President Joseph F. Smith served for 52 years as a General Authority of the Church—as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, as a Counselor to four Church Presidents, and for 17 years as the President of the Church. He taught the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with eloquence, tenderness, and conviction, calling for the people to “live in harmony with the designs of our Heavenly Father.”1 His ministry was marked by his powerful witness of Jesus Christ: “I have received the witness of the Spirit in my own heart, and I testify before God, angels and men … that I know that my Redeemer lives.”2
Today his messages and sermons continue to give divine direction on our path of eternal progress. Our work in this world, said President Smith, “is to do good, to put down iniquity under our feet, to exalt righteousness, purity, and holiness in the hearts of the people, and to establish in the minds of our children, above all other things, a love for God and his word.”3 He declared that “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.”4
The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have established the series Teachings of Presidents of the Church to help Church members deepen their understanding of gospel doctrines and draw closer to Jesus Christ through the teachings of the prophets in this dispensation. This book features the teachings of President Joseph F. Smith, who said: “To be Latter-day Saints, men or women must be thinkers, and workers; they must be men and women who weigh matters in their minds, men and women who consider carefully their course of life and the principles that they have espoused. … When people understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, you will see them walking straightforward, according to the word of the Lord, and the law of God, strictly in accordance with that which is consistent, just, righteous, and in every sense acceptable to the Lord.”5
Each chapter in this book includes four sections: (1) a statement that briefly summarizes the focus of the chapter; (2) “From the Life of Joseph F. Smith,” which illustrates the chapter’s teachings by an example from President Smith’s life or his wisdom; (3) “Teachings of Joseph F. Smith,” which presents important doctrines from his many messages and sermons; and (4) “Suggestions for Study,” which encourages personal review and inquiry, further discussion, and application to our lives today through questions.
For personal study. This book is intended to enhance each member’s understanding of gospel principles taught powerfully by President Joseph F. Smith. By prayerful reading and thoughtful study, each member may receive a personal witness of these truths. This volume will also add to each member’s gospel library and will serve as an important resource for family instruction and for study in the home.
For discussion in Sunday meetings. This book is the text for Melchizedek Priesthood quorum and Relief Society Sunday meetings. Teachers should focus on the content of the text and related scriptures, drawing from the questions at the end of the chapter to encourage class discussion. Reviewing the questions before studying President Smith’s words may give additional insight into his teachings.
The Sunday meetings should concentrate on gospel principles, personal examples that teach these principles, and testimonies of the truth. If teachers humbly seek the Spirit in preparing and directing the lesson, all who participate will be strengthened in their knowledge of the truth. Teachers should remind class members to bring their books to their meetings and should honor the members’ preparation by teaching from President Joseph F. Smith’s words. Having read the chapter in advance, class members will be prepared to teach and edify each other.
It is not necessary or recommended that members purchase additional commentaries or reference texts to support the material in the text. Members are encouraged to turn to the scriptures that have been suggested for further study of the doctrine.
Since this text is designed for personal study and gospel reference, many chapters are too long to be addressed completely in class. Therefore, study at home becomes essential to receiving the fulness of President Smith’s teachings.
In your study, may you come to know this humble, faithful, and fearless prophet of God, President Joseph F. Smith. May you accept his counsel “to choose the right because it is right, and because your heart loves the right, and because it is choice above everything else.”6 May you join President Smith as he testified of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ: “Our faith in the doctrines that have been restored … confirms and strengthens us and establishes beyond a question or doubt, our faith and belief in the divine mission of the Son of God.”7