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Saturday, October 9, 2021

Did Isaiah Prophesy of Joseph Smith?

             My Come, Follow Me lesson for this week took me to Doctrine and Covenants 111-114. As you may recall from last week, Section 109-110 were about the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, which was a great spiritual experience for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The spiritual strengthening that took place with the completion and dedication of the temple helped the Saints to feel confidence and security in their faith.

            Less than a year after the dedication, troubles arose among the Saints -- financial problems, discord among the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other difficulties. All the concerns caused members of the Church of Jesus Christ to waver in their faith and to question the authenticity of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Doctrine and Covenants 111-114 teaches many principles, but this post will focus on Joseph Smith being “a servant in the hands of Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 113:4). The Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual – Religion 324-325 [2018] gave the following introduction to Section 113.

By July 1837, dissent among Church members in Kirtland, Ohio, had diminished. In late September 1837 the Prophet Joseph Smith and several others traveled to Missouri to conduct Church business there. When they returned to Kirtland in December 1837, they found that some Church members were once again speaking out against the Prophet. By January 1838, “divisions in Kirtland became more pronounced … as dissidents, excommunicated church members, and others made threats against the lives of [Joseph Smith] and other church leaders.” On January 12, 1838, the Prophet received a revelation that directed the members of the First Presidency and all their “faithfull friends” to leave Kirtland and go to Missouri as soon as possible. The Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon left Kirtland that night. Their families joined them in Norton, Ohio, later, and by January 16 they had left for Missouri. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 5: October 1835-January 1838, 441-42.)

            Little is known about the Smiths as they traveled from Kirtland, Ohio, to Far West, Missouri. The student manual continued its description with the Prophet arriving in Missouri.

The Prophet Joseph Smith and his family arrived in Far West, Missouri, on March 14, 1838 (see Manuscript History of the Church, vol. B-1, page 784, Soon after his arrival in Missouri, the Prophet began keeping a record book that included questions about passages in Isaiah and the Lord’s answers to those questions. The historical record offers little detail about those who may have asked the questions and why, although Elias Higbee, a Church member and judge living in Far West, Missouri, in 1838, is named as having asked questions about Isaiah 52:1-2 (see D&C 113:7). (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838-August 1839, ed. Mark Ashurst-McGee and others [2017], 50-51.) Although no details are given regarding the circumstances in which these questions were asked, the questions and the Lord’s answers to these questions are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 113.

            We know that Joseph asked questions of the Lord and received answers from Him. We do not know the origin of the questions answered in Section 113 or the circumstances of the experience. The student manual has the following information about Doctrine and Covenants 113:1-6.

On September 21, 1823, the angel Moroni appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and told him “that God had a work for [him] to do” (Joseph Smith-History 1:33). The angel also told him about the golden plates and the Urim and Thummim and then began quoting prophecies recorded in the Old Testament (see Joseph Smith-History 1:34-41). While reciting those prophecies, Moroni quoted Isaiah 11, “saying that it was about to be fulfilled” (see Joseph Smith-History 1:40). Nearly 15 years later, in March 1838, the Prophet Joseph Smith addressed questions about Isaiah 11, and the inspired answers he received explain some elements of this prophecy.

Doctrine and Covenants 113:1-2 states that “the Stem of Jesse” is Jesus Christ. The word stem in Isaiah 11:1 is translated from a Hebrew word that refers to the trunk or stump of a tree – either a tree that has been cut down or a tree that has been planted. Doctrine and Covenants 113:3-6 indicates that “the rod spoken of” in Isaiah 11:1 “is a servant in the hands of Christ,” and “the root of Jesse” in Isaiah 11:10 “is a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom.”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie shared one interpretation of “the rod” and “the root of Jesse” referred to in Isaiah 11:10 and in Doctrine and Covenants 113:3-6: “Are we amiss in saying that the prophet here mentioned is Joseph Smith, to whom the priesthood came, who received the keys of the kingdom, and who raised the ensign for the gathering of the Lord’s people in our dispensation? And is he not also the ‘servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power’? (D&C 113:4-6.)” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [1982], 339-40).

            One may well ask, what did the Prophet Joseph Smith accomplish as “a servant in the hands of Christ” (D&C 113:4)? Joseph Smith became a witness to the world that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are two separate Beings with glorified bodies of flesh and bone. He was the conduit of hundreds of revelations from God, showing that the heavens were open. He was the instrument in God’s hands for restoring the gospel of Jesus Christ to earth and in organizing the Church of Jesus Christ on earth once again. He accomplished much good.

            John Taylor wrote the announcement of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith the Patriarch, at Carthage, Illinois, on June 27, 1844. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published the announcement as Doctrine and Covenants 135. Here are the words contained in the third verse.

Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!

            I know that Joseph Smith was and still is a prophet of God. Through him, God restored the gospel of Jesus Christ and His plan for the eternal happiness of His children. He was in word and in deed the prophet of Isaiah’s prophecy.

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