In this there is safety, peace
By Scott L. Vanatter, Reston Ward, July 20, 2014
Please return with me to my senior year in high school over forty years ago. It was just prior to my receiving a testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. The foundational truths of the Restoration revealed by God through the Prophet Joseph Smith were about to be made known to me.
At the time I was ignorantly, blissfully satisfied existing in the world without a belief in God. While others found truth and solace in religion, I was compelled to reject what I saw as the false, double predestination of automatically consigning most of humankind to eternal damnation. This very narrow sliver of philosophy, to me, seemed to infect most of the Christian churches I had encountered. I couldn’t conceive that, if there was a God, this plan was what he or she or it designed and set in motion. If there was a God, this world could not have begun as a major accident. If there was a God, why would he conceive of a plan where most would fail and suffer eternally in a lake of fire and brimstone, also inconceivable to me. As I say, these ideas seemed to inform every discussion, and everything I read.
Let’s consider for a moment the simple but miraculous process of such a person moving from a position of doubt, disbelief, and disconnection . . . to one of testimony, vision, and covenant. Imagine with me -- or remember your own -- sacred moments in time where doubt faded into faith. Remember when light overcame darkness. Remember when a lively hope of eternal life replaced the cold fact of the future death of the body. Remember when truth replaced misconception. See once more how inspiration and revelation blasts like the dawning of a brilliant early-morning sun, the frost of a cold earth-bound science -- or a lonely, lowly, soley philosophical logic. The inherent and self-admitted limitations of reason can only accept a narrow lane of truth – only those few facts which can be overtly measured with the earthly calculus of rulers, scales, or microscopes. However, God stands ready to reveal to us the greatest spiritual verities – vast spiritual realities -- via the celestial calculus of a quiet discernment, assisted by the collected wisdom of living prophets. Even a child can apprehend these truths, though there are the beautiful, deep things of God which only “time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts” can find out. We, of course, need to be ‘in tune’ so as to be able to perceive these authentic spiritual intuitions, inspirations, revelations, realizations, and revelations -- awakenings out of a deep sleep.
So, today/now, I sincerely seek your quiet assent in a brief shared silent prayer as we consider together our theme today (chosen by the stake presidency): The value, necessity, and safety in following the living prophet -- in unity.
After being a member for a little over a year, and after attending Institute which my bishop had highly recommended, I realized that I too needed to serve a mission. Soon I submitted my papers and was called to serve in the Australia Sydney Mission. Coming from the rough world of football and wrestling, I looked to a more Mormon-oriented set of heroes to inspire me through the twenty-four month journey I had embarked upon.
I chose two subjects as a convenient go-to model of attitude and action. I often thought of them as a tool to self-check the Why and How of my service as a fulltime missionary. Wanting to reserve Jesus to the higher role of the being on whom I would focus my worship, and whose example of the finest godly and divine attributes I would seek to emulate, and keeping Joseph also in the lofty role of latter-day prophet whose expansive doctrine I needed to more fully apprehend, and passing over the many exciting prophet and apostle heroes of the Bible and The Book of Mormon, I chose to focus on the modern apostles and prophets -- particularly using a 45 year old apostle, Thomas S. Monson, who was rather young and easy to identify with, as a convenient place holder for all of them. Really, more than imagining him in any particular missionary setting, I tried emulate what I conceived as the general positive attitude and proactive energy that an Elder Monson would bring to serving a mission if he was to server a mission in the early 70s.
Secondly, I chose to ponder the faith of the Pioneers. They did many extraordinary things, for the most lofty of motivations. They would follow the prophet with courage and sacrifice even at a high cost. They had a vision of Zion and what was to be done, and set about to do it – no matter what obstacle was placed in their way. Physical or otherwise.
So, I let several favorite Pioneer stories rest in my mind. Athletes did tough things, but Pioneers did all this and much more often settings of life and death.
One of the stories I heard shortly after joining the church, which has never left me, is the grand overarching vision and sure testimony of one immigrant Pioneer widow, a convert from Scotland, Mary Murray Murdoch. She was only 4 foot, 7 inches tall, and weighed 90 pounds; she was known as Wee Granny. She and her family joined the church in the early 1850s. Her son, John, a sheepherder was soon asked to come to Utah to tend Brigham Young’s sheep. After five years he saved enough money to send for the rest of his family -- brothers and sisters, a brother-in-law, etc., and Wee Granny, now 73 years old. Across the ocean they came, then by train to Iowa. Then, they undertook to travel the rest of the journey by handcart. The company had to camp at Chimney Rock, Nebraska for a few days because so many were too weary and sick to travel. Her spirit was strong, but her body was not able to finish the journey to Zion to join her son, John. The next morning (October 3, 1856), word was sent through the camp that sister Mary Murray Murdoch had passed away during the night from the hardships of the trek. In ten more days she was to turn 74.
As she lay near death there on the plains of Nebraska, the family gathered around her. Her last spoken words were a plea that the burning faith and love she shared with her son of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ be made known to her son in Utah. She concluded, "Tell John I died with my face toward Zion." This kind of pioneering vision of the great latter-day work continues to inspire me to this day.
NOT ABANDON PROPHET
I remember the day on my mission when hoped that if I lived in Joseph’s day, I would have been one of those who did not abandon him -- no matter how many other members or leaders did. Not that there were nearly as trials in latter-day Australia, but I determined that I would follow the living prophet -- the First Presidency and Quorum or the Twelve Apostles -- no matter how many others in or out of the church would seek to criticize or reject their considered counsel.
President David O. McKay related the story about one of our pioneers. This man had crossed the plains under the most trying circumstances. In a meeting in Utah years later, members were criticizing the brethren for errors in outfitting and in the timing of their handcart trek. The man who had been in the company said, “I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie . . . whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? … Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church,” the old man said, “because everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.”
One of my wife’s great-great-grandmothers, Elizabeth Reese (Craig), compared the relative challenges which the saints encountered over her lifetime. In her old age, she looked back and wrote: “Yes, I’ve pioneered in Arizona, but my mother was a pioneer before me -- she came from Illinois to Utah with the first handcart company, and my husband‘s father James Craig, was a bugler for the [vanguard company of] pioneers of 1847 and crossed the Plains into Salt Lake City with Brigham Young. . . . Yes, I suppose you‘d say that pioneering in those early years was hard, but we were all trying to develop the country and build a better nation. No one was trying to destroy it or tear it down. Everybody worked together and tried to follow the teaching of one of the Apostles who said, ‘Stick to the good and work for the right.’
“Of course we worked hard, but hard work is good for the souls of men. Hard work kept our children out of mischief and kept men from getting into trouble. If I had my life to live over, I believe I’d take the hardships of our [early] times rather than the problems of today. We built the nation. A lot of people now are trying to tear it apart. No matter how hard, it is easier to build a country than to keep the enemies from destroying it afterwards.
“There’s a tremendous job of pioneering for our young people today -- pioneering in a wilderness of unrest, selfishness, intolerance, greed, and dishonor. True courses must be charted through this wilderness just as we broke trails through nature’s wilderness sixty-nine years ago.”
What is really needed -- as much as it has ever been -- is a listening ear attuned to the spirit and a believing heart grounded in the core, basic elements of revealed truth. We need to develop a lively faith in the living God. And, as per today’s theme, there is safety in Following the Prophet.
- The people of Zion followed Enoch to Heaven.
- The children of Israel followed God’s chosen prophet Moses out of bondage.
- Scores, then hundreds, then thousands followed a new prophet, Joseph Smith, as he declared that the Heavens were once again opened, and then revealed this marvelous work and a wonder -- of the First Vision (and all it teaches on the nature of God, and the nature of Man), of The Book of Mormon (and its witness of Christ), and this beautiful and ennobling doctrine of the Plan of Salvation and Exaltation and Happiness of the “whole family of heaven” (wonderfully laid out in the ordinances of the temple).
- Later, the Pioneers followed Brigham Young across the country to the tops of the mountains.
- And today, we follow a modern prophet in a wilderness of “sophistication” – as one modern prophet has labeled our modern age.
President Hugh B. Brown spoke of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, quote. "A sense of relationship and co-partnership with God involves the concept of universal brotherhood -- and that will help to develop intelligent tolerance, open-mindedness, and good-natured optimism. Life is really a battle between fear and faith, pessimism and optimism. Fear and pessimism paralyze men with skepticism and futility.” Fear and pessimism also fosters a nagging, destructive doubt.
DOUBT, IN CONTEXT
Let’s discuss doubt for a minute prior to moving on to faith and following the living prophet. Late last year (2013), President Uchdorf reminded us that the search for truth has led millions of people to the Church. However, he added, there are some who leave the Church they once loved. Quote.
“One might ask, ‘If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave? Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple,” he explained. “In fact there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.”
President Uchtdorf said some members struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. “We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history — along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events — there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question. . . . Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.”
President Uchtdorf said there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. “There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles or doctrine. I suppose the Church would only be perfect if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us — His imperfect children — and imperfect people make mistakes.”
Speaking to “those who have separated themselves from the Church,” President Uchtdorf said, “Come, and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result.”
He said it is natural to have questions or doubts. “Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true (Alma 32:21),” he said. “Therefore, please, first doubt your doubts, before you doubt your faith.” Some, he said, don’t think they fit in with the people in the Church. “If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose.” End quote.
#A. On hearing and believing the Word of God . . .
Let’s consider for a moment why we need to follow the prophet in unity. Above all, there is strength in unity. Whether this is declared or exhibited by the most famous of successful political leaders, award winning coaches, prophets, caring bishoprics, or relief society or priesthood presidencies, or close growing families.
Listen to how Paul desires us to be one in his epistle to the Ephesians. What advice does he offer? (See Ephesians chapter 4) -- I therefore . . . beseech you that ye walk . . . 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. . . .
These verses immediately precedes the famous LDS missionary scripture where He calls prophets and apostles for the following purposes: -- 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: [the church]
He then addresses the question of how long we will need prophets. Answer: -- 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . . [even that we are raised up] unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
He continues: 29 Let [only that] communication proceed out of your mouth, . . . which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God . . . .
Then he addresses how we go about living in unity: 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Along these lines, Joseph Smith counseled: “let every selfish feeling be not only buried, but annihilated; and let love to God and man predominate, and reign triumphant in every mind…. The work in which we are unitedly engaged is one of no ordinary kind. The enemies we have to contend against are subtle and well skilled in maneuvering; it behooves us to be on the alert to concentrate our energies, and that the best feelings should exist in our midst; . . . We, all of us, have our friends, our connections, our families and associations; and we find that the ties of friendship … and brotherhood have indissolubly united us together with a thousand endearing associations; . . . A kindred sympathy runs through the whole body, even the body of Christ [which is the church]. . . . By a concentration of action, and a unity of effort . . . the blessings of heaven must flow unto us in an uninterrupted stream; . . .”
Elder Hugh B. Brown illustrated the absolute need for a living prophet, to a great judge in Brittan just as evil tyrants were raising their ugly head prior to World War II. He clearly and convincingly demonstrated to this judge, not a member of our church, the need for a prophet in those troubled time. Elder Brown later reported, “what was the reaction of this judge, when we finished? He sat and listened, intently. He asked some very pointed and searching questions. And then he said, and his eyes were moist when he said it, ‘Mr. Brown, there never was an age in the history of the world, there never was a people or a time, when the voice of God was needed as is needed now.’ And at the end of [our discussion], he said, ‘Mr. Brown, I wonder if your people appreciate the import of your message. Do you?’ He said, ‘If what you have told me is true, it is the greatest message that has come to this earth, since the angels announced the birth of Christ.’ Elder Brown said, “This was a judge speaking. A great statesman. An intelligent man. He threw out the challenge, ‘Do you appreciate the import of what you say?’ The judge said, ‘I wish it were true. I hope it may be true. God knows it ought to be true. I would to God,’ he said, and he wept as he said it, ‘That some man could appear on the earth and authoritatively say, ‘Thus sayeth the Lord.’”
#B. On receiving God’s Promises . . .
Now, let’s speak of the promises related to following the prophet and the need and blessing of acting in unity.
On the value of being united, President George Q. Cannon said, “I suppose each of us is fond of having his own way. I know I am. … But I do not like my own way well enough to want it in opposition to my brethren’s way. That is our duty as the First Presidency of the Church. It is the duty of every presidency throughout the Church. … Suppose that one [person in the presidency or related organization] has more wisdom than another; it is better to carry out a plan that is not so wise, if you are united on it. Speaking generally, a plan or a policy that may be inferior in some respects is more effective if men are united upon it than a better plan would be upon which they were divided.”
Joseph Smith published an editorial about building the Nauvoo Temple which stated, “The cause of God is one common cause, in which the Saints are alike all interested; we are all members of the one common body, and all partake of the same spirit . . . . . Party feelings, separate interests, exclusive designs should be lost sight of in the one common cause, in the interest of the whole.” [May 2, 1842]
#C. On Overcoming the World
President Hinckley remarked that, “There are many little things that test our willingness to accept the word of the prophets. . . . So it has been through the history of mankind, and so it is today. . . . Now again, as always, we are faced with public moral issues, [for example, gambling, laws about concealed firearms in our church buildings, warnings about debt, abuse, the family, pride, and of course, the policies and procedures of the church.] The Presidents of the Church have spoken clearly and unequivocally on these matters.” End quote.
In the Book of Mosiah, we are counseled that “that there should be no contention one with another, but that [we] should look forward with one eye, . . . having [our] hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.”
#D. On becoming a Servant of the Lord
President Hinckley declared, “I say for each and all that we have no personal agenda. We have only the Lord’s agenda. There are those who criticize when we issue a statement of counsel or warning. Please know that our pleadings are not motivated by any selfish desire. Please know that our warnings are not without substance and reason. Please know that the decisions to speak out on various matters are not reached without deliberation, discussion, and prayer. Please know that our only ambition is to help each of you with your problems, your struggles, your families, your lives. . . . Ours is the responsibility outlined by Ezekiel: ‘Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me’ (Ezekiel 3:17).” (Oct. 1992)
#E. On the Blessing of following God and His Prophet . . .
Please deeply consider how this beautiful recent statement by President Monson applies to you and your loved ones. “Your Heavenly Father loves you. That love never changes. It is not influenced by your appearance. It is not changed by your talents and abilities. It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there.” End quote.
No matter where our loved ones are, in or out of the church.
#F. On Being One with God and His Son
Sharing the perfect oneness which he enjoys with his Father, Jesus prayed, in his Great Intercessory Prayer (see John 17) –
keep through thine own name [or, his power, or nature, or identity]
those whom thou hast given me,
that they may be one, as we are. . . .
20. Neither pray I for these alone,
but for them also which shall believe on me
through their word;
21. That they all may be one;
as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee,
that they also may be one in us: . . .
that they may be one, even as we are one:
23. I in them, and thou in me,
that they may be made perfect in one….”
Perfection in the scriptures speaks of wholeness and completeness, etc.
In conclusion, looking back to the years prior to my testimony, I could make the case that my doubt with respect to all things religious helped pave the way to my accepting the truth when it was finally presented to me. Of course, it was not only this ‘healthy skepticism’ but also a fair amount of curiosity, inquisitiveness, searching, openness, yearning, responsiveness, and a thousand other motivations which led me to the truth, the divine, and to God. And to Jesus Christ who he has sent.
I do bear my personal witness that God our kind, loving, Eternal Father in Heaven, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost enjoy a perfect and glorious Oneness. As Jesus declared in his Great Intercessory Prayer, they desire all to receive it.
I also testify that there is help, safety and peace in following the living prophets. I wholeheartedly sustain the President of the church, the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators.
I have discovered for myself from firsthand experience that the other General and local authorities of the Church sincerely serve with your best interests in their hearts. There is no personal agenda. They seek the Lord’s will in all things discussed and decided.
I understand that there are those who have doubts, or who do not agree with church leaders. Some of my decade’s long friends have recently left the church. I have a strong belief, though, that someday they will return to the fold, without reservation and without rancor. It may take a while, as President Kimball once said, a hundred, a thousand, or even a million years. Till then, we will show unfeigned love till they return, where they will once again enjoy the power and blessings of their covenants in unity and harmony -- which has been the hallmark of the Saints in all ages. I pray in the sacred name of my Savior and Redeemer, my Exemplar and Friend, even Jesus Christ. Amen.
# # #
[I.] On hearing and believing the Word of God . . .
[II.] On receiving God’s Promises . . .
[III.] On Overcoming the World – Calamity, WWII
[IV.] On becoming a Servant of the Lord
[V.] On the Blessing of following God and His Prophet . . .
[VI.] On Being One with God and His Son
# # #
ON A DESTRUCTIVE DOUBT
As I have intimated, there is still such a thing as a Destructive Doubt – one that absolutely negates the other, finer, more nuanced aspects of our search for truth, beauty, meaning, and connection. Surely there has been over the millennia, such a thing as faith run amok -- a blind, unthinking, uninformed, unaware and unengaged approach to God. But doubt run amok is the subject of the following couplets. Please remember I am discussing here a Destructive Doubt as it relates to loving and following God -- and the prophets he has called.
[I.] On hearing and believing the Word of God . . .
Faith creates clarity. Doubt causes confusion.
Faith enlightens. Doubt darkens.
Faith feels. Doubt numbs.
Faith Sings. Doubt Sorrows.
[II.] On receiving God’s Promises . . .
Faith is assurance; doubt, misgivings.
Faith creates commitment; doubt, discord.
Faith fills us with promise; doubt limits.
Faith opens new opportunities and beautiful vistas. Doubt closes doors.
[III.] On Overcoming the World
Faith is action. Doubt is delay, hesitation, wait, pause, ‘not now’, later.
Faith is dynamic. Doubt is static.
Faith moves forward. Doubt is bogged down.
Faith Overcomes. Doubt Succumbs.
[IV.] On becoming a Servant of the Lord
Faith is the power to act. Doubt is paralysis.
Faith builds up. Doubt tears down.
Faith builds respect; doubt, disrespect.
Faith is trust. Doubt is [constant] suspicion.
[V.] On being Blessed by following God and His Prophet . . .
Faith creates hope; doubt, cynicism.
Faith includes a healthy skepticism, and a searching inquisitiveness. But, Doubt says there can be no answers.
Faith is a steady, dependable Perseverance. Doubt is cut and run (in times of trouble).
Faith Preserves the best. Doubt Destroys hope.
[VI.] On Being One with God and His Son
Faith connects. Doubt separates.
Faith is Heaven-sent. Doubt is earth-bound.
Faith is Now. Doubt is never.
And finally, Doubt is a divisive cacophony. Faith is Unison and Harmony.
Key Insights from the King Follett Discourse
Joseph Smith’s seminal April 1844 speech
Please see below for several nuggets taken from this important speech. Prayerfully considered and thoughtfully presented, many of these insights are suitable for use in any LDS meeting.
On the Nature of God and Man
- If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend their own character. . . . They do not know—they do not understand their own relationship to God.
- God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret.
- If the veil were rent today and the great God that holds this world in its sphere and the planets in their orbit and who upholds all things by His power—if you were to see Him today, you would see Him in all the person, image, fashion, and very form of a man, like yourselves.
- The first principle of truth and of the Gospel is to know for a certainty the character of God, and that we may converse with Him the same as one man with another . . . .
- Here, then, is eternal life – to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation….
- When we begin to know how to come to Him, He begins to come to us. When we are ready to come to Him, He is ready to receive us. As soon as we begin to understand the character of God, He begins to unfold the heavens to us and tell us all about it before our prayers get to His ears.
- All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement and improvement. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge.
- This is good doctrine. It tastes good. You say honey is sweet and so do I. I can also taste the spirit and principles of eternal life, and so can you. I know it is good and that when I tell you of these words of eternal life that are given to me by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the revelations of Jesus Christ, you are bound to receive them as sweet. You taste them and I know you believe them. I rejoice more and more.
- All things whatsoever God . . . [sees] fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in our mortal state . . . are revealed to us in the abstract. . . .
- If a man has knowledge he can be saved, for knowledge saves a man.
- I am going to tell of things more noble. We say that God Himself is a self-existent God. Who told you so? It’s correct enough, but how did it get into your heads? Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principle? . . . Man existed in spirit; the mind of man—the intelligent part— is as immortal as, and is coequal with, God Himself. . . . Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it. The first principles of man are self-existent with God.
OTHER MISC IDEAS CONTEMPLATED, BUT NOT INCLUDED
PRIVATE INSPIRATION A side note. The day after I had determined to tell the missionaries (and what turned out to be my future wife) that I wanted to be baptized, I was standing Becky’s kitchen alone waiting for the missionaries to arrive. As I reviewed what I was to say to them sometime over the next hour, and as I was about to walk out of the kitchen into the living room where we held our lessons, the impression came to me, clear and distinct (from this God who I have just discovered) that, no matter what, Joseph was a prophet. And that it is right to join this church.
And in an age prior to PCs, prior to the Internet, prior to anyone trying to tell me anything negative about Joseph Smith, in an instant I saw that a thousand and one things would be said against Joseph. That no matter the most astounding, puzzling, hard to understand, e.g., coincidences or problems concerning the translation of The Book of Mormon, or this or that horrible thing that might be said against his character, he was a prophet. In this instant, I was assured that any one of a hundred, no more than a thousand individual potential controversies which I perceived, I was not to worry. There would be an answer, some answer, and that I could trust that he was indeed the prophet of this dispensation. That what he taught about the First Vision, about God the Father, about Mankind, about the Plan of Salvation and the Temple . . . all this unique combination of eclectic Gospel was of God, and good. No matter how many years and now decades have transpired, I cannot forget the power of this simple message. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
Through hours and year of study to of all the primary sources with respect to Joseph’s teaching and character, I can tell you from firsthand experience with the spirit, this stand true to this day. I have not encountered anything which violates what was made known to me that afternoon of March 1972.
Going back to 1972, I fondly recall the late afternoons after wrestling season concluded when I was taught the missionary lessons (using the old flannel board method). I also recall keenly the private evening hours later each night devoted to reading and pondering the scriptures and pamphlets – capped off with humble prayer. I can almost see the very moment realizing that for the first time two twin ideas – practically simultaneously, #1.) that God does indeed live, and he sent his Son to our earth, and #2.) that Joseph was His prophet. Of course The Book of Mormon was key in this discovery. But for me it really was the import of the First Vision. I have read and studied and reveled in each recitation of this extraordinary event. For me, we can almost divide written religious history into Before 1820 and After 1820. Considering how Parley P. Pratt described Joseph Smith’s leadership as being lived in crescendo, this implies much about what was taught in Nauvoo.