Joseph Smith’s unique calling required “repeated and miraculous tutoring directly from heaven so that he could give his successors the firm foundation needed to accomplish the Lord’s purposes in the future,” said President Russell M. Nelson on June 24.
Speaking during the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders, President Nelson said he chose to focus on the Prophet Joseph’s divine tutoring for two reasons.
“First, to bear my personal witness that this is God’s work, the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that Joseph Smith is the prophet of this last dispensation. A testimony of the Prophet Joseph’s pivotal role in the Restoration is crucial for all of us who are preaching the Lord’s gospel.
“Second, to declare that you, too, can and will be guided by heaven in your work as you seek direction, guidance and inspiration from on high.”
President Nelson’s remarks kicked off the seminar — a live internet broadcast. Held for the second consecutive year through online streaming because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual seminar featured instruction from senior Church leaders and videoconference interactions.
Addressing 109 couples assigned to lead missionary work in 49 countries and 14 U.S. states, President Nelson encouraged the mission leaders to study, ponder and teach from the bicentennial proclamation of the Restoration, introduced at the April 2020 general conference.
“Teach it often to your missionaries. There is power in its declarations. It proclaims truths concerning the Godhead, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the First Vision, the organization of the Lord’s Church, the restoration of priesthood authority, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and modern-day prophets.”
The more your missionaries understand about these fundamental gospel truths, the more their own testimonies will grow, he said.
The Restoration is a work in progress, President Nelson said. “As we are all colleagues in that cause, our combined charge is to help to gather Israel and prepare the people of this world for the Second Coming of the Lord. This is the most important work in the world.”
One cannot stress enough the pivotal role of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who ushered in this, “the dispensation of the fulness of times,” President Nelson added.
“We marvel how Joseph was able to accomplish all that he did in his abbreviated lifetime,” he said. “His amazing accomplishments were enabled by the miraculous and matchless power of Almighty God, the Lord Jesus Christ and many other heavenly beings. His work was also facilitated and complemented by his dear wife, Emma. Her constant, capable support and her faith, which she demonstrated time and time again, cannot be overemphasized.”
The Restoration began with the First Vision. There were at least nine other occasions that Joseph saw the Father or the Son. In addition to “these transcendent experiences with the Father and the Son,” Joseph was visited by, or saw in vision, dozens of ancient prophets and angels, said President Nelson.
“Through these remarkable experiences, Joseph came to understand that worldly knowledge pales when compared to heavenly knowledge.”
The angel Moroni figured prominently in Joseph’s early tutoring, making at least 20 visits to him in the 1820s. Joseph was instructed to meet Moroni annually at the hill where the plates were deposited.
“These were sacred opportunities for Moroni to impart ‘instruction and intelligence’ to Joseph regarding how the Lord’s ‘kingdom was to be conducted in the last days’ (Joseph Smith—History 1:54),” President Nelson explained. “This was also a season of refinement as Joseph incrementally began to understand what Moroni meant when he told Joseph that ‘God had a work for [him] to do’ (Joseph Smith—History 1:33).”
Moroni remained in contact with Joseph throughout the duration of the translation of the Book of Mormon until permanently reclaiming the plates once the translation was complete, said President Nelson. “Moroni’s careful tutelage instilled confidence and nurturing, while preparing Joseph for future communications with a host of heavenly beings.”
President Nelson also asked the new mission leaders to consider Joseph Smith’s role as the revelator of latter-day scriptures. “Much of our precious body of scripture was revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith,” he said. “Through him we have received more pages of scripture than we have from any other prophet.”
“He translated the Book of Mormon from an unknown language into the English language ‘by the gift and power of God’ (Introduction to the Book of Mormon) in approximately 65 to 75 working days. This means that he translated at the astonishing rate of seven to eight pages per day. He did this without the advantage of any modern technology, in a single draft, with remarkably few instances of strikeouts or edits.
“I have examined surviving pages from the original manuscript, inscribed by the hand of Oliver Cowdery. His writing is beautiful. What did he use for a pen? The quill of a turkey feather. The process of translation and recording was indeed a spiritual experience.”
The Book of Mormon, continued President Nelson, is tangible and irrefutable evidence of Joseph Smith’s foreordained designation as the Prophet of this dispensation. “It is another testament of Jesus Christ. It teaches more about the Savior and His infinite Atonement than does any other book. It is the instrument that heaven has placed in our hands to help us gather Israel.”
In addition, Joseph received by revelation all but three of the 138 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, often in the face of extreme adversity and persecution. “This sacred compilation of revelations from the Lord proclaims the doctrine; establishes the administrative structure of the Church; and explains the keys, authority and power of the priesthood in more detail than any other book of scripture,” said President Nelson. “It gives needed counsel and correction and powerfully testifies of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Shortly after the Church was formally organized, Joseph was directed to begin working on what we refer to as the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. The Pearl of Great Price includes the books of Moses and Abraham — which also came by revelation.
“Through Joseph Smith, the Lord brought forth scriptures that He knew were necessary for His disciples to understand,” said President Nelson. “They teach of God’s eternal plan of happiness and of His covenant path to eternal glory.”
Many of these experiences are not captured in the scriptures, but various accounts indicate that Joseph saw in vision or was visited by approximately 60 angels during his lifetime, said President Nelson. “Each came as directed by the Lord for various purposes. … Although we know little about the details and purposes of many of the other angelic visits, their cumulative impact provided Joseph with an extraordinary perspective of past dispensations and the ability to restore and renew plain and precious things.”
Two years before his death, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote that he had “received many visits from the angels of God unfolding the majesty and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days.”
President Nelson promised the new mission leaders that angels will also surround, prompt, protect and accompany them. “I plead with you to do the spiritual work necessary to receive such direction and promise you that, as you do, the Lord will shower direction, confidence and peace upon you and your missionaries.”
Joseph often found strength in his intimate association with those beyond the veil. “When he was repeatedly betrayed by close associates or falsely accused or unjustly imprisoned, Joseph was never alone. … In the same manner, you will never be left alone. The Prophet Joseph’s experience can also be your experience as you seek for — and prepare yourself to receive — heaven’s help. I promise you that this is true.”