11 August 2009

Millions shall know Brother Joseph again

Artist: Joseph Brickey
Joseph Smith is dear to my heart in a way that is not easily described. He is someone I have not met
or spoken with, but I've come to know him as a person instead of a malleable history--and in my opinion, this has not only been truer to life, it has made all the difference in my testimony.

I see Joseph, a precocious child that knows something of what it means to wonder--to pray and plead with heaven for answers and comfort, peace and understanding. A youth that cannot explain the yearnings in his own heart as he wanders into some private nowhere hoping that something will come... but what? The anxiety of feeling unshakably foolish, the mounting turmoil, the deepest despair a young heart can hold, until finally...

The truth. Spoken quietly and reverently to a heart long disturbed, then finally touched... proving to body and spirit forever that there is Someone out there... waiting for someone to do more than hear and see, but to feel.

Consider the fear that comes next... yes, fear! Such fear and loneliness as to make a heart quake and tremble in the very meekness that humbles it to new life! What shall my parents and siblings think of me? My friends and neighbors? Their opinions of me matter little, but their judgment of this truth is everything to me now... just like that. As if it had never been any other way because it never can be again. But such weight isn't a heavy yoke so long as you keep moving in the never ending service of others.

And so begins the lifetime of tests, of judgment, of great sacrifices and even greater lessons-- wondering all the time if we're doing the right thing, going the right way, if we will ever be enough, and still knowing all the time why we endure. What other choice is there? Where else can I go, knowing that no other person or place can offer the newness of life I have enjoyed? There is no power of myself or in any other place that kindles that deep and abiding flame like the gospel--the trust that, when burning brightly, dispels all darkness and reveals the truth and mysteries of the kingdom of God.

Having known such light, I accept that there will be darkness anywhere and everywhere else outside of the truth. I accepted that as the light gets brighter, the darkness will grow darker still. But Brother Joseph said it best, that "deep waters are what I am wont to swim in."

I pleaded for the light, knowing that nothing less than heaven would suffice.

How do I know Joseph Smith is a prophet? Learning the truth of his call is the easiest, most basic truth there is to understand about his life! Ask and ye shall receive from the Spirit, who deliverth to all men liberally and upbraideth not! Seek the Spirit of God in humble prayer and you shall know that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

But to come to the best realization, to understand the personal wrenchings and swellings of a prophet's heart, to endure hardship and to be obedient in every instance, even when all others around you begin to stumble and fall. To work and to sacrifice as Abraham, to love and to cherish our Father's imperfect children--THAT is hard. Facing imperfection in days and ways no one anticipates from the bitterness of life... yet somehow, we continue; always knowing that we have further to go than this long and tiresome journey.

Learning to love Joseph Smith has not been difficult because in many ways it's no different than learning to love this journey. If you would know of Joseph Smith, walk beside him. Follow the path he traveled. Engage in the cause and the dream of Zion. Feed the hungry, care for the sick, the widow, and the orphan. Rejoice in the knowledge and blessings in the temple. Find joy in the Lord, the pure love of Christ, even the Holy Ghost, and you will understand the character, heartaches, and trials that truly made up the life Joseph Smith.

Some scholars and historians try to objectify the prophet's life because they think it will allow them to come closer to the truth about him, and instead they strip his life to an unrecognizable, meaningless mess that completely misses the mark of who he was. I don't understand why people would do this, but they do. It's the willful choice to focus only on that which was mortal, or worse, in the prophet's life--the instant discrediting of that which was good in him, and the magnification of that which was imperfect. Such bias against anyone, especially the prophets, or any servant of the Almighty God, is not Christian. And only by forsaking such bias can we come to appreciate the good and the true wherever it may be found, but especially in the lives and deeds of the prophets.

I know that Joseph Smith is not only a prophet, he is my brother, my friend. I look at his life as I would a friend, and in response to the criticism of him that never ceases I think to myself, "My God, what have they done to you?" And there have been times that I've been brought to tears because I wasn't able to defend him from the misinformed criticism that has occurred in my presence--just as I would for my brother, my son, or my father. I testify that God honors such love, and will meet it with truth from on high to all of those who will seek in sincere humility and prayer.

It has long been my wish that the people in my life could see and appreciate Joseph Smith through my eyes, feeling what I feel as the Spirit reveals more and more to me about his life and the kind of man he was. I know, without a doubt, that if people could see that, they would not doubt the truth of this Church, its leaders, the Priesthood, the Book of Mormon, and the Godhead that makes all of them possible.

Joseph Smith needs no apologist. He speaks for himself as one who was once ignorant, and was lifted by the perfect grace of the Almighty. Defending his life, Joseph explained:

"As for the perils which I am called to pass through, they seem but a small thing to me, as the envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life; and for what cause it seems mysterious, unless I was ordained from before the foundation of the world for some good end, or bad, as you may choose to call it. Judge ye for yourselves. God knoweth all these things, whether it be good or bad. But nevertheless, deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become a second nature to me; and I feel, like Paul, to glory in tribulation; for to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all, and will deliver me from henceforth; for behold, and lo, I shall triumph over all my enemies, for the Lord God hath spoken it."
-Doctrine and Covenants 127: 2, emphasis added

I testify in the Holy Ghost that lifted the Prophet Joseph Smith's heart to confidence in the direction of the Lord. I testify that the Spirit is the source of all truth which is to be spiritually discerned, and only by obtaining that Spirit can we be brought to that same confidence in our own standing before Almighty God.

I pray that we will always seeks for the fullest and richest blessings that heaven has to bestow in the name of Jesus Christ.
AMEN.

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