God’s hand wove together a tapestry of prophets and reformers who prepared the world for the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve during the Joseph Smith Memorial Fireside in Logan, Utah, on Feb. 13.
“Tonight I want to explain to you that our Heavenly Father had His eye on the Joseph Smith family from the beginning of time up to 1820 when He and His Beloved Son visited Joseph and began the preparation for Joseph to become the Prophet of the Restoration of the fullness of the gospel in this last dispensation.
“In 1859 President Brigham Young said it this way: ‘It was decreed in the councils of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that [Joseph Smith] should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people and receive the fullness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. The Lord had His eye upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father’s father, and upon their progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, from the flood to Enoch and from Enoch to Adam. He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its fountain to the birth of that man. He was foreordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation’ ” (Deseret News, October 26, 1859, 266).
Speaking to thousands of institute students gathered in the Spectrum on the campus of Utah State University, Elder Ballard addressed the topic, “The Tapestry of God’s Hand.”
“When we hear the name ‘Joseph,’ Elder Ballard said, “we see God’s hand weaving together a tapestry of prophets and dispensations preparing the world time after time for the restoration of the gospel after periods of apostasy.” Over the generations of time, the gospel of Christ has been on the earth and lost.
“Now think, my brothers and sisters, about the price that others have paid to establish the freedom of religion essential for Joseph Smith to come to earth to fulfill his mission,” he said. “Think of the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, who were protesters of Christendom during the dark ages of the Great Apostasy. Many gave their lives for the right of all people to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience.”
Elder Ballard listed examples:
John Wycliffe was a brilliant scholar and theologian who worked to bring about religious freedom. After Wycliffe’s death, the king had his remains dug up and burned to show disrespect.
John Huss embraced the teachings of Wycliffe and taught the gospel as he understood it from the scriptures. He was burned at the stake because of his religious beliefs.
Martin Luther created controversy when he publicly called for reformation by posting, on his church door in Wittenberg, Germany, a list of issues that he felt needed to be debated. He died in exile.
Ann Askew was burned at the stake in 1546 because she would not recant her beliefs.
William Tyndale, a heroic English reformer of the early 16th Century, completed an English translation of the Bible. He was arrested near Brussels, Belgium, and condemned by Thomas Moore and the Church of England. He was strangled and his body burned.
Hugh Latimer was an English reformer who was asked to recant his cries for people to be able to read the Bible in their common language. He refused and along with Bishop Ridley was burned at the stake. His final words to Bishop Ridley were “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”
“These are but a few of the many accounts of people who gave their lives to bring to the world the scriptures and religious freedom,” said Elder Ballard. “Can you see, my dear young friends, what was required for the day of the Restoration? What reverence we should have for these heroes who sacrificed their all in preparing the way for the restoration of the gospel.
Elder Ballard said the hand of the Lord became even more evident in the life of a special reformer, John Lathrop, who was born in 1584 in Yorkshire, England. A minister in the Church of England, John Lathrop declared that the gospel should be taught more freely to the common people and that they should be able to read the Bible for themselves. He was arrested for his teachings and released on the condition he would leave England. He came to America with his children and followers. “Now that may not mean very much until you realized that the Mack family were descendants of John Lathrop. He was the fourth-great-grandfather of Lucy Mack Smith.”
In 1638 another man, Robert Smith, emigrated from England to the new world. His posterity included Samuel Smith, a captain in George Washington’s army, and Asael Smith, who fought in the Revolutionary War.
Asael Smith’s son was Joseph Smith Sr, who married Lucy Mack Smith. They are the parents of the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr.
“One of the remarkable things that every Latter-day Saint needs to be grateful for is the believing blood that flowed in the veins of the Smith family, …” said Elder Ballard. “Can you see the hand of God working from the very beginning to prepare for the Restoration of the gospel through this tapestry of faith woven through the generations of time?” The result, he said, is the true Church of Jesus Christ spreading throughout the Earth.
“I hope that not one of you would ever question that the Prophet Joseph Smith was foreordained to the great work he was called to do. Knowing what we know about the past history of faith and sacrifice through the generations of brave and courageous sons and daughters of God, my brothers and sisters, we are duty bound to learn all we can about the doctrine and gospel of Christ. And we are bound by covenant to share what we know to be true at all times and in all places.
“We owe so much to those who have paved the way for our having the fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ to guide our lives today. Whether you were born in the Church or you are a brand new convert, the lessons of the past will inspire you.”