Joseph Smith, a youth of 14, saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ in a personal visitation in the spring of 1820. Through him, until his martyrdom at Carthage Jail in 1844, came the unfolding of the “greatest gospel dispensation1 of all time.”2 The Lord described the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church as “a marvelous work3 among the children of men.”4
Joseph Smith—as prophet, teacher, and beloved leader of the Saints—was the prophet of the Restoration. His ministry was filled with events that molded him into a prophet. Through his ministry, what was then a small band of believers in 1830 has become a worldwide Church today. He accomplished his work without the advantages of schooling, property, or family prominence. The cause of Christ he championed has never taken a step backward.
With each year, the stature of the Prophet Joseph Smith grows. Said his successor Brigham Young,5 “I feel like shouting Hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith, the Prophet whom the Lord raised up and ordained, and to whom he gave keys and power to build up the Kingdom of God on earth and sustain it.”6
Joseph Smith Quotes
“I calculate to be one of the instruments of setting up the kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord, and I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world. . . . It will not be by sword or gun that this kingdom will roll on: the power of truth is such that all nations will be under the necessity of obeying the Gospel” (History of the Church, 6:365).
“Truly this is a day long to be remembered by the Saints of the last days,—a day in which the God of heaven has begun to restore the ancient order of His kingdom unto His servants and His people,—a day in which all things are concurring to bring about the completion of the fullness of the Gospel, a fullness of the dispensation of dispensations, even the fullness of times; a day . . . which Jehovah has promised should be made known in His own due time unto His servants, to prepare the earth for the return of His glory” (History of the Church, 4:492–93).
“Here, then, beloved brethren, is a work to engage in worthy of archangels—a work which will cast into the shade the things which have been heretofore accomplished; a work which kings and prophets and righteous men in former ages have sought, expected, and earnestly desired to see, but died without the sight; and well will it be for those who shall aid in carrying into effect the mighty operations of Jehovah” (History of the Church, 4:187).
Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church, 1995–2008
“How great indeed is our debt to [Joseph Smith]. His life began in Vermont and ended in Illinois, and marvelous were the things that happened between that simple beginning and tragic ending. It was he who brought us a true knowledge of God, the Eternal Father, and His Risen Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .
“He was the instrument in the hands of the Almighty. He was the servant acting under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ in bringing to pass this great latter-day work” (“A Season for Gratitude,” Ensign, Dec. 1997, 2).
Brigham Young, Second President of the Church, 1847–1877
“When I first heard him [Joseph Smith] preach he brought heaven and earth together, and all the priests of the day could not tell me anything correct about heaven, hell, God, angels, nor devils; they were as blind as Egyptian darkness. When I saw Joseph Smith he took heaven, figuratively speaking, . . . and opened up, in plainness and simplicity the things of God, and that is the beauty of his mission” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 458; Deseret News, Dec. 30, 1857, 340).
John Taylor, Third President of the Church, 1880–1887
“If there is no other man under the heavens that knows that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God I do, and I bear testimony of it to God, angels and men” (Deseret News, Mar. 25, 1863, 306.)
Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th President of the Church, 1970–1972
“Joseph Smith was the messenger whom the Lord sent to prepare the way before him. He came and under direction of holy messengers laid the foundation for the kingdom of God and of this marvelous work and a wonder that the world might be prepared for the coming of the Lord” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1920, 107).
What other dispensations of the gospel have taken place on the earth?
A dispensation of the gospel is a period of time on earth when the darkness of apostasy is dispersed, when authorized servants dispense God’s word and administer saving ordinances. Elder David W. Patten of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that a dispensation of the gospel “is power and authority to dispense the word of God, and to administer in all the ordinances thereof” (History of the Church, 3:50). Adam opened the first dispensation of the gospel. After periods of apostasy, other dispensations were opened by Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus Christ.
Why was Joseph Smith chosen to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Joseph Smith was the chosen prophet of the latter days even before he was born. He was like the prophet Jeremiah, to whom the Lord said, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). So it was with Joseph Smith. “At the general and grand Council of heaven,” taught Joseph, “all those to whom a dispensation was to be committed, were set apart and ordained at that time, to that calling” (discourse given by Joseph Smith on May 12, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Samuel W. Richards; quoted in The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook , 371).
- “Introduction”—Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1996), v–vii
- “Joseph Smith”—Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 1–19
- “Prelude to the Restoration”—Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 1–13