Thomas S. Monson is the prophet of the Mormons today, but he loves to share stories and lessons from the Mormons’ very first prophet, Joseph Smith.The long-awaited day of restoration did indeed come. But let us review that significant event in the history of the world by recalling the testimony of the plowboy who became a prophet, the witness who was there-even Joseph Smith.
Describing his experience, Joseph said: “I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, … If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” 17
“When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other-This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” 18
The Father and the Son, Jesus Christ, had appeared to Joseph Smith. The morning of the dispensation of the fulness of times had come, dispelling the darkness of the long generations of spiritual night.
Volumes have been written concerning the life and accomplishments of Joseph Smith, but for our purposes here today perhaps a highlight or two will suffice: He was visited by the angel Moroni. He translated, from the precious plates to which he was directed, the Book of Mormon, with its new witness of Christ to all the world. He was the instrument in the hands of the Lord through whom came mighty revelations pertaining to the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the course of his ministry he was visited by John the Baptist, Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, and John, that the restoration of all things might be accomplished. He endured persecution; he suffered grievously, as did his followers. He trusted in God. He was true to his prophetic calling. He commenced a marvelous missionary effort to the entire world, which today brings light and truth to the souls of mankind. At length, Joseph Smith died the martyr’s death, as did his brother Hyrum.
(Thomas S. Monson, “They Showed the Way,” Ensign, May 1997, 50)
No description of models for us to follow would be complete without including Joseph Smith, the first prophet of this dispensation. When but 14 years of age, this courageous young man entered a grove of trees, which later would be called sacred, and received an answer to his sincere prayer.
There followed for Joseph unrelenting persecution as he related to others the account of the glorious vision he received in that grove. Although he was ridiculed and scorned, he stood firm. Said he, “I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it.” 17
Step by step, facing opposition at nearly every turn and yet always guided by the hand of the Lord, Joseph organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He proved courageous in all that he did.
(Thomas S. Monson, “They Marked the Path to Follow,” Ensign, Oct 2007, 4-9)
The Prophet Joseph Smith faced temptation. Can you imagine the ridicule, the scorn, the mocking that must have been heaped upon him as he declared that he had seen a vision? I suppose it became almost unbearable for the boy. He no doubt knew that it would be easier to retract his statements concerning the vision and just get on with a normal life. He did not, however, give in. These are his words: “I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true. … I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it.” Joseph Smith taught courage by example. He faced temptation and withstood it.
Thomas S. Monson, “Be Thou an Example,” Ensign, May 2005, 112
The call of duty came to John E. Page when the Prophet Joseph Smith extended to him a call to serve as a missionary. John E. Page “murmured” and responded, “Brother Joseph, I can’t go on a mission to Canada. I don’t even have a coat to wear.”
The Prophet Joseph removed his own coat, handed it to Brother Page, and said, “Here, take this and the Lord will bless you.” John E. Page went on that mission to Canada and, during a two-year period, walked five thousand miles and baptized six hundred people. (See Andrew Jenson, “John E. Page,” The Historical Record, 5:57.)
Thomas S. Monson, “The Call of Duty,” Ensign, May 1986, 37
When Joseph was about six or seven years old, he and his brothers and sisters were stricken with typhus fever. Although the others recovered readily, Joseph was left with a painful sore on his leg. The doctors, using the best medicine they had, treated him, and yet the sore persisted. In order to save Joseph’s life, they said, he would have to lose his leg. Thankfully, however, soon after that diagnosis, the doctors returned to the Smith home and reported that there was a new procedure which might save Joseph’s leg. They wanted to operate immediately and had brought some cord with which to tie little Joseph to the bed so that he wouldn’t thrash about, since they had nothing with which to dull the pain. Young Joseph, however, told them, “You won’t need to tie me.”
The doctors suggested he take some brandy or wine so that the pain might not be so severe. “No,” young Joseph replied. “If my father will sit on the bed and hold me in his arms, I will do whatever is necessary.” Joseph Smith Sr. held in his arms his small child, and the doctors removed the diseased piece of bone. Although young Joseph was lame for some time afterward, he was healed. At such a young age and countless other times throughout his life, Joseph Smith taught us courage-by example.
Thomas S. Monson, “The Prophet Joseph Smith: Teacher by Example,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 67