As a young boy, I enjoyed reading faith-promoting experiences of our prophets when they were young. One of my favorite experiences comes from the life of President Joseph F. Smith, sixth President of the Church. Joseph F. Smith was raised in a single-parent home. His father, Hyrum, was martyred at Carthage Jail with the Prophet Joseph Smith. Little Joseph F. was only six years old at the time.
Years later, at the age of 19, Joseph F. Smith was returning home from a mission with a group of other missionaries. His wagon-train journey took him through a dangerous area where enemies of the Church had vowed to kill the Mormons.
I quote now from a biography of President Smith:
“One day after the little company of wagons had … made their camp, a company of drunken men rode into the camp on horseback, cursing and swearing and threatening to kill any ‘Mormons’ that came within their path. … Some of the brethren when they heard them coming had cautiously gone into the brush down the creek, out of sight. … Joseph F. was a little distance from the camp gathering wood for the fire when these men rode up. When he saw them, he said, his first thought was to do what the other brethren had done, and seek shelter in the trees and in flight. Then the thought came to him, ‘Why should I run from these fellows?’ With that thought in mind he boldly marched up with his arms full of wood to the campfire. As he was about to deposit his wood, one of the ruffians, still with his pistols in his hands and pointing at the youthful Elder, and cursing as only a drunken rascal can, declaring that it was his duty to exterminate every ‘Mormon’ he should meet, demanded in a loud, angry voice, ‘Are you a “Mormon”?’
“Without a moment of hesitation and looking the ruffian in the eye, Joseph F. Smith boldly answered, ‘Yes, siree; dyed in the wool; true blue, through and through.’
“The answer was given boldly and without any sign of fear, which completely disarmed the belligerent man, and in his bewilderment, he grasped the missionary by the hand and said: “‘Well, you are the —— —— pleasantest man I ever met! Shake, young fellow, I am glad to see a man that stands up for his convictions.’
“Joseph F. [Smith] said in later years that he fully expected to receive the charge from this man’s pistols, but he could take no other course even though it seemed that his death was to be the result.”1
This incredible act of courage has been an inspiration to me over the years. Joseph F. Smith was unafraid to stand up and be true—“true to the faith that [his] parents [had] cherished” and “true to the truth for which martyrs have perished.”2 And yes, his father, Hyrum, was one of those martyrs.
Our test of faith in this life may never be to defend our convictions while staring down the barrel of an evil man’s gun. More likely, it will be to live the gospel with conviction when there are so many distractions and enticing roads that lead nowhere. We need to know with certainty, as President Smith did, who we are and why we are here.
Our beloved prophet President Russell M. Nelson has often reminded us who we are. He said: “We are children of God. Our potential is unlimited. Our inheritance is sacred. May we always honor that heritage—in every thought and deed.”3
The sons of Mosiah were reminded by an angel, in a resounding way, of God’s great plan of happiness. Their conversion and subsequent service in the kingdom of God is inspiring. They stand as powerful examples of overcoming, repenting, serving, and succeeding. “They were men of sound understanding”4 who learned how to open the windows of heaven. And what were the keys to their spiritual success? Listen to this description from Alma 17:2–3:
“They had searched the scriptures diligently. …
“… They had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting … and when they taught”—I would add, when they served—they did so “with power and authority of God.”
This is a great pattern for us to follow. Simply do three things each day:
Read the scriptures (I would recommend, specifically, reading the Book of Mormon).
Pray individually and as families.
Find someone to serve. Make a positive difference in someone else’s life. (There are so many ways to do this—a kind act, a thoughtful word, even a smile can brighten someone’s day.)
These simple measures, if done each day, will help us to stay on the covenant path.
As we do these simple things, we will be strengthened in our desire to enter the house of the Lord. We will be spiritually enlightened as we partake of the sacrament each week. We will become devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. We will become covenant keepers.
Let us strive each day to remember that we are sons and daughters of God and let us “always remember Him.”5