The Wisdom of President Joseph Fielding Smith

“The Wisdom of President Joseph Fielding Smith,” New Era, July 1972, 21

The Wisdom of President Joseph Fielding Smith

On July 19, 1972, President Joseph Fielding Smith will be ninety-six years old. In honor of the occasion the New Era presents a tribute to our Prophet in select bits of wisdom from his writings, pictures, and scripture.

Priesthood is given us for two purposes, first, that we may ourselves receive exaltation, and, second, that we may be the means of helping others to obtain like blessings. We are informed that if we are worthy of exaltation we are to become like our Father in heaven and our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ. We are to become priests and kings (Rev. 1:6 and Rev. 5:10), and are to have dominion and be given rule. This means responsibility. Now, it is a self-evident truth, that if we do not use the talents given us now and do not exercise the responsibility we have received in this life, that we will not be prepared or worthy to exercise authority and have responsibility there. If such authority is given us here and we have refused to use it, then we surely could have no right to the reward and cannot receive responsibility and power there, for responsibilities then will be many times greater than now. Here we prove ourselves through service as well as through obedience to the law of the Gospel. It is not sufficient that we be good, that is, that we do not violate the law, and only observe the regulations required of laymen in the Church. He that does nothing is good for nothing.

Without question we will have communication with our fellow beings—the children of God throughout all space. Is this impossible? It is not impossible with God. He knows all things, for “all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things,” and this by celestial law! By his infinite power and wisdom our Father governs in the universe; this he can not do unless he is familiar with it. We too shall become like him, possessors of this great knowledge, so that the vastness of the universe will not stand in the way of our becoming acquainted with the children of God in the various parts of this vast empire.

The Lord has made it very clear that we do not have to serve him, but if we seek the blessings of righteousness, we will serve him, and there is no peace nor happiness, no joy nor satisfaction, nor freedom in any other course. Let our love extend, and our righteousness increase, for our own sakes and those who depend upon us.

Some men inherit wealth through the industry of their fathers. Some men are through inheritance raised to worldly thrones, to power, and position, among their fellow men. Some seek for the inheritance of worldly knowledge and renown through the application of their own industry and perseverance; but there is one inheritance which is worth more than all, it is the inheritance of eternal exaltation.

The Scriptures say that eternal life—which is the life possessed by our Eternal Father and his Son Jesus Christ—is the greatest gift of God. Only those shall receive it who are cleansed from all sin. It is promised to those “who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true. They are they who are the church of the Firstborn. They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things.” (D&C 76:53–55.)

The third and highest kingdom—the celestial—is where God and Christ dwell. There are, even in this kingdom, different degrees of glory, but it is the privilege of every member of the Church, who will receive and be true to every covenant and obligation, to gain the exaltation. All who gain the highest exaltation, the Lord has said, are made “equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.” All power is given unto them, they become “gods, even the sons of God, wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” These are made priests and kings.

Perhaps we should wake up to the realization that it is because of the breaking of covenants, especially the new and everlasting covenant, which is the fulness of the Gospel as it has been revealed, that the world is to be consumed by fire and few men left. Since this punishment is to come at the time of the cleansing of the earth when Christ comes again, should not Latter-day Saints take heed unto themselves? We have been given the new and everlasting covenant, and many among us have broken it, and many are now breaking it; therefore all who are guilty of this offense will aid in bringing to pass this destruction in which they will find themselves swept from the earth when the great and dreadful day of the Lord shall come.

It is the duty of the authorities of the Church to speak by inspiration and revelation. If the membership, or any part thereof, should fail to heed the warning or accept the counsel, the instruction which these men in authority give—and especially the one who holds the keys of authority—still it is the duty of these men to give that instruction, even though they may feel it will not be followed. And then the responsibility rests upon the shoulders of those who hear it, and if they refuse to receive it the sin is upon their own heads, and they will have to answer for it.

The Lord said: “Whether [it be] by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

It is the right of every soul to have equal and unrestricted justice before the law, equal rights to worship according to the dictates of conscience and to labor according to his individual inclinations, independently of coercion or compulsion. That this might be, the Lord has said, “I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.”

A person is known as much by his language as he is by the company he keeps. People who swear and profane belong to the same class as do those who think, or leave the impression that they think, that to have a cigaret, cigar, or pipe in their mouth, lends dignity and manliness—do we have to say also womanliness?—to their character. Filthiness in any form is degrading and soul-destroying and should be avoided as a deadly poison by every member of the Church.

When a man confesses that it is hard to keep the commandments of the Lord, he is making a sad confession—that he is a violator of the Gospel law. Habits are easily formed. It is just as easy to form good habits as it is to form evil ones. Of course it is not easy to tell the truth, if you have been a confirmed liar. It is not easy to be honest, if you have formed habits of dishonesty. A man finds it very difficult to pray, if he has never prayed. On the other side, when a man has always been truthful, it is a hard thing for him to lie. If he has always been honest and he does some dishonest thing, his conscience protests very loudly. He will find no peace, except in repentance. If a man has the spirit of prayer, he delights in prayer. It is easy for him to approach the Lord with assurance that his petition will be answered. The paying of tithing is not hard for the man, fully converted to the Gospel, who pays his tenth on all that he receives. So we see the Lord has given us a great truth—his yoke is easy, his burden is light, if we love to do his will!

Only in the temple of the Lord can the fulness of the priesthood be received. Now that temples are on the earth, there is no other place where the endowment and the sealing powers for all eternity can be given. No man can receive the keys of exaltation in any other place.

To obtain eternal life, a person must abide in the law of the Gospel. This great gift cannot be obtained outside of the Church which the Father and the Son have established. It comes only through obedience and willingness to live in humble and constant harmony with the laws of God. It is the duty of the officers of the Church to see that the members so live and are worthy of this blessing.

Photo by Richard Stum

Photos by Grant Williams and Spencer G. Lewis

Photo by Paul Procter