Feast upon the Word Blog

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RS/MP Chapter 7: Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Witnesses for Jesus Christ (Joseph Fielding Smith Manual)

Posted by Robert C. on April 10, 2014

(A link to the lesson can be found here. Apologies for not getting this post up sooner—I had it finished earlier, but then I lost the file. Curse Windows 8 instability, and my own foolishness for not being more careful with a backup file. This is a much shorter post than I originally wrote. If I have time in the next few days, and esp. if other express interest in particular questions, I’ll try to write or rewrite some of my own thoughts in answer to the questions I’ve posed below.)

From the life

The last sentence of this section emphasizes humility.

Question: Why is humility so important in obtaining a testimony of God and the Restoration?

1. Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith

The penultimate paragraph of this section talks about the importance of Joseph Smith “to the world for this day and generation.”

Question: What aspects of the Restoration are particularly relevant “the world for this day and generation”?

2. Joseph Smith as the head of this dispensation

Question: Why did God choose someone as unversed “in the learning and traditions of the world” to restore the Church through? How does the learning and traditions of the world hamper our relationship with God, and how do we overcome these impediments so that our learning “is good” (see 2 Nephi 9:28-29)?

See the last paragraph of this section for Pres. Smith’s answer to this question.

3. God’s word through Joseph Smith

In the penultimate paragraph of this section, Pres. Smith bears his testimony. Lack week in conference, Elder Holland bore his testimony in a surprisingly strong way, saying, “I am more certain that those keys have been restored and that those ordinances are once again available through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than I am certain I stand before you at this pulpit and you sit before me in this conference.”

Question: How does our knowledge of spiritual things differ from our knowledge of worldly things?

4. Joseph and Hyrum

Question: What makes a good friend and/or brother (or sister)? What can we learn from Hyrum’s example?

I esp. like the description in the 3rd paragraph of this section that “Hyrum was a man of wonderful tenderness of heart. He possessed deep humility and loved his brother better than he loved his own life.” Having a cause or a love that one values more than one’s life is an increasingly rare and thus increasingly noble and valuable trait!

5. Sealing their testimony with their blood

Question: What can we learn from Joseph and Hyrum’s examplary lives, and willingness to die for the Restoration?

I like Pres. Smith’s response to this question provided in the penultimate paragraph of this section.

Also, I recently saw Fruitvale Station which is a fine film that pays tribute to a life lost in an unfortunate set of circumstances (Here is a review that nicely captures what I liked about the film). This has got me thinking about how we honor (or fail to honor) those who have passed on to the other side of the veil in the way we live our lives. Pres. Smith’s desire to “be an instrument in the Lord’s hands,” esp. in sharing the message and love of the Gospel, seems a particularly apt way to channel such desires.

6 Responses to “RS/MP Chapter 7: Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Witnesses for Jesus Christ (Joseph Fielding Smith Manual)”

  1. jennywebb said

    Robert, thanks for this. I think you bring out some central themes (humility, testimony, and relationships) that were useful to me to focus on as I read through the lesson.

    I’m teaching tomorrow (kind of last minute—I was supposed to find a sub and … I forgot about it, so now it’s me), and I hope it’s ok that I’m posting some additional questions and notes I made while going through the lesson. They’re just rough and off the top of my head, but I think there’s some nice overlap with what you bring out above.

    From the Life
    Par. 5
    How does President Smith receive his testimony? Is his testimony fundamentally different in any way from the testimonies we all may receive?

    In addition to desire, questions, etc., note that this sure testimony is received through humility and faith through the action of contrite prayer.
    How are our attitudes and actions in searching for our own individual witness of the restoration of the gospel related to the attitudes and actions that Joseph and Hyrum displayed in living and dying for said gospel?

    1. Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith
    Par. 2
    How can receiving revelation be a calling? What does identifying it as a calling teach us about the work of receiving revelation?

    Par. 6
    What does it mean for the gospel to be restored through the “instrumentality” of Joseph Smith rather than simply through Joseph Smith?

    Par. 11
    What is the difference between the “knowledge of Christ” and “salvation”? Can you know one without the other? Why do both need to be revealed?

    2. Joseph Smith as the head of this dispensation
    Par. 1
    What does it tell us about the work of restoration and revelation when we contextualize Joseph as someone listening, receiving, and responding to “holy messengers”?

    Why would God have the restoration directed by “holy messengers” rather than just revealing and restoring everything himself? What does this emphasis on the communal nature of the restoration teach us about the nature of what was restored?

    Par. 4
    Is there any significance in the parallel between Joseph being instructed by messengers sent from the Lord and Joseph being prepared to “direct the work” of the restoration rather than to simply “restore” and build the kingdom himself?

    Section as a whole
    Interesting that by this point in the lesson, by focusing on Joseph Smith as a single figure, we’re having a theme of community, relationships, cooperation, etc. emerge.

    3. God’s word through Joseph Smith
    Par. 1
    Second use of this phrase. I wonder what President. Smith understood by “legal administrators”? Would he have had any past experiences that would have informed his understanding and use of this phrase?

    Par. 2
    So restoration alone is not enough. There must be restoration of truth, but also an administration of truth. How does one administer saving truths? If it requires “keys and powers,” then it seems to be something beyond a mere teaching, preaching, or even witnessing of these truths.

    Par. 5
    How does looking to Joseph Smith teach the truth about Christ and his gosepl? Is it simply through what Joseph restored? If so, why not look at what he restored? Instead, we’re told to look at him specifically as an individual person. What is it about the personhood of Joseph Smith that teaches the truth about Christ and his gospel?

    Par. 9
    How do we “labor” in the course set by Joseph Smith? What does it mean to labor in a specific course rather than to simply labor or work?

    4. Joseph and Hyrum
    Par. 2
    Why would God love someone for the “integrity of [their] heart”? What does this phrase mean? How does one develop this type of integrity and live it?

    How are the integrity of one’s heart and loving that which is right before the Lord distinct? How are they each related to truth? To faith? To work?

    Par. 4
    By itself, this sentence reads like Hyrum received the same blesseings as Joseph. But in the context of the sentence that follows (with its emphasis on brotherly love), it reads like Hyrum’s love for Joseph was so strong and pure that it allowed him to fully access and thus share in the joy of the blessings that Joseph received, whether or not Hyrum himself specifically received said blessings.

    Both interpretations are valid—in what ways do they each teach us about what it means to be siblings?

    Joseph’s and Hyrum’s relationship here can model for us a sibling relationship. Why would it be important to the work of the restoration and the building of the kingdom to have such a strong, devoted sibling relationship at the center of its unfolding? What can Joseph and Hyrum teach us about being siblings, yes, but even more, what can they teach us about what it means to be brothers and sisters in the family of God / the House of Israel / the Church of Christ / the Kingdom of God?

    Par. 5
    It’s not only Hyrum’s heart that Joseph appreciates; it’s the fact that Hyrum has used that heart in acts of caring—of outward reaching beyond himself—that touches Joseph so.

    Writing and recording are very important themes for Joseph; they are often related to the idea of sealing, of binding on earth things that are then bound in heaven. Therefore, this praise from Joseph is especially significant.

    Where is this book of the Law of the Lord? Is this something we actually have today?

    Here we have the prophet of the restoration telling Hyrum that his life will be a pattern for those who follow. Have any of you ever actively patterned your life on Hyrum’s? Are there parts of Hyrum’s life that you consider worth patterning, and if so, what are they and in what way?

    Par. 6
    Think about times that Joseph did have to rebuke others around him. In what way did Hyrum avoid behavior and choices that could have led to such rebukes?

    5. Sealing their testimony with their blood
    Par. 7
    Throughout this lesson, we’ve had repeated emphasis on Hyrum’s humility, mildness, and meekness. And yet it is clear that Hyrum was blessed in testimony, keys, authority, and gifts to the same degree that Joseph was. I think that this provides a good example of the ways in which humility functions as that which opens a receptive space around the humble person. Hyrum’s humility here is witnessed by his own blood testimony; while Joseph’s name stands at the head of the dispensation (as Pres. Smith has made clear repeatedly throughout the lesson), Hyrum’s own personal testimony bears significant witness to the personal dimensions of faith in the context of the restored gospel, i.e., Joseph models a witness to the world, while Hyrum models a witenss to the self. Both witnesses are essential to the restoration and to the communal/individual tensions that theologically bind us to salvation in Christ.

    Par. 9
    This call to gratitude and thanksgiving here at the end of the lesson is instructive: in what ways are gratitude and thanksgiving the only appropriate responses to the blood testimonies of Joseph and Hyrum? Why is it important that we not only recognize their witness, but that we also give thanks for their very lives, and the lives that built upon them?

  2. ldstaco said

    I did my best on this lesson in my own blog and will do my best putting it together. What I struggle with is a central Theme to the lesson. What am I supposed to be teaching? This lesson just seems to not have much of a point, other than talking about Joseph Smith and then about Joseph and Hyrum but it loosely connects the two points.

    What is the central theme to you?

  3. Robert C. said

    Wow, Jenny, you’ve brought up some really fantastic points. Very, very nice.

    Taco, I’m intrigued by your question. I confess that when I teach, I usually don’t try too hard to pinpoint a theme, for better or worse. Rather, I usually go into class with a handful of thoughts and questions I’ve thought about in preparation to teach. Then, during the lesson, I try to go in whatever direction the class seems interested in, oftentimes going in a very different direction than what I’ve prepared.

    That said, I think it is very helpful to think about ways the various themes of the lesson cohere with each other. On my reading of Jenny’s notes, I think she gives us several good ways to think about how this question might be answered. If I were pressed to write something like a thesis statement for this lesson (as refracted through my own thinking via Jenny’s notes, my notes, and your notes), I’d venture as a first draft something like the following:

    Joseph and Hyrum Smith loved the Gospel and each other in ways that were mutually reinforcing, and provide a poignant example for how we can give our own lives over to the cause of the Gospel and help those who are closest to us in their efforts to do the same.

  4. jennywebb said

    Hi Taco,

    I think one of the challenges with these lessons are that they don’t necessarily have one central theme that we’re supposed to present. Rather, in the work of preparing, I try to think about the sisters in my ward and what kind of productive conversation we could have.

    That said, in my own lesson, the “theme” that’s emerged from my preparation that I’m hoping to discuss is the idea of community—how the gospel is about becoming part of a community, and what we can learn from Joseph and Hyrum about building this community.

    There are certainly other directions and themes available in the material, but I feel like my role as a teacher is to prepare a lesson in light of the specific people I will be holding a discussion with, hence what emerges as a central theme or point in my preparation will be different from another person’s.

  5. jennywebb said

    Thanks Robert (sorry, I hadn’t refreshed for a while so I didn’t see your comment until just now).

    I really like the “thesis statement” you came up with for the lesson—I’m intrigued by the parallels between loving each other as brothers and loving the gospel in ways that are “mutually reinforcing.” It seems to me that one thing that Hyrum’s relationship with Joseph shows us is how loving the gospel really is like loving a brother: there’s a familial quality to faithful love, one in which imperfections and even sins prove weak when it comes to the bonds of blood. In other words, just as Hyrum could not leave Joseph, even in the face of death, we can see a model for our own fidelity to the gospel.

    • Thank you for your suggestions. My lesson split into two parts by the time we were done.

      1. Joseph Smith restored the church, was visited by Christ, and it is requisite for us to have a testimony of that fact.

      2. Joseph and Hyrum were brothers. They loved and trusted each other. Just as they loved and trusted each other, we, as a quorum need to love and trust each other. Which is when I stated this:

      “I’d never thought of this until just this second: During conference we were told that sisters don’t just “go to relief society, [they] are the relief society.” It’s the same with the Elders Quorum. We don’t just go to Elders Quorum. We are the Elders Quorum. When we’re out in the world, at work, at home, no matter we are, we are still an Elders Quorum, and we are still members of this quorum.”

      It felt quite inspiring, and I got smiles all around, except from the kid visiting from BYU.

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