How Could Joseph Know?


1829–1830

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,
Wherefore
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.