Book of Mormon study journal#4 – testimony of the Prophet

The testimony of Joseph Smith at the start of the Book of Mormon seems to me one of the under read treasures of the Book. It is a powerful account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon that shows the divinity of the process and also highlights the humanity of Joseph Smith.

Once while home teaching with a member in Novosibirsk he led a spiritual thought focused on this section of the Book of Mormon, and I was struck by his observation that if we want to get answers to many questions we can look here. For instance, here we have a detailed description of the appearance of an angel:

a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.
“He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. His hands were naked, and his arms also, a little above the wrists; so, also, were his feet naked, as were his legs, a little above the ankles. His head and neck were also bare. I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open, so that I could see into his bosom.
“Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. (Book of Mormon, Introduction)

This description is so incredible and yet so realistic. Joseph leaves no room for the possibility of this vision being simply dream or anything less than an angelic visitation.

I like the little touches of humanity that appear throughout this account. First pf all Joseph describes the fear that he first experienced. Despite having already seen a vision of the father and the son, this sudden appearance of a divine messenger filled the young prophet with fear. Secondly the exhaustion that the Prophet experiences while in the field after his night visitations, and his reluctance to at first share the account with his father until commanded help build Joseph’s character in the eyes of the reader. Moroni also warns Joseph that he will be tempted by Satan to seek for wealth through the plates showing that even this mighty prophet was still young and could be tempted by the things of this world. Joseph in these accounts comes across as a prophet in tutelage, still untrained and untested but beginning the long process of divine tutorial that would last the duration of his life. Finally, the account emphasizes Joseph’s obedience to the lord. When Moroni tells Joseph to inform his father of his visions he does not hesitate but says

“I obeyed; I returned to my father in the field, and rehearsed the whole matter to him. (Book of Mormon, Introduction)

Again, after his conversation with his father Joseph immediately goes to the hill Cummorah.

This reminds me of the great Book of Mormon prophet Nephi who despite his dejected and downcast feelings immediately goes back out to do the will of the lord without even returning home.

2 And it came to pass that Nephi went his way towards his own house, pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him.
3 And it came to pass as he was thus pondering—being much cast down because of the wickedness of the people of the Nephites, their secret works of darkness, and their murderings, and their plunderings, and all manner of iniquities—and it came to pass as he was thus pondering in his heart, behold, a voice came unto him saying: (Book of Mormon, Helaman, Chapter 10)

12 And behold, now it came to pass that when the Lord had spoken these words unto Nephi, he did stop and did not go unto his own house, but did return unto the multitudes who were scattered about upon the face of the land, and began to declare unto them the word of the Lord which had been spoken unto him, concerning their destruction if they did not repent. (Book of Mormon, Helaman, Chapter 10)

Joseph also is not disappointed by the required waiting period, but dutifully returns each year to the hill

Accordingly as I had been commanded

In his testimony the prophet comes off as an real person caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Clearly the most extraordinary prophecy of Moroni that must have caught this young boy by surprise is his declaration that

“He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people. (Book of Mormon, Introduction)

Joseph the young unlearned farm-boy was called of God and nothing in his life would ever be the same!


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