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Ancient Testaments: Wayne Brickey: Prophet Joseph the teacher relied on sweet taste of truth

A recent convert recounted a conversation he had in his shop. It went something like this:

A friend came in and said, \"Hey, I hear you're a Mormon now.\"

\"Yep.\"

\"So, you worship Joseph Smith?\"

\"Nope.\"

\"But other Mormons do, right?\"

\"Nope. Not a one of 'em.\" The convert explained that Joseph needed a Savior like the rest of us do. He was \"just a prophet.\"

\"Just a prophet?\"

\"Yep. But a really great one.\"

\"How so?\"

\"Had a big job on hand, putting things back that were lost for,

like, centuries. Had to do it all before he died at, like, 38 years

old.\"

When time started getting short for Joseph in Nauvoo, he testified

that \"the Lord Almighty ... will continue to preserve me ... until I have

fully accomplished my mission in this life.\"

Then he described that mission: to so firmly establish God's kingdom

in this dispensation \"that all the powers of earth and hell can never

prevail against it\" (Teaching of Presidents of the Church: Joseph

Smith, 531).

He was not just to maintain and grow the kingdom, as all prophets

must do. In addition, he was to dig the footings, lay the concrete,

raise the building and enclose it against the hurricane winds of hell.

After completing that mission in a crescendo of martyrdom, Joseph

continues to preside, defending and enriching this dispensation in the

power of his office.

Latter-day Saints don't even consider worshiping Joseph Smith. But

it does make perfect sense to honor him, and to worship the God who

supported him.

An observer of human history once warned, \"There is nothing more

difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain

in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new

order of things\" (Niccolo Machiavelli, \"The Prince\").

Joseph's adventures certainly verify that warning. Restoring a

long-lost order of things was patient work. Intense shafts of light,

scheduled for the last few years of his ministry, were a bit shocking

for eyes accustomed to centuries of deep shade.

Decayed traditions are useless for judging fresh revelation. Or, as

Jesus suggested, brittle old wineskins can't be trusted to hold new

wine (see Matthew 9:17).

A few of Joseph's hearers would \"fly to pieces like glass as soon as

anything comes that is contrary to their traditions\" (TPCJS520). To

minimize the broken glass, he added line upon line — fitting each new

unfamiliar truth to a former truth that was already proven and

understood.

But such careful teaching takes time. And in the early 1840s, time was running out on Joseph and his unique mission.

However, his teachings did have a special ingredient that could speed things up.

In one of the Nauvoo groves, just before his death, before an

audience estimated at 16,000-20,000 people, Joseph used a metaphor for

that ingredient: \"You say that honey is sweet, and so do I.\" Like the

commonly accepted sweetness of honey, the saving doctrines that taste

good to one honest soul also taste good to another.

So, that very day he presented something entirely new — new, but

magnificent, and sweet to the taste: God had a transcendent plan to

enable \"weaker intelligences\" to become \"exalted with himself\"

(TPCJS210).

Joseph spent more than an hour unfolding that one doctrine alone. It now colors many other principles of the restored gospel.

And he added, \"This is good doctrine. It tastes good. ... When I tell

you these words of eternal life as they are given to me, you taste

them, and I know that you believe them\" (TPCJS525).