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Joseph Smith: An Apostle of Jesus Christ ^ | Dennis B. Neuenschwander

Posted on 01/02/2011 5:46:30 PM PST by Paragon Defender

Joseph Smith: An Apostle of Jesus Christ

By Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander Of the Seventy




Dennis B. Neuenschwander, “Joseph Smith: An Apostle of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Jan 2009, 16–22

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 Christ’s 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 Jesus’s 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 Christ’s being and the reality of His Resurrection is the first pillar of apostolic testimony.

The second pillar is centered on the Savior’s 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.”

The First Vision

Joseph Smith’s apostolic instruction began in 1820. Pondering the questions of religion, he soon found that there was no way to reason or argue one’s 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 Smith—History 1:10). But Joseph’s questions on religion were answered by the personal and physical manifestation of God the Father and His divine and living Son, Jesus Christ—an experience referred to as the First Vision.

Like that of the original Apostles, Joseph’s 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. Joseph’s vision was at first an intensely personal experience—an 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 Christ’s being, existence, and Resurrection was to Joseph Smith, it was not the only thing Jesus wanted to teach him. The boy Joseph’s first lesson arose from the manifestation of Christ’s 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 Smith—History 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 Smith—History 1:16–17).

Joseph Smith’s 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 God’s 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 God’s 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 Joseph’s 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 power—each a pillar of apostolic testimony.

The Book of Mormon

Joseph Smith’s 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 Smith—History 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 Savior’s 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 Christ’s Atonement. The Savior’s 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 God’s creations—past, present, and future. What an impression Jacob’s 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 sinned—it 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 3:7–8). 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 religion”5 because it contains so many prophetic testimonies of Christ and stands as a tangible witness of the Restoration.

Continuing Revelation and Scripture

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 Smith’s 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 Savior’s 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 Christ’s relationship to the Father in the premortal existence and reinforced the Prophet’s 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 God’s 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 22:37–39).

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).

My Testimony of What the Prophet Revealed

I am grateful for yet one other thing about the Savior’s ministry that stirs my soul deeply. From studying the promises of Malachi, Moroni’s initial visit with Joseph, the Savior’s 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 Savior’s 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 me—having 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 19:2–3).

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 Smith’s 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 Prophet’s 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 76:22–24).

How grateful I am for the apostolic call of Joseph Smith.





1. See Book of Mormon Reference Companion, ed. Dennis L. Largey (2003), 457–58.

2. See Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley (1958), 128–29.

3. History of Joseph Smith, 128, 129.

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.

5. History of the Church, 4:461.

6. History of the Church, 3:30.







TOPICS: Breaking News; Other Christian; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: braking; cult; heresy; inman; lds; lies; notbreakingnews; propaganda; religion
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To: Anti-Bubba182

Joesph Smith as an Apostle of Jesus Christ is breaking news to me. I must’ve totally missed it in the bible. Don’t remember anyone preaching about it in church either. Must’ve completely missed the movie.

41 posted on 01/02/2011 7:20:34 PM PST by Jim Robinson (Rebellion is brewing!! Nuke the corrupt commie bastards to HELL!!)
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To: Paragon Defender

Why is this stuff in the Breaking News sidebar?

42 posted on 01/02/2011 7:20:34 PM PST by Jedidah
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To: WVKayaker

Maybe the rules don’t apply to everyone.

43 posted on 01/02/2011 7:21:03 PM PST by Paragon Defender
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To: Jim Robinson

Funny. Nice to start the week with a dose of humor.

44 posted on 01/02/2011 7:22:05 PM PST by Jedidah
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To: Paragon Defender; Adam-ondi-Ahman; America always; Antonello; Arrowhead; asparagus; BlueMoose; ...

Don’t feel bad the stealth war on the LDS is now in the open!

Trust in the Lord and lets do what is right!

I am pleased now it is like the Christian forum at least you knew where you stood over there.

here there don’t even seem to be a half heart effort to be ....

This is better for it was taking a toll on me...

Open is better

I have watched the changes over the years and some ways it is heart breaking to a once might forum...

One of my favorite hymns is...

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.

I bear my testimony that Joseph Smith is the latter day prophet called by the Lord Jesus Christ and this The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the true Church restored upon the earth once more!

45 posted on 01/02/2011 7:22:05 PM PST by restornu (Focus on the issues not the group think stink bombs!)
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To: Jedidah

Because it’s breaking news of biblical proportions.

46 posted on 01/02/2011 7:22:21 PM PST by Jim Robinson (Rebellion is brewing!! Nuke the corrupt commie bastards to HELL!!)
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To: Jim Robinson

It sure is breaking news to me!

47 posted on 01/02/2011 7:23:06 PM PST by CynicalBear
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To: Paragon Defender
"Why would anyone get upset about Caucus posts of a religious nature being posted in the Religion section of the board?"

We are not into RELIGION. We preach & believe in Jesus Christ.

48 posted on 01/02/2011 7:23:14 PM PST by backslacker ("Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man")
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To: restornu

How silly.

49 posted on 01/02/2011 7:23:46 PM PST by Utah Binger (Finally home to a foot of snow. A warming trend is occuring. It is 20 degrees right now.)
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To: Paragon Defender

There was no indication that this post was for “caucus eyes only.”
I am frankly wearying a bit of the passive aggressive LDS nonsense. As delightful as I have found many Mormon men to be (the gals are a different story) and as impressive in secular matters as the resumes of high visibility accomplished Mormons appear to me, I just cannot get by the ancient-Hebrews-in-the-New-World fantasy and the conclusion that Smith was nothing more than an early 19th century self-promoter and a charlatan, albeit talented one, apparently, who felt himself safe from refutation in his time.

You can be a great guy, and stand with me, a devout convert to the Catholic Church in the CS Lewis tradition, in all sorts of good causes. But the LDS “secret” dogma which is all refutable tosh really is off-putting.

These LDS posts keep turning up, and I wish they could be kept out of sight on our beloved freerepublic, because I really do do not want to wade into the theological swamp constantly. Like small children, I would rather just love my Mormon brothers, but not hear from them about religious matters.

50 posted on 01/02/2011 7:23:52 PM PST by Bill W was a conservative (Profile, detain, interrogate, deport.)
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To: Utah Binger

Thank you don’t mind if I do I have some sparkling Apple Juice left!

51 posted on 01/02/2011 7:24:11 PM PST by restornu (Focus on the issues not the group think stink bombs!)
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To: fuzzybutt

It seems to me to be more than just LDS, though they’re certainly posting their share of stuff.

I’m seeing lots of relgious doctrinal postings and squabbling from all quarters. Lots of Roman Catholic stuff, too. Then of course the obligatory sola scriptura versus tradition.....

I sometimes feel like I’ve wandered into Beliefnet or some type of comparative relition class. At first it was interesting, but the volume of it is really getting tedious. There’s at least one person here who posts Catholic stuff that goes for hundreds of lines. Of course it draws an argument.

No one here is going to convince anyone his way is right....why are they bothering? It’s really starting to drown out the political stuff.

Is it too much to aske people to keep their doctrine to themselves unless asked about it?


52 posted on 01/02/2011 7:25:12 PM PST by County Agent Hank Kimball (DeMint/Christie 2012...The Y'all and the Ball!)
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To: County Agent Hank Kimball

Well, moving it from the Religion Forum to breaking news certainly won’t help you there.

53 posted on 01/02/2011 7:26:12 PM PST by Ripliancum ("For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given" Merry Christmas!)
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To: fuzzybutt

I’m working on founding a crazy relgion too, some of the highlights involve ripping the living beating hearts out of marxists every other Tuesday and only allowing women and homosexuals to speak once a year on Mardi Gras.

54 posted on 01/02/2011 7:26:15 PM PST by Rome2000 (OBAMA IS A COMMUNIST CRYPTO-MUSLIM)
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To: Paragon Defender

How exactly is this Breaking News? I’m confused.

55 posted on 01/02/2011 7:26:47 PM PST by BuckeyeTexan (There are those that break and bend. I'm the other kind.)
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To: Jim Robinson
I won't quibble with you on this. You mean to insult Morons and denigrate their religion by removing the Caucus designation and moving this thread to Breaking News.

It is a low life thing to do.

56 posted on 01/02/2011 7:27:58 PM PST by Anti-Bubba182
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To: Ripliancum

Huh? I didn’t “move” anything. I just responded to a post.


57 posted on 01/02/2011 7:28:03 PM PST by County Agent Hank Kimball (DeMint/Christie 2012...The Y'all and the Ball!)
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To: Bill W was a conservative

I am frankly wearying a bit of the passive aggressive LDS nonsense.

I see. How do you feel about the constant daily attacks upon the LDS faith on this board? Those ok?

58 posted on 01/02/2011 7:28:03 PM PST by Paragon Defender
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To: Jim Robinson

What? You don’t remember the story of Mary and Joseph Smith? /s

59 posted on 01/02/2011 7:29:31 PM PST by BuckeyeTexan (There are those that break and bend. I'm the other kind.)
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To: Jim Robinson


60 posted on 01/02/2011 7:32:00 PM PST by Notwithstanding
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