The First Prophet of the Last Dispensation


The following address by President Joseph Fielding Smith was delivered at the dedication of a new Visitors Center at Independence, Missouri, on May 31, 1971. Services were held outside accompanied by much thunder and lightning, but only a drop or two of rain. As soon as the services were completed, a drenching rain began falling. Independence is of great historical significance to the Church, since the area was designated by revelation to Joseph Smith as the “City of Zion.” Land for a temple was dedicated in 1831. The new Visitors Center is on a portion of that land. President N. Eldon Tanner of the First Presidency gave the dedicatory address and prayer.

I am very grateful to have the privilege of participating in the dedication of this visitors center and of raising my voice in testimony and thanksgiving relative to some great and eternal truths that are directly associated with this undertaking.

We are assembled at a historic place, one that is hallowed by the memories of what has transpired here, and one that is sacred to the Latter-day Saints because of what is yet to come.

Because of the part that Jackson County, Missouri, has played and will yet play in this dispensation, I desire to call attention to two great truths: first, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and, second, that Joseph Smith is a prophet. I mention the first—which is one of the greatest truths ever revealed to man—as a prelude to bearing testimony of the second.

May I say, as plainly and as forcefully as I can, that we believe in Christ. We accept him without reservation as the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

We believe that he came into the world to ransom men from the temporal and spiritual death brought into the world through the fall of Adam, and we have in our hearts unbounded gratitude that through the shedding of his blood all men are raised in immortality, while those who believe and obey his laws are raised also unto eternal life.

We believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent, and that there is no other name given under heaven whereby men can become inheritors of eternal glory in the kingdoms which are ahead.

And may I say also, as plainly and forcefully as I can, that Joseph Smith, Jr., the prophet and seer of these latter days, was called by the Lord Jesus Christ to usher in this final dispensation and to restore for the last time on earth the fullness of his everlasting gospel.

Joseph Smith is the revealer of the knowledge of Christ and of salvation to the world for this day and generation. To him the Lord said: “… this generation shall have my word through you.” (D&C 10:5.)

When Moroni came to Joseph Smith nearly 150 years ago, that resurrected personage told young Joseph that his name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.

Fifteen years later the Lord himself elaborated upon this promise by saying to the Prophet, “The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee;

“While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.” (D&C 122:1–2.)

I for one want to be numbered forever among those who seek counsel and authority and blessings as they have come from this great prophet whom the Lord raised up to commence the restoration of all things in this final, glorious gospel dispensation.

And I am pleased to testify that as the years pass, people in all nations are increasingly turning to Joseph Smith and the gospel restored through his instrumentality in order to find peace in this life and gain a hope of eternal life in the world to come.

On April 6, 1830, as soon as the Church was organized, the Lord, speaking of Joseph Smith, said to the Church: “… thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;

“For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

“For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.

“For thus saith the Lord God: Him have I inspired to move the cause of Zion in mighty power for good, and his diligence I know, and his prayers I have heard.

“Yea, his weeping for Zion I have seen, and I will cause that he shall mourn for her no longer; for his days of rejoicing are come unto the remission of his sins, and the manifestations of my blessings upon his works.

“For, behold, I will bless all those who labor in my vineyard with a mighty blessing, and they shall believe on his words, which are given him through me by the Comforter, which manifesteth that Jesus was crucified by sinful men for the sins of the world, yea, for the remission of sins unto the contrite heart.” (D&C 21:4–9.)

In the light of these revealed statements I now say—

That Joseph Smith is the one to whom all men must look in this day to learn the truth about Christ and his gospel;

That in due course the name of this prophet shall be known in every corner of the earth and among all people;

That the honest in heart will accept him as a prophet and will worship that Lord whom he revealed;

That the church that he organized by divine command prospers because it follows the revelations that came through him;

And that all who believe the teachings of Joseph Smith and labor in the course set by him shall come to a knowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was crucified for the sins of the world.

In the same way that I know Jesus is the Christ—and that is by revelation from the Holy Spirit—I know that Joseph Smith is and was and everlastingly shall be a prophet of God.

I revere and honor his holy name. With his brother, my grandfather, Patriarch Hyrum Smith, he sealed his testimony with his blood in Carthage Jail. And I, for one, want to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands of letting the ends of the earth know that salvation is again available because the Lord raised up a mighty seer in this day to reestablish his kingdom on earth.

In a spirit of testimony and thanksgiving, I close with these inspired words from the Doctrine and Covenants: “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.)

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

[photo] Front entrance of the Church Visitors Center at Independence, Missouri.

[photos] Singers from the stakes and the missions in the Independence area furnished music for the dedication ceremonies. (Photos by Larry Nicholson.)