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.
Years ago a child was born in an obscure village to poor parents residing in a dwelling they did not own but one that was made available to them through the kindness of others. The child grew to be an extraordinary individual and though he died before his 40th birthday, he transformed the society and world in which he lived.
Dec. 23 will mark the 207th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith Jr., the prophet of the Restoration. Joseph entered the world on a cold Monday morning in Sharon, Vt., shortly before the close of 1805. He spent his life trying to follow the example set by his Savior, trying to accomplish the will of his Savior and gave all glory and honor to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who atoned for the sins of repentant mankind. Interestingly, Joseph’s circumstances share many parallels with that of the Savior and remind us that Joseph was also a remarkable being.
After several business ventures gone bad, Solomon Mack, Joseph’s grandfather, offered Joseph Smith Sr. and family the use of his cabin on Dairy Hill. They gratefully accepted his offer, settled in and there baby Joseph was born. Two days after his birth, the family celebrated Christmas, most likely in a simple way, long before the overblown commercialism of today’s world. The day was probably spent reflecting, remembering and recounting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Mother Lucy, most likely still confined to bed, certainly spent most of the day cuddling her sweet baby in her arms, blissfully unaware of the majestic being she lovingly cradled. As Joseph grew, he suffered more than his share of challenges and troubles. In his youth, he came close to losing his life if not his leg, watched a beloved brother die and learned the value of hard work, the family bereft of many of the finer material things in life.
With the announcement of his visitation by God the Father and his Son, Joseph fell prey to mockery, taunts and persecution by others. His marriage was not approved by his in-laws, and his first three children did not live to their first birthday. He was unable to provide a safe and secure living for his family because of intense persecution, and under false charges spent much time in jail. His life was often in danger and, ultimately, a cowardly mob charged up the steps of Carthage Jail and he and his brother Hyrum did not have the privilege of raising their family and growing old with their beloved companions.
Joseph willingly suffered and there is no secret as to why he did so. He endured persecution for the cause of Jesus Christ, his devotion to God and Christ of a nature rarely found among millions of others who have lived on earth.
Shortly after the martyrdom of the prophet, John Taylor, who survived the attack, and later became the third president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, penned this beautiful and accurate eulogy:
"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 20 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 fullness 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 .
"Joseph Smith was 38 and henceforward their names will be classed among the martyrs of religion; and the reader in every nation will be reminded that the Book of Mormon, and (this book of) Doctrine and Covenants of the church, cost the best blood of the 19th century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world They lived for glory; they died for glory; and glory is their eternal reward" (see Doctrine and Covenants 135).
Jesus Christ, whose birth we commemorate on Dec. 25 is the Savior of the world. Joseph Smith is his prophet and how fitting that we remember both this time of year. Both lived humbly yet courageously, seeking to do the will of their father. We should remember Joseph Smith on his birthday, Dec. 23, and give worship on Dec. 25 for the author and finisher of faith, Jesus Christ.
Kristine Frederickson writes on issue-oriented topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World."