In my last post I left you with an image of a 14-year-old farm boy who prayed and saw a vision of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ Himself told Joseph that His church did not exist on the earth and not to join any of the existing churches.
This boy would be prepared to become a prophet of God, and restore Jesus Christ’s church to the earth -the church He established when He was on the earth – a living church, with continuing revelation for the benefit of all mankind.
God has always called prophets in his own due time to testify of Jesus Christ and His gospel, to help people know God’s true character, and to denounce sin, warning of its consequences.
The Lord has said to beware of false prophets. That is what I hear most often when people tell me that Joseph Smith couldn’t have been a prophet. It is true that there have been and will be false prophets on the earth. There are now. Jesus tells us how to know if one is a false prophet (Matthew 7:15-20):
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Notice where Christ says a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. To know if Joseph Smith was a false prophet (a corrupt tree), we must look at his fruits. What was he like? What did he do from the day of his vision at 14 years old to the day of his martyrdom when he was only 38?
First and foremost, regardless of intense persecution from prominent religious leaders, peers and members of his community, Joseph never once denied that he had seen a vision. He wrote
It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.
However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.
So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation (Joseph Smith – History 1:23-25).
This persecution would only get more hateful and severe as the years went on, including being tarred and feathered, unjustly imprisoned more than once, and finally martyred (along with his beloved brother, Hyrum) by a mob of over a hundred men. This isn’t to mention the devastating persecution that the early members of the church would endure, such as being forced to leave their homes or die. My heart aches whenever I read about the awful treatment of these peaceful people just trying to follow God’s will.
Just as the original members of the church knew it, I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I just know it. I could talk to you about his character, about the people who loved him, about his faith in Jesus Christ to the end, about the legacy he has left, and I could never adequately describe how I know he is a prophet – how he must have been a prophet.
The most compelling reason I can give you as to how I know Joseph was a prophet of God, is that I know that the Book of Mormon is true.
I know that many of you have heard of the Book of Mormon. I have heard some of the things people think about it. People assume that Joseph Smith wrote it, and that Mormons use it instead of the Bible.
What if I told you he didn’t write it? Joseph Smith was not an educated man. He was in his early 20s when he translated the book. The Book of Mormon is 531 pages. If he wrote it, he wrote it in less than three months, at a rate of about 10 pages a day – ten times faster than a professional translator copying down text already written.
I believe as Joseph Smith said, that an angel, named Moroni, appeared to him and told him where an ancient record, written on gold plates, was buried. These plates were written by prophets living in ancient America from 600 B.C. to around 400 A.D. Joseph was given sacred instruments to aid him in the translation of the records.
It is easy to find fault in this story, and call it unrealistic. However, look inside your hearts and think about what you know from the Bible. Think about the workings of the Lord – angels appearing, sacred instruments – is that so out of the ordinary?
There were also many witnesses who saw and touched the gold plates, whose testimonies are in the beginning of The Book of Mormon. Joseph also had help translating. Many would serve as scribes to his translation, such as his wife, Emma, and Oliver Cowdery.
I also recognize that many Christians believe that God is done speaking, that the last messages came from the 12 apostles, and that the only written holy records are in the Bible.
The best way to answer this concern is in a passage from the Book of Mormon where Jesus himself said (2 Nephi 29:7-11):
7 Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
9 And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.
10 Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.
11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
It makes so much sense to me, and offers me so much comfort, that Jesus loves all people in every nation, and that He wishes all of them to have the Truth.
The Book of Mormon does not replace the Bible. It is a book meant to complement the Bible. It is a book meant to prove that the Bible is true! It is a book meant to prove to the world that Jesus is the Christ.
Joseph Smith, if he were the fraud that people say he was, could not have written a book like this – a book where over half of the verses refer to Jesus Christ; a book filled with heroes and prophets who showed courage, faith, love, service, obedience and integrity; a book that brings clarity to the messages of the Bible; a book that makes its humble reader feel closer to Christ.
Did you know that in the Book of Mormon, the resurrected Jesus Christ visits the people of the Americas? Did you know that He lets every person touch His hands and His feet, blesses each and every child, heals every person with an infirmity, teaches the same gospel He taught to the Israelites, and ordains 12 apostles to preach His word and carry the authority to act in His name?
With tears in my eyes, I ask you, would a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, bring forth a book like this?
Would he be able to write this? 2 Nephi 25:23, 26
23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.
Or this? Mosiah 2:17
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
Or this? Ether 12:27
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
However, I know that I cannot prove to you that The Book of Mormon is true. The prophet Moroni, the one who appeared to Joseph Smith, also knew this. That is why he provided a promise to those who read the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:3-5):
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4 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.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
In the introduction to The Book of Mormon are these words:
Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah.
I have prayed, and I have received an answer that this book is the word of God, and truly is another testament of Jesus Christ. I have read it many times, and will continue to read it throughout my life, to enlarge my heart and nourish my soul.
If you aren’t quite convinced you want to read The Book of Mormon, will you please watch this short video clip? Each time I watch it, I feel the Spirit testify truth to me. If nothing else, perhaps it will open your heart to want to find out for yourself.
I am so grateful that Joseph Smith asked a question, and that he was willing to do what the Lord commanded him upon receiving the answer. He dedicated the remainder of his life to serving the Lord, and restoring His church to the earth. His life and death were not in vain, and he was most certainly not a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
He was a true prophet of God.