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RS/MP Lesson 4: “The Prophet Joseph Smith, God’s Instrument in Restoring the Truth” (George Albert Smith Manual)

Posted by kirkcaudle on February 10, 2012

For this weeks lesson I will use the scriptures in order to tackle some of the questions provided directly from the lesson manual. As always, I would suggest that you read the actual lesson, which can be found here.  

Study the section that begins on page 36 and read Doctrine and Covenants 1:17–19. What can we learn about service in the Church from Joseph Smith’s example? Think of a time when you were given an assignment from the Lord and did not feel qualified. How did the Lord help you?

I will take each of these three verses in turn. While doing this, I will largely ignore the larger historical context behind these verses in order to answer the above questions. Doing this will allow me to apply the scriptures to our contemporary church service in a more succinct manner.

D&C 1:17 Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;

God knows that state of the world and God knows the state of the Church. More specially, God knows the state of our local wards. God knows, that in one way or another, “calamity” will strike our ward families and our communities. This calamity can come in a variety of ways. When it does, we need to be ready. God prepares us for this calamity through our callings, home or visiting teaching, and by allowing us to be a friend to those in need. A calamity can really be anything from a natural disaster, to a death in the family, to a loss of a job. Calamity is always with us.

When God saw the coming calamity of the world during the 19th century he responded by utilizing Joseph Smith. This response by God, to Joseph, came in three ways:

  1. He “called upon” Joseph 
  2. He “spake unto” Joseph
  3. He “gave [Joseph] commandments”

 God knows the current state of our local wards and our communities. God knows what our local wards need in order to service the current, and the future, needs of church and community members. Therefore, God works at the local level in much of the same way that he worked with Joseph Smith. Assuming that we have leaders that are following the spirit, the following pattern holds:

  1. We will be “called upon.” God will call us into a position through our priesthood leader.
  2. God will then “speak unto” us. After accepting the call to serve we are not on our own. God will speak into our hearts and minds. What will he speak into our hearts and minds?
  3. God will “give us commandments.” God will let us know the best way to execute our callings. God not only speaks comfort to our souls, but he actually gives us direction. 

Onto verse 18.

D&C 1:18 And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—

Joseph Smith was not the only one receiving commandments during the time that this revelation was given, there were “others.” In a similar vein, we are not the only ones being given commandments when we are called to serve in the gospel. This is a good thing because it means that we are not alone and the weight of the ward is not solely upon our shoulders. Serving in the gospel is a communal, not an individual, effort.

No matter what our calling happens to be in the gospel we all have the same responsiblity of “proclaim[ing] these things unto the world” after we accept that calling. Accepting a calling, and receiving the commandments that come along with that calling, is to accept the inseparable calling of ministry. Therefore, every member is a missionary.  

19 The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—

I think that the phase ” the weak things of the world” must stay connected with the message of verse 18. Verse 18 is talking about those things which the people holding the callings are commanded to declare. In other words, although we might consider ourselves the weak things of the world, that is only half of the story. The issue is that we must declare to others that they are also the weak things of the world. Therefore, the weak proclaim the gospel to the weak. Or as I prefer saying, the meek shall proclaim the gospel to the meek.

These verse sets a contrast between those that are “weak” and those that are “strong.” If the weak are proclaiming the gospel to the weak then that must mean that the strong must become weak themselves in order to receive the message. I see the strong in this verse as referring to the pride of the world. The weak are the humble. So how then do those that are weak “break down the might and strong ones”? I think the weak ones break down the strong ones by the humility and love that they show to the strong ones. The weak ones do not hate the strong ones. I am sure that many, if not all of us, could name multiple strong ones in our personal families, wards, and local communities.

When we serve in the gospel we have no need to be led away by the strong ones. We also have no reason to “trust in the arm of flesh” because of steps 1-3 listed in verse 17. The true weak ones do not trust the arm of the flesh because they already have a testimony of having been called, talked to, and given commandments by God.   

Knowing that we are called of God, in many of the same ways that Joseph Smith was called of God to do his callings, is comforting. Knowing that we, like Joseph, are qualified to do the work, and that we are called of God to do the work, leads me to question #5 from the manual:

Consider what you can do to help the Church continue to become stronger.

To help with that question I will employee Isaiah 29:13-14 from the additional scriptures section. It is helpful to remember that God used these two verses in order to open up a new dispensation, our dispensation. Because of this, I believe that they hold a specific importance for our time.

Isa. 19:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

After reading through D&C 1:17-19, I see this verse as the dangers of church service. Yes, I think that there is danger from serving in the gospel. We might become inclined to feel like we are doing a great job or that we are some how more important to the ward than we actually are. When this happens, we honor God will our lips, but deny him with our hearts. It is very easy to get distracted in our callings. We might want other people to recognize us for our good works and our tireless efforts. When we fall into this trap we start to “fear” men and their “precepts.” It is the precepts of men that tell us that we need to be thanked for everything that we do. It is the precepts of men that tell us to stop when things become too hard. It is the precepts of men that tell us that we only belong where we feel appreciated.

14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.

For Joseph Smith, the “marvellous work” harkens back to verse 11 and the sealed book. This sealed book is, of course, The Book of Mormon. We fall into the precepts of men when we fall away from The Book of Mormon. The marvellous work of The Book of Mormon is that it allows the weak things of the world to confound the wise. We should use this marvellous work of The Book of Mormon, and I would argue all scripture, and rely less on the understanding of “prudent men.” (True wise men will do nothing but continually lead you back to scripture anyway). It is through the usage and through the study of this marvellous work, as opposed to wise men, commentaries, or lesson manuals, that will allow us to make the Church stronger in our individual lives and callings.




11 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 4: “The Prophet Joseph Smith, God’s Instrument in Restoring the Truth” (George Albert Smith Manual)”

  1. julie said

    Thank you so much! This is a great help. I’m teaching this lesson next week.

  2. Denise Flower said

    I’m teaching too. This is so helpful! Cheers/ Den

  3. kirkcaudle said

    Thank you both. Glad it helps.

  4. Juli said

    You are amazing…thank you for sharing!

  5. Gaylene Adam said

    Will share this with my husband .As a bishop of a newy formed ward he has many callings to fill – these insights are wonderful!

  6. Robert C. said

    Nice post, Kirk. With respect to Isaiah 29 (by the way, you write Isaiah 19 by accident in the quote), and the idea of “precepts of men,” we had an interesting discussion of this several years ago that you or others looking for more study material might find interesting (I mention Isaiah 29 and related verses in comment #9).

    I esp. like your discussing and emphasis on the weak vs. the strong, and I think that’s a nice way to understand what is at stake in differentiating the precepts of men and human wisdom, on the one hand, from God’s wisdom on the other. (This gets tricky because there is, I think, an unavoidably “human” aspect to interpreting God’s word. So, the difference comes down to whether our hearts and desires are oriented toward God. Or so it seems to me….)

  7. kirkcaudle said

    Juli and Gaylene, thank you for the kind words. And Gaylene, I do not envy your husband regarding his new calling!

    Robert, the link that you posted was a little before my time on this site, good stuff!

  8. emily said

    This is wonderful insight. Thank you for posting it!

  9. kirkcaudle said

    Thank you Emily, hope it helped.

  10. They have all been hearing the same stories, passed down since the mid eighteen hundreds, originating from Joseph Smith, told and refined over time.

  11. Cheri said

    I like looking through an article that will make people think.
    Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!


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