Relief Society Lesson 4: The Prophet Joseph Smith, God’s Instrument in Restoring the Truth

I abbreviated George Albert Smith to GAS in this lesson.  So, when I was rereading the lesson, I chuckled at (and reworded) a question, “Why did GAS choose young Joseph Smith?”  I think this is proof that I hang with the elementary school crowd a little too much.

See the complete lesson here.  Everything from the manual is in regular font; my additions are in italics. 

From the Life of George Albert Smith
…Several years later, while George Albert Smith was serving as President of the Church, some books were published that attempted to defame Joseph Smith. In a general conference of the Church, President Smith boldly defended the Prophet, bearing testimony of his mission in these words:

“Many of the benefits and blessings that have come to me have come through that man who gave his life for the gospel of Jesus Christ. There have been some who have belittled him, but I would like to say that those who have done so will be forgotten and their remains will go back to mother earth, if they have not already gone, and the odor of their infamy will never die, while the glory and honor and majesty and courage and fidelity manifested by the Prophet Joseph Smith will attach to his name forever.”

None of us know GAS personally, but we’ve all probably known someone with a strong testimony of Joseph Smith and his divine mission.  Who was that person for you?  How did their testimony of Joseph Smith influence your life?

Some of us struggle with Joseph Smith, and I have a few friends who see some of Joseph Smith’s actions as obstacles to their testimony rather than as buttresses.  When someone struggles, is it wrong to rely on someone else’s testimony?

Do we as a church community rely on each other’s testimonies?

Teachings of George Albert Smith
Though young and inexperienced, Joseph Smith was called to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ.

…Think of a boy fourteen years of age arising from his knees in the woods near his home and announcing to the world such a message as that! Can you imagine that a youth would have dared to do such a thing as that? But with the witness that had been given unto him by his Heavenly Father, with that commandment from the Lord himself, dared he do anything else than make the announcement that the Lord had spoken to him?1

Over and over again in the manual, GAS mentions the testimony of a young boy (Joseph Smith).  Why do you think he often used the young Joseph as his primary example?

Do you feel more drawn to Joseph of a different age?

The truths restored through Joseph Smith bring peace and joy to those who accept them.
…I say to all men everywhere, examine the teachings of the Gospel of our Lord as revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, search them prayerfully, and you shall find the panacea for the ills of this world, and it will be discovered in no other way.

In this section, we read about the doctrinal truths and practices that were restored through Joseph Smith.  What truths touch you?  How has your life been blessed by them?

Joseph Smith was willing to give his life for his testimony.
…In the year 1830, the Church was organized with six members. The adversary of all righteousness has from that day to the present sought to impede its progress and destroy it. I wonder if that great man, Joseph Smith, who gave his life that the Church might be organized and carried on as the Lord intended, can see the Church as it exists today, with its branches established in all parts of the world, and realize that each day since he was martyred, since he laid down his life and sealed his testimony with his blood, the Church has become stronger than the day before.

What is the significance of Joseph Smith laying down his life for his testimony?  How did this act affect GAS’ testimony?  How does it affect your’s?

I had a hard time putting this lesson together.  As one friend said, “So, it’s a lesson for women about one man’s testimony of another man’s divine role?”  I don’t think this androcentrism should go unrecognized, and I think this is a good time to point out what GAS thought about Joseph Smith and God’s divine purpose for women.  I would use the quotes in the section below to foster discussion about how we as women can strengthen our testimonies of Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith and Women

In Daughters in My Kingdom, GAS talks to General Relief Society President, Belle S. Spafford, as she organized the Relief Society to help those affected by World War II.  He told her, “When the Prophet Joseph Smith turned the key for the emancipation of womankind, it was turned for all the world” (DiMK, 87).

What do you think this quote means? 

The recently released Nauvoo Relief Society Minutes are a valuable tool that we can use in our Relief Society lesson preparation.  What better way can we, as women, gain a testimony of Joseph Smith and his divine mission than by reading what he taught a primarily female audience?

Sections like this one show me the important role that Joseph Smith had for Emma Smith and other women called to lead in the Church.

President Smith read the Revelation to Emma  Smith, from the book of Doctrine and Covenants; and  stated that she was ordain’d at the time, the Revelation  was given, to expound the scriptures to all; and to teach  the female part of community; and that not she alone,  but others, may attain to the same blessings (Nauvoo Relief Society Minutes, pg 8).

Have you had experiences reading the words of Joseph Smith when you felt like they were directed to you?  To what effect?

But, it is the Minutes of the Sixth Meeting of the Relief Society on April 28, 1842 that touch me deeply every time I read them.  I’m including my favorite highlights here:

Prest. Smith continued the subject  by adverting to the commission given to the ancient apostles  “Go ye into all the world” &c.— no matter who believeth; these  signs, such as healing the sick, casting out devils &c. should  follow all that believe whether male or female. He ask’d  the Society if they could not see by this sweeping stroke, that  wherein they are ordained, it is the privilege of those set apart to  administer in that authority which is confer’d on them— and if  the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold  their tongues, and let every thing roll on (Nauvoo Relief Society Minutes, 36).

As you increase in innocence and virtue, as you  increase in goodness, let your hearts expand— let them be  enlarged towards others— you must be longsuff’ring and bear  with the faults and errors of mankind. How precious are the  souls of men!— The female part of community are apt to be contracted in their views. You must not be contracted, but  you must be liberal in your feelings (Ibid. 39-40).

I feel like this meeting is full of radical statements of equality and promise. And, I love how Eliza R. Snow ends the minutes of that meeting:
The spirit of the Lord was pour’d out in a very  powerful manner, never to be forgotten by those present on  that interesting occasion (Ibid. 41).

May we all be blessed to experience such feelings in our Relief Society meetings.

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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6 Responses

  1. Jessica says:

    Thank you. I love these RS lessons. I find so much love when I read them. And since I am serving in primary this is my adult sunday education.

  2. EmilyCC says:

    Thanks, Jessica! I found them helpful, too, when I was in Primary 🙂

  3. Carrie says:

    Emily, Thank you for your words. Just yesterday a good friend and I were talking about the great need in our meetings to ask more thought-provoking questions. Discussion is the number one way to keep everyone engaged. If a teacher doesn’t get through all of his/her material it doesn’t matter – what’s important is that ward members have the opportunity to hear from each other, the Spirit it felt and testimonies are strengthened. This is the time we learn to ACT by living the doctrine or principle. Well done!

  4. Diane says:

    Do we as a church community rely on each other’s testimonies?

    I think when we give REAL testimonies, yes, we do rely on other’s. This is not necessarily bad,nor good.

    I was taking a class on Judaism a few months ago. The emphasis was on Abraham and his lack of testimony. I came away very uplifted. Why? because. Abraham said, it was perfectly okay to have doubts with our testimony. Its’ not okay to sit on the fence about our doubts. This isn’t negative either. He encouraged us to fully investigate for ourselves whether God was true or not.

    I really liked this concept and attempted to share this at a testimony meeting and the Bishop actually told me it was not a testimony. I was like huh, are you kidding me. I explained to him it was indeed a testimony because you have to work at it to come to your own conclusions

  5. Annie B. says:

    I’m sad when I read anything about Joseph Smith. I think it’s because I did grow up with such a glowing picture of him in my mind and now realize he was as mortal as any of us. It may also be because I don’t really trust LDS church materials to cover Joseph Smith honestly. I feel the white-washed history in LDS church materials is no better than any mormon-bashing literature. Knowing about Joseph Smith’s early accounts of the first vision and how they differ greatly from the account recorded in the preface of the Book of Mormon, and his polygamous unions probably makes me a bit suspect. The picture I have of him in my mind now is of a basically good man, with radical(for his time) religious ideas shaped by both religious and superstitious aspects of his upbringing, and I believe partly influenced by the religious ideals of his first wife, Emma. I picture him as handsome, charismatic, a powerful speaker and storyteller, with a weakness for the opposite sex. I wonder if his charisma and promotion of some very powerful ideas is what drew people to him, and elicited such loyalty to him. Maybe I don’t feel as loyal to him because I wasn’t there to experience his charming personality. All I have are his actions to judge his character by, old letters, journal entries, and the results of his life’s work. But I feel like I know him better than the general membership of his church knew him at the time because they were unaware of his darker actions. Maybe that’s why some who were very close to him and aware of his darker actions grew disenchanted with him, I don’t know. Someone told me the devil will tell 10 truths to pull over one lie. I don’t think the devil holds a monopoly on that, I think that’s what all of us do sometimes. We promote or accept one principle even if it’s a bad one, just because it comes from the source of a lot of other good ones. I guess that’s how I feel about Joseph Smith right now, that he pulled over one lie that is still affecting whole communities today. And it saddens me that the organization he created is still defending it as a truth, even if they aren’t promoting the practice of it. Right now I don’t have a testimony of Joseph Smith restoring the gospel. I’m still looking into that, but I finally feel like it’s ok to admit that I don’t know. I relied on the testimony of others as a child. Back then that was enough for me just to hope that all these things were true and assume that I wasn’t getting a personal confirmation of its truthfulness simply because I was not _____ (faithful/good/worthy/loved by God/humble/obedient) enough. Now I believe that the truth is in the fruits, so to speak. If Joseph Smith promoted true principles, they are true whether or not they were revealed exactly as Joseph said they were. True principles are self-evident. When I first started looking into the darker aspects of LDS church history, I was terrified that the church wasn’t true. Now I’m not afraid of the truth, whatever that may be, because I put my faith in God and true principles.

  6. Jennifer W. says:

    Annie B. I feel exactly the same way. It has honestly been a struggle for me for the past 12 years, especially being married to a non-member. It is hard to trust everything Joseph Smith taught, when I know in my heart that polygamy was not of God. I have been trying to gain a testimony and haven’t been able to. I don’t know what to do with that. It especially bothers me that men can still be sealed to more than one woman today. Doesn’t that mean that the Church does still practice polygamy? I truly want to believe but can’t get past these feelings and don’t want to strain my marriage trying to make the Church a part of it, when I don’t have much of a testimony myself. Can’t seem to leave it though either.

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