Read the First Presidency’s Testimonies of Joseph Smith, Martyred 174 Years Ago Today

Contributed By Savannah Hopkinson, Church News staff writer

  • 27 June 2018

Statues of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in the Carthage Visitors’ Center.

“I fervently and sincerely declare that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God foreordained from before the foundations of the earth to the mission assigned to him, for which he paid with his life.” —President Russell M. Nelson

Wednesday, June 27, marks the 174th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum.

Just 38 years old when he was killed, Joseph Smith left a legacy as the first prophet of the last dispensation and the first President of the Church. During his lifetime he endured immense personal and public loss, pain, and controversy while establishing the Church and translating the Book of Mormon. In 2015, the Smithsonian magazine named him as one of the most influential Americans.

Apostles and succeeding prophets have continued to testify of Joseph Smith as a prophet, seer, and revelator. Following are quotes from each member of the First Presidency on their personal testimony of Joseph Smith and his divine purpose and legacy.

When the second volume of The Joseph Smith Papers was published, Elder Marlin K. Jensen presented a copy to then-Elder Russell M. Nelson, who remarked that “though Joseph was young and inexperienced, he had been foreordained from before the foundation of the world to be God’s prophet at this particular time.”

Joseph was “tutored, trained, and prepared by heavenly beings,” President Nelson said.

In the 1996 book The Prophet and His Work: Essays from General Authorities on Joseph Smith and the Restoration, President Nelson discussed an opportunity he had to visit Church historical sites, such as Joseph Smith’s birthplace in Vermont, the Sacred Grove, and the Hill Cumorah. While he was there, the Spirit testified to him that “these things are true.”

Portrait of Joseph Smith Jr., titled Praise to the Man.

“I testify not only to the reality that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that this is His Church restored in these latter days, but I fervently and sincerely declare that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God foreordained from before the foundations of the earth to the mission assigned to him, for which he paid with his life,” President Nelson wrote.

President Nelson has also shared his testimony of Joseph Smith’s role as translator of the Book of Mormon.

“I testify that Joseph Smith was and is the prophet of this last dispensation,” he remarked during the October 2017 general conference, just months before becoming the President of the Church. “It was he who, through the gift and power of God, translated this holy book. This is the book that will help to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord” (“The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like without It?”).

President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, shared his testimony of Joseph Smith in an April 1996 general conference talk titled Joseph, the Man and the Prophet.”

It was during his studies at BYU that President Oaks was introduced to History of the Church, an edited compilation of of the writings of Joseph Smith and others. After graduating from law school, he read all seven volumes.

“The man I came to know in this way was not the man I had imagined,” President Oaks remembered. “When I was a boy, growing up in the Church, I imagined the Prophet Joseph to be old and dignified and distant. But the Joseph Smith I met in my reading and personal research was a man of the frontier—young, emotional, dynamic, and so loved and approachable by his people that they often called him ‘Brother Joseph.’”

President Oaks called Joseph Smith “a remarkable man” and bore his testimony of Joseph’s mission.

“Like other faithful Latter-day Saints, I have built my life on the testimony and mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” President Oaks said. “In all of my reading and original research, I have never been dissuaded from my testimony of his prophetic calling and of the gospel and priesthood restoration the Lord initiated through him.”

While at the dedication for the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple, President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, remarked that it was an area rich with Church history and that Joseph Smith once proclaimed his testimony of the First Vision and Restoration of the gospel not far from where the temple now stands, calling the area “a place of connection in history.” (See related story.)

In an October 2003 general conference talk, President Eyring shared his testimony of Joseph Smith, calling him “an example and a teacher of enduring well in faith.”

President Eyring said Joseph Smith taught, among other things, how to pray, to “feast on the scriptures,” to love by serving others, and how to endure.

“I do not worship him, but I thank and love him as the Lord’s prophet of the Restoration,” President Eyring said. “Because of him I feel the Holy Ghost more often in the moments when I try to build the faith of a person in the Lord’s kingdom. And because of what I know of the Prophet Joseph and the scriptures which were revealed through him, I more often feel the love of God for His children and of His for me when I reach down to lift someone up” (“An Enduring Testimony of the Mission of the Prophet Joseph”).