Today as my daughter was opening the last of the nativity set, she got baby Jesus to add to the other figures.
As I thought about it, I was reminded from this year’s Christmas devotional where Elder Rasband made the statement about the role of the shepherd as witnesses and as such they were worthy and just.
It occurred to me that there are parallels between those witnesses and the witnesses who testified of the origins (nativity, if you will) of the restoration, represented by the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon had three original witnesses, furthered by 8 additional witnesses. Eleven total to stand with Joseph affirming that they saw the plates from which the Book of Mormon came from.
Christ’s birth was witnessed by three wise men, a number of shepherds, and the old man at the Temple. We don’t know the exact count this comes to and undoubtedly there were others, but there is a simple symmetry there.
In both cases it would be a few years before special witnesses, apostles, would be called–but our Heavenly Father called just men to testify of His divine work, to establish the seeds of faith in an otherwise time of confusion and difficulty, which led to the more formal organization of His work in each given time.
It affirmed for me both of the restoration and the divinity of the Savior. Both have such significant roles respectively in helping us understand the who and why we worship, that God prepared a way by which people could exercise faith in the origins of that dispensation.
We’ve started reading the Book of Mormon over as a family.
Book one, chapter one is one of my favorite sections.
For one, it begins with a man who witnesses a spiritual revival in his country, prays, receives a vision from God, receives a book from which he bears testifies of the Savior, and is rejected to the point that the people seek his life.
I wonder what it was like for Joseph as the restoration of the Church rolled on to go back to that opening scene. What a tender mercy–from the very chapter that gave us that phrase–for Joseph as well as for the rest of us. For not only does it serve as a pattern for what Joseph Smith was called to do, it is the invitation and expectation given to each of us.
It exemplifies the honest pursuit of truth. As Lehi heard from the prophets, he turned to the Lord in personal prayer and reflection to seek his own confirmation. Part of that process involved the scriptures (represented by the Book he received and like the Book of Mormon we invite investigators to read and ponder). As Lehi’s testimony of the divinity of the Savior grew, his natural inclination was to share it with others. By the end of the next chapter, that commitment to the Savior will require great sacrifice, taking his family and leaving his homeland and worldly possessions behind for a new world. The story of Lehi also doesn’t skate around the sometimes drastic changes in life or lifestyle that come from following Jesus Christ.
That is an important legacy that ripples down through the generations of Lehi’s family and to our experiences today. And yet all of this is mentioned in Nephi’s narrative to catch us up to what he experienced. The whole first book of Nephi is easily one of my favorite not only because of the compelling narrative but the growth and challenges that they experienced as a family are so deep and full of insight.
Speaking of Joseph Smith’s experience in Liberty Jail, Henry B. Eyring observed,
“In the depths of his anguish in Liberty Jail, the Prophet Joseph Smith cried out: “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” Many of us, in moments of personal anguish, feel that God is far from us. The pavilion that seems to intercept divine aid does not cover God but occasionally covers us. God is never hidden, yet sometimes we are, covered by a pavilion of motivations that draw us away from God and make Him seem distant and inaccessible. Our own desires, rather than a feeling of “Thy will be done,” create the feeling of a pavilion blocking God. God is not unable to see us or communicate with us, but we may be unwilling to listen or submit to His will and His time.”
“Where Is the Pavilion?”
2012 October General Conference,
On the subject of infant deaths, Joseph F. Smith shared the following,
“Joseph Smith taught the doctrine that the infant child that was laid away in death would come up in the resurrection as a child; and, pointing to the mother of a lifeless child, he said to her: “You will have the joy, the pleasure, and satisfaction of nurturing this child, after its resurrection, until it reaches the full stature of its spirit.” There is restitution, there is growth, there is development, after the resurrection from death. I love this truth. It speaks volumes of happiness, of joy and gratitude to my soul. Thank the Lord he has revealed these principles to us.”
(Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 455-56)
Joseph Smith taught,
“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, must assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.”
Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith 6:7
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught,
“The sign of the dove was instituted before the creation of the world; a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the devil cannot come in the sign of a dove. The Holy Ghost is a personage, and is in the form of a personage. It does not confine itself to the form of the dove, but in sign of the dove. The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a dove; but the sign of a dove was given to John to signify the truth of the deed, as the dove is an emblem or token of truth and innocence.”
The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 276
Henry B. Eyring taught,
“Joseph Smith’s mission was unique, yet his humble prayer can be a helpful model for us. He began, as we must, with faith in a loving God who can and wants to communicate with us and help us. That faith was rooted in impressions which came to him as he pondered the words of God’s servants in the scriptures. We can and must go often and carefully to the word of God. If we become casual in our study of the scriptures, we will become casual in our prayers.”
October 2001 General Conference