Today, June 27, 2011, marks a poignant day in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was on this day, in 1844—167 years ago—that our Prophet, the man who restored the fullness of the Gospel to the earth in this dispensation, and his older brother Hyrum, were shot and killed in Carthage Jail. I came to that realization this morning as I woke up, and, instead of opening my scriptures to the place where I have been studying, opened to the 135th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants where Elder John Taylor (who later became the third prophet of the Church) wrote his witness of the events that unfolded that day when our Prophet willingly gave his life for the benefit of the Church and all those who would follow after him.
I am forever grateful for the sacrifices Joseph Smith went through during the eighteen years from the time he first saw the Angel Moroni appear to him in his bedroom late one night until he was martyred at Carthage. Many times in the MTC, Hermana Waldrop y yo watched the video, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration.” (If you click that link, you can watch it as well!) And every time I watched it, I was filled with the Spirit telling me that it was true. Joseph Smith went through many horrible things in his life. But he did so willingly, because he knew without a doubt that the things he had seen and the things which he was teaching were true.
In D&C 135:3, there is a brief summary of all of the many wonderful things the Prophet Joseph did during his life. “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 twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has between 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 a 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. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!”
Over the past 167 years, the number of people who have heard and accepted the wonderful message of the Gospel has grown exponentially. When the Church was started in the upper room of the Red Brick Store in April 1830, there were 6 members. There were a few thousand at the Prophet’s death 14 years later. Today, or at least at the end of 2010, there were 14,131,467 members of the Church living on the earth! 272,814 new converts were baptized in 2010 alone! I don’t know if the Prophet Joseph ever imagined that there would be such exponential growth! Several men had served missions throughout the United States and Canada, and some to England. But at the end of 2010, there were 52,225 missionaries serving in 340 missions throughout the world! There were also 28,660 wards and branches. I am so honored to have been a part of that. Last year, I witnessed dozens of baptisms. I trained new missionaries as they went out into the field to start their missionary service. I witnessed the joy of the members in Rio Rancho, New Mexico as a new branch—a Spanish Branch—was created. I even witnessed the creation of a new mission as the boundaries of my mission were changed to accommodate a new mission.
If this Gospel weren’t true, none of that would be possible. None of it! Our loving Heavenly Father wouldn’t allow such exponential growth among believers in something that is not true.
I know without a doubt that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is restored on the earth today. I know that the Angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith as a young boy and led him to the brass plates. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to the 14 year old young man in a grove of trees in upstate New York and answered his prayer as to which church he should join by telling him that, at the time, there was no true church on the face of the earth so he must not join any of them. And I have been in that grove of trees, the Sacred Grove, and felt the special Spirit that I have otherwise only felt in the Temple, telling me that Heavenly Father and our Savior truly were there. I know that the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith translated by the gift and power of God, is true. I know that it contains the words which our Heavenly Father wanted us to learn. I know that it brings great strength to those who read it, and that it can change lives. I witnessed many lives change because they too were able to come to a knowledge of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. I am so grateful for the blessing that I have to be a member of the true Church on the earth today. And it is my prayer that all those who have not had the opportunity to hear or accept the Gospel will be able to do so and recognize the great blessing it can become in their lives!