A Hero to Follow: A Family Time


Joseph’s arms felt as heavy as the scythe he swung through the ripened grain. But within, the awful weight of waiting and wondering if the Lord were displeased with him had lifted. Joseph’s prayers had been answered! At the memory of the angel Moroni’s visit the night before, Joseph’s whole being was filled with joy. The dazzling splendor surrounding Moroni had been brighter than the first blinding rays of the sun gilding Joseph’s father and brothers mowing alongside him in the fields.

As they reached the end of a clean-cut fencerow, Joseph lagged behind. Light-headed from a night without sleep, he struggled against an overwhelming weariness. But nothing, he realized, can dim the glory of the message Moroni brought me. Only—and the thick fan of his eyelashes swept his cheeks—only I am so … tired. For just a moment he rested against his scythe.

Always the watchful big brother, Alvin was quick to observe Joseph’s unusual behavior. He glanced at him anxiously, but without interrupting his own measured stroke. Then his words spurred Joseph on. “If we slacken our hands, Joseph, we won’t finish our work.”

Determined as always to carry his load, Joseph pushed forward through his exhaustion. He cut a few more swaths of grain. Then an overpowering dizziness brought him to a swaying halt.

Father Smith stopped abruptly, letting the sheaf he was binding fall in disarray to the ground. His tone was concerned as he said, “Son, you’d best go back to the house and let your mother doctor you.”

The father watched Joseph make his way slowly toward the wormwood fence and patch of green surrounding their log home. Then he returned to the deft twist and tuck of the binder’s knot.

The sky reflected the sun’s high glare before Joseph retraced his steps and sought out his father. Father Smith finished up the sheaf he was binding, straightened out his lean, long frame, and wiped the sweat from his brow with a homespun sleeve. “Feeling better, Joseph?”

Joseph looked squarely at his father, and when he spoke there was a compelling urgency in his voice. “I have something to tell you, Father. I haven’t been home. I tried to climb over the fence by the apple tree, but I was so weak I fell helpless to the ground. I don’t know how long I lay there, but after a time I heard a voice that pierced my very center, calling, ‘Joseph, Joseph.’” For a moment Joseph seemed unable to continue. Then his voice deepened. “It was an angel surrounded by heavenly light—the same angel Moroni who appeared to me three times last night in my room.” Joseph’s face was luminous, but it was his eyes, blazing blue as the noonday sky, that most reflected the astonishing events he was about to share.

So there in the fields of waving grain, Joseph the son lifted his face to Joseph the father and unfolded all that had happened. The radiant light. The awe-inspiring message. Prophecy fulfilled and yet to come. Gold plates couched in a stone box buried in a nearby hill. Instructions. Warnings. All this thrice impressed and forever emblazoned on his mind and heart. Given yet once more and once more imprinted.

Father Smith listened intently, scarcely breathing. Every word Joseph spoke was carved almost as deeply on the father’s soul as on the son’s. He studied the earnest face of the lad who had once walked bravely on crutches.

Joseph’s gaze swept beyond their log home to the autumn hillside, the newly significant hill of Cumorah. “The angel said to meet him there,” he explained, pointing. “But first I was to come and tell you.”

Joseph had told it all. Now he waited, obedient, on his father, the tall, granite-firm yet gentle man he so loved and respected.

His father’s voice broke a little as he began to speak, but the words were sure and strong. “This is of God, Joseph. You must go and do as the angel commanded.” Father Smith’s fingers tightened on Joseph’s shoulders and a look of love and trust passed between them.

Without a backward glance, Joseph strode southeast toward the hill of Cumorah. He climbed the thickly wooded hill flaunting its autumn finery of scarlet and orange. Near the top he sped like a homing pigeon to the exact place Moroni had shown him in his vision. It seemed as familiar to him as his own dooryard.

With pounding heart, Joseph knelt among the tufted grass, for there lay the large rounded stone. It’s exactly like the one the angel Moroni showed me, he exulted, while his hands pushed the black dirt away from the stone. His eyes searched for a lever. Then he spied a hefty stick with a somewhat flattened end that he inserted under the stone’s edge. Exerting his strength he pried it up, revealing a box made of stones cemented together.

Joseph caught his breath as he saw the glitter of gold plates inside and a strange instrument called the Urim and Thummim and the breastplate. It was just as the angel had said! He was filled with a burning wonder as he looked at the curious markings on the ancient records. He had known they would be there because the angel had told him, but to actually witness them with his own eyes was a stunning and miraculous experience!

As Joseph reached in to lift out the plates, the angel Moroni appeared and reminded him that it was not yet time, nor would it be for four more years. However, he went on to reassure Joseph that in exactly one year he was to meet him here and receive further instructions, and that Joseph was to return each year until the time came to translate the record.

That was not all. As they talked there on the hillside, the heavens were opened to Joseph, and the glory of the Lord shone round about him and rested on him. While he stood gazing, enthralled, the angel said, “Look!” and Joseph beheld a vision of Satan and his followers. He was permitted to see the great contrast between the power of God and the power of Satan, the consequences of both obedience and disobedience to the commandments of God. This was shown him with such clarity and in such a striking manner that it would remain vivid in his memory until the end of his days. Forever after he would be anxious to keep the commandments of God.

Joseph walked away from the hill with a flaming determination to carry out the Lord’s great purposes, to obey implicitly every instruction given by the angel Moroni. And as he looked at the slowly darkening sky he thought, It’s not going to be easy.

After supper that evening Father Smith leaned toward Joseph and speaking gently said, “Can you tell all the family about it, son?”

Joseph looked into the eager, upturned faces and his heart swelled with gratitude. These were his dearest and best friends. They would stand by him with love and loyalty. For them Joseph once more rehearsed all he had told his father in the field that morning, of his finding the golden plates on the Hill Cumorah and of his visit with the angel Moroni.

The deep exultation that moved Joseph called forth an answering joy in each of his loved ones. Tears burned along the edge of Sam’s eyelids and Sophronia saw that many cheeks were wet as she wiped her own. They knew Joseph had spoken the truth without doubt or hesitation or holding back.

Like the rest, Alvin had sat spellbound at the sound of every word from his younger brother’s lips. But sensing that by now Joseph must be totally exhausted, Alvin laid his hand on Joseph’s arm. “Now, brother,” he suggested, “let’s go to bed so we can rise early in the morning and finish our work before sunset.” Alvin nodded in Lucy’s direction. “And if Mother will get our supper early tomorrow, we’ll have a fine long evening while you tell us more of the great things God has revealed to you.”

On the following evening the slanted rays of the setting sun pushed the boys to finish their nightly tasks; while inside Lucy and Sophronia moved skillfully about the big room, setting it to rights after supper.

It was just twilight when the cheery bustle ceased and the entire family—father, mother, and all the children from Alvin down to Baby Lucy—formed a circle around Joseph. It was to be the first of many such evenings.

All were hushed as Joseph began to speak. First he admonished them to keep his experiences within the family circle for the time being. As he went on to recall the astonishing events of the past two days, his eyes glowed with an intense light and his voice rang with sincerity. Even baby Lucy, cuddled on Hyrum’s lap, stared up at her brother Joseph in wide-eyed awe.

So clearly had Moroni shown Joseph what the golden records contained that he was able to describe many exciting and amusing details about the ancient people who had lived in America. The family listened, fascinated, as Joseph told about the strange clothes they wore, how they traveled from place to place, and the animals upon which they rode.

“Did they have horses then?” piped up Catherine. Joseph assured her that they did, and Catherine’s eyes sparkled as Joseph added that these long-ago people owned cows and sheep and even elephants. Joseph then pictured their great cities and the design of their buildings. He knew about their religion and how they worshipped, their forms of government, and how the Nephites and Lamanites fought in fierce battles.

Outside the moon hung high and inside the fire was only a flicker, yet no one wanted to leave the circle. They were all savoring the sweet happiness that warmed them through and through and spilled over to fill every corner of their little home.

Lucy surveyed her brood, gathering them in with one glance. These are my treasures, she mused tenderly, cherishing each one. Then her heart swelled with the thought, God is about to bring to light something to give us a more perfect knowledge of the plan of salvation and redemption of the human family.

And Joseph, her son, had been chosen by the Lord to bring it to pass! (To be continued.)

[illustration] Illustrated by Dale Kilbourn