The Tapestry of God’s Hand

Our Father in Heaven not only foreordained Joseph Smith, but He also provided him schooling and tutoring to help him fulfill his earthly mission to restore the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth. Adam, Noah, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni were among those sent to prepare and instruct Joseph in his responsibilities as a prophet of God.


Barbara and I are very appreciative of the opportunity to come to Logan and participate in this special day of remembrance of the life and mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith. We are honored that President and Sister Albrecht are here tonight. Thank you, Brother and Sister Dymock, for your leadership of the Institute, and thank you teachers and staff, who make the Logan Institute one of the best in the Church. I also welcome all those who are in attendance including our son, Clark, and his wife, Leanna, along with some of our grandchildren. It is always a privilege to be with Elder and Sister Cherrington, and I thank you for introducing me.

I never drive into Cache Valley without having some very deep feelings of connection, for it is here that my great-grandfather Henry Ballard and his eternal companion, Margaret McNeil Ballard, settled. They met one another when they were in the depths of poverty. These two wonderful pioneer great-grandparents walked most all of the way across the plains, great-grandfather emigrating from England when he was 20 and great-grandmother emigrating from Scotland when she was 10. Henry was called as the first bishop of the Logan 2nd Ward and served for almost 40 years. Margaret was the Relief Society president for 30 years. My grandfather, Apostle Melvin J. Ballard, and my father were born here in Cache Valley. The courage and testimony of these forefathers of mine continually cause me to say to myself that I must do all I can to further the work of the Lord that they gave their lives to help establish.

When we hear the name “Joseph,” we see God’s hand weaving together a tapestry of prophets and dispensations preparing the world time after time for the restoration of the gospel after periods of apostasy.

Their story of faith and service could take the rest of my time, but I shift now to my mother’s lineage. She is the great-granddaughter of Hyrum Smith, the older brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith. My mother often talked about her grandfather, President Joseph F. Smith, Hyrum’s youngest son. He was very precious to my mother in many special ways. I, of course, am very humble to have such noble and faithful pioneer forefathers. When I contemplate the believing blood that flows through the veins of my family, I realize that we have a great responsibility to do all that we can to bring God’s children to a knowledge of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Tonight I want to explain to you that our Heavenly Father had His eye on the Joseph Smith family from the beginning of time up to 1820, when He and His Beloved Son visited Joseph and began the preparation for Joseph to become the Prophet of the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel in this last dispensation which is to prepare for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In 1859 President Brigham Young (1801–77) said it this way: “It was decreed in the councils of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that [Joseph Smith] should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people and receive the fullness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. The Lord had his eye upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father’s father, and upon their progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, from the flood to Enoch and from Enoch 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 foreordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation.”1

Our Father in Heaven not only foreordained Joseph Smith, but He also provided him schooling and tutoring to help him fulfill his earthly mission to restore the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth. Adam, Noah, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni were among those sent to prepare and instruct Joseph in his responsibilities as a prophet of God.2

When we hear the name “Joseph,” we see God’s hand weaving together a tapestry of prophets and dispensations preparing the world time after time for the restoration of the gospel after periods of apostasy. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Christ Himself restored the gospel in their day, as it had been lost because of unbelief and wickedness. This tapestry of leadership and faith leads us to the first Joseph, who was the firstborn of Jacob and Rachel. This Joseph was sold into Egypt by his brothers. He interpreted dreams for the Pharaoh of Egypt. He counseled the Pharaoh and ultimately became a leader of that mighty nation. This Joseph was filled with integrity, power, and strength. And under all circumstances he remained true and faithful. This Joseph received marvelous blessings because of his faithfulness. Under the hands of his father he was blessed that he would receive a double portion and that his posterity would be so large that branches would flow over the wall, the wall being the ocean, and would fill the nations of the earth. Through Joseph’s posterity came Ephraim and Manasseh.3

The Prophet Lehi had two sons born in the wilderness as you remember—one named Jacob and the other Joseph.  A blessing that Lehi gave to Joseph is worth reading. I will read a few verses from the third chapter of Second Nephi:

“And now, Joseph, my last-born, whom I have brought out of the wilderness of mine afflictions, may the Lord bless thee forever, for thy seed shall not utterly be destroyed.

“For behold, thou art the fruit of my loins; and I am a descendant of Joseph who was carried captive into Egypt. And great were the covenants of the Lord which he made unto Joseph.

 “Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; . . .

“For Joseph truly testified, saying: A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins.

“Yea, Joseph truly said: Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins. . . . And unto him will I give a commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers.

“And he shall be great like unto Moses, whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel . . . 

“And thus prophesied Joseph [of Egypt] saying: Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise, which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled. . . .

Think of the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, who were protestors of Christendom during the dark ages of the Great Apostasy. Many gave their lives for the right of all people to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience.

“And his name shall be called after me: and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation.”4

From this prophecy of 570 years b.c., we learn that in the last days a seer named Joseph would be raised up like unto Joseph who was sold into Egypt. This seer’s father would also be named Joseph. The Joseph Smith Sr. family was known to God in the premortal world as Brigham Young said.

I repeat again, over the generations of time, the gospel of Christ has been on the earth and lost because of faithless followers being influenced by Satan, who is the father of all lies. He and his minions fight against God and the gospel of Christ and drive the people into apostasy. Many years of darkness and apostasy followed the Crucifixion of the Savior and the death of His Apostles. Their martyred deaths resulted in the loss of the keys of priesthood authority. 

Now think, my brothers and sisters, about the price that others have paid to establish the freedom of religion essential for Joseph Smith to come to earth to fulfill his mission. Think of the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, who were protestors of Christendom during the dark ages of the Great Apostasy. Many gave their lives for the right of all people to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience. As I remind you of a few of them, keep in mind the tapestry of faith preparing the way for the Prophet Joseph and the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

John Wycliffe was a brilliant scholar and theologian, educated at Oxford. He came to cross-purposes with the king of England in his efforts to bring about religious freedom. Parliament passed a law that anyone reading the scriptures in the vernacular or common language would forfeit everything he owned. And to show disrespect, the king had Wycliffe’s remains dug up and burned.5

When Sister Ballard and I visited the Czech Republic, we stood before a monument to John Huss. He embraced the teachings of Wycliffe and taught the gospel as he understood it from the scriptures. He was burned at the stake because of his religious beliefs, proclaiming, “What I taught with my lips I now seal with my blood.”6

In 1517 the Spirit of Christ moved upon a Catholic priest living in Germany. Martin Luther was among the growing number of thoughtful clergymen who were disturbed by how far the church had strayed from the gospel as taught by Christ. Luther created a good deal of controversy when he publicly called for reformation by posting on his church door in Wittenberg a list of issues that he felt needed to be debated. He organized a church that abolished confession, and he translated the New Testament into German while in exile. He died from an illness following exposure to icy weather.7

There were women protestors who were heroic. You may have heard the name of Ann Askew. Ann Askew was the daughter of Sir William Askew, the Knight of Lincolnshire. Listen to what she said: “I had rather to read five lines in the Bible, than to hear five masses in the temple . . . because the one did greatly edify me, and the other nothing at all.” The king sent one of his representatives with a pardon for her if she would recant her beliefs. She answered that she had not come to deny her Lord and Master. Ann Askew was burned at the stake in 1546.8

William Tyndale was another heroic English reformer of the early 16th century. Educated at Oxford and Cambridge, he felt the only way to bring his countrymen to an understanding of the word of God was “if the Scripture were turned into the vulgar speech, that the poor people might read and see the simple, plain Word of God.” He was denounced as a heretic and fled to Germany to complete the English translation of the Bible and have it printed. He was arrested near Brussels, Belgium, in 1535 and condemned by Sir Thomas Moore and the Church of England. He was imprisoned for 18 months before being strangled by the hangman and his body burned.9

Perhaps you have heard of the valiant protestor by the name of Hugh Latimer. He was an English reformer who was educated at the University of Cambridge. He was tried and condemned. There was another protestor or reformer by the name of Bishop Ridley who was also tried and condemned. He and Bishop Latimer were brought together and asked to recant their cries for people to be able to read the Bible in their common language. They refused. While tied at the stake, their last recorded words were these as Bishop Latimer turned to his companion, Bishop Ridley, and said: “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” At that point the wood was torched, and the two men gave their lives.10

These are but a few of the many accounts of people who gave their lives to bring to the world the scriptures and religious freedom. Can you see what was required for the day of the Restoration? What reverence we should have for these heroes who sacrificed their all in preparing the way for the restoration of the gospel. I hope this tapestry of faith and sacrifice is touching your hearts with a deep feeling of gratitude.

Now, see the hand of the Lord become even more evident in the life of a special reformer, John Lathrop, who was born in 1584 in Yorkshire, England. He died in 1653 in Massachusetts, USA. John Lathrop was a minister in the Church of England. He firmly declared that the gospel should be taught more freely to the common people and that they should be able to read the Bible for themselves. He was arrested for his teachings, along with 42 of his followers. 

He remained in prison several years. During this time his wife died, leaving several children without either parent. The Church of England didn’t know what to do with him because he had such a large following. Finally he was released from prison on condition that he would leave England. So John Lathrop packed up his few belongings and came to America with his children and many of his followers.11

In 1638 Robert Smith, a sturdy yeoman from England, emigrated to the New World. He settled in Essex County, Massachusetts, where he married Mary French. One of their sons, born in 1666, was named Samuel. He married Rebecca Curtis, and their son, the second Samuel, was born in 1714. He married Priscilla Gould and was the father of Asael Smith, who was born in 1744. Samuel was a captain in George Washington’s army, and his son Asael was in his company as they served their country during the Revolutionary War. It was Asael Smith who made this remarkable statement: “It has been borne in upon my soul that one of my descendants will promulgate a work to revolutionize the world of religious faith.”

On July 12, 1771, Asael Smith and his wife Mary Duty had a son whom they named Joseph. We know him as Father Smith. He married Lucy Mack, who was the daughter of Solomon and Lydia Mack and the granddaughter of Ebenezer Mack. Now, that may not mean very much until you realize that the Mack family were descendants of John Lathrop. John Lathrop was the fourth great-grandfather of Lucy Mack Smith.  It has been estimated that during the period of time that the Smith family lived in Palmyra and later in Kirtland and Nauvoo, one-fourth of all those who were members of the Church were descendants of John Lathrop. John Lathrop’s posterity includes many presidents of the United States and other prominent leaders, as well as many past and present Church leaders. 

With the marriage of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack, the Lord wove together the believing blood of the Smiths and the believing blood of the Macks. Their firstborn son was Alvin. The second son was Hyrum. And their third son, born on December 23, 1805, was named Joseph, after his father, whose name was Joseph. Thus the Book of Mormon prophecy of 570 b.c. was fulfilled.

You need to know that Joseph Smith Sr. the prophet’s father, suffered financially. His father-in-law gave Joseph and Lucy a $1,000.00 dowry, so Joseph went into business with a partner. The business partner took the money and lost it. They bought a farm that failed. They bought another one, and that failed; bought another one, and that failed. Finally Joseph Smith Sr. moved to Palmyra. The hand of the Lord was at work, moving the Smith family to where He needed them to be.

At age 14, young Joseph was thoroughly confused about which Church was true and was spending his time studying the Bible. At that time itinerant preachers were traveling through Palmyra by the dozens declaring here is the truth; no, here is the truth. Joseph read in the Bible that there is one Lord, there is one faith, and there is one baptism. He did not know which of all of the churches was the true Church. He did know they could not all be true. As he read in James, the first chapter, verses five and six, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, . . . But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering,” he said, “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man.”12 He determined that if he was going to know which of all the churches was true, he would have to go ask God. In the Sacred Grove Joseph knelt in prayer. Our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, visited him and prepared him for his foreordained mission to be the prophet and seer of this last dispensation to restore the fulness of the doctrines and gospel of Christ.

One of the remarkable things that every Latter-day Saint needs to be grateful for is the believing blood that flowed in the veins of the Smith family. Without their believing blood, just think what would have happened when Joseph came back from the grove to their little cabin, leaned up against the mantle, and in response to his mother’s query of “Joseph what is the matter?” replied, “Nothing, Mother, everything is all right. I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” Add to that the morning in 1823 when Joseph was working with his father but was exhausted because of Moroni’s visits during the night. He was not performing very well, and his father told him to go back home and rest. Joseph went to climb over the fence, fell down, and Moroni appeared to him once again, asking him to return to the field and tell his father all that he had experienced. Now what would have happened if Joseph Smith Sr. had not responded by telling his son to do all that Moroni instructed?13

My dear brothers and sisters, can you see the hand of God working from the very beginning to prepare for the Restoration of the gospel through this tapestry of faith woven through the generations of time?

The mantle of prophet and seer is demonstrated in the thousands of teachings of Joseph Smith. This example comes from Wilford Woodruff: 

“On Sunday night the Prophet called on all who held the Priesthood to gather into the little log school house they had there. It was a small house, perhaps 14 feet square. But it held the whole of the Priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were then in the town of Kirtland, and who had gathered together to go off in Zion’s camp. . . . When we got together the Prophet called upon the Elders of Israel with him to bear testimony of this work. . . . When they got through the Prophet said, ‘Brethren I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it.’” 

Wilford Woodruff said, “I was rather surprised.” Then Joseph continued, “‘It is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America--it will fill the world.’ Among other things he said, ‘It will fill the Rocky Mountains. There will be tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints who will be gathered in the Rocky Mountains, and there they will open the door for the establishing of the Gospel among the Lamanites, who will receive the Gospel and their endowments and the blessings of God. This people will go into the Rocky Mountains; they will there build temples to the Most High. They will raise up a posterity there, and the Latter-day Saints who dwell in these mountains will stand in the flesh until the coming of the Son of Man. The Son of Man will come to them while in the Rocky Mountains.’”14

I returned last month from a visit to Central America where I met in four missions with 1,100 missionaries. I also met with local stake presidencies, bishops, and branch presidents presiding over an ever-growing Church in those countries. Temples are being readied for dedication. I think this is what Joseph Smith must have seen. 

I hope that not one of you would ever question that the Prophet Joseph Smith was foreordained to the great work he was called to do. Knowing what we know about the past history of faith and sacrifice through the generations of brave and courageous sons and daughters of God, we are duty bound to learn all we can about the doctrine and gospel of Christ. And we are bound by covenant to share what we know to be true at all times and in all places.  We owe so much to those who have paved the way for our having the fulness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ to guide our lives today. 

Now, for you students, here are a few questions that only you can answer regarding your own life. As I ask them, please think about the price others have paid to give you the gospel. Measure your personal love for the Lord Jesus Christ as you think about how you are doing.

  • As young adults you would, of course, expect me to ask, Are you dating? Those of you who are home from missions, are you actively seeking your eternal companion? Forget “just “hanging out,” and you young men ask these lovely young women for a date. It’s not hard—try it!
  • Are you saying your prayers every day?
  • Are you honest in all that you do and say?
  • Do you completely avoid pornography of any kind?
  • Are your thoughts, actions, and language clean?
  • Are you a full tithe payer?
  • Are you striving to live the Word of Wisdom?
  • Do you love your neighbor as yourself?
  • Are you studying the scriptures and doing all that you can to strengthen your knowledge of and faith in Christ. 
  • Are you honoring your baptismal covenants?
  • Are you worthy of a temple recommend?
  • Is the Holy Ghost guiding your life?
  • Is there anything you need to repent of?
  • Are you returned missionaries maintaining the dignity of a faithful priesthood bearer?
  • Are you happy and secure in your faith and testimony, and are you enjoying being a member of the Church?

These are a few of the things you need to keep in mind when you look inward and take inventory of your own lives. By so doing you will find the peace, joy, and happiness our Father in Heaven has promised His children.

Now in closing, all of us will find courage and strength in reviewing the lives of ancient and modern prophets and apostles as discussed tonight. We can find strength in reviewing the tapestry of faith in God as evidenced in the lives of the reformers. We will come to know of God’s almighty hand over the Prophet Joseph Smith and his family. Whether you were born in the Church or you are a new convert, the lessons of the past will inspire you. Also, your good, honest answers to these questions will keep you on course, helping you to weave a tapestry of faith for yourself and your own family.

Rejoice, my brothers and sisters, in the knowledge that you are the sons and daughters of God. He loves you. You are of great worth, perhaps beyond what you can understand now. I testify to you that you have great eternal potential. You can receive all our Father in Heaven has for His faithful children.

Find courage in what I have taught you tonight. Find courage to repent and change if you need to. The fight is worth it. Never, never give in to Satan or give up striving the very best you can to be the kind of child of God that He will welcome home with “Well done my good and faithful son or daughter.”

I bear you my witness and my testimony, that I count it the greatest privilege that could ever be given to a man to be called to carry the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as a witness of His divinity to the nations of the earth. I bear witness to you that He lives. He is the Son of God.  We have been talking about the grand design—the grand tapestry of faith—that brought about that day when the Prophet Joseph Smith could fulfill his foreordained destiny.  I know that—I know he was a prophet, and I know President Monson is a prophet.  I have the privilege of sitting every week when I am in town with the members of the Twelve and the First Presidency. We have a prayer circle every Thursday. We pray for you, we pray for our missionaries, we pray for world leaders, we pray for this great church and kingdom of God to prosper and to go forward under strong leadership.

I leave you my witness, and my blessing and prayer, that each one of you will live up to the commitments you’ve made in such a way that you’ll carry off this kingdom when it’s time for us to step off the stage. When your stake presidents step off the stage, and your bishops step off the stage, when your Relief Society presidents and other auxiliary leaders step off the stage, and you step on as the leaders of the Church, in preparation for that day when Christ will visit the Saints in the Rocky Mountains. That’s what we’ve been talking about. May God bless you, then, to have the courage to repent if you need to. May He bless you to do the simple things to strengthen your faith so strongly that nothing—nothing—can take you off the course that will lead you back into the presence of the Father and the Son. May God bless you to this end.

Have a good time here going to school. Enjoy it. Get acquainted with each other—find your companion and move on. Have a family. Don’t be afraid of the future. Just capture the future with your own faith and testimony and trust in God. I leave you my testimony and witness and this blessing very humbly in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.


Notes

  1. 1. Deseret News, Oct. 26, 1859, 266.
  2. 2. See Doctrine and Covenants 27:5; 100:11–16; 128:21; see also John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 17:374; 21:94; 161–64. 
  3. 3. See Genesis 30:37–50.
  4. 4. 2 Nephi 3:3–7, 9, 14–15.
  5. 5. See Fox’s Book of Martyrs, ed. Wm Byron Forbush (1926), 135–39.
  6. 6. See Forbush, Martyrs, 140–43.
  7. 7. See Forbush, Martyrs, 159–66.
  8. 8. See Forbush, Martyrs, 228.
  9. 9. See Forbush, Martyrs, 176–84.
  10. 10. See Forbush, Martyrs, 233–237.
  11. 11. See Helene Holt, Exiled, the Story of John Lathrop (1987).
  12. 12. Joseph Smith—History 1:12.
  13. 13. See Joseph Smith—History 1.
  14. 14. Wilford Woodruff, in Conference Report, Apr. 1898, 57.