The Prophet Joseph F. Smith

The Prophet Joseph F. Smith September 28, 2022

 

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President Joseph F. Smith in 1905   (Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)

 

But, first, here are a couple of items that have recently gone up on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:

 

“Conference Talks: The Divine Handclasp in the Hebrew Bible and in Ancient Near Eastern Iconography,” by David M. Calabro

David Calabro explores what he describes as the “divine handclasp” in the Hebrew Bible. The term refers to a handclasp between God and his human servant that had a place in ancient Israelite temple worship. Calabro indicates it was a ritual gesture that was part of temple rite performance with a priest acting as proxy for God in close interaction with mankind. While other scholars have suggested the gesture was indicative of deity transporting mankind to “glory,” Calabro’s research proposes the clasping of right hands while facing one another was ritually indicative of God granting access to His chosen rather than transporting him.

 

“Nibley Lectures: Time Vindicates the Prophets — Prophets and Martyrs”

Between 7 March 1954 and 17 October 1954, Hugh Nibley delivered a series of thirty weekly lectures on KSL Radio that were also published as pamphlets. The series, which was called “Time Vindicates the Prophets,” was given in answer to those who were challenging the right of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to call themselves Christians.

This lecture is a discussion of what martyrdom is and how Joseph Smith’s relates to those found throughout history.

 

Inside the JFSB courtyard
Looking eastward across the inner courtyard of the Joseph F. Smith Building, where my college (Humanities) and my department (Asian and Near Eastern Languages) and my personal office were housed for a substantial portion of my career at Brigham Young University (BYU photograph).

 

Appropriately, given the fact that October 2022 General Conference is rapidly approaching (this coming weekend), a friend has called my attention to a really interesting letter from President Joseph F. Smith to his daughter Edith E. Smith.  While the letter is undated, it was obviously written during his tenure as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which extended from 17 October 1901 to 19 November 1918.  It was also, almost certainly, written prior to his reception of the magnificent “Vision of the Redemption of the Dead” on 3 October 1918, which he wrote out and submitted to the General Authorities of the Church on 31 October 1918.  (It was unanimously accepted.) The revelation was initially published in December 1918, shortly after President Smith’s passing, and was added to the Pearl of Great Price, one of the church’s scriptural Standard Works, in April 1976.  It has since been removed from the Pearl of Great Price and added, instead, to the Doctrine and Covenants as section 138.

 

My darling daughter Edith,

You asked me if I had ever received a Revelation since I have been the President of the Church. For me to answer you specifically and in detail would require much time and the history of many things. Besides it might appear to be in praise of myself or even egotistical. I would rather that those who possess the Spirit of revelation and discernment who know me and my course of life should speak for me than to speak for myself.

But to answer your question, I can and will say that the Lord has revealed to me many precious things both before and since my Presidency of the Church.

In fact—my whole life has been favored by a continuous inspiration from God which has led me in the performance of my duty each and every day thereof, inasmuch that I have been preserved from my enemies, from the power of the destroyer, from error in doctrine, in precept or example.

Under the influence of the Spirit of Inspiration and Revelation from God, I have been able to direct the affairs of the Church without one misstep or mistake. The Church has prospered under my administration, and has made steady growth and development in the face of the most determined opposition and wicked misrepresentation, ever wrought against it. And it has gained more friends and credit for efficiency and good works than in double that length of time before.

The history of my presidency will establish so far whether I have been inspired of God or of man.

The Lord has mercifully revealed to me my duty at every turn. He has shown me many of the wicked intentions of our enemies, and has preserved me from their cunning devices. He has given me strength and courage to reprove evildoers, and to speak the truth regardless of consequences.

Under my administration, peace, harmony and good will have prevailed in the general councils of the Priesthood to a remarkable degree, and the friends of the church have been devoted to the utmost extent toward the upbuilding of Zion.

For all of which I take no honor to myself, but give the credit unto God. The tree is known by its fruits; we do not gather grapes of thorns nor figs of thistles. I have no desire to extol myself or praise my efforts for the Church.

It has not seemed necessary for the Lord to require me to write any specific Revelation. The many we already have written are far too little read and understood. My plain duty has been to preach and teach observance and obedience to those we have, and it is revealed to me beyond a doubt that when we understand and obey them as we should, more will be given as the church and the world may need, and the Lord in his wisdom may see fit to give. Affectionately your father, Joseph F. Smith.

 

The original of this letter can be viewed at https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/d2849da8-0edf-46fa-a3bd-6e5753c94ebb/0/0.

 

And then, of course, President Smith received thereafter the “Vision of the Redemption of the Dead” that is now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 138, which I regard as one of the grandest revelations ever given to anyone, anywhere, at any time.  For background on the vision, see George S. Tate, “The Great World of the Spirits of the Dead: Death, the Great War, and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic as Context for Doctrine and Covenants 138.”

 

 

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