Monday, November 17, 2014

How I Strengthened My Testimony of Joseph Smith

As a member of Christ's true church, there are so many opportunities to grow...if you will take them.

After General Conference was over in October, I started with Elder Andersen's talk about Joseph Smith for our family's General Conference Review Lessons.

I loved his challenge to read Joseph Smith's testimony, to consider recording it in your own voice and to listen to it often and share it with friends.

Have you ever sat down and thought about your testimony of Joseph Smith?  Have you ever written your testimony down?  Or written down how you feel about him?  Have you ever tried to share that testimony with a friend?

I have.

The first time I did it (that I can remember recently), it was awkward.  You know why?  Because I wasn't used to saying it.  I wasn't used to telling someone those words, "and then he knelt in a grove of trees and he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ."  Oh...and by the way, angels still appear to men on earth. (Insert eyes of friend averting, subject being quickly changed...)

I also noticed something weird about the words coming out of my mouth.  I wasn't 100 percent sure of myself and I sounded unsure of myself.  It was like my preconceived idea of how my friend was going to respond to my declaration colored the way I said words that I already knew in my head were true.  

So it was kind of a flop...except I learned from it.

I went away from that experience realizing that I needed to grow in my testimony that Joseph Smith was the righteous man God chose to restore all of these wonderful truths to the earth...truths that have changed my life completely for the better.

I spent some time reading his testimony and pondering the blessings that are mine and my family's because of the work of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

I thought back to the time when I was serving in Young Women and we learned about Joseph Smith and memorized "Joseph Smith's First Prayer."  When we sang the words of that hymn the spirit witnessed to me that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.

I thought about how early in our marriage, my husband and I memorized this part of Joseph Smith's experience, "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me....When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.  One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other--This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!"

I thought about all of those quiet moments when I have turned to the pages of The Book of Mormon--the book that Joseph Smith translated--and how much those words have brought comfort to my soul and joy to my path and an understanding of who Christ is...and who I am.

I thought about peaceful feelings I've felt as a youth and young adult visiting the Sacred Grove (the place whereabout the First Vision may have occurred, where I sat pondering Joseph's experience,) where I prayed to know if His account of the First Vision was true, and how I felt about him at that time.

I thought about my children and how wonderful it is to know that we are a forever family.  I thought about every blessing I've received via the Priesthood ordinances that were restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith...and I thanked God.

I thought on these things and treasured them in my heart, and I vowed that if the opportunity came up again, I would be ready.  I would not use an apologetic tone when speaking about the Prophet Joseph Smith, because I now knew more in my heart than before.  Because I had taken the time, I now knew what I knew.

That opportunity came a few summers ago, while I was conversing with a very sweet girl, not of our faith, but extremely faithful.  I was so impressed by her expressions of faith and a willingness to do what she felt God required of her as a woman of God, that when she asked me what makes Mormons different, I felt prompted to tell her about Joseph Smith.

This time, the words I spoke were fully mine, laden with a personal witness that the Savior Jesus Christ and God the Father did appear to a 14-year old boy in a grove of trees in New York.  That person was Joseph Smith.  He later translated the Book of Mormon, which, like the Bible, is another testament of Jesus Christ written by inhabitants of ancient america.  The existence of this book and Joseph's experience is proof that God is the God of all men, that he still speaks, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

This time, as I spoke, I felt the Spirit confirming the words that I said...both to me and to her.  I felt God's approval.  And I knew again that what I was saying was true.

This is a special witness that I have received only because I put my testimony into words and spoke them aloud to another person.

There is so much testimony-building wisdom in Elder Andersen's talk.  I know that his suggestion to record Joseph Smith's testimony in one's own voice is good and true.  These are not just his words, they are scripture, and knowing them and making them our own will help bring the witness that we seek.

I know, because I have done it.  And my children have done it.  

And I know that if you will do it, you too will be blessed, because "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:17)

An opportunity for great spiritual growth is before you.  Will you take it?