Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Part 3: A 14 Year Old Boy

In continuing with the discussion of Joseph Smith's vision, I thought it would be interesting to look at the reaction of others to Joseph testimony of his experience. He was a boy of no particular standing in the community. He didn't come from a wealthy family, and worked hard to help his family get by. He had only been able to get a grade school education. He was only 14, and as such, should not have proved a threat to others, but his testimony created quite an upset in his community.

He recorded, "Some few days after I had this vision, I happened to be in company with one of the Methodist preachers, who was very active in the before mentioned religious excitement; and, conversing with him on the subject of religion, I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them.

I soon found, however, 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.

It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself." (Joseph Smith history 21-23)

As I thought about the persecution Joseph endured, I couldn't help but wonder what my reaction might be if a 14 year old boy told me of such an experience. I think that if I knew the boy, and knew him to be of good character, I would believe what he told me. If I did not know the boy, at the very most I probably would dismiss his experience, and ignore him, but I would not feel the need to persecute him, or defame him in public. Joseph wasn't standing on the street corners preaching about his experience. He shared it with certain persons, but it wasn't like he was going about contending with other ministers. In fact, the church wouldn't be organized for another 10 years, so there was no reason for him to preach at that point. So why was there so much animosity toward him? As Joseph himself said, it certainly was very strange that a simple, humble 14 year old boy should be the target of so much reviling.

Joseph Smith went on to record, "However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. 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, 24,25)

That young boy would go on to have other persecutions because of his testimony. He would ultimately die as a martyr, rather than retract his testimony. As I thought about his experience, I wondered how we today would react if Joseph had been born in our day? Would we persecute him for saying he had a vision? Would we believe his testimony? Would the whole religious world combine against him? As I pondered these thoughts, it occurred to me that each day, people are introduced for the first time to Joseph's testimony. Each day they must make a decision how to react. Though Joseph Smith is no longer alive to deliver that message in person, missionaries still teach others about his experience. We have the opportunity to decide for ourselves if his testimony is true.

My advice for any wanting to know the truth of his account, is to go to the source. When I am searching the internet on a certain subject, I try to go to the best source. When we seek information from lesser sources, we might find that they are biased, or that they don't have all of the information. They might even be enemies to the subject we are researching. I always encourage my friends who are interested in learning about our church to come to me, or the missionaries, or an official church website to learn. Other sources might not present our beliefs in an accurate way. But the best source of truth is God. In James 1:5, Joseph read that if any man lacks wisdom, he can ask of God, who will liberally give answers to us. He is the ultimate source of truth. Joseph Smith's testimony has been sealed with his blood. I encourage all to study his testimony, then pray to God to know if what Joseph testified is true.

No comments: