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Lesson 24 Class Preparation Material: The Prophet Joseph Smith—A Choice Seer
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“Lesson 24 Class Preparation Material: The Prophet Joseph Smith—A Choice Seer,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material (2019)

“Lesson 24 Class Preparation Material,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material

Lesson 24 Class Preparation Material

The Prophet Joseph Smith—A Choice Seer

Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration

The Lord described the Prophet Joseph Smith as “a choice seer” who would bring people to a knowledge of the Lord’s covenants (2 Nephi 3:7–8). Yet from the very beginning of the Restoration, Joseph Smith acknowledged his feelings of inadequacy. As you study this material, consider how you might respond with faith to callings from the Lord, despite your weakness. Consider also how you can respond to those who would criticize Joseph Smith because of his weakness.

Section 1

What can I learn from Joseph Smith about my own ability to serve the Lord?

As a young man, Joseph Smith felt overwhelmed with his calling from the Lord. He said of himself:

Brother Joseph

I stood alone, an unlearned youth, to combat the worldly wisdom … with a new revelation. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 60)

I was an obscure boy, … and my circumstances in life [were] such as to make [me] a boy of no consequence in the world … who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by [my] daily labor. (Joseph Smith—History 1:22–23)

If Any of You Lack Wisdom     (Joseph Smith History 1:11, James 1:5)

Joseph thought it was “very strange” that “men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution” (Joseph Smith—History 1:22–23).

Imagine the feelings Joseph may have had as he translated 2 Nephi 3 in the Book of Mormon and learned from Lehi that Joseph of Egypt prophesied of a “choice seer” in the latter days.

Read the Scriptures Icon

Study in Preparation for Class

Read 2 Nephi 3:7, 11, 13.

In a later revelation the Lord explained one reason why He had chosen and called Joseph to be the prophet of the Restoration:

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, I am well pleased with your offering … ; for unto this end have I raised you up, that I might show forth my wisdom through the weak things of the earth. (Doctrine and Covenants 124:1)

Commenting on the scripture passage from 2 Nephi 3, Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Seventy taught:

Nash, Marcus B.

It may seem counterintuitive that the Lord would call upon the weak to accomplish a mighty work. Yet those who recognize their weakness can be moved by that very weakness to seek the Lord’s strength. Those who thus humble themselves in faith will be strengthened by Him who has all power in heaven and earth (see Matthew 28:18; Mosiah 4:9).

From the time of his youth, Joseph Smith approached the Lord on these terms. …

Joseph described himself as “an obscure boy … who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor” (Joseph Smith—History 1:23). He was born into a low social stratum with limited formal education. …

Joseph felt so keenly his lack of education that he once lamented being trapped in “the little narrow prison almost as it were totel [sic] darkness of paper pen and ink and a crooked broken scattered and imperfect language.” Despite this, the Lord called him to translate the Book of Mormon—all 588 pages of it as originally published—which he did in less than 90 days! …

Yes, a theme of the Book of Mormon—and the Prophet Joseph’s life—is that the weak who humbly seek the Lord in faith are made strong, even mighty, in the work of the Lord. This strengthening will occur even in seemingly small things. …

… There is another, more personal lesson: if we, like Joseph, will recognize our weakness and turn in faith to the Lord with all of our heart, determined to do His will, we too will be made strong out of weakness. This does not necessarily mean that the weakness is erased in mortality—but it does mean that such an individual will be made strong by God. (“Joseph Smith: Strength Out of Weakness,” Ensign, Dec. 2017, 55–56, 58)

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Ponder in Preparation for Class

What can you learn from the Lord calling Joseph Smith, a mortal with weaknesses, and then strengthening Joseph to do His work?

Section 2

What did those who were closely acquainted with Joseph Smith say about him and his character?

The Lord declared to Joseph of Egypt that his descendants would highly esteem the Prophet of the Restoration (see 2 Nephi 3:7). President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency declared:

Dallin H. Oaks Official Portrait 2018

Men who knew Joseph best and stood closest to him in Church leadership loved and sustained him as a prophet. His brother Hyrum chose to die at his side. John Taylor, also with him when he was murdered, said: “I testify before God, angels, and men, that he was a good, honorable, virtuous man … —that his private and public character was unimpeachable—and that he lived and died as a man of God” (The Gospel Kingdom, [1987], 355; see also D&C 135:3). Brigham Young declared: “I do not think that a man lives on the earth that knew [Joseph Smith] any better than I did; and I am bold to say that, Jesus Christ excepted, no better man ever lived or does live upon this earth” (in Journal of Discourses, 9:332). (Dallin H. Oaks, “Joseph, The Man and the Prophet,” Ensign, May 1996, 71)

Jane Snyder Richards said of Joseph’s personality and character:

Jane Snyder Richards 1832 - 1912

[Joseph Smith] was one of the most engaging personalities it has ever been my good fortune to meet. … As Seer and Revelator he was fearless and outspoken, yet humble, never considering that he was more than the mouth-piece, through whom God spoke. As the Leader of his people he was ever active and progressive but always modest and considerate of them and their trying circumstances. (Jane Snyder Richards, in “Joseph Smith, the Prophet,” Young Woman’s Journal, Dec. 1905, 550)

Edwin Holden recounted that the Prophet was filled with the love of God, eager to lift and bless others:

Edwin Holden

In 1838 Joseph and some of the young men were playing various out-door games, among which was a game of ball. By and by they began to get weary. He saw it, and calling them together he said: “Let us build a log cabin.” So off they went, Joseph and the young men, to build a log cabin for a widow woman. Such was Joseph’s way, always assisting in whatever he could. (The Juvenile Instructor, Mar. 1, 1892, 153)

Eliza R. Snow wrote of the Prophet’s humility and integrity:

Snow, Eliza R.

I resided in the family of Joseph Smith, and taught his family school, and had ample opportunity to mark his “daily walk and conversation,” as a prophet of God; and the more I became acquainted with him, the more I appreciated him as such. … In his devotions he was as humble as a little child. (Eliza R. Snow, “Sketch of My Life,” Relief Society Magazine, Mar. 1944, 136)

Mary Frost Adams remembered one of Joseph’s kind deeds:

While Joseph was mayor of Nauvoo, a black Latter-day Saint named Anthony was arrested for selling liquor on the Sabbath, which was against the law. Anthony had done so to raise money to purchase the freedom of his child who was a slave in the South. He had purchased his wife’s and his own liberty and now wanted to bring their child to join them. Despite the worthiness of Anthony’s cause, the Prophet said, “I am sorry, Anthony, but the law must be observed, and we will have to impose a fine.” However, “the next day Brother Joseph presented Anthony with a fine horse, directing him to sell it, and use the money obtained for the purchase of the child.” (“Joseph Smith, the Prophet,” Young Woman’s Journal, Dec. 1906, 538)

Symbols

Ponder in Preparation for Class

What do you learn about Joseph Smith’s character from the accounts of those who knew him? What feelings and testimony do you have about the Prophet Joseph Smith?

Section 3

How should I respond when I encounter negative information about the Prophet Joseph Smith?

Even as Joseph Smith’s work to restore the gospel was barely beginning, it was prophesied that many would speak against him and accuse him of evil deeds and motives. Joseph Smith recorded in his history a prophecy delivered by the angel Moroni when he appeared to Joseph in 1823. At that time, Joseph was just 17 years old.

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Study in Preparation for Class

Study Joseph Smith—History 1:33.

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles suggested ways Latter-day Saints might respond to the criticisms against the Prophet Joseph Smith:

Neil L. Andersen

Should we be surprised with the evil spoken against [Joseph Smith]? The Apostle Paul was called mad and deranged [see Acts 26:24]. Our Beloved Savior, the Son of God, was labeled gluttonous, a winebibber, and possessed of a devil [see Matthew 11:19; John 10:20]. …

Many of those who dismiss the work of the Restoration simply do not believe that heavenly beings speak to men on earth. Impossible, they say, that golden plates were delivered by an angel and translated by the power of God. From that disbelief, they quickly reject Joseph’s testimony, and a few unfortunately sink to discrediting the Prophet’s life and slandering his character. …

To questions about Joseph’s character, we might share the words of thousands who knew him personally and who gave their lives for the work he helped establish. …

We might remind the sincere inquirer that Internet information does not have a “truth” filter. Some information, no matter how convincing, is simply not true. …

We might remind the inquirer that some information about Joseph, while true, may be presented completely out of context to his own day and situation. …

Each believer needs a spiritual confirmation of the divine mission and character of the Prophet Joseph Smith. This is true for every generation. Spiritual questions deserve spiritual answers from God. …

A testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith can come differently to each of us. It may come as you kneel in prayer, asking God to confirm that he was a true prophet. It may come as you read the Prophet’s account of the First Vision. A testimony may distill upon your soul as you read the Book of Mormon again and again. … With faith and real intent, your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith will strengthen. (Neil L. Andersen, “Joseph Smith,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 28–30)

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Ponder in Preparation for Class

Why do you think that it is important to include a study of reliable sources along with prayer when seeking to answer questions about Joseph Smith and his prophetic mission? Why do you think that questions about Joseph Smith and his prophetic mission deserve spiritual answers from God?