Chapter 2: The Mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, (2011), 11–21


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests firmly on the revelations of God given through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

From the Life of Heber J. Grant

Heber J. Grant’s testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith began at an early age as his mother and her friend Eliza R. Snow told him of their personal experiences with the Prophet. His testimony of the Prophet was also influenced by the testimonies of Presidents Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, and Joseph F. Smith—men who had been personally acquainted with Joseph Smith. President Grant said, “By the testimony of my mother and hundreds of others who knew the Prophet Joseph, as well as by the revelations of the Spirit of God to me, I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God.”1

Throughout his ministry as an Apostle and as President of the Church, Heber J. Grant loved to testify of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the gospel. He declared: “No man ever had more real joy in testifying of his knowledge that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ, and that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God, than I have had. I rejoice in it.”2

While Elder Grant was serving in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, his testimony of the Prophet Joseph contributed to the conversion of his half brother Fred, “who had been careless, indifferent, and wayward, and who had evinced no interest in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”3 Elder Grant was in the Salt Lake Tabernacle one day, preparing to give a talk, when he saw Fred enter the building. He recounted:

“When … I saw Fred for the first time in the Tabernacle, and realized that he was seeking God for light and knowledge regarding the divinity of this work, I bowed my head and I prayed that if I were requested to address the audience, the Lord would inspire me by the revelation of His Spirit, to speak in such manner that my brother would have to acknowledge to me that I had spoken beyond my natural ability, that I had been inspired of the Lord. I realized that if he made that confession, then I should be able to point out to him that God had given him a testimony of the divinity of this work.”

When it was his turn to speak, Elder Grant walked to the pulpit and opened a book to guide him in the address he had prepared to give. He then said to the congregation, “I cannot tell you just why, but never before in all my life have I desired so much the inspiration of the Lord as I desire it today.” He “asked the people for their faith and prayers” and continued with his own silent petition for inspiration. After speaking for 30 minutes, he returned to his seat. He later recalled:

“When I sat down after my talk, I remembered that my book was still lying open on the pulpit. President George Q. Cannon [First Counselor in the First Presidency] was sitting just behind me … , and I heard him say to himself: ‘Thank God for the power of that testimony!’ When I heard this, I remembered that I had forgotten the sermon I had intended to deliver, and the tears gushed from my eyes like rain, and I rested my elbows on my knees and put my hands over my face, so that the people by me could not see that I was weeping like a child. I knew when I heard those words of George Q. Cannon that God had heard and answered my prayer. I knew that my brother’s heart was touched.

“I [had] devoted my thirty minutes almost entirely to a testimony of my knowledge that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and to the wonderful and marvelous labors of the Prophet Joseph Smith, bearing witness to the knowledge God had given me that Joseph Smith was in very deed a prophet of the true and living God.

“The next morning, my brother came into my office and said, ‘Heber, I was at a meeting yesterday and heard you preach.’

“I said, ‘The first time you ever heard your brother preach, I guess?’

“‘Oh, no,’ he said, ‘I have heard you many times. I generally come in late and go into the gallery. I often go out before the meeting is over. But you never spoke as you did yesterday. You spoke beyond your natural ability. You were inspired of the Lord.’ These were the identical words I had uttered the day before, in my prayer to the Lord!

“I said to him, ‘Are you still praying for a testimony of the gospel?’

“He said, ‘Yes, and I am going nearly wild.’

“I asked, ‘What did I preach about yesterday?’

“He replied, ‘You know what you preached about.’

“I said, ‘Well, you tell me.’

“‘You preached upon the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith.’

“I answered, ‘And I was inspired beyond my natural ability; you have never heard me speak at any time as I spoke yesterday. Do you expect the Lord to get a club and knock you down? What more testimony do you want of the gospel of Jesus Christ than that a man speaks beyond his natural ability and under the inspiration of God, when he testifies of the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith?’

“The next Sabbath he applied to me for baptism.”4

Teachings of Heber J. Grant

God restored the fulness of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

The message of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the world is that God lives, that Jesus Christ is His Son, and that They appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, and promised him that he should be an instrument in the hands of the Lord in restoring the true gospel to the world.5

After [Jesus’] crucifixion and the death of the apostles whom he had chosen, who suffered martyrdom at the hands of those who were opposed to the truths which he taught, it appeared that his mission and ministry had been a failure; but as time passed, and the doctrines of Christianity became better understood, thoughtful men turned to him as their source of light and strength, thus preserving faith in his mission and ministry, with the result that Christianity became the dominant influence in the civilization and development of the world.

As time passed dissensions occurred in the primitive church. The laws governing the church established by the Redeemer, were transgressed, the ordinances were changed, the everlasting covenant was broken [see Isaiah 24:5]. Men began to teach for doctrine their own commandments [see Matthew 15:9]; a form of worship had been established which was called Christianity, but was without the power of God which characterized the primitive church. Spiritual darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the minds of the people [see Isaiah 60:2].

Then there came another epochal period in the history of the world. The time had arrived, fore-ordained by the Lord, and foretold by his prophets, when another gospel dispensation was to be ushered in, when the gospel of the kingdom was to be restored, and preached in all the world, as a witness unto all people before the end shall come.

Again the heavens rejoiced, again heavenly beings communicated the will of the Father to his children who are here upon the earth, and men were made glad as the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times was ushered in.

Joseph Smith was the agent through whom the Lord saw fit to begin the great latter-day work. To him the Father and Son appeared in heavenly vision, upon him the keys of the everlasting priesthood were conferred, with authority to transmit them to others, with the promise that the priesthood should never be taken from the earth again, until the purposes of the Father were accomplished.6

In many places I have met people who have studied our faith. Some of them would say: “I could accept everything that you people teach were it not for this man Joseph Smith. If you would only eliminate him!”

The day can never come when we will do that. As well might we undertake to leave out Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Either Joseph Smith did see God and did converse with Him, and God Himself did introduce Jesus Christ to the boy Joseph Smith, and Jesus Christ did tell Joseph Smith that he would be the instrument in the hands of God of establishing again upon the earth the true gospel of Jesus Christ—or Mormonism, so-called, is a myth. And Mormonism is not a myth! It is the power of God unto salvation. It is the Church of Jesus Christ, established under His direction, and all the disbelief of the world cannot change the fundamental facts connected with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Every Latter-day Saint believes that God appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, and every Latter-day Saint believes that God Himself did introduce Jesus Christ to the boy Joseph Smith as: “My beloved Son: hear Him.” [Joseph Smith—History 1:17.]7

The whole foundation of this Church rests firmly upon the inspiration of the living God through Joseph Smith the Prophet.8

Joseph Smith’s First Vision marked the beginning of “a marvelous work and a wonder.”

The most glorious thing that has ever happened in the history of the world since the Savior Himself lived on earth, is that God Himself saw fit to visit the earth with His beloved, only begotten Son, our Redeemer and Savior, and to appear to the boy Joseph.9

The glory of the Lord overshadowed Joseph Smith, and God himself, in the glory and majesty of his person, with his Only Begotten Son, Jehovah, revealed himself in vision, and with his own voice designated Joseph Smith to be the instrument through whom the greatest gospel dispensation of the ages was to be ushered in.

Joseph Smith's first vision

“With the appearance of the Father and the Son to the Prophet Joseph Smith, in the early spring of 1820, the greatest gospel dispensation of all time was ushered in.”

There was nothing of ostentation, pageantry or dramatic display; it was a simple, solemn occasion, superlatively glorious and impressive beyond expression.

The voice of the Lord, which had been silent for ages, was heard again. Again that divine message, so oft repeated, was delivered: “This is my Beloved Son. Hear him!” The personality of the Father and his Only Begotten Son was again revealed that mankind may know them as they are.10

The event marks the beginning of “a marvelous work and a wonder,” which was foretold by Isaiah the Prophet [see Isaiah 29:13–14], confirmed by Daniel [see Daniel 2:29–44], and further predicted by John the Revelator [see Revelation 14:6–7]. The personal visitation of the Father and the Son, choosing Joseph to be the leader of the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, marked the beginning of this work, and this was supplemented by the visitation of angels and other holy messengers, conferring upon Joseph the powers of the Priesthood, the authority to act in the name of God—to introduce the gospel of Jesus Christ by divine authority to mankind, and by divine direction to organize and establish the true Church of Christ in the latter days.11

In humility, and with full consciousness of the responsibility involved, we bear witness to the people of the world that with the appearance of the Father and the Son to the Prophet Joseph Smith, in the early spring of 1820, the greatest gospel dispensation of all time was ushered in, a dispensation of light, radiating from the presence of God, illuminating the minds of men, increasing intelligence and knowledge, which is the glory of God.12

The keys of the priesthood were restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

“We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.” [Articles of Faith 1:5.]

And we announce to all the world … that we have that authority. We announce that the identical man who baptized the Savior of the world, known as John the Baptist, came to this earth, laid his hands on the heads of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and he gave them the Aaronic, or lesser Priesthood, which has the authority to baptize. After giving them this ordination, he told them to baptize each other, and he promised them that Peter, James, and John, the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, who stood at the head of the Church after the crucifixion, should visit them later and bestow upon them the apostleship, the Melchizedek, or higher Priesthood.

We announce to all the world that they did come and that we have received that authority, and all the disbelief of all the world cannot change the fact of those two visitations,—those two ordinations. If these things are a fact, disbelief cannot change them. And we announce that these are facts.13

The fruits of the Restoration testify of Joseph Smith’s mission.

The greatest evidences of the divinity of the first vision, as well as of the visitations of angels and other messengers to Joseph the Prophet that followed the first vision, are the practical results that have come from the messages that were delivered and the authority that was conferred. The gospel in its purity has been restored to the earth. The wonderful record of the ancient people of this continent, the Book of Mormon, was brought forth from its hiding place in the Hill Cumorah, containing a fulness of the gospel as taught by the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, upon this continent of America. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized on the 6th of April, 1830, in the town of Fayette, Seneca County, New York, and has prospered … , regardless of the persecution and obstacles that it has persistently encountered.14

When we stop to think of the marvelous work that the Prophet Joseph did, sometimes I wonder how any man of intelligence can look into the life of that man, can know of his imprisonment, of the drivings, of the persecutions, of the tarring and feathering, of the sentence of death having been passed upon him, and then read the wonderful things that we have in the Doctrine and Covenants, without failing to acknowledge the inspiration of the Lord in his accomplishments.

I cannot understand how any intelligent man could think that anyone without the help of the Lord could have produced the Book of Mormon, which has been before us now for more than a hundred years and has stood the test during all that period of time, notwithstanding the ridicule that has been brought against it, for one reason and then another. Today that book, which was translated by Joseph Smith as the instrumentality of the Lord, stands out supreme. It is today the greatest missionary that we have for proclaiming this gospel; there is nothing else to compare with it.15

This Church is … a marvelous work and a wonder. There is nothing like it in all the world, because Jesus Christ, the Son of God established it, and is the head of it; because Jesus Christ manifested himself to the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery, and to others; and because God, in answer to prayer, has given to people all over the wide world where the Gospel has gone, an individual knowledge and testimony regarding the divinity of the work in which we are engaged.16

The mountain of the Lord’s house has been established in the top of the mountains, and people from all nations have flowed unto it [see Isaiah 2:2]. Through the blessings of the Lord upon their labors the desert has been subdued and made to blossom as the rose. Solitary places have been made glad because of them. [See Isaiah 35:1.] Cities have been established, springs of water have broken out which have given life to the thirsty land, music, and the voices of children are heard in the streets where desolation and silence had reigned for ages.

Temples have been erected in which the work of redemption has been done for an innumerable host of the living and the dead. …

Looking backward to the organization of the Church, which occurred under the most humble and, to the world, obscure circumstances, and following its history through persecution, poverty, and distress, can it be denied that a great and marvelous work has been accomplished, that the promises of the Lord have been fulfilled, and his power to accomplish that to which he sets his hand to do [has been] manifested?

Let glory and honor be ascribed unto God our Father, through Jesus Christ, his Son, forever, for he is the author of it all.17

This gospel of Jesus Christ which I have embraced and which you have embraced is in very deed the plan of life and salvation which has been again revealed to the earth. It is the same gospel that was proclaimed by our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. …

I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I have reached out my hand. I have plucked the fruits of the gospel. I have eaten of them, and they are sweet, yea, above all that is sweet. I know that God chose His prophet Joseph Smith and gave him instructions and authority to establish this work, and that the power and the influence of Joseph Smith are now being felt as the angel [Moroni] promised. His name is known for good or evil all over the world [see Joseph Smith—History 1:33], but for evil only by those who malign him. Those who know him, those who know his teachings, know his life was pure and that his teachings were in very deed God’s law. …

I say again: This is the same gospel that was proclaimed by our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, for which He gave His life in testimony, and that the lives of our own Prophet and Patriarch [Joseph and Hyrum Smith] were given as a witness to the divinity of the work in which we are engaged. Mormonism, so-called, is in very deed the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. God has given me a witness of these things.18

Suggestions for Study and Discussion

  • Why is a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith an essential part of a testimony of the gospel?

  • How do we obtain a personal testimony of the divinity of Joseph Smith’s mission? What has strengthened your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith?

  • What difference does it make in our daily lives to have a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith?

  • What are some truths you learn about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as you ponder the account of the First Vision? (See Joseph Smith—History 1:11–20.) How does it help you to know that “God Himself saw fit to visit the earth with His beloved, only begotten Son”?

  • In what ways are the latter days “a dispensation of light”? What evidences of light do you see in the world today?

  • Why was it necessary for the priesthood to be restored? What blessings can we enjoy today because of the restoration of the priesthood?

  • How does the message of the Restoration offer us hope as we live in a troubled world?

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham (1941), 20.

  2.   2.

    “God’s Power Manifested,” Deseret News, 24 Aug. 1935, Church section, 8.

  3.   3.

    Gospel Standards, 366.

  4.   4.

    Gospel Standards, 368–70; paragraphing altered.

  5.   5.

    Gospel Standards, 146.

  6.   6.

    In James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 5:246–47.

  7.   7.

    Gospel Standards, 3.

  8.   8.

    Gospel Standards, 83.

  9.   9.

    Gospel Standards, 16.

  10.   10.

    Message from the First Presidency, in Conference Report, Apr. 1930, 8; read by President Heber J. Grant.

  11.   11.

    Gospel Standards, 16.

  12.   12.

    Message from the First Presidency, in Conference Report, Apr. 1930, 4; read by President Heber J. Grant.

  13.   13.

    Gospel Standards, 8.

  14.   14.

    Gospel Standards, 17–18.

  15.   15.

    Gospel Standards, 15.

  16.   16.

    In Conference Report, Oct. 1924, 7.

  17.   17.

    Message from the First Presidency, in Conference Report, Apr. 1930, 11–12; read by President Heber J. Grant.

  18.   18.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1943, 7–8.