When I was a freshman at BYU, and straight out of being raised “in the mission field” of vast California, I was leaving a religion class and chanced upon this scene:
There was a boy, in the JSB, off a corridor in a small little courtyard area that contained a statue of Joseph Smith. From a way off, I could see this boy looking intently at the statue and just as I passed, he stepped up and hugged it.
My first thought:
“Oh my gosh, get me out of crazy town!”
And then a few days later, this:
“I wonder what would compel a person to hug a statue of Joseph Smith?”
True, you would have to be the statue-hugging type. But aside from that, you would have to be someone with a deep love and gratitude for Joseph Smith—a love and gratitude that I somehow lacked.
As I read the Book of Mormon, I never doubted its truthfulness. But the Joseph Smith history was always such a fantastical aspect of it that I mostly just ignored it or asked people to please not tell me any “interesting” tidbits they found in their own study of his life—lest I grow squeamish.
And I wasn’t alone. It seemed I could find forum anywhere to freak out about polygamy or weird Joseph Smith trivia.
One contingent urged me to read Rough Stone Rolling; another contingent advised against it.
And one thought plagued me: had I been a contemporary to Joseph Smith, would I have believed him and followed? Or would I have thought he was the Mayor of crazy town?
There were a few years in there spent sort of ignoring it; sort of just having faith in it—if I believed The Book of Mormon was true after all, it would make sense that I thought the Joseph Smith part was true. So I just sort of became calm about it—and faithful to that calm. If ever a question came up in my heart, I took it to my God in prayer and not to the lunch table of my girlfriends because the nit-picky, back-and-forth stuff sometimes clouds the religion for me. Why over-analyze the little things when in a quiet heart the Spirit will testify what’s true?
And in my quiet heart this is true:
That it can be okay to not understand all things, that the inexplicable and the why can be there too, cozy companions with the precepts that offer me no trouble. I know Joseph Smith was a true Prophet of God, and though it’s come for me in baby steps, it has still come. And my gratitude for him has reached massive depths as I need and need and NEED the Gospel in my life more every day.
So, in short: love Joseph Smith. Still would not hug his statue.
How did you gain your testimony of Joseph Smith? Or, if you’ve had hang-ups in the past about certain aspects of the Gospel, how did you overcome them?