His Servants the Prophets

It is an easy thing to believe in the dead prophets, but it is a greater thing to believe in the living prophets.” – President Marion G. Romney, “Nurture a Testimony,” General Conference, April, 1953.

From the Garden of Eden to the present, God has spoken to mankind through prophets. Whenever our Eternal Father has something significant to convey to His children, He speaks through prophets. Whenever the Lord wants to establish His Church and expound the points of His Gospel, He does so exclusively through prophets. The intention of this article is to explain the signature role of prophets in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to share my personal witness that the Lord speaks to us today through prophets.

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The Bible uncategorically affirms the importance and necessity of prophets. The prophet Amos recorded this wonderful statement:

Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

Amos taught that the Lord speaks through prophets. That is His eternal pattern. He uses mediators to deliver His words, to warn of impending judgments, to instruct, and to officiate in essential saving ordinances and covenants like baptism.

Before we go any farther, let’s define what a prophet is. The word prophet comes from the Greek work meaning spokesman, or one who speaks in behalf of. In this case, prophets speak for God. When a prophet is inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so, his words are the equivalent of God’s own words; they are what the Lord wants people to know at that precise moment and are as equally binding upon the hearers as if God Himself was speaking. A true prophet, therefore, is the Lord’s spokesman or mouthpiece.

The Bible Dictionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gives us this insight:

The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will . . . He taught men about God’s character . . . He was to be, above all, a preacher of righteousness. When the people had fallen away from a true faith in Jehovah, the prophets had to try to restore that faith and remove false views about the character of God and the nature of the Divine requirement. In certain cases prophets predicted future events, e.g., there are the very important prophecies announcing the coming of the Messiah’s kingdom; but as a rule a prophet was a forthteller rather than a foreteller. In a general sense a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost.” (Bible Dictionary, Prophet”).

A prophet reveals God to his fellows. He reveals the true character and nature of the Being we worship. He helps us know our Father and His Son Jesus Christ – and really knowing Them is “eternal life” (John 17:3). A prophet, like any true friend, helps bring us to Jesus Christ (though ultimately the individual is responsible for receiving his own personal witness, through the Holy Spirit, of the Lord’s divinity). A prophet is also a seer and a revelator and, when it is the Lord’s will, he can reveal future events and authoritatively warn of coming judgments.

What’s more, a prophet is a legal administrator of the essential saving ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is one who possesses authority from the source of all power and authority – God Himself. God’s authority is called the Holy Priesthood. There is a higher (Melchizedek) and a lower (Aaronic or Levitical) Priesthood, but I will refer to them both in a collective sense.

At any given time, the Lord’s prophet is the man chosen and ordained to exercise all the authorities and powers of the Holy Priesthood for all people on earth. He, and he alone, presides over saving ordinances. He can delegate this power to local authorities such as bishops, elders, and priests, just as Jesus delegated His authority to His apostles, but the ultimate presiding authority resides in the man who at any given time is the president of the Holy Priesthood on earth.

It is through the Priesthood channel that revelation for mankind is given. Private individuals are not entitled to receive revelation for mankind (though they can of course receive personal revelation for themselves and their family); but a prophet can receive universal revelation by virtue of his office. In a helpful sermon on the two lines of communication God uses to speak to mankind, the personal and private lines, President Dallin H. Oaks, one of the Lord’s chosen apostolic witnesses in our day, explained:

The priesthood line is the channel by which God has spoken to His children through the scriptures in times past. And it is this line through which He currently speaks through the teachings and counsel of living prophets and apostles and other inspired leaders. This is the way we receive the required ordinances. This is the way we receive calls to service in His Church. His Church is the way and His priesthood is the power through which we are privileged to participate in those cooperative activities that are essential to accomplishing the Lord’s work. These include preaching the gospel, building temples and chapels, and helping the poor.

In respect to this priesthood line, our belief and practice is similar to the insistence of some Christians that authoritative ordinances (sacraments) are essential and must be performed by one authorized and empowered by Jesus Christ (see John 15:16). We believe the same but of course differ with other Christians on how we trace that authority.

Some members or former members of our church fail to recognize the importance of the priesthood line. They underestimate the importance of the Church and its leaders and its programs. Relying entirely on the personal line, they go their own way, purporting to define doctrine and to direct competing organizations contrary to the teachings of prophet-leaders. In this they mirror the modern hostility to what is disparagingly called “organized religion.” Those who reject the need for organized religion reject the work of the Master, who established His Church and its officers in the meridian of time and who reestablished them in modern times” (President Dallin H. Oaks, “Two Lines of Communication,” General Conference, October, 2010).

There have always been those who reject the prophets and the Lord’s organized Church with its formal officers, leaders, ordinances, and doctrines. Yet, in spite of objections throughout the Protestant world, God has always led His people through prophets. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).

It should be understood that there is no salvation without ordinances. Yes, it is Jesus Christ who saves us through the mercy which He is capable of extending because of His atoning sacrifice, but He has appointed a pattern which includes ordinances. The ordinance of baptism, for instance, is so essential that the Lord taught:

Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . .

. . . Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. . . .

. . . Ye must be born again” (John 3:3, 5, 7).

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This teaching ought to dispel the incorrect notion that salvation can come without ordinances because, naturally, there is no salvation outside of the Kingdom of God. This doctrine should cause us to seriously search for the Lord’s legal administrators endowed with the authority to perform such saving ordinances. Again, common sense dictates that no ordinance is recognized by God unless it is performed by His authentic authority.

There are many who say “Lord, Lord,” but not all are in the path of righteousness (Matthew 7:21). Those who hold the Lord’s legitimate authority are members of His Holy Priesthood. They are legal administrators of salvific Gospel ordinances. And only at their hands can saving ordinances be received. This should cement in our minds forever the necessity of prophets.

Prophets are engaged in the work of salvation. They are the laborers in the vineyard of whom the Lord spoke in His parable in Matthew chapter twenty. As such, they are on the Lord’s errand and must work in the Lord’s approved manner and by His authority. Among other things, prophets, as well as all other Priesthood holders in their various offices, were never intended to labor for money. Their time was to be an offering to God. It was to be selfless service with no monetary or worldly reward; only the reward of helping others, doing the right thing, and serving in the mode of the Savior.

Peter instructed his fellow elders in the Priesthood:

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3).

Those in the Church who worked for money (i.e. “filthy lucre”) or who worked to make themselves popular like the Jewish Pharisees, were then, and are today, guilty of priestcraft. Priestcraft is not a word used much among most Christians, but it is a perfect description of Christian churches throughout the world – especially the so-called “mega” churches. Additionally, those who sell saving ordinances, or offer forgiveness, in exchange for money are also guilty of priestcraft and are in direct violation of Peter’s words.

In the book of Acts, the Apostle Philip was ministering to the people in Samaria. A magician named Simon saw Philip’s legitimate miracles, such as casting out evil spirits and healing the sick, and temporarily believed the Gospel message. Some of those who had been previously bewitched by Simon were converted and were baptized. Hearing the good news, Peter and John traveled to Samaria and began conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost on the newly baptized members in the correct “laying on of hands” fashion. We then find this exchange between Simon and Peter:

And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

. . . thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

Repent therefore of this, thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:5-23).

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As an interesting note of history, this very Simon, Simon Magus or Simon the Sorcerer, later apostatized and became the founder of Gnosticism. The same sin of which he was guilty, which is thinking that God’s ordinances, blessings, gifts, authority, or power can be bought with money, is rampant in Christendom. Forgiveness, let alone the gift of the Holy Ghost or the Holy Priesthood, cannot be purchased with money. Also, the Holy Ghost cannot be conferred on people in any other manner but through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17).

Similarly, no one can claim, of themselves, the right and authority to preach the Gospel or perform ordinances. No true prophet in history has ever called himself to that position. Not one. Not Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, Malachi, Jonah, or Peter. A prophet is, rather, called by revelation from God through approved Priesthood channels or by direct manifestation or visitation of God.

This means that every self-appointed pastor, bishop, priest, evangelist, chaplain, reverend, cleric, or minister who created his own church, who invented his own “ministry,” or who was hired the same as any other worker is, rather than being called by revelation through a Priesthood authority, holds no legitimate authority or calling. While there are numerous sincere pastors who work for money, despite the Bible decrying paid a clergy who labor for “filthy lucre,” ultimately these are not called of God and hold no lawful Priesthood administrative authority.

Furthermore, earning a degree in theology does not qualify one for any ministry or calling in Christ’s legitimate Church. Were any of the Savior’s apostles theologians? Not a one of them. They were fishermen and laborers – average folks from the poorest parts of Palestine. For them, preaching the Gospel was not a profession; it was a sacred calling. They did not choose it; the Lord chose them. He said as much:

I am the vine, ye are the branches. . . .

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you” (John 15:5, 16).

This is the pattern for all time and for all prophets. Not one true prophet or legitimate priest/pastor/bishop calls himself to the work. It has simply never happened. Rather he is chosen, through revelation via the proper channels, by the Lord Jesus Christ. He is ordained to his special calling through the Lord’s Priesthood. In the case of the original twelve apostles, the Lord – the true vine – ordained them. Later, these same apostles, via the same Priesthood authority given to them by Jesus Christ, selected and ordained others to fill vacancies in their quorum.

When the apostles needed to fill the void left by Judas Iscariot’s betrayal and gory suicide, they chose two possible candidates. They then “prayed and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen” (Acts 1:20-26). What were the apostles doing? They were, of course, seeking revelation. They did not merely vote and use their flawed human wisdom to select the next apostle. They understood that the Church of Jesus Christ was not their Church – it was the Lord’s and that the Lord alone has the right to call and appoint its leaders. The same is true in our day.

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Isaiah

Some believe that in order to be a prophet or apostle, one must have lived in the days of Christ and have personally witnessed His resurrection. They quote Acts 1:22 for this false belief. That verse, in part, states that a new apostle had to be taken from among the Christian brethren and must be “ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” To believe that prophets and apostles had to have lived only 2,000 years ago is to misunderstand this verse or to deny other relevant scriptures.

The verse in question simply means that the office of an apostle is to bear witness of Jesus Christ. An apostle’s official capacity is as a special witness of the Savior’s life, resurrection, and divinity. It is His Church, after all. Can individuals learn these glorious truths today? Can we, through the Holy Spirit, gain personal testimonies and witnesses of the Savior just as the early Christians did? Yes, we can!

Peter, who walked and talked with the Savior, gained his personal witness through the Spirit and not because of His firsthand knowledge. He did not gain a witness by literally viewing Jesus with his own eyeballs. Speaking of Peter’s witness, Jesus clarified that “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-17). And since we can today receive a spiritual confirmation of the truth as easily as the apostles could in Christ’s own day, men can presently be ordained to be legitimate apostolic witnesses.

This notion is further verified by a correct understanding of another verse of scripture. It was in the context of Heavenly revelation to Peter that Jesus said “and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). The verse does not refer to Peter as the rock, though Peter was the first president of the Lord’s Church and the man authorized by the Lord to receive revelation for the ancient Saints. Rather, revelation from the Lord is the rock upon which the Church of Jesus Christ must be built. And the apostles were sent out as messengers to declare to the world the truths they had learned through personal revelation.

Dr. Hugh Nibley, a brilliant scriptorian, scholar, and professor who mastered fourteen languages and penned numerous books, spoke of the unique station of prophets, and the general antipathy towards their holy work, in his book The World and the Prophets. He wrote:

A prophet is no ordinary person; he makes no ordinary claim; and he does not ask people to believe him, but to test him. God is not authoritarian: He asks no on to believe; but invites the world, as his prophets do, “Prove me herewith.”

When the Lord was upon his earthly mission, he greatly angered and upset men by forcing them to decide whether he was a true prophet or not . . . The Lord insists that we make up our minds one way or another regarding is calling.

. . . a prophet is a witness, not a reformer. Criticism of the world is always implicit in a prophet’s message of repentance, but he is not sent for the purpose of criticizing the world. Men know the world is wicked, and the wickedest often know it best . . . It was not the Sermon on the Mount that drove men to crucify the Lord. It was not for their moral tirades that the prophets of old and the Apostles were stoned . . .

What, then, did Christ and the Apostles do and say that drove men into paroxysms of rage? They performed tangible miracles such as could not be denied, and they reported what they had seen and heart. That was all. It was as witnesses endowed with power form on high that they earned the hatred of the world, of which John speaks so much: “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness” (John 3:11). . . .

And as soon as the Apostles said, “We are his witnesses of these things,” the council of the high priests “were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them (Acts 5:32-33; italics added). Again, we are told that the multitude “were cut to the heart” when Stephen accused them of rejecting what had brought “by the dispensation of angels” (Acts 7:53-54). But the last straw was when he had the effrontery to say, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him” (Acts 7:56-58). If Stephen had spent his life, as innumerable philosophers have, denouncing the vices and follies of the age, he might have died peacefully in bed. But those fatal words, “I see,” were his death warrant. And what did Paul say to make the Jews cry out in utter horror: “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live,” as “they . . . cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air?” (Acts 22:22-23). What indeed? These were the unforgivable words that made him unfit to live: “Suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest” (Acts 22:6-8). Paul could have won his audience over by speaking as a scholar, but when he bore witness to what he had seen and heard, he was asking for trouble” (Hugh Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 12-15).

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The key thing to draw from this excerpt is that a prophet is a man with personal, firsthand knowledge of God – a bold witness who bears his simple testimony of the truth which he personally knows and which he has had confirmed to him by the Holy Spirit. Prophets do not speak from theoretical knowledge or scholarly learning. Rather, they speak from their firsthand experience with their Savior Jesus Christ.

Oftentimes, prophets have face-to-face or visionary encounters with the Lord, as did Paul, Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Enoch, Adam, Jeremiah, and others. They frequently hear the voice of the Lord. They see Him in dreams and manifestations. And, more importantly, they all receive spiritual confirmation of the truth through the power of the Holy Ghost. No matter how God is revealed to them, they know of His reality, His divine mission, and of the true points of His Gospel. Their task, when called by the Lord to do so, is to share their witness of Jesus Christ.

The book of Acts gives us a wonderful description of a prophet’s role. Peter testified:

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing. . . .

And we are witnesses of all things which he did. . . .

Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly. . . .

And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.

To him give all the prophets witness, that through is name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:38-40, 42-43).

All of the prophets who have ever ministered or who ever will minister have testified of Jesus Christ. At times they referred to Him as Jehovah, the Lord, or the Messiah, but it was the Man Jesus, the Son of the Living God, of whom they preached, taught, and bore special witness. As Dr. Nibley observed above, prophets are so hated precisely because they give personal witness and don’t speak theoretically. They force us to make a judgment, either for or against, regarding the veracity of their testimony. And as the scriptures show, correctly discerning the truth of a prophet’s words and aligning ourselves with them makes all the differences.

Artwork by Alex Levin, Israel.

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The existence of prophets in Old Testament times cannot be disputed. But what of the New Testament era and our own modern day? Some claim that prophets were done away with after the resurrected Christ’s Ascension. This is false. I again cite the scripture: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).

The Lord very clearly intended that His Church should be guided, as it always had been in former times, by a duly called prophet wielding Priesthood authority. He also established apostles. The word apostle means “one who is sent” or, in other words, a messenger or emissary. A prophet is an apostle as well, just as an apostle is a prophet, but the prophet at any given time heads the body of apostles and presides in the Lord’s Priesthood.

Before His Atonement, the Lord chose Peter, James, and John to be the governing body within the large quorum of twelve apostles. Peter was the ranking and presiding authority among the apostles, or, in other words, the prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul gave us a glimpse into the structure of the Lord’s Church. He wrote:

[Y]e are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).

He again explained:

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Yet another time, to a different group of Saints, he likewise testified of the different callings and stations in the Church:

For the body is not one member, but many. . . .

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. . . .

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:14, 18, 28).

Paul is clear – the Lord established a Church with a set hierarchy and a neatly organized structure that includes prophets, apostles, elders, priests, teachers, patriarchs, members with spiritual gifts, and so forth. The presiding authority was Peter and, with him, the apostles.

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If Paul’s writings are not authoritative enough, the record shows that the mortal Messiah plainly called twelve apostles, endowing them with Priesthood authority, and established groups of seventy elders to hold office beneath the apostles (Matthew 10:1; Luke 9:1; Luke 10:1). If apostles and prophets were necessary for the Gospel ministry and for the edifying and perfecting of the members of the Lord’s Church two-thousand years ago, are they not also necessary today?

And if they are no longer necessary, as most Christians now believe, when did this start? Where is the formal revelation abolishing the quorum of twelve apostles set up by Christ? Where is the prophetic declaration announcing that the carefully designed structure of the Lord’s Church no longer applies or has been superseded with a better divinely-approved construct? Surely, if the Lord personally set up a Church with apostles and prophets, He intended the system to continue. It appears obvious on the face of it that without these governing bodies and the Priesthood which gave them authority to minister, heal, preach, baptize, and speak in the Lord’s name, there simply is no Church of Christ.

Since history bears out that the quorum of the twelve apostles did not continue past the First Century after Christ, and since the Catholic Church and Protestant organizations deny that prophets and apostles lead Christ’s Church today, we have to ask why. The scriptures have the answer. The Old and New Testaments both warn of an apostasy. Paul predicted a great “falling away” that would occur (2 Thessalonians 2:3). He warned:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

He spoke of Christian apostates as “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Paul in fact said that this apostasy was already beginning during his day. He wrote to the Galatian Church members: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Galatians 1:6). He also noted:

[A]fter my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

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Lehi preaching in Jerusalem, 600 B.C.

Peter, the chief apostle of his day, also foretold of apostasy:

[T]here were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Peter 2:1-2).

Finally, the Apostle John castigated false teachers and apostate churches in the book of Revelation, naming many of them. He was also given a revelation that condemned “them which say they are apostles, and are not” (Revelation 2:2).

Other New Testament witnesses, including the Lord Himself who talked about a coming age of false prophets (Matthew 24:24), could be appealed to. Even Old Testament prophets like Isaiah who prophesied of a time when “darkness shall cover the earth” (Isaiah 60:2) and the Lord’s followers would “draw near [to the Lord] with their mouth, and with their lips do honour [Him], but have removed their heart far from [Him]” (Isaiah 29:10, 13), could be noted. However, these are sufficient to show that the Bible foretells, quite unmistakably and frequently, of an apostasy. Those who honestly study the history of Christendom are also struck by the palpable reality of this great apostasy and the many changes made to Christ’s Church structure and to His doctrine.

T. Edgar Lyon wrote of these tragic changes to the Lord’s organization in his book Apostasy to Restoration. I excise a passage about the apostleship and what it meant that the apostles were eventually martyred:

As long as the original apostles of Jesus Christ were alive they gave church-wide supervision to His Church. By the close of the first century, however, there appears to be no apostolic leadership in the church. Furthermore, there is no recorded evidence that any plan had been adopted to perpetuate the apostleship or any other type of general church leadership. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 and 12, stated that the apostles and prophets had been placed in the Church of Jesus Christ by Christ Himself, to be His leaders on earth. When they disappeared, the leadership was gone. Without the authority from Christ to lead His Church, no organization could then rightfully be called the Church of Jesus Christ. That an organization survived, is self evident. That it perpetuated for some years some of the fundamental teachings such as faith in God, immersion baptism and belief in the resurrection of true Christianity, no one can deny. That there were sincere believers and dedicated leaders, history testifies. That they considered themselves to be the Church of Jesus Christ, the members affirmed through their faith and suffering. But that it was Christ’s Church, when it was without divine authority, is not in keeping with early Christian understanding” (T. Edgar Lyon, Apostasy to Restoration, 3).

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As I have been attempting to convey, prophets and apostles are absolutely essential to the Church of Jesus Christ. Without them, there is no Church of Christ. Without the Priesthood authority held by correctly called and appointed leaders, no saving ordinances can be properly and lawfully performed. Without a prophet to receive direction for the entire Church, such as when Peter received the revelation that the Gospel was to be taken to the Gentiles (Acts 10), there could be no Church. Without a prophet to speak in Christ’s name, an organization simply cannot be considered His Church.

It is also crystal clear from any honest reading of history that many innovations were made in Church organization and doctrine that did not harmonize with what the Lord had personally made known and which His apostles had expounded in their ministry. In fact, these changes harmonized with popular paganism at the time, such as Mithraism. A modern prophet of the Lord put it this way:

Notwithstanding, the disciples of Jesus, excepting John the Revelator, suffered ignominious deaths, they sowed the seed of the Gospel among, and conferred the Priesthood upon men, which remained for several generations upon the earth, but the time came when Paganism was engrafted into Christianity, and at last Christianity was converted into Paganism rather than converting the Pagans. And subsequently the Priesthood was taken from among men, this authority was recalled into the heavens, and the world was left without the Priesthood—without the power of God—without the Church and Kingdom of God” (President Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 22, 44, February 6, 1881).

As sad as this idea is, and as offensive as it may be to some sincere Christians, it is nevertheless an historically and scripturally substantiated truth. The Great Apostasy did occur and most of the world is still covered by darkness. Key doctrines were changed, such as the mode of baptism, how the gift of the Holy Ghost is conferred, the importance of marriage, how Church leaders are called, the nature of God, and so forth. In particular, the Nicene Creed and other church counsels presided over by uninspired men transformed the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit into a monstrous three-in-one creation not found in the Bible.

On the essential doctrine of the nature of God, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained the apostate idea compare to the scriptural truth:

In the year A.D. 325 the Roman emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to addressamong other thingsthe growing issue of God’s alleged “trinity in unity.” What emerged from the heated contentions of churchmen, philosophers, and ecclesiastical dignitaries came to be known (after another 125 years and three more major councils) as the Nicene Creed, with later reformulations such as the Athanasian Creed. These various evolutions and iterations of creedsand others to come over the centuriesdeclared the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be abstract, absolute, transcendent, immanent, consubstantial, coeternal, and unknowable, without body, parts, or passions and dwelling outside space and time. In such creeds all three members are separate persons, but they are a single being, the oft-noted “mystery of the trinity.” They are three distinct persons, yet not three Gods but one. All three persons are incomprehensible, yet it is one God who is incomprehensible.

We agree with our critics on at least that pointthat such a formulation for divinity is truly incomprehensible. With such a confusing definition of God being imposed upon the church, little wonder that a fourth-century monk cried out, “Woe is me! They have taken my God away from me, … and I know not whom to adore or to address.” How are we to trust, love, worship, to say nothing of strive to be like, One who is incomprehensible and unknowable? What of Jesus’s prayer to His Father in Heaven that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”?

It is not our purpose to demean any person’s belief nor the doctrine of any religion. We extend to all the same respect for their doctrine that we are asking for ours. (That, too, is an article of our faith.) But if one says we are not Christians because we do not hold a fourth- or fifth-century view of the Godhead, then what of those first Christian Saints, many of whom were eyewitnesses of the living Christ, who did not hold such a view either?

We declare it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings, noting such unequivocal illustrations as the Savior’s great Intercessory Prayer just mentioned, His baptism at the hands of John, the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, and the martyrdom of Stephento name just four” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” General Conference, October, 2007).

I quote this seeming aside for two reasons. First, the fact that the early Christians could not understand the nature of God and had so much contention on the issue illustrates their fallen condition. As sincere as they no doubt were, they lacked prophetic guidance and did not have the benefit of the Priesthood line of communication.

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Second, the confusion regarding the nature of our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ could never have happened in a Church where a living prophet presided and spoke on behalf of the Lord. Again, the fact that this issue literally shattered Christendom into pieces, with each side excommunicating, excoriating, and persecuting the other, demonstrates their lack of prophetic leadership and proves the reality of the Great Apostasy foretold in the New Testament.

The careful Bible reader will readily acknowledge that the Old Testament records numerous periods of time – sometimes spanning hundreds of years apiece – when the Lord’s ancient people devolved into a state of apostasy in which He revoked His Priesthood authority and ceased calling prophets to lead them. After each period of darkness, however, the Lord called new prophets. He always appeared to the first new prophet in a personal visitation to inaugurate the new Gospel dispensation. There are at least six Gospel dispensations recorded in the Bible. The founding prophets of each dispensation are: Adam; Enoch; Noah; Abraham; Moses; and Jesus Christ.

Each of these men is extraordinary, even among prophets. The Lord is the ultimate Prophet. It was He, as Jehovah, who personally called Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses to head up new dispensations. He gave these wonderful men Priesthood authority to officiate in saving ordinances, additional revelations to add to past revelations from former dispensations, and new instructions adapted to their specific circumstances. This is the pattern for opening a new Gospel dispensation. The Lord followed this identical pattern in modern times when He initiated what is the final Gospel dispensation, the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times (Ephesians 1:10).

One of the hopeful messages of the Holy Bible is that the night of dark apostasy long foreseen would be shattered by the revelation of further Gospel light at a future day. The ancient prophet Ezekiel, peering prophetically through time, spoke of a day when the scriptural record of the Jews would be joined with another scriptural record written by Israelites from the tribes of Joseph. Together, these equally true records would constitute the holy scriptures and be “one” in the Lord’s hands:

[T]ake one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:

And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. . . .

Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand” (Ezekiel 37:16-17, 19).

Isaiah referred to a future day in which “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2).

Micah similarly prophesied of the future establishment of the Lord’s Kingdom, or Zion:

[I]n the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.

And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the claw shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:1-2).

Isaiah specifically spoke of the Great Apostasy and followed it up by foretelling of a latter-day Restoration of the Lord’s Church, which he called a “marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:14).

Peter spoke of “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).

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The Savior also said that before His Second Coming in glory: “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things” (Matthew 17:11).

And, perhaps most convincingly of all, the Apostle John prophesied of an angel who would once more bring the Gospel to mankind:

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6).

Isn’t it curious that the Apostle John foretold of a day when there would be a need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be delivered to mankind once again by angels? Most Christians believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been on the earth for two-thousand years and does not stand in need of being restored, yet this contradicts John’s prophesy. There would simply be no need of an angelic minister to give the Gospel to those who already had it. When we factor in the reality of the Great Apostasy, however, we understand the significance of John’s prophesy.

In 1820, almost two-hundred years ago to the month, the prophesied Restoration of the “everlasting gospel” commenced in New York state when a fourteen-year-old man named Joseph Smith went into a small thicket of trees to pray to God to know which of all the competing churches was His one true Church. I invite you to read my article “Joseph Smith – Praise to the Man” for more about this wonderful servant of the Lord. Suffice it to say that because of his simple faith and sincere prayer, he received a divine manifestation of the Father and the Son. Brother Joseph later recounted:

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

. . . When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

. . . I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof”” (Joseph Smith – History 1:16-19).

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This marvelous manifestation, eclipsing even Abraham’s and Moses’ manifestations in its grandeur, inaugurated what we call the Restoration of the Gospel. Joseph Smith was told by the Lord that he was to be an instrument in His hands to bring the truth back to the world. In due time, in direct fulfillment of John’s writings, an angel named Moroni appeared to tutor Joseph Smith in Heavenly things and inform him of the record of the tribes of Joseph which Ezekiel spoke of. With the power of God, Joseph Smith translated this divine record. It is today called The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ and is used in conjunction with the Bible to bring people to the Savior.

John the Baptist, as well as Peter, James, and John, appeared to Joseph Smith and others to restore the Holy Priesthood. Other angelic ministers, Moses and Elijah to name only two, appeared to give their Priesthood authorities and keys to Joseph Smith. Eventually, the Lord’s house – that is, His holy temple – was built once again. Not surprisingly, the chief of these modern temples sits today in the top of the mountains as foreseen by the Biblical prophets.

On April 6, 1830, the Lord’s Church was formally restored to the earth again as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Saints suffered extreme persecution. They were driven from state to state, murdered by mobs, and had an extermination order placed upon them by Governor Boggs of Missouri. In 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were shot to death by a ravenous mob while unjustly imprisoned in Illinois. Their spilled blood served as their final testimony of the truthfulness of the Restoration.

Yet, because it was not Joseph Smith’s church, but in actual fact the Church of Jesus Christ, it survived and has flourished and expanded throughout the globe at a miraculous pace. It is still led today by a prophet and a council of twelve apostles. It contains within it not only prophets and apostles, but also the quorums of seventy established by Jesus, the teachers and elders spoken of by Paul, and the gifts, authorities, and powers that always accompany the legitimate Priesthood authority of the Master. On every point of comparison in doctrine, structure, and origin between the Lord’s Church established in the Bible and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is a beautiful harmony that powerfully touches the honest seeker of truth.

To these claims of new revelations, new scripture, new prophets, and a divinely-restored Church of Jesus Christ, the world is emphatically opposed. I bear my personal witness, given to me by the Holy Spirit, however, that it is the truth. These events fulfill the prophecies of Biblical prophets. The Everlasting Gospel has indeed been restored to the earth!

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Whenever the Lord gives new light, Satan intensifies his disinformation campaign. He sends false prophets to oppose the real ones. He disperses false dogmas to compete with revealed truth. He establishes counterfeit priesthoods to the real Priesthood. He erects alluring churches to draw people away from the true Church of Jesus Christ. And he inspires wicked people to persecute the Lord’s prophets.

President Brigham Young, the successor prophet to Joseph Smith, warned of Satan’s counterfeits to the restored Church of Jesus Christ:

If true principles are revealed from heaven to men, and if there are angels, and there is a possibility of their communicating to the human family, always look for an opposite power, an evil power, to give manifestations also: look out for the counterfeit.

There is evil in the world, and there is also good. Was there ever a counterfeit without a true coin? No. Is there communication from God? Yes. From holy angels? Yes; and we have been proclaiming these facts during nearly thirty years. Are there any communications from evil spirits? Yes; and the Devil is making the people believe very strongly in revelations from the spirit world. This is called spiritualism” (President Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, 240, September 1, 1859).

Another modern apostle, the brilliant Bruce R. McConkie, wrote of those who reject the Lord’s light:

In the very nature of things, persecution of true prophets includes the acceptance of false prophets. It is a philosophical impossibility to reject truth without accepting error, to depart from true teachers without cleaving to false ones, to reject the Lord’s ministers without giving allegiance to those who follow the other Master” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, 37).

It is the Lord’s modern prophets, however, which Christendom declares “false.” They cite Paul’s warning: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any bother gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). This claim falls flat, however, when you honestly study the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ and that revealed in modern times and realize how stunningly consistent they are. It is also out of harmony with John’s prophesy that an angel will restore the Everlasting Gospel to mankind.

We should at least have one thing clear in our minds: “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). He therefore cannot be the God of the various religions of the world, including Protestantism. For all its merits, two of the fundamental Protestant creeds are: 1) That it doesn’t matter which church a person belongs to because one’s personal relationship with Christ is all that matters; and 2) there can be no prophets or hierarchy because each individual can commune directly with God and needs no mediator. As I have demonstrated earlier, these notions are unBiblical, wrong, and are contradicted by the words of Peter, John, Paul, and other New Testament writers.

The Apostle Paul also noted that universal revelation is not subject to private interpretation. There must be an interpreter who proclaims the will of the Almighty. Imagine if there was no hierarchy and no order. It would be mass confusion with everyone claiming to speak for God, yet offering different interpretations of doctrine and proposing differing policies.

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The current First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles in the visitor center at the Rome, Italy Temple

As He did anciently, God has again called prophets to act as His spokesmen, to teach correct doctrine, to expose falsehoods, to shine light on humanity, and to bring people to Jesus Christ. It is our challenge today to listen to these humble prophets. I say “challenge” because it is generally harder to listen to a living, breathing prophet in your own land than to an ancient Hebrew prophet long since dead. The same Elder McConkie cited above wrote:

The real test of one’s beliefs is not how much he purports to believe of what the dead prophets have said, but what he accepts from the lips of the living oracles of the same God who inspired those of old. Salvation comes through belief in the doctrines taught by the true disciples sent as legal administrators in our day. Needless to say, their teachings conform to those of their ancient fellowservants; in addition, modern disciples have the present power to perform the ordinances of salvation so they will be binding on earth and in heaven” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 27-28.

Ezra Taft Benson, whom I’m fond of quoting in my writings, penned a stirring testimony of the revealed Gospel. As one of the Lord’s modern apostolic witnesses, his words take on added meaning. He declared:

The world has generally revered the ancient dead prophets and rejected the living ones. It was so with Joseph Smith. Truth is often on the scaffold, error on the throne. But time is on the side of truth, for truth is eternal. The message of Mormonism is a world message. It is the truth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a world organization.

The message of Joseph Smith – the message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the message of Mormonism – is the most important message in the world. And Joseph Smith the Prophet, who lives today, continues to have an important part in its direction here on earth.

The Church is a world organization – the true Church of Jesus Christ restored to the earth in its fulness – and is intended to bless all of our Father’s children. These things I know, and to them I bear humble witness.

God lives, Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the world, with his latter-day base of operations here in America, and Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of the living God.

This is my witness and testimony to all the world” (Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, 40-41).

Yes, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is again on the earth in its bright fulness! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by prophets – men called of God by revelation and anointed via the Holy Priesthood to their positions. These prophets have come from many walks of life, yet they are all selected by the same Lord and they all bear witness of His divinity.

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Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James, and John

One of the Lord’s recent apostles gave us this insight into the type of people called to preside in the Lord’s Church:

What is a living prophet? His age? He may be young or old. He need not wear a tunic nor carry a shepherd’s staff. His physical features are not important. A prophet need not have advanced educational degrees nor come from any special social class. He may be rich or poor. He needs no credentials from men.

What is it, then, that qualifies a man to be a prophet?

Foremost, God must choose him as his prophet! . . . .

A prophet, then, is the authorized representative of the Lord. While the world may not recognize him, the important requirement is that God speaks through him. A prophet is a teacher. He receives revelations from the Lord. These may be new truths or explanations of truths already received.

It is an easy thing to believe in the dead prophets. Many people do. For some mysterious reason there is an aura of credibility about them. It is not so with the prophet who lives among us, who must meet life’s everyday challenges. But it is a great thing to believe in the living prophets. Our salvation is contingent upon our belief in a living prophet and adherence to his word. He alone has the right to revelation for the whole Church. His words, above those of any other man, ought to be esteemed and considered by the Church as well as by the world. One day this truth will be understood” (Elder A. Theodore Tuttle, “What Is a Living Prophet?Ensign, July, 1973).

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President Russell M. Nelson

The man who has been called today by Jesus Christ to lead His Church and to speak on His behalf is Russell M. Nelson. This great servant of the Almighty was recently called “Moses in a business suit” by University of Virginia religious studies professor Kathleen Flake. He has been called by others a “Renaissance Man.” President Nelson is a ninety-five-year-old man of wisdom, experience, and boundless energy. A father of ten children, a world-renowned heart surgeon, a speaker of six languages, an author, and a world traveler who has met with presidents, popes, and kings, he would be a wonderful choice to head any organization. However, far more importantly than his worldly laurels, he has been called of God and he bears emphatic testimony of our Redeemer Jesus Christ. President Nelson is the man of the hour for the world, the chief apostle, the mortal captain of the Church of Jesus Christ.

I bear testimony that the Lord has called prophets in the modern age. From my head to my feet, I know without a doubt, through the Holy Ghost, that prophets walk the earth today and speak for the Lord! I know President Nelson is an inspired man and that the apostles who serve at his side are special witnesses of Jesus who have been endowed with the Holy Priesthood. It is also my testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ will never again fall into apostasy. To bolster this important point, I appeal to a statement by one of the most brilliant of the Lord’s modern prophets:

Now, brethren, I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.

An individual may fall by the wayside, or have views, or give counsel which falls short of what the Lord intends. But the voice of the First Presidency and the united voice of those others who hold with them the keys of the kingdom shall always guide the Saints and the world in those paths where the Lord wants them to be. . . .

Now, brethren, these things are true. The Lord is with his people. The cause of righteousness shall prevail. Our cause is just, and the Lord will guide and direct us and bring us off triumphant in the end.

I testify that if we shall look to the First Presidency and follow their counsel and direction, no power on earth can stay or change our course as a church, and as individuals we shall gain peace in this life and be inheritors of eternal glory in the world to come. And I say this to you, my good brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (President Joseph Fielding Smith, “Eternal Keys and the Right to Preside,” General Conference, April, 1974).

In an address titled “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” Ezra Taft Benson gave us these accompanying truths:

The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the Ark. Noah needed his own revelation. Therefore the most important prophet so far as you and I are concerned is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us. Therefore the most important reading we can do is any of the words of the prophet contained each month in our Church Magazines. Our instructions about what we should do for each six months are found in the General Conference addresses which are printed in the Church magazine.

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Beware of those who would set up the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence. . . .

. . . it is the living prophet who really upsets the world. “Even in the Church,” said President Kimball, “many are prone to garnish the sepulchres of yesterdays prophets and mentally stone the living ones.” (Instructor, 95:527.)

Why? Because the living prophet gets at what we need to know now, and the world prefers that prophets either be dead or worry about their own affairs. Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on. . . .

There will be times when you will have to choose between the revelation of God and reasoning of menbetween the prophet and the professor.”

President Benson also added this wide counsel which each of us should apply to ourselves:

How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness. . . .

If we want to know how well we stand with the Lord then let us ask ourselves how well we stand with His mortal captainhow close do our lives harmonize with the Lord’s anointedthe living ProphetPresident of the Church, and with the Quorum of the First Presidency” (President Ezra Taft Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” BYU Address, February 26, 1980).

Each person in the world who hears the proposition that God has again sent prophets to teach and lead mankind must make a decision whether it is true or false. That decision will largely determine his or her standing before God. Remember that prophets, when inspired by the Holy Spirit, speak for God. To reject a true prophet is to reject the true God. To accept a true prophet is to accept the true God.

Every six months, the prophet and apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather in what is called General Conference to give talks on Gospel doctrine. They speak of the Lord, His Atonement and resurrection, His divinity and perfection, His right of Kingship over the earth, and the reality that He is returning to His earth sooner than later. They speak of the central importance of families and marriage to our Heavenly Father’s great Plan of Salvation. They speak of specific points of doctrine, whether it be baptism, prayer, scripture study, and so forth. I have never gone away from a Conference without feeling uplifted, strengthened, and more committed to follow Jesus Christ.

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This April 4 and 5 will be the next General Conference of the Savior’s Church. His prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, will preside and address the world. Living apostles will speak and share their testimonies and instruct the humble Saints of God throughout the earth. I invite you, dear reader, to tune in and prayerfully watch the broadcasts. Listen to the Holy Spirit and see what He prompts you to do about the messages. Investigate the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints and read The Book of Mormon. You will be uplifted and inspired if you do so. If you are reading this article after April 4 and 5, fear not, the Church has a massive archive system housing the General Conference addresses of the past fifty years on its website https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/

The Lord Jesus Christ is shining light into the world at an increasing rate. The Devil is also belching out mists of darkness at an unprecedented pace. We must stay close to the Spirit, hold to the commandments, walk on the covenant path the Savior walked, and bind ourselves to God’s will if we are to survive these days. Thankfully, we don’t have to do it alone – the Lord has given us living prophets to show us the way to our Redeemer.

Jesus is the light and life of the world. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the One who presides over the earth and the One who shows His prophets how to direct mankind for their benefit. If we wish to come to Jesus, we must first come to His prophet, who at this time is President Russell M. Nelson. It is he who holds the keys of presidency in the Holy Priesthood. It is at his authorization that local missionaries and authorities can baptize us into the Lord’s Church, confer upon us the gift of the Holy Ghost, and initiate us into higher saving ordinances – such as the ordinance of eternal marriage – in the Lord’s temples. What a blessing!

I close this article with my witness of Jesus Christ and His servants. Jesus Christ died for our sins. He bled and suffered and died so that you and I could repent, improve, and eventually receive exaltation in our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom. We are the literal sons and daughters of our Eternal Father and Jesus is our Elder Brother and Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. They love us with a familial bond and wish the best for us. They love us more than we can fathom; more than we love ourselves or our dearest relatives. Out of this great love, the Lord has sent prophets into the world in our day. Of this I testify with all my heart and invite you to investigate my claims for yourself.

Go to the Father in prayer and ask Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, whether or not this is true. If you are humble and prepared to act on any revelation you might receive, you will receive it. And then you will know for yourself, independent of all other sources, and in the face of opposition and mockery, that Jesus lives and that prophets also live and speak in His holy name.

I close with a statement from President Russell M. Nelson, the Lord’s prophet, which I encourage everyone to read and heed:

Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.

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I bless you to raise your voice in testimony, as I do now, that we are engaged in the work of Almighty God! Jesus is the Christ. This is His Church, which He directs through His anointed servants. I so testify, with my expression of love for each of you, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen” (President Russell M. Nelson, “Let Us All Press On,” General Conference, April, 2018).

Zack Strong,

March 19, 2020

The Book of Mormon Speaks of Freedom

Freedom is a topic that we all have a pressing need to study and master. The human spirit innately craves Liberty and personal accountability, yet few times in history have people been able to attain and then maintain their rights. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which you can read about in my previous article, is a volume of inspired scripture that speaks first and foremost of the divine mission of Jesus Christ and calls upon all people to worship Him. An important secondary mission of The Book of Mormon, however, is to teach us the correct principles of Liberty, expose Satan’s Freedom-destroying schemes, and show what is required for a people to maintain their God-given rights under a free government.

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Because it helps us identify the Devil’s tyrannical tactics and teaches us true principles of self-government, The Book of Mormon is the ultimate handbook of Freedom. While there is not much by way of exposition about the principles of Liberty, we see them in action in the lives and experiences of the Nephite nation. For the first five-hundred years of their history, the Nephites lived under a system of kings. The final king, a God-fearing man named Mosiah, decided to abolish the monarchical system and encouraged the Nephite people to take upon themselves responsibilities, rights, and privileges of self-government.

While contemplating the future of his people, Mosiah made a proclamation wherein he explained the dangers posed by monarchy. The foremost problem he identified was factionalism. Those vying for the position of king could easily divide the nation and cause senseless civil war. What’s more, a wicked king would be unstoppable by any means other than bloodshed. With this context in mind, we read a few lines from Mosiah’s proclamation:

And now let us be wise and look forward to these things, and do that which will make for the peace of this people.

. . . let us appoint judges, to judge this people according to our laws; and we will newly arrange the affairs of this people, for we will appoint wise men to be judges, that will judge this people according to the commandments of God.

Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just. . . .

Now I say unto you, that because all men are not just it is not expedient that ye should have a king or kings to rule over you.

For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction! . . . .

And behold, now I say unto you, ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood.

For behold, he has his friends in iniquity, and he keepeth his guards about him; and he teareath up the laws of those who have reigned in righteousness before him; and he trampleth under his feet the commandments of God;

And he enacteth laws, and sendeth them forth among his people, yea, laws after the manner of his own wickedness; and whosoever doth not obey his laws he causeth to be destroyed; and whosoever doth rebel against him he will send his armies against them to war, and if he can he will destroy them; and thus an unrighteous king doth pervert the ways of all righteousness.

And now behold I say unto you, it is not expedient that such abominations should come upon you.

Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.

Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law – to do y our business by the voice of the people.

And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon them. . . .

And I command you to do these things in the fear of the Lord; and I command you to do these things, and that ye have no king; that if these people commit sins and inquities they shall be answered upon their own heads. . . .

. . . I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike” (Mosiah 29:10-12, 16-17, 21-27, 30, 32).

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The Nephite kingdom being conferred on Mosiah by his father, King Benjamin

It should be noted before I proceed with my commentary that Mosiah was not merely a king, but also an inspired Christian prophet. The Holy Spirit therefore moved upon him to formulate a new government that was pleasing to the Lord and compatible with His Gospel.

Mosiah was emphatic that men could not be trusted with the power of kingship. He knew that an unstable or immoral king could cause havoc throughout the land. He was worried that a king would amend the good laws that had been handed down for generations, instituting in their place corrupt laws that would permit sin, punish righteousness, and trample individual Liberty.

Instead of monarchy, Mosiah desired that the Nephite people take upon themselves the responsibility for administering the government. He believed that the people should “do [their] business by the voice of the people.” Note that he did not advocate for pure democracy. Rather, he suggested a system of rule of law with judges selected by the people who would enforce the law. It was, thus, a representative government very similar to that set up in the United States under the Constitution. Just as Mosiah said the law had been given to the Nephites’ forefathers by God, so, too, do I witness that the U.S. Constitution was inspired by Almighty God.

In a portion of Mosiah’s declaration that I did not cited, he made it clear that judges who did not judge “according to the law” could be taken and judged by other judged and removed from their posts (Mosiah 29:28-29). He also verified that the judges were accountable “to the voice of the people” (Mosiah 29:29). The similarities to the system set forth in the U.S. Constitution are too vivid to ignore.

Just as Mosiah said not to place trust in men but instead to make men accountable to the law, the great Thomas Jefferson advised: “In questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution” (Thomas Jefferson, Kentucky Resolutions, draft, 1798).

Thomas Paine was obviously in tune with the same patriotic spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17). In 1776, he explained:

[I]n America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the Crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is.

A government of our own is our natural right” (Thomas Paine, Common Sense).

Just as the American Founding Fathers established a government based on the rule of law, individual Liberty, and accountability, so, too, did the Nephites set up a free government in ancient America. When Mosiah presented his plan to the Nephite people, they were thrilled with the prospect of governing themselves. The scripture recounts:

And now it came to pass, after king Mosiah had sent these things forth among the people they were convinced of the truth of his words.

Therefore they relinquished their desires for a king, and became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout all the land; yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins.

Therefore, it came to pass that they assembled themselves together in bodies throughout the land, to cast in their voices concerning who should be their judges, to judge them according to the law which had been given; and they were exceedingly rejoiced because of the liberty which had been granted unto them” (Mosiah 29:37-39).

The Nephites became enamored with the idea of governing themselves and placing this huge responsibility on their own shoulders. They embraced the idea of rule of law and self-governance. The laws that Mosiah gave “were acknowledged by the people; therefore they were obliged to abide by the laws” (Alma 1:1). This is similar to the concept espoused by George Washington when he said:

The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government” (George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796).

The people supported Mosiah’s plan, accepted the laws he proposed, and thus bound themselves to obey the established system of self-rule. As noted, the people were generally ecstatic to have the chance to determine their own futures. Mosiah made it plain that maintaining such a system would require great exertion. Self-government is indeed the most demanding form of government. It requires individuals to be informed, to make decisions, to be accountable, and to live in accordance with moral principles.

In 1938, Elder Albert Bowen, a modern apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke of self-government. He said:

Self-government involves self-control, self-discipline, and acceptance of the most unremitting obedience to correct principles. . . .

No other form of government requires so high a degree of individual morality” (Elder Albert E. Bowen, Improvement Era, 1938, 41).

Founding Fathers1

The Founding Fathers of the United States were emphatic in their warnings that only a virtuous people is capable of Freedom. It takes no virtue or excellence to be ruled and enslaved, but it takes a high degree of greatness, personal discipline, and exertion to be free. Because our Founding Fathers’ Freedom philosophy dovetails so nicely with the principles preached by Mosiah and other Book of Mormon figures to be cited later, I present a brief smattering of their thoughts on the connection between morality and Liberty.

My ancestor, Caleb Strong, is one of those forgotten Founding Fathers. He was an intimate associate of John Adams and helped him write the constitution for Massachusetts. He filled many positions during the War for Independence. He attended the Constitutional Convention and was the man who successfully proposed that all money bills originate in the House of Representatives. He served as the first senator from Massachusetts and, later, as governor of that state for eleven years. Mr. Strong made this observation:

Almost every nation, at some period of their existence, have enjoyed the privileges of a free State; but how few have preserved them! – they have been lost by the inconstancy of the citizens, or forfeited by their vices. . . .

. . . Government is necessary, to preserve the public peace, the persons and property of individuals; but our social happiness must chiefly depend upon other causes; upon simplicity and purity of manners; upon the education that we give our children; upon a steady adherence to the customs and institutions of our ancestors; upon the general diffusion of knowledge, and the prevalence of piety and benevolent affections among the people.

Our forms of government, are, doubtless, like all other institutions, imperfect; but they will secure the blessings of freedom to the citizens, and preserve their tranquility, as long as they are virtuous; and no constitution, that has been, or can be formed, will secure those blessings to a depraved and vicious people” (Caleb Strong, speech to the Massachusetts Legislature, January 17, 1806).

John Adams similarly believed:

The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies” (John Adams to Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776).

In a more famous quotation, John Adams, then the president, wrote:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (John Adams to the Massachusetts Militia, October 11, 1798).

John Witherspoon, the fiery Revolutionary era minister, gave us this gem:

Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue. On the other hand, when the manners of a nation are pure, when true religion and internal principles maintain their vigor, the attempts of the most powerful enemies to oppress them are commonly baffled and disappointed” (John Witherspoon, “The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Man,” May 17, 1776).

Benjamin Franklin also subscribed to this philosophy, writing:

[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters” (Benjamin Franklin to Abbes Chalut and Arnoux, April 17, 1787).

George Washington by Tim Davis

In his Farewell Address, which ought to be required reading in every part of our Republic, President George Washington took up the subject of morality and religion in a free country and proclaimed:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?” (George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796).

Finally, George Washington stated simply but unequivocally: “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society” (George Washington to the Protestant Clergy of Philadelphia, March 3, 1797).

The Founding Fathers believed that the American People could only maintain their hard-won Freedom if they were virtuous and lived in accordance with the laws of God. Anciently, Mosiah believed the same thing and established his system of judges and laws in such a manner that required the Nephite people to be righteous in order for them to work. The Nephites consented to this state of affairs and gladly took upon themselves the burden and blessing of self-government. This history contextualizes the most iconic struggles for Liberty related in The Book of Mormon.

The first struggle came only five years after the system of judges had gone into effect. A man name Amlici, who is described as “being a very cunning man, yea, a wise man as to the wisdom of the world” sought to be king (Alma 2:1). Amlici was an anti-Christian zealot who belonged to a sect called the order of Nehors which attempted to impose itself upon the rest of society. We read in the record that Christians and all who loved their Liberty were alarmed at Amlici’s desire to become a king. They knew that “according to their law” all such matters “must be established by the voice of the people” and that “if it were possible that Amlici should gain the voice of the people, he, being a wicked man, would deprive them of their rights and privileges of the church; for it was his intent to destroy the church of God” (Alma 2:3-4).

As time went on, Amlici successfully courted a large number of people “and they began to endeavor to establish Amlici to be a king over the people” (Alma 2:2). Whether they joined him because they were not accustomed to their newfound Freedom, or because they found self-government too demanding, or whether they were also opposed to the Church of Jesus Christ and wanted the strong arm of government to suppress it, Amlici’s followers became so numerous that they forced a vote to decide whether or not their government would be abolished.

We read what happened next:

And it came to pass that the people assembled themselves together throughout all the land, every man according to his mind, whether it were for or against Amlici, in separate bodies, having much dispute and wonderful contentions one with another.

And thus they did assemble themselves together to cast in their voices concerning the matter; and they were laid before the judges.

And it came to pass that the voice of the people came against Amlici, that he was not made king over the people.

Now this did cause much joy in the hearts of those who were against him; but Amlici did stir up those who were in his favor to anger against those who were not in his favor.

And it came to pass that they gathered themselves together, and did consecrate Amlici to be their king.

Now when Amlici was made king over them he commanded them that they should take up arms against their brethren; and this he did that he might subject them to him” (Alma 2:5-10).

Amlici’s rebellion fulfilled Mosiah’s earlier warnings to a T. Recall that Mosiah warned that “ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood.” The Nephites were compelled to fight a sanguinary civil war all because one very wicked man sought for power over his countrymen and sought to dictate how they should live worship.

The Book of Mormon16

Amlici’s forces, being outnumbered by those who desired Freedom, were quickly defeated. However, Amlici ran to the Nephites’ rivals, the Lamanites, for assistance. The Lamanites routinely watched and waited for opportunities to subjugate the Nephites. A civil war was the perfect opportunity to strike. They joined forces with Amlici and the remainder of his men and waged war against the Nephites.

The Book of Mormon recounts that the ensuing battle was fierce but that “the Nephites being strengthened by the hand of the Lord, having prayed mightily to him that he would deliver them out of the hands of their enemies, therefore the Lord did hear their cries, and did strengthen them, and the Lamanites and the Amlicites did fall before them” (Alma 2:28).

After the brief but devastating war, the Nephites went back to the work of self-government. Their peace did not last long, however, because there are always those who seek for power over others.

Eighteen years after the “reign of judges” began, we learn of a great warrior named Captain Moroni. Moroni appeared on the scene at a time when the fledgling Nephite republic was again beginning to fracture. A segment of society, led by those of high birth who thought themselves above their fellows, wanted to revert back to the rule of kings. This faction was referred to as “king-men.” The opposing faction took upon themselves the name “freemen” and was determined to maintain their system of self-government at all costs.

This war of ideas came at a precarious time. It came as the aforementioned Lamanites, were again mobilizing for war. The Lamanites were encouraged, as before, by Nephite dissenters. In particular, a group calling themselves Zoramites “began to mix with the Lamanites and to stir them up also to anger” so much so that they “began to make preparations for war” (Alma 35:10-11). The anger stemmed from a difference in religion, the Zoramites and Lamanites denying the Christian Gospel preached by Nephite prophets, but was ultimately aimed at subjugating the independent Nephites once and for all.

At age twenty-five, Captain Moroni was appointed as head of the Nephite army. Moroni, a brilliant tactician and a man inspired by Almighty God, won the initial battles against the Lamanite-Zoramite armies and the latter retreated to regroup and devise a new strategy. During this tense period of war preparations, and as Captain Moroni was occupied fortifying the land in anticipation of the coming onslaught, the seditious king-men seized their chance.

The king-men were led by a singularly devious man named Amalickiah. Amalickiah, as Amlici before him, hated the Gospel of Jesus Christ and wanted to destroy the Church of Christ. He also lusted for power and wanted to eviscerate the Nephites’ Freedom. The Book of Mormon speaks of him and his followers in this way:

And it came to pass that as many as would not hearken to the words of Helaman [the prophet] and his brethren were gathered together against their brethren.

And now behold, they were exceedingly wroth, insomuch that they were determined to slay them.

Now the leader of those who were wroth against their brethren was a large and a strong man; and his name was Amalickiah.

And Amalickiah was desirous to be a king; and those people who were wroth were also desirous that he should be their king; and they were the greater part of them the lower judges of the land, and they were desirous for power.

And they had been led by the flatteries of Amalickiah, that if they would support him and establish him to be their king that he would make them rulers over the people. . . .

Yea, we see that Amalickiah, because he was a man of cunning device and a man of many flattering words, that he led away the hearts of many people to do wickedly; yea, and to seek to destroy the church of God, and to destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them, or which blessing God had sent upon the face of the land for the righteous’ sake” (Alma 46:1-5, 10).

Captain Moroni12

Amalickiah and his elitist, anti-Christian hordes rose up to challenge the Nephites. They openly sought to destroy the government, impose a monarchy over the land, and sweep away the Christians. Captain Moroni, a Christian and a fierce Freedom Fighter, would have none of it. The sacred record tells us:

And now it came to pass that when Moroni, who was the chief commander of the armies of the Nephites, had heard of these dissensions, he was angry with Amalickiah.

And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it – In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children – and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.

And he fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily to his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land. . . .

And he said: Surely God shall not suffer that we, who are despised because we take upon us the name of Christ, shall be trodden down and destroyed, until we bring it upon us by our own transgressions.

And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing . . . and crying with a loud voice, saying:

Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.

And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God” (Alma 46:11-13, 18-21).

Moroni ordered that his Title of Liberty be published throughout all the land. With the stirring slogan “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children,” Captain Moroni rallied the Nephites against Amalickiah. He inspired them to stand up and be counted. He roused them to rise in defense of their Faith, Families, and Freedom.

Captain Moroni4

When Captain Moroni had rallied the people to his standard, he marched against Amalickiah to put an end to his machinations. When they saw Moroni coming, many of Amalickiah’s people became “doubtful concerning the justice of the cause in which they had undertaken” (Alma 46:29). Amalickiah, fearing capture, took a small group of followers, including his brother Ammoron, and fled to the Lamanites. Moroni sent his men to apprehend Amalickiah because “he knew that he would stir up the Lamanites to anger against them and cause them to come to battle against them; and this he knew that Amalickiah would do that he might obtain his purposes” (Alma 46:30).

Unfortunately, Amalickiah escaped. Most of his followers, however, were captured. We read:

And it came to pass that whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government, he caused to be put to death; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom.

And it came to pass also, that he caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land, which was possessed by the Nephites; and thus Moroni planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites” (Alma 46:35-36).

The immediate threat of civil war was eliminated. However, as Moroni predicted, and in a fascinating story of trickery and treachery that I will not recount here, Amalickiah gained control over the Lamanite army, had his men murder the Lamanite king, and installed himself as monarch. His first command as king, unsurprisingly, was to launch a war of subjugation against the Nephites.

The Book of Mormon gives us this interesting passage about the interim period before the war began in earnest and about the type of man and leader Captain Moroni was:

Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God. . . .

And thus he was preparing to support their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children, and their peace, and that they might live unto the Lord their God, and that they might maintain that which was called by their enemies the cause of Christians.

And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;

Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.

Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.

Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even tot he shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.

And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land. . . .

Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:7, 10-15, 17).

Captain Moroni exemplified what it means to be a patriot. He was the ultimate freeman. He has an honored place in the Freedom Fighter Hall of Fame. His Herculean struggle for his people earned him eternal glory. And he was the epitome of the “Christian soldier” marching “with the cross of Jesus” (Hymn No. 246, “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

We have an analog to Captain Moroni in our own history. General George Washington was such a man of similar stature. He was also a strong and mighty individual, a man with a brilliant mind, a patriot who worked for the welfare of his country, and a deeply devout Christian. Just as Moroni bowed himself to the earth and supplicated the Lord for assistance, General Washington relied upon the Lord during the Revolution. At the outset of that struggle, he wrote:

No Man has a more perfect Reliance on the all-wise, and powerful dispensations of the Supreme Being than I have nor thinks his aid more necessary” (George Washington to William Gordon, May 13, 1776).

Captain Moroni16

The righteous portion of the Nephites were well-grounded in just principles. They knew that conquest was wrong. They knew that the Lord only supports taking the sword in self-defense and to fulfill His divine purposes. Similarly, early Americans abhorred aggressive war and only shouldered their muskets when the British monarchists came to disarm and enslave them. Thomas Jefferson observed:

If there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest” (Thomas Jefferson to William Short, July 28, 1791).

The Americans’ War for Independence was a defensive action against modern-day king-men. Our People, like the Nephites, fought a war for their very survival. We had General Washington and the Nephites had Captain Moroni. And as the Nephites rent their coats as a token that they would serve God and thereby receive His protection, so, too, did modern Americans declare their “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.” When you recognize the parallels between ancient and recent history, and recognize that we are today passing through a similar period of division centering on religion and Liberty, The Book of Mormon becomes all the more relevant and useful.

We return to Captain Moroni’s story. Eventually, King Amalickiah’s Lamanite forces invaded Nephite territory. Moroni had cleverly fortified every city throughout the land (the ruins of those impressive forts can be found throughout the heartland of America) and the initial thrusts were repulsed. Amalickiah “was exceedingly wroth, and he did curse God, and also Moroni, swearing with an oath that he would drink his blood” (Alma 49:27). Amalickiah restrategized and, approximately five years later, personally led a new invasion.

This invasion happened as yet another group of Nephites attempted to break away and the society was rife with division. The Book of Mormon gives a commentary about those who caused the new contentions:

Therefore, those who were desirous that the law should be altered were angry with [the newly-elected chief judge Pahoran], and desired that he should no longer be chief judge over the land; therefore there arose a warm dispute concerning the matter. . . .

And it came to pass that those who were desirous that Pahoran should be dethroned from the judgment-seat were called king-men, for they were desirous that the law should be altered in a manner to overthrow the free government and to establish a king over the land.

And those who were desirous that Pahoran should remain chief judge over the land took upon them the name of freemen; and thus was the division among them, for the freemen had sworn or covenanted to maintain their rights and the privileges of their religion by a free government.

And it came to pass that this matter of their contention was settled by the voice of the people. And it came to pass that the voice of the people came in favor of the freemen, and Pahoran retained the judgment-seat, which caused much rejoicing among the brethren of Pahoran and also many of the people of liberty, who also put the king-men to silence, that they durst not oppose but were obliged to maintain the cause of freedom.

Now those who were in favor of kings were those of high birth, and they sought to be kinds; and they were supported by those who sought power and authority over the people” (Alma 51:4-8).

Captain Moroni17

This division and infighting happened at the exact time that Amalickiah attacked. So bitter were the king-men that they had been thwarted yet again by the freemen that when they knew the Lamanites had invaded “they refused to take up arms, for they were so wroth with the chief judge, and also with the people of liberty, that they would not take up arms to defend their country” (Alma 51:13).

We read that when Captain Moroni was apprised of the king-men’s sedition, he was “exceedingly wroth because of the stubbornness of those people whom he had labored with so much diligence to preserve; yea, he was exceedingly wroth; his soul was filled with anger against them” (Alma 51:14). Moroni was forced to withdraw his troops from their defensive positions to deal with the king-men problem first. The record states that “he sent a petition, with the voice of the people, unto the governor of the land” requesting power “to compel those dissenters to defend their country or to put them to death” (Alma 51:15).

The Book of Mormon attests that Moroni was so concerned because such sedition “had been hitherto a cause of all their destruction” (Alma 51:16). The Captain’s petition was granted and he “commanded that his army should go against those king-men, to pull down their pride and their nobility and level them with the earth, or they should take up arms and support the cause of liberty” (Alma 51:17).

The same king-men who refused to lift their weapons to defend their country nevertheless drew the sword to fight against their countrymen. Moroni’s disciplined men were victorious, however, and the king-men were killed, imprisoned, or “compelled to hoist the title of liberty upon their towers, and in their cities, and to take up arms in defence of their country” (Alma 51:20). Though he did not entirely wipe out the monarchical ideology, Moroni successfully destroyed the king-men as an organization. “[T]hey were brought down to humble themselves like unto their brethren, and to fight valiantly for their freedom from bondage” (Alma 51:21).

During the chaos, Amalickiah was able to capture a number of Nephite cities. He would have continued cutting his way through the land, but a commander named Teancum was dispatched to stop him, which he successfully did because his men were “great warriors; for every man of Teancum did exceed the Lamanites in their strength and in their skill of war” (Alma 51:31). Being repulsed after a hard day of fighting, Amalickiah camped for the night. Teancum, however, wanted to end the war as quickly as possible. He crept into the Lamanite camp, found Amalickiah as he slept, and “put a javelin to his heart,” thus ending Amalickiah’s evil reign (Alma 51:33-36).

The war did not end as Teancum had hoped, however. Amalickiah’s brother Ammoron ascended to the throne and intensified the conflagration, besieging all parts of the land. The war raged for years with both victories and setbacks for the Nephites. I leave you to read about the specific battles and strategy in the book of Alma in The Book of Mormon. I jump to the concluding episode of the war.

The Book of Mormon32

Though the king-men were no longer called by that name, enough people maintained the elitist philosophy to be a major impediment to the war effort. Near the end of the war, Moroni and other commanders stopped receiving sufficient supplies of men and food. Moroni began to suspect that a faction existed within the government which sought their defeat. “Moroni was angry with the government, because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country” (Alma 59:13). He wrote a bristling epistle that everyone should read in full. I draw a few noteworthy excerpts from its contents – lines which equally apply to those traitors who infest our own government today.

Speaking to the “the chief judge and the governor over the land, and also to all those who have been chosen by this people to govern and manage the affairs of this war,” Moroni chided:

Can you think to sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor, while your enemies are spreading the work of death around you? Yea, while they are murdering thousands of your brethren –

Yea, even they who have looked up to you for protection, yeah, have placed you in a situation that ye might have succored them. . . .

. . . many have fought and bled out their lives because of their great desires which they had for the welfare of this people; yea, and this they have done when they were about to perish with hunger, because of your exceedingly great neglect towards them.

. . . ye ought to have stirred yourselves more diligently for the welfare and the freedom of this people; but behold, ye have neglected them insomuch that the blood of thousands shall come upon your heads for vengeance; yea, for known unto God were all their cries, and all their sufferings. . . .

. . . had it not been for the war which broke out among ourselves; yea, were it not for these king-men, who caused so much bloodshed among ourselves; yea, at the time we were contending among ourselves, if we had united our strength as we hitherto have done; yea, had it not been for the desire of power and authority which those king-men had over us; had they been true tot he cause of our freedom, and united with us, and gone forth against our enemies, instead of taking up their swords against us, which was the cause of so much bloodshed among ourselves; yea, if we had gone forth against them in the strength of the Lord, we should have dispersed our enemies. . . .

But behold, now the Lamanites are coming upon us, taking possession of our lands, and they are murdering our people with the sword, yea, our women and our children, and also carrying them away captive, causing them that they should suffer all manner of afflictions, and this because of the great wickedness of those who are seeking for power and authority, yea, even those king-men.

But why should I say much concerning this matter? For we know not but what ye yourselves are seeking for authority. We know not but what ye are also traitors to your country. . . .

Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things? Behold I say unto you, Nay. Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also.

And now, except ye do repent of that which ye have done, and begin to be up and doing . . . behold it will be expedient that we content no more with the Lamanites until we have first cleansed our inward vessel, yea, even the great head of our government.

And except ye grant mine epistle, and come out and show unto me a true spirit of freedom. . . .

. . . I will come unto you, and if there be any among you that has a desire for freedom, yea, if there be even a spark of freedom remaining, behold I will stir up insurrections among you, even until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct.

Yea, behold I do not fear your power nor your authority, but it is my God whom I fear; and it is according to his commandments that I do take my sword to defend the cause of my country, and it is because of your iniquity that we have suffered so much loss.

Behold it is time, yea, the time is now at hand, that except ye do bestir yourselves in the defence of your country and your little ones, the sword of justice doth hang over you. . . .

Behold, I am Moroni, your chief captain. I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country” (Alma 60:1, 7-10, 16-18, 23-25, 27-29, 36).

Captain Moroni18

Captain Moroni was a man of such integrity, sincerity, and passion that he would move Heaven and earth to fulfill his covenants, defend his country, and secure his people’s Freedom. He knew that there is a price to be paid for Liberty and that everyone must pay it. He further understood that a divided nation is easily conquered, but a united one is difficult to destroy. He chided the government for its neglect and singled out those whose desire was power as traitors to their country. As patriots in all ages have done, he put his own neck on the line in denouncing tyrants and advocating Freedom. He was willing to challenge even his own government when that government was wrong. Such was the integrity of Captain Moroni.

In response to Moroni’s epistle, the chief judge Pahoran responded that he stood firmly with the freemen but that a faction had “risen up in rebellion against me, and also those of my people who are freemen” (Alma 61:3). It was this group of power-hungry autocrats who took over the capital, drove the legitimate government out, and stopped the supply of provisions to Moroni’s armies. They went so far as to appoint a king and entered into an alliance with the Lamanites. Part of Pahoran’s letter to Moroni reads:

I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free. . . .

Therefore, my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God” (Alma 61:9, 14).

Upon receiving news of the insurrection and Pahoran’s continued faithfulness, Captain Moroni took a part of his army and marched to Pahoran. Together, they put down the rebellion in the capital and then turned their sights toward the Lamanite invaders. With the cancer of rebellion finally in remission and the Nephites unified under Captain Moroni’s banner, the Nephites swept the Lamanites before them. They drove the Lamanites, led by King Ammoron, to the edge of their land and prepared for a final fight.

At this juncture, Teancum again appears in the story. Recall that Teancum had previously snuck into the Lamanite camp and killed Amalickiah. As the Lamanites camped, Teancum attempted a repeat of his earlier feat. This time, however, Ammoron was able to alert his guards before dying. The Lamanite guards chased Teancum and killed him, ending the life of one of the greatest Nephite Freedom Fighters.

We are told that when Moroni and the other commanders learned of his death, “they were exceedingly sorrowful” (Alma 62:37). The Book of Mormon pays great tribute to this warrior. Teancum’s memorial is one that I have always striven for. On my tombstone, I hope it is said of me what was written and said of Teancum:

[B]ehold, he had been a man who had fought valiantly for his country, yea, a true friend to liberty” (Alma 62:37).

The day following Teancum’s tragic death, Captain Moroni’s armies drove the Lamanites out of their land, ending that phase of senseless war. Once the fortifications had been built up again, Moroni resigned his post and retired to his home, much the same way George Washington resigned his generalship after the War for Independence and took his rest at Mount Vernon.

The times of war and struggle recorded in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ give us clear examples of what Freedom is, what it takes to maintain, and what type of threats we should be on guard against. In the first place, we learn that a free government is one in which the “voice of the people” is prominent. However, unlike a pure democracy where the mob rules, a truly free government is based on the rule of law. Nephite law was originally revealed from God and accorded with the commandments. The government was not a theocracy, but the laws were just and inspired.

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Similarly, the U.S. Constitution is an inspired document that promotes the power of the People tempered by just laws. It is part of my religion that the Lord established the Constitution. In modern times, our Lord has referred to “the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77).

In a parallel to Mosiah’s wish that the Nephites practice self-government so that every the people’s sins may “be answered upon their own heads,” the Lord further stated that He established the U.S. Constitution so that every person may act “according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:78).

The Savior continued by saying that “it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:79-80).

Elsewhere, the Lord has revealed:

And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting the principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:5).

Finally, the Lord has said, regarding government, that “whatsoever is more or less” than the holy principles of the Constitution “cometh of evil” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:5-7).

The Nephite example captures these principles and shows them in action. The Nephite people lived under an inspired system of self-rule that involved just laws which protected individual Liberty. The society consented to follow these laws and maintain their collective privileges and individual rights. They understood that the individual is accountable to God for his behavior and must shoulder the responsibility of exercising his moral agency correctly.

We also see that judges, comparable to elected representatives today, were appointed not to dictate, but to enforce the law. They were strictly accountable to the voting public and could be removed from their posts if they failed to uphold the law. Even this removal process was not a knee-jerk thing, but a procedure codified in the law similar the way modern impeachments are heavily regulated and should never be based on majority ire.

As Nephite history shows, when a small group of people try to exercise their power to overrule the accepted law in order force their point of view or lifestyle on the majority, contention and warfare often result. We also see that when people become detached from the Gospel of Jesus Christ and consumed with anger toward that which is good, even the results of a popular election can’t stop their agitation. People in this situation are prone to violence – even civil war. Nothing but the firmness of freemen can stop king-men, insurrectionists, and revolutionaries from destroying the Liberty of a nation. At times, good men who love Liberty and who cherish peace must fight to maintain them and to defend their families.

The salient points to understand from the history of Nephite government, then, are these: That ordered Liberty is the ideal; that Liberty and law go hand in hand; that political power springs from the People; that government representatives are accountable to the public; that the People are accountable to God for their actions in relation to government; and that self-rule is vastly superior to monarchy.

Furthermore, in the example of the power-hungry king-men, we see that lust for control leads to bitterness, treason, contention, and bloodshed. We see that evil yet persuasive men like Amlici and Amalickiah have the power to upend society, overthrow governments, and destroy Liberty unless the People are vigilant and humble themselves before God, relying upon His deliverance. We also learn that tyrants motivated by a lust for power are inherently weaker than people motivated by their love of God, Freedom, and country.

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And in the story of Captain Moroni and the freemen, we see the qualities a free people must possess. First, we note that the greatest Freedom Fighters and patriots are those who bow the knee to the King of kings, Jesus Christ. Next, we learn that unity is key to any endeavor. A unified society can do great things, but a divided nation is bound to fail. Third, we see that a real leader, a man like Moroni, is one that is full of passion and sincerity, a person who drives on toward his goal regardless of opposition, and a selfless servant who willingly gives his time, talents, and everything he possesses to noble causes, such as the cause of Freedom.

In our day of rampant confusion where personal Liberty is on the wane and the forces of Satanic communism are on the rise, which I discuss at length in my upcoming article “The Book of Mormon Speaks of Conspiracy,” the lessons contained in the pages of The Book of Mormon are absolutely priceless. We can gain badly needed wisdom from Mosiah, courage from the freemen, and inspiration from Captain Moroni, Teancum, and Pahoran. We can be motivated by knowing that another free people who lived on this American continent went through the same struggles we’re passing through today and that they prevailed with the Lord’s help. The Book of Mormon lets us know that we are not alone in our quest for Liberty, that Freedom is worth fighting for, and that every sacrifice for our Faith, Families, and Freedom is not only worth it, but is needed and remembered.

Finally, The Book of Mormon informs those of us who inhabit the same land that the Nephites inhabited, this Promised Land of America, this shining city on a hill, the future Zion of God, that we are under special obligations. If we meet our obligations faithfully, we have special promises extended to us. An ancient prophet, speaking to you and me, told us that America is a covenant land – a special land blessed above all others. He spoke of this land as “the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people.” He then explained:

And he had sworn in his wrath . . . that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them.

And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.

For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.

And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done.

Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written” (Ether 2:7-12).

From this passage, we learn that America is a Promised Land – a covenant land. The covenant is that those who live in America will serve Jesus Christ or they will be destroyed. If they serve the Lord, He has promised that we will “be free from bondage, and captivity, and from all other nations under heaven.” Almighty God has decreed that America shall be inhabited by a righteous, Christian people and no other.

The prophet Nephi, the namesake of the Nephite nation, saw a vision of the discovery and founding of America by a Christian people that carried the Bible with them. He saw that they would fight and win a war for their Independence. He prophesied that they would gain the land for their inheritance because they would humble themselves before their Maker. And, because of their humility, the Lord would prosper and protect them, saving them from all hostile nations. Nephi wrote:

And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.

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And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.

And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.

And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone forth out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them.

And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?

And I said unto him: I know not.

And he said: . . . The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord which he hath made unto the house of Israel . . . wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles” (1 Nephi 13:14-19).

The Lord has presided over the history of America from the beginning. It was He who brought the Nephites here and it was He who brought our own forefathers to this land. It was the Lord who protected and delivered the Americans out of Europe’s iron grip. His miraculous power was on display to such a high degree during the War for Independence that George Washington was compelled to write:

The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations” (George Washington to Thomas Nelson, August 20, 1778).

America is the Lord’s base of operations. It is His land. He protects it. And He requires that those who are privileged to live here worship Him. When we do, His power is poured out in our behalf.

Another Nephite prophet named Jacob similarly prophesied about this special land. His prophecies deal specifically with our day. He foretold:

But behold, this land, said God, shall be a land of thine inheritance, and the Gentiles shall be blessed upon the land.

And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.

And I will fortify this land against all other nations.

And he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God.

For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish, for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words” (2 Nephi 10:10-14).

As before, we see that America is a covenant land where the people are expected to serve Jesus Christ, the rightful King of America. If they do, they will be blessed and protected against all other nations. Anyone who attempts to establish a king over this land and thereby abolish the system of Freedom and self-rule established by the Lord via the Constitution “shall perish.” We have a great need as Americans to internalize these promises and humble ourselves before the Redeemer.

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The Bible contains similar promises of a general nature. In the Old Testament, we read:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Isaiah also told the House of Israel that if they repent and become obedient to God’s laws, they will “eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:19). Also, if they repent and “put away the evil” from among them, the Lord “will restore [their] judges as at first, and [their] counsellors as at the beginning” (Isaiah 1:16, 26). These promises are only made to the penitent, however, just as the promises in The Book of Mormon are extended only to the righteous.

Lastly, the Bible tells us that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). And so it is.

The Book of Mormon is immeasurably valuable for many reasons, not least of which is that it speaks of Freedom. It shows us what Freedom is and how to maintain it. It gives us examples of correct principles in action. It shows the innate power possessed by the People and the frailty of tyrants. It inspires us to rely upon the Lord and go forward in His power to defend our Faith, Families, and Freedom. Because of its poignant examples, such as the story of Captain Moroni and the Nephite freemen, The Book of Mormon is the ultimate handbook of Freedom.

This sacred volume of scripture also is important to Americans because it speaks specifically to them. It informs them of the covenant they are under by virtue of living in this land. It tells them that they must repent and worship the Lord Jesus Christ. It states rather clearly that the Lord is the King of America and that His law is our legitimate law.

Dear reader, The Book of Mormon is the word of the Lord equal to the Bible. These two divine witnesses belong together. They confirm each other. They both fervently testify of Jesus Christ. Together, they abolish false doctrines, dispel myths, and confirm the truth. And as one they prove that only a righteous and virtuous people, a people that trusts in the Lord, and people that humbles itself, is capable of the Freedom and blessing of self-government.

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Let us raise our own Title of Liberty in our own lives and wherever we have influence. Let us rise in defense of our Faith, Families, and Freedom. Let us exalt God, our Freedom, and the Constitution. Men, be men. Step forward to safeguard your wives and children, your families, and your homes. We are under unrelenting attack we need all hands on deck. Do your duty, stand firm, submit to the Lord’s laws, uphold the Constitution He established, and then trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to defend our land against tyrants.

May the Lord bless you, my fellow patriot. May all who come to the Lord in sincerity be electrified and given the power to stand firm through tribulation. May the Lord bless all those who faithfully share the thrilling stories found in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. May Almighty God prosper people like Darin Southam who are attempting to inspire freemen everywhere through the remarkable history of Captain Moroni. And may we live so that it may be one day said of us that we were true friends to Liberty. I close with my testimony, which I have from the Holy Ghost and cannot deny, that The Book of Mormon is true and that it speaks of Freedom.

Zack Strong,

February 27, 2020

Joseph Smith – Praise to the Man

One of the most influential figures in world history began his early life as an unassuming, unlearned farm boy from upper state New York. Born on December 23, 1805, Joseph Smith, Jr. was the fourth of eleven children born to Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith. America at the time was abuzz with religious revival. The Smith family was a mixture of Methodists and Presbyterians. They attended revival meetings and church services when they could, but their primary devotions were in their home as a family. This blend of influences filled the young Joseph with a desire to find the Lord’s one true Church – a quest that would lead him to transform the world.

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As a fourteen year old boy, Joseph Smith found himself seeking advice from pastors, pondering the Gospel, and reading from the Holy Bible. He was particularly confused at the stark differences in doctrine held by all the various sects claiming to be Christian. He recalled the scenes of confusion which resulted from these irreconcilable differences:

[A]scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions” (Joseph Smith History 1:6).

Joseph wondered how he could ever learn the truth by consulting the Bible since every religious group had a different interpretation of that holy book. He observed that “the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible” (Joseph Smith History 1:12).

It was during this time of confusion in 1820 that Joseph Smith came across a passage of scripture that left a profound impression on his mind and led him on a course that not only changed his life, but which continues to shape our world today. Joseph Smith was reading in the book of James when this passage lept off the page:

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

The young Joseph recounted how deeply this inspired counsel affected him:

Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know. . . .

At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.

So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt” (Joseph Smith History 1:12-14).

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Can you see the simple faith of a humble boy reflected in these words? Joseph was a sincere person. He merely wanted to know what God wished him to do. It was his faith that if he obeyed the words of scripture and prayed in sincerity of soul, God would lead him as the Apostle James had testified He would. Joseph was therefore determined to pray and then follow any answer received because he knew that God would not lie.

Perhaps the most extraordinary event of Joseph Smith’s life occurred when he “retired to the woods” to pray to his Maker. Joseph recounted his sacred experience thus:

It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for midst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith History 1:14-17)

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What the young Joseph Smith experienced that spring day in a grove of trees is referred to as a theophany, or an appearance of God to man. The Bible records numerous theophanies, from Moses’ experiences seeing and speaking with Jehovah (Exodus 3:4-6; Exodus 19:19-20) to Abraham’s first vision of God (Genesis 18:1-3) to Jacob’s famous wrestle (Genesis 32:27-30) to Isaiah’s vision of the Lord on His throne (Isaiah 6:1) and so forth. At times, these sacred experiences were given to older men and at times they were granted to humble youths like Samuel (1 Samuel 3:4, 10, 21). The Lord even appeared to the wicked Saul who, because of this divine experience, converted to the truth and became one of the greatest Christian missionaries in history (Acts 9:3-7). Throughout time, theophanies routinely preceded and heralded the opening of a new prophetic era and the calling of an individual as a holy prophet of the Lord. And so it was in 1820 with the young Joseph Smith.

After God the Father addressed Joseph and announced His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Joseph asked the question that had burdened his soul. He wrote:

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time” (Joseph Smith History 1:18-20).

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On another occasion, Joseph Smith recorded the instructions he had been given by the Lord in this way:

I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon day. They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as His Church and kingdom: and was expressly commanded “to go not after them,” at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the Gospel should at some future time be made known unto me” (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 4, 536, March 1, 1842).

After the glorious appearance of the Father and the Son, Joseph waited eagerly for the further light and knowledge he had been promised. He waited for three years. While engaged in prayer one night in 1823, he was finally granted additional light. Joseph wrote of this experience and of others that followed:

On the evening on the 21st of September, A.D. 1823, while I was praying unto God, and endeavoring to exercise faith in the precious promises of Scripture, on a sudden a light like that of day, only of a far purer and more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room, indeed the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming fire; the appearance produced a shock that affected the whole body; in a moment a personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that with which I was already surrounded. This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God, sent to bring the joyful tidings that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the Gospel in all its fullness to be preached in power, unto all nations that a people might be prepared for the Millennial reign. I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of His purposes in this glorious dispensation.

I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people, was made known unto me; I was also told where were deposited some plates on which were engraven an abridgment of the records of the ancient Prophets that had existed on this continent. The angel appeared to me three times the same night and unfolded the same things. After having received many visits from the angels of God unfolding the majesty and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days, on the morning of the 22nd of September, A.D. 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records into my hands. . . .

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In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian Era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites, and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country. This book also tells us that our Savior made His appearance upon this continent after His resurrection; that He planted the Gospel here in all its fulness, and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers, and Evangelists; the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and blessings, as were enjoyed on the eastern continent, that the people were cut off in consequence of their transgressions, that the last of their prophets who existed among them was commanded to write an abridgment of their prophecies, history, &c, and to hide it up in the earth, and that it should come forth and be united with the Bible for the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the last days” (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 4, 536-537, March 1, 1842).

The angel that appeared in 1823 was named Moroni and was the last prophet of the Nephites, the ancient American inhabitants described above. In approximately 420 A.D., Moroni buried a sacred record of God’s dealings with the Nephites and other ancient American peoples in a small hill in present day New York. Joseph Smith was entrusted with this record for the purpose of translating it into English so that its doctrines could be “united with the Bible for the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the last days.” The translated record came to be known as The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, named after the Nephite warrior-prophet Mormon who served as the chief compiler and editor of the ancient record.

The Book of Mormon is an authentic book of holy Christian scripture similar to the Bible. It is a second witness to the world that the Bible’s testimony of the divinity and mission of Jesus Christ is accurate and truthful. The Book of Mormon is the “stick of Joseph” that Ezekiel foresaw would be joined with the “stick of Judah” to form “one stick” in the hand of God (Ezekiel 37:15-19). It is the “book” seen by Isaiah that the learned cannot read, but which one “that is not learned” should read and cause to spring forth “a marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:10-14). This divine record supports, and at times clarifies, Biblical doctrines regarding the House of Israel, the covenants of God, the ordinances of baptism and of receiving the Holy Spirit, prayer, and, of course, the all-important Atonement of the Savior. The Book of Mormon is, at its core, a beautiful and uncompromising witness of Jesus Christ.

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In one place, the prophet Nephi bore fervent witness, almost six hundred years before His birth, of Jesus Christ. He witnessed:

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. . . .

And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out” (2 Nephi 25:26, 29).

Jacob, Nephi’s brother and fellow servant of God, also witnessed of the Messiah and His Gospel:

[B]ehold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God. . . .

O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell. . . .

And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.

And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.

And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 9:18-19, 21-23).

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Another prophet named Alma also testified of the Son of God’s then forthcoming Atonement and the marvelous blessing it would be for mankind:

[B]ehold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all – for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people. . . .

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me” (Alma 7:7, 11-13).

The inspired Amaleki gave us these encouraging words:

I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved” (Omni 1:26).

Finally, in the closing pages of the record, the prophet Moroni, the same who appeared to Joseph Smith, issued a challenge and a promise to anyone who would read the record:

I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye should ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3-5).

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“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” – John 8:12

These are the sort of passionate testimonies, doctrines, and promises that fill The Book of Mormon record. On nearly ever page of this sacred text there are references to Jesus Christ. The ancient Nephite prophets pleaded with their people, and with those of us they knew would one day read their record, to have faith on the name of Jesus, rely on His redeeming power, and join themselves to His Church. We could know with certainty the identity of that Church if we would simply pray, as James also instructed, and as the young Joseph Smith did in 1820.

Dear reader, please understand that Joseph Smith did not invent or write this volume of scripture; he translated The Book of Mormon through the power of God for the sole purpose of building up the Lord’s Church in the last days and bringing people to Jesus Christ. Please also know that I have a burning testimony of the truthfulness of that holy book. It leads me to believe in Christ, to follow Him, and to do good. It gives me knowledge that is sweet to my soul and which enlightens my understanding of life. And, most importantly, I have tested Moroni’s challenge by reading, pondering, and sincerely praying about The Book of Mormon. In response to my prayers, the Holy Spirit has touched my heart and affirmed in an unmistakable manner the divinity of that book. I love The Book of Mormon!

I also love the man who was the instrument in the Lord’s hands in bringing The Book of Mormon to light, Joseph Smith. His story no doubt sounds extraordinary – perhaps unbelievable – to someone hearing it for the first time. Joseph Smith acknowledged this when he said:

I don’t blame anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself” (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 6, 317, April 7, 1844).

Even though it is sounds unbelievable, it is true! And Joseph Smith suffered a life of defamation, brutalization, and persecution culminating in the murder of himself and his brother Hyrum because he stood firm in his testimony of what he had experienced and of what God had revealed to him. I have often pondered the mobbing and persecutions he and his family went through and have asked myself this question: “Would a man really suffer all of this for a lie?” The answer is a resounding “No!”Such a legacy of staunch belief in the face of bitter persecution is surely striking to even the most hardened skeptic.

One particular moment that touches my heart and demonstrates the greatness of Joseph Smith occurred when Joseph Smith and several of his fellow Latter-day Saints were betrayed by one of their own and illegally arrested by a militia and thrown into the ironically named Liberty Jail. For six months, they endured hunger and exposure and were subjected to ridicule while being denied due process under the law. Parley P. Pratt, one of those unjustly imprisoned alongside Joseph Smith, recorded that “in one of those tedious nights” in the jail, “we had listened for hours to the obscene jests, the horrid oaths, the dreadful blasphemies and filthy language of our guards . . . as they recounted to each other their deeds of rapine, murder, robbery, etc., which they had committed among the “Mormons” while at Far West and vicinity. They even boasted of defiling by force wives, daughters and virgins, and of shooting or dashing out the brains of men, women and children.” Pratt then described what happened next:

I had listened till I became so disgusted, shocked, horrified, and so filled with the spirit of indignant justice that I could scarcely refrain from rising upon my feet and rebuking the guards; but had said nothing to Joseph, or any one else, although I lay next to him and knew he was awake. On a sudden he arose to his feet, and spoke in a voice of thunder, or as the roaring lion, uttering, as near as I can recollect, the following words:

SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT!

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He ceased to speak. He stood erect in terrible majesty. Chained, and without a weapon; calm, unruffled and dignified as an angel, he looked upon the quailing guards, whose weapons were lowered or dropped to the ground; whose knees smote together, and who, shrinking into a corner, or crouching at his feet, begged his pardon, and remained quiet till a change of guards.

I have seen the ministers of justice, clothed in magisterial robes, and criminals arraigned before them, while life was suspended on a breath, in the Courts of England; I have witnessed a Congress in solemn session to give laws to nations; I have tried to conceive of kings, of royal courts, of thrones and crowns; and of emperors assembled to decide the fate of kingdoms; but dignity and majesty have I seen but once, as it stood in chains, at midnight, in a dungeon in an obscure village of Missouri.”

What a powerful testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith! And lest skeptics think this is an isolated incident, it wasn’t. Frequently, assassins who came with the Devilish intent of murdering the Prophet were so captivated and swayed by his “unruffled” presence in the face of danger – his profound “dignity and majesty” – that they ended up having dinner with him instead. The descriptions of those who met with Joseph Smith, friend and foe alike, are quite remarkable and I recommend the reader search them out in books such as They Knew the Prophet: Personal Accounts From Over 100 People Who Knew Joseph Smith by Hyrum Andrus.

Joseph Smith’s character was such that he could not be swayed from his beliefs by unjust imprisonment, mobbing, or the assassin’s gun. He made this remark about those who persecuted him and tried to coerce him to deny what he had really seen, heard, and experienced:

It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy? . . . .

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Joseph Smith being tarred and feathered March 24, 1832

I soon found . . . that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me. . . .

I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.

So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation” (Joseph Smith History 1:20, 22, 24-25).

Again I ask: What would a man suffer for a lie? If Joseph Smith was lying about his experiences, as detractors then and now claim, would he have maintained his lie in the face of mobbing, being tarred and feathered, being beaten, being poisoned, being arrested and tried forty-eight times (and acquitted all forty-eight), being threatened with death, being kidnapped and unjustly imprisoned for six months in the ironically named Liberty Jail, being betrayed and hunted by former friends, watching his followers murdered and driven from state to state, and, finally, in the face of certain slaughter by a vicious mob alongside his beloved brother Hyrum? I submit that a liar, a self-aggrandizer, a fraud, a charlatan, and a false prophet would not suffer so excruciatingly for a lie. Rather, logic dictates that, as a minimum, Joseph Smith truly believed what he said; namely, that God had appeared to him and called him as a prophet to restore the Lord’s Church.

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Millions of people from all across the globe have stepped forward to testify that they know, through the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was no liar. From Fiji to Brazil to Russia to Japan, millions have witnessed that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of Almighty God, that he in fact saw God and His Son, that They commanded him to restore the Savior’s Church in its fullness, that he was empowered to translate a sacred record of a Christian people living in ancient America, that the Lord’s Priesthood authority was given anew to him through heavenly messengers, and that from his day to the present there has been an unbroken line of prophets and apostles testifying to the world of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. I include myself among those who so testify of Joseph Smith and the Savior Jesus Christ whom he loved, served, and gave his life for.

Because of Joseph Smith’s testimony, thousands of people left their homes and homelands, forsook their belongings, and faced persecution to gather with the Saints of God. They contributed their meager earthly means to help build up The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When Joseph was murdered, his influence continued to rally the Saints who proceeded to march across the plains to an uninhabited land and build up a Christian society.

Joseph Smith’s life and prophetic witness have changed and directed my own life to an enormous degree. Without exaggeration, I am who I am because of Jesus and Joseph. Because Brother Joseph restored Christ’s Church, and because the Holy Spirit has confirmed to my soul the divinity of that Church, I went to Russia for two years, struggling to learn the language and enduring arrest by the FSB and hatred by the people, to preach “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Because Joseph Smith translated The Book of Mormon, and because I have zealously studied that book and taken its warnings to heart, I have chosen my career field and daily raise my voice against the forces of evil and conspiracy facing us. Because Joseph Smith received revelations relative to politics and government, I revere the U.S. Constitution as inspired and ran for Congress in 2014.

The revelations and teachings delivered by and through Joseph Smith have informed my principles in everything from voting and politics to health habits to my views on marriage and family to my entertainment habits and beyond. It is impossible for me to worship Jesus Christ without acknowledging Joseph Smith as His Prophet in these final days before His return in glory. My sentiments echo those of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle of the Savior, who explained:

We bear testimony of Christ, and we do it with all the fervor and conviction and power of our whole soul, striving and laboring to do it by the power of the Holy Ghost; and as our voices echo and reecho the eternal verity that Christ is the Lord, we say also that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, a legal administrator who had power from God—keys and authority—so that he could bind on earth and have it sealed eternally in the heavens. Here, we say, is Joseph Smith, a revealer of the knowledge of Christ and of salvation for our day. We link the words together in one great testimony of eternal truth; and the reason we have power to bear witness of Christ, through whom salvation comes, is that Joseph Smith, the prophet and seer of the Lord for our day and in our day, has received eternal truth, has borne witness, has given revelation, has laid the foundation.

Brigham Young once said, “I feel like shouting Hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 458); and that is as it ought to be, because salvation is in Christ and salvation is available because Joseph Smith revealed Christ to the world. The world either accepts that witness and believes in the Lord’s prophets or goes its way and at its peril loses the hope of eternal salvation. One must believe in Adam and Christ, if living in that day; or in Abraham and Christ, if living in that day; or in Moses and Christ if living then; or, in our day, in Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, crying “Hosanna” and “Hallelujah” and “Praise the Lord” whenever their names are mentioned by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “Joseph Smith: A Revealer of Christ,” BYU Devotional, September 3, 1978).

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Another time, Elder McConkie gave additional reasons why Latter-day Saints feel to cry hallelujah every time we think of the Prophet Joseph Smith. In his powerful sermon “Joseph Smith – The Mighty Prophet of the Restoration,” Elder McConkie stated:

His numerous revelations, given in the name of the Lord, set forth the wonders of eternity and the glories of the gospel as plainly and persuasively as do those of the apostles and prophets of old.

Here is a man who has given to our present world more holy scripture than any single prophet who ever lived; indeed, he has preserved for us more of the mind and will and voice of the Lord than the total of the dozen most prolific prophetic penmen of the past. . . .

Here is a man who, like the Master, whose servant he was, cast out devils and healed the sick. . . .

Here is a man whose greatness lies in the fact that he was a witness of that same Lord for whom his fellow prophets in days long past had laid down their lives. . . .

Here is a man who was a prophet in the full and complete and literal sense of the word, as all who hearken to the voice of the Spirit shall know. . . .

Here are the words of Deity, spoken to Joseph Smith, by which all men can judge the state of their own spiritual development:

““The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee;

““While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.” (D&C 122:1–2.)

All men may well ask themselves where they stand with reference to Joseph Smith and his divine mission. Do they inquire after his name and seek that salvation found only in the gospel of Christ as revealed to his latter-day prophet, or do they deride and despise the Lord’s living oracles and say that God no longer speaks to men in the way he did anciently? The great question which all men in our day must answerand that at the peril of their own salvationis: Was Joseph Smith called of God? . . . .

We link the names of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith in our testimonies. And we now testify, as God is our witness, that Joseph Smith is his prophet, and we do it in the blessed name of Him who is Lord of all and of whom we and all the prophets testify, who is Jesus Christ” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “Joseph Smith – The Mighty Prophet of the Restoration,” General Conference, April, 1976).

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Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s martyrdom at Carthage Jail

Surely Joseph Smith was no common man and no common prophet. He was one of the greatest men to ever live and one the greatest prophets to ever wear the inspired mantle of “prophet, seer, and revelator.” His testimony, works, and life are of such magnitude and stature that they cannot be ignored or trivialized, but must be reckoned with and accounted for by all intelligent people. Ultimately, there are only two alternatives – either Satan inspired Joseph Smith or God called and empowered him. There is no middle ground. And I testify that our Lord and Savior chose Joseph Smith to push forward His eternal work in these last days and that it was Satan who inspired a fiendish mob to murder the Prophet in cold blood just as he inspired the mobs of the past to do to ancient prophets of Christ.

When the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred moments after his brother Hyrum was gunned down in front of him, John Taylor, who was with Joseph at the time and was himself severely injured in the hail of bullets, wrote this stirring commemoration:

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. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the fit 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 a name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3).

It is no small thing to claim a man stands next to the Savior only in greatness, yet John Taylor, a spiritual giant in his own right who was to later become the third prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, did just that. He bore his witness. And I confirm his witness with my own. Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God, is the restorer of the Savior’s Church, Priesthood, and laws – a Church, Priesthood, and laws that had been corrupted or lost in the Great Apostasy, or, rather, in the “falling away” prophesied by New Testament apostles and Old Testament prophets alike (2 Thessalonians 2:3; Galatians 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:18; 2 Timothy 3:2-5; 2 Peter 2:1; Isaiah 29:10, 13; Isaiah 60:2; Amos 8:11-12). Through repenting and entering into the ordinances officiated by the Priesthood, and living with faith in the Redeemer, we access the Atonement of Jesus Christ and are saved. The modern world, though most don’t realize it, owes much to Joseph Smith and his faithfulness in the face of adversity.

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Joseph Smith’s death mask

In 1883, the distinguished statesman Josiah Quincy, who met the Prophet Joseph Smith forty-three days before his martyrdom, gave an intriguing memorial to this great man. He was not a follower of the Prophet and had nothing to gain from making this statement, yet he wrote:

It is by no means improbable that some future text-book, for the use of generations yet unborn, will contain a questions something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen? And it is by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written: Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet. And the reply, absurd as it doubtless seems to most men now living, may be an obvious commonplace to their descendants. History deals in surprises and paradoxes quite as startling as this. The man who established a religion in this age of free debate, who was and is today accepted by hundreds of thousands as a direct emissary from the Most High,—such a rare human being is not to be disposed of by pelting his memory with unsavory epithets . . . Fanatics and impostors are living and dying every day, and their memory is buried with them; but the wonderful influence which this founder of a religion exerted and still exerts throws him into relief before us, not as a rogue to be criminated, but as a phenomenon to be explained. The most vital questions Americans are asking each other to-day have to do with this man and what he has left us(Josiah Quincy, Figures of the Past, 376-377).

In partial fulfillment of Mr. Quincy’s prediction, in 2015 the Smithsonian Magazine ranked Joseph Smith the #1 most influential American in itsReligious Figures” category and Brigham Young, Brother Smith’s immediate successor, was ranked #3. In addition, The Book of Mormon, perhaps the crowning work put forward by Joseph Smith who translated it with God’s power, was recently ranked through a Library of Congress poll as the fourth most influential piece of American literature. Whether people like it or not, Joseph Smith is one of the most influential figures in recent world history and is widely regarding as a pivotal figure. Indeed, few people in any age of history have accomplished what he did during his short thirty-eight years of life, nor have they exerted such a powerful influence over millions across the world nearly two centuries after their death as Joseph Smith does at present.

Though it is inexplicable to some, I can explain the “phenomenon” of Joseph Smith and the millions who follow him quite easily. Simply, his testimony is true! He was and is a real prophet of God. He really did see with his own eyes the Father and the Savior. They did in reality command him to restore the Lord’s Church with its Priesthood and saving ordinances. He really did translate an ancient record, delivered to him by an angel, that bears witness of Jesus Christ’s dealings with the inhabitants of ancient America. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in actuality the Kingdom of God on the earth. And the Holy Spirit, the Testator of all truth, has borne witness to millions that these things are true. I know this is true and I would give my life before recanting.

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Dear reader, after the story of the humble Man from Nazareth who walked on water, raised the dead, suffered and died for the sins of the world, and rose from the grave thus abolishing death and conquering the Devil, the story of Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the Lord’s Church is the greatest story in the world. And it is so very great because it is so very true!

Joseph’s story is the ultimate confirmation of Jesus’ story. Joseph is His prophet. Joseph’s testimony is the supreme reaffirmation of the ancient apostles’ testimonies of their Lord and should be welcomed and received by all who willingly take upon them the name of Christ. Jesus taught that to know God and His Son is eternal life (John 17:3), and Joseph taught the world the true nature of the Godhead and helped us truly know who They are and what They stand for. Joseph clarified the true points of the Redeemer’s doctrine, thus settling centuries of schismatic Bible-bashing with “thus saith the Lord” revelations that are sweet to the soul and enlightening to the mind.

I thank my Eternal Father for sending Joseph to testify of Jesus. I thank the Lord for not forsaking this generation, but for calling a prophet in our day to bear witness of His holy name. My soul is filled with gratitude to know that I live in a day when literal prophets walk the earth and in an age that has the witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I love to hear and sing the words of a powerful hymn extolling his name:

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!

Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.

Blessed to open the last dispensation,

Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.

Praise to his mem’ry, he died as a martyr;

Honored and blest be his ever great name!

Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,

Plead unto heav’n while the earth lauds his fame.

Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven!

Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.

Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;

Death cannot conquer the hero again” (“Praise to the Man,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Hymn No. 27).

It is fitting that we end with a few words from the Prophet’s own mouth about our Savior, for he lived to bring people to Christ. I extract the quotes from the third chapter of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith. The Prophet testified:

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

I believe in the Divinity of Jesus Christ, and that He died for the sins of all men, who in Adam had fallen.”

Salvation could not come to the world without the mediation of Jesus Christ.”

God . . . prepared a sacrifice in the gift of His own Son, who should be sent in due time to prepare a way, or open a door through which man might enter into the Lord’s presence, whence he had been cast out for disobedience. From time to time these glad tidings were sounded in the ears of men in different ages of the world down to the time of Messiah’s coming.”

Who, among all the Saints in these last days, can consider himself as good as our Lord? Who is as perfect? Who is as pure? Who is as holy as He was? Are they to be found? He never transgressed or broke a commandment or law of heaven—no deceit was in His mouth, neither was guile found in His heart. . . . Where is one like Christ? He cannot be found on earth.”

[T]hose who keep the sayings of Jesus and obey His teachings have not only a promise of a resurrection from the dead, but an assurance of being admitted into His glorious kingdom; for, He Himself says, ‘Where I am there also shall my servant be’ [John 12:26].”

And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—that by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”

It fills me with a uniquely peculiar sense of euphoria to read, speak, and think about the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Spirit testifies to me of his prophetic call as a servant of the Lord. I know he was a good man because his fruit is sweet to my soul and his teachings illuminate my mind. I know he stands as the preeminent prophet of our time because the Holy Ghost has so whispered to me. I know that when the Lord returns surrounded by His Saints, Joseph Smith, the American Prophet, the Prophet of the Restoration, will be on His right hand.

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In sincerity I say that I can approach the “throne of grace” more boldly because I know the name Joseph Smith (Hebrews 4:15-16). I am a better man for having learned of the Prophet and his humble life and immense sacrifices. I wish all could likewise know the name Joseph Smith, read his story, imbibe his testimony, and join in the same great cause of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I testify of these things and invite all to “come and see” and learn the truth for themselves (John 1:39).

When I am called by the trump of the archangel and weighed in the balance, you will all know me then” (Joseph Smith, King Follett Discourse, April 7, 1844).

Zack Strong,

December 23, 2019

I invite you to also watch the film Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xVw6PsSinI&t=2453s