What’s the deal with Joseph Smith?

Two hundred and eight years ago, this December 23, Joseph Smith Jr. was born. He is revered in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the first prophet of this dispensation (a period of time when the gospel is on the earth). As a 14 year-old boy he wondered about religion and attended different churches. He was puzzled by the differing beliefs and wanted to know which church to join. His family regularly studied the Bible. While reading in James 1:5, “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,” Joseph decided he would ask God. In the woods near his house he knelt and asked God which church he should join. What he received was a vision of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. They told him to join none of the churches and that the gospel would later be restored. And it was, through Joseph Smith.

 

This story may seem fantastical, hard to believe. I’m not going to try to convince you that Joseph did see God and Jesus Christ. That’s something you have to come to know by faith, through prayer on your part, and the witness of the Holy Ghost (the Holy Spirit). I would like to discuss the reality of prophets, men who talk with God, declare truth, make mistakes, are not perfect, are often not popular, and who change the world.

 

Noah was an unpopular prophet. He told the people to repent or they would be destroyed. He built an ark as God commanded him and when the rains came and flooded the earth, Noah and his family were saved. Because of Noah’s obedience even when God’s commands seemed ridiculous, the human race is still on the earth. When God told Jonah to preach repentance to the people in Ninevah, Jonah was afraid. Prophets are men, not Gods. They are not perfect and they make mistakes. Jonah went to sea instead of traveling to Ninevah. As a violent storm tossed the ship that carried Jonah, he knew he had made a mistake. He allowed the crew to throw him into the ocean where a merciful God provided a fish to swallow Jonah and time within the fish for Jonah to repent, and then for Jonah to be spit out onto land for the chance to fulfill his assignment. Jonah prophesied in Ninevah that the people would be destroyed if they did not repent. They repented and were saved. Peter, the prophet after Jesus died and was resurrected, was a fisherman and a disciple of Christ. Not only did he deny Christ three times, but after Christ died, he didn’t know what to do. When he returned to fishing, Christ appeared to the disciples and reminded them that they were to be fishers of men. From that time Peter taught and led the church, receiving prophecies such as the gospel being available to all people (Acts 10), the requirement of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2), and of a prophet of the last days and the restitution of all things (Acts 3:19-26).

 

Joseph Smith was not perfect. I know there is information available about wrongs he committed and mistakes he made. He was a man. He was also a prophet of God. Through him, the gospel was restored as prophesied by Peter. He translated The Book of Mormon. He received the Word of Wisdom, a law of health, that would be proven true many years later with the evidence of the adverse affects of tobacco and alcohol. He prophesied of the Civil War (D& C 87:1-4). The Doctrine and Covenants is a book of scripture filled with revelations and prophecies of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

 

I believe that Joseph Smith saw our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, that he translated¬†The Book of Mormon, and that through him the gospel was restored.¬†Joseph Smith–a man, a prophet, a father–was martyred on June 27, 1844 at the age of 38. In that short amount of time he changed the world. The church which was organized under his leadership on April 6, 1830 with six members has grown to a worldwide membership of 15 million. I’m one of those members.

 

 

 

 

 

What if I don’t want to choose the strict Mormon lifestyle? Or what I learned in Mexico.

I took a break from the blog for Thanksgiving and a trip to Mexico with my husband. On my vacation I enjoyed the warmth, read three books, ate delicious Mexican food, visited the Hotel California, rode a wave in the Pacific Ocean on a boogie board–something I haven’t done since I was a teenager, spent time with my husband, participated on a zip line adventure, and gained a greater appreciation for my Mormon lifestyle and my testimony of the gospel.

 

What are the restrictions and requirements of a Mormon lifestyle? No drinking, drugs, or smoking. Complete chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage. Dress modestly–cover your body sufficiently so that when you interact with others, they notice your qualities instead of your breasts and bare skin. Keep your language clean and uplifting. Attend lots of church. Do your calling–your duties in the church. Serve others.

 

In the church, there is an increased focus on missionary work–sharing the gospel with our friends and neighbors. While you may not think that the Mormon lifestyle is for you, the peace and comfort of the Savior is for everyone. You don’t have to be Mormon to pray, to attend church, to repent of your sins, to serve, to be a good neighbor. And you don’t have to refrain from drinking, smoking, unchaste behavior, and bad language to love others and be a kind person. But if you want the peace and rewards of living God’s commandments, you have to keep them whether you are a Mormon or not. We call the blessings or results of living the gospel and keeping the commandments, the fruits of the gospel.

 

The fruits of the gospel I see in my life from living the Word of Wisdom–the law of health–are no addictions, no criminal convictions for drunk driving or theft, no money spent on alcohol or cigarettes. Because of living the law of chastity, I am married to a man who respects me and whom I can trust. I have no sexually transmitted diseases and no unwanted pregnancies. These blessings are also a result of dressing modestly. When we were dating my husband was able to get to know me for who I am not because I waved my cleavage in his face. Fruits of the spirit or blessings from attending church and fulfilling my church calling are friends who share the same values, being uplifted from gospel teachings and feeling the spirit weekly, and the growth that comes from working with others and being accountable to fulfill assignments.

 

What I learned in Mexico is that I’m grateful for my strict Mormon lifestyle. I’m grateful for a loving and faithful husband who urged us to take a hike away from the girls in bikinis waiting for the zip line who were using vulgar language. I’m grateful that I could enjoy the beauty of Mexico without being inebriated. I’m grateful to have a family and friends to come back to who share my same values.

 

Again, you do not have to be a Mormon to obey most of God’s commandments. When you do keep God’s commandments you will receive the fruits or blessings of keeping those commandments. If the Mormon lifestyle seems like something you need in your life or even if you have a slight interest and want to know more, talk to your friends who are Mormons, contact the missionaries, ask questions. We’d love to share.