite of discouragement and the sorest adversity — would roll forth and, in just two centuries, fill the earth.

Elder Cook noted that Joseph Smith reminds all of us that opposition can “refine us for an eternal, celestial destiny.”

Speaking earlier this month at a devotional to Salt Lake inner-city missionaries, Elder Cook said he was assigned as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve to read every page of the Joseph Smith Papers — from beginning to end, including the endnotes.  

“I want you to know the more you know the better he looks,” he said.

There are those who criticize the Prophet, but “the more you read, the more you see, the more you understand what the Prophet Joseph Smith did, the more you admire him,” said Elder Cook.

He called Joseph Smith “an instrument in the Lord’s hands” who received inspiration and was “full of faith, full of righteousness.”

The sun sets at the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vt., on Oct. 18, 2019.
The sun sets at the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vt., on Oct. 18, 2019. | Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“Joseph Smith was the Prophet of the Restoration.”

On Dec. 23, Latter-day Saints can remember Joseph Smith on his birthday. For me it is fitting that he was born in the same season that we celebrate the birth and life of Jesus Christ — the Author of Hope.

During his assignment in May, Elder Cook also visited Carthage Jail — where the Prophet and his brother Hyrum Smith were killed by a mob on June 27, 1844 — sealing their testimonies of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with their lives.

Elder Cook’s reflection from Carthage is the same reflection we each share this December as we celebrate two births — the Savior of the World and the Prophet who restored the Savior’s Church to the earth and died a martyr to His cause.

“My faith, my testimony, is in Jesus Christ,” testified Elder Cook. “I bear my solemn witness that Jesus Christ lives, that it’s the doctrine and the principles and the ordinances that He provided for us that will allow us to return to live with the Father and the Son.”

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