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Skip to comments.Joseph Smith: An Apostle of Jesus Christ
Posted on 01/02/2011 5:46:30 PM PST by Paragon Defender
Dennis B. Neuenschwander, Joseph Smith: An Apostle of Jesus Christ, Ensign, Jan 2009, 1622
Adapted from a presentation to the Seventy.
In the Doctrine and Covenants we read that Joseph Smith was called of God, and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ (D&C 20:2). The call of an Apostle is first to witness or testify of Jesus Christ. Old Testament prophets testified of His coming. The New Testament Apostles bore personal witness of Christs being and of the absolute reality of His Resurrection. This apostolic witness was the basis of their teaching. Ye shall be witnesses unto me (Acts 1:8) was Jesuss instruction to the original Twelve. Peter testified on the day of Pentecost to the Jews who had gathered out of every nation (Acts 2:5) that this Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses (Acts 2:32). Similarly, Paul wrote to the Corinthians that Jesus was seen of me also (1 Corinthians 15:8). The sure witness of Christs being and the reality of His Resurrection is the first pillar of apostolic testimony.
The second pillar is centered on the Saviors redemptive and saving power. Peter teaches that to the Lord give all the Prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins (Acts 10:43).
Without these twin pillars of testimony concerning Christ, there could be no Apostle. Such testimonies are born of experience, divine command, and instruction. For example, Luke writes that Christ showed Himself to the Apostles alive after his passion being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
How does the Prophet Joseph Smith fit into these apostolic requirements? The answer is Perfectly.
Joseph Smiths apostolic instruction began in 1820. Pondering the questions of religion, he soon found that there was no way to reason or argue ones opinion to an authoritative conclusion concerning the correctness of the various churches or their doctrines. Short of a divine manifestation, young Joseph could add only one more opinion to the already existing war of words and tumult of opinions (Joseph SmithHistory 1:10). But Josephs questions on religion were answered by the personal and physical manifestation of God the Father and His divine and living Son, Jesus Christan experience referred to as the First Vision.
Like that of the original Apostles, Josephs experience with Deity was direct and personal. There was no need for the opinion of others or the deliberations of a council to define what he saw or what it came to mean to him. Josephs vision was at first an intensely personal experiencean answer to a specific question. Over time, however, illuminated by additional experience and instruction, it became the founding revelation of the Restoration.
As apostolic as this manifestation of Christs being, existence, and Resurrection was to Joseph Smith, it was not the only thing Jesus wanted to teach him. The boy Josephs first lesson arose from the manifestation of Christs absolute, omnipotent, and divine power. Joseph learned firsthand at least one meaning of the redeeming and saving power of Christ when he prayed in the grove. As he began to pray, Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction (Joseph SmithHistory 1:15). With every bit of energy Joseph had, he began to call upon God to deliver him from the grasp of this enemy.
At the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction , I saw a pillar of light.
It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound (Joseph SmithHistory 1:1617).
Joseph Smiths confrontation with the adversary is reminiscent of an experience Moses had, about which the Prophet would learn some few years later. Unlike the boy Joseph, however, Moses saw Gods greatness first and then was confronted with the power of the adversary before being delivered from his influence. (See Moses 1.)
The difference in the order of events is significant. Moses was already far into maturity and had much knowledge and influence prior to this event. By displaying His magnificent power to Moses before he faced the adversary, the Lord helped Moses put his life into perspective. After experiencing Gods glory, Moses said, Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed (Moses 1:10). This incident enabled Moses to withstand the temptations of the adversary that followed.
Joseph Smith, on the other hand, was an inexperienced young man, who in his lifetime would repeatedly face adversarial power and the overwhelming problems it brings. By facing the adversary first, then being saved from his assault by the appearance of the Father and the Son, Joseph learned this indelible lesson: as great as the power of evil might be, it must always withdraw with the appearance of righteousness.
This lesson was critical in Josephs apostolic education. He needed this knowledge not only because of the personal trials that lay ahead of him but also because of the overwhelming opposition he would face in founding and directing the Church.
The boy Joseph went into the grove seeking wisdom, and wisdom he received. His apostolic instruction had begun. Among the great apostolic lessons of this First Vision were both the physical nature of the Savior and Heavenly Father and the initial and fundamental lessons relating to Their powereach a pillar of apostolic testimony.
Joseph Smiths early apostolic instruction continued with his translation of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon gave Joseph access to the fulness of the everlasting Gospel (Joseph SmithHistory 1:34), principles that were necessary to understand even prior to the organization of the Church. The Prophet was introduced to numerous plain and most precious (1 Nephi 13:26) prophetic and apostolic testimonies regarding the Savior, all of which served as models for him.
Indeed, the Book of Mormon prophets employ over 100 titles in their teachings of Christ, each of which helped Joseph understand the Saviors divine role.1 By virtue of these teachings, Joseph Smith became intimately acquainted with ancient prophets, giving him insight into the divine purpose of his responsibilities.
The Book of Mormon illuminates the universality of Christs Atonement. The Saviors holy sacrifice is not confined to the borders of the Holy Land of His day or even restricted to the apostolic world of the original Twelve. The Atonement encompasses all of Gods creationspast, present, and future. What an impression Jacobs teaching of the infinite atonement (2 Nephi 9:7) must have made on the mind of young Joseph, especially in contrast to Christian teachings at the time.
The Book of Mormon also introduces the universality of the Resurrection and other doctrines relating to it. Discourses on this doctrine by Lehi, Jacob, King Benjamin, Abinadi, Alma, Amulek, Samuel the Lamanite, and Moroni are all rich sources of instruction.
During the translation of the Book of Mormon, the Prophet received additional valuable personal instruction concerning the redemptive and saving power of Christ. In 1828 Martin Harris persuaded Joseph to lend him the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon manuscript. When Martin Harris lost those pages, the Prophet felt an enormous despair.2 His mother, Lucy Mack Smith, recorded that Joseph exclaimed: Oh, my God! All is lost! all is lost! What shall I do? I have sinnedit is I who tempted the wrath of God. How shall I appear before the Lord? Of what rebuke am I not worthy from the angel of the Most High?3
For well over a month the Lord left Joseph in this terrible condition of remorse.4 Then came relief and the apostolic lesson. The Lord told Joseph:
The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.
For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him (D&C 3:1, 4).
These words carefully describe what Joseph Smith had been experiencing. He had learned the exacting nature of the apostolic call and to whom the Apostle, at all cost, owes his loyalty. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words, Joseph was told, yet you should have been faithful (D&C 3:78). Joseph Smith had lost access to the plates for a season and had been taught an invaluable lesson. Subsequently, the plates were returned, and his position as translator restored.
How critical were the lessons provided by the translation of the Book of Mormon as Joseph Smith grew in his apostolic calling! The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion5 because it contains so many prophetic testimonies of Christ and stands as a tangible witness of the Restoration.
After finishing the translation of the Book of Mormon in 1829 and organizing the Church in 1830, Joseph Smith had the opportunity to receive continuing apostolic education through the process of translating other scripture. This included three years of translating the Bible and, beginning in 1835, translating the book of Abraham. Joseph Smiths translation of the Bible expanded his understanding of the role of Old Testament prophets and New Testament Apostles. It also resulted in additional revelation, namely the book of Moses.
The book of Moses provided the Prophet with important knowledge about the Saviors ministry, including His role in the Creation. The Lord spake unto Moses, saying: I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God; by mine Only Begotten I created these things (Moses 2:1). Further, He said, And worlds without number have I created; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten (Moses 1:33).
The book of Moses clarified Christs relationship to the Father in the premortal existence and reinforced the Prophets understanding of the ascendant power of righteousness. One of the most beautiful of all the apostolic lessons that came to Joseph Smith in this revelation was the confirmation of Gods love. It was so different from the harsh, unforgiving, and judgmental personage so many believed God to be; the book of Moses reveals a God of infinite compassion. Enoch saw that the God of heaven wept (Moses 7:28) over those who would not receive Him. Wishing to know how it was possible, Enoch was given an answer that has a familiar biblical feel to it: I [have] given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father. Wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? (Moses 7:33, 37; see also Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:3739).
Through the translation of the book of Moses, the Prophet also became more acquainted with the redeeming and saving power of the Savior. As the Lord said, this earth was created by the word of my power (Moses 1:32) for the purpose of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39). Many long years before the Savior taught Thomas and the Twelve that I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6), He revealed to Moses that this is the plan of salvation unto all men, through the blood of mine Only Begotten, who shall come in the meridian of time (Moses 6:62).
The First Vision in the grove, the translation of the Book of Mormon, the revision of the Bible, the revelation of the book of Moses, and the translation of the book of Abraham laid the basic foundation of the Church, largely through the rapidly expanding knowledge and testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith relating to Jesus Christ.
Revelations given to him and compiled in the Doctrine and Covenants contain a wealth of knowledge concerning the Savior. One could research the numerous topics and cross-references of the Topical Guide and Guide to the Scriptures referring to Jesus Christ and still not understand the breadth of information on the Savior that the Prophet Joseph Smith brought to the world. I am grateful to know that Jesus was in the beginning with the Father (D&C 93:21). I am grateful to know that He suffered these things for [me], that [I] might not suffer if [I] would repent (D&C 19:16).
I am grateful for yet one other thing about the Saviors ministry that stirs my soul deeply. From studying the promises of Malachi, Moronis initial visit with Joseph, the Saviors words to the Nephites, and the visit of Elijah in the Kirtland Temple, I learn that God loves His children and has provided a way for each to return to Him. I know of no doctrine more just, no teaching that gives more hope than that of redemption of the dead. I am so grateful for the revelations that teach me that the Saviors Atonement reaches to those who have lived, loved, served, and hoped for a better day yet never heard of Jesus or had the opportunity to embrace His gospel. This knowledge alone would be sufficient to convert me to the gospel if I knew nothing else at all. Here, at least for me, is the ultimate testimony of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.
What, then, can be said of the incomparable saving power of Christ? That which Joseph Smith learned in the Sacred Grove about the power of righteousness overcoming evil foreshadows the final scene. So reveals the Lord:
I, having accomplished and finished the will of him whose I am, even the Father, concerning mehaving done this that I might subdue all things unto myself
Retaining all power, even to the destroying of Satan and his works at the end of the world, and the last great day of judgment (D&C 19:23).
Our own testimonies of the Savior are framed by the testimony and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Is it any wonder then that the Prophet taught that the fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.6
Joseph Smiths apostolic testimony of the divine reality and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as his knowledge of the redemptive and saving power of the Savior, can best be seen by the Prophets own beautiful, powerful, and succinct witness:
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
That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God (D&C 76:2224).
How grateful I am for the apostolic call of Joseph Smith.
4. The 116 pages were lost in June 1828. In July Joseph Smith received what is now section 3 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In September the plates were returned to the Prophet. See the historical introductions to D&C 3; 10.
If this is not breaking news of the century, I don’t know what is. Someone needs to rewrite the bible to include Apostle Joe.
Jim moved it, and changed the title.
I didn’t say you did. He’s just making his views known. That is what doesn’t help you.
Sorry for the confusion.
Jim are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints unwelcome here?
Joseph Smith already rewrote the Bible - and guess what? It includes him by name. :D
Well, I’m sick to death of the Mormon-bashing threads too, and I’m not Mormon. Lately it seems this place is flooded with them.
It might be because the Mormon religion relies on deceptive missionary tactics, and because Mormon doctrines require a willing suspension of disbelief that honest men cannot maintain without swiftly turning into dishonest men.
Translation: Mormonism is a transparent sham and its painful to see what seem like good men participate in such a transparent sham.
I’ll put it this way. I don’t believe a single word written by Joseph Smith or his followers when it departs from the Word of God as recorded in the Holy Bible and I’m not thrilled about people coming here to preach some false gospel from the pages of Free Republic.
WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!!!
POST IN RELIGION NOT BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!
I am not a Mormon, but I do know that Mormons and Orthodox Jews have the least of divorces out of all religious denominations and have the least problems with Children and are very family oriented faiths, that help there own when ever they need it......
I’m curious, what would you name that religion?
After Fat Tuesday, We’ll tell?
Apostate Mormon Ping!
It's news to me!
I thought Joseph Smith was a two timing, skirt chasing, con man with fancy pants.
Just a friendly reminder, you might want to scan through the posts before you fire off a reply.
Your tactics are disgusting and I’m outta here
....and an ex-Mormon BUMP!
Eight ball, corner pocket.
Yes, a valid question. Please reply!
As with all christians, our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucified and resurrected, and His atonement for our sins, which is a free gift if we will accept it...is the key and principle issue which over-rides all others.
I would agree on this most critical tennant and join together shoulder to shoulder with all my other Christian friends of all denominations to jointly fight the pressing evils of the day that threaten our Republic and way of life.
...and avoid contention amongst ourselves which serves to weaken us in the fight for our society, and not push on the other issues where we differ in interpretation or other principles which are in the end, of less consequence than our joint, sincere belief in Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem and Savior of all mankind, the only path and gate through which any of us may return to our Father in Heaven.