Viewpoint: No Stronger Witness
From the Church News
- At Christmastime and throughout the year we remember in reverence and gratitude the birth, life, and sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
- Joseph Smith is revered as the great testator concerning the divinity and reality of Jesus Christ.
- Through Joseph Smith the restored gospel and the Light of Christ now reach millions across the world.
“He was born on the 23rd of December, and we celebrate the birth of the Savior on the 25th. I say this, that there has been no greater testator concerning the divinity and the reality of Jesus Christ than Joseph Smith, the Prophet.” —Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church
Each December, we read or relate the account recorded in the second chapter of Luke about the birth of the Christ child. We sing of the Wise Men who, “with wondering awe,” saw and followed the star that signaled His birth, and of angels whose heavenly chorus proclaimed that singular, grand event. Our Christmas hymns remind us of—and help teach children—the story of the little town of Bethlehem where Jesus was born and tell how, since there was no room in the inn, He “laid down his sweet head” in a manger. We sing of shepherds who, while watching their flocks by night, heard the angelic proclamation of His birth.
Throughout the year, Latter-day Saints sing of the Savior’s birth and the wondrous act He performed by coming to dwell among mortal men to teach, guide, lead, and show us the way. We are amazed that He gave His life in the atoning sacrifice so that we might have eternal life.
“I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!”
(“I Stand All Amazed,” Hymns, no. 193).
We are grateful that He came to earth, established His Church, and carried out the plan of salvation whereby we might return to our heavenly home. Also, we are grateful that, after a period of apostasy, His Church was reestablished through the Prophet Joseph Smith, who was born in 1805.
In 2005 President Gordon B. Hinckley and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles traveled to Sharon, Vermont, to participate in a program commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith. During a press conference on December 22, a reporter asked a question regarding the emphasis being placed upon Joseph Smith, especially during the Christmas season. President Hinckley answered: “He was born on the 23rd of December, and we celebrate the birth of the Savior on the 25th. I say this, that there has been no greater testator concerning the divinity and the reality of Jesus Christ than Joseph Smith, the Prophet” (Church News, Dec. 31, 2005, 8).
On December 23, 2005, from inside the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial Visitors’ Center, President Hinckley delivered an address that was transmitted via satellite to the Conference Center in Salt Lake City and meetinghouses worldwide. He said: “Two hundred years ago, on this very day, in this very place, there was born a child who was prophetically named Joseph, after the name of his father. He became the prophet, seer, and revelator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He gave his life in testimony of the truth of all that he said concerning the work of the Lord restored through him in this dispensation.”
President Hinckley shared his testimony of Joseph Smith, saying, in part: “God the Father and His resurrected Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, visited [Joseph] in the grove at Palmyra. They spoke to him, the Father introducing His Son. Joseph heard Them. He saw Them. They were beings in form like men, but indescribably more glorious. Nothing comparable had ever happened before. It marked the opening of this the last and final dispensation of the gospel. The visitation of angels and resurrected beings followed that great vision.”
Through Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon was brought forth as a witness to all the world that “Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting Himself unto all nations,” President Hinckley said. “The priesthood was restored. … The Church was organized under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ, with its name being the very name of the Savior of the world.”
Further, President Hinckley said: “At this time when the world celebrates the Christ’s birth, it can be said that no man has born a stronger witness to the reality of the Savior than did Joseph Smith. His written testimony is repeated, it is echoed and re-echoed in scores of languages throughout the world. In an age of skepticism and doubt, his witness is unequivocal and certain” (Church News, Dec. 31, 2005, 8).
We honor and revere Joseph Smith, but we do not worship him. We commemorate his birth in the same season that the Savior’s birth is celebrated throughout most of Christendom. We pay homage to our Savior, Jesus Christ, as the perfect one and the great Exemplar. We never claim that Joseph Smith was perfect, without fault or blemish, but we testify, along with scripture: “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).