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Cover image via History.LDS.org.
Spring 2020 is the 200th anniversary of the First Vision. The articles in this column look forward to the upcoming bicentennial celebrations of the events of the Restoration with great quotes, stories and interesting thoughts about the Prophet Joseph Smith. To read the previous article in the series, CLICK HERE.
One prima facie evidence that Joseph Smith was called of God is the sheer number of scriptural prophecies he fulfilled. Any biblical scholar or Christian reformer familiar with the Bible might be able guess how to fulfill some of these prophetic utterances. But to fulfill them all, by a single individual, within a very short window of time, is simply beyond human capacity, without some divine, intervening help. Yet, Joseph Smith managed to do it—precisely because he was called of God.
President Gordon B. Hinckley described the blessings that have come in consequence of Joseph Smith’s mission and ministry: “To me it is a marvelous thing that in opening this dispensation, our Father did so with a personal revelation of Himself and of His Son Jesus Christ, as if to say to all the world that He was tired of the attempts of men to define and describe Him. Strange as it seems, we alone, among all that worship God, have a true description and a true definition of Him. The experience of Joseph Smith in a few moments in the grove on a spring day in 1820, brought more light and knowledge and understanding of the personality and reality and substance of God and his Beloved Son than men had arrived at during centuries of speculation” (Teachings of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Deseret Book, 1997, 236). President Hinckley also said: “We sing, ‘We thank thee, O God, for a prophet to guide us in these latter days’. I don’t think of myself when we sing that hymn. I think of the Prophet Joseph Smith, THE great Prophet of this dispensation, THE instrument in the hands of the Almighty in bringing to pass this marvelous work” (LDS Church News, 4 Feb 2006, 2).
Before Joseph’s birth, his grandfather Asael Smith said: “It has been borne in upon my soul that one of my descendants will promulgate a work to revolutionize the world of religious faith” (cited in Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 volumes, 1953, 1:4). Years later the Prophet Joseph Smith related: “My Grandfather Asael Smith long ago predicted that there would be a prophet raised up in his family, and my Grand Mother was fully satisfied that it was fulfilled in me….After having received the Book of Mormon, and read it nearly through…[my grandfather] declared that I was the very Prophet that he had long known would come in his family” (History of the Church, 2:443; see Joseph Smith Papers, History 1838-1856, p. 5, note R).
It turns out that long before his own grandfather received a spiritual impression about Joseph Smith, many prophets foreknew and foretold of Joseph’s life and mission. Ancient prophets have been anticipating for hundred and even thousands of years the marvelous work that Joseph Smith would perform. Here are some of the scriptural prophecies fulfilled by the Prophet Joseph (not listed in chronological order).
Acts 3:19-21. Peter predicted of a day when a time of refreshing would come from God. This “refreshing” of the earth refers to the millennium when God “shall send Jesus Christ” to earth to regenerate and cleanse it, when “Christ will reign personally upon the earth, [and when it] will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory” and become a Garden of Eden once again (Article of Faith #10). But Peter also described in these verses a time to come of a “restitution of all things.” This “restitution” refers to the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The appearance of the Father and the Son to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Spring of 1820 in the Sacred Grove began the “restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began,” just as Peter foretold.
Moses 7:62; Ether 13:1-11; and Psalms 85:11,13. The Savior told Enoch, the Brother of Jared, and King David that in the last days, a book of truth would come forth out of the earth to bear testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and of all mankind. That book and righteousness which would come down from heaven, would sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out the elect prior to the Second Coming and to prepare a Holy city called Zion, even New Jerusalem.
Alma 37:1-12, 23. Alma the Younger charged his son Helaman to preserve both the Urim and Thummim and the plates of Ether, and prophesied that a righteous servant named Gazelem would be given them, who would use this “shining stone” (the Urim and Thummim) in his translation work so that the wickedness of the Jaredites and Nephites would be known in the last days (see Mormon Doctrine, 1966, 307). Hoyt W. Brewster has written: “In three different revelations, spanning a period of two years (1832-34), Joseph Smith was called “Gazelem” by the Lord (D&C 78:9; 82:11; 104:26, 43, 45, 46; pre-1981 edition). His name was disguised in order to prevent his enemies from discovering what plans the Lord had in mind at that particular time (see History of the Church, 1:255)” (Doctrine and Covenants Encyclopedia, 204). Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet noted: “Though this name or title of Gazelem may be used in regard to any seer who utilizes seer stones, it seems in this instance to be a direct reference to Joseph Smith the Prophet” (Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4 vols., 1991, 3:278).
Moses 1:39-41. The Savior declared to Moses that he was to write about the creation of the earth. And in a future day, “when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write, behold, I will raise up another like unto thee; and they shall be had again among the children of men—among as many as shall believe.” Today, only those who believe in the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith enjoy the restored verses of Moses’ writings, found in the Joseph Smith Translation of the bible. The Book of Moses (Moses 1:1 thru 8:18) in the Pearl of Great Price, is the JST (the inspired, restored revision) of KJV Genesis 1:1 thru 6:13.
2 Nephi 3:6-9, 15; JST Genesis 50:27, 30-31, 33. Joseph of Egypt prophesied of Joseph Smith’s life and mission in these words:
2 Ne. 3:6 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.
7 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 he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give 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.
8 And I will give unto him a commandment that he shall do none other work, save the work which I shall command him. And I will make him great in mine eyes; for he shall do my work.
9 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.
15 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.
Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6. Malachi prophesied that in the last days temples would be built, and the prophet Elijah would appear in a temple before the Second Coming of the Lord. The first building the Prophet Joseph tried to build was a site he dedicated for a temple at Independence, Missouri in 1833. But the first temple he completed and dedicated was at Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836. One week after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, on Passover, the Prophet Elijah (with Moses and Elias) appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and committed the keys of his dispensation as promised by Malachi (see D&C 110).
To be continued! The fulfillment of more of these scriptural prophecies will be described in the next article.