From the Life of Joseph F. Smith
In the fall of 1857 Joseph F. Smith, just 19 years of age, left his mission in Hawaii to return home. He came home by way of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino. “In southern California, just after the little train of wagons had traveled only a short distance and made their camp, several anti-‘Mormon’ toughs rode into the camp on horseback, cursing and swearing and threatening what they would do to the ‘Mormons.’ Joseph F. was a little distance from the camp gathering wood for the fire, but he saw that the few members of his own party had cautiously gone into the brush down the creek, out of sight. When he saw that, … the thought came into his mind, ‘Shall I run from these fellows? Why should I fear them?’ With that he marched up with his arm full of wood to the campfire where one of the ruffians, still with his pistol in his hand, shouting and cursing about the ‘Mormons,’ in a loud voice said to Joseph F.
“‘Are you a “Mormon”?’
“And the answer came straight, ‘Yes, siree; dyed in the wool; true blue, through and through.’
“At that the ruffian grasped him by the hand and said:
“‘Well, you are the ——— ——— pleasantest man I ever met! Shake, young fellow, I am glad to see a man that stands up for his convictions.’”1
President Smith lived a life true to the Lord, no matter what the obstacles or difficulties. Close friend and Presiding Bishop of the Church, Charles W. Nibley, said of him, “No heart ever beat truer to every principle of manhood and righteousness and justice and mercy than his; that great heart, encased in his magnificent frame, made him the biggest, the bravest, the tenderest, the purest and best of all men who walked the earth in his time!”2
Teachings of Joseph F. Smith
We must be true to our covenants, to our God, and to the cause of Zion.
We should set an example; we should be true to the faith. … We should be true to our covenants, true to our God, and true to one another, and to the interests of Zion, no matter what the consequences may be, no matter what may result. … The man who stays with the kingdom of God, the man who is true to this people, the man who keeps himself pure and unspotted from the world, is the man that God will accept, that God will uphold, that he will sustain, and that will prosper in the land, whether he be in the enjoyment of his liberty or be confined in prison cells, it makes no difference where he is, he will come out all right.3
We can see where the world is drifting today as far as religion is concerned. If they can get it cheap, if it does not cause them any exertion, they do not mind having just a little of it. But this is not the case with Latter-day Saints. Nor is it the case with a living religion. For I want to tell you that the religion of Christ is not a Sunday religion; it is not a momentary religion; it is a religion that never ends; and it requires duties of its devotees on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and all of the days of the week just as sincerely, just as strongly, as it does on the Sabbath day. And I would not give the ashes of a rye straw, for a Sunday religion, or for a religion that is manufactured by men, whether by priests or laymen.
My religion is the religion of God. It is the religion of Jesus Christ, otherwise it would be absolutely worthless to me, and it would be worthless to all other men, so far as religion is concerned. If it is not in my soul, if I had not received it in my heart, or if I did not believe it with all my might, mind and strength and be it, live it, and keep it secure in my heart all the days of my life—week days as well as days of rest, in secret as well as in public, at home and abroad, everywhere the same; then the religion of Christ, the religion of well doing, the religion of righteousness, the religion of purity, the religion of kindliness, faith, salvation from temporal sins, and salvation and exaltation in the kingdom of our God—my religion would not be the gospel of the Son of God to me. This is “Mormonism;” and that is the kind of religion we want to teach to our children. We must receive it ourselves and teach it from our hearts to their hearts and from our affections to their affections, and we can then inspire them because of our own faith and our own faithfulness and convictions of the Church.4
It is our duty to stand firm in the face of opposition.
One of the highest qualities of all true leadership is a high standard of courage. When we speak of courage and leadership we are using terms that stand for the quality of life by which men determine consciously the proper course to pursue and stand with fidelity to their convictions. There has never been a time in the Church when its leaders were not required to be courageous men; not alone courageous in the sense that they were able to meet physical dangers, but also in the sense that they were steadfast and true to a clear and upright conviction.5
It is to be regretted that there is a class of Latter-day Saints, who try, at the risk of principle, to popularize “Mormonism.” They desire to make our religion conform to the doctrines and wishes of other people. They appear to be more concerned about being in harmony with men of the world, than with living according to the principles of the gospel. … Such brethren should remember that the theories of the worldly-wise cannot with safety be engrafted into the principles of the gospel. …
… To be a Latter-day Saint requires the sacrifice of worldly aims and pleasures; it requires fidelity, strength of character, love of truth, integrity to principle, and zealous desire to see the triumphant, forward march of truth. This means that often our position must be unpopular. It means unending battle against sin and worldliness. It is not an easy road to travel, … but only so may we establish the truth, build character, and keep pure the principles of the gospel that have been entrusted to us.6
There are people who are courageous in doing all they can to bring about certain results. They will combat evils and resist the wrongs that are inflicted upon them and upon others; but when they have been defeated, when they see a just cause suffer, and evilly disposed men triumphant, they give up. What is the use? That is the question uppermost in their minds. They see wicked men apparently successful. They see men of evil repute honored by their fellowmen until they are almost persuaded that fate has her rewards for wrong doing. With them, what appears to be a lost cause inspires no hope. It is lost, they say, and we shall have to make the best of it, and let it go. They are at heart discouraged. Some almost question the purposes of Providence. They have the courage of men who are brave at heart, but they have not the courage of faith.
How different it was with Paul! He had labored fearlessly, he had delivered a divine message, he had resisted the enemy, and they apparently triumphed over him. He was taken prisoner and subjected to humiliating treatment by the administrators of the law. He was in bonds, and death awaited him, but he was still courageous. His was the courage of faith. Read these stirring words of his sent to the Ephesians, recorded in Ephesians 6:13, sent when most men would have thought their cause lost: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
After we have done all we could do for the cause of truth, and withstood the evil that men have brought upon us, and we have been overwhelmed by their wrongs, it is still our duty to stand. We cannot give up; we must not lie down. Great causes are not won in a single generation. To stand firm in the face of overwhelming opposition, when you have done all you can, is the courage of faith. The courage of faith is the courage of progress. Men who possess that divine quality go on; they are not permitted to stand still if they would. They are not simply the creatures of their own power and wisdom; they are instrumentalities of a higher law and a divine purpose.
Others would quit, they would avoid trouble. … Such men read history, if at all, only as they make it; they cannot see the hand of God in the affairs of men, because they see only with the eye of man and not with the eye of faith. All resistance is gone out of them—they have left God out of the question. They have not put on his whole armor. Without it they are loaded down with fear and apprehension, and they sink. To such men everything that brings trouble seems necessary. As Saints of God, it is our duty “to stand,” even when we are overwhelmed by evil.7
When a man makes up his mind to forsake the world and its follies and sins, and identify himself with God’s people, who are everywhere spoken evil of, it takes courage, manhood, independence of character, superior intelligence and a determination that is not common among men; for men shrink from that which is unpopular, from that which will not bring them praise and adulation, from that which will in any degree tarnish that which they call honor or a good name.8
Let the spirit of this gospel be so imbedded in my soul that though I go through poverty, through tribulation, through persecution, or to death, let me and my house serve God and keep his laws. However, the promise is that you shall be blessed through obedience. God will honor those who honor him, and will remember those who remember him. He will uphold and sustain all those who sustain truth and are faithful to it. God help us, therefore, to be faithful to the truth, now and forever.9
We can be valiant warriors in the cause of Christ.
While listening to the brethren this afternoon I was led to reflect upon some of our friends who have passed away. When we look back and think of President Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, George A. Smith, Orson Pratt, Parley Pratt, President John Taylor, Erastus Snow, and the thousands of faithful, valiant Saints of God who passed through the persecutions in Ohio, in Missouri, and in Illinois, and were driven from their homes time and time and time again, and finally out into the wilderness, with no knowledge, except the promises of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, that they would ever find a resting place for their weary feet—driven from their homes, their kindred, and their friends, with the dimmest prospect in the world, so far as human knowledge or prescience was concerned, of ever reaching a haven of rest, but trudging across the plains with weary step, yet with unshaken confidence in God and unwavering faith in His word—when we look back and think of those scenes we cannot forget the faithful men and women who passed through them. They did not faint by the way; they did not backslide; they did not turn from the truth. The harder the trial, the more difficult the journey, the greater the obstacles, the more firm and determined they were.10
I have served from my youth up along with such men as Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, George A. Smith, Jedediah M. Grant, Daniel H. Wells, John Taylor, George Q. Cannon, and Wilford Woodruff and his associates, and Lorenzo Snow and his associates, the members of the twelve apostles, the seventies, and the high priests in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for more than sixty years; and, that my word may be heard by every stranger within the sound of my voice, I want to testify to you that better men than these have never lived within the range of my acquaintance. I can so testify because I was familiar with these men, grew up from babyhood with them, associated with them in council, in prayer and supplication, and in travel from settlement to settlement through our country here, and in crossing the plains. I have heard them in private and in public, and I bear my testimony to you that they were men of God, true men, pure men, God’s noblemen.11
Here are our sisters engaged in the Relief Society work. … Here are sisters who are connected with the Mutual Improvement associations, and those also connected with the Primary work and our Sunday school interests. … They all have our blessings, because we have confidence in them. We believe that they know the truth themselves and do not have to borrow light from somebody else. We know that their integrity is unimpeachable; we know they love God and the truth and that they love the work more than their own personal interest. We know many of them and we know these are their feelings. We love them; they have our respect, our full confidence; the blessings of the Lord will attend them.12
The sisters of the Relief Society, always active and helpful, have been found at hand everywhere in time of need, aiding the poor, comforting the afflicted, visiting the widow and the fatherless, and traveling to distant points imparting valuable instruction.13
President Heber C. Kimball was one of God’s noblemen. True as steel to every trust. Pure as refined gold. Fearless of foes or of death. Keen of perception, full of the spirit of the prophets. Inspired of God. Valiant in the testimony of Christ; a lifelong, undeviating friend and witness of the divine calling and mission of Joseph Smith. He was called by the grace of God, ordained by living authority, and lived and died an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.14
I believe that the brethren of the Twelve who have been at their posts, performing their duty, stand solid for the advancement of the kingdom of God, and are united in their views and labors for the upbuilding of Zion. … They are worthy of the confidence of the Latter-day Saints, are valiant in their testimony for the truth, are earnest and vigilant in their watchcare over the interests of Zion.15
Now, God bless you. May peace abide in your souls, and the love of truth abound in you. May virtue garnish all your ways. May you live uprightly and honestly before the Lord, keep the faith, and be valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ; for he that is valiant will receive his reward. God bless you, is my prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.16
Suggestions for Study
What does it mean to be valiant in the testimony of Christ? How can we show in our daily lives a willingness to be true to our religion and to our God?
Why is the religion of Christ “not a Sunday religion” only? How can we teach our religion to our children “from our hearts to their hearts and from our affections to their affections”?
How might we as members of the Church sometimes attempt to “popularize” the gospel “at the risk of principle”?
How can we show proper tolerance for other people’s opinions and lifestyles without sacrificing integrity to principle?
How can we teach principles such as courage, integrity to principle, and valiant living of the gospel to others, including our children?
What are some of the ways in which the early Church leaders were valiant in their testimonies? What can we learn about being courageous and valiant from the lives of these leaders?
What is the “courage of faith”? When have you shown this courage in times of opposition?
How can we be valiant in fulfilling our Church callings?
What blessings come to us and our families as a result of our valiant living of the gospel? (See also D&C 14:7.) What are the eternal consequences for those who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus? (See also D&C 76:79.)
Charles W. Nibley, “Reminiscences,” in Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 518.
Charles W. Nibley, “Reminiscences,” 525.
Gospel Doctrine, 257.
Gospel Doctrine, 394–95; paragraphing added.
Gospel Doctrine, 155.
“Editor’s Table: Principle, Not Popularity,” Improvement Era, July 1906, 731, 733.
Gospel Doctrine, 119–20.
Gospel Doctrine, 211.
Gospel Doctrine, 251.
Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 9 Aug. 1898, 1.
Gospel Doctrine, 169.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1906, 9.
In James R. Clark, comp, Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 4:296.
Gospel Doctrine, 198–99.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1906, 2.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1906, 8.