Thursday, June 27, 2019

June 27

         The centrality of the life and work of the Prophet Joseph Smith to my faith should require no explanation. There are some people who complain that Mormons focus too much on Joseph Smith rather than on the Lord, but I disagree. If Joseph was not a messenger of Jesus, there is no purpose in following any branch of Mormonism. But if he was, then he deserves our respect and reverence.

During his ministry, Jesus made it clear that he held the prophets who testified of him, and especially those who paid for their testimony with their blood, in the highest regard. It has been my belief for a while now that the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph – of which today is the 175th anniversary – is not given enough weight among present-day Mormons.

Part of the problem is simply that the whole of modern society has forgotten how to mourn. That is why we are more likely to see commemorations of Joseph Smith on his birthday on 23 December, even though it has always been Christian tradition to celebrate the saints on the anniversary of their martyrdom. And this is, I think, related to the reason why modern America has no holidays dedicated to fasting and mourning: even the ones like Memorial Day that originally had a somber tone are now just another excuse to take the day off of work, shop, and eat.

But I think that another part of it is that modern Mormons, used to living in the days of smooth transitions from one aged church president to the next, have forgotten how much of a shock the death of the Prophet Joseph was to the early saints, who had no expectation that revelation would continue without him - see, for example, this epistle from the Twelve Apostles, published in Times and Seasons on 15 Aug 1844.

“Forasmuch as the saints have been called to suffer deep affliction and persecution, and also to mourn the loss of our Prophet and also our patriarch, who have suffered a cruel martyrdom for the testimony of Jesus... You are now without a prophet present with you in the flesh to guide you; but you are not without apostles, who hold the keys of power...

“Let no man presume for a moment that his place will be filled by another; for, remember he stands in his own place, and always will; and the twelve apostles of this dispensation stand in their own place and always will, both in time and in eternity, to minister, preside and regulate the affairs of the whole church.”

The Twelve were trying their best to reassure the Saints that the work could go on without Joseph, but even so, none of them yet claimed to actually be a prophet like Joseph was.

If, for some reason, the Mormon church had a fixed lectionary like the Catholics and Anglicans do, and if, for some reason, I was in charge of choosing the reading for 27 June, I think I would go with the 3rd chapter of Lamentations, the one that begins:

“I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.

“He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.

“Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day. ...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Book Review: No Man Knows My History

Fawn McKay Brodie was born in Ogden, Utah in 1915. She grew up in the LDS church (her uncle, David O. McKay, would eventually becom...