Relief Society Lesson 45: Joseph Smith’s Feelings about His Prophetic Mission
by Kelly Ann, with input from Alisa
“I have no desire but to do all men good.”
The second greatest commandment is to love the neighbor. Joseph Smith had a playfulness and ability to make people feel special even in times of trial as evidenced by the following quotes.
In the sermons and writings of the last few years of the Prophet’s life, there is a sense of urgency in his words. Knowing that his time was short, he labored earnestly to teach the Saints the things that God had revealed to him and encouraged them to prepare to receive these truths. He also expressed his great love for the Saints, even declaring that he was willing to lay down his life for them: “I am ready to be offered up a sacrifice in that way that can bring to pass the greatest benefit and good.” It is remarkable that while the Prophet was enduring so much persecution and was pressured by the constant demands of the growing Church, he found time to show that he cared for each Church member as an individual. Many Saints in later years remembered the love and kindness the Prophet Joseph showed to them.
Aroet L. Hale recalled: “The Prophet … frequently used to come out of the Mansion [House] and play ball with us boys, his son Joseph being near my age. [The Prophet] Joseph would always conform to the rules. He would catch till it came his turn to take the club, then, being a very stout [strong] man, would knock the ball so far that we used to holler to the boy that was going for the ball to take his dinner. This used to make the Prophet laugh. Joseph was always good natured and full of fun.”
Margarette McIntire Burgess recalled another experience with the Prophet in Nauvoo: “My older brother and I were going to school, near to the building which was known as Joseph’s brick store. It had been raining the previous day, causing the ground to be very muddy, especially along that street. My brother Wallace and I both got fast in the mud, and could not get out, and of course, child-like, we began to cry, for we thought we would have to stay there. But looking up, I beheld the loving friend of children, the Prophet Joseph, coming to us. He soon had us on higher and drier ground. Then he stooped down and cleaned the mud from our little, heavy-laden shoes, took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped our tear-stained faces. He spoke kind and cheering words to us, and sent us on our way to school rejoicing. Was it any wonder that I loved that great, good and noble man of God?””
Why do you think Joseph Smith was able to maintain such a cheerful, caring attitude? What can we do to remain happy and loving during times of trial? How can we express our gratitude to those people who have touched our lives for good? How can we do the same for other people?
Prophets teach what God reveals to them; we strive to understand and give heed to their words.
The Prophet Joseph was disappointed when the Saints were not ready to receive all he wanted to teach them as evidenced by the following quotes:
“There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger [a piece of corn bread] for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [a wooden mallet]. Even the Saints are slow to understand.
“I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen [see D&C 121:40].”
What can interfere with our ability to receive more truth? What can we do to be “prepared to receive the things of God”? How can we be “chosen”? Do we need to agree with everything that the prophet says?
SUMMARY: Prophets teach what God reveals to them; we strive to understand and give heed to their words: We sisters seek the inspiration of the Spirit and hope that this shows through in our actions.
Although prophets are men with human frailties, they are called of God to teach and lead His people.
What counsel could you give someone who focused on Joseph Smith’s weaknesses or mistakes or refuses to follow a Church leader because the leader has some kind of character flaw?
Joseph Smith’s journal for October 29, 1842, records: “I … went over to the store [in Nauvoo, Illinois], where a number of brethren and sisters were assembled, who had arrived this morning from the neighborhood of New York. … I told them I was but a man, and they must not expect me to be perfect; if they expected perfection from me, I should expect it from them; but if they would bear with my infirmities and the infirmities of the brethren, I would likewise bear with their infirmities.”
As we serve, how can we accomplish our goals without being hindered by our own frailties? What level of perfection is really reasonable to expect?
SUMMARY: Although prophets are men with human frailties, they are called of God to teach and lead His people: Although we aren’t perfect as Latter-day Saints (and we aren’t required to be), we can still fulfill our missions and callings to the best of our ability, and it will be enough.
Despite opposition, prophets fulfill the missions given to them by God.
Joseph Smith expressed faith that God would protect him and enable him to accomplish his mission in life.
“I am happy and thankful for the privilege of being present on this occasion. Great exertions have been made on the part of our enemies to carry me to Missouri and destroy my life; but the Lord has hedged up their way, and they have not, as yet, accomplished their purpose. God has enabled me to keep out of their hands. I have warred a good warfare. …
“I am a rough stone. The sound of the hammer and chisel was never heard on me until the Lord took me in hand. I desire the learning and wisdom of heaven alone.”
What experiences have you had in which God has helped you to fulfill your responsibilities in your family or in a Church calling? How does serving and loving others re-shape us? What do we do when we don’t feel God’s guidance?
SUMMARY: Despite opposition, prophets fulfill the missions given to them by God: Despite the many things that can discourage us, with God’s help we can focus on what the Spirit tells us is most important in our service.
Prophets love those they serve and desire to lead them well, even if doing so requires reproving them.
When have you tasted the sweetness of the truth? How can we rejoice in the words of a prophet or other Church leader even when he reproves us for our misdeeds?
“The Saints need not think because I am familiar with them and am playful and cheerful, that I am ignorant of what is going on. Iniquity of any kind cannot be sustained in the Church, and it will not fare well where I am; for I am determined while I do lead the Church, to lead it right.”
“… I can taste the principles of eternal life, and so can you. They are given to me by the revelations of Jesus Christ; and I know that when I tell you these words of eternal life as they are given to me, you taste them, and I know that you believe them. You say honey is sweet, and so do I. I can also taste the spirit of eternal life. I know that it is good; and when I tell you of these things which were given me by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you are bound to receive them as sweet, and rejoice more and more. …
“I have intended my remarks for all, both rich and poor, bond and free, great and small. I have no enmity against any man. I love you all; but I hate some of your deeds. I am your best friend, and if persons miss their mark it is their own fault. If I reprove a man, and he hates me, he is a fool; for I love all men, especially these my brethren and sisters.
How do we overcome our mistakes and incorporate needed suggestions into our lives? Is anyone willing to share an example of where they have felt the need to change?
SUMMARY: Prophets love those they serve and desire to lead them well, even if doing so requires reproving them: It’s OK that we make mistakes. We’re expected to as part of our learning process. Mistakes are required for our growth. When we make mistakes, we can dwell in them unproductively, or we can see that we have discovered a new area of growth for us that provides us with more opportunity to learn more about ourselves and overcome challenges.
Overall, what can we learn from the experiences of Joseph Smith? What other good things can we apply to our own lives? What stands out as the main message from this lesson?