Questions about Joseph Smith

[ 20 ] Comments

by RI Editors

This question came to us and we want to talk about it with you here in the Real Intent forum. Please give this struggling sister your kind advice and knowledge.

“I have been struggling with my testimony of Joseph Smith, I can’t support everything he did. I read about how he will stand with Heavenly Father and Jesus to judge us; I had never been taught that before. I also read about how he did not keep the Word of Wisdom after it was revealed. I have a difficult time thinking that he will judge me when he wouldn’t be worthy to hold a temple recommend if he were alive today. I need answers. People keep telling me to pray. That isn’t helping me. I am very scared and confused.”

20 Responses to Questions about Joseph Smith

  1. jendoop says:

    I love that we’re talking about this. I think it is one of the biggest areas of concern for new members, one of which is impossible to completely grasp as a new convert because his life and mission was so broad and complex.

    It’s difficult for members born in the church to grasp too because often if we’ve grown up in the church we assume we know everything about Joseph Smith and can be somewhat complacent in our knowledge of him and the Restoration. When in fact there is always something more to learn. And for the record, no one is hiding any of it, all of the information about him is free to find and research, if you take the time and seek out the resources.

    I didn’t have a full understanding and trust in Joseph until my late 20s when I took the time to study, pray, meditate, and visit some of the sacred places that Joseph walked. My journey began with the Work and the Glory series of historical fiction, but it was only the beginning because it’s not all fact. I went on to read The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and took a class from BYU on the Doctrine and Covenants.

    Now I have a very strong testimony of him. One which I won’t go on to describe because it is mine, and you have to work to gain your own. It will not come to you without work. like anything else that is of great value.

    Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, I honor him and am very grateful for his devoted work. Next on my reading list is Rough Stone Rolling, my husband recommended it. (Our testimonies must be watered with knowledge, prayer and meditation continually to grow and not wither.)

  2. Becky L. Rose says:

    I suggest you read Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. That will help and can be bought in paperback.

    The Word of Wisdom at first was given more as a suggestion, a good idea then latter it became a commandment. The Lord knew it would take a while for the people to change their habits. From the first 3 verses of section 89:

    A Word of Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion—

    2 To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—

    3 Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.

    Joseph will judge our dispensation only, not all people of the earth.

    I also suggest you read section.

    Another thing you can do is to think of all the things the church has because of Joseph- temple sealing’s so family’s can be together forever, baptism for the dead, the priesthood in ones home, the true nature of the God head, and The Book of Mormon Are you willing to part with those? I am not.

    Do you know the Book of Mormon is true? If you do then Joseph Smith is a prophet and the debate is over. Read the D &C and hopefully if you go with a sincere heart you will feel the spirit. All of them but 3 are from him. Can you deny those revelations? Because that is what they are- Revelations sent directly from God to a prophet. It happens no other way. Read and pray! Read, read, read!

    Joseph was not perfect. He was a man, but he was a man with a special mission, chosen in the councils of heaven.

    Joseph Smith was and is a prophet. The Book of Mormon is the word of God, and this is His church restored in the last days. Of this I know!

  3. Jacqueline B. Gramlow says:

    Perhaps if you were to study the times and culture of church history, you would see that humans established and promoted the church growth. These people, including the Prophet were suddenly asked to change many of their life long beliefs and habits. They may have struggled with some things just as we do.

    Are any of us in a position to dispute the Word of God?? If God found Joseph to be worthy, and remember God did rebuke him at times, why should we doubt that he is worthy to stand with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the other prophets???

  4. Bonnie says:

    If I’m reading your question well, it seems that the crux of your difficulty is that Joseph would participate in your judgment. We are only comfortable with the thought of someone judging us who would fully understand us, hence the suffering in Gethsemane of our Lord gives us a sense of peace that he would be both kind and fair. Am I correct in saying that your difficulty is more that Joseph could not possibly know you very well, rather than that he’s not perfect?

    Few of us are comfortable around people who are more perfected than we. We prefer the company and the mini judgments that come from people whose experiences are more like ours. There have been times in my life that I was not comfortable with my Savior judging me, feeling that while he did suffer everything in Gethsemane, he was a perfected being who had never personally sinned, and he would never really “get” me. There was no way his judgment would be fair or truly merciful. It was in those times that the idea that others would also participate in my judgment actually made me feel better, like he would seek counsel from flawed people made perfect, who could tell him what it feels like to have a weakness that you have to overcome. My views of the Savior’s perfection have changed over time, but the idea of a collaborative judgment stays with me.

    I like the idea of a growing person participating in my continued teaching, but that is the part that has given me peace. You will only know this when you know it yourself, because no knowledge is as solid and enduring as the testimony of the spirit. I’m going to say something heretical now.

    The Word of Wisdom is an introductory principle. It’s an important one to develop obedience toward, but considering Joseph’s life of persecution as a teen, tarring and feathering, beatings, imprisonment in the bitter winter, attempted poisoning, the false accusation of his friends, the sometimes almost solitary leadership of the kingdom on earth, I think the Lord was much more concerned with his valiant testimony and kindness to others through all that than he was with his drinking wine before he was martyred. He was a flawed individual who rose above many, but not all, of his flaws to fulfill his mission on earth. I can’t imagine anyone I’d more like to have participate in my judgment.

    We measure the wrong things. My daughter and I had a discussion last night about extra earrings. It’s just more visible. It’s not more important. Man looketh on the outward appearance; the Lord looketh on the heart. Mormons need to be much more careful to judge each other, and our prophets, the way the Lord will.

  5. MSKeller says:

    There are some excellent answers all ready. I read through Nephi’s Lament twice recently. I think that we have a tendency to believe that our leaders must be perfect in order to be inspired. We are likely to judge them by today’s rules and standards instead of those they were under. Our duty isn’t to judge (thank goodness) it is to receive inspiration for our stewardship, to look for the good (not every little flaw) and to center ourselves on CHRIST who was the only perfect human. The rest is up to God, who doesn’t deem to judge mankind until the end of their days. . .

    That said, I can also see why finding out something about someone that changes your perception of them can be disheartening. Not to be flip, but in a way sort of like finding out there isn’t as much magic in the world as you once believed. This might simply be your opportunity to search and learn more about Joseph.

    Sometimes in our lives we are given challenges for the express purpose that it is the thing we need to learn more about. Not always, but sometimes. Consider that it may be an opportunity to find out more about him, learn of his heart, his calling, his intent and his own self-expressed humility and awe at being called to do and be who he, a young boy, was called to be.

    In any aspect, it is good to ask the question with an open heart and come to those whom you feel can help share their own experiences in a positive way.

  6. Ray says:

    Frankly, I see Joseph differently than many members do. I absolutely love him for the great things he did, but he wasn’t the caricature that gets painted usually – either the infallible, god-like man seen by many believers or the wicked charlatan seen by many unbelievers. He was a real person, with strengths and weaknesses just like all of us. It’s just that strengths and weaknesses were magnified by his charismatic personality and his calling as a prophet.

    There are four things in his history I want to share here that help me shed the simplistic caricatures and embrace the complex human he was:

    1) Joseph Smith is the most chastised, reprimanded person in the D&C – and it’s not close. That actually means a lot to me and gives me great hope that I can play a part in the work of the Lord despite my own weaknesses and sins.

    2) He was told early in his life that his name would be had for good and evil – and I take that more literally than most members. I don’t read it to mean that people simply would see him as good and as evil, depending on their perspective; I read it to mean that he would live “greatly” – and, like most radical visionaries and highly charismatic leaders, that greatness would be manifested more extremely at each end of the spectrum than most people. His good would be GREAT; his bad would be worse than the norm – and, in some people’s eyes, be classed as evil.

    3) D&C 121 is fascinating, especially when read as one unified message. It starts with Joseph begging the Lord to come down and wipe out his enemies, and it ends with the Lord teaching Joseph about the pervasiveness of unrighteous dominion – in effect, explaining why He, God, could not act as Joseph was begging Him to act. It includes the incredibly powerful and poignant words:

    “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.”

    I take this verse literally, as well. I see a tender and loving God telling Joseph, “I can’t exercise unrighteous dominion, as you are asking me to do.” I see Joseph, in the moment when he finally experienced his own Gethsemane, faced with the enormity of what he had asked of a loving Father, realizing his own weakness and, thus, talking about “WE have learned by SAD experience . . . almost ALL men . . .”

    4) We as a people have completely unrealistic expectations of prophets. When you read the Bible and the Book of Mormon, prophets were complex people who did great things – but those great things were on both sides of the way we would judge people now. We have examples of passed-out drunkenness, having sex with a prostitute to have a child just to give that child a name that would be a statement against the society to which he preached, killing “children” (probably “young men”, in a purer translation) by sending a bear to maul them for mocking him, killing someone who was beating a slave and hiding the body and fleeing when he was discovered, depressive thoughts about not living up to great visions, condemning a friend in time of war for not providing help that friend couldn’t provide as he fought to maintain governmental control in that same war, telling women to remain silent in church and condoning slavery and servitude – and, in the case of Jesus, of Nazareth, fashioning a whip and beating people until they fled the temple. We accept all of these things because we see the people in question as prophets – but we have a harder time accepting similar things from prophets who are called in our own time and country.

    If you are interested, go to my personal blog and click on the labels entitled “Joseph Smith” and “Prophets”. I’ve written extensively about both topics there. The one I would recommend first is, “Why I Love and Honor Joseph Smith – and Emma”. The link is:

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2012/07/why-i-love-and-honor-joseph-smith-and.html

  7. templegoer says:

    Speaking for myself, I choose not to focus my testimony on Joseph, but on his revelations about the nature of God and man, and the covenants that I can consequently make with God as an individual.
    I start first with these, and consequently I am able to see Joseph’s contribution to the restoration as prophetical. So my love and appreciation for this man grows, because I experience the fruits of his revelations in my life.

    I’m not a comfortable with a focus on the merits of an individual, whoever they are. All humans fail to measure up to their aspirations, let alone those of others. But the knowledge that God wants to give me all that He has is a game changer for me. That can be the only definition of God worth having.It changes everything.

  8. Jettboy says:

    The discussion of Joseph Smith’s imperfections and the history of the Word of Wisdom is important to answering your questions. What I want to talk about is the theological teachings on the subject of judgements. This starts with a reminder from Matthew 7:2 that “for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” None of us are perfect, and Joseph Smith was no different. He worried during his own life that the Saints were putting too much of a burden on his doing everything right. “I was but a man,” Joseph told the Saints in 1842, “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” (History of the Church, 5:181). Daniel Peterson had a good article in the Deseret News about his character that touched on his sins and repentance. He continually stated that the only perfect person is Jesus Christ who he had to rely on for forgiveness the same as all people.

    The second concern is the doctrine that Joseph Smith would be a judge when it is known that Jesus Christ is the final judge. Having others besides the Savior as a judge is not new. doctrine. We as Saints are already in a position of judgment as stated in 1 Corinthians 6:2-4, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.” It is a great matter for us to be careful how we do our duty in that regard. Joseph Smith also received a revelation included in D&C 29:12 that reads, “And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, and it hath gone forth in a firm decree, by the will of the Father, that mine aapostles, the Twelve which were with me in my ministry at Jerusalem, shall stand at my right hand at the day of my coming in a pillar of fire, being clothed with robes of righteousness, with crowns upon their heads, in glory even as I am, to judge the whole house of Israel, even as many as have loved me and kept my commandments, and none else.” Joseph Smith as an Apostle and Prophet is one judge among many. An angel explains to Nephi in Nephi 12:29 that the Old World apostles will judge ministers of the New World who will then judge Nephi’s posterity. The picture seems to be that judgement will not be a private affair, but a community activity. Regardless of who and how many will be judges, John 5:22 explains that Heavenly Father, “hath committed all judgment unto the Son,” who is the final authority.

  9. Urso says:

    I honestly think that we all come to our testimony of Joseph Smith in totally different ways so I am not sure that my comments, or comments from any other person, will be helpful in your situation. The most important thing is that you keep earnestly striving to gain a testimony of Joseph Smith for yourself.

    In my case my testimony came and my wife, daughter, and I were sitting on the grass next to Joseph Smith’s home in Nauvoo. At the time my wife was really struggling with the issues surrounding polygamy and Joseph Smith. I had always accepted him as a prophet but had never really had the kind of affirmation that I wanted. As we sat there at dusk looking out at the Mississippi River and trying to keep my daughter focused on what I was saying and not on chasing fireflies, I related to my 3 year old daughter the story of Joseph Smith. It came out in a way designed so a child could understand it. Not sure how much she remembers but my wife and I both had an absolutely undeniable testimony come over us that he was exactly what he said he was…a prophet who restored the church. This unmistakable testimony has carried both of us through “A Rough Stone Rolling” through a stint as a very young and inexperienced bishop when the first rumors about the White Salamander Letter sent a number of members streaming to my office wanting to know how all this could be. It has not (yet) carried my daughter through to believing in Joseph Smith but we remain hopeful that she will someday return.

    Hope in some way this experience has benefitted you.

  10. After reading your question, several times, this is the concern which I feel impressed to comment on: “I have been struggling with my testimony of Joseph Smith, I can’t support everything he did.”

    Frankly, nor can I. And honestly, in my opinion, I don’t think we are required to “support” or even understand “everything” he did. From what history we do have, even Joseph lamented over some of what the Lord required of Him, as well. Nevertheless, he was faithful, even unto death.

    What I do believe we are required to gain a testimony of, is that Joseph Smith did see, in reality, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and received his call to be the Prophet of the Restoration; of which he could not deny. Through angelic ministration he received an ancient record, and through the Power of God translated that record, known today as the Book of Mormon.

    Said Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Book of Mormon is the only book ever published, of which I know, that carries in it a promise that one who reads it prayerfully and asks concerning it in prayer will have revealed to him by the power of the Holy Ghost a knowledge that it is true (see Moroni 10:4).

    That’s incredible! Think about it. Why is that so important? Why would that be important to you in particular? Or me? I’ve read the other comments here and wondered what more I could add that might be helpful to someone who is struggling with a testimony of Joseph Smith?

    The fact of the matter is, God knew, as mentioned in a previous comment, that not only His prophet, but also — His record, His work and everything associated with the building up of the kingdom in the latter-days, would be challenged on every possible front, by the Adversary — and all those affiliated, whose mission is to destroy and discredit it!

    The Book of Mormon is untainted from the world, held in reserve to come forth at this specific time, for this very purpose; for those who will earnestly seek for the witness that God has promised — that it is true. With that special witness of its truthfulness He has attached the knowledge of its translator, being an authentic Prophet of God, as declared, holding the keys of the Restoration! How marvelous is our God in cutting through the sophistry of Satan in finding the pure in heart who He knows will seek the Spirit.

    “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them to me is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” John 10: 27-30

    One thing that I have come to know, is that our God is not a God of confusion. He is a God of clarity, order and peace. His work is led by His Spirit and if you will seek His Spirit and cast away all other voices as confusion, you will hear with clarity, His voice, and He will lead you…

  11. Paul says:

    I enjoyed the comments, Ray’s in particular.

    I came to my testimony of Joseph rather late in my conversion process. I joined the church with my parents when I was nearly nine years old and instantly felt spiritual connections. We read the Book of Mormon as a family and I quickly felt the power of that witness of Jesus Christ. As I grew older, my testimony of prayer, of priesthood ordinances, of the value of scripture and gospel study all grew. On my mission, I had enough of a testimony of Joseph to be able to teach the restoration with honest conviction and testimony.

    But I had lingering questions and doubts about Joseph the man for years.

    Even so, I continued to feel the spirit as I attended the temple, participated in ordinances and studied the gospel. The Book of Mormon continued to be a signifcant part of my gospel study and learning.

    It was only in my 30’s that I finally was able to resolve some of my issues with Joseph, and Ray’s point #1 was a key element of that resolution. Recognizing that the Lord had chastised Joseph plenty, and Joseph recorded those revelations, as well as others where he was instructed to lead and guide, became really meaningful to me. The spirit helped me to understand that Joseph was a man — a man I will likely never fully understand, but a man whom I love and respect for the good that he has accomplished.

    Reading Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling has helped me to paint a much more complete picture of Joseph for myself. I recognize there is still much I do not know, and much I do not understand. But I am willing to be patient, recognizing that the spirit has taught me as I’ve been ready to learn.

  12. Chris says:

    All of these comments are wonderful and insightful, of which I have only two small thoughts to add. Timely, too, considering very recent experiences in my own personal life. Just a few days ago, I was told by a long time friend that she no longer went to church. And that not only did she no longer go, but that she no longer believed. The journey to her decision began with these same thoughts. Although her intentions in the beginning to find answers were righteous, she began reading material that was not scripture or approved material by the church, but rather, the opinion of “non-believing Mormons.” I caution anyone seeking to gain more understanding of Joseph Smith, to seek sources containing information which are approved by the church only. Anyone can have an opinion or even an “intellectual” view of Joseph Smith, but not all of those people had the spirit with them when they wrote what they did, nor can someone know if what they wrote is true or not or that they have the correct interpretation of events.

    In my conversation with my friend, I had an overwhelming impression come to me that has since given me great comfort. Ultimately, we all make a choice. We can either choose to be “rational” in our approach to seeking answers; wanting explanations which cause us to continue our struggle with our testimonies of Joseph Smith and certain principles. . . or. . . we can choose faith. We can not rationalize the gospel, and we are not intended to know and understand all things. That is precisely, at least part, of the point. I think it is extremely important for everyone to have a testimony of Joseph Smith. But rather than having a testimony of “supporting everything he did” I feel it is more important to have a testimony of everything he taught, as he was not a perfect man. If there are things we find ourselves struggling with, we can remember to choose faith. We are not always intended to have every answer we want to have right when we want it. Trust in the things we do have a testimony of and have faith in the things we don’t. In due time, we will have the understanding and testimonies we desire. We always get what we need when we need it……

    • Paul says:

      Chris, while I agree that we need to protect our testimony — any testimony, not just of Joseph and his work — I do not agree that we need necessarily to limit ourselves to church-produced material to do it. In fact, I think reliance on church-produced material alone is part of the reason people who grew up in the church struggle with the “facts” of Joseph’s life: when confronted with historical evidence they do not know how to respond or even in some cases how to process the information because they have been provided a Sunday-School / Seminary curriculum view of a particular version of the story.

      I do not advocate reading Rough Stone Rolling in youth Sunday School classes, but I do believe we need to teach one another how to read non-LDS material (BTW, Rough Stone Rolling was written by a faithful LDS historian, but is not a church produced history) and balance it against what we have experienced to be true.

      The church, thankfully, is offering more complete accounts of our history (seen just this month in the new section of the church’s Church History webpages with historical context of sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, including some facts not previously widely presented, such as Martin Harris’ swapping out Joseph’s seer stone, and Oliver Cowdrey’s use of a divining rod). I do not mean to suggest that the church has intentionally hid truth; I do not believe they have. But clearly there had been an intentional effort over time to present a faith-promoting view of our history (as championed by the brethren) that sometimes avoids some of the more difficult themes.

      I do agree completely with you that we need to view anything we read with a lens of gospel truth. We cannot take anything we read, especially online, at face-value. It’s too easy to distort truth, take quotations out of context, and rely on shock value to upset someone’s spiritual apple cart. I regularly counsel my investigative teenager to consider carefully if that “doctrine” he disaagrees with is one the church really teaches before he gets too excited.

      I also agree that we are better off to seek a testimony of what Joseph taught rather than of who he was; we do not worship Joseph even though we may honor him. I submit that my testimony, even of what he taught, has not come all at once, but, like the rest of my testimony, line upon line over time.

      • Ray says:

        What Paul said – word-for-word – with one caveat:

        What works for one person doesn’t always work for someone else. It’s important to me to find what works for me – since I believe God will speak to me in my own language according to my own ability to understand. Thus, I am wary of anything that says, “This is the one true way to _________ (fill in the blank), and if anyone does it this way, the result will be the same.”

        I’d much rather say, “This is what works for me. I hope you find what works for you.”

        • Paul says:

          Ray, you are right. I find even in my own marriage that my way and my wife’s way of exploring these things is very different. We usually reach similar conclusions, but we come about them in different ways.

          And in the end, when we bear witness, we can really only bear witness of what we have seen and heard and felt and experienced.

          • Chris says:

            I very much appreciate your comments…..I am a convert to the church and was not raised being taught the ‘Sunday school’ version of church history, although I can definitely see how that could be very shocking for someone to hear something in a more blunt way -or even very different way -than how they were taught. This insight will be very helpful for me in raising my children now and teaching them how to react to material other than what is taught to them in sunday school. I still think this is a gray area, particularly for those really struggling with their testimonies. The friend I mentioned earlier read a book written by someone who she thought was a practicing, believing member of the church. It turned out that he was only a practicing member….not a believing member. I do agree with you that it can be helpful in establishing a solid foundation of the facts. We must somehow still be extremely cautious, just as you said. Thank you for the insight!

    • templegoer says:

      I’m a little uncomfortable in setting up ‘rational’ in opposition to ‘faith’. In fact, I think therein lies disaster for our testimonies.
      I’m not suggesting that it’s wrong to seek out those materials that build testimony, but when we are presented with rationally sought information, we need to give it mature consideration rather than reject it out of hand. We are no longer able to control information, and we need to consider how that information can increase our testimony. It challenges us to make choices, it increases our agency and can enable us to grow into a more robust and less brittle testimony.
      We’re not all historians however, and I’m no more comfortable with allowing academics to decide on my testimony. It’s important to know our limitations.
      I overheard my son in conversation with a friend recently. His friend, a lovely non mormon shared with my son information about Joseph’s multiple marriages, and my son’s immediate response was to repudiate these ‘accusations’ as he saw them. I want my son’s testimony to be robust enough to deal with this information, because it will come his way sooner or later, and I’d rather he dealt with this in the context of his family. Consequently, we had a conversation about the information that is now more widely available. He was shocked, but we were able to think it through together within the context of what he does have a testimony of.
      I’ve known of many young people who when faced with these things experience great distress and it can destroy their capacity to hang on to what they have experienced as being true about the church and their testimony of the church as a conduit of their relationship with their Heavenly Father.I’m hoping that we can continue to converse about difficult and challenging information, because none of us is perfect.

      • Ray DeGraw says:

        Amen, templegoer – and I LOVE the idea that God will speak to us in our hearts AND in our minds. In fact, only when something passes the test of both my faith and my reasoning do I feel comfortable saying I accept it fully. There are things I believe and things I think – and then there are things I both believe and think.

        I love those things I believe and think.

  13. ji says:

    Rather than seeking for faith in Joseph Smith, it is better to seek for faith the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather than saying Joseph Smith restored the Church, it is better to say that Jesus Christ restored His church through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

    For me, Jesus Christ is at the center, and everything else is incidental.

    Sometimes, I think members bear testimony that President _____ is a prophet, and they bear that testimony sincerely. And sometimes, they bear testimony that the Church is true, and that sincerely. It sometimes seems more rare for a Latter-day Saint to bear testimony that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior. It sometimes seems that prophet or church is at the center, and Jesus Christ is incidental. The prophet is true, and he speaks of Jesus, so therefore Jesus can also be true — or the Church is true, and it speaks of Jesus, so therefore Jesus can also be true — it’s a matter perspective — but for me, Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself to all nations, and by the way, incidentally, He called a prophet, and incidentally, He restored His Church — my testimony always goes in this direction, which seems backwards in comparison with my fellow Saints.

    I share this just or perspective, because I understand a child learning a testimony may want to start with someone tangible, like his or her parents, and then move to someone whom he or she sees in magazines or at conference (the president of the church), and then move to the society or culture (the church is true), before his or her testimony finally centers on Jesus Christ in recognition that EVERYTHING else is incidental to his or her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A testimony that is still centered on one’s family or the prophet or the church is not a complete testimony yet, but it may be one day. God works in mysterious ways.

    For me, the first principle is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Incidentally, He restored His Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Because my testimony works in this direction, it is easier for me to learn of foibles in Joseph’s life without having my testimony shattered (because my testimony is centered in Jesus Christ, not the man He chose as the great Prophet of this last dispensation).

    • Ray DeGraw says:

      I appreciate much of what you said, ji – and I agree completely with most of it. However:

      “It sometimes seems more rare for a Latter-day Saint to bear testimony that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior.”

      I’ve heard that belief expressed, in one way or another, in the large majority of adult testimonies I’ve heard in my lifetime – in multiple wards and branches in multiple, diverse locations – even when the testimony itself is focused on something else. What you described is not true of the church I attend and have attended all my life.

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