by Elder Neil L. Andersen
Did you know today is Joseph Smith's birthday? He'd be 209 years old, if he were still alive.
He was a pretty amazing man:
The prophets Joseph has been one of the most controversial individuals that has ever lived. His name was and still is "had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues. . . both good and evil were and still are spoken of him among all people."
"Let us offer kindness to those who criticize Joseph Smith, knowing in our own hearts that he was a prophet of God. . . "
Elder Andersen challenges us to do all in our power to first gain our own witness of the Prophet, and then help others to do the same.
"Each believer needs a spiritual confirmation of the divine mission and character of the Prophet Joseph Smith."
"Brothers and sister, let me give you a caution: you won't be of much help to others if your own faith is not securely in place."
He shares the example of the airplane safety video where the flight attendant warns, "If cabin pressure changes, the panels above your seat will open, revealing oxygen masks. If this happens, reach up and pull a mask toward you. Place the mask over your nose and mouth. Slip the elastic strap over your head and adjust the mask if necessary."
"Be sure to adjust your own mask before helping others."
"The negative commentary about the Prophet Joseph Smith will increase as we move toward the Second Coming of the Savior. The half-truths and subtle deceptions will not diminish. There will be family members and friends who will need your help. NOW is the time to adjust your own spiritual mask so that you are prepared to help others who are seeking the truth."
When I was in eleventh grade, I was taking an American History class. When we reached the early 1800's, there was a small section about Joseph Smith and the Mormon's. My teacher stopped, and said, "Rachael, you're a Mormon, why don't you tell us about this." My first thought was, "How does she know I'm a Mormon?" My second was, "Is everyone going to make fun of me?" My last thought was, "Do I really believe this?" At that moment I realized that yes, I did. I truly believed it.
I once had a bishop that taught the youth that the Spirit will always testify of Joseph Smith- always. We just need to "listen" for and recognize that witness.
How do we gain our own testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith? Elder Andersen says,
"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. It may come as you stand in the temple and realize that through Joseph Smith the holy sealing power was restored to the earth. With faith and real intent, your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith will strengthen. . . . "
At the close of his talk, Elder Andersen gives a challenge to the youth to "gain a personal witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith." His challenge is to:
1. Find scriptures in the Book of Mormon that you feel and know are absolutely true. Then share them, "acknowledging that Joseph was an instrument in God's hands".
2. Read the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Pearl of Great Price or HERE. "Read it often. Consider recording the testimony of Joseph Smith in your own voice, listening to it regularly, and sharing it with friends. Listening to the Prophet's testimony in your own voice will help bring the witness you seek." I did this. It took me about 30 minutes to read out loud. I recorded it on my phone and then played it back. Once I got over the weirdness of my voice, it became was a sweet experience.
Like Elder Andersen, I too have a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He was chosen by Jesus Christ himself to lead the restoration of the fullness of His gospel. I am so grateful for his righteous example, and the sacrifices he endured that make it possible for me to have the blessing of the gospel in my life today. PRAISE TO THAT MAN!