Scientists who deal in very large numbers sometimes marvel at the Creator, who deals in even larger numbers. But amid all that vastness, God is keenly interested in small things as well. Nowhere is this more evident than in the care he gives his children.
He oversees myriads. But at the same time, his heart is riveted on each one, from premortal beginning to post-mortal graduation, and ever after. The Plan is both large and small.
During this year, while the church curriculum has guided us through church history and the teachings of Joseph Smith, this column has used "sites and insights" to trace Joseph's service as the Plan gained fres h traction in the latter days. But we have not yet stopped to notice Joseph's own need for the Plan, especially that part of it that could save his own family.
One of the ironies of this dispensation is that the children of Joseph and Emma did not fully partake of the gifts presented to mankind through their own father.
On May 4, 1842, Joseph gathered several key leaders into the second floor of his "Red Brick Store." That day, they became the first in this dispensation to receive what Joseph called "washings, anointings, endowments, and the communication of keys" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 414).
Joseph sensed that he would not live to see the temple completed. So he used his upstairs "multipurpose room," which had filled so many other sacred needs, to get the next phases of the Restoration under way.
On the day following, May 5, Brigham Young officiated in bestowing these same blessings upon Joseph himself. It was as the time Joseph and Oliver baptized each other in the Susquehanna River: He who held the keys first gave service, and later received it from another.
We seldom think of Joseph's own need for salvation, as we seldom think of the coach's need for exercise, the mother's need to sit down and eat, the carpenter's need for a home. But Joseph's need became dramatically clear in the case of his last-born child.
David Hyrum Smith entered the Smith household under solemn circumstances — five months after the martyrdom. He grew up being told that his father was a prophet of God. But what that really meant, he never knew in this life. With artistic genius, David revealed much of his perplexity through poetry, music and art. It bespoke emptiness that only pure truth could fill.
A mile south of Nauvoo is a brook that runs into the river from the east. The brook is bordered by a beautiful sloping meadow and shrouded by woods. Into this little world, which is now called "David's Chamber," that tender boy of Joseph and Emma went often to find solace.
The incessant, unanswered quest racked his heart. By age 24, he acknowledged that "tears run out of my eyes all the time and I don't know why" (see letter written to Emma in 1869, Community of Christ archives).
From the spirit world, Joseph watched and wept as well. What he had said of others, now applied to him: Righteous ancestors "understand our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and are often pained therewith" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 326).
At last, David died while confined in an Illinois asylum. So, was the story over? Of course not. Through ordinances that Joseph had both administered and received, the real story had just begun.
What is true of others was true of Joseph and David. Though they "came out of great tribulation," the God of large and small numbers would "wipe away all tears from their eyes" (Revelation 7:14-17).
Wayne E. Brickey, who lives in Gallatin, Mo., is a retired Church Educational System teacher and curriculum writer and has been a tour guide to Holy Land and Mormon history sites. His novel "Before His Manger: The Long Wait for Christ's First Coming" is serialized in weekly segments Fridays on MormonTimes.com.