It is December 23, 2015, Joseph Smith’s 210th birthday. He led a remarkable life. A praiseworthy life. I praise Joseph. I don’t worship him—that adoration is reserved for God alone. But I praise Joseph the way I praise Paul, Peter, Abraham, Ruth, and Deborah. Why this praise? Here are just a few reasons:
*He redefined conceptions of the Godhead to align with biblical texts.
*He opened the scriptural canon which had been closed for centuries.
*He “translated” the biblical text under the inspiration of God.
*He forged links between ancient Judaism, first-century Christianity, and modern Mormonism.
*He organized cities reminiscent of the organization Moses employed among the Israelites.
*He established hierarchal religious models that reflected the ancient New Testament church.
*He initiated priesthood authority patterned after the ancient world.
*He introduced the office of High Priest.
*He provided richer narratives of the lives of Adam, Eve, Enoch, Melchizedek, and others.
*He revived conceptions of the physical gathering of Israel.
*He built temples wherein men and women were initiated into high priestly status.
*He created a church in the free market religious scene of 19th c. America that persists today.
*He introduced the most generous conceptions of salvation known to mankind.
Of course, there is much more. However, had he accomplished only one of the above it would be quite remarkable. The simple truth is that Joseph Smith is a distinct religious founder and would be considered so in any time and any place in world history. In a day when the stars of sports, television, and movies are praised to no end, I unapologetically raise my voice in praise of the life and mission of Joseph Smith. He is extraordinary.