How to Discourage Discouragement

06 Sep. 2000

Transcript

How to Discourage Discouragement

 
It is an exciting time to be here. I can feel it. I hope you are excited about being in this institution that was established by the Church. We have a lot of invitations that come to us as General Authorities to speak in different settings. You ought to know that this particular assignment to come here and speak is assigned by the First Presidency. I think it says something about how strongly they feel about you, my wonderful brothers and sisters. You are being educated continually in the things of the Spirit, as well as in the things that pertain to the world. Those things of the world that are true are important to learn and understand, but they must always be secondary, in my judgment, to the things of the Lord, to the pure truths that come from Heaven and bring about our salvation.
I have felt a great spirit in each one of you. I want you to know that. As I sat on the stand, I thought to myself, if the Lord were here speaking to you, I am confident of one thing He would do. He would throw His arms wide open, and He would tell you how much He loves you, every single one of you. There might be some here who think, "Well, I don't know if He'd love me very much," or even maybe one who may think, "If you know what I know, Brother Cook, about how bad a person I am or the things I have done in the past, I have doubts whether the Lord would love me."
Well, you do not know Him if you think that. You are one of the ones He would throw His arms around doubly and bring you to His bosom and express His love to you. And when you felt the depth of His love for you personally, you would humble yourself to the dust and ask for forgiveness. You would desire above all things in this world to be with Him all the time, and to feel the love that emanates from Him all the time. I testify that the Lord is full of love.
I hope that there are not those here who would be really down on themselves or think that they are not worth very much. That is the devil speaking, my friends. He is the one that keeps pounding away to make you feel that you are not worth much. That is not the Lord. If you had even a small inkling of who you really were in the pre-mortal life and what you accomplished there, and why you have been sent to this last generation of time, you would stand - at least in your heart - a lot taller than some of you do. You would know in a humble way that the Lord has called you for a very special purpose; to be here in this very day and time to accomplish some specific things that only you can do, in the way only you can do them. So if you don't remember anything else about what is said today, remember that one thing. I repeat again, I am confident that if the Lord were here today, He would throw His arms around you - one by one - and He would express His love to you and how much He honors you for doing your best to try to keep the commandments and stay clean in this wicked world and do the things you ought to do.
Be strong, young people. The devil is really out there, and he is after you in a thousand different ways. He will work and work to find some weak spots of yours to try to work on you. Do not let him succeed.
Now, I have in mind this morning to talk to you about how to have more of the Spirit of the Lord with you on a constant basis. Before I tell you the title of my talk, let me ask you a question. How many of you struggle sometimes with discouragement? [Most raised their hand] How many of you struggled with discouragement in the last month? About everybody. How about this last week? [Again, most raised their hand] How about even getting here this morning? Well, it's a pretty common ailment, isn't it? We all struggle with that to some degree, but I want to tell you how to remove discouragement; how to not even have any more discouragement. Are you interested? I am going to entitle my talk, How to Discourage Discouragement.
May I share with you something I have learned that may be of help to you. How many of you went on a full-time mission? Let me see your hands. Look at that, President Woodhouse. Isn't that wonderful? How many of you are yet planning to go? Great. How many of you have been in a meeting with Elder Cook somewhere before or heard one of his talks? How many of you have been with me somewhere in the mission field? Isn't that amazing that there are so many.
You know in the scriptures, in Moroni 10:22, there are some conclusions the Lord gives. I am going to read these very quickly because I can see that the time is going to go by very fast, and so I may have to just hit some highlights.
The twenty-second verse says: If ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair, or in other words you must be discouraged. If you have little hope about something, you are in despair and discouragement. And then comes this great conclusion, Despair (or discouragement) cometh because of iniquity. That is an interesting bottom line, isn't it, that despair cometh because of iniquity. In other words, we have not yet learned to have the Spirit of the Lord with us in such abundance that we are able to be like Christ and shun discouraging feelings all the time. And because we don't, and we are tempted and we fall, we get discouraged. That is the bottom line.
So, how are we going to fix it? Well, you would imagine where we are heading with this. You have got to have more of the Spirit of the Lord.
Look at these wonderful conclusions in the scriptures in Helaman chapter five. These brethren are in a prison. You remember that story. There is a dark cloud hanging over the Lamanites and they are asking the question, "How do we get rid of this dark cloud?" I would see this as an analogy. Discouragement is a dark cloud when it is hanging over you – a dark, dark cloud. How do you get rid of it?
Listen to this interesting, simple solution. Helaman 5:40-41. What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us? Good question. You must repent [There is a bottom line, isn't it?], and cry unto the voice [meaning unto the Lord, to pray], even until ye shall have faith in Christ... and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.
The Lord is teaching here that the reason we are down is that we have sinned. We have done something wrong. And if we will repent and humbly ask the Lord to forgive us, in faith, His sweet Spirit will come back. You will feel good about yourself again and be on your way.
When I was a missionary, if you would have graphed my days of discouragement, it would have had many peaks and valleys. Can you relate to that? One day you are ready to take on the whole world and the next day you are in the bottom of the pit. So how do you remove many of the peaks and valleys and have it more level with maybe only a few little dips.
President Boyd K. Packer has said that it is not a bad thing to have a discouraging day once in a while, meaning that you wouldn't appreciate a happy day unless you knew about bad ones. But deep peaks and valleys are not the way to do it. That's a wild ride, and the difficulty is that if you are really down in the trough and discouraged, there is a greater chance you will do something that could really set you back. If you will stay with the Spirit most of your days, you are on your way. So here are some specifics on how to do that.
Number One
 The first one I am going to mention is what you heard in the scripture; you have to pray. If you really want to not be discouraged, one of the best solutions I know of is to pray so you don't get into it. It means to really, truly be praying all the time throughout the day. Most of you have been taught that during your lifetime; to have a prayer in your heart always. It is not an easy thing to do, is it? It is hard to remember to do it all the time. But to the degree you will learn to pray your way through a day, you will find that Satan and his evil influence will leave, the Spirit of the Lord will come, and you will be on top and be able to go through the trials that come your way.
Pray about everything. I repeat, pray about everything. Check in with the Lord frequently during each day. It does not have to be a full prayer, even. Sometimes some of my best prayers are a couple of words when I have been in a crisis. It might be as simple of a prayer as, "Help me." That may be the prayer: "Help me, please, help me." I may be about ready to fail a test: "Help me; save me." That would be a pretty good prayer. Pray, brothers and sisters, because it will chase the spirit of the evil one away. Let me give you a quick example of that.
A few years ago we moved to Ecuador where we lived as a family. We have been blessed with eight children, and our daughter who was then about fifteen was with us. We arrived on a Thursday in Quito. She learned that day that there would be a big algebra test in this international school on Monday. This test would determine whether or not she could even take algebra in this school, and if so, if she was going to be in the advanced or beginning algebra. She had had algebra before and wanted to be in the advanced class, but when she heard about this test, she said, "Dad, I think I forgot all I ever knew about algebra. Summer's wiped it out. I'm going to fail this test." She was really worried.
What increased her anxiety was that she was trying to get an algebra book to study from. Most of the people had been there already for two or three weeks and had been studying for the test for a couple of weeks, but she could not get her hands on an algebra book to study. No one wanted to give her a book. She didn't get a book in her hands until Saturday night about seven or eight o'clock when some girl said: "I think I am ready for the test. You can have my book."
Well, my daughter started studying, and she studied for two or three hours that night. Sunday morning came. She came into our bedroom and was quite emotional. She said, "What am I ever going to do? I should have been studying for this test for a week or two. I've had two or three hours on it. What will I do? This is Sunday, the test is tomorrow morning. I know that the Brethren have taught that you shouldn't be doing your homework on Sunday, but this is a little different, isn't Dad?"
That is the real test of faith, isn't it? I said, "Is it different?" And she said,"Well, it sure seems to me that it is." She gave me all the reasons some of you may have given me why you'd better save yourself by studying on Sunday. We were blessed to say to her, "Dear, we won't tell you what to do. You are old enough to decide that for yourself. But you must decide what the Lord would want you do to. Why don't you go back into your room and you pray about it. Whatever the Lord tells you to do, you do that."
Well, she disappeared. About ten or so minutes later she was back, this time very emotional, and said something like the following: "Mom and Dad, I'm not going to study on Sunday. I believe what the Brethren have said, but I'm sure going to prepare hard today for tomorrow by praying and humbling myself. And I'm starting a fast right now that the Lord will help me."
We were touched by her response. We told her, "We'll join you in the fast."
We prayed for her and fasted with her that day. About five o'clock Monday morning she was up and studied a couple of hours. I drove her across the city for an eight o'clock test. As she walked in the door, she said, "Dad, (she knew I'd be waiting outside) would you pray for me the whole hour?" I answered that I would.
An hour later this wonderful daughter walked out of the classroom, and her smile would have filled the whole valley of Quito. She said, "I think I only missed one or two, Dad."
Amazing isn't it, brothers and sisters, the power of obedience, the power of having faith in the Lord, the power to pray and expect that the Lord will answer your prayer. That is a powerful principle; to pray and believe beforehand that He will answer your prayer. Again, it will always be subject to His will, and sometimes He will teach us some lessons along the way that may not be exactly what you want or the way you wanted it. But trust in Him, and you will see discouragement totally leave.
Number Two
 Read the scriptures. Read in the scriptures prayerfully every day. You know that when you are going to school there is a great temptation to stop that because you are reading so many other things. Sometimes it seems that some teachers think that you only have one class, their class, and they give you enough homework to utilize the entire evening for that one class, don't they? And with all this material to read and study, it is very easy to set the scriptures aside.
Do not set aside your scripture study or you will be inviting in the devil who will try to discourage you. There is great power in reading the words of the Lord every day. You may have some times when all you can read are five or ten minutes. That's better than nothing. Just don't skip it. Read some every day. Be prayerful about what you read. The Lord will give you revelation. He will quicken your mind. He will quicken your understanding. He will make you able to memorize more quickly. If you will trust in Him and let the words of the Lord come into your heart to humble your heart, you will open the door to the Spirit of the Lord, who knows more than anybody in all the world anyway. All you have to do is tap into that Spirit and you will be all right, won't you? One of the great keys is to read and study prayerfully the scriptures.
Number Three
 Be especially careful to keep yourself clean. One of the ways that can surely discourage you very quickly is to get involved in some kind of a sin that is against the commandments, large or small. That will really bring discouragement. Be very careful because the devil is really anxious to get hold of someone about your age. He knows that if he can corrupt you when you are young and get you to do something that you shouldn't do, that it will have great impact on you later when you are a husband or wife, and upon your children to be.
Think of how great an accomplishment he would have obtained if he could grab one of you right now and turn you out of the pathway. He would have accomplished a major thing on his agenda.
Let me be specific about that. It means to be careful when you are out dating, young men and young women, to not be alone with a member of the opposite sex. Don't do that. Stay more in groups. Be in settings where you're not absolutely, totally alone because the devil will go to work on you if you are. Be careful if you find yourself in any setting where it is starting to heat up. You know what I mean by that. Maybe they are starting to drink or smoke or swear or somebody puts on a bad video. What ought you do? Run! That's what you do. Leave immediately. Don't even give it another thought. Don't sit there and debate in your mind about it because the devil will win.
I say again, don't sit there and think, "Well, it probably won't hurt if I stay here a little longer." I've heard that too many times. What's the answer? Run; leave. If it is starting to heat up, if it is not what it ought to be, do not stay.
Guard yourselves by keeping the Word of Wisdom, one hundred percent. If you will be sure and do that, you will not open the door for Satan to come in and get you through smoking, or drinking, or drugs, or alcohol, coffee or tea. Those things will bring down your willpower and keep you from being able to have the Spirit of the Lord.
Avoid pornography one hundred percent. Pornography is a destroyer. I interviewed a man yesterday who has been involved in that since he was fourteen. Can you imagine that? Of the very worst things that you can possibly imagine, he's been there. He is probably thirty-five now and is so hooked that it is going to take all his power to rely on the Lord to get free of it.
Don't think that you have got to check out some of these porn sites or other things on the Internet. Are you young men listening especially? The young women get into it some too, but it's more the young men. Please, young men, just trust us. Pornography is every bit as bad as drinking alcohol, and worse. It will become an addiction that will pull you down, down, down, until the devil will take you. Your only safety is do not do it.
Some of you be may struggling with that right now, and you know what discouragement is because that is what pornography will bring with great severity. Any of you involved in any of those kinds of things, my best counsel to you would be to go to the bishop right now, immediately, today, tomorrow. Honestly talk it through with him. Don't be embarrassed about it. Remember this - the devil loves to keep things in secret. Think about it. He loves darkness. He loves to keep things in secret. If he can keep it a secret and keep you from talking to someone who has light and truth like your parents or the bishop who could help you, he's got you.
If you are hiding anything, you better take a good look at it because it's more than likely of the devil. Be careful.
Sisters, be careful about dressing modestly. Dress your body in the way you ought to. You know how the brethren have taught that. You are beautiful young women. I haven't seen a woman here this morning that I wouldn't count to be a beautiful woman.
The Lord made your bodies such that they are attractive to men. It is supposed to be that way. That attraction is not wrong; it is right. A woman is supposed to be attractive to a man. That is what will cause you to be married later and be cleaved together as one flesh. What a great blessing.
But be careful sisters that you dress modestly. Don't attract some young man to your body. You want to attract him to your soul, to your spirit, so he falls in love with the real you, not just with your body. Be careful because Satan is really working on that one, to try to get women to do certain things that would greatly tempt men.
Be very careful, young men, of pairing off too early with one single young woman, especially before your mission. There is a great danger in that, to start going steadily with one individual before you go on your mission. After your mission it is different because you are trying to get married. But before your mission, be careful because it will restrict your ability to come to know a number of the opposite sex, which is good and healthy.
Of course, I need to say to avoid petting one hundred percent. That is like dynamite. That is totally against the commandments to be touching one another, or even stimulating self in any way.
We talked about discouragement, and I've just given you a pretty long list of what can really bring you young people down. Your answer to that must be, "I will not do any of those." And if you will be true to that, you will not need to worry about being discouraged.
I have talked to you about prayer, the scriptures, and now here is number four.
Number Four
 Testify. Look for opportunities to bear your testimony. If you want to chase discouragement away, find some nonmembers and bear your testimony to them, or maybe to your roommates, or maybe to just a friend that's a little down today. You don't have to say "I 'm going to bear my testimony, Susie." That wouldn't work too well. But you could say: "You know, Susie, let me tell you something I was reading yesterday in the scriptures. I was really touched by something. May I share it with you?"
That is bearing your testimony which will bring the Lord into Susie's life, as well as your own life. She needs you right now. Say something spiritual; a story, an illustration; bear your testimony to her; tell her of your love of the Lord. You will build her and help her, and in the process lose any discouragement you may have had.
Look for people with whom you may share the gospel; to whom you may testify. Build them up and strengthen them and in the process your own discouragement, if you have any, will be gone.
Number Five
 Use the hymns of the Church. This is a great way to stay above discouragement. I used to think when I was younger that I would sing when I got discouraged. To me, that is a good way to get free of discouragement, but it's a little late. A better way to do it is to be singing all the time. And if you will do that, you won't go down into one of those troughs. For example, sing with me for a minute:
Teach me to walk in the light of his love;
Teach me to pray to my Father above;
Teach me to know of the things that are right;
Teach me, teach me to walk in the light.
("Teach Me to Walk in the Light" Hymns, No. 304 )
How about:
Whenever I hear the song of a bird
or look at the blue blue sky.
Whenever I feel the rain on my face
or the wind as it rushes by.
Whenever I touch a velvet rose
or walk by a lilac tree,
I'm glad that I live in this beautiful world
Heavenly Father created for me.
( "My Heavenly Father Loves Me" Children's Songbook, No. 228)
Could you be discouraged, brothers and sisters, if, with your heart, you sang a few of those? I think not. Then don't wait until you are down to sing. Get in the habit of singing every day.
What I am really describing is the pattern we teach the missionaries in the mission field. As a missionary, you get out of bed, you read the scriptures, you sing, you testify to your companion, you read the scriptures together. Some missionaries leave the field and say: "Well, I'm sure glad I'm through with all that." That's no way to think, is it? This pattern of studying scriptures, praying, singing, testifying, etc., will keep you above the troughs of depression throughout your whole life.
Sing in the shower, for example. You will sound better there. Have a song in your heart while you're driving along, or turn on some Tabernacle Choir music.
Be aware of the music of the world, too. Some of you really need to dispatch with that, and destroy it if you have some in your possession. Some of you heard Elder Cook's story about sitting next to Mick Jagger on an airplane some years ago. I don't have time to tell you about that, but talk about discouragement and a man who was down in the very pits. Without speaking evil of him, he was teaching of hell itself, and his music represented that as well. If you have any of those types of CD's at your home, not just from him but anybody like that, if you have the courage having felt the Spirit here today, when you go home, throw them in the garbage. I wouldn't even justify it by saying, "Well, there's one good song in there I really like." Have the courage to throw it out. Make sure you have some good music to listen to, and it will carry you through some of those tougher days.
Think of other hymns like –
Come, come, ye Saints,
no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
‘Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell–
All is well! All is well!
("Come, Come, Ye Saints" Hymns, No. 30)
I repeat, could you sing that song with your heart and still be discouraged? I don't think so because you are inviting God into your life in a very direct way.
Memorize three or four hymns that are your favorites; that move you. Memorize them, and then sing them every day with spirit, and you will find the Spirit of the Lord will increase in your life.
Number Six
 Express love and gratitude to God and men. You can truly express your love to someone and have the Spirit of the Lord come right now, and discouragement will leave. If you are feeling down, go find someone to cheer up. If you are down, go and tell someone how much you love them. Go throw your arms around someone in an appropriate way. I'm thinking of some of your dads and moms who need that from you. Go throw your arms around them. Talk with them on the telephone, write them a note. Your roommate may need that. There may be someone you saw this morning that was a little down. Can you not take a minute and sincerely express your feelings about that person?
Love, brothers and sisters, brings the Spirit of the Lord and discouragement will leave. Go look for somebody to love. How many of you really like to be loved? [All raised their hands] It 's pretty good stuff, isn't it? Well, if you want to be loved, then go and love someone. If you will go and love someone else, you will feel loved.
Remember this thought too, that if you don't like the way you are feeling, you need to correct the way you are thinking. That is a great truth. If you do not like the way you are feeling, you must stop and correct the way you are thinking because it is those thinking patterns that bring the feelings.
The scientists tell us that if you start thinking about something, let's say something negative or wrong, it only takes about eight seconds for that thought to be played in your entire body. If you start thinking discouraging thoughts, it takes only about eight seconds for that to be played out in your entire body. Then it gets into your feeling level and it is harder to get rid of, isn't it?
May I say one more time that if you can correct it on the thought level, when you first have a bad thought come, or a discouraging thought such as, "I'm not worth much," or "I 'm going to flunk this test," or "People won't like me," or something like that, cast it out immediately. If you wait more than eight seconds, they say, and I believe in my experience that it is true, it will play out in your emotions, in your whole body, and it is going to be a lot tougher to get out of the hole you have dug for yourself.
One more time: If you don't like the way you are feeling, change the way you are thinking.
Number Seven
 Share spiritual experiences. If you are down a little bit, go tell someone about something positive that happened to you yesterday. Tell them about something that happened during your mission, tell them about when your dad expressed great love to you. Share a spiritual experience, and the Spirit will come right away. That is a great truth.
Some say, "Well, I do not have very many good experiences." You are not opening your eyes. They are all around you every day. Observe them. I have seen three or four right in this meeting that I could tell a story about by just having shaken hands with some of you. You are not being observant enough. The Lord is in all of His creations, and especially in you. If you will watch carefully, you will have plenty of experiences to share.
Number Eight
 If you are really struggling with discouragement of some depth, seek a priesthood blessing, now. Get your dad to give it to you or the bishop, or home teachers, or someone close to you. Get a blessing. It takes some humility to ask for a blessing. That is part of the plan. Be humble enough to ask.
I do not have time to give you an illustration about that, but only to bear testimony that a priesthood blessing has great power in keeping Satan away from you, and gives you the strength to turn him away when he does come.
Now, my young friends, I bear witness to you that if you will adopt a pattern similar to this, it will take the dips out of your lives. I testify that a man can be happy most of his days, most every hour of everyday. The key to it is to have the Spirit of the Lord with you, to love people, to give your hearts to others, to seek to build them up, to lift and strengthen them. Do not speak evil of others. Keep yourselves untangled from all the worldly things going on out there. This will bring true happiness and true peace. I bear testimony that there is no other way to receive that happiness and peace except by keeping the commandments of the Lord.
Let me come back to where we started. Iniquity brings despair and righteousness brings peace, happiness, and joy. Righteousness causes discouragement to be a long ways from you.
I express my love to all of you again this morning. I pray that you will live with your faith strengthened, with a greater determination above all else to pray your way through your days. Remember these great words in Alma 37:36.
Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord. Yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.
What a challenge that is. Nevertheless, I bear testimony that as we do that and become better connected to Him, discouragement will be gone and you will dominate some of the things that right now sometimes get you down.
I bear witness again of His great love for you. He loves every one of you. I love every one of you, and I leave a blessing upon you as you leave here today that you may be able to have your own faith increased, that your ability to trust in the Lord may be increased, and that your ability to love God more fully will be increased. In so doing, your peace and happiness will increase as well. I bear that testimony to you, declaring that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world, the one who is the Prince of Peace, the Prince of Happiness. I testify there is no other way, except through the revealed doctrine that has come through the true Church of Jesus Christ, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. May the Lord bless you to always know that, obey it, and go forth to accomplish what the Lord has called you to do, fulfilling your own mission in life, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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Characteristics of Discipleship

19 Sep. 2000

Transcript

Characteristics of Discipleship


All of you, being students, will appreciate this introductory quote by Elder Alexander B. Morrison. He said that a short pencil is a lot better than a long memory. So, if there is anything that I say today that may have some impact on you, you may want to take just a couple of notes. As I was preparing to share some thoughts with you, I thought you needed to know that I need a lot more time to study and develop this particular quality in my own life. So this is a work in progress. I just will share some thoughts with you and then I will let you go and do some pondering and studying of you own.
Elder Marlin Jensen of the Seventy also said, “You can tell what a person is working on by what they talk about.” So, hopefully you will get some insight into my personality and my character as we talk about this. The subject that I decided to share with you today is about discipleship. Discipleship takes some effort and energy. I’d like to maybe begin by giving you a negative example and then go through some positive things.
I don’t know how many of you enjoy cowboy poetry. I understand there are one or two folks here from Wyoming, so you might appreciate it. But this is a bit of cowboy poetry.
Old Jake the cowhand went one day
to fix a distant fence.
Black clouds rolled down the mountains,
while the wind grew more intense.
Now old Jake knew that mountain
and he knew he’d better get,
but there was one more wire to stretch
and one more post to set.
By the time his fence was mended
and he grabbed his tools to go,
the temperature plummeted
and the snow began to blow.
He reached his pickup truck alright
but felt the sense of dread.
He tried in vain to start her
but the battery was dead.
He kicked and cussed and called that truck
almost every name he knew,
but she was dead and there just weren’t
a thing that he could do.
He yelled and spit and cursed
but she just sat right there.
At last in desperation
old Jake bowed his head in prayer,
then turned the key for one last time
but he was out of luck.
They found him three weeks later,
frozen stiff in that old truck.
Now he’d been round for many years
he’d done his share of romin,’
still heaven was an awful shock,
it looks just like Wyomin.’
Oh, sure there were some differences,
but just some minor things.
Flowers and trees grew everywhere
for miles around Rock Springs.
The BLM was just shut down;
there were no grazing fees.
The wind that crosses around Cheyenne
was now just a gentle breeze.
Old Jake, he sort of liked the place,
so he thought he’d settle down.
He bought a thousand acres
’bout ten miles southwest of town.
Then one day up in Cody
while Jake was sittin’ in a bar,
up rides a bearded stranger
looking like he’d ridden far.
He takes the stool right next to Jake
and orders up root beer
and says: My name is St. Peter, pal!
So, how do you like it here?
Old Jake came near to chokin’
on the swirl he was a drinkin,’
but Peter patted him on the back
and asked what he was thinkin’.
So, Jake starts asking questions
about conditions how they be,
and so they passed the afternoon
because time in heaven is free.
I am curious, Pete, I’ve always heard
that God would answer prayers.
But when I asked a little help
it seems he wasn’t there.
Was he away or napping
when I flat ran out of luck?
I only asked one tiny thing,
to start my old green truck.
Was it too much to ask of him,
ain’t I his poor lost lamb?
I’m here to state it just ain’t fair,
I’m hurt, I really am.
Now Pete, I ain’t actin’ smart,
it’s how I truly feel.
So, speak up, friend, and help me out.
Now what the heck’s the deal?
Saint Peter listened patiently
and when old Jake was done
a smile stole across his face
and he said, Oh, you are the one!
That was your truck that wouldn’t start
and you sent prayers a flyin.’
My boy, you gave us all a start,
with hundreds of us tryin’.
A thousand angels rushed to check
the status of your file.
But Jake, you know we hadn’t heard
from you for quite awhile.
And knowin’ you was freezin’
we worked overtime,
but Jake without a forwarding address
we made a small mistake.
We strained to try to figure out
just what you was a yellin’
and ended up just guessing
’cause there was no really tellin’.
And I can only apologize,
as sorry as I am;
we thought you were in a ditch
or stranded near a dam,
and though God answers every prayer
without regard or quota,
not recognizing your voice
we cranked some truck in South Dakota.
Now, that’s a negative example of discipleship. By definition, a disciple is either a pupil or a learner, someone who emulates the teacher or, most importantly, a follower of Christ. Now there are three very specific characteristic that I think go with a disciple of Christ that I would like to explain a little bit this morning. One is, you have a submissive attitude; two, you have to have steady actions; and, three, you have to develop spiritual attributes.
First of all, submissive attitude. There are several examples in the scriptures but just a couple I would like to share with you. First of all, Adam, being the first man on the face of the earth, was, as you know, expelled from the Garden of Eden and he and his wife, Eve, were tilling the land and taking care of their needs. It says in Moses 5:5-9, “And Adam was obedient unto the commandment of the Lord. And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam saying: Why doest thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.” And then it says that “in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam.”
So if we are submissive in our attitudes, then we can have that great blessing. Another one that is very familiar and comfortable to all of us is Nephi when his father asked him to go back and get the brass plates. Listen to Nephi’s submissive attitude. “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” Then in chapter four, verse six Nephi says, “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.”
I think perhaps the most poignant example of submission of our will to the will of the Lord is that of the Savior, Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane as he bowed in that intercessory prayer and said, “Not my will, but thine be done.” As we go through the process of becoming disciples of Jesus Christ I would hope that we emulate some of those attitudes, particularly those of the Savior.
Now the second item: steady actions. At the end of 2 Nephi – one of the things you will find when you read in the scriptures, particularly in the Book of Mormon, that at the end of every prophet’s life as they look back about the things that they have learned from a prophetic point of view, you hear words like “and thus we see” or “we can see that,” and it goes on and talks about the things that they have learned. But at the end of their writings they always want to put down the most important things that they have experienced, to help us understand the most critical things of life, and this is right towards the end of Nephi’s tenure as prophet. In 2 Nephi 31:19 it says, “And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask you if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.” As you think about “you have not come this far, except by the word of Christ”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “We believe because of the word, but we behave because we believe.” So, as you think about steady actions, if you will focus on understanding the word of God and then live in accordance with the things you believe, then you can become a disciple of Christ Going on in verse 20,
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ having perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father; Ye shall have eternal life.” Another great example of those who are steady in their actions in spite of adversity and in spite of challenge are the people in the Book of Alma. In Alma 1:25 the people were in bondage. It says: “Now this was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them.” So regardless of our circumstances, we still have to be steady and obedient in aligning our lives with the will of our Heavenly Father. As we do that, we develop certain spiritual attributes.
In Doctrine and Covenants 121 it talks about some of those specific attributes that we all have to have. First of all, I am going to start in verse 41: “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.” Then in verse 45: "Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.” Also, once again as Alma was teaching in chapter 5, it talks about some of those spiritual attributes. He says, “There was a mighty change wrought in their hearts and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God.” Then he goes on in verse 14, “I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” Then in verse 26,
“If ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?”
One of the greatest examples of establishing spiritual attributes was the Prophet Joseph Smith. As you study the life of the prophet Joseph, you know that he was falsely condemned and put in jail a number of times. One of his prison companions frequently was Parley P. Pratt. Parley P. Pratt wrote a verbal description or painting, if you will, of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He described his height and his appearance and some characteristics about him. One of the things he said that really impressed me about the Prophet Joseph was, regardless of his circumstances, Joseph always had an unconscious smile on his face. One of the reasons for that is because Joseph knew who he was and where he stood with the Lord and nothing else really mattered.
Now, life isn’t always easy. President Woodhouse mentioned you haven’t taken your first test yet. My guess is that you had a number of tests to this point in this life, you just haven't had your first academic test of this semester yet. But the testing process in becoming a disciple of Christ is an important part of that development. In the book of Abraham where the Lord talks about our pre-mortal existence, in Abraham 3:25 He says, “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all the things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” So, we knew, all of us who are here, knew in our pre-mortal experience that we would have tests and trials. Now, knowing a little bit about you – you have heard for years and years that this is a chosen generation, that you were saved to come forth in the last days – my guess is because of the valiant spirits that you are, when our Heavenly Father laid out the plan, the Savior said He would go down and be the Redeemer, to perform the Atonement and redeem all of mankind, my guess is that every single person in this room ran to the front of the line and said, “Send me. I will be happy to go. Let’s go down and get this thing started.” And our Heavenly Father, knowing you and your talents and your abilities, very lovingly said, “Thank you so much. I appreciate everything that you would like to do. But what I want you to do is go to the end of the line and wait about 5,975 years and then you will get your chance to go to earth.” So being obedient, you went to the end of the line and waited and waited and waited and then finally your time came. But unfortunately now that you’re here, there are a lot of influences in your life that are trying to entice you to let go of the iron rod and go off into the mists of darkness. In fact, they’re may be some of you who are at the point in your life where you’re thinking, “You know, I’m ready to change sides. The other side looks a whole lot more exciting than the side I’m living on because I can’t do this and I can’t do that,” and you have a whole list of “thou shalt nots.”
If you want to become a disciple of Christ you have to go through a testing and trial process. Doctrine and Covenants 136:31 says, “My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom.” Let me jump into one other verse, then I want to talk a little bit about that. It is in Section 95:1: “Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you.”
We all must go through this testing, trial process and be chasten by the Lord. As you think about the Savior in the New Testament, He was pretty hard on some groups of people, particularly the Pharisees, referring to them as hypocrites on more than one occasion. But who do you think was the most chastened person in the New Testament? Who do you think? I heard somebody make a comment: Peter. Absolutely, because Peter was to become the president of the Church and the Savior was trying to tutor him and teach him and prepare him for the things that he needed to know. And so because he loved Peter so much, Peter was greatly chastised. I don’t know if any of you have any been to a refinery, either a steel refinery or copper refinery or if you know anything about how wrought iron is made. Wrought iron is ornamental iron that is used in decorative things. In order for wrought iron to get to the point where it’s usable, first of all it has to be heated it up, and then it’s pounded down and put under pressure. Then you heat it up, get the impurities towards the outside and you pound it down some more and hammer it down. It keeps going through that process until it becomes malleable and useable in the hands of those who are working with it. That’s not unlike life. As we go through this testing trial of the chastising period we are going to feel some heat, and you are going to feel some pressure, but it’s part of the refining process to take the impurities out of our souls and make us to the point where we are workable in the hands of the Lord. Now, I wish I knew who made this quote, I would like to give proper credit to it but I didn’t find the reference. It says, “In this life, trials are mandatory but misery is optional.” So as we are going through the testing and trying process our attitude determines a lot of what is going to become of us. Now Elder Maxwell, in his eloquent way, said that the Lord knows each one of us so well that we will have a customized curriculum in the testing process, so that the trials you may have may be different than your roommate’s, or your husband’s, or your wife’s, as the case maybe. But they are the trials that you particularly need in order to become refined and workable in the hands of the Lord.
Now, as we go through that trying process, some of us get discouraged and give up hope. I don’t know how many of you have ever put rocks in a rock tumbler and tried to make jewelry out of them. You put a bunch of rocks in this thing and it keeps going over and over and over and over and over, and it gets really dull and boring to hear the thing continuing. But when you open it up and take the rocks out, there are two very interesting things. Those that are gems that are strong, that are solid, are polished up. Those that have weaknesses or flaws in them, get ground down into sand. There is a scriptural reference to that I think is very profound. In the book of Alma, you know that these are the war chapters, years and years of wars and conflicts. Chapter 62:41 is very revealing when you think about this trying process and the length of time. It says, “But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility.” The process is the same, the trials were basically the same. They were going through the same war period but because of the length of the war some were hardened and some were softened and humbled themselves before the Lord. As you think about how all those different principles may appy to us, personally, you remember that in 1 Nephi 17:41, it’s making reference to the children of Israel, and remember that the children of Israel were in the desert. They needed to be humble. The Lord sent flying, poisonous serpents to them and many were bitten by the serpents. Then the Lord gave Moses the cure. He said, “Take the symbol of the serpent hold it up on a stick and if the people would just look then they will be healed.” Nephi, in describing them, said, “And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they had hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.”
If we want to become disciples of Christ, the way is really quite easy. We all know the pattern. You have heard it ever since you were in primary; you need to study the scriptures on a regular basis, you need to offer your prayers regularly, you need to keep all the commandments, you need to honor your covenants, you need to hold to the iron rod and you need to endure to the end. Elder Neal A. Maxwell in talking about enduring said, “Enduring is more than just pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstances. It means having faith, it means moving forward, doing the things that we need to do.” And then, as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, know who you are and where you stand with the Lord. If you did not have the opportunity to hear Elder Nelson’s talk in the recent CES broadcast, I would encourage you to get a copy of that and study it. He talked about the importance of our identity, our priorities and our blessings; also in understanding who you are.
We had our stake conference this past weekend; it was a wonderful conference. One of our visiting authorities – we had a special session with a group of youth and he had a couple of them stand up and he said, “Tell me your name.” And this young women told her name, and he said, “Now I want you to do this.” He said, “From today on, every time to say your name, you don’t have to repeat this out loud but at least in your mind this an attachment to your name; her name happened to be Brittney Newman, daughter of God.” And he had the young man stand up, and he said, “What is your name?” and he was a quick learner; he said, “My name is Michael Aaron Johnson, a son of God.” And he said, “Great! Thank you.” So from now on, from today for the rest of your life, every time you say your name you don’t have to say that aloud, but you think that in your mind. I am, in my case, Roger Glenn Christensen, son of God. If you remember that, then every day of your life you’ll stay on that straight and narrow path.
Let’s go back to those three important points, as you develop these personal attributes in your life. Number one, if you’ll have a submissive attitude, even when you don’t know the end from the beginning. Sometimes we want to have the answers now so we can make the right decisions. Faith doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to have faith and have a submissive attitude to the will of the Lord.
Secondly, you’ve got to have steady actions, even when the length of the battle or trial is extensive. I would to share a quote from Elder Holland, paraphrasing CS Lewis: “The works of devils and of darkness are never more certain of defeat than when man and woman, not finding it easy or pleasant but still determined to do the Father’s will, look out upon their lives from which it may sometimes seem every trace of divine help has vanished and asking why they have been so forsaken, still bow their heads and obey.” If we have those kinds of attitudes, brothers and sisters, we will develop the characteristics that the Lord would have of us. Those spiritual attributes that are described in Moroni chapter 7: 48: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may purified even as he is pure.”
It is my testimony to you that every single one of us is a son or a daughter of God. He want us to become like Him. We have the capacity to become like Him. We have been foreordained to become like Him. Let us just follow faithfully on that path to have a submissive attitude, to have our actions steady in the course and to develop the attributes that will have us become like our Savior, it is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

© Intellectual Properties Inc.

The Prophet Joseph Smith

08 Nov. 2000

Transcript

The Prophet Joseph Smith


It is a wonderful privilege for me to be with you today. You are a wonderful looking group, representing an important part of the future of the Church, of our families, and society in general.
You stand at the twilight of the most important time in history. You are on stage and you are the players of the crowning production prophesied by all the holy prophets since the beginning of time—indeed even before the foundation of the world. The importance of this hour is compounded by the fact you also stand at the twilight of your own defining of self. The Lord refers to this important hour as the fulness of time. It is also the fulness of life, opportunity, and joy. So, it is a great pleasure for me to share this hour with you at such an important time in history and the defining hour of your life.
The grandiose events impacting us today had its beginnings in the most humbling and unexpected circumstances. Our blessed state is borne out of sacrifice, persecution, and testimony—all foreordained before the foundation of the world.
Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines foreordination as "a previous ordination or appointment." In the book of Abraham the Lord explains the appointment of His son Jesus Christ before the "world began" (see Abr.3:22,24).
To the Prophet Jeremiah the Lord explained, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, [and] I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5).
Lehi (picture), to his son Joseph, prophesied of another Joseph that would bring salvation to his people: "But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins. And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation" (2 Nephi 3:11,15).
And so it was, December 23, 1805, after 1,800 years of confusion, and spiritual darkness, Lehi's prophecy begins to unfold with the birth of Joseph Smith, the son of Joseph Smith, Sr. Like so many of the great ones appointed before the foundation of the world, Joseph Smith began the fulfillment of his divine appointment.
Wilford Woodruff testifies (picture):
"I believe that God Almighty reserved a certain class of men to carry on his work. They have been born into the world in this generation. I believe this was the case with Joseph Smith. I believe he was ordained to this work before he tabernacled in the flesh. He was a literal descendant of Joseph who was sold into Egypt, and the Lord called him and ordained him. He gave unto him the keys of the kingdom. He received the record of the stick of Joseph from the hands of Ephraim, to stand with the Bible, the stick of Judah" (JD 22:206, January 9, 1881, The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, ch.3, p.43-44).
Brigham Young stated (picture):
"It was decreed in the counsels of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that he, 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 fulness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God" (Discourses of Brigham Young, ch.9, p.108).
Brigham Young further confirmed Lehi's prophesy of Joseph's divine appointment flowing through the lineage of Lehi's son, Joseph:
"The Lord had his eyes 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" (Discourses of Brigham Young, ch.9, p.108).
Like the prophets of his own bloodline, Joseph's foreordination did not exclude suffering, persecution, or tribulation. For these were to become his constant companion, shadowing him throughout his remaining life (picture). Speaking to the prophet during his darkest moments, the Lord comforted him. "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes" (D&C 121:7-8).
My presentation today will focus on the chosen, the foreordained prophet rising out of adversity and affliction, being taught from on high, enduring well, and triumphantly establishing the Lord's Church.
Preparation and training were on the early agenda. Life's trials were seen early in Joseph's boyhood years. Adversity was his schoolmaster and affliction was his curriculum. At the age of eight, Joseph, with all his brothers and sisters, suffered the terrible carnage of a typhoid epidemic that claimed the lives of many. He witnessed his oldest sister, Sophronia, pass through the shadows of death, be abandoned by the doctors as hopeless, but eventually be restored to full health through the pleadings to the Lord by his faithful parents. At age 18 he suffered the death of his brother Alvin. Later in his life he experienced the loss of six of his eleven children.
His own terrible sufferings with osteomyelitis in his leg at the early age of seven is a testimony of his character, maturity, and faith in God. It is hard to imagine any boy, or man for that matter, willing to face such excruciating suffering with the courage and dignity he displayed. Later in his life while Joseph and his companions were confined to jail in Richmond Missouri, Elder Parley P. Pratt made the familiar declaration: "Dignity and majesty have I seen but once, at it stood in chains, at midnight, in a dungeon, in an obscure village of Missouri" (Pratt, Parley P., Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p.180). Perhaps the reason that Elder Pratt could only attest to such dignity and majesty once is because he was not present when a seven-year-old boy put his faith in God and his life in the strong but comforting arms of his father. These experiences undoubtedly strengthened him, tested him, and prepared him for what lay ahead--his greatest work and his greatest trials.
There were no religious scholars to teach Joseph the true doctrines and principles of the gospel. The most prestigious seminaries, the most renowned scholars had nothing to teach him. Thankfully, Joseph did not need to rely upon the learning and traditions of man.
We read in the Book of Mormon that–
     ° An Angel of the Lord stood before Laman and Lemuel, protecting Nephi from his attacking brothers.
     ° Nephi explained that "Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, wherefore they speak the words of Christ" (2 Nephi 32:3).
     ° Jacob testifies to Sherem that he "Truly had seen angels they had ministered unto me" (Jacob 7:5).
     ° In addressing his people King Benjamin declares, "And the things which I shall tell you have been made known to me by an angel from God" (Mos. 3:2).
     ° Mormon explains in his final words to his son Moroni that angels have not ceased to minister unto the children of men.
The administration of angels was not a new privilege to those in the service of the Lord. And, like times of old, the heavens were opened to Joseph and angels descended. The veil was pierced, heaven and earth were brought together and angels ministered. Thus line upon line, precept upon precept, Joseph was taught.
(three pictures) Joseph's teaching from on high began in the secluded classroom of a grove of trees on that historical day in 1820 when the Father declared, "This is my beloved son, hear him" as Joseph subsequently testified, "I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me" (Joseph Smith History, 1:25). With this vision of the Father and the Son, Joseph already knew more about the personality and attributes of God than any man on earth. Joseph understood of the personal nature of the godhead, their separateness, and that he was literally created in their image and likeness. Joseph, at fourteen, was already a religious scholar, unmatched by any. And with that vision, the restoration was started and the persecutions began.
Three years subsequent to his first vision (picture) the Angel Moroni appeared to him four times in just twenty-four hours. In addition to the revealed knowledge Joseph had already obtained about the nature of the Godhead and his upcoming mission to restore the gospel, in these four visits alone the Angel taught him:
A book deposited in the hill called Cumorah was written upon gold plates and contained the fulness of the everlasting gospel.
Joseph would be the instrument in bringing forth this book for the salvation of mankind.
Two stones fastened to a breastplate constituted the Urium & Thumin which would be used for the translation of the plates.
The day would come that the earth would burn as an oven and the wicked would burn as stubble as contained in the book of Malichi.
The priesthood would be revealed by the hand of Elijah.
There would be a turning of the hearts of the children to the fathers and the fathers to the children.
Obedience and faithfulness was his course of study during the four years visiting the hillside, viewing the plates, and being further instructed by the Angel Moroni. Four more years of testing and proving. Indeed when Joseph received the plates on that memorable day of September 22, 1827, he had been taught, tried, and tested–more revelation, more heavenly messengers, and more persecution. He had proven to the Lord that he was the man.
The intensity and frequency of the persecution did not slow the work. The ministering of angels was proliferating, and the circle of participants was expanding. In summary, the Father and Son appeared to Joseph. The Angel Moroni appeared to Joseph in his bedroom in 1823. And then he appeared again, and then again. And then he appeared to him the next day at the stone fence in the orchard. The Angel Moroni appeared at the site of the plates on the Hill Cumorah. Then one year later he appeared again, and then again, and then again. John the Baptist confirmed the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Peter, James, and John appear to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, restoring the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Father and Son appear to Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon in the Kirtland Temple (see D&C 76:32). A heavenly messenger appeared to Joseph Smith to instruct him regarding the use of the bread and water for the sacrament (see D&C 27). Moses, Elijah, and Elias appeared to Joseph and Oliver Cowdery and committed the keys of "the gathering of Israel."
Moroni appeared to Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris testifying to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. The plates, as evidence of the administration of an angelic work were shown to eight additional witnesses–Christian Whitmer; Jacob Whitmer; Peter Whitmer, Jr.; John Whitmer; Hiram Page; Joseph Smith, Sr.; Hyrum Smith; Samuel H. Smith. In addition, David Whitmer's mother was privileged to see the plates and Emma had the opportunity to handle the plates on many occasions. The administration of angels were not isolated or infrequent events to a very narrow group of participants. Indeed, the floodgates of heaven were opened.
Among other things, the other heavenly messengers–
Revealed the true nature of God;
Revealed the apostate nature of the religions of the day;
Conferred the Aaronic Priesthood;
Conferred the Melchezidek Priesthood;
Committed the keys "of the gathering of Israel;"
Committed keys of the dispensation of the fulness of times;
Committed keys of turning hearts of fathers to children;
Revealed the fulness of the gospel through the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price;
Reestablished the building of temples with all the accompanying ordinances and covenants; and
Initiated the great missionary work, taking the gospel to "every continent," "every clime," "every country," and "every ear" (see History of the Church, Vol. 4, p.540).
But history would indicate the greater the manifestation from heaven, the more active and determined Satan would be. And thus, while angels were befriending the prophet, the flood gates of hell continued to widen and the devil's angels continued their attempts of destruction.
Although Joseph was the Lord's anointed, called from on high, he was human and he suffered as a human being. Joseph had feelings like we have feelings. He had emotions like we have emotions. He experienced pain like we experience pain. He experienced loneliness like we experience loneliness. And he experienced fear like we experience fear. His persecutions were unrelenting. They came from outside the Church, but perhaps the most troubling came from within–the betrayal of those he esteemed his friends, those he had loved as fellow participants of the restoration.
For instance, many of the early members could accept Joseph's mantel as the prophet until the mantel clashed with his humanity. They could accept his spiritual manifestations, but they could not tolerate his fallibility. They could receive his keys and gifts, but they could not envision their purpose beyond their own self interest. They could accept his teachings and revelations, but they could not accept error in his personal judgement. And, unfortunately for those of weak faith, he did commit error. In fact, he publically acknowledged such with his personal reprimands by God that he published in the Doctrine and Covenants. It is recorded that God chastised Joseph, stating that he "feared man more than God" (see D&C 3:7). The Lord referred to his visit to Salem in 1836 in search of gold as "his follies."
Many saw the establishment, and the failure twenty-one days later, of the Kirtland Safety Society as evidence that Joseph was a fallen prophet. These events stirred the hearts of those who could not see beyond his mortal frailties to the called, foreordained servant of God.
In the summer of 1837 shortly after the bank's closure, members of the Quorum and other prominent priesthood leaders met in the upper room of the temple to discuss the future of the Prophet. The context of the meeting is captured in the following account.
"At this assembly some persons who had once been faithful supporters of the Prophet recommended that he be replaced as president of the Church by David Whitmer. Others vehemently opposed this motion, including Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and John Smith. Brigham Young, ‘in a plain and forcible manner,' said that he knew that Joseph was a spokesman for the Lord, and though others ‘might rail and slander him [the Prophet] as much as they pleased,' they ‘could not destroy' his appointment as a ‘Prophet of God.' Their apostate actions, he declared, would destroy their authority, cut the thread that bound them to the Prophet and to God, and lead them to destruction" (The Heavens Resound, ch.17, p.310).
And so it did, their authority was destroyed, the threads that bound them to the Prophet were cut, and the apostasy gained momentum, intensity, and viciousness. Rejected by some of his closest associates, the hurt and pain can only be known to our Father-in-Heaven.
Joseph was a father and a husband, and he loved his wife and children dearly. Emma was indeed his faithful companion in the restoration. She left her father and mother at their strong objections to marry Joseph and endure his suffering with him. She was unwavering in her devotion to the Prophet and her commitment to the work. She was there, assisting in the translation of the Book of Mormon. She was there as her beloved husband was torn from her and her family time and again. She was there to cleanse his wounds, remove the tar, and comfort his soul. And she was there to lay his body in a hidden, unmarked grave. I doubt that any companion could have played a more supportive role than the one called by the Lord as an "elect lady." And Joseph loved her like we love our wives; and he loved his children like we love our children. Perhaps no greater suffering took place than to be torn away time and again from his loving family to be falsely imprisoned.
Governor L. William Boggs issued his famous extermination order on October 27, 1838: "The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and be exterminated or driven from the State" (HC, Vol.3, ch.12). Three days later on October 31, Joseph, Hyrum, Amasa Lyman, Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, Lyman Wight, and George W. Robinson found themselves chained together in an old log house in Richmond Missouri under heavy guard. The charges were treason, murder, arson, burglary, larceny and stealing. The human emotion emerging from these heart-wrenching separations from his family are perhaps best illustrated by his personal writings.
November 12 , 1838, he writes his beloved Emma:
"My Dear Emma,
"We are prisoners in chains, and under strong guards, for Christ sake and for no other cause . . . I received your letter which I read over and over again, it was a sweet morsel to me. Oh God grant that I may have the privilege of seeing once more my lovely family, in the enjoyment, of the sweets of liberty, and social life, to press them to my bosom and kiss their lovely cheeks would fill my heart with unspeakable gratitude . . ." (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, p.367-369)
On December 1, approximately three weeks later, the prisoners were taken to the cold, hostile dungeon known as Liberty Jail to suffer a cold damp winter.
March 21, 1839
"Affectionate Wife,
". . . my dear Emma I very well know your toils and sympathize with you. If God will spare my life once more to have the privilege of taking care of you, I will ease your care and endeavor to comfort your heart . . ." (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, p.408-409)
Again on April 4, 1839:
"Dear–and Affectionate–Wife:
"Thursday night I sat down just as the sun is going down, as we peek through the grates of this lonesome prison, to write to you, that I may make known to you my situation. It is, I believe, now about five months and six days since I have been under the grimace of a guard night and day, and within the walls, grates, and screeking iron doors of a lonesome, dark, dirty prison. With emotions known only to God, do I write this letter. The contemplations of the mind under these circumstances defies the pen, or tongue, or angels, to describe, or paint, to the human being, who never experienced what we experience . . .
"My dear Emma, I think of you and the children continually . . . And as to yourself, if you want to know how much I want to see you, examine your feelings . . . I would gladly walk from here to you barefoot, and bareheaded, and half naked, to see you and think it great pleasure, and never count it toil" (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, p.425-427).
And Joseph's letter to God on March 20, 1839:
"O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?" (D&C 121:1).
And then God's answer, "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes" (D&C 121:9).
It was approximately three years later with continued persecution that the Prophet declared in the famous Wentworth letter:
"No unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done" (HC, Vol.4, ch.31).
Then, approximately two years later on June 23, 1844, Joseph Smith turned himself in to the militia under the control and protection of Governor Ford. His statement to friends: "If my life is of no value to my friends it is of none to myself." As he rode out of Nauvoo, the Prophet added, "I go as a lamb to the slaughter" (D&C 135:4).
His last letter to Emma, one day before his martyrdom:
June 27, 1844
"Dear Emma:
"I am very much resigned to my lot knowing I am justified and have done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children and all my friends, Mr. Brower, and all who inquire after me. And as for treason, I know that I have not committed any and they cannot prove one appearance of any thing of the kind. So you need not have any fears that any harm can happen to us on that score. May God bless you all, amen" (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, p.603-604).
Joseph Smith lived the life of a prophet. He suffered the life of a prophet. He died the death of a prophet. Out of suffering, affliction, and innocent blood the stone carved out of a mountain without hands rolls forward. The words of John Taylor continue to ring with increasing power and clarity: "The Book of Mormon, and this book of Doctrine and Covenants of the church, cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world" (D&C 135:6).
"Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it" (D&C 135:3).
Through trial and suffering, Joseph brought together all the elements of the gospel, fitting together like a beautiful puzzle. The true nature of God has been restored. The priesthood is upon the earth. Baptisms can be performed with authority. Temple covenants bind families together forever. The Atonement and resurrection are meaningful events, affecting the lives of millions. And living prophets bring divine light to a troubled world. Absent the Prophet Joseph Smith, with all his trials, sufferings, and even death–
     ° The priesthood of God could not be found upon the earth. The only semblance left upon the earth would be an impotent imposter wrapped in robes and a white collar.
     ° Temple ordinances and covenants would not be found, hope being replaced with loneliness and despair.
     ° Ordinances of baptism, confirmation, endowment would have no efficacy.
     ° The concept of God would remain the great mystery of an impersonal force that cannot be explained or understood.
     ° The knowledge and understanding of the plan of salvation, atonement of Christ would be replaced with ignorance and superstition.
     ° The Prophets would indeed be dead and revelation would be a thing of the past.
Without the Prophet Joseph Smith, spiritual darkness would continue to reign and hope would continue to wane.
The Lord promised "If thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes" (D&C 121:8).
Enduring and triumphing–the key words describing the life of the Prophet. Enduring and triumphing--the key words of the restoration.
President Hinckley Video
"I was at the Prophet Joseph's birthplace not long ago. It was a beautiful autumn day, with the sunlight filtering through white clouds. The leaves had been touched by the frost, and while still holding to the trees they created a scene of matchless beauty. This is a wonderful place to see and be on a quiet autumn day, to sit and reflect on matters of the past. Here in these stark woods, on the wintry day of December 23, 1805, was born a child who eventually was to cast a long shadow across the world in witness and testimony of the Redeemer of mankind. His family left that part of New England and moved to western New York. Here again I recently stood in the grove made sacred by his incomparable vision of God the Eternal Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
"No one has borne more certain knowledge of the Son of God, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, than has this great prophet of this the Dispensation of the Fulness of times. Praise to his name. Honor to his memory. Reverence to him as an instrument in the hands of the Almighty in bringing to pass the restoration of His work in our time" (President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Presidency Christmas Devotional, 1998).
So what does all this mean to us? A scripture and a proclamation to the world. First, a prophecy given by Nephi concerning our time, given about 550 years before the coming of Christ. (Picture of Nephi) "At that day shall be rage in the hears of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good." Do we see it in the many ways Satan is attacking the family, morality, and thus the very plan of salvation? "Others he will pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion" (see 2 Nephi 28:20-28). And you know the rest of the scripture.
(First Presidency Proclamation) Second, a proclamation issued by the First Presidency to the world in 1845. "As this work progresses in its onward course, and becomes more and more an object of political and religious interest and excitement, no king, ruler, or subject, no community or individual, will stand neutral. All will at length be influenced by one spirit or the other; and will take sides either for or against the kingdom of God, and the fulfilment of the prophets.
"You cannot therefore stand as idle and disinterested spectators of the scenes and events which are calculated in their very nature to reduce all nations and creeds into one political and religious standard" (Messages of The First Presidency 1833-1964, James R. Clark, vol.1, p.257).
As you go out into this exciting world, each must decide where he stands. We must determine how we will act, how we will be known, and who we will become. There is no neutrality. We will probably not be asked to sacrifice as the Prophet Joseph Smith, but we will be asked to make daily decisions, large and seemingly insignificant decisions, that will move us from neutrality to stand as the side of that which is good, proper, uplifting, and redeeming. Faith in Jesus Christ, our sacred legacy, and gratitude for the willing sacrifice of the Prophet Joseph will provide vision and strength for the future. Testimony will be our driving force.
Joseph declared the Book of Mormon to be the keystone of our religion. Truly it has brought us the fulness of the everlasting gospel with clarity and meaning. I declare Joseph the Prophet, rising out of adversity and affliction, the keystone of my testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Because of my testimony of Joseph Smith, I know that God and Christ are personal beings in whose imagine I am created;
Because of my testimony of Joseph Smith, I know that I am indeed a child of God with a spark of divinity that surpasses even my most lofty hopes and expectations;
Because of my testimony of Joseph Smith, I know that out of trials and tribulations can emerge a triumphant and victorious self;
Because of my testimony of Joseph Smith, I know that Jesus Christ through His atoning sacrifice makes it possible to rise above the bonds of mortality to everlasting, eternal glory.
Because of my testimony of Joseph Smith, I know that the divine authority of God reigns upon the earth.
Because of my testimony of Joseph Smith, I know that I am privileged to receive ordinances and covenants that if lived, will bring everlasting glory to me and my family with our Father in Heaven; and
Because of my testimony of Joseph Smith, I know who I am and what I can become.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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