How Could Joseph Know?

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    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.