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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Lehi and Joseph Smith

            Approximately ten years ago I started a huge project for my grandchildren. I heard of Apostles and Stake Presidents who read and marked a Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ for each of their grandchildren. I decided to do the same thing even I recognized that I am neither an Apostle nor a priesthood leader. I may be the most doctrinally prepared to do this for my grandchildren.

            As part of my project, I purchase a nice set of LDS scriptures for each grandchild and have their name embossed on the cover. I mark the footnotes and Seminary master scriptures throughout the scriptures – Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. Then I read each Book of Mormon, while marking the words and phrases that I would emphasize if I was reading the Book of Mormon with them. I also write some of the principles that I find in the scriptures as I read them. I give the set of scriptures to the child at the time of their baptism. Last year was a busy year because five of my grandchildren were baptized within an eight-month period of time.

            Now I am working on another set of scriptures for a grandson that will turn eight years old the end of May 2018. It does not seem to matter how many times I read the Book of Mormon because I always marvel at the story of Lehi and his experience as a prophet of God. I marvel not only because of the story but also because his story is similar to the story of Joseph Smith. I wonder how Joseph felt when he realized that he shared similar experiences with Lehi. How would you feel?

            Lehi lived at a time when “many prophets” (1 Nephi 1:4) went about calling the people to repentance and prophesying that Jerusalem would be destroyed if the people did not repent. [We know that Jerusalem was destroyed within a few years of these prophesies.] One day while Lehi went about his work, he was praying mightily for his people. Suddenly, he saw “a pillar of fire” that “dwelt upon a rock.” He “saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly” (1:6). He returned to his home and “cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the Spirit” (1:7).

            As you may recall, Joseph Smith was a young man of fourteen years when he began to attend religious revivals with his family. Each of the preachers claimed to have the truth and urged the young man to join their church. Everyone claimed to love everyone else, yet there was contention: “it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensured – priest contending against priest, and convert against convert” (Joseph Smith – History 1:6). Joseph did not know who to believe or which church to join, and he sought an answer in the scriptures.

            One night Joseph was reading in the Bible when he came to the Epistle of James where he read: “If any of you lack reason, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Joseph decided to ask God and went to a nearby grove of trees to utter his first prayer.

            Both Lehi and Joseph had sincere desires to know what God would have them do. They turned to God in prayer, and each received spiritual knowledge. The principle contained in these experiences is: Great desires produce great results, while mediocre desires produce mediocre results.

            While Lehi was overcome by the Spirit, “he was carried away in a vision.” In the vision “he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels”
(1 Nephi 1:8). He also “saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day” (1:9).

            Joseph Smith went to a predetermined place in the grove of trees and looked around to make sure that he was alone. “I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God… I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun… When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description” (Joseph Smith – History 1:15-17).

            Lehi and Joseph Smith were both concerned about spiritual matters, and both prayed. In return, both of them received visions where they saw the Father and the Son. This is not the only similarity between the two of them.

            Lehi “saw twelve others” following the One, and they stood before Lehi. They “gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read” (1 Nephi 1:10-11). Joseph was visited by the Angel Moroni who gave him a record written on metal plates and told him to translate the information, which became the Book of Mormon. (See “Testimony of Joseph Smith” in the Book of Mormon.)

            Lehi tried to share his new enlightenment with the people, but “the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them… they were angry with him; …and they also sought his life” (1 Nephi 1:18-20). Joseph also tried to teach his new knowledge to the people of his day, but they rejected him also. Moroni warned Joseph that the people would try to get the metal plates with the record.

I soon found out the reason why I had received such strict charges to keep them safe, and why it was that the messenger had said that when I had done what was required at my hand, he would call for them. For no sooner was it known that I had them, than the most strenuous exertions were used to get them from me. Every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to for that purpose. The persecution became more bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were on the alert continually to get them from me if possible (Joseph Smith – History 1:60).

            Lehi was warned of God in a dream that he must leave Jerusalem because the people would kill him. Lehi took his family and departed into the wilderness and eventually made their way to the American continents (1 Nephi 2:1-2). Joseph was forced to move from place to place – from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois. He was arrested on numerous occasions on spurious charges, and his followers were persecuted and killed. He and his brother Hyrum were killed on June 27, 1844, in the jail in Carthage. Illinois. He sealed his mission with his own blood. (See Doctrine and Covenants 135:3.)

            The Lord loves all of His children, and He provides information for our safety and happiness. Usually, this is accomplished through prophets. Amos said, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but [until] he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). To be spiritually and physically safe, we would be wise to pay attention when a prophet speaks. If we hear a prophet quote another prophet, we should pay particular attention. The experiences of Lehi and Joseph Smith should convince us to listen and to obey the words of the prophets.

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