Growth fulfills prophecy

Being familiar with prophecies made by Joseph Smith about the future of the Church and comparing them with actual progress is one more way for Church members to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

This is the message delivered Jan. 29 by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve, who spoke at the Institute of Religion at Utah State University's annual Joseph Smith Memorial Lecture."Today we see the fulfillment of what the Prophet was shown about the growth of the Church," said Elder Ballard.

The apostle, whose ancestry goes back to the Prophet's older brother, Hyrum, told the audience of 2,500 people that he often thinks of his forefathers. "I find myself asking the question, `Am I doing all I can to move forward this great work that they helped to start more than 168 years ago?' "

In his address, Elder Ballard related some of the persecutions and trials faced by the Prophet Joseph and other early Church leaders. He used statistics to show how the Church has grown through the decades, slowly at first, and then more quickly, with the numbers of missionaries and baptisms doubling and tripling in the last few years.

"We must never forget Joseph Smith'sT perseverance in the face of incredible hardship and opposition to bring forth the priesthood, new scriptures, complete doctrines, full ordinances, and covenants to exalt men and women through membership in the restored Church," the apostle advised.

Elder Ballard also shared an incident from early Church history that had been recorded by Wilford Woodruff. The elders in the Church were gathering in Kirtland, Ohio, to prepare to travel to Missouri and rescue saints who were being heavily persecuted there. In a meeting, many elders stood and shared their testimonies. Afterwards, the Prophet spoke.

" `Brethren, I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight,' " Elder Ballard quoted Joseph Smith as saying. "But I want to say to you before the Lord that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother's lap. You don't comprehend it.'

"You will detect in this statement by Joseph Smith no element of cautious forecasting," observed Elder Ballard. "He certainly did not predict future growth based on past trends. He gave a bold statement, a prophecy – given by the Spirit of the Lord to a prophet of God.

"To know the proclaimed vision of the work that the Church was to accomplish as declared by the Prophet Joseph Smith and to review Church growth from the Prophet's time to ours are, to me, additionalT reasons to know without question that he, indeed, was a prophet of God," Elder Ballard declared.