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Painting: Del Parson
Joseph SmithThe First President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Perhaps we can say that Joseph Smith began his training as a Prophet of the Lord as a seventeen year old when he was instructed by the Angel, Moroni during the night of September 21, 1823 while in his upstairs bedroom in his parents' home.
Painting: Tom Lovell
The Prophet Moroni of Ancient America, now an angel of the Lord, Instructs the young Joseph Smith regarding his (Joseph's) soon to come, prophetic responsibilities, especially regarding his, (Joseph's) translating the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ which was written on golden plates by Moroni's father, Mormon and hidden up in the earth by he, Moroni in about A.D. 421.
We will skip ahead many years in the life of the prophet, Joseph Smith to the fall of 1838:
One of the desires of the early Latter-day Saints was simply to be allowed to live their religion in peace. But wherever they moved, peace eluded them. In 1833, just two years after the dedication of a place of gathering in Missouri, mobs forced the Saints to leave Jackson County, Missouri. Church members found temporary refuge in Clay County, Missouri, and then, in 1836, began moving into northern Missouri. Most of them settled in Caldwell County, a new county organized by the state legislature to accommodate the Saints. Far West, which served as the county seat, soon became a thriving Latter-day Saint settlement.
The Prophet Joseph Smith had continued to live in Kirtland, Ohio, but in January 1838, he was forced to leave, fearing for his life. With his family, he traveled the 900 miles to Far West, where he joined the Saints living there.
Later in 1838, most of the Kirtland Saints sold or abandoned their homes and followed the Prophet to Missouri. To accommodate the Church members pouring into the area, the Prophet designated areas near Far West where the Saints could settle.
In July 1838, cornerstones were dedicated for a temple in Far West, Missouri, giving the Saints hope that they could establish a permanent settlement where they could enjoy prosperity and peace.
Unfortunately, tensions similar to those they experienced in Jackson County soon divided them from local settlers, and in the fall of 1838, mobs and militia once again began to harass and attack Latter-day Saints.
One day the Prophet was visiting his parents’ home in Far West, when a group of armed militiamen came in and announced that they had come to kill him for a supposed crime. Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet’s mother, described his gift for peacemaking: “[Joseph] looked upon them with a very pleasant smile and, stepping up to them, gave each of them his hand in a manner which convinced them that he was neither a guilty criminal nor yet a cowering hypocrite. They stopped and stared as though a spectre had crossed their path.
“Joseph sat down and entered into conversation with them and explained to them the views and feelings of the people called Mormons and what their course had been, as also the treatment which they had met with from their enemies since the first outset of the Church. He told them that malice and detraction had pursued them ever since they entered Missouri, but they were a people who had never broken the laws to his knowledge. But if they had, they stood ready to be tried by the law. …
“After this, he rose and said, ‘Mother, I believe I will go home. Emma will be expecting me.’ Two of the men sprang to their feet, saying, ‘You shall not go alone, for it is not safe. We will go with you and guard you.’ Joseph thanked them, and they went with him.
“The remainder of the officers stood by the door while these were absent, and I overheard the following conversation between them: “First Officer: ‘Did you not feel strangely when Smith took you by the hand? I never felt so in my life.’ “Second Officer: ‘I felt as though I could not move. I would not harm one hair of that man’s head for the whole world.’ “Third Officer: "This is the last time you will ever catch me coming to kill Joe Smith or the Mormons either.’ …
“Those men who went with my son promised to go disband the militia under them and go home, and said that if he had any use for them, they would come back and follow him anywhere.”1 Speaking the truth in a kind, forthright way, Joseph Smith overcame prejudice and hostility and made peace with many of those who had been his enemies. (Quoted from Teachings of Presidents of the Church - Joseph Smith, Chapter 29, pp. 339-341), (an Official Publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)Now I will quote statements made by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and maybe one, who was not) who knew the prophet Joseph Smith well. These statements were made after the prophet and his brother, Hyrum, had been killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois in June 1844.
Parley P. Pratt, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1835 to 1857: “President Joseph Smith was in person tall and well built, strong and active; of a light complexion, light hair, blue eyes, very little beard, and of an expression peculiar to himself. … His countenance was ever mild, affable, beaming with intelligence and benevolence; mingled with a look of interest and an unconscious smile, or cheerfulness, and entirely free from all restraint or affectation of gravity; and there was something connected with the serene and steady penetrating glance of his eye, as if he would penetrate the deepest abyss of the human heart, gaze into eternity, penetrate the heavens, and comprehend all worlds. 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.”
John Needham, an early English convert: “Joseph Smith is a great man, a man of principle, a straight forward man; no saintish long-faced fellow, but quite the reverse. Indeed some stumble because he is such a straight forward, plain spoken, cheerful man, but that makes me love him the more.”
Emmeline B. Wells, the general president of the Relief
Society from 1910 to 1921: “I … testify that he was the greatest man and the greatest prophet and the greatest personage of this generation, the greatest, I feel safe in saying, since the days of the Savior. His majesty in appearance was something wonderful. You would think that he was much taller and much larger even than he was. Perhaps many of you have noticed men who have such a bearing when they rise up and walk. This was the way with the Prophet Joseph. There are no pictures of him extant that I know of, that compare with the beauty and majesty of his presence.”
Mary Alice Cannon Lambert: “The love the saints had for him was inexpressible. They would willingly have laid down their lives for him. If he was to talk, every task would be laid aside that they might listen to his words. He was not an ordinary man. Saints and sinners alike felt and recognized a power and influence which he carried with him. It was impossible to meet him and not be impressed by the strength of his personality and influence.”
John M. Bernhisel, a medical doctor who boarded in Joseph and Emma’s home in Nauvoo for several months during 1843 and 1844: “Joseph Smith is naturally a man of strong mental powers, and is possessed of much energy and decision of character, great penetration, and a profound knowledge of human nature. He is a man of calm judgment, enlarged views, and is eminently distinguished by his love of justice. He is kind and obliging, generous and benevolent, sociable and cheerful, and is possessed of a mind of a contemplative and reflective character. He is honest, frank, fearless and independent, and as free from dissimulation [false appearances] as any man to be found. … As a religious teacher, as well as a man, he is greatly beloved by this people.”
Jesse N. Smith, a cousin of Joseph Smith: “[The Prophet was] incomparably the most God-like man I ever saw. … I know that by nature he was incapable of lying and deceitfulness, possessing the greatest kindness and nobility of character. I felt when in his presence that he could read me through and through. I know he was all that he claimed to be.”
William Clayton, an English convert who served as a clerk to Joseph Smith: “The more I am with him, the more I love him; the more I know of him, the more confidence I have in him.”
Joseph F. Smith, the sixth President of the Church: “He was brimming over with the noblest and purest of human nature, which often gave vent in innocent amusements—in playing ball, in wrestling with his brothers and scuffling with them, and enjoying himself; he was not like a man with a stake run down his back, and with his face cast in a brazen mold that he could not smile, that he had no joy in his heart. Oh, he was full of joy; he was full of gladness; he was full of love, and of every other noble attribute that makes men great and good, and at the same time simple and innocent, so that he could descend to the lowest condition; and he had power, by the grace of God, to comprehend the purposes of the Almighty too. That was the character of the Prophet Joseph Smith.” (Quoted from Teachings of Presidents of the Church - Joseph Smith, Chapter 43, pp 497 - 499 (There were many more I could have quoted if I had the space.)Below are the words of a hymn found in the current LDS Church Hymn Book. This hymn was written after the death of Joseph Smith. Earlier, Joseph excommunicated the author of this hymn, William Wines Phelps for having seriously betrayed himself, Joseph, and other leaders and members of the Church to their enemies who were attempting to destroy them and their church. In June 1840, Phelps plead for forgiveness in a letter to Joseph Smith. Joseph replied with an offer of full fellowship, and ended with the famous couplet,
"Come on, dear brother, since the war is past, For friends at first are friends again at last."
William W. Phelps
Hymn: Praise to the Man, Words written by William W. Phelps, (1792-1872) Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Verse 1: Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah! Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer, Blessed to open the last dispensation, Kings shall extol him, and nations revere,
Verse 2: Praise to his mem'ry he died as a martyr; Honored and blest be his ever great name! Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins, Plead unto heav'n while the earth lauds his fame.
Verse 3. Great is his glory and endless his priesthood, Ever and ever the keys he will hold. Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom, Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.
Verse 4. Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven, Earth must atone for the blood of that man. Wake up the world for the conflict of justice, Millions shall know "Brother Joseph" again.
Chorus: (Sung after each verse) Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven! Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain, Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren; Death cannot conquer the hero again.
On 11-15-2009 I, Neil Birch am inserting something additional about William W. Phelps and the hymn he wrote which you have just read above.
In June of 1952, at the end of my first of two missions to Finland (My wife, Melva was my companion during my second mission there)I traveled through part of Europe by myself. Later, all solo travel by returning missionaries was not not permitted. One Sunday in that month I arrived in Hamburg, Germany by train. By some miracle, not knowing the German language very well (I had been successful in completing German I & II in my year at Placer College in Auburn, California but had not learned to converse well in that language), I was able to arrive at an LDS Sacrament meeting being held in an LDS Chapel in a nice part of Hamburg.
After entering the building and walking toward the door to the chapel I heard those in attendance at that Sacrament meeting singing: Praise to the Man which I quoted for you above. I was deeply touched. I was handed a German Hymn Book and began singing with them. Tears flowed freely. I was especially touched by the spirit with which those German members were singing. The truthfulness of Joseph Smith's mission was reinforced strongly in my heart and soul by their singing that inspired hymn.
That experience also helped me to develop a love and respect for Brother William Wines Phelps.
After finishing my bachelors of science degree at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah in 1960 and my Master of Social Work degree at California State University in San Jose, CA in 1973, I became a social worker. As such I became very interested in helping people overcome particular problems they have somehow developed that hamper their progress. Therefore, I appreciated reading this revelation received by President Joseph Smith August 1, 1831 which, in part, is about William W. Phelps:
D. and C. 58:
40 And also let my servant William W. Phelps stand in the office to which I have appointed him, and receive his inheritance in the land;
41 And also he hath need to repent, for I, the Lord, am not well pleased with him, for he seeketh to excel, and he is not sufficiently meek before me. (emphasis added)That problem the Lord knew William had, apparently hindered his progress throughout much of his life. I did not mention it above, but Brother Phelps was excommunicated several additional times, each after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Brother Phelps went to Utah with the Church. One record I recently read on the Internet showed that on a certain day he was excommunicated and then the very next day was rebaptized and welcomed back into full fellowship. I believe he died in full fellowship. He must have eventually overcome the pride the Lord implies in the scripture above he had . I'm quite sure that eventually he had humbled himself sufficiently!
I, and many other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints love you, Brother W.W. Phelps. We hope that we too can overcome our particular weaknesses and enjoy eternal bliss with our families and fellow saints like you.
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