Sunday, January 10, 2021

Doctrine & Covenants 2; Joseph Smith--History 1:27-65


After Joseph Smith saw his initial heavenly vision of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and hosts of angels, he knew that God knew him, that his sins were forgiven, and that he should not join any of the churches available to him on the earth. He learned "many other things" which he didn't relate in his tellings of the vision. Later that day, he told his mother that he had learned that the Presbyterian church, which she and some of his siblings had joined, did not contain the true gospel. It doesn't appear that he told her any more than this.

A few days later, he took the opportunity to relate the vision to a Methodist preacher, a person he assumed to be a man of God. This preacher berated him and told him the vision was devillish because God didn't give man visions anymore. Rather than helping Joseph to understand what had happened (which is clearly why Joseph told him the story), he belitted him and spread the story and soon everyone in the area knew that a boy named Joseph Smith had reported a heavenly vision and most of them were bristling with rage (Joseph Smith--History 1:20-22). From what has been reported by Joseph Smith (see previous post) and by others, there was no indication that he planned to start a new religion at this point. He was just a teenage boy, telling his personal spiritual experience. It is remarkable that the response of the community was so violent.


What happened to Joseph Smith over the next three years? He was from a poor family, new to the area. He had to work long hours. He was ostracized by the church-goers and the well-to-do. The ministers derided him. The "good" kids didn't associate with him. Besides his siblings, only the non-religious youth would accept him. He reports,

"Being of very tender years, and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me—I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God. God. In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been. But this will not seem very strange to any one who recollects my youth, and is acquainted with my native cheery temperament" (JS-H 1:28).


Eventually, Joseph decided he needed to right himself with God. He still had no idea he would be starting a church. He just wanted forgiveness and a personal connection with Diety. 

"I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him..." (JS-H 1:29).

In response to his prayer, he had series of four angellic visitations over the next 12 hours that showed him there would be much more for him to do. The visions were all fundamentally the same. With the absence of paper and writing utensil, the method of instruction had to be repetitive, so that Joseph could commit it to memory.

God reveals His will "line upon line, precept upon precept" (Isaiah 28:10). Over the next seven years, Joseph was granted many more visions. For more detail on these visions, please read "Moroni's Message to Joseph Smith." 

Through these tutoring experiences, Joseph reported to learn about the following concepts important to the Restoration of the original Church of Jesus Christ and to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ:

  1. Apostasy and scattering

  2. The calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith

  3. The opening of the heavens during the Restoration

  4. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon

  5. The restoration of the priesthood and of the sealing keys

  6. The gathering of the elect

  7. Destruction and purification prior to and during the Second Coming

  8. Deliverance for the faithful

  9. The Second Coming

  10. The premillennial and millennial state of the faithful

Ten years after the First Vision, Joseph Smith finally had the knowledge, the maturity, the resources, the scripture, the financial backing, and enough believers to legally start a new American religion, the restored church of Jesus Christ. But it took ten years of growth with seven years of mentoring.


In that first set of four visions, Joseph Smith was quoted Malachi 4:4-6 differently than it appears in the King James Version of the Bible. 

"Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord...And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming."

The angel's version omits the phrase, "He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children," and adds, "He shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers." Those promises are contained in the Abrahamic Covenant. If this Covenant is not fulfilled by the turning of the children to it, the earth is wasted. The promises have been planted in the children by Elijah. It is now up to the children to accept the gospel and follow the covenant path. And it is up to us to help.

My grandson and son-in-law


Like Joseph Smith, our youth today are "at risk." The forces of evil, the secularization of society, the downward pull of the fallen world, the philosophies of the present day, the pressure exerted by their peers--all of these combine to make it harder for the hearts of the children to turn to the New and Everlasting Covenant and nurture that promise planted in their hearts to its full maturity. They need mentors.

The Lord places individuals within our sphere of influence who have that promise planted in their hearts.  When they are actually members of our family, it gives us the distinct advantage of being able to do missionary work long-term, without deadlines. In Joseph Smith's case, his parents and older siblings were the only mentors who believed him for those first three years after the vision. 

Elder Robert D. Hales said, 

"It is impossible to overestimate the influence of parents who understand the hearts of their children. Research shows that during the most important transitions of life—including those periods when youth are most likely to drift away from the Church—the greatest influence does not come from an interview with the bishop or some other leader but from the regular, warm, friendly, caring interaction with parents...

"It is our imperative duty to help youth understand and believe the gospel in a deeply personal way. We can teach them to walk in the light, but that light cannot be borrowed."

The greatest missionary work we will ever do will be in our homes. Our homes, quorums, and classes are part of the mission field. Our children and grandchildren are our most important investigators…

 “The greatest rescue, the greatest activation will be in our homes. If someone in your family is wandering in strange paths, you are a rescuer, engaged in the greatest rescue effort the Church has ever known. I testify from personal experience: There is no failure except in giving up. It is never too early or too late to begin. Do not worry about what has happened in the past. Pick up the phone. Write a note. Make a visit. Extend the invitation to come home. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed. Your child is Heavenly Father’s child. You are about His work. He has promised to gather His children, and He is with you.

“The greatest faith we have will be within our homes as we remain strong in the trials and tribulations of parenthood. To a small group of mothers, President Monson recently said, ‘Sometimes we are too quick to judge the effect of our successes and failures.’ May I add, don’t look at today’s trials as eternal. Heavenly Father does His work in the long term. ‘There is much which lieth in futurity,’ the Prophet Joseph Smith said. ‘Therefore, . . . let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed’ (D&C 123:15, 17)"(Elder, Robert D. Hales, “Our Duty to God: The Mission of Parents and Leaders to the Rising Generation,” April 2010 General Conference)


All throughout the scriptures, and in the most unlikely situations therein, we find the commandment to “be of good cheer.”  We must obey this commandment if we want to help our family members.  If our children see that we are sad, why would they want to be like us?  If our children can detect that they make us feel like failures, how can we encourage them?  It is unfair and incorrect to place the responsibility for our happiness on our children or anyone else.  They are busy enough trying to figure out their own happiness.  The best thing we can do is show by example how the gospel makes us happy, independent of what anyone (themselves included) does, because it gives us hope.  Do not exercise faith in failure by focusing on the negative or becoming distraught by problems.  Remember they are all temporary conditions, brought on by our fallen world. Christ has overcome the world.  


There is a bright side to everything.  

If not, polish one of them up.

Our number one responsibility in all of our relationships in life is always the same: to love! Christ gave it as the great commandment.  I love this quote from the author Sue Monk Kidd:  

“That’s the only purpose grand enough for a human life.  

Not only to love, but to persist in love.” 

“What thank have ye if ye love those” who are obedient, sweet, kind, easy to love…?  There are marvelous skills to be developed through the close-up opportunity of loving the unique, imperfect individuals in our families and ward who may be a little prickly. Terrance Olsen, a family life teacher and counselor says, 

“When we are compassionate with our rebellious children,

 their conscience convicts them.  

When we are hostile, it justifies them.” 

D&C 121 teaches us that no power or influence CAN be maintained except by love.

But sometimes parents cannot reach their own children. 


When I was a young mother, my husband and I were braving an airline trip with two tiny boys.  We were making our way through the Atlanta airport. I had the 1-year-old in a stroller, and the 3-year-old on a telephone-cord-style leash. One end was fastened around his wrist, and the other was fastened onto the stroller so I could have a free hand for baggage.  We saw the signs about not taking strollers on escalators, but we couldn’t find the elevator, so we got on. My husband got on first.  As I pushed the stroller onto the escalator, and held onto the handles to keep it steady, the 3-year-old panicked and refused to get on! I had forgotten he was unfamiliar with escalators! Before I could grab his hand, I was heading down the huge and steep escalator with the stroller, further and further away from my little boy, while the long, springy leash got tighter and tighter. Two women got on between me and my little boy and stared at the tightening leash as I cried out to my child to get on the escalator. I didn’t dare let go of the stroller. I couldn’t get the leash unfastened. I was absolutely panicked.

From the opposite side of the lobby, a young father saw what was happening. I will never forget how, without hesitation, he sprinted at top speed across the lobby, picked up my toddler, and ran down the escalator, shoving past the two gawking women to return my child to me. He ran as if it were his own child.  He sat there on the escalator steps with his elbow crooked around my little man, panting and heaving.  He didn’t point out how we should have known better than to take a stroller on an escalator. He helped my boy off the escalator, caught his breath, and turned around to go back up again.

Many times in their lives, parents will find themselves in metaphorically similar situations--the gap widening between them and their child--and they will feel their hands tied. When other people's children are at risk, we have the obligation to rescue.


As parents:

Stay close to the Spirit. First of all, be extremely sensitive to your personal level of spirituality in any moment.  Don’t lose the Spirit by being reactive, defensive, judgmental, or getting angry.  Use your knowledge and spirituality to raise theirs, not to increase the gap between you.

Pray specifically.  Seek the spirit so you can pray specific prayers that will be answered to help them take miniscule but forward steps.

Elevate their spirituality. Reading the scriptures isn't the only way to feel the Spirit. Playing games and laughing together can elevate the spirit. Reminiscing about loved relatives can teach gospel principles in a non-confrontational way. Sharing family history with our youth can give them a sense of belonging and identity. Do activities that have the highest level of spirituality they can tolerate.

Form links.  Look for ways to form links between yourself and them. Make their interests yours. If they eat vegan, make some really great vegan recipes. If there is a vacation spot they are interested in, go there together. If they have a favorite treat keep it around. Text them. Do things they love to do.

Teach through environment.  Put up scriptures and great quotes in your home.  Youth can read them without having to interact about them, and they will likely absorb them bit by bit.  Both my oldest child and my youngest child (16 years apart) when asked for their favorite scriptures, repeated word-for-word a scripture which I had on display in the home, although we had never specifically focused on them.  Use pictures, books, movies, and laughter to create an uplifting environment in your home.

As ward mentors:

Know them.  Do you know the name of every young man and young woman in the ward?  Do you stop to talk with them?  Or do you consider it to only be the duty of their leaders?  I would like to challenge you to learn every name, and which parents they belong to, and then use those names to interact with them.

Mentor them.  In one ward, Melchizedek priesthood members are actually assigned to mentor specific Aaronic priesthood members. They are also assigned to learn all the names of all the youth in the ward. We don’t have to wait for the ward to make assignments, though. We can assign ourselves to the youth. 

Encourage them.  Kids often have feelings of being put down, criticized, feeling inadequate at school and among their peers.  We must make church and home a safe haven, a place where they feel loved and valued. Make sure they feel better when they are around you.  Bring attention to what they are doing right.  Express confidence that they can achieve their goals.

Fear not.  Remember “there is no fear in love.”  If you are afraid of them, you cannot love them.  

President Uchtdorf said, “I hope that we welcome and love all of God’s children, including those who might dress, look, speak, or just do things differently. It is not good to make others feel as though they are deficient. Let us lift those around us. Let us extend a welcoming hand….

“We know from modern revelation that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”4 We cannot gauge the worth of another soul any more than we can measure the span of the universe. Every person we meet is a VIP to our Heavenly Father. Once we understand that, we can begin to understand how we should treat our fellowmen.

“One woman who had been through years of trial and sorrow said through her tears, “I have come to realize that I am like an old 20-dollar bill—crumpled, torn, dirty, abused, and scarred. But…I am still worth the full 20 dollars.”

“With this in mind, let our hearts and hands be stretched out in compassion toward others, for everyone is walking his or her own difficult path. As disciples of Jesus Christ, our Master, we are called to support and heal rather than condemn.” (Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “You Are My Hands,” April 2010 Conference)

Practice greeting everyone you meet straight-on with eye contact and a smile, particularly if they have an appearance that makes you uncomfortable. Remind yourself it is another chance to practice seeing the child of God in every individual, another chance to prove that religious people are not hypocrites, another chance to let them feel the influence of the Spirit (which will be with you if you are filled with love). Shocking apparel is frequently a cover-up for a low self-image. Remember that everyone you meet is a child of God, and everyone in your family and ward is of the House of Israel, the “believing blood,” with the promises of the Father planted in their hearts. 

No comments: