My dear brothers and sisters, this has been a beautiful commemoration service. We have been edified and inspired by the music and by the messages of Elder Ballard and President Hinckley.
As we sang “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (Hymns, 1985, no. 19), I thought of the Prophet Joseph Smith. How grateful we are for his life and his mission. Joseph Smith was a man committed to his Heavenly Father’s work. He loved his fellowmen, and he spent his life in serving them. Joseph Smith was the instrument through which the Lord restored the fulness of the everlasting gospel. He was the Prophet of the Restoration.
Joseph Smith’s greatness consists in one thing—the truthfulness of his declaration that he saw the Father and the Son and that he responded to the reality of that divine revelation. He was directed to reestablish the true and living church, restored in these modern times as it existed in the day of the Savior’s own mortal ministry. The Prophet Joseph Smith was fearless in pursuing this divine mission. On one occasion he said: “I understand my mission and business. God Almighty is my shield; and what can man do if God is my friend? I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes; then I shall be offered freely” (History of the Church, 5:259).
After the Prophet’s death, Elder John Taylor, who witnessed the murders in this jail, penned these words:
“Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, … left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum” (D&C 135:3).
Our hearts are subdued as we gather at this place where a lawless mob took the lives of these two noble and valiant men, Joseph and Hyrum Smith. They were servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. We celebrate their memory by magnifying the message of their Master.
Soon after the organization of the Church, Joseph Smith was asked, “What are the fundamental principles of your religion?” He replied, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it” (History of the Church, 3:30).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ broke the bands of mortal death. Our Savior’s atonement paid the price for the sins of all who will repent and seek eternal life.
Our testimony of Jesus Christ also includes His teachings. By what He said and what He did, He taught us how to live.
This world needs the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The gospel provides the only way the world will ever know peace. We need to be kinder with one another, more gentle and more forgiving. We need to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We need to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. In short, we need to love one another with the pure love of Christ, with genuine charity and compassion and, if necessary, shared suffering, for that is the way God loves us.
Of course, we need to keep the commandments of God, and we need to encourage all to do so. Obedience is the most genuine way to show our love for God. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15), the Savior taught. Our love must also extend to all of our Heavenly Father’s children, even those who violate His commandments or despise His servants. Jesus taught, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you” (3 Ne. 12:44).
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “God does not look on sin with allowance, but when men have sinned, there must be allowance made for them” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 240–41).
Showing the love he had for everyone, the Prophet said, “The nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs” (ibid., p. 241).
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we seek to bring all truth together. We seek to enlarge the circle of love and understanding among all the people of the earth. Thus we strive to establish peace and happiness, not only within Christianity but among all mankind. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race” (History of the Church, 4:227).
That which Joseph was instrumental in establishing, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is now a world religion, not simply because its members are now found throughout the world, but chiefly because it has a comprehensive and inclusive message based upon the acceptance of all truth, restored to meet the needs of all mankind.
From this hallowed place, where ended the life that began the latter-day restoration of the gospel, we send this message of love and hope to all the world. Come to the God of all truth, who continues to speak to His children through prophets. Listen to the message of Him who continues to send His servants to preach the everlasting gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Come and feast at the table laid before you by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Join us as we seek to follow the Good Shepherd who has provided it.
God our Eternal Father lives. I testify that Jesus is the Christ; that the gospel has been restored to the earth; that Joseph Smith, who gave his life at this place, was the instrument the Lord used to restore the fulness of His gospel and the authority of His priesthood. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.