JOSEPH SMITH – A MODERN WITNESS FOR CHRIST
Christ’s Message through a Modern-day Prophet
by HYRUM L. ANDRUS, D.S.S.
Professor of Religion
Brigham Young University
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The Duty of a Prophet.—The chief function of a prophet of God is to give to the world a divine witness that Jesus is the Christ and that, as our great Redeemer, lawgiver and source of life, he is appointed by his Father to be the God of this earth. In modern times, the Lord has raised up such a witness in the person of Joseph Smith.
A scripture often quoted by the Prophet Joseph Smith is found in John’s Revelation, chapter 19, verse 10, where an angel stated to the apostle on the Isle of Patmos: “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Explained Joseph Smith:
If any person should ask if I were a prophet, I should not deny it, … for according to John, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy; therefore, … if I be a true teacher and witness, I must possess the spirit of prophecy, and that constitutes a prophet; and any man who says he is a teacher or preacher of righteousness, and denies the spirit of prophecy, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; and by this key false teachers and imposters may be detected. (Documentary History of the Church, 5:215-16; hereafter cited DHC.)
Here, then, is the fact of the matter: If a man has the testimony of Jesus—the true testimony from divine sources that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the earth’s great source of light and life—he must also possess the spirit of prophecy; and possession of that spirit constitutes him a prophet.
It was an essential function of the mission of ancient prophets to speak for God and testify of the coming of Christ. As the resurrected Lord walked along the road to Emmaus with two disciples, he made this point clear when he exclaimed: “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” The record then states: “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25, 27.)
So it must be in modern times. When a man is commissioned of God and given a mission to testify of Christ and establish His work in our day, that man must be a prophet of God.
Joseph Smith’s First Vision.—Joseph Smith’s prophetic mission commenced in the spring of 1820, when, as a lad in his fifteenth year, he pondered the question of which church he should join. To decide the matter, he went to God in simple, but superior, faith and there he received one of the greatest manifestations ever given of God to man. In his report of this incident, he later said:
… I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me….
… When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (Pearl of Great Price, Smith 2:16-17.)
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