Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lucy Mack Smith

I wish to give some history of Lucy Mack Smith who was the mother of Joseph Smith Jr. In 1803 Lucy Mack Smith contracted a heavy cold which developed to the a Hectic Fever. All the physicians pronounced her case to be fatal. On one evening a Methodist preacher came to her bedside desiring to have a conversation with her in regard to her death. I recount her story as she gave it from that point: “As he thus sat pondering, I fancied to myself that he was going to ask me if I was prepared to die, and I dreaded to have him speak to me, for then I did not consider myself ready for such and awful event, inasmuch as I knew not the ways of Christ; besides, there appeared to be a dark and lonesome chasm, between myself and the Savior, which I dared not attempt to pass.
I thought I strained my eyes, and by doing so I could discern a faint glimmer of the light that was beyond the gloom which lay immediately before me.
When I was meditating upon death, in this manner, my visitor left, soon after which my husband came to my bed, and took me by the hand, and said, “Oh, Lucy! My wife! My wife! You must die! The doctors have given you up; and all say you cannot live.”
I then looked to the Lord, and begged and pleaded with him to spare my life, in order that I might bring up my children, and be a comfort to my husband. My mind was much agitated during the whole night.
Sometimes I contemplated heaven and heavenly things; then my thoughts would turn upon those of earth-my babes and my companion.
During this night I made a solemn covenant with God, that, if He would let me live, I would endeavor to serve Him according to the best of my abilities.
Shortly after this, I heard voice say to me, “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Let your heart be comforted; ye believe in God, believe also in me.”
In a few moments my mother came in, and, looking upon me, she said, “Lucy, you are better.”
I replied, as my speech returned just at that instant, “Yes, mother, the Lord will let me live, if I am faithful to the promise which I made to Him, to be a comfort to my mother, my husband, and my children.””
I recount this story because it is the start of a religious movement in the Smith home which led to her, and later her husband, search for the church of Christ. After this experience Lucy Mack Smith became determined to examine the Bible that it might become her guide to life and salvation and “obtain from God that which man could neither give nor take away.”

Monday, September 1, 2008

Resolving conflict through examples from Christ

Here is some of the important parts from the talk I gave refered to in the previous post. It has some good experiences from the Life of Joseph Smith that are interesting.

I talked for a few moments on the power of words, this quote is the jist of it.
Like all gifts "which cometh from above," words are "sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit." (D&C 63:64)

Here are a few examples from the life of Joseph Smith on the words he used to resolve conflict. In the summer of 1830, just after the church was organized, Oliver Cowdery was one of Josephs most trusted friends. Joseph at this time was busy copying and arranging revelation for publication. Oliver was staying with the Whitmer family in Fayette, 80 miles to the north. One day Joseph received a letter from Oliver.
Joseph recorded: Oliver wrote to inform me that he had discovered an error in one of the commandments in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants: “And truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto a remission of their sins” (D&C 20:37). The above quotation, Oliver said, was erroneous, and added: “I command you in the name of God to erase those words that no priestcraft be amongst us!”
Joseph continued: I immediately wrote to him in reply, in which I asked him by what authority he took upon him to command me to alter or erase, to add to or diminish from, a revelation or commandment from Almighty God.
Realizing later that his letter had not really answered the doctrinal question and had made the interpersonal problem worse, Joseph traveled the 80 miles north to the Whitmer home to meet with Oliver and the Whitmers.
Joseph said: I found that the Whitmer family was in general of Oliver’s opinion concerning the words above quoted, and it was not without both labor and perseverance that I could prevail with any of them to reason calmly on the subject…Finally, with Christian Whitmer’s assistance, I succeeded in bringing, not only the Whitmer family, but also Oliver Cowdery to acknowledge that they had been in error, and that the sentence in dispute was in accordance with the rest of the commandment.
Joseph then reflected on what he learned from this experience saying: And thus was this error rooted out, which having its rise in presumption and rash judgment, was…particularly calculated (when once fairly understood) to teach each and all of us the necessity of humility and meekness before the Lord that He might teach us of His ways.

Joseph teaches two prophetic important lessons about conflict in this example:
The first is that conflicts arise “in presumption and rash judgment.”
The second point Joseph made adds power to the first. He concluded that “conflicts are particularly calculated (when once fairly understood) to teach each and all of us.” Three ideas stand out in this statement. First, conflicts are particularly calculated to teach us something. Second, we can’t learn from them until they are fairly understood or until we can see both sides. Third, in an illustration of his own humility, Joseph included himself as one who learned something important from the conflict.
Here is another example from the life of Joseph Smith to illustrate how the Lord deals with conflict.
Just a month after the conflict just given, to escape from persecution, Joseph and Emma moved the 80 miles north to the Whitmer home in Fayette. When they arrived Joseph was grieved to learn that Hiram Page, one of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon, had been receiving revelations through a “seer stone” that gave instruction on how the church should operate.
Newel Knight, who was with Joseph at the time, described the situation:
“Hiram Page had managed to get up some dissension of feeling among the brethren by giving revelations concerning the government of the church…,which he claimed to have received through the medium of a stone he possessed…Even Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmer family had given heed to them.”
Newel Knight writes further: “Joseph was perplexed and scarcely knew how to meet this new exigency. That night I occupied the same room that he did and the greater part of the night was spent in prayer and supplication.”
So rather than react defensively like he did with Oliver, Joseph followed the guidance of James and sought counsel from the Lord. He was soon granted an answer in the form of a revelation, which is now Section 28 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Of course this section is well known for being the section on who can and cannot receive revelation for the church.
It is interesting to see how the Lord deals with this conflict. The Lords speaks in first person directly to Oliver saying: “Behold, I say unto thee, Oliver, that it shall be given unto thee that thou shalt be heard by all the church in whatsoever thou shalt teach them…” So the Lord gives a confirmation to Oliver that he is in good standing with the Lord. Then He gives Oliver a stipulation saying “thou shalt teach them by the Comforter, concerning the revelations and commandments which I have given.”
In verses 2-6 the Lord makes it known that only the prophet can receive revelation for the church, and that Oliver was to be like Aaron, declaring the words which the Lords gives to the prophet. He also says to Oliver “if thou art led at any time by the Comforter to speak…by the way of the commandment unto the church, thou mayest do it.” The Lord again outlines the limits of Oliver’s authority: “But thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom; and thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church.” Then in verse 11 the Lord tells Oliver to take Hiram Page and “tell him that those things which he hath written from that stone are not of me.”
After being instructed and corrected in the Lords loving a reaffirming way both Oliver and Hiram recognized their error and continued in full fellowship in the church.
President Kimball said that “Our vision is completely obscured when we have no mirror to show us our own faults and we look only for the foibles of others.” Our conflicts can be that mirror that can teach us things about ourselves that are otherwise be difficult to discover. So if we permit them, our conflicts will show us where we are weak, defensive, prideful, or otherwise in need of repair, repair for which the Lord is our Mechanic.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Two weeks ago my wife and I were asked to give a talk in church. In preparing my talk I was reminded of how much I appreciate the opportunity to speak, even though I am not that good at it and even get nervous speaking in front of people. It gave my gospel study a new dimension and depth. A depth and dimension I want more often. So I decided to start a blog to help me stay focused. I will blog mostly on doctrinal topics and church history. I am of course open for suggestion and discussion. I do not profess to be a scholar in the church, just a member with a desire to learn and share.