Today I had the opportunity to speak on the topic of Joseph Smith, Jr. As I pondered what specifically to address, the preparing of a prophet is what came to mind.
In the Book of Mormon, we find the words of the prophet, Nephi:
And it came to pass that I, unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (1 Nephi 3:7)
God Prepares for His Restoration
And indeed, the Lord did prepare the way of the prophet of Joseph Smith.
John Lathrop was the second pastor of the first Independent Congregational Church in London. King Charles I placed Lathrop and all other dissenters into the Tower of London where he remained imprisoned from 1632 to 1634. While in prison, his wife died. He was banished to America upon his release and led a group of followers to Massachusetts.
I promise you now, had Lathrop not been banished to this promised land, Joseph Smith, Jr. would not have been born here. Without Joseph’s American birth, there was no way the church, as the Savior organized it in the meridian of time, could have been restored in any other land. It was difficult enough here.
Through John Lathrop, his direct ancestor, Joseph Smith is related to the following individuals, for they are all descended from Reverend Lathrop:
Harold B. Lee – prophet
Wilford Woodruff – prophet
Joseph F. Smith – prophet
Joseph Fielding Smith – prophet
Parley P. Pratt, – Apostle and Mormon Pioneer
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – poet
Eli Whitney – inventor of the cotton gin
Ulysses S. Grant, – President of the United States
Franklin Delano Roosevelt,- President of the United States
Marion Meriwether Post – founder of General Foods
Alan W. Dulles – former Director of the CIA
George H. Bush – President of the United States
George W. Bush – President of the United States
George Romney – Governor of Michigan and President of American Motors
Mitt Romney – U.S. Presidential Candidate
– and, as there is always at least one black sheep in the family:
Joseph’s Ancestors were told of what was coming
However, the words of the men, the ones who knew him the best, who preceded him in life, are powerful:
His grandfather, Asael Smith: “It has been bourne upon my soul that one of my descendants will promulgate a work to revolutionize the world of religious faith.” Before his death, Asael would tell his wife after reading the entire Book of Mormon, that Joseph was the “very prophet that he had long known would come in his family.” Cannon, George Q., Life of Joseph Smith The Prophet p. 3
Joseph’s father, Joseph Smith, Sr., received a series of dreams prior to Joseph’s kneeling in the grove on that early spring morning in 1820. One night, as he related the dream, young Joseph asked, “Father, what is the meaning of this strange dream you have told us about?”
His father answered,
My son, There is no true Church of Christ, or kingdom of God upon the earth. There is no fruit of Christ’s Church for men to partake. But the Lord will set up His kingdom and church upon the earth and this family will have a conspicuous part to play in its establishment. We will partake of the fruit of the tree and invite others to partake, but will be persecuted by the ungodly for doing so. And Joseph, you will be our leader. You will be called to a high and holy calling.” — Barrett, Ivan J., Young Joseph, 45-46
This was the first time Joseph Smith, Jr. heard anything in regards to what was about to come forth in his life.
God placed strong women
Joseph’s mother had a deep and abiding love of the scriptures and taught her children daily the ancient gospel. Because of her, Joseph was introduced to the Bible and read it often, which led up to the reading of James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
Much later in life, in Kirtland, Ohio, Joseph was given his patriarchal blessing by his father, who was the church patriarch. This, perhaps, is the most telling of all:
“Thou has been called even in thy youth to the great work of the Lord, to do a work in this generation which no man would do as thy self, in all things according to the will of Lord . . . I bless thee with the blessings of thy father Joseph, son of Jacob. Behold, he looked over his posterity in the last days, when they should be scattered and driven by the Gentiles and wept before the Lord.
He sought diligently to know from whence the Son should come who should bring forth the word of the Lord by which they might be enlightened, and brought back to the true fold, and his eyes beheld thee, my son.” (December 1843.) Barrett, Ivan J., Young Joseph, p. 46
He gave us a gift
As we look over the course of Joseph’s life and the lives of his ancestors, we can clearly see the hand of the Lord as events were orchestrated that His gospel might be restored in the promised land, America. From this land, the gospel has gone to the four corners of the world and this church that began its membership at 6 is now at over 13,000,000 and growing every day.
Joseph sealed his testimony, as did Hyrum with his blood as evil mobocrats assassinated the prophet and his brother and forever took them from mortality. The men who tried to stop this mighty work by murdering this man of whom Brigham Young said,
“When I first heard him preach, he brought heaven and earth together; all the priests of the day could not tell me anything correct about heaven, hell, God, angels, or devils; they were as blind as Egyptian darkness. When I saw Joseph Smith, he took heaven, figuratively speaking, and brought it down to earth; and he took the earth, brought it up, and opened up, in plainness and simplicity, the things of God; and that is the beauty of his mission.” — Widtsoe, John A., Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 458