Joseph Smith – Prophet and RevelatorJoseph Smith – Prophet and Revelator
Elder Randy D. Funk of the Seventy
First Counselor in the Asia Area Presidency
On June 27, 1844, Naomi Holman was on her bed with her nine-day old baby son, who would become my great-great grandfather, when she saw a group of men with painted faces and abusive language pass by their home on the way to Carthage. About 5:00 p.m., that mob burst into Carthage jail and killed the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum.
Elder John Taylor, of the Council of the Twelve and future president of the Church, was shot four times but survived. He recorded the events of that fateful day in what is now the 135th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.
“To seal the testimony of this book and the Book of Mormon, we announce the martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Hyrum Smith the Patriarch. They were shot in Carthage jail, on the 27th of June, 1844, about five o’clock p.m., by an armed mob—painted black—of from 150 to 200 persons. …
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.”1
John Taylor continued with a summary of the impressive work the Prophet Joseph accomplished during his life:
“In the short space of twenty years, he:
- has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents;
- has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth;
- has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men;
- gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain.
He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people…”2
Recently, the Smithsonian magazine, a prominent magazine in the United States, published a collector’s edition of “the 100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.” Joseph Smith was listed first in the category of “Religious Figures.”3 When Joseph was only 17 years old, the angel Moroni told him, “that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all the nations, kindreds, and tongues…”4 Nearly two hundred years later we see the continuing fulfillment of that statement.Smithsonian
Joseph Smith was the prophet of the Restoration. I marvel at what he endured and all he accomplished under difficult circumstances and during such a brief time. He could not have done that and would not have done that without clear and direct guidance from our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Joseph was a ProphetJoseph was a Prophet
The primary role of prophets throughout the history of the world has been to testify of Jesus Christ and His Atonement and to teach His doctrine. On the night before Christ was born, the pre-mortal Messiah announced to Nephi that “on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.”5 When He appeared to the Nephites following His glorious resurrection, the first words He spoke were, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.” 6 The Savior loves and honors His prophets – valiant men who at great personal cost, often their lives, bear witness of Christ. Therefore, Jesus affirmed to the Nephites that His prophets of old spoke the truth and that He had come, as the prophets said He would.
Similarly, from the time of his First Vision at age 14, until his martyrdom 24 years later, Joseph steadfastly taught and testified of Jesus Christ, His Atonement and His doctrine. Foremost among his many accomplishments, Joseph was a prophet of God.
Joseph was a RevelatorJoseph was a Revelator
Revelation means to make known or uncover.7 A revelator is one through whom God makes known or uncovers truth which may have been lost or hidden. Among all of the other remarkable things Joseph Smith accomplished, of fundamental importance is that through him the true nature and character of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ was revealed.8 During a time of great confusion, when many were contending about such matters, God revealed through Joseph Smith a correct understanding of the Godhead.
In my travels among members of the Church in Asia, I have heard many members testify of their knowledge of God the Father, His Son, and the Holy Ghost and of the distinct nature and attributes of each of Them. I have noticed a genuine feeling of gratitude among Latter-day Saints for that knowledge.
These testimonies remind me of the statement in Lectures on Faith, where we read:Lectures on Faith
“…that three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.
“First, The idea that he actually exists.
“Secondly, A correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.correct
“Thirdly, An actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will.---For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 9
I have observed the great joy faithful members of the Church feel in knowing they are children of a loving Heavenly Father, created in His image. They feel love and gratitude for the Savior and strive to follow Him so they may enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost in their lives. They have deep appreciation for the Prophet Joseph Smith who, as God’s prophet and revelator, made known eternal truths regarding the Godhead.
Like them, I feel profoundly grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith. I have walked in the Sacred Grove where he saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. I have been to Carthage jail where he was martyred. I have ancestors who knew Brother Joseph. But my testimony of his role as a Prophet of God has come in the same way as those who have not had those experiences – from the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost. I am grateful for that witness and for the fact that through the Prophet Joseph – a prophet and a revelator - the true nature and character of God has been revealed, the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored, and that each of us can know of these things for ourselves.
It gives us the faith we need to act in accordance with the principles and ordinances of the gospel that we might find joy and peace now and throughout eternity. ■
Caption: Elder Randy D. Funk
1 See Doctrine & Covenants 135:1, 3.
2 See Doctrine & Covenants 135:3; format modified.
3 See “Religious Figures,” Smithsonian, Spring 2015 Collector’s Edition, 66.Smithsonian
4 See Joseph Smith—History 1:33.
5 See 3 Nephi 1:13.
6 3 Nephi 11:10.
7 See Bible Dictionary, “Revelation.”
8 See Joseph Smith—History 1:17, 25; Doctrine & Covenants 76:19-24.
9 Joseph Smith Jr., Lectures on Faith (Deseret Book Company, 1985), 38 (first published in 1835, and as part of subsequent editions of the Doctrine and Covenants prior to 1921Lectures on Faith