“Each believer needs a spiritual confirmation of the divine mission and character of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said during the Saturday afternoon session of general conference on Oct. 4.
“Joseph Smith is the Prophet of the Restoration,” he said. “His spiritual work began with the appearance of the Father and the Son, followed by numerous heavenly visitations. He was the instrument in God’s hands in bringing forth sacred scripture, lost doctrine and the restoration of the priesthood. The importance of Joseph’s work requires more than intellectual consideration; it requires that we, like Joseph, ‘ask of God.’ ”
Because of the important role Joseph Smith played in the Restoration, opposition to his name often comes.
“Opposition against the things of God sends seekers of truth to their knees for answers,” said Elder Andersen.
He counseled the conference congregation to “offer kindness to those who criticize Joseph Smith,” and shared responses Church members can give in response to sincere inquiries concerning negative comments heard or read about the Prophet Joseph Smith.
“To questions about Joseph’s character, we might share the words of thousands who knew him personally and who gave their lives for the work he helped establish,” he said. He later added, “We might remind the sincere inquirer that Internet information does not have a ‘truth’ filter. Some information, no matter how convincing, is simply not true.”
It is important to recognize that some information about Joseph, while true, might be presented completely out of context to the day and situation. A sincere inquirer should see the spreading of the restored gospel as the fruit of the Lord’s work through the Prophet, Elder Andersen taught.
“There are now more than 29,000 congregations and 88,000 missionaries teaching the gospel across the world,” he said. “Millions of Latter-day Saints are seeking to follow Jesus Christ, live honorable lives, care for the poor and give of their time and talents in helping others.”
Although those explanations are convincing, the sincere inquirer should not rely on them exclusively to settle his or her search for truth. Each believer needs his or her own spiritual confirmation of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
“Spiritual questions deserve spiritual answers from God,” he said.
A testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith comes differently to each person. For some it comes as they kneel in prayer, asking God to confirm he was a true prophet. To others it may come as they read the Prophet’s account of the First Vision or as they read the Book of Mormon again and again.
“With faith and real intent, your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith will strengthen,” he promised.
Elder Andersen spoke directly to the youth, challenging them to “gain a personal witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith” by letting their “voice help fulfill Moroni’s prophetic words to speak good of the Prophet.”
He shared two ideas: First, find scriptures in the Book of Mormon that they feel and know are absolutely true. He encouraged the youth to then share the scriptures they found with family and friends during family home evening, seminary and Young Men and Young Women classes. Then, he challenged the youth to read the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith found in the Pearl of Great Price.
“This is Joseph’s own testimony of what actually occurred,” he said. “Read it often. Consider recording the testimony of Joseph Smith in your own voice, listening to it regularly, and sharing it with friends. Listening to the Prophet’s testimony in your own voice will help bring the witness you seek.”