Happy Birthday, Joseph

General Musings

It is late on Christmas Eve, 2021. I’ve been thinking about this all day. Tomorrow we commemorate the birth of the Savior. I know, He was born in the Spring. No matter. We have Easter in the Spring. I’m okay with Christmas in December. I join my voice with others in celebration of the birth of our dear prophet of not so long ago.

Joseph Smith was born on the 23rd, the day before Mary and Joseph sought refuge for their Son's coming birth. I think the date is a significant thing. Most everything about Joseph Smith was significant. It was significant that he was just a stripling young man from Vermont and then New York, from backwoods farming and merchant stock. Although not very successful. You could not have picked a less likely candidate for a prophet of God. And likewise, the "son" of a carpenter was born in a barn while most of the world took no notice. Unlikely candidates in the mortal world, seem to fit God's purposes.

I suspect that’s exactly why God chooses an Enoch or Moses. Men who have no desire for fame and fortune. Joseph wasn’t much interested in either. Could God arrange for a new prophet to be lifted up and let down right in the middle of a crowd for maximum attention? Of course, He could. And that would get lots of people who were only interested in the excitement of the moment. Your followers would be shallow and weak. 

Joseph presented himself as he was. No PR. No focus groups. No polling. Just pure spiritual nourishment, if they’d have it. The Lord made of him a fountain of knowledge. Even though He knew the tested would fail. He made that prophetically clear to the Nephites at Bountiful in 3rd Nephi 16:10. Nauvoo was not to be Zion.

Time after time, Joseph was betrayed by those closest to him. Isn’t it interesting that modern leaders parrot the same line: Trust us. John Bennett used it to bed married women and blame Joseph. George Hinkle and Sampson Avard were special kinds of miscreant deceivers, working insidious treason against Joseph.

Brigham Young, Heber Kimball, William Clayton, and the rest of the boys returned from their mission in England with a new church featuring polygamy as the center sacrament. When presented to Joseph, he and Hyrum soundly rejected the whole idea and preached against it, calling the practice adultery. Virtually all the evidence against Joseph, accusing him of adultery, was collected years or decades after his death. Isn't that convenient? What's left is easily understood, from source historical materials, as having no relation to carnality or marriage.

How could Joseph deal with all that? The sure answer is that he couldn’t unless he had the full support of a God who wasn’t all too happy with those who spoke against him. And the descendants, either by DNA or culture, of those proud Nauvoo saints who inhabit the chief seats in Salt Lake City, continue to hold Joseph in derision. They call him a liar, hypocrite, and adulterer. He was none of those things. And, considering the way the Lord spoke about Joseph, I’d be careful speaking in derisive terms about Joseph Smith. Might not be too healthy one day soon.


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