A few weeks ago my Bishop asked me to be the speaker at the monthly Bishop’s Youth Discussion. I’ve spoken at several of these events and enjoy teaching the youth so I quickly agreed. When I asked what subject I should speak on he thought for about 5 seconds and asked that I speak on the prophet Joseph Smith. This is an interesting occurrence since 9 times out of 10 church leaders ask me to speak on topics that have to with the scriptures, but in this case: Joseph Smith. Preparing and delivering my remarks has drawn my mind to reflect on Joseph Smith, Church History, etc. over the past few days so I share a few autobiographical thoughts akin to some fairly recent posts found here by Enoch and here by TT.
In the last 18 months I have come to realize just how complex the prophet (and human being) Joseph Smith is. Never again will I look at him the same. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing only time can tell; however, I feel blessed to have somewhat of a better understanding about the history of our founder. Magic, seer stones, masons, plates and all, I feel that I am a more informed person having learned what I have learned. Many have asked me how I can know the things that I know and still have a desire to be a Mormon (just last night in fact). The answer, like Joseph, is complex but certainly entails these points: (1) I feel that the gospel as taught by the LDS Church (despite many concerns) helps me and my family to be better people, (2) I find it comforting to belong to a group of people that know how to serve and push me to serve more, (3) I love belonging to a group with such a rich history and tradition. I would be dishonest if I didn’t feel a need/want to carry on this tradition (at least the parts I like :)) (4) It’s fun! I’ve met a number of amazing people in the church that make life better and certainly a whole lot more interesting. Strangely enough though, I must say that many of the more “human” episodes in Joseph’s life (and in Church History) have helped me to feel closer to Joseph than before. Why? Because he is not just an infallible fairy tale that my parents tell me about anymore. He is a real man that makes real mistakes and is yet (according to my faith) a prophet of God. How prophets are nothing more than human and yet represent the divine is quite a paradox and yet, paradox describes my faith so adequately. I believe it was Richard Bushman in a podcast who said something to the effect of, “if you don’t have paradox in your life, then you are not living.” This is certainly not to say that I have found ways to view all the less-than-stellar moments in our church’s history (not to mention present situations/happenings) that are helpful and make sense, but I have found enough to continue. And so it is that many of the events in our Church’s history that have been seen as “problems” have, in an odd sort of way, become faith promoting problems.