Sister Oscarson Shares Three Lessons Learned from Joseph Smith’s Life

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 7 December 2016

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President, speaks during the campus devotional at Brigham Young University on December 6.  Photo courtesy BYU Photo.

Article Highlights

  • 1. You have an important mission to fulfill.
  • 2. Stand up to criticism.
  • 3. Understand the principle of repentance.

“I love the Prophet Joseph Smith. His life, example, and experiences provide a rich resource for our learning and understanding of gospel principles.” —Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President

PROVO, UTAH

A study of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s life yields important lessons and doctrinal truths, Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President, taught during the campus devotional held in the Marriott Center at Brigham Young University on December 6.

“It is essential that we each come to know for ourselves that [Joseph Smith] was the divinely called prophet of the Restoration,” said Sister Oscarson.

Lessons from Joseph Smith

Focusing her remarks on the topic “Lessons from Joseph Smith,” Sister Oscarson shared learning experiences from the Prophet's life and her personal witness of his calling as a prophet.

“The month of December is the birth month of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and with that as inspiration, I would like to talk about three principles inspired by events from the early life of Joseph Smith that might be of value in your current situations and lives.”

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President, speaks during the campus devotional at Brigham Young University on December 6. Photo courtesy BYU Photo.

Lesson 1: You have an important mission to fulfill

“After a long period of apostasy and spiritual darkness, the time had come to fulfill the promises of the Lord that the Church of Jesus Christ would be restored to the earth with all of the keys and authority found in the original Church in Christ’s day,” she said. “How would the Lord accomplish this great task? A baby was born.”

Born December 23, 1805, to a family of very meager means, Joseph Smith’s simple beginnings are no indication of the great things he would accomplish in his life.

“Who could have guessed that this little obscure baby boy born in a small rented log house in the woods of Vermont to a family of very meager means would one day be described like this: ‘Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it’ (D&C 135:3),” she said.

Just as the young boy from humble beginnings was able to go on to do great things as he followed the guidance of the Spirit and took advantage of opportunities to learn and grow, so is the potential for every man and woman, the Young Women leader taught. Sister Oscarson encouraged listeners to learn to listen to the promptings as they make important decisions regarding their future.

“Are you living up to your potential and being true to your knowledge of who you are?” she asked. “Too often we become content with mediocrity in our standards, in our behavior, in our relationships, and certainly in our quest for spiritual and intellectual enlightenment. If you are not living up to the privileges you have been given in this life, now is a good time to reevaluate where and who you want to be now and in a few years, and begin making the changes that will help you rise above the commonplace which the world finds acceptable.”

It is through preparation, following the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and daring to reach for the stars that individuals are able to—like Joseph Smith—fulfill the mission the Lord has in mind for them.

Lesson 2: Stand up to criticism

Sister Oscarson spoke of the persecution of young Joseph after he told others about the First Vision.

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President, right, and her husband, Brother Paul K. Oscarson, sit on the stand prior to the campus devotional at Brigham Young University on December 6. Photo courtesy BYU Photo.

“Think back to your 14-year-old self,” Sister Oscarson said. “How would you have reacted if all the trusted adults outside of your family began to make fun of you and persecute you? Would you begin to doubt yourself?

“What about our current culture? We all have devices that have the capacity to dispense a constant stream of information as well as misinformation to us wherever we may find ourselves—waiting for the bus, sitting in a classroom, or at home in our rooms. What filters do we have in place for deciding what to pay attention to, what to believe, what we let influence us?”

Just as Joseph was able to stand up to skeptics surrounding him, individuals today will also receive help from the Lord as they exercise faith.

“I believe the Lord wants us to remember the times we have felt the Spirit and use our past experiences to strengthen us and enable us to defend our faith,” she said. “You have received the promise of help in times of need. You have at times felt the Spirit in your lives. You have experienced the joyous fruits of living the gospel. When opposition comes, or you are going through a trial where it is hard to feel the Spirit, remember the times you have received that witness, and hold on to your faith with both hands and all of your strength.”

Lesson 3: Understand the principle of repentance

In sharing the experience of Joseph Smith, who—after yielding to peer pressure—lost the first 116 pages of the translation of the Book of Mormon, Sister Oscarson taught that all are able to repent and be forgiven of their sins.

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President, right, and her husband, Brother Paul K. Oscarson, sit on the stand prior to the campus devotional at Brigham Young University on December 6. Photo courtesy BYU Photo.

“Put yourself in the shoes of this young prophet,” she said. “Can you imagine how he must have felt as this whole episode unfolded? Perhaps he understood that he had been entrusted with something of indescribable eternal importance and he had let the Lord down. Can we not all relate to those feelings? We are all human, which means we are all going to sin and make mistakes.”

Just as the Lord showed love and forgiveness to the Prophet, there is hope for all to repent and start again.

“The ability to repent of our sins is one of the most basic and yet glorious doctrines of the gospel,” Sister Oscarson said. “It is a gift extended to all of God’s children, and it is possible because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ.”

The Savior’s invitation to repent is tender, personal, and filled with love, Sister Oscarson taught.

“It is easy to think of the principle of repentance as a negative thing—something we need only for the really serious sins—those that require a visit to the bishop’s office,” she said. “Sincere repentance is certainly a necessary part of overcoming serious sin, but in reality, repentance should be part of our daily thoughts and behavior. … Daily course correction is what helps us progress, improve, and change, day by day and year by year.

“The Atonement of Jesus Christ is what makes it possible for us to both overcome serious mistakes and to be a better person today in our habits, relationships, and thoughts than we were yesterday. It is a joyous blessing and gift that gives us hope.”

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President, speaks during the campus devotional at Brigham Young University on December 6. Photo courtesy BYU Photo.

It is through repentance and relying on the Savior that individuals are able to learn and grow in their faith.

“[Joseph Smith] was asked to do some hard things, some unpopular things, but he never wavered,” she said. “I think we would all love to be more like the Prophet Joseph and learn from our mistakes. …

“I love the Prophet Joseph Smith. His life, example, and experiences provide a rich resource for our learning and understanding of gospel principles. I have mentioned only three today—striving to be the best we can be, holding on to our faith in the face of criticism, and making repentance a part of our daily lives. A close study of the life of this prophet of God will yield many more rich and important life lessons,” Sister Oscarson said.

The BYU Singers perform “O Holy Night” prior to Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson's address during the Brigham Young University campus devotional on December 6. Photo courtesy BYU Photo.