Lesson 21: The Prophetic Mission of Joseph Smith

Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Manual, 2015


Introduction

Following the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, Elder John Taylor, who was with Joseph Smith when he was killed, eulogized the Prophet (perhaps in collaboration with one or more Saints) by recording: “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it” (D&C 135:3). This lesson will help students see how the Prophet’s ministry fulfilled ancient prophecies. This lesson will also examine the contributions Joseph Smith made to the salvation of all God’s children.

Background Reading

  • Neil L. Andersen, “Joseph Smith,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 28–31.

  • Tad R. Callister, “Joseph Smith—Prophet of the Restoration,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 35–37.

  • “D&C 135:3. Joseph Smith Has Done More for the Salvation of Men Than Anyone Other Than Jesus,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2001), 349–50.

Suggestions for Teaching

2 Nephi 3:1–21

The foreordained mission of Joseph Smith

Ask students to share what comes to their mind first when they think of Joseph Smith. Invite a few students to briefly share a time when they were grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Tell students that the prophet Nephi recorded some counsel that Lehi gave to his son Joseph. This counsel is recorded in 2 Nephi 3 and includes a prophecy that Joseph of Egypt gave concerning Lehi’s family and the latter days. Lehi likely learned these prophecies from reading the brass plates. In 2 Nephi 3, we learn that Joseph of Egypt foretold the latter-day mission of Joseph Smith. Ask a student to read 2 Nephi 3:6–9 aloud. Encourage the class to follow along and look for how Joseph of Egypt described Joseph Smith.

  • What are some words or phrases that Joseph of Egypt used to describe Joseph Smith? (Answers should include “choice seer,” “esteemed highly,” “great in mine eyes,” and “great like unto Moses.” You may want to suggest that students mark these terms in their scriptures; in the margin next to verses 6–9, they might also write Joseph Smith.)

  • In what ways was Joseph Smith like Moses and Joseph of Egypt? (See also Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 50:24–35 [in the Bible appendix].)

  • According to verses 7–8, what did Joseph of Egypt foresee regarding Joseph Smith’s ministry? (Make sure students understand this truth: Joseph Smith would be raised up by the Lord to bring people to a knowledge of His covenants and to do His work.)

Invite students to work in pairs and study 2 Nephi 3:7, 11–15, 18–21. Ask each pair to make a list of what the scriptures say that Joseph Smith would do to help accomplish the Lord’s work. You may want to suggest that students make this list by marking important phrases they find in these verses. After sufficient time, invite several pairs to share what they found. (Answers should include the following: bring people to a knowledge of covenants [verse 7]; bring forth the Book of Mormon [verses 13, 18–21]; convince people of the truthfulness of the Bible [verse 11]; be made strong [verse 13]; and bring people unto salvation [verse 15].)

Display the following statement by President Brigham Young (1801–77), and invite a student to read it aloud:

President Brigham Young

“It was decreed in the counsels of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that he, Joseph Smith, should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people. … The Lord had his eyes upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father’s father, and upon their progenitors clear back … to Adam. He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its fountain to the birth of that man. He was fore-ordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young [1997], 343).

To help students feel the truth and importance of Joseph Smith’s foreordained mission, discuss the following:

  • Why is it important for you to know that Joseph Smith was foreordained and prepared in the premortal life to be the Prophet of the Restoration?

Doctrine and Covenants 135:3

Joseph Smith has “done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men”

Ask students to share what they would say or testify about Joseph Smith if they were given only a few sentences to do so. Explain that following Joseph Smith’s death, a tribute to Joseph Smith was written and later preserved for us in the Doctrine and Covenants. Ask a student to read the first sentence of Doctrine and Covenants 135:3 aloud. Ask:

  • What truth about Joseph Smith is declared in this sentence? (Students should identify the following truth: Joseph Smith has done more for the salvation of people in this world than any other man except Jesus.)

To review the work and contributions of the Prophet Joseph Smith, organize students into small groups. Assign them to skim through the Doctrine and Covenants and to think back over the lessons discussed in this course up to this point. Ask them to make a list of the blessings and doctrines restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith that contribute to our salvation. After sufficient time, invite students to select an item on their list and share with their group how it influences their lives and leads them toward salvation.

To summarize student responses, display the following statement by Elder Tad R. Callister, who served in the Presidency of the Seventy. Ask a student to read it aloud while the other students follow along:

Elder Tad R. Callister

“Through Joseph Smith have been restored all the powers, keys, teachings, and ordinances necessary for salvation and exaltation. You cannot go anywhere else in the world and get that. It is not to be found in any other church. It is not to be found in any philosophy of man or scientific digest or individual pilgrimage, however intellectual it may seem. Salvation is to be found in one place alone, as so designated by the Lord Himself when He said that this is ‘the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth’ (D&C 1:30)” (“Joseph Smith—Prophet of the Restoration,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 37).

Give students a moment to ponder how Joseph Smith’s ministry has contributed to their own salvation, and then ask:

  • In what specific ways might your life be different without the ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith?

Doctrine and Covenants 122:1–2; Joseph Smith—History 1:33

Joseph’s name will be “had for good and evil among all nations”

Tell students that despite all the good that Joseph Smith accomplished, he had many detractors, particularly near the end of his life. This aspect of his life was also foreseen by ancient prophets (see, for example, 3 Nephi 21:10). Invite a student to read aloud what Moroni said to Joseph Smith about those who would oppose him, as recorded in Joseph Smith—History 1:33. Invite another student to read Doctrine and Covenants 122:1–2 aloud. Help students to state a truth found in these passages by asking:

  • How would you summarize what we learn from these two scripture passages about how people would respond to Joseph Smith? (As students share their suggested summaries, help them understand this truth: While many in the world will hold Joseph Smith in derision, the righteous will seek blessings made available through his ministry.)

  • Why do you think the Prophet Joseph Smith has so many critics and enemies, even though many years have passed since his death? (A testimony of the Restoration hinges on whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet who performed God’s work. Therefore, Satan continues to strive to discredit Joseph Smith.)

Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder Neil L. Andersen

“Many of those who dismiss the work of the Restoration simply do not believe that heavenly beings speak to men on earth. Impossible, they say, that golden plates were delivered by an angel and translated by the power of God. From that disbelief, they quickly reject Joseph’s testimony, and a few unfortunately sink to discrediting the Prophet’s life and slandering his character.

“We are especially saddened when someone who once revered Joseph retreats from his or her conviction and then maligns the Prophet.

“‘Studying the Church … through the eyes of its defectors,’ Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said, is ‘like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus. Defectors always tell us more about themselves than about that from which they have departed’ [“All Hell Is Moved” (Brigham Young University devotional, Nov. 8, 1977), 3; speeches.byu.edu]. …

“The negative commentary about the Prophet Joseph Smith will increase as we move toward the Second Coming of the Savior. The half-truths and subtle deceptions will not diminish. There will be family members and friends who will need your help. Now is the time to [prepare] to help others who are seeking the truth” (“Joseph Smith,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 28–30).

Discuss the following questions:

  • Why is it helpful to be aware that even though many years have passed since the death of Joseph Smith, enemies of the Church continue to attack his reputation?

  • What can we do to help those who are seeking the truth to know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God?

Display the following statement by Elder Neil L. Andersen, and invite a student to read it aloud:

Elder Neil L. Andersen

“A sincere inquirer should see the spreading of the restored gospel as the fruit of the Lord’s work through the Prophet. …

“Jesus said:

“‘A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. …

“‘… By their fruits ye shall know them’ [Matthew 7:18, 20].

“These explanations are convincing, but the sincere inquirer should not rely on them exclusively to settle his or her search for truth.

“Each believer needs a spiritual confirmation of the divine mission and character of the Prophet Joseph Smith. This is true for every generation. Spiritual questions deserve spiritual answers from God” (“Joseph Smith,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 29–30).

Give students an opportunity to testify of the Prophet Joseph Smith by asking the following questions:

  • What aspects of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do you see as evidence of Joseph Smith’s prophetic mission?

  • What experiences have you had that have contributed to your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith?

Conclude by displaying the following statements by Bathsheba W. Smith (1822–1910), who served as the fourth general president of the Relief Society, and President Brigham Young (1801–77). Both Sister Smith and President Young knew Joseph Smith in mortality. Invite a student to read these statements aloud:

Bathsheba W. Smith

“When I heard the Gospel I knew it was true; when I first read the Book of Mormon, I knew it was inspired of God; when I first beheld Joseph Smith I knew I stood face to face with a prophet of the living God, and I had no doubt in my mind about his authority” (Bathsheba W. Smith, quoted in Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society [2011], 34).

President Brigham Young

“I feel like shouting, hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith, the Prophet whom the Lord raised up and ordained, and to whom he gave keys and power to build up the kingdom of God on earth” (quoted in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 495).

Invite students to consider their testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and what they might do to share it with others, whether in person or using social media. Encourage them to identify someone with whom they would like to share this testimony and then follow through with their desire.

Student Readings