How Could Joseph Know?
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“How Could Joseph Know?” Ensign, Feb. 1972, 8

How Could Joseph Know?

1829–1830

Let us go back in our imaginations

To Samuel H. Smith, doubting, wondering

When first hearing,

Who prayed with faith and had his prayer

Answered to his satisfaction; and who,

When asking what he might do, was told

That the Book of Mormon needed selling;

That people needed telling

About this witness of the Son of God.

Isn’t it odd

That such important things

As witnesses for God

Have been brought forth

By simple words of simple men,

Whose simple faith

Inspired them to walk

The endless miles

To bear the witness

Man to man?

And so Samuel,

Through heat or cold,

Sun or storms,

Walked the country roads,

Talking over the top rails

Of worm fences

To farmers,

Or, sitting in their cabins

Waiting for a meager lunchtime meal,

Bore witness of the truth.

This man did noble things,

Not knowing what would come of them,

But knowing in his heart that

What he did was right before

The Lord. The Spirit burned.

He was not eloquent. His words

Did not catch fire through the countryside,

But some of those he met were stirred

To want to read the book.

Some call it curiosity.

Most wanted but to prove it false

And read it through to find its flaws,

Not thinking that a warning

From the Lord was meant for them:

And now if there are faults

They are mistakes of men,

Wherefore

Condemn not the things of God …

Phinehas Young heard Samuel testify:

Here is a book, sir! It is an account

Of the dealings of God in ancient America.

It was translated by the gift and power of God

By my brother Joseph Smith, Jr.,

Who is a prophet; and if you’ll read it

With a sincere heart and ask God if it is true,

You’ll know its truth, borne

By the Holy Ghost.

Phinehas bought the book,

Intent on proving it to be untrue—

A false statement, if you please—

But reading it convinced him

Of its truth. He passed it

To his father, and to Joseph,

And to Brigham, and to John,

And to Lorenzo and his sisters five;

The whole Young family joined

The Church of Jesus Christ.

What could that stripling youth

Named Joseph Smith

Have learned about the world

From having spent six months

In one-room rural schools

In New York State?

What could a statement that

God’s work will fill the earth

Have meant to his young mind?

The countries of the earth

Were only names to him,

And some he’d never even

Heard about.

And none of them he’d ever seen

Or ever would he see.His earthly outlook was the forest aisle.

How far can young men see

In such a place?

Or down a country road

Which turns a bend

And then is out of sight?

How much of earth is seen

From gazing out across a field

Half filled with stumps of trees

But newly felled? The worm fence

Is the end of such a view.

Looking up at night, he’d see

The stars that other men could see,

Their muted light his awe

And wonderment, but giving

Nothing of a hint of how they’re made,

Or what they mean,

And yet he spoke the words

Of simple truth which God inspired:

This gospel of the kingdom

Will roll forth

Until it fills the earth

As with a flood,

And Christ’s work is complete.

We do not comprehend that he

Could see the end of its unfolding

Or know just what each step

And turn might bring.

His thoughts were seeds

Inspired of God

For planting by his sowing.

He, hearing,

Spoke the word of God

Which brought about the growing.

Let Oliver, and John, and Parley, too,

Go west, and to the borders of the Lamanites.

And what if it is wintertime

And snow is covering the land!

Stand true, and go! Come rain

Or snow. The God who sees

The sparrow fall

Will care for you.

There was that day in 1835

When Oliver gave unto the Twelve

Their charge. He wept at times,

And through his tears the inspiration

Shone as with a light.

These twelve—such simple men,

Brought out of field and forest

To bear the name of Christ,

Their ignorance profound.

Yet they leaped forward

With great strides

When once the mantle fell

Upon their shoulders, broad

From felling trees and turning sod.

The Spirit of their God

Was in their hearts.

They started east, fanning out

In New York State,

Then meeting once again

In places they agreed upon

In conferences.

These twelve culled out of

Old New England the best she had

Of men who thirsted hard

To serve their God.

This was their first mission,

These new twelve witnesses

To Christ’s own church.

Out to the world the infant church

Sent men to bear the word.

Let Heber Kimball go to England,

And Willard Richards too.

There awaits a harvest

Greater far than they can do.

And let the twelve follow after

And bind the sheaves from

Seed thus sown.

Then with the twelve away

The prophet called on other men

To go and warn the world—

Jamaica, South America,

Germany, France, and Italy.

The Friendly Islands far across

The sea.

All were to hear the word,

The blessed word,

A startling, pointed thing.

Orson Hyde was sent to dedicate

The land of Palestine.

The restoration was as prophesied.

No man who heard could fail a call

To take the word

Abroad among the nations,

And soon among the Saints the world was known

As few men know it.

The poor, the plain, from nations came

With all their native skill

To bring the knowledge of the world

To Zion’s hill.