Drawing upon an experience from Joseph Smith’s young adult years, Elder Kim B. Clark, General Authority Seventy and the commissioner of the Church Educational System, spoke to young adults during the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults on May 7.
The devotional was held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square, broadcast to stake centers around the world and streamed live on LDS.org. Elder Clark’s wife, Sister Sue Clark, also spoke at the devotional.
Elder Clark began by sharing the story of the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon. His words were interspersed with video clips illustrating the story.
At 21 years old, Joseph Smith received the gold plates and the Urim and Thummim from the angel Moroni in September 1827. Later that fall, Joseph and his wife, Emma, moved to Harmony, Pennsylvania. He began translating the Book of Mormon in February 1828 with Emma, who was pregnant their first child, as his scribe.
By April, Martin Harris arrived in Harmony and began writing for Joseph. Two months later, the translation of the first part of the record was completed.
“Martin Harris desperately wanted to take the manuscript to New York to show his wife and family,” Elder Clark said. “Twice Joseph sought the Lord’s permission, but each time the answer was no. Martin persisted and Joseph asked the Lord a third time.” The Lord gave permission for Martin to only show the manuscript to his wife and a few others.
Soon after Martin left, “Joseph received a visit from Moroni and was reprimanded for his repeated requests to allow Martin to take the manuscript,” Elder Clark said. He had to give the plates and interpreters back to Moroni.
Elder Clark continued, “If that was not enough worry, Emma gave birth to a little boy, but the baby did not live. Emma almost died herself and Joseph spent two weeks constantly by her side. Once she began to feel better, Emma urged Joseph to go find out what had happened to Martin and the manuscript.”
Martin Harris confirmed his worst fears: the manuscript was gone.
The Doctrine and Covenants records the chastisement Joseph received from the Lord, as well as the repentance process he underwent. As he continued to repent, he received the plates and interpreters from Moroni again. With the help of Oliver Cowdery, Joseph was able to complete the translation of the Book of Mormon.
Elder Clark invited the audience to see their own experience in the light of this story. “The Lord prepares you and teaches you, just as He did Joseph when he was a young adult. There are important lessons for you in Joseph’s experience,” he said.
Faith and trust in Jesus Christ
While Joseph had already had many incredible spiritual experiences by the time he began translating the Book of Mormon with Martin Harris as his scribe, he was also 22 years old and worried. “He had a wonderful wife who was pregnant with their first child. He had no money, no education or means to provide for his family. He was surrounded by skeptics and persecutors and had few friends,” Elder Clark said. Despite the rich endowment of spiritual experiences, Joseph feared man more than God.
“In many ways, your situation is like Joseph’s. You are a young adult with worries and uncertainties about marriage and family, education and work, and about finding your place in the world and in the Lord’s Kingdom,” Elder Clark said.
“When you face trials, as you surely will, don’t take counsel from your fears, or rely on the persuasions of men. Instead, I invite you to do the things the Lord helped Joseph do. I promise you they will bring spiritual power into your life.”
Elder Clark encouraged them to “draw on the spiritual experiences and resources you already have to find increased faith and trust in Jesus Christ,” he said. “Rely on the spiritual blessings you have felt and experienced for strength to move forward with faith in the Savior.”
Just like the Lord worked in Joseph’s life, the Lord works in the lives of all. “You have an eternal identity and purpose, and a divine destiny,” Elder Clark said. “The Lord is working in your life right now. He is out in front of you, working to open doors, prepare other people to help you and open the way before you.”
When Joseph found out the manuscript was gone, he knew he had sinned against the Lord and transgressed His commandments. “He was overcome with guilt and grief. But Joseph turned to the Lord and found the miracle of forgiveness and the joy of redemption,” Elder Clark said.
Joseph couldn’t simply give an apology and expect to have repented, Elder Clark said. “Joseph needed to overcome the attitudes, fears and dispositions in his life that were at the root of his sins.” He needed a change of heart only possible through Jesus Christ.
In this experience, the Lord taught Joseph who he really is. “He may have grown up as a poor, uneducated farm boy, but that is not his true identity. He is Joseph the Prophet, a choice seer, through whom Jesus Christ will restore the fullness of His gospel to the earth,” Elder Clark said.
The spiritual power of the Book of Mormon
Losing the manuscript burned into Joseph’s soul the importance of the Book of Mormon and the Lord’s work. “The central message of the Book of Mormon prophets is their witness of Jesus Christ and His doctrine, Elder Clark said. “There is spiritual power in that book.”
That power can be seen in the translation of the Book of Mormon, which was a spiritual experience that taught Joseph the workings of the Lord and the Holy Ghost, Elder Clark said. “The Book of Mormon taught Joseph the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and the Lord called him to live it — to act with faith in Jesus Christ, to repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost.”
The Book of Mormon can be a revelatory experience for everyone, Elder Clark said. “If your heart is open as you read and pray about the Book of Mormon, the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth of it unto you. You will know that the Lord Jesus Christ is your Savior and Redeemer and that Joseph Smith is the prophet of the Restoration,” he said.
Elder Clark invited everyone, whether they are not yet a member of the Church or have been a member for any length of time, to “read the Book of Mormon, pray about it, act with faith in Jesus Christ to repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. Then move forward to receive and keep all the ordinances and covenants of salvation, including the sealing ordinance in the temple.”
In conclusion Elder Clark said, “I hope and pray that you will learn from Joseph’s life. Though he struggled in his young adult years, he trusted in the Lord, and the Lord blessed him to become the great prophet of the Restoration.”
Sister Clark expressed her love for the young adults and spoke on the blessing of repentance.
“I have learned that while repentance is about stopping something you’re doing, it may also be about something that you need to start doing that you haven’t been doing. One of the most important things we need to start doing as part of repentance is to serve other people. It is in serving others, working side-by-side with the Lord, and experiencing His pure love, that we come to really know the Savior,” she said.