Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Great Things Which God Has Revealed Through Joseph the Prophet

December 18, 2005

My talk this morning is, very appropriately, the great things which God has revealed through Joseph Smith the prophet. I take my talks from two conferences addresses. President Gordon B. Hinckley talk in the April General Conference and President Monson’s October address. I have also used the December issue of the Ensign magazine. I’ll begin be reading from the April conference talk.

An acquaintance said to me one day: "I admire your church very much. I think I could accept everything about it—except Joseph Smith." To which I responded: "That statement is a contradiction. If you accept the revelation, you must accept the revelator."

It is a constantly recurring mystery to me how some people speak with admiration for the Church and its work while at the same time disdaining him through whom, as a servant of the Lord, came the framework of all that the Church is, of all that it teaches, and of all that it stands for. They would pluck the fruit from the tree while cutting off the root from which it grows.

The first of the important revelations given through the Prophet Joseph Smith, of course, is the manifestation of God Himself and His Beloved Son, the risen Lord Jesus Christ. This grand theophany is, in my judgment, the greatest such event since the birth, life, death, and Resurrection of our Lord in the meridian of time.
We have no record of any other event to equal it.

I submit that in the short time of that remarkable vision Joseph learned more concerning Deity than all of the scholars and clerics of the past.

In this divine revelation there was reaffirmed beyond doubt the reality of the literal Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This knowledge of Deity, hidden from the world for centuries, was the first and great thing which God revealed to His chosen servant.

And upon the reality and truth of this vision rests the validity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I speak next of a second very important thing which God revealed.

The Book of Mormon has come forth by the gift and power of God. It speaks as a voice from the dust in testimony of the Son of God. It speaks of His birth, of His ministry, of His Crucifixion and Resurrection, and of His appearance to the righteous in the land Bountiful on the American continent.

It is a tangible thing that can be handled, that can be read, that can be tested. It carries within its covers a promise of its divine origin. Millions now have put it to the test and found it to be a true and sacred record.

It has been named by those not of our faith as one of 20 books ever published in America that have had the greatest influence upon those who have read them.
As the Bible is the testament of the Old World, the Book of Mormon is the testament of the New. They go hand in hand in declaration of Jesus as the Son of the Father.

This sacred book, which came forth as a revelation of the Almighty, is indeed another testament of the divinity of our Lord.

I would think that the whole Christian world would reach out and welcome it and embrace it as a vibrant testimony. It represents another great and basic contribution which came as a revelation to the Prophet.

A third important revelation is the restored priesthood. Priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God. That authority is the keystone of any religion.
If the authority of that Church was lost, how was it to be replaced?
Priesthood authority came from the only place it could come, and that is from heaven. It was bestowed under the hands of those who held it when the Savior walked the earth.

First, there was John the Baptist, who conferred the Aaronic, or lesser priesthood. This was followed by a visitation of Peter, James, and John, Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, who conferred upon Joseph and Oliver Cowdery the Melchizedek Priesthood, which had been received by these Apostles under the hands of the Lord Himself when in life He said, "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19).

How beautiful is the unfolding of the pattern of restoration which led to the organization of the Church in the year 1830, 175 years ago this week. The very name of the Church came of revelation. Whose Church was it? Was it Joseph Smith's? Was it Oliver Cowdery's? No, it was the Church of Jesus Christ restored to earth in these latter days.

A fourth great and singular revelation given to the Prophet was the plan for the eternal life of the family.
The family is a creation of the Almighty. It represents the most sacred of all relationships. It represents the most serious of all undertakings. It is the fundamental organization of society. Through the revelations of God to His Prophet came the doctrine and authority under which families are sealed together not only for this life but for all eternity.

The innocence of little children is a fifth revelation which God has given through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph. The general practice is the baptism of infants to take away the effects of what is described as the sin of Adam and Eve. Under the doctrine of the Restoration, baptism is for the remission of one's individual and personal sins. It becomes a covenant between God and man. It is performed at the age of accountability, when people are old enough to recognize right from wrong. It is by immersion, in symbolism of the death and burial of Jesus Christ and His coming forth in the Resurrection.

I go on to mention a sixth revealed truth.

We are told that God is no respecter of persons, and yet, in no other church of which I am aware, is provision made for those beyond the veil of death to receive every blessing which is afforded the living. The great doctrine of salvation for the dead is unique to this Church.

Men boast that they are "saved," and in the same breath admit that their forebears have not been and cannot be saved.

Jesus's Atonement in behalf of all represents a great vicarious sacrifice. He set the pattern under which He became a proxy for all mankind. This pattern under which one man can act in behalf of another is carried forward in the ordinances of the house of the Lord. Here we serve in behalf of those who have died without a knowledge of the gospel. Theirs is the option to accept or reject the ordinance which is performed. They are placed on an equal footing with those who walk the earth. The dead are given the same opportunity as the living. Again, what a glorious and wonderful provision the Almighty has made through His revelation to His Prophet.

The eternal nature of man has been revealed. We are sons and daughters of God. God is the Father of our spirits. We lived before we came here. We had personality. We were born into this life under a divine plan. We are here to test our worthiness, acting in the agency which God has given to us. When we die we shall go on living. Our eternal life is comprised of three phases: one, our premortal existence; two, our mortal existence; and three, our postmortal existence. In death we die to this world and step through the veil into the sphere we are worthy to enter. This, again, is a unique, singular, and precious doctrine of this Church which has come through revelation.

I offer this brief summary of the tremendous outpouring of knowledge and authority from God upon the head of His Prophet.

There is a seventh that I must mention. This is the principle of modern revelation. The article of faith which the Prophet wrote declares, "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" (Articles of Faith 1:9).

The code of health followed by Latter-day Saints, which is so widely praised in these days of cancer and heart research, is in reality a [eighth] revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1833 as "a Word of Wisdom" from the Lord (see D&C 89:1). In no conceivable way could it have come of the dietary literature of the time nor from the mind of the man who announced it. Today, in terms of medical research, it is a miracle whose observance has saved incalculable suffering and premature death for uncounted tens of thousands.

A ninth great revelation is Family history research which has become a popular hobby in recent years. Thousands of eyes across the world have been turned to what is described as the Latter-day Saint treasure-house of family history data. But this tremendous program of the Church did not result from the pursuit of a hobby. It is an extension of the teachings of Joseph Smith the Prophet. He declared that we cannot be saved without our forebears, those who did not have a knowledge of the gospel and consequently could not fulfill its requirements nor partake of its opportunities (see D&C 128:9, 15).

The remarkable organization of the Church was framed by him as he was directed by a tenth revelation, and no modification or adaptation of that organization is ever considered without searching the revelations set forth by the Prophet.

Even the welfare program, which some are prone to regard as of rather recent origin, is founded and operated strictly upon principles enunciated by Joseph Smith in the early years of the Church. This could be considered an eleventh important revelation made by Joseph Smith.

This is likewise true of the family home evening program, which is no more than an extension of early revelation on the responsibility of parents "to bring up your children in light and truth" (D&C 93:40). So I’d like to count that as the twelfth.

A sound and clear understanding of the infinite and eternal nature of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I feel should be included as a thirteenth important revelation. Joseph Smith's vision of man's immortal nature reached from an existence before birth to the eternities beyond the grave. He taught that salvation is universal in that all men will become the beneficiaries of the Resurrection through the Atonement wrought by the Savior. But beyond this gift is the requirement of obedience to the principles of the gospel and the promise of consequent happiness in this life and exaltation in the life to come.

Nor was the gospel he taught limited in application to those of his own and future generations. The mind of Joseph Smith, tutored by the God of heaven, encompassed all mankind of all generations.

We cannot stop counting his many important revelations without mentioning one which is very dear to my heart, that is, of course, the missionary program, his fourteenth contribution. Within the space of that 20 years preceding his death, Joseph Smith set in motion a program for carrying the gospel to the nations of the earth. I marvel at the boldness with which he moved. Even in the infant days of the Church, in times of dark adversity, men were called to leave homes and families, to cross the sea, to proclaim the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Prophet's mind, his vision encompassed the entire earth.

It would be a shame to list his important contributions to the restoration of the fullness of the gospel without stating his example to each of us. So I will count that as the fifteenth great thing Joseph Smith has done. President Thomas S. Monson was so kind to list for us in conference this fall several qualities Joseph the Prophet learned that we may emulate. These as courage, faith, honesty, patience, diligence, missionary work, and love.

The story of Joseph's life is the story of a miracle. He was born in poverty. He was reared in adversity. He was driven from place to place, falsely accused, and illegally imprisoned. He was murdered at the age of 38. Yet in the brief space of 20 years preceding his death, he accomplished what none other has accomplished in an entire lifetime. He translated and published the Book of Mormon, a volume which has since been retranslated into scores of languages (106 to be exact) and which is accepted by millions across the earth as the word of God. The revelations he received and other writings he produced are likewise scripture to these millions. The total in book pages constitutes approximately twice the volume of the entire New Testament of the Bible, and it all came through one man in the space of a few years.

In this same period he established an organization which for 175 years has withstood every adversity and challenge and is as effective today in governing a worldwide membership of some 12 million as it was in governing a membership of 300 in 1830. There are those doubters who have strained to explain this remarkable organization as the product of the times in which he lived. That organization was as peculiar, as unique, and as remarkable then as it is today. It was not a product of the times. It came as a revelation from God.
He began his time as a prophet as a humble, studying, meditative man. Many have stated he had what may equal a third grade education. When his life came to an abrupt end, he remained a humble servant of God, but he was no longer uneducated. He knew several languages, including Hebrew and German. His mind had been molded to equal the statement penned by John Taylor as recorded in D & C 135. “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.”

We do not worship the Prophet. We worship God our Eternal Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ. But we acknowledge the Prophet; we proclaim him; we respect him; we reverence him as an instrument in the hands of the Almighty in restoring to the earth the ancient truths of the divine gospel, together with the priesthood through which the authority of God is exercised in the affairs of His Church and for the blessing of His people.

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