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.
Kathy Wilson says
No Mormon Tabernacle Choir, either. As a descendant of Hyrum, I say “Happy Birthday, Uncle Joseph!” And Merry Christmas to you, Bro. Bytheway and thanks for that wonderful reminder of all we have to rejoice about!
Here is exactly what would have happened: D&C 121: 40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
The work of the Lord will not be frustrated by man. If Joseph hadn’t answered the call, then someone else would have. For all we know someone before Joseph didn’t answer the call.
I too appreciate all the work that Joseph did, I benefit from it everyday. To assume it all rested on Joseph’s shoulders and if he hadn’t accomplished the great work he did we would have nothing, I feel is inconsistent with the teachings of the Lord and how the Lord operates.
Thank You for writing this. A month ago I learned from my daughter who recently turned 40 that she had sent in her papers to resign from the church. A few days later we had a conversation about it and I heard her reasoning and was not surprised after watching her inactivity for the last five years or so. We ended the conversation with just one question from me…”Ashley, do you believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet?” She said “No, I don’t anymore.” Then I said, “Then I have no more questions to ask.” That conversation ended on a wonderful note considering the topic and I wished her and the others who have left the church recently God’s blessings on them as they search for their joy and their peace in other ways and in other places.
So as you have indicated above and made perfectly clear, without Joseph Smith, I am not a Mormon, I am not sealed to my husband and children for time and all eternity, I am not currently a Relief Society President over 150 amazing women, I am saving a few bucks by not giving my church 10% in tithing and a few extra percent in fast offerings, and perhaps, I’m watching a little more television because I’m not devoting so much time to serving others and attending meetings.
Perhaps I am more self absorbed, more selfish with my time and money, maybe even more cynical about the world and the people in it.
However, since I am a practicing Mormon baptized in FAITH, BELIEF and KNOWLEDGE and would never deny that Joseph was indeed foreordained, called and set apart to restore The Gospel in its fullness, I cannot imagine and would not want to imagine “what if there were no Joseph Smith?”
There would also not be Warren Jeffs or FLDS church. There would be no pioneers dying on their way to Brigham Young’s theocratic kingdom. There’d be no mountain meadows or Haun’s Mill massacre.
Carolan Holt says
I wouldn’t have my sweet eternal companion. Feeling very blessed. I have several physical disabilities but the Lord is always there to wrap his arms around me during my suffering.
Not only would there be no book of mormon, and no BYU. There also wouldn’t be a mountain meadows massacre, the Mark Hoffman bombings, an Alta View Hospital siege, the Lafferty brothers, discrimination against people of dark skin, suppression of women, and bigotry against the LGBT community. No Extermination Order by Brigham Young of the Native Americans in Utah and Southern Idaho.
Actually I can think of many more upsides if the con man Joseph Smith was not born.
If there were no JS I wouldn’t have been defrauded into giving 120k plus in the last 16 years in tithing based on grossly deceptive and blatantly dishonest representation of material points. Would have made decisions for myself, not wasted time learning made up rituals hijacked from the masons, would not have grown up hating myself for not believing gays are evil or women shouldn’t be equal to men or polygamy feels like utterly repulsive sexually exploitation. Would not have grown up blaming myself for wondering why God would ask us to believe a story so full of holes, hating myself for having normal human desires, hating myself for never being good enough. Wouldn’t have been a child bride so afraid of “messing up” I would rush to marry a complete stranger due to my “inspiration” even though it meant we struggled for years. Wouldn’t have had six kids w no preparation because that’s what righteous people did. Maybe I would have had them- but when I felt able to support them based on my reality not based on hopes his would bless us.
If there were no JS I would have been a good person either way- and since the church didn’t invent heaven and eternal life- if there is such a thing- I’m pretty dang sure 5 million active memebers who followed a man who lied conned cheated stole and romanced his way thru life aren’t the only ones who get a ticket to VIP heaven where families get to stay together. Nay- I think we are all fine With no Joseph smith.
I wouldn’t have been lied to, indoctrinated, and brainwashed and I wouldn’t be suffering from social exile for waking up.
Doesn’t it say multiple times in Doctrine and covenants that if Joseph Smith didn’t restore the gospel he would just call someone in his stead? Don’t get me wrong. Love Joseph Smith but don’t forget God said he would call someone else in his stead if he had to or if JS wasn’t worthy.
Joseph who ?
DonnaLee Wheeler says
Bro. John I have written and published a children’s book which I think would intrigue you, so I would like to send you a copy. How unique are you, your wife, your children, and your friends, and, and, and? My book is addressed to those of the younger world, but is specifically pointed toward helping individuals, particularly those with a low self-worth, appreciate the fact that they are unique.
Thank you for your books and talks. We older children (age 85) appreciate them as much as the younger ones do.