I'd like to share today that powerful moment in MY LIFE when I knew for myself that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.
In high school, I took RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD as one of my class electives. For our final assignment we were challenged to give a presentation on one world religious leader of our pick. Obviously... Obviously, my choice was Joseph Smith. I'm pretty sure I was the only mormon in the class, so it was only appropriate to represent, right?
As the week went by, I was able to sit down and give the prophet my undivided attention. I learned so much about this truly great man. I began to know who he really was and recognize all of the service and sacrifices he had made for the church.
The end of the week had come and the due date for my school presentation was swiftly approaching. I had my speech prepared and was adding the finishing touches to my visual aid poster board. All that was left to do was find a picture or two of Joseph to add to my project.
I remember late in the evening, sitting alone in our quiet living room on the old, wooden rocking chair that a creaked with the shifting weight of each sway. I was reading through a book of Liz Lemon Swindle's painted scenes for the life of Joseph Smith. The pages flipped to this image of the day Joseph was martyred, holding his brother Hyrum who was shot before him.
Click HERE for more information about the art piece
Of this moment John Taylor said:
"Immediately, when the ball struck him, [Hyrum] fell flat on his back, crying as he fell, 'I am a dead man!' He never moved afterwards. I shall never forget the deep feeling of sympathy and regard manifested in the countenance of Brother Joseph as he drew nigh to Hyrum and leaning over him exclaimed, "Oh! My poor, dear brother Hyrum!"
My eyes swelled with tears as I saw in this portrait the love the prophet had for his brother. And immediately the question pressed on my mind with great heartache...
Why did Joseph suffer so? Why would he lose his brother, suffer the persecution constantly knocking at his door, be dragged out into the street to be tarred and feathered, risk the safety of his family, spend freezing winter nights in a gloomy jail, and die for his beliefs?
It makes me think of Sam from Lord of the Rings...
"It's like in the great stories, Mr Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. Sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? But in the end it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass, a new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer. Those are the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding onto something."
I realized that Joseph Smith was holding onto something. Something so important that it was worth every sacrifice that he went through, even up to the last moments of his life. He was holding onto the truth.
"I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation."
I am so grateful for all who have made grueling sacrifices so each of us can know the truth and have the gospel in our lives. I have a testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. He saw God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ in a vision. He translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God. And he restored the Church of Jesus Christ for everyone today as latter-day saints. It makes me smile thinking about how awesome it is! I am so, so grateful.