Fall 2005

Establish Outside Standards by Which to Measure Ourselves

06 Oct. 2005

Transcript

Establish Outside Standards by Which to Measure Ourselves

 
I am delighted to be with you today. In my morning walks I periodically walk by the business college. I have always admired the building, and I’m grateful someone invited me in.
I began my professional career in a business school, interestingly enough. While working on my dissertation at Harvard I was hired by the faculty at Bentley College, which is the college of business in New England, as well known there as the LDS Business College is well known here. So I feel as though I am back, and I really love to be with you. One thing I have missed over the years is being in the class room, with young people. So thank you for having me here.
Now when I was in high school, we had to read a play. I don’t know if they do this anymore or not, but it is an interesting play by Thornton Wilder called “Our Town.” It is interesting in that there is an individual called the stage manager who always stands there on the stage. He talks with the audience periodically; he kind of sets the scene, stops the movement of the drama, and comments on it.
At one point the stage manager stops the action, points to this man and his wife and two children who are sitting around a breakfast table, and says, “There they are!” The husband (who is an attorney) and his wife and two children have had 30,000 meals together around that breakfast table. The stage manager asks the question, “How do such things begin?” pointing out the important realization that everything has a beginning.
Mark Twain said “The beginning of all things is frail and weak. Therefore, always keep your eye on the beginning.” Or putting it in the words of Samuel Coleridge, an English writer, “So often do the spirits of great events stride on before the events, And in to-day already walks to-morrow.” You, in a particular way, are at the beginning. Therefore the choices you make, and who you define yourself to be, and the kinds of things you will be doing are critically important.
There is a principle in military strategy that the initial conditions of a battle are generally decisive to the outcome of the battle. That is why the Lord has counseled us to be prepared in all things, in heaven and in earth, under the earth and all that has happened and is happening, and will happen. In effect, we should prepare ourselves and then establish a foundation of our beginnings on which we shall build. Hence the great council of Alma to his son, “…learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God (Alma 37:35).
Now, if you are going to lay the foundation for anything, it’s important to have an external standard by which you can evaluate what you are doing. People who look simply within for their standard of behavior are building themselves on a very weak reed. All standards have to be external in order to truly be a standard. Therefore, self esteem, self worth, and dignity itself really depend not simply on saying “I know who I am and I am who I am, and that’s good.” The fact is we need to establish something outside of ourselves by which we can measure who we are. The reason is we don’t entirely understand who we are yet.
There was an entomologist, (that’s a bug expert), who once decided he was going to study human behavior. That was a fatal mistake on his part, because he didn’t have a clue about human behavior—he understood bugs. Now, if you study bugs, how do you go about it? You look at what bugs do, and then you conclude that whatever those bugs do, that must be natural, and therefore that’s the norm. And so you define bug behavior in terms of bug behavior, and you evaluate it in what they statistically seem to be doing.
Now that’s all fine and dandy as long as you apply it to bugs, but the bug expert then decided to apply it to people. He became very famous at studying people and human behavior, particularly human sexual behavior. He concluded that whatever people did in great abundance was natural, and therefore that was the norm by which you could evaluate human behavior.
That is a very sophisticated version of “Everybody’s doing it.” In doing that, he broke with great tradition, both of the ancient philosophers and of the prophets, who said you cannot evaluate what is natural or the norm by simply looking at what is happening. You have to define it in terms of, “What will become? What is the potential?”
A great example of that is Aristotle who believed you cannot be happy unless, in scriptural terms, you fill the measure of your creation. To determine the measure of what your creation is, you have to look at what you are potentially capable of becoming.
Aristotle also gave a very interesting analogy. He asked, what is the nature of an acorn? The nature of an acorn is to become a mighty oak. And therefore, he said, if you take an acorn and put it into good soil and you nourish it and give it plenty of water, and sunshine, it will grow into a mighty oak, and you will say, “That is a very happy oak; there is an acorn that became what it was supposed to become.”
But if you put it in bad soil, don’t give it nourishment or water, or put it under a cliff so it bends, you will come across that oak in the forest and say, “That is a most unhappy oak.”
And so it is with people, said Aristotle. In effect, that’s what Moroni also said, “In the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way” (Ether 12:11). Moroni took up that same theme, as you recall, in his concluding epistle when he taught that if you want to know what to do, what is appropriate behavior, the Spirit of God is given to every man that they may know the difference between right and wrong, true and false, and that which invites to come unto Christ and to become like Him. It is the formula both for happiness, and for defining what a true human being really is.
We are invited early on in life to emulate the example of Him who is our Savior. You recall the conversation that took place between the Savior and Thomas. I really love Thomas. He gets something of a bad rap as you know, “Doubting Thomas.” If I read the scriptures, he doubted no more than anybody else; he just kept opening his mouth. He just couldn’t restrain himself. If you recall, the Lord told his apostles he would go before them to prepare a way and to get things ready for them. Thomas said: “Go away? Where are you going? We don’t know where you’re going. Where are you going?” And Christ then answered: “I am the way, the truth, and the life…(John 14:6)” and hence defined that great external standard by which we can measure our behavior.
When I was a young university professor, I was befriended by a very distinguished professor of constitutional law by the name of Alpheus Mason. He had much experience in many distinguished universities; some of the leading jurists of our day were his students. I asked him after all the years of teaching what conclusion he had reached, and he gave me this single sentence, “Character is more important then intellect.” That was his judgment after dealing with thousands upon thousands of students.
Now what is this trait which Alpheus Mason called “character”? The word “character” comes from the Greek word “charassein”, and means “to engrave or to imprint upon”. So apparently a person of character is one who has had imprinted upon him great qualities and standards of excellence.
Do you remember that other famous professor, Professor Dumbledore from “Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets”? Dumbledore says to Harry, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
A principle-based life, in every dimension, is the key to becoming a successful human being. In effect, what we truly need is a life of integrity. I have always liked the definition given for “integrity” by Professor Steven Carter, a professor of law at Yale law school. He wrote a book called “Integrity”, and he defined it very neatly. He said a person has integrity only if they satisfy three criteria. 1. They will sincerely pursue the truth. 2. They will follow that truth. 3. They will stand as witnesses of the truth in all times and in all places and in all circumstances. When I read that I was reminded immediately of Alma, and the waters of Mormon when he invited those who were entering in the waters of baptism to partake of the life which flowed from that commitment, and to stand as witnesses in all times and in all places (Mosiah 18:8-9).
Now let’s look at four things we need to pay attention to if we’re going to live by Christ-like standards: first, our understanding; second, our emotion; third, our desires or aspirations; and fourth, our behavior. Those are four dimensions of humanity. If we get these straight, everything else will go very well.
First of all is our understanding, our thoughts. Getting understanding is always a critical function of life. The earlier we achieve that in life, the easier it becomes. Some people go through life just not getting it, which means they don’t really see. A professor at Manchester college used to play a little parlor game with his friends. They would come in on a late afternoon and sit in his parlor. He would say, “Now I want you to look very, very carefully at everything in this room.” Then they went into another room, and he gave them a piece of paper and said, “Now write down everything you saw in that room.” Between them they collectively were able to see everything that was there, save one thing they always missed. They walked back into the parlor to compare their lists, and he would go to the curtain and draw them, and the room immediately became pitch black. The one thing they never saw was the light by which they were able to see everything else.
The crucial understanding we have to get straight is the light by which we actually perceive everything else. I used to do an exercise in teaching that I could do in this classroom if I could divide you into two groups. I walked down the middle of the room and showed students on the left side of the room a picture of a woman, and showed students on the right a picture of another woman. The picture on one side was of a woman with very small features and quite young. On the other side was a picture of a woman clearly older with heavy features. I had each side of the classroom study their picture for maybe a minute and a half. Then I flashed on the screen for everyone to see a single picture of a woman, but in fact it wasn’t a single woman--there were actually two women superimposed, one on the other.
I asked everybody what they saw and everyone agreed it was a woman. Then I asked if she was old or young, and one side answered “young” and the other answered “old.” Then I asked if they saw small features or large features, and one side said they saw “small” and the other side said “large”. Then with my finger I traced the two pictures so the students could see it was a composite picture of two pictures. About 30% of the class never were able to see the second picture. They had been so conditioned in a minute and a half that they failed to see the two pictures.
It is very important that the whole purpose of education is to help us see the big picture, to discern all that is there. That is why we read earlier the council of Paul: adapt yourself no longer to the pattern of this present world but let your minds be remade so that ye discern and that ye may know.
So the whole object of what you’re doing here is not simply to become better accountants, or better at computers, or better at sales, or whatever you might do. The key issue is to understand how sales and accounting fit into the broader view of life, so that they become an integral part of life. They do not become the driving or dominant force of life, but in fact are incorporated into a much broader vision. Our whole object is to understand that.
In D&C 43:34 the Lord said, “Hearken ye to these words. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.” Alma said that the word of God has a more powerful effect upon the mind then anything else (Alma 31:5)..
So we need to establish our minds, we need to get our understanding straight, our minds clear. Once we do that we then move on to our feelings. President David O. McKay said there is a music in the universe decreed by God, and if we attune our souls to the music of the universe, we will hear it. But if we let noise enter into our life, it will crowd out the music of the universe and we won’t be able to hear it. In other words, we will not be able to hear the whisperings of the Spirit.
Now understand this: Satan has determined that the best way to corrupt an individual and a society is not through understanding; he’ll get to that second. His first goal is to corrupt their feelings, then he can corrupt their understanding. Satan has never nor will he ever win an intellectual debate. He just doesn’t have the arguments, and I determined a long time ago, he is not that bright. If he were that bright he wouldn’t be Satan. But though not bright, he is smart, and he understands that if he can get to your feelings, he can corrupt your feelings. Just think about that.
Satan tries to corrupt your feelings through what I call “poetry”. I don’t mean the poetry in words. I mean the whole world of imagination, of music, of art, of drama, what we see in the movies and television. If you can put rhythm to a message, no matter how bad the message, if the rhythm is good and has a consistent beat, you can shake the very soul. So take charge of your feelings and understand that Satan wants to take charge of them for you.
Third are our aspirations or goals. “Life is the leaf of paper white whereon each one of us may write his word or two, and then comes night” (James Russell Lowell). Be the best you can be. I have often said that we are all children of Abraham. The Lord has indicated that all the blessings of the gospel would come through the children of Abraham, and indeed the Savior of all mankind would be born through that line. The children would be scattered through all nations, races, kindred, and tongues, but they would again hear the voice of the gospel. So have high aspirations and never settle for less. Become the best.
Now, that finally leads to behavior. Once you have a proper understanding, once you make sure that your feelings are being sanctified, that they are being made holy, then behavior seems to fall into line very quickly. Lowell Thomas, the famous world traveler and commentator, once remarked that many people want to bag an elephant in this life, but they never do what is necessary to achieve this goal. They do not go where the elephants are, they are armed only with squirrel guns, and they aim at something which is not an elephant, and then they bemoan the fact that they never got their elephant. The problem of life is that even if we have high aspirations, we neither plan nor act in such a way as to achieve those goals. And we never seem to see the connection between the beginning and the end. The biggest problem at that point is doing that which is consistent with whom you know you are and where you are going.
Now if I could end it there, that could be designated as “self improvement”. You know, there are a lot of books on self improvement. You might even write one some day. When you go to a bookstore to the self improvement section, you will notice there are shelves beyond shelves of self improvement books. If they work, you would only need one. Now the fact of the matter is that all of them are good—they all have good things to learn. But I am more persuaded that none of them will ultimately work unless we are built upon the firm foundation, which is Jesus Christ.
So I end where I began: We need the grace of God in order to become who we truly are. One aspect of the fall of man is mortality itself, with all of the great opportunities and dangers of mortality. What we really need is the act of grace in our lives. We need to call up on it.
You may have read some of C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia.” In one of those tales is a character by the name Eustace. He is turned into a dragon because of irresponsibility, childishness, and selfishness. Only through the intervention of Aslan is he transformed not simply back into his human—and fallen—self, but into a human that has undergone a “mighty change of heart.” After understanding the depth of his own sins and having undergone deep sorrow, he is bidden by Aslan to undress and bathe himself in a well of water. After some perplexity as what undressing might mean for a dragon, he concludes that it is to scrape off his scales. This he does and steps into the water.
Upon emerging from the well, he sees his reflection and sees that another set of scales has appeared. Once again he scrapes off the scales only to have another set appear. Finally, Aslan says he will undress Eustace. Looking with apprehension at the claws of the lion, Eustace finally submits. And indeed, the claws dug very deep, and the pain was very real, and the sting of the water was intense when Aslan hurled Eustace into the water. But he emerged no longer as a dragon, but as a real man—man restored, man sanctified, man redeemed.
As Aslan in the myth of Narnia, so it is in life: Christ is the author and finisher of our salvation, our sure foundation.
“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).
My good friends, I leave you with this council: Rely only on Him who can make you perfect. When He, Christ, comes we shall know Him for we will be like Him.

© Intellectual Properties Inc.

Learn by Study and Also by Faith

09 Nov. 2005

Transcript

Learn by Study and Also by Faith

 
Today I thought we’d talk a little about why you’re here and what it might be good for you to accomplish while you’re at LDS Business College.  Do you know that there are about 47,000 young people that are in Church schools, if you look at the three BYUs and LDS Business College?  That equates to about twelve percent of the total youth in the Church, which leads to the question of why you are blessed to be here. (CES admissions statistics)  Does it mean that you are smarter?  Does it mean that you’re more worthy?  Does it mean that somehow you are more loved by heaven than other students?  I don’t think so.  I think that there is something else that would indicate the reason that you’re here and what it is you should be accomplishing during your time at LDS Business College.  I think it has something to do with the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants section 88, where it admonishes us, and you particularly, to seek learning by study and by faith. (v. 118)  I would like to talk a little about that today.
 
What you and I know, in terms of what there is to know, is relatively little.  You’ve learned a lot of things since you’ve been here, but in reality you know very little, and I know very little.  The Lord calls us children for a reason.  We have about that level of understanding when it comes to things that we should know.  “Behold,” He says, “ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.” (D&C 50:40)
 
Paul told the Corinthians that they should not be children in understanding.  So how do we grow past being a child in understanding?  How do we grow to become men and women of understanding.   (See 1 Corinthians 14:20)  Those questions have many answers, but part is to change the way we study and learn.
 
There was a student who was a graduate student at M.I.T., and during the summer months he went out every day during the three-month period of summer, wearing a black-and-white striped shirt, carrying a whistle and a bag of birdseed.  He would go out on the football field at Harvard and spread birdseed around and then blow his whistle.  After a while, the birds realized that when he blew the whistle it was time for them to come and get their birdseed.  At the first game of the year, the referee walked onto the field and blew his whistle and a flock of birds descended on the field.  It took a while to convince them to leave the area.  Those birds had been conditioned to think about getting fed a certain way.  By the way, the M.I.T. student used that experiment for his thesis, and graduated.
 
What I’d like to have you do today is suspend your conditioning, the way you normally think about study and learning, and to think about it in new ways.
 
The Lord said, “Study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books.” (D&C 90:15)  All good books.  Paul said, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed.” (2 Timothy 2:15)  Doesn’t that sound similar to what President Hinckley said when he talked to the youth of the Church?  He said, “Be smart.  The Lord wants you to educate your minds and hands, whatever your chosen field, whether it be repairing refrigerators or the work of a skilled surgeon.  You must train yourself.  Seek for the best schooling available.  Become a workman of integrity in the world that lies ahead of you.  I repeat, you will bring honor to the Church, and you will be generously blessed because of that training.  There can be no doubt, none whatever, that education pays.  Do not short-circuit your lives.  If you do so, you will pay for it over and over and over again.” (The New Era, January 2001, 10)  Wise counsel.
 
Sometimes we look at education as what we need to do to pass the next exam or complete the next assignment.  Your education sometimes is reduced to almost a checklist mentality—done that, completed that, turned that in—and you forget in the process to actually learn.  All students have to worry about what’s on the final exam, but if you’re not studying well, you cannot learn the things the Lord would have you to learn.  Some believe that the Lord is interested only in our religious education.  In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord outlined that we should learn theories, principles, doctrines, the law of the gospel, things that pertain to the kingdom of God, astronomy, earth sciences, history, current events, domestic and foreign affairs, military warfare, government and administration, that, He said, you “may be prepared in all things when I shall send you [out from this college] to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.”  (See D&C 88:78-80)
 
Do you have a mission?  Do you have a calling?  Is the Lord intending for you to use your education to do something?  Is there more to your being here than just happenstance?  Do you have something to contribute to the world?  Is there a place, a role, for you that will have an impact for good in the world?  I suggest that there is, and that part of what constitutes your education is the process of figuring out what that contribution needs to be. 
 
I talked to a couple of students this morning, and asked them why they came to the College.  Their answer was, “I felt inspired.”  We hear that a lot.  If you are then inspired to be here, or if circumstances bring you here for whatever reason, is there not then the following corollary that there is something for you to do?   This is not just about you getting a job.  This is not just about you meeting somebody and maybe getting married.  There is more to this experience, and to your experience at college, than those things.  And again, part of that is finding out your particular contribution.
 
So how do we do that?  How do we learn, as the Lord said, “by study and also by faith”?  We have some great examples that will give us a framework.  One that you’re very familiar with is Oliver Cowdery.  You remember he wanted to translate the plates, started well, didn’t continue as he started, and the Lord gave him some great counsel that I’d like us to look at.  He said in the Doctrine and Covenants, “You must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right  I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore,  you shall feel that it is right.” (D&C 9:8)  Look at those three words; let’s focus on those three things to do—study, ask, and feel. 
 
Study It Out
The dictionary defines study as “meditate, reflect, endeavor, try.”  There’s a difference between completing an assignment and studying in that sense.  A true study is one that looks for application.  What does this mean to me?  How does this affect me?  How can I apply it?  What is this piece of information useful for, in terms of rounding out my education?
 
One day I sat in the back of a class in this room that Larry Richards taught.  He was discussing some concepts and when he finished he said, “Now what does it mean?  How do we apply this statement?”  Three or four students raised their hands and repeated back to Brother Richards the things that he had said to them.  He was gracious; he said, “Yes, that’s what I said, but that’s not what I’m asking.  I’m asking, how does this apply?  What is the application?”  I would propose that those are the same kinds of questions you ought to ask yourself as you study.  What’s the application?  How does it affect me?  What can I use from this information to make my contribution?
 
To “study it out in your mind” is hard work.  There are many ways to study that are not measure solely by the time you spend with your books.  In many cases, you need to replace old ways with more effective skills.  You can, and I suggest you should, learn how to study better.  The internet has some wonderful sites to help improve your study habits.  (One site is http://ww.coun.uvie.ca/learn/hndouts.html)  The Learning Assistance Lab on campus is another great resource.
 
My first semester in college I was getting Bs and feeling pretty good about myself.  Here I was, this hick kid from Montana, at BYU and doing okay.  I remember one evening I was with the girl I would later marry and we were some place studying.  We were dating then, and I decided to impress her.  I said something like—“Yeah, I’m getting a B in this class,” which was my way of saying I was pretty good stuff.  She was not impressed.  You need to know that my wife is extremely bright, a straight A student.  So she’s sitting with me, and we’re studying, and I’m saying how great I am for getting Bs, and she says, “Oh, that’s nice.”  I started to realize that she wasn’t terribly impressed by my grades.  After a pause, she said, “Are you happy with Bs?”  I remember thinking, “Well, I used to be.”
 
Suddenly, my Bs didn’t look so good.  I started to watch her, to learn how she studied.  She studied in a way I had not considered, and the more I watched and copied her style, the better my grades became.  It dawned on me that learning to learn is a continual process. 
 
It’s always been interesting to me that the students who take advantage of the Learning Assistance Lab are, by and large, A and B students.  They go to the lab because they are looking for ways to improve their learning capacity.  Make the study of learning one of your endeavors.  It will bring great dividends.
 
We had a student a number of years ago that, unfortunately, we had to ask to leave campus because her grades were so low.  I remember tears rolling down her face as she expressed sorrow at not having done what she wanted to do.   She and I had discussed her grades a year before, so I said to her, “What have you done differently to improve your grades?  What did you change?”  She said she had spent more time doing what she had done before.  While the increased time she spent was commendable, she had simply spent more time doing what had not worked before.  In mathematics, any number multiplied by zero is still zero.  If your study habits are not bringing an increase return, then look for new study habits.  The Lord said, “You must study it out in your mind” and seek diligently “out of the best books words of wisdom.” (D&C 88:118)
 
Ask If It Is Right
The second step in the three-step process is to ask.  The Lord repeatedly commands us to ask Him.  “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5)  Upbraideth not means He won’t make you feel dumb for asking questions.
 
Think of the story of the brother of Jared.  He goes up on the mount, and the Lord tells him to build some barges, and go across the great deep to a new place.  The brother of Jared sees two problems:  it’s going to be really dark in the barges, and they’re going to suffocate.  The Lord provides an answer for the suffocation problem.  He tells him to cut a hole in the top and bottom, and, when you need air, open the hole.  If water comes in, close the hole.  I suppose that’s part of the reason why the door in the bottom was there.  They can open the hole and let the water run out. (See Ether 2:19-21)
 
But about the light problem, the Lord does an interesting thing.  Have you ever wondered why He did this?  He tells the brother of Jared that they can’t have windows, because windows would get dashed to pieces.  They also can’t have fire.  In essence, the Lord gives him parameters and then says, “Go figure it out for yourself.”  (See Ether 2:22-25) 
 
So the brother of Jared goes down from the mountain, he thinks for a while, and comes up with an idea.  He “moltens out of rock sixteen stones” that are transparent, like glass.  Then he installed boxes in the barges to hold the stones.  He had great confidence in and was committed to this idea.  Then he carried his stones to the top of the mountain, lays them out, and prays.  He says, in essence, “I know that you’re smarter than I am.  I know this is probably not the best idea.  But it’s the best I can think of, and the command is that I should ask.   So I’m asking.  Would you please touch the stones so that they shine?” (See Ether 3:1-5)
 
And what does the Lord say?  He says, “That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard in my life.”  Does He say that?  No, He doesn’t.  What does He do?  He reaches out and touches the stones.  When you go to the Lord to ask a question is He going to say, “That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.  Why can’t you be smarter?  I’ve invested all this money in your education and you’d think you would know more.” He doesn’t say that.  He never says that.  He does not upbraid, because He wants us to ask.  That is not to say that He does not correct.  If you’re fortunate, you will feel His correction from time to time.  It usually comes as a rebuke, mingled with love.  But that’s not the same as being upbraided.  When the Lord corrects you, you feel a sense of increased ability.  You feel more confident because you know the Lord will bless you.  So we ask. 
 
Now, let me give you an illustration that I hope will make the point.  When I was young, they used to have dot-to-dot books.  You know the kind, where you connect the dots to make a picture.  Well, I brought a dot-to-dot exercise for you.  Look at this dot-to-dot and tell me what you see.  Tell me if you can see the picture I want you to see.
 
No?  Let me help you.  What I want to point out is that some dots are less important.  Let’s fade those away to focus on the dots that are more important.  Are there things that are more important in your studies?  Are there things that matter more, or matter less, as you sort through things and try to understand? 
 
Sometimes it’s helpful, when you’re not sure what you’re trying to draw, to know where to start.  So let me help you out.  Let me show you where we start on this particular picture.  Many times if you know the beginning, it gives you a framework to build on.  Can you see it yet?
 
Well, sometimes if you see the start, it’s very helpful to know where you’re going, to see the end.  So let’s show you the end from the beginning.  And you’ll begin, maybe, to see what it is that you should be seeing.  It’s the Big Dipper. 
 
Now, I strained a bit at the analogy, but the point is the same.  As you study, there are dots that are more important than others.  It’s helpful to know where you start.  It’s also very helpful to know where you’re headed—again, this idea of understanding your contribution to the world.  We ask that we might understand the dots, and the way we get the answers is usually a dot at a time.  The Lord calls it “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.” (2 Nephi 28:30)  He’ll show you glimpses so that you can begin to connect the dots.  Rarely does He show you the entire picture at once.  Why?  It’s the process of learning to connect the dots in a celestial context that constitutes learning.  So the Lord lets us struggle along until we finally see.
 
Now, is this the end?  Once we see the picture are we done?  What does this picture of the Big Dipper do for us?  What does it do?  It points to the North Star.  What does the North Star do?  Well, for centuries it has been the compass, the guiding light.  Through the ages, many have plotted their course by the North Star.  It’s constant and unchanging.  So, is that the end of it?  Is that all there is to learn about the Big Dipper? 
 
Well, let me show you one more slide.  Have you ever wondered why, on the west center tower of the Salt Lake Temple, you can find the constellation of the Big Dipper?  I wonder why?  Is there more to learn?  I’ll leave that for you to think on.  Learning is a discovery that takes you deeper and deeper.  As you pay the price to understand, to see new pictures, you come to “own” the information.  It becomes personal, a part of you.  In going from dot to dot, letting the Lord lead you, you will find that your learning shapes who you are.  It helps define your contribution.
 
We have great examples of that learning.  Joseph F. Smith was an old man when he received the revelation recorded in D&C 138.  It came after a lifetime of pondering and thinking.  President Spencer W. Kimball struggled for many years about what to do about worthy men of the Church who did not have the opportunity to hold the priesthood.  It was a marvelous day when the revelation on the priesthood was received.  President Gordon B. Hinckley struggled for years to discover a way to bring more temples to the people.  He worried about it.  He thought about it.  He studied it.  Finally, the inspiration came.  It is after we study, after we ask, after we ponder, that we see the connections between the dots.
 
Feel In Your Heart
The Lord said in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 8, verse 2:  “Behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.  Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.” 
 
How did Moses know to part the Red Sea?  Did an angel come down and speak to him?  Is that how it happened?  The Lord said He told him in his mind and in his heart.  He felt it.  That gives me great admiration for Moses.  How many times have I thought and felt things but didn’t have the faith to do.  Here’s Moses, a great man, who needed no angel, no direct voice.  He felt in his mind and heart.  He had come to the point where he understood how feeling and revelation go hand in hand, and he went out and struck the water.  But he studied and asked and felt. 
 
The Lord promised:  “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal….  Therefore, he that lacketh wisdom, let him ask of me, and I will give him liberally and upbraid him not.” (D&C 42:61, 68)
 
Have you ever felt joy at learning something?  Has there been a leap in your heart, an excitement?  What would you say, then, is the basis for that?  Is that the Holy Ghost working in your heart, to help you understand a concept?  Are you beginning to feel things? 
 
One more scripture to help us understand.  If we compare learning to a seed and plant that seed in our hearts, “behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when ye feel these swelling motions, you will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed.”  Does that work for economics, critical thinking, persuasion or speech?  It must be a good seed.  I feel this swelling motion.  Things are growing in my heart.  “For it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my un derstanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” (Alma 32:28)   A great description of learning.
 
Now, do we have, again, examples of learning by study and by faith?  Moses looked on the world upon which he was created and “beheld the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered.” (Moses 1:8) And Moses said, “I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him.” (Moses 1:18)
 
Did Moses learn by study and by faith?  Did Moses know a little bit about earth science?  How long was Moses up in the mount?  Forty days, forty nights.  Did Moses write everything that he saw?  No, he did not.  How did Moses learn about the creation of the world?  By study and faith.
 
Nephi said he “went into the mount oft, and did pray unto the Lord wherefore the Lord showed unto him great things. (See 1 Nephi 18:3)
 
Now you may say, “I’m not a prophet.  I don’t receive revelations.”  Doctrine and Covenants 11:25 says:  “Deny not the spirit of revelation, nor the spirit of prophecy, for wo unto him that denieth these things.”
 
Deny means to disclaim connection with or responsibility for.  We deny revelation when we say “I can’t get it.”  We deny revelation when we say, “It’s not my responsibility to get it.”   The Lord is saying it is your responsibility to receive revelation appropriate for you.  Study.  Learn by faith.
 
The Lord will bless you with insight, with wisdom, with power and with influence.  Again, from the Doctrine and Covenants:  “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by…the priesthood, only by”—and He gives a long list, and one of the last things he says—“by kindness and pure knowledge.”  Pure knowledge.  And what will pure knowledge do?  “Greatly enlarge thy soul.”  (vv. 41-42)
 
Apply Your Knowledge
Once you gain knowledge by study and by faith, you’re ready for the next part.  You have to do something with it.  You must become a blessing.  And here, I think is the bottom line, the crux of the matter.  It is, in part, why it is you are here, and what the Lord expects of you.  He, I believe, expects you to learn all that you can by study and by faith, that you might be a blessing to the world. 
 
One last point.  Abraham said, “And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.”  (Abraham 1:2)
 
I think it’s interesting that Abraham combines learning and righteousness in the same phrases.  Every time, he puts the two together.  He sees learning by study and also by faith. 
 
We live in perilous times.  The world needs lights.  We need stars.  We need guides—people in all walks of life who are bright, who have understanding that combines learning with faith.  What will be your contribution?   
 
There is much left to learn, much left to be contributed in all disciplines.  Why should you not be the one to make the contribution?  Why should you not be the one to take us to a new level, as a city, as a state, as a church, as a world?  We limit ourselves if we think too small.  There is, at this institution, the solutions to tomorrow’s challenges.  Will you pay the price to understand and learn—from your books, from each other, from your faculty, and from heaven?  The degree to which you are successful will be the degree to which you bless your families, your communities and the world.
 
My hope is that you will study, ponder and pray, that you’ll learn how to learn, and that you’ll find out what the Lord expects of you and apply it.  The Lord was speaking to you when He said, “Verily, I say unto you all:  Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations.” (D&C 115:5)

The Prophet Joseph Smith

16 Nov. 2005

Transcript

The Prophet Joseph Smith

 
Vice President Nelson, Vice President Wiser, Matt Tittle, faculty and staff, student council and institute leaders, and students of the LDS Business College:
Congratulations on being part of this outstanding academic enterprise. I understand that yesterday, November 15th, was the 119th anniversary of the founding
of your great institution. When my wife and I visited your campus recently, Vice President Nelson graciously gave us a tour. During the tour we were fortunate
to hear your choir rehearsing in this room for the anniversary events of this week. They sounded like angels—angels who were happy to be here. You are all to be congratulated for participating in, and helping to build, an academic program that combines the best of educational training with eternal principles of honor
and truth.
Today I have been asked to talk about the Prophet Joseph Smith, whose 200th birthday we celebrate next month on December 23rd. This exceptional servant of God was and is and will always be the prophet of the Restoration. To him we owe so much. Even those outside our faith are coming to recognize the importance of this extraordinary man. Professor Robert Remini of the University of Illinois in Chicago wrote in his recent biography of Joseph Smith: “The founder of this Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., is unquestionably the most important reformer and innovator in American religious history” (Joseph Smith, New York: Viking, 2002, p. ix).
Just by being here—whether in this auditorium or in one of the adjacent rooms—each of you is demonstrating a commitment of faith in wanting to cultivate a stronger testimony of the mission of the Prophet Joseph. I pray that I might leave with you a few thoughts and stories that will help you do that. Testimonies are growing things—sometimes as a seed of belief (just as Alma said in the Book of Mormon), sometimes as a sprouting seedling, sometimes as a young growing sapling, sometime as a fully developed tree of everlasting life. Testimony-building is a process that never ends—because we can always strengthen our faith and receive added spiritual vitality. We all have the same opportunity to study, and learn, as we pray for inspiration from the Almighty on this important matter.
This hour is not so much about Joseph Smith, my brothers and sisters, as it is about you. You are the subject of this talk. Your Father in Heaven loves you and wants you to be happy and live a fulfilling and productive life. And you can do so, in the strength of the Lord.
The Run-A-Way Coach
let me begin with a story. Let’s go back to Wednesday, November 27th, 1839: This day the Prophet Joseph Smith is traveling in a horse-drawn coach en route to Washington, D.C., to speak with President Martin Van Buren and seek redress for the merciless persecution of the Saints. At a rest stop, the coachman steps away for a drink and, for some reason, the horses bolt away at full speed with the crowded coach. Now picture this, the coach full of passengers is racing down the road at break-neck speed—with no driver in control. What would you do if you were a passenger in that run-a-way coach? Here’s what Joseph Smith did (and I quote from his personal journal): “I persuaded my fellow travelers to be quiet and retain their seats, but [I] had to hold one woman to prevent her throwing her infant out of the coach.” Imagine! A woman wants to save her baby as they roar down the roadway at full speed, so she is determined to throw the baby out the window! “The passengers were exceedingly agitated,” continues the Prophet, “but I used every persuasion to calm their feelings; and opening the door, I secured my hold on the side of the coach the best way I could, and succeeded in placing myself in the coachman’s seat, and reining up the horses, after they had run some two or three miles, and neither coach, horses, or passengers received any injury. My course was spoken of in the highest terms of commendation, as being one of the most daring and heroic deeds, and no language could express the gratitude of the passengers, when they found themselves safe, and the horses quiet. There were some members of Congress with us, who proposed naming the incident to that body, believing they would reward such conduct by some public act” (History of the Church 4:23-24). However, when they learn who Joseph is—the “Mormon Prophet”—they promptly forget their gratitude. Nevertheless, the Prophet Joseph was skillful in securing the safety of his colleagues—not only physically, but, of greater consequence, spiritually. Through his mission of the Restoration he saved the faithful everywhere from a run-a-way culture heading for disaster—the disaster of being lost forever in the dark alleys and back streets of an unrighteous world perishing without the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So think of yourself as being on that run-a-way coach. Think of yourself as taking charge and getting things under control. Think of yourself as blessing lives as you strengthen your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. May I suggest four strategies for doing so?
First, listen to the Spirit of the Lord.
Second, see the big picture.
Third, accept Joseph Smith as your friend.
And fourth, follow his footprints and see where they lead. You may be surprised and delighted.
Strategy One
Let’s start with the most important strategy of all for strengthening our testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
And that is: Listen to the Spirit. Study and ponder and then ask the Lord for a spiritual confirmation. The Book of Mormon was brought forth by Joseph Smith under the inspiration and guidance of the Lord. It was first published in 1830. Well over 100 million copies have been distributed throughout the world since then. Each year some five million more copies are published. Each copy contains that miraculous promise recorded by Moroni at the end of the volume as he sealed up the plates and committed them to the earth around 421 AD. There they remained hidden until September 22, 1827, when Moroni himself, now as a resurrected being, delivered them to Joseph Smith, then 21 years of age, with the charge to translate them as another testament of Jesus Christ. Moroni wrote, under inspiration: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4-5).
If you will study the Book of Mormon and then kneel before the Lord and ask for a confirmation that it is the word of God, He will bless you with a confirming answer. And if that book is true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. That is the only reasonable explanation. Ask the Lord, and He will tell you so.
Strategy Two
Now strategy number two: See the big picture. Let the Spirit lift your sights to a higher perspective. Joseph Smith was no accident. The restoration was not simply the result a young boy’s religious curiosity. Joseph Smith was called of God from before the foundations of the earth—in the pre-mortal existence. He was prepared as a prophet from before time began—just like Moses or Abraham or Isaiah.
Look around you. Do you see Joseph Smith sitting here among you—maybe in this corner or that? No! But there was a meeting or meetings where you were present with the Prophet Joseph Smith. It happened long ago as part of the great council in heaven before we came to this earth.
Listen to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council. It is the testimony that I want that I am God’s Servant, and this people his people” (Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 Vols. 6:364) (Joseph Smith, Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith's Teachings, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q. Cannon [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997]).
Brigham Young confirmed that truth:
You will be thankful, every one of you, that Joseph Smith, junior, was ordained to this great calling before the worlds were. . . . It was decreed in the counsels of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that he 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. The Lord had his eye upon him, . . . . He was foreordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation, as much so as . . . Jesus to be the Saviour of the world. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 7: 290.)
But it wasn’t just Brigham Young who was able to place Joseph Smith into the big picture. The prophets down through the ages saw in vision the mission and triumph of this modern prophet.
For example, the Prophet Isaiah foresaw a time of great spiritual darkness in the latter days where a special book would be brought from the dust by the hand of God to enlighten the people. Isaiah gives us the words of the Lord: “Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” (Isaiah 29:14, see also verse 4).
What was the miraculous event? It was the Restoration of the gospel and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon! Who brought forth that book? Joseph Smith, who was chosen and ordained before any of us came to this earth.
The Prophet Lehi, who lived over a century after Isaiah, also knew about the mission of Joseph Smith. Remember when as an old man he gathered his children around him to give them a final blessing? And what did he say to Joseph, his youngest son, at the time only a child? Lehi read to him from the brass plates about Joseph of Egypt, his namesake. Joseph of Egypt (the son of Jacob or Israel) saw in vision a choice latter-day seer, like unto Moses, whom the Lord would raise up to restore His word of truth and peace unto the people. And what would the name of that modern seer be—Joseph! And his father would also be named Joseph. So there are four Josephs being described by Lehi! Joseph of Egypt, Joseph the son of Lehi, Joseph the modern seer, and Joseph’s father. (See 2 Nephi 3:3-16.)
Who was that modern seer named Joseph whom Lehi referred to some 2,400 years before the man was to be born? It was Joseph Smith. Can you imagine what the young Joseph would be thinking as he translated those very words of Lehi in the Book of Mormon—realizing that he was the very one whom Joseph of Egypt had seen in a vision, some 3,700 years earlier, acting as the indispensable future prophet of the Restoration.
Seeing the big picture and knowing that it is true is refreshing and exciting.
The Bookmark
If we had time, we would also turn to Ezekiel, and Daniel, and Peter to observe how each of these prophets knew of Joseph Smith and his coming mission as the Prophet of the Restoration. You can find these and all other references relating to my talk on this little bookmark, copies of which I will leave for you on the podium. (See Ezekiel 37:15-17, Daniel 2:44-45, Acts 3:19-21.)
The mission of the Prophet Joseph was not an accident—but a heavenly design that was prepared from before the foundation of the earth. You can strengthen your testimony of Joseph Smith by seeing him through the eyes of heaven—foreordained for this very purpose. Not a confused, unschooled, wandering lad who stumbled into a grove of trees to pray, but rather an individual of magnificence, schooled at the hands of the Master already in the pre-mortal world as he prepared to experience the First Vision and accept the awesome task of spending his life in the service of God.
Strategy Three
The third strategy for strengthening your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith is to accept him as your friend.
Now here is something that is hard for some people to understand: a prophet is a man. You can get close to the Prophet Joseph Smith because he is an individual—just like you are an individual. Start with him as a man—just like a neighbor next door—just like President Woodhouse or Craig Nelson or Matt Tittle. The Prophet is our friend in the same sense that the Savior identified us as His “friends” (see D&C 84:77; 93:45; 94:1; 98:1; 100:1; 104:1).
Let’s go back to Friday, November 6, 1835: In the morning of this day in Kirtland, Joseph Smith is introduced to a man from the eastern part of the country, who expresses surprise upon meeting the Prophet. The Prophet reports: “After hearing my name, he remarked that I was nothing but a man, indicating by this expression, that he had supposed that a person to whom the Lord should see fit to reveal His will, must be something more than a man. He seemed to have forgotten the saying that fell from the lips of St. James, that Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, yet he had such power with God, that He, in answer to his prayers, shut the heavens that they gave no rain for the space of three years and six months; and again, in answer to his prayer, the heavens gave forth rain, and the earth gave forth fruit [James 5:17-18]. Indeed, such is the darkness and ignorance of this generation, that they look upon it as incredible that a man should have any intercourse [or communion] with his Maker” (HC 2:302).
Imagine that you were brought into the office of Joseph Smith and introduced to him. Would you be surprised that he was just an ordinary man—cordial and kind, friendly and accommodating—with a twinkle in the eye?
Let us remember that Joseph Smith was a humble man called as a prophet. He had human weaknesses, as he willingly confessed, but he overcame them and stayed faithful to his covenants. We can relate to him because of that. We can take hope in our own ability to rise above our own personal weaknesses—because he showed us the example.
Yes, Joseph was just a man—a farmer, a wrestling champion, a city-builder, a general, a scholar, a husband, a father—but he was, in addition, a prophet commissioned of God. Countless witnesses who knew him confirmed his prophetic mission.
Here’s what Parley P. Pratt—a close associate of Joseph—said about this man:
He possessed a noble boldness and independence of character; his manner was easy and familiar; his rebuke terrible as the lion; his benevolence unbounded as the ocean; his intelligence universal, and his language abounding in original eloquence peculiar to himself—not polished—not studied—not smoothed and softened by education and refined by art; but flowing forth in its own native simplicity, and profusely abounding in variety of subject and manner. He interested and edified, while, at the same time, he amused and entertained his audience; and none listened to him that were ever weary with his discourse. . . . Even his most bitter enemies were generally overcome, if he could once get their ears. . . . [H]is works will live to endless ages, and unnumbered millions yet unborn will mention his name with honor, as a noble instrument in the hands of God, who, during his short and youthful career, laid the foundation of that kingdom spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, which should break in pieces all other kingdoms and stand forever. (Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, edited by his son, Parley P. Pratt [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 32.)
Brothers and sisters, Joseph Smith is your friend. You can relate to him as a friend, a man of God. He was and is a prophet of God. Can you see yourself as a friend of the Prophet Joseph? Consider him as your friend who sacrificed everything he had to lay the foundation of the Church and Kingdom of God so that you and I can have hope for the future.
Strategy Four
Now the fourth and final way to strengthen your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith is to follow his footprints and see where they lead. What can you learn? You may be surprised. I have singled out for you today just seven special kinds of footprints he left behind. Let me tell you a quick short story to illustrate each of them.
Story One: Charity
Each story has a keyword. The keyword of this first story is charity, represented by this letter C. [At this point, the speaker revealed a display card showing “C” for charity.]
Let’s go back to Sunday, March 25, 1832: At this time the Prophet Joseph Smith and his family are staying at the home of John Johnson in Hiram, Ohio. On Sunday morning, March 25, Joseph delivers a sermon on forgiveness, baptizing three individuals that afternoon. Is it unusual that Joseph should preach a sermon on forgiveness? Not until you understand what happened on the day previous to this. On the day previous, Saturday, a mob of some two dozen drunken men had torn Joseph from the side of his ailing son, 11-month-old Joseph Murdock Smith (one of two adopted twins), dragged Joseph from the house, stripped him of his clothes, beat him brutally, and tarred and feathered him. All during the night friends and family removed the skin-searing tar, taking up large areas of skin in the process. Sidney Rigdon had been dragged feet-first from his home, sustaining a concussion as his head thumped down the steps and along the frozen ground. He was beaten and left comatose in the snow. Young Joseph Murdock Smith, already suffering with measles, contracted pneumonia from the exposure that night, and died a few days later. Three of the mobbers were present at the Prophet’s sermon the day after the beating and heard the Prophet talk about—forgiveness. (HC 1:261-65; compare Matt. 5:43-45.)
Brothers and sisters, do we have anyone we should forgive? Let us do so according to the pattern of forgiveness taught us by the Lord. In keeping with this doctrine, the Prophet Joseph Smith left behind the footprint of charity—“the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47)—just as every prophet will do.
Story Two: Home
Now for the second footprint of the Prophet. The keyword this time is home. [At this point, the speaker revealed a second display card showing H for home.]
Let’s go back to Friday, November 30, 1838. On that day Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and several other Church leaders, having been through a sham trial for treason against the state of Missouri, are consigned to Liberty Jail to await further legal consequences (HC 3:215). The Prophet suffered intensely from the abuse he experienced while in prison, but he was far more pained because of the separation from his beloved Emma and their children. His letters from prison reflect his deep concern about home and family.
Let’s listen to him in his letter of March 21, 1839:
… 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 [p.1] I want you to take the best care of the family you can [and] I believe you will do all you can. I was sorry to learn that Frederick was sick but I trust he is well again and that you are all well. I want you to try to gain time and write to me a long letter and tell me all you can and even if old Major [his dog] is alive yet and what those little prattlers say that cling around your neck. Do … tell them I am in prison that that their lives might be saved. (Joseph Smith, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, compiled and edited by Dean C. Jessee [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984], 408 [spelling and punctuation modernized].)
Then later, in a letter to Emma in April, 1839, just before Joseph was allowed to escape from his prison cell:
My Dear Emma I think of you and the children continually. If I could tell you my tale, I think you would say it was altogether enough for once, to gratify the malice of hell that I have suffered. I want altogether to see little Frederick, Joseph, Julia, and Alexander, Joana, and Old Major. And as to yourself—if you want to know how much I want to see you, examine your feelings, how much you want to see me, and judge for yourself, I would gladly go walking from here to you barefoot, and bareheaded, and half naked, to see you and think it great pleasure, and never count it toil, but do not think I am babyish, for I do not feel so: I bare with fortitude all my oppression, so do those that are with me, not one of us have flinched yet, I want [that] you should not let those little fellows forget me. Tell them Father loves them with a perfect love, and he is doing all he can to get away from the mob to come to them. Do teach them all you can, that they may have good minds. Be tender and kind to them. . . . Tell them Father says they must be good children and mind their mother. My Dear Emma, there is great responsibility resting upon you, in persevering yourself in honor, and sobriety, before them, and teaching them right things, to form their young and tender minds, that they begin in right paths, . . . (Joseph Smith, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, compiled and edited by Dean C. Jessee [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984], 425 [spelling and punctuation modernized].)
Brother and sisters, don’t you love this man with such devotion to his family and home at a time of intense adversity? Joseph wrote a magnificent epistle from prison in two parts, containing what is now Doctrine and Covenants Sections 121, 122, and 123. Do you want to guess which person he first sent this material to? It was to wife, Emma. He wanted her to be the first to read this inspired message, and then after that his parents, before it was placed in the hands of the Church to be sent on to you and to me. Next time you read Sections 121, 122, or 123, remember that Joseph sent them first to Emma, whom he loved so dearly.
Here is a prophet who leaves us enduring lessons about the home—just as every prophet will do.
Story Three: Reverence
Now for the third footprint of the Prophet. The key word here is reverence. [At this point, the speaker revealed a third display card with the letter R for reverence.]
It was Monday, May 26, 1834: Zion’s Camp is en route from Kirtland to Missouri to help the embattled Saints. The brethren who are pitching Joseph Smith’s tent come across three rattlesnakes. When they want to kill the snakes, the Prophet stops them with the words: “Let them alone—don’t hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the suckling child can play with the serpent in safety” (HC 2:71). His listeners then carefully remove the snakes on sticks to a place of safety, after which the Prophet exhorts the brethren to kill wildlife only for needful food. Later the Prophet tests the brethren by shooting a squirrel down from a tree. He is pleased to hear Orson Hyde say, “We will cook this, that nothing may be lost” (p. 72). A few days later, Solomon Humphreys, one of the oldest men in the Camp, wakes up from a nap to find himself eye-to-eye with a coiled rattlesnake. When his colleagues want to kill it, he exclaims, “No, I’ll protect him; you shan’t hurt him for he and I had a good nap together” (p. 74). Some days later Martin Harris is not so fortunate. He is bitten by a black snake that he has boastfully and recklessly provoked. The Prophet likens this to willfully drinking poison in anticipation of receiving the Lord’s protection. Said the Prophet: “In that case no man has any claim on the promises of God to be healed” (p. 96). (Compare D&C 59:20.)
Because Joseph had reverence for all life, we know that he had a special and abiding reverence for the Giver of all life—even the Creator. That’s the way prophets are. That’s the way we should all be. (See HC 2:71-72, 74, 95-96.)
Story Four: Integrity
Now for the fourth footprint of the Prophet. The key word here is integrity. [At this point, the speaker revealed a fourth display card with the letter I for integrity.]
It was on Sunday, November 4, 1838: On this day, the Prophet Joseph Smith preaches an unusual sermon in fulfillment of prophesy. While he, Parley P. Pratt, and other Church leaders are being marched toward Independence by an army acting under extermination orders of the governor of Missouri, a number of local citizens come up to satisfy their curiosity. As the Prophet later records in his journal, one of the women in the group asks the troops “which of the prisoners was the Lord whom the ‘Mormons’ worshipped? One of the guard[s] pointed to me with a significant smile, and said, ‘This is he.’ The woman then turning to me inquired whether I professed to be the Lord and Savior? I replied, that I professed to be nothing but a man, and a minister of salvation, sent by Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel. This answer so surprised the woman that she began to inquire into our doctrine, and I preached a discourse, both to her and her companions, and to the wondering soldiers, who listened with almost breathless attention while I set forth the doctrine of faith in Jesus Christ, and repentance, and baptism for remission of sins, with the promise of the Holy Ghost, as recorded in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The woman was satisfied, and praised God in the hearing of the soldiers, and went away, praying that God would protect and deliver us. Thus was fulfilled a prophesy which had been spoken publicly by me, a few months previous – that a sermon should be preached in Jackson County by one of our Elders, before the close of 1838” (HC 3:200-201).
No matter what his circumstances—even being marched off to prison—the Prophet never forgot his mission. He had a focus of steel. His integrity as a minister of the gospel was without reproach.
Story Five: Safety
Now for the fifth footprint of the Prophet. The keyword here is safety. [At this point, the speaker revealed a fifth display card with the letter S for safety.]
It was Tuesday, October 30, 1838. At around 4 p.m. on this day of infamy, a mob of some 240 armed men assaulted the 30 or so families residing at, or passing through, the village of Haun’s Mill, some 12 miles east of Far West, Missouri, killing at least 17 (including two young boys) and wounding 13 (HC 3:182-188). As reported later by eye-witness Amanda Smith: “I came down to view the awful sight. Oh horrible! My husband, and one son ten years old, lay lifeless upon the ground, and one son seven years old, wounded very badly. The ground was covered with the dead . . . . Realize for a moment the scene! It was sunset; nothing but horror and distress; the dogs filled with rage, howling over their dead masters; the cattle caught the scent of the innocent blood, and bellowed; a dozen helpless widows, thirty or forty fatherless children, crying and moaning for the loss of their fathers and husbands; the groans of the wounded and dying were enough to have melted the heart of anything but a Missouri mob” (HC 3:324). The mob commanded the survivors to leave the state in ten days or be killed. The grieving Joseph Smith had warned all the Saints to gather to Adam-ondi-Ahman or Far West for safety, but Jacob Haun and others had decided to remain with their property. Said the Prophet Joseph: “Up to this day God had given me wisdom to save the people who took counsel. None had ever been killed who abode my counsel. At Haun’s Mill the brethren went contrary to my counsel; if they had not, their lives would have been spared” (HC 5:137).
Brothers and Sisters, there is safety in the counsel of the Lord’s prophets, including our current prophet, President Hinckley. “. . . safety is of the Lord” it says in Proverbs 21:31. Prophets always teach us how to be safe and secure in a dangerous world.
Safety is another footprint of the Prophet Joseph.
Story Six: Temple
Now for the sixth footprint of the Prophet. The keyword here is temple. [At this point, the speaker revealed a sixth display card with the letter T for temple.]
We are told to gather and stand in holy places—including our homes, our wards and stakes, and—the holiest places of all—the temples of the Lord. I give you a test for the prophet. Did the Prophet Joseph Smith build temples? If he did not, he was not a prophet of God, for temples are built during any dispensation of the Lord where prophets are sent and where the Kingdom begins to grow. This is particularly true of the dispensation of the fullness of times when temple work blossoms in its spiritual resplendence. If there are no temples around us—then this is not the church and Kingdom of God and Joseph Smith is not a prophet. But there are temples, and Joseph was called to open temple work in our days. He built the earliest ones in this dispensation under the direction of the Almighty. He received the priesthood of God and the keys to administer in all things for the salvation of men, including the temple.
Let us participate in a sacred event that took place on April 3, 1836, in the newly completed Kirtland Temple. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery are present on the stand.
Let’s follow along in Doctrine and Covenants 110:1-7:
1 The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.
2 We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.
3 His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
4 I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.
5 Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice.
6 Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name.
7 For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.
That happened in a temple of God. Because Joseph was a prophet, we have temples today. Temples are at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for they represent our beacon of hope and our authorization to return to the presence of the Father and the Son, keeping us on course toward our eternal home.
Summary to This Point
Well, then, we have traced six footprints of the prophet—charity, home, reverence, integrity, safety, and temples. You have observed the pattern we have been following: All of these six factors are consummated in one person: CHRIST. [At this point the speaker referred again to the display cards, which form the name CHRIST as an acronym.]
Until his dying day, the Prophet Joseph Smith was committed to doing nothing but the will of the Lord. He was a faithful and devoted servant of the Savior. He set for us a magnificent example of one willing to sacrifice everything for the Lord.
Seventh Story: CHRIST
So here is the seventh and final story about the Prophet Joseph. You have heard many times already the testimony he bore as part of the experience that he and Sidney Rigdon had on February 16, 1832, when the heavens were opened up to them and they witnessed the vision of the degrees of glory prepared by the Father for His children, now preserved as Section 76 of the Doctrine & Covenants. Let us read verses 22 through 24:
22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God. (D&C 76:22-24.)
The Prophet followed His Master, even Jesus Christ, to the day of his martyrdom. He still follows Christ. He is a prophet of God.
As you continue to strengthen your own testimony of the Prophet Joseph, remember that he was a devoted and valiant servant of Jesus Christ. That is your goal, too, to become more like the Savior and do what He would have you do for happiness and salvation, because you are, as the Savior said, “the children of the prophets” and the “children of the Covenant” (3 Nephi 20:25-26).
Conclusion
Now let us conclude. And I remind you that we will leave a few of these bookmarks on the podium for those who might be interested in a summary of the key points and references.
Brothers and Sisters, we have discussed four ways to strengthen your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
First, listen to the Spirit: Ask the Lord for a spiritual confirmation ([Moroni 10:4-5). Ask in faith, and you shall know by the Spirit that these things are true.
Second, see the big picture—that Joseph was called of God from before the foundations of the earth as part of a divine design to usher in the dispensation of the fullness of times.
Third, accept him as your friend—your prophet friend—someone you can understand and honor.
Fourth, follow his footprints and see where they lead—through charity and home and reverence and integrity and safety and temples—even to Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone of the Kingdom of God.
Of the Prophet Joseph, the Savior bore this solemn testimony: “…God ministered unto him . . . And gave unto him commandments which inspired him; And gave him power from on high, by the means which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon; Which contains a record of a fallen people, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ . . . .” (D&C 20:6-99).
Brothers and sisters, how can we savor the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and come to please our Father in Heaven? By following the prophets and keeping the Lord’s commandments. Yes, the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith is about us, each of us. Will we believe it and make it a part of our lives—moving onward to eternal life and the glories of heaven. Or will we fall short and lose the reward? That is the question.
My hope and prayer is that we may all do the right thing and grow spiritually according to our potential as sons and daughters of God.
Let us accept the truth in full faith. This world in which we live is out of control. Values are eroding. By and large, people love the world more than God. Let us help bring that run-a-way coach under control. Let us swing ourselves boldly up into the driver’s seat and move forward in safety and security by keeping our covenants. Let us accept the challenge that we are all on a mission to bear our testimonies sincerely and fervently to our families, to our friends, and to all those who are seeking the truth.
President Gordon B. Hinckley has said of the Prophet Joseph:
I give you my testimony of him. He was the ordained servant of God, this Joseph, raised up to become the mighty prophet of this dispensation—‘a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ’ (D&C 21:1). (“What Hath God Wrought through His Servant Joseph!” Ensign, Jan. 1997, 2.)
To this I add my own testimony that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet, that he prepared the Book of Mormon under divine direction, that he received the keys of the priesthood and restored the church and kingdom of God to the earth in all of its fullness. This I know through the witness of the Holy Spirit. Jesus lives. The Church is true. There is hope; there is joy; there is salvation; there is exaltation. This I know.
May the Lord bless you, my brothers and sisters, to take the seed of faith within you and nurture it. Let it sprout and grow, bit by bit, into a tree of everlasting life, I humbly pray, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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