Knowing Joseph Smith lead us to understanding the restoration of the Church of God. Joseph Smith, born of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, was a boy who lived in New York State, where various religions claimed to have the truth. Even his family joined several religions so young Joseph was confused which one to join. His family was religious; however, they were not certain if the denominations they joined have the fullness of the gospel. In his confusion he wrote:
So great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was … to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong … In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?
While he searched for truth with these thoughts in mind, he turned to the words in the Bible and he came across a verse in the Book of John that reads, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5) This verse made a very strong impression on him that he desired to ask the truth from God. In the spring of 1820, he humbled himself in prayer and supplication to know which sect to join. He wrote, continuing the verses in Joseph Smith – History chapter 1 verses 16-17, describing his experience:
“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me [ … ] When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other-This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
In this vision, he was instructed not to join any denomination since none had the fullness of the gospel. This does not mean that everyone was evil and did not believed in Christ. It just means that they did not have the fullness of the gospel or the priesthood authority to baptize and perform other saving ordinances.
Like the times of old, the Lord called Joseph Smith to be the prophet of this last dispensation. He was visited and instructed by a heavenly messenger named Moroni to recover a book which contains the fullness of the gospel. Upon obtaining the book written in gold plates, he was commanded to translate the book in English language. Having these gold plates in his hands, every stratagem was devised to get the plates from him to get rich and to alter the sacred truths written on it. However, with Joseph’s faithfulness, the plates remained safe in his hands until he finished translating the book.
Joseph Smith Jr. was called by the Lord to establish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “John the Baptist appeared and conferred upon Joseph Smith and his associate Oliver Cowdery the Aaronic Priesthood, which includes the authority to perform the ordinance of baptism. Peter, James and John (three of Christ’s original Apostles) appeared and conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, restoring the same authority given to Christ’s Apostles anciently.” (Preach My Gospel, p. 37) These priesthoods have been conferred to every living prophet after Joseph Smith until today.
Aside from his role in the Church, he was also a husband and a father. Although he was busy with his responsibilities as the prophet of the Church, he did not fail to give time to strengthen his relationship with his family. In times of persecution and imprisonment, his family was always in his thoughts. He exemplified the teachings of the Church on the importance of family in this life and the life to come.
He was persecuted and murdered while steadfastly holding on to the gospel of Jesus Christ that it was written of him, “”he lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and . . . has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3) He was a prophet, seer and revelator. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not worship him but recognize his faith and devotion on the restoration of the fullness of the gospel in this last dispensation. Knowing Joseph Smith brings us to an understand that there is a God and He lives and loves us and that there is a true Church He wants His children to know.