While the great Book of Mormon prophet, King Benjamin, slept, an angel from God stood beside him and said: “Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy. …
“For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men.” (Mosiah 3:3, 5.)
Near the end of his short life, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote a general epistle to the members of the Church in which he declared:
“Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy.” (D&C 128:19.)
The Prophet then exhorted his people: “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? … Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing.” (D&C 128:22.)
These are remarkable thoughts for one who had been scorned, ridiculed, tarred, feathered, beaten, and imprisoned. These are remarkable thoughts for one who had buried five children and would yet bury another. How is it possible that one who had endured so much could feel such gladness, such joy, such hope—such determination?
Joseph Smith knew, as King Benjamin knew, that the Lord lives. Joseph Smith saw him, heard him, and partook of his hope, his comfort, and his strength.
In the year 1836, a little group of Latter-day Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, after laboring long and hard, had just completed the temple to their God. Joyous Church members gathered for the dedication, and the Spirit of the Lord was poured out in abundance.
A week later, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery sought solitude to offer their thanks to the Lord. The curtains were drawn around one of the pulpit areas as they knelt reverently before God and offered the feelings of their hearts. The Prophet records:
“The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.
“We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.
“His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
“I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.” (D&C 110:1–4.)
In November 1838 Joseph Smith was imprisoned in Liberty, Missouri. The Saints had been turned out of their homes, and hellish fury had been unleashed. The harshness of February came, and still the crimes against the Saints continued. The Prophet continued to ponder, and finally, in March, almost beside himself with grief because of the intense sufferings of the much-injured Saints, he cried out in anguish to God:
“O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
“How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?” (D&C 121:1–2.)
And the voice of the Lord whispered to the humble Joseph:
“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
“And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” (D&C 121:7–8.)
Revelations such as these gave the Prophet eternal perspective. He did not evaluate life, its opportunities and trials, by man’s limited vision. The veil had been parted, and Joseph Smith had gazed into the eternal world. He knew of a certainty that he and all men were literal children of God and had lived with God before the creation of the world.
Joseph Smith had seen in vision the eternal possibilities of the patient, faithful child of God:
“And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—
“They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
“That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
“And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true. …
“Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
“These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.” (D&C 76:50–53, 59, 62.)
Joseph Smith heard the voice of gladness and received the glad tidings of great joy in these latter days, and that knowledge influenced him greatly. He knew the truth, the eternal truth, and that made him free—free from fear, free from doubt, free from pessimism. On one occasion he said: “If I were sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled on me, I would hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I could come out on top.” (John Henry Evans, Joseph Smith, An American Prophet, New York: The MacMillan Co., 1946, p. 9.)
In a letter to John Smith, the Prophet said: “I write these few lines to inform you that we feel determined in this place not to be dismayed if hell boils over all at once. We feel to hope for the best, and determined to prepare for the worst.” (History of the Church, 6:485–86.)
Joseph Smith’s countenance also communicated the gladness in his heart. Parley P. Pratt wrote:
“President Joseph Smith was in person tall and well built, strong and active; of a light complexion, light hair, blue eyes, very little beard, and of an expression peculiar to himself, on which the eye naturally rested with interest, and was never weary of beholding. His countenance was ever mild, affable, beaming with intelligence and benevolence; mingled with a look of interest and an unconscious smile, or cheerfulness, and entirely free from all restraint or affectation of gravity; and there was something connected with the serene and steady penetrating glance of his eye, as if he would penetrate the deepest abyss of the human heart, gaze into eternity, penetrate the heavens, and comprehend all worlds.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1961, pp. 45–46.)
The Prophet was filled with hope, joy, and courage because he knew with certainty the reality of God and his Only Begotten Son. He knew the necessary price had been paid for our sins and that through obedience we could dwell with God.
Joseph Smith learned that happiness is not the by-product of an undisturbed life and does not come because of the absence of difficulties. Rather, happiness is the result of a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and the privilege of being a recipient of the Holy Spirit, which brings peace, hope, and gladness. This knowledge inspired and excited Joseph Smith; it added buoyancy and zest to his life.
The Lord spoke to Joseph, who recorded his words, and from those words we now have a volume of sacred scripture—the Doctrine and Covenants:
“And thou shalt declare glad tidings, yea, publish it upon the mountains, and upon every high place, and among every people that thou shalt be permitted to see. …
“And speak freely to all; yea, preach, exhort, declare the truth, even with a loud voice, with a sound of rejoicing, crying—Hosanna, hosanna, blessed be the name of the Lord God! …
“Behold, canst thou read this without rejoicing and lifting up thy heart for gladness?” (D&C 19:29, 37, 39.)
The Doctrine and Covenants extends hope to a generation that could give way to fear. It extends an opportunity for thanksgiving to a generation that could be cynical. It extends knowledge—God’s knowledge—to a generation that could founder in ignorance. It extends purpose to a generation that wonders if ultimately there is any. It extends faith in a living God to a generation that wonders if God is dead.
We have a volume of scripture that the world needs. The Lord dictated his own preface to this latter-day scripture. Among other things, he said:
“Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men; yea, verily I say: Hearken ye people from afar; …
“Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear:
“Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh; …
“Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.” (D&C 1:1, 11–12, 37.)
We have a responsibility to read, to know, and to share a volume of scripture that is truly a voice of gladness to all mankind. The Doctrine and Covenants is a latter-day witness that the Lord Omnipotent, Jesus Christ, lives and truly is the Son of God. He extends his tender arm of mercy to all of his children and invites all to partake of his joy in this world and to dwell eternally in his presence. We with Joseph Smith can say, “What do we hear in the gospel? We have received ‘a voice of gladness.’”