How Could Joseph Know?

By President S. Dilworth Young

Of the First Council of the Seventy

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    Let us go back in our imaginations

    To Samuel H. Smith, doubting, wondering

    When first hearing,

    Who prayed with faith and had his prayer

    Answered to his satisfaction; and who,

    When asking what he might do, was told

    That the Book of Mormon needed selling;

    That people needed telling

    About this witness of the Son of God.

    Isn’t it odd

    That such important things

    As witnesses for God

    Have been brought forth

    By simple words of simple men,

    Whose simple faith

    Inspired them to walk

    The endless miles

    To bear the witness

    Man to man?

    And so Samuel,

    Through heat or cold,

    Sun or storms,

    Walked the country roads,

    Talking over the top rails

    Of worm fences

    To farmers,

    Or, sitting in their cabins

    Waiting for a meager lunchtime meal,

    Bore witness of the truth.

    This man did noble things,

    Not knowing what would come of them,

    But knowing in his heart that

    What he did was right before

    The Lord. The Spirit burned.

    He was not eloquent. His words

    Did not catch fire through the countryside,

    But some of those he met were stirred

    To want to read the book.

    Some call it curiosity.

    Most wanted but to prove it false

    And read it through to find its flaws,

    Not thinking that a warning

    From the Lord was meant for them:

    And now if there are faults

    They are mistakes of men,


    Condemn not the things of God …

    Phinehas Young heard Samuel testify:

    Here is a book, sir! It is an account

    Of the dealings of God in ancient America.

    It was translated by the gift and power of God

    By my brother Joseph Smith, Jr.,

    Who is a prophet; and if you’ll read it

    With a sincere heart and ask God if it is true,

    You’ll know its truth, borne

    By the Holy Ghost.

    Phinehas bought the book,

    Intent on proving it to be untrue—

    A false statement, if you please—

    But reading it convinced him

    Of its truth. He passed it

    To his father, and to Joseph,

    And to Brigham, and to John,

    And to Lorenzo and his sisters five;

    The whole Young family joined

    The Church of Jesus Christ.

    What could that stripling youth

    Named Joseph Smith

    Have learned about the world

    From having spent six months

    In one-room rural schools

    In New York State?

    What could a statement that

    God’s work will fill the earth

    Have meant to his young mind?

    The countries of the earth

    Were only names to him,

    And some he’d never even

    Heard about.

    And none of them he’d ever seen

    Or ever would he see.His earthly outlook was the forest aisle.

    How far can young men see

    In such a place?

    Or down a country road

    Which turns a bend

    And then is out of sight?

    How much of earth is seen

    From gazing out across a field

    Half filled with stumps of trees

    But newly felled? The worm fence

    Is the end of such a view.

    Looking up at night, he’d see

    The stars that other men could see,

    Their muted light his awe

    And wonderment, but giving

    Nothing of a hint of how they’re made,

    Or what they mean,

    And yet he spoke the words

    Of simple truth which God inspired:

    This gospel of the kingdom

    Will roll forth

    Until it fills the earth

    As with a flood,

    And Christ’s work is complete.

    We do not comprehend that he

    Could see the end of its unfolding

    Or know just what each step

    And turn might bring.

    His thoughts were seeds

    Inspired of God

    For planting by his sowing.

    He, hearing,

    Spoke the word of God

    Which brought about the growing.

    Let Oliver, and John, and Parley, too,

    Go west, and to the borders of the Lamanites.

    And what if it is wintertime

    And snow is covering the land!

    Stand true, and go! Come rain

    Or snow. The God who sees

    The sparrow fall

    Will care for you.

    There was that day in 1835

    When Oliver gave unto the Twelve

    Their charge. He wept at times,

    And through his tears the inspiration

    Shone as with a light.

    These twelve—such simple men,

    Brought out of field and forest

    To bear the name of Christ,

    Their ignorance profound.

    Yet they leaped forward

    With great strides

    When once the mantle fell

    Upon their shoulders, broad

    From felling trees and turning sod.

    The Spirit of their God

    Was in their hearts.

    They started east, fanning out

    In New York State,

    Then meeting once again

    In places they agreed upon

    In conferences.

    These twelve culled out of

    Old New England the best she had

    Of men who thirsted hard

    To serve their God.

    This was their first mission,

    These new twelve witnesses

    To Christ’s own church.

    Out to the world the infant church

    Sent men to bear the word.

    Let Heber Kimball go to England,

    And Willard Richards too.

    There awaits a harvest

    Greater far than they can do.

    And let the twelve follow after

    And bind the sheaves from

    Seed thus sown.

    Then with the twelve away

    The prophet called on other men

    To go and warn the world—

    Jamaica, South America,

    Germany, France, and Italy.

    The Friendly Islands far across

    The sea.

    All were to hear the word,

    The blessed word,

    A startling, pointed thing.

    Orson Hyde was sent to dedicate

    The land of Palestine.

    The restoration was as prophesied.

    No man who heard could fail a call

    To take the word

    Abroad among the nations,

    And soon among the Saints the world was known

    As few men know it.

    The poor, the plain, from nations came

    With all their native skill

    To bring the knowledge of the world

    To Zion’s hill.