Joseph’s History

Joseph Smith wrote this counsel in a letter to the church in March 1834:

[T]he commandments of our Lord, we hope, are constantly revolving in your hearts, teaching you, not only his will in proclaiming his gospel, but his meekness and perfect walk before all, even in those times of sever persecutions and abuse which were heaped upon him by a wicked and adulterous generation. Remember, brethren, that he has called you unto holiness; and need we say, to be like him in purity? How wise; how holy; how chaste, and how perfect, then, you ought to conduct yourself in his sight; remember too, that his eyes are continually upon you. ( JS Papers, Documents, Vol. 3, p. 474.)

This is consistent with his many other letters and public sermons. He denounced sexual impurity and promoted chastity in word, deed and thought.

In that same letter he wrote:

[T]hough we cannot claim these promises which were made to the ancients …we can approach the Father in the name of Christ as they approached him, and for ourselves obtain the same promises. These promises, when obtained, if ever by us, will not be because Peter, John and the other apostles, with the churches at Sardis, Purgamos, Philadelphia, and elsewhere, walked in the fear of God and had power and faith to prevail and obtain them; but it will be because we, ourselves, have faith and approach him in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, even as they did; and when these promises are obtained, they will be promises directly to us, or they will do us no good; communicated for our benefit; being our own property, (through the gift of God,) earned by our own diligence in keeping his commandments, and walking uprightly before him.  (Id., pp. 483-484, italics in original.)

This explanation is consistent with Lectures on Faith. He urged us, like the ancients, to all approach God. He believed the religion of antiquity could be lived again by us.

In 1839, the Lord predicted the following regarding Joseph: “fools shall have [him] in derision, and hell shall rage against [him]; While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under [his] hand.” (D&C 122:1-2.)

More than two centuries after his birth, he remains controversial and misunderstood. Even those who acknowledge him to be a prophet fail to understand the man. His legacy was entrusted to a group of people in Nauvoo. In his last general conference, April 1844 he said this about the members in Nauvoo:

You don’t know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don’t blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have believed it myself. I never did harm any man since I was born into the world. My voice is always for peace. …When I am called by the trump of the archangel and weighed in the balance, you will know me then. (TPJS, pp. 361-362.)

If those he lived among never knew him, then what they bequeathed to us only makes our challenge to understand him even greater. Many people, even believing Mormons, attribute to him the worst of malignant conduct. They believe him to be morally corrupt, lacking virtue, an egomaniac and a liar. Can anything good come from a man such as that? Fools hold Joseph in derision still.

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