I don’t usually go all preachy at Segullah, but I feel the need to talk about my testimony of Joseph Smith, and if I’m more scripture-laden than usual, please forgive me. I’ve been evaluating and thinking about my testimony of him, and I feel that witnessing right now is important enough that I commit the blogging sin of preachiness for a minute.
A while ago I posted on the idea of remembering mercy. I am still stuck on that idea, as it seems to be jumping out at me every time I read the Book of Mormon. It’s in 1 Nephi 1:20, as Nephi wants us to understand that he’s telling us this story, which Mormon placed at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, that we may see God’s mercy in his life (and, if we liken the scriptures to ourselves, in our own lives):
But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.
And in Moroni 10:3, as Moroni finishes his final exhortation, but before he invites everyone to pray about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon:
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.
Still more examples: 1 Nephi 17, in which Nephi reminds his doubting brothers of God’s previous power in delivering the children of Israel, hoping to help them have faith in his mercies for their present trial of building the boat; Alma 5:4-6, in which Alma wants the people to remember God’s mercy to their fathers so that they will be spiritually prepared to be called to repentance in the rest of the hardline exhortations given in Alma 5; Alma 32:22, in which Alma wants the poor Zoramites to remember God’s mercy before they learn to have faith.
Remembering mercy, then, seems to be a core principle in the development of faith. We must remember how merciful God is, in so many ways, before our hearts can be softened enough to believe. It’s fundamental. And also really hard.
For me, anyway. As I said, I’ve been thinking specifically this weekend about my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, after attending a powerful funeral of a great man who devoted his life to witnessing of the restored gospel. I have been blessed many times with a spiritual witness that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God, and I think that’s part of the mercy I need to remember when I think of Joseph Smith: God’s mercy to me in sending the Spirit to testify. I think of the play I wrote a few years ago for our ward’s Joseph Smith Commemoration, and the Spirit that filled the room when a fourteen-year-old boy in our ward acted out the First Vision. I think of the many, many times on my mission when I began “Vi una columna de luz” and everything in the room hushed, as the Spirit witnessed to me and my investigators that this vision was true. I think of the deep gratitude I have for the Book of Mormon, translated by Joseph Smith, and the strength and comfort it has given me. I think of the blessings of temple ordinances restored through Joseph Smith, and the power they have given me. Truly the Lord has been merciful to me as He has witnessed, repeatedly, through his Spirit, that Joseph Smith was a prophet.
And yet I forget. Unless I remind myself, it’s easy to allow the story of the First Vision to be a footnote rather than a foundation, something I’d prefer to hide away or not have to dwell on or explain. Because, as he himself admitted, Joseph was not perfect, and because there are things about his life I do not understand.
This is where the second part of remembering God’s mercy enters. I think Elder Holland’s words regarding the mercy we need towards our leaders apply here:
So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we.
If there is any leader whose human frailty I should be kind towards, it is Joseph Smith, because the restored gospel has blessed me in so many, many ways.
I believe that the Adversary has it out for Joseph Smith, and for each person’s testimony of Joseph Smith, because it is so fundamental to our faith (I still remember my MTC teacher telling me that every doubt I would encounter on my mission could be resolved through the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith. She was absolutely right.) And the only way I can think of to combat those attacks is to remember God’s mercy. To remember the whispers of the Spirit telling me, over and over, that Joseph Smith is a prophet. To remember and count the many blessings I have received through the restoration of the gospel. To remember that I must be merciful to my leaders, because they are doing the best they can to serve God. Remembering mercy softens my heart, helps me believe, places me on the solid foundation I need.
What strengthens your testimony of Joseph Smith the prophet? What helps you remember mercy and build faith?
(First Vision by Minerva Teichert)