Joseph Smith’s birthday was 210 years ago today. When you think about it, you are reading this blog, from an LDS author because a fourteen year old boy said a prayer. Because of that prayer, and because of all that happened in the Sacred Grove that Spring morning, thousands of people walked across a continent, and many of my facebook friends are their descendants. I suppose we should never underestimate the power of a teenage prayer.
In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey had the opportunity to see what the world would be like if he had never been born. The world was a much different place without a George Bailey.
We could ask a similar question. What if Joseph Smith had never been born? What if Joseph Smith had not been inspired by James 1:5? Or what if he had never gone into the sacred grove to pray? What if that teenage prayer have never been uttered? What would the world be like if there were no Restoration? Perhaps we would believe, like some in the Christian world, that God has done his work, and no longer speaks to prophets. I suppose we might still be wondering if God had forgotten his children on the earth, or if he no longer cared to send prophets among them as he had in the past.
There would be no Book of Mormon, no heroes to read about like Nephi, Alma, Abinadi or Captain Moroni. No evidence that God remembered his people in every nation. There would be no Kirtland, No Jackson County, No Farr West, and no Nauvoo. We wouldn’t have any heroic stories of early church members crossing the plains, and no testimonies of the growth and faith that come from persecution and adversity.
There would be no Restoration of the priesthood, no chance to receive ordinances like baptism, or to take the sacrament from authorized servants. No opportunity to receive blessings of comfort, or blessings of healing. With no priesthood, there would be no priesthood to honor, no extra incentive for men young and old, to keep their lives clean and pure. There would be no missionaries, no elders and sisters, who go out into the world in their youth to teach and testify. No tearful goodbyes and no joyful reunions.
There would be no sealing power, no temple marriage, and in fact, no temples. I suppose we would believe like as many do that husbands and wives and families do not stay together after this life, but that we somehow live singly and separately in heaven (how could it be called heaven without our families?)
There would be no home teaching, no visiting teaching (in some wards that’s the way it is now). No Youth conferences, no Stake conferences or general conferences. No children singing I am a Child of God. – No nursery, no primary, no scouts, Beehives, Mia Maids, or Laurels.
There might be a Salt Lake City, but there wouldn’t be cities and towns with names like Bountiful, Lehi, Nephi, Brigham City, Ephraim, or Heber. No Ensign Peak, No Ensign magazine, no New Era or Friend. No Brigham Young University, which would make the Ute fans happy until they realize there wouldn’t be a University of Utah either. Of course there would be no BYU Salt Lake Center which means I would be out of a job. So I’m really glad there was a Restoration, and not just because I needed a job.
The Restoration was a burst of light after a night of apostasy. The Restoration brought miracles once again to the earth. The Restoration taught us that God is not just an indefinable spirit essence, but a loving Heavenly Father who cares about each one of us. Joseph Smith saw the Father and the Son. He gave his witness that Jesus Christ lives!
And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father (Doctrine and Covenants 76:22-23).
Not everyone believes Joseph Smith’s testimony of Jesus Christ, but we do. What if we’d lived in another time? What if we’d lived in ancient times? Would we have recognized Jesus of Nazareth for who he really was? It’s hard to say. Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave his opinion on that point when he taught:
Who will honor the name of Joseph Smith and accept the gospel restored through his instrumentality We answer: The same people who would have believed the words of the Lord Jesus and the ancient Apostles and prophets had they lived in their day. If you believe the words of Joseph Smith, you would have believed what Jesus and the ancients said. If you reject Joseph Smith and his message, you would have rejected Peter and Paul and their message. (Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, November 1981, p. 48.)
I’m thankful that Joseph Smith was born in 1805, and I’m thankful that as a teenage boy, he said a prayer in 1820. I believe the world is a better place, and I know that my world is better, my decisions have been better, and my life has been better, and my family has been blessed because Joseph Smith was born 210 years ago today.