Joseph Smith Lecture 6: Joseph Smith as Teacher, Speaker, and Counselor

Richard L. Evans Endowed Professor and BYU Professor of Philosophy

August 24, 1978

Full Video
There is a difference between speaking, testifying, and teaching, and that setting in which soul is alone with soul. And in this again the Prophet was a master.

This lecture begins with a glimpse of three principles of teaching that are discernible in practice in the School of the Prophets. Even before the completion and dedication of the Kirtland Temple, the Lord commanded that a teacher be appointed for that school and then gave specific instructions on who should be admitted to the school, where they should meet, how they should greet each other as they entered the school, and precisely how they should conduct themselves.1 The spirit of those counsels, I believe, should apply to every gathering of Latter-day Saints. We cannot always duplicate exactly what those in that school were taught, but as an ideal framework of the attitudes that should prevail in our classrooms, council meetings, and one-on-one discussions, those verses in section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants seem to me universal in their worth to Latter-day Saints today.

The Saints were told that no one was to be admitted to this school “save he be clean.” Clean, as the Lord put it, “from the blood of this generation.”2 That phrase troubled me for a time until I realized that it didn’t simply mean forgiven of the blood shed in that generation (that was the way I first interpreted it) but that it meant more still. It meant that these persons, by receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ in faith and repentance and through the ordinances, would be cleansed; that whatever they had inherited, of the human, of the sinful, of the weak, down through the centuries, would be overcome until it would be proper to say that the impurities of the past had been redeemed in the present in the personality.3

That is a high requirement to impose on anyone. And yet in faith those early Saints aspired to it and sought to fulfill it. Having been given that charge, they were taught the three principles which should prevail in their teaching process.

First, they were not simply to listen to one speaker. A teacher was to be appointed, said the revelation, and “let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time, and let all listen to his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege.”4 A beautiful teaching principle: the need for each person present to participate, contributing his insight and experience on a given theme.

Second, before the point of teaching and ­participating in discussion was reached, a brotherly kinship was to be established. Once their relationship with Christ was clear and vivid, they were to make covenants with each other. For this purpose a greeting to be used was given by revelation. The president or teacher was to be first in the room, and as others arrived he was to raise his arms in the spirit of the covenant and say: “Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen.”5

The covenant in the school, then, in part was “to be your friend.” It is interesting that the earlier revelations called Joseph “my servant, Joseph.” Later—presumably as he grew spiritually and became more worthy—we find the Lord speaking of him as “Joseph, my son.” Finally, he spoke of the Prophet and others with him as “my friends.”6 Servant, son, friend: three beautiful relationships. Not, I take it, stages in spiritual progress so much as levels of it; for in the end, those of us who are thoroughly committed to Christ remain servants, sons or daughters, and friends. Now, then, the brethren were to covenant with each other as brethren, which sons of a common father are, and as friends. “To be your friend and brother . . . , to walk in all the commandments of God blameless . . . forever and ever. Amen.” And then the one being greeted would either reply “Amen”—­meaning “so be it”—or repeat the precise words of the greeting. In that spirit they entered the school.

The Prophet said that “there should exist the greatest freedom and familiarity among the rulers in Zion.”7 This is glorious as an ideal. But it was that very freedom, the openness of heart and soul, the sharing of the most sacred of insights, that some took advantage of and that led to the breakdown and breakup of the School of the Prophets. For what they shared was often so intimate and so sacred that it required an immense amount of self-control to ensure that one understood it properly, or to determine the propriety of mentioning it elsewhere, or not to bandy it about outside the school, or not to take advantage of it in some way. Failure to exercise this self-control meant that the confidence engendered in the beginning was sometimes destroyed.

When that confidence prevailed in their gathering, however, those brethren had the sweetest fellowship known in our dispensation. They were brethren, and they loved each other, and in that setting—and perhaps only in that setting—the Prophet was enabled to fully share things that he otherwise felt he must not. On this point a caution is given, not to nonmembers but to the members of the Church: “That which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation.” Similarly the Lord says to the Church: “Let all men beware how they take my name in their lips. . . . These things remain to overcome through patience.”8

The Prophet Joseph did not betray the sacred. His brethren did not. And only those who finally capitulated to weakness and temptation broke the bond.

The third principle is in some respects as difficult. In a word, it is concentration. At a council of high priests and elders in Kirtland, the Prophet said: “No man is capable of judging a matter, in council, unless his own heart is pure; . . . we frequently are so filled with prejudice, or have a beam in our own eye, that we are not capable of passing right decisions.” Joseph continued: “In ancient days councils were conducted with such strict propriety, that no one was allowed to whisper, be weary, leave the room, or get uneasy in the least, until the voice of the Lord, by revelation, or the voice of the council by the Spirit was obtained, which has not been observed in this Church to the present time. It was understood in ancient days, that if one man could stay in council, another could; and if the president could spend his time, the members could also; but in our councils, generally, one will be uneasy, another asleep; one praying, another not; one’s mind on the business of the council, and another thinking on something else.”9

The Prophet’s reference to weariness is intriguing. Not allowed to be weary! How can one prevent weariness? Notice the assumption about the strength we will have if we will truly seek the Lord—even the strength to cope with weariness. This and the other human distractions common to Church meetings are preventable. The unity the Lord promised as a presupposition of his most powerful responses to prayer comes from that time of genuine concentration. His fellow Saints said that the Prophet Joseph Smith had immense power to concentrate on the topic at hand.10

In spirit, at least, the above three principles can undergird our procedures whenever we seek to teach and counsel.

We turn now to some of the responses of those who heard the Prophet as a speaker, and how they attempted to describe what they heard. Let me say first that, so far as can be determined, the Prophet never read a book on the principles of “rhetoric” or “elocution.” What he had been counseled to do as speaker came straight through the channel of revelation. In that mode, while he was away on a mission, he received what is now section 100 of the Doctrine and Covenants. He was counseled to “declare whatsoever thing you declare in my name, in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness, in all things,” and that if he would do this, “the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say.”11 The Lord makes that a commandment. In this connection, Doctrine and Covenants 84, with parallels elsewhere, contains the statement “Treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.”12 The last half of that promise is widely quoted in the Church—in the very hour of our need the Lord will give us what we should speak. But this omits the governing condition, the prior clause: if you treasure up continually the words of life, then—and the sense of the expression is only if you do this—you will be given in the very hour what you should say.

Being immensely weighted with every variety of responsibility and concern, the Prophet was not able consistently to set aside long periods of time for study, though he always made the time for upreaching prayer and communion. On one occasion he arose and said, “I am not like other men. My mind is continually occupied with the business of the day, and I have to depend entirely upon the living God for every thing I say on such occasions as these.”13 Then he proceeded to deliver one of the great discourses of all time. He was “treasuring up continually,” in all that that phrase implies. Therefore he was blessed with discernment to know what should be given by way of milk here and what by way of meat there.

Incidentally, the Prophet, loving, playful, and cheerful though he was, did not balk when he was inspired to rebuke or to admonish with sharpness.14 After the rebuke, he would show forth an increase of love to the one rebuked, in accordance with Doctrine and Covenants 121:43. But he could be towering when he rebuked and it could penetrate to the very vitals.

Illustrative of this is a story still carried in the family lore of Brigham Young’s descendants but, so far as I know, never recorded. It says that in a meeting the Prophet rebuked Brigham Young from his head to his feet for something he had done, or something he was supposed to have done but hadn’t—the detail is unclear. And it may well have been that the Prophet was deliberately putting Brigham Young to a test. When he had finished the rebuke, everyone in the room waited for the response. Brigham Young rose to his feet. He was a strong man. He could have responded: “Now, look, haven’t you read that you’re not supposed to rebuke in public, but only in private?” Or, “Brother Joseph, doesn’t it say something in the revelations about persuasion, and long-­suffering, and gentleness and meekness?” Or, “You’re dead wrong. It’s not so.” But he said none of the above. In a voice everyone could tell was sincere, he said simply, “Joseph, what do you want me to do?” And the story says that the Prophet burst into tears, came down from the stand, threw his arms around Brigham, and said, in effect, “Brother Brigham, you passed.”15

As we have seen, Joseph had been taught in revelation to be humble. He had been taught to treasure up the words of life continually. In addition there was the Lord’s counsel—section 50 of the Doctrine and Covenants gives it eloquent description—that without the Spirit, we can neither teach nor receive truth effectively; no matter what we know, or think we know. Literally, it is as the Savior said: “Without me ye can do nothing.”16 That may be intimidating to those of us who are proud, but it is eternally true, and Joseph knew it.

The revelation goes on to say: “Why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth? Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.”17 One of the high privileges of teaching and serving in the kingdom is that when the Spirit is present the teacher is as blessed as, if not more so than, the student. In fact, under the Spirit every teacher himself learns. President Marion G. Romney said: “I know I was inspired tonight. I taught things I did not until then know.”18 The Prophet Joseph sought for that Spirit, and it was that, more than any other quality one can name, that gave his words convincing power.

To Hyrum, who aspired early to go into the mission field, a special revelation was given. It says, among other things, “Seek not to declare my word, but seek first to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.”19 There is the Lord’s definition of his Spirit and his word in one phrase, “the power of God unto the convincing of men.” Hyrum came to that, and so did his brother Joseph.

As regards a speaking style, Joseph warned the brethren against a kind of false or strained tone of voice that could develop in the pulpit or even in conversation.20 It was as if he were saying that the most natural tone is also the most approved of God; the most conversational mode of speaking rather than a falsetto, or a strain, or a tense or overblown kind of eloquence.

Now to witnesses.

Brigham Young said this: “The excellency of the glory of the character of brother Joseph Smith was that he could reduce heavenly things to the understanding of the finite. When he preached to the people . . . he reduced his teachings to the capacity of every man, woman, and child, making them as plain as a well-defined pathway.”21 In that connection, speaking of Christ the Prophet said, “If He comes to a little child, he will adapt himself to the language and capacity of a little child.”22 In the preface to the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord says, “These commandments are . . . given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language.”23 That is all we have to work with at this stage. But the Spirit can take us beyond those small chopping-blocks of meaning.

Wilford Woodruff: “I went up to the House of the Lord and heard the Prophet Joseph address the people for several hours. He had been absent from Kirtland on business for the Church. Though he had not been away half as long as Moses was in the Mount, yet many were stirred up in their hearts, and some were against him as the Israelites were against Moses; but when he arose in the power of God in the midst of them, they were put to silence, for the murmurers saw that he stood in the power of a Prophet of the Lord God.”24

Emmeline B. Wells: “The power of God rested upon him to such a degree that on many occasions he seemed transfigured. His expression was mild and almost childlike in repose; and when addressing the people, who loved him it seemed to adoration, the glory of his countenance was beyond description. At other times the great power of his manner, more than of his voice (which was sublimely eloquent to me) seemed to shake the place on which we stood and penetrate the inmost soul of his hearers, and I am sure that then they would have laid down their lives to defend him.”25

Mary Ann Winters: “I stood close by the Prophet while he was preaching to the Indians in the Grove by the Temple. The Holy Spirit lighted up his countenance till it glowed like a halo around him, and his words penetrated the hearts of all who heard him and the Indians looked as solemn as Eternity.”26 This is consistent with a reported occasion on which he crossed the river from Nauvoo to speak to a large group of assembled Indians about the Book of Mormon. The Indian agent, a government appointee, offered to interpret for him, but instead he began misrepresenting the Prophet’s words to convey threats that the Mormons would arm themselves and drive the Indians from their land. In a miraculous manner, the Prophet understood what the man was saying. By this time the audience was becoming angry and restive, but despite the growing threat Joseph stepped boldly forward, pushed the agent aside, and began to speak to them in English. Almost immediately a calm came over the warriors and they soon released their hold on stones and other weapons, for they understood what the Prophet was saying as if he were speaking in their own tongue.27

Lorenzo Snow: “The Prophet Joseph Smith was not a natural orator, but his sentiments were so sublime and far-reaching that everybody was eager to hear his discourses.”28

Isabella Horne: “I heard him relate his first vision when the Father and Son appeared to him; also his receiving the gold plates from the Angel Moroni. This recital was given in compliance with a special request of a few particular friends in the home of Sister Walton, whose house was ever open to the Saints. While he was relating the circumstances the Prophet’s countenance lighted up, and so wonderful a power accompanied his words that everybody who heard them felt his influence and power, and none could doubt the truth of his narration.”29

Alfred Cordon: “In the morning of Sunday when the weather was favorable we attended meeting ground. [That was the ground area where they were building the temple.] And with what eagerness did the people assemble to hear the words of the Prophet. One lecture from his mouth well repaid me for all my troubles and journeyings to this land, which were not a few.”30

Angus M. Cannon: “He was one of the grandest samples of manhood that I ever saw walk or ride at the head of a legion of men. In listening to him as he has addressed the Saints his words have so affected me that I would rise upon my feet in the agitation that would take hold of my mind.”31

Many are the testimonies of the Prophet’s countenance becoming somehow alight or illumined on occasion. For example, we read in Lydia Knight’s History of his being in Mount Pleasant, Ontario, Canada, in 1833: “The Prophet commenced by relating the scenes of his early life. He told how the angel visited him, of his finding the plates, the translation of them, and gave a short account of the matter contained in the Book of Mormon. As the speaker continued his wonderful narrative, Lydia, who was listening and watching him intently, saw his face become white, and a shining glow seemed to beam from every feature.” She joined the Church.32

There is much more we could recount on this topic, but enough has been said to show that, whatever may have been the natural gifts of the Prophet as a speaker, those who came hungering and thirsting and listened in faith felt and responded to the Spirit of God. One example is a simple discourse which changed a man’s life: The Prophet was speaking on one verse of the Gospel of John.33 “Except a man be born again,” says the verse, “he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Then came Nicodemus’s questions. How can it be? Can a man enter the second time into his mother’s womb? The Master replied, “I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” In his discourse the Prophet drew a distinction between seeing the kingdom of God and entering the kingdom of God; as if one must have a kind of prebirth, a kind of preliminary rebirth even to recognize that the kingdom of God is, in fact, with us, among us.

The Prophet changed the word within. The King James version uses that word: “The kingdom of God is within you.”34 In the Joseph Smith Translation the phrase is rendered: “The kingdom of God has already come unto you”—that is, it is among you. (The you here is plural.) One has to have a rebirth even to see it. The scales have to fall from the eyes in a measure, by the influence of the Spirit, before a person recognizes that the Lord’s kingdom is there and that he is outside of it. Once that happens, if the seed of faith is generated, he comes to the point at which he will receive it in its first principles and ordinances. Then he enters the kingdom of God.35

As a young man, Daniel Tyler heard and recorded that discourse. He became one of the great LDS patriarchs.36

We have said something about Joseph Smith’s teaching and speaking roles. Now to the role of counselor. There is a difference between speaking, testifying, and teaching, and that setting in which soul is alone with soul. And in this again the Prophet was a master.

I have indicated that he occasionally, deliberately, knowingly, put men to a test, almost as if he could discern the spiritual growth and blessing that would ultimately result. Bishop Edwin D. Woolley was a forbear of President Spencer W. Kimball. He was a stubborn man (he himself said it)—contrary was the word they used in those days. It was said of him, “If he dies by drowning, look for the body upstream.” Edwin D. Woolley had a store in Nauvoo, and one day the Prophet said to him, “Brother Woolley, we want all your goods for the building up of the kingdom of God,” or words to that effect. Brother Woolley did as he was asked, packing his whole stock ready to be moved. Then he went to ask Joseph what he wished him to do about the goods he had received for sale on commission. Was he ready to hand all the other goods over to the Church? the Prophet asked. Brother Woolley said he was. His eyes moist, the Prophet put his hand on the other man’s shoulder and said, “The Lord bless you. Put them back on the shelves.”37

We have mentioned that Brigham Young had his tests. So did Heber C. Kimball—he was tried to the core. I believe there are those even in the Church who would say in their hearts that the test of Abraham is too much; that a loving God would not require such a thing of any man, least of all someone as faithful as Abraham. Those who have such thoughts had better think again. Modern revelation indicates at least three times that each of us who seeks eternal life must one day be tried, even as Abraham.38 I put the question once to President Hugh B. Brown, when we were in Israel: Why was Abraham commanded to go up on that mountain (traditionally Mount Moriah in Jerusalem) and offer as a sacrifice his only hope for the promised posterity? President Brown wisely replied, “Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham.”39 By being tested, all of us will one day know how much our hearts are really set on the kingdom of God.

Heber C. Kimball’s test was of that kind. A pure and humble man, at the restoration of the principle of plural marriage he was commanded—and that’s the word, not counselled—to take a second wife; and to make it worse, in that soul-wrenching setting he was told he must not yet confide this to his own companion, Vilate, whom he loved with a pure love, and with whom he had shared his spiritual life since their marriage, and particularly from the time they entered the Church. At the time of his baptism a voice had spoken to him, giving him some insight into his origins, his genealogy, and also whispering of things yet future. One thing he was told by the Spirit even then was that he and his wife would never be separated.40 Now, years later, he was being asked by a prophet to become separate in a sense—to enter plural marriage.

Filled with anxiety, Heber spent much of his nights pacing the floor. His dear Vilate begged him to tell her what was wrong, but because the Prophet had told him not to he couldn’t and wouldn’t. Finally, she in faith and desperate need went to her room and poured out her soul to God. “What is it, O Lord? How can I help my beloved?” And the Lord saw fit to give her a wonderful manifestation, for she saw and heard unspeakable things. She returned to her husband, her face aglow, and said, “Heber, what you kept from me the Lord has shown to me.” She covenanted to honor the principle with him. Heber, who had been supplicating the Father at the same time as she had, embraced her with comparable joy.

Heber passed the test. Later the Prophet, in tears, took him and his wife Vilate upstairs in his own store and blessed them personally and sealed upon them blessings that only come to those who have come up through affliction.41

As a counselor, therefore, the Prophet was not merely a sentimentalist, not one who indulged the other person or tried to pat him on the back and say, “Well, it’s all right,” glossing over the difficulties. Instead he saw his role, a difficult one, as putting his finger on the real need.

Another example was recalled by a man named Jesse Crosby, who one day accompanied a woman on a visit to the Prophet. She felt she had been maligned unjustly by gossip. Regarding such matters, Joseph would say: “The little foxes spoil the vines—little evils do the most damage in the Church.”42 He also said, “The devil flatters us that we are very righteous, when we are feeding on the faults of others.”43 He pointed out, “The Savior has the words of eternal life”—that is, if you really want to prize words, the Savior has the words of eternal life—and “nothing else can profit us.” And then in order to make the point, he added, “There is no salvation in believing an evil report against our neighbor.”44

But this sister had been troubled, and she came and asked for redress: she wanted the Prophet now to go to the person who was the source of the story and properly take care of it. He enquired of her in some detail and then counseled her in terms something like this: “Sister, when I have heard of a story about me [and he could have said there had been many], I sit down and think about it and pray about it, and I ask myself the question, ‘Did I say something or was there something about my manner to give some basis for that story to start?’ And, Sister, often if I think about it long enough I realize I have done something to give that basis. And there wells up in me a forgiveness of the person who has told that story, and a resolve that I will never do that thing again.”45

One of the great qualities of the Prophet Joseph, not always characteristic of others, is that when he was wrong he acknowledged it. The Lord rebuked him several times. Those revelations are published alongside the revelations in which he is given promises and blessings.46 Had he been less sincere, less honest—less of a prophet—he might have tried to suppress the personal, private rebukings and let the Church believe that he’d gone along pretty well without lapsings and slippings. But he didn’t. And when others found fault with him, instead of confrontation, putting all the blame on them, the spirit of his counsel to himself as to this sister was otherwise: “Look deeper, Brother, and see if maybe there is a kernel of truth in what they are saying.” That, I suggest, shows wisdom.

Parley P. Pratt records a time when he was much troubled because of a severe censure from a Church leader that he felt was unjustified. He came to the Prophet and laid it on him. One of the Prophet’s gifts was that he was a powerful listener—and although that phrase might seem like a contradiction in terms, it is not. There are listeners who are weak as water, not listening at all, not hearing, not interpreting from the center self. Joseph listened powerfully. And to Elder Pratt he now listened sympathetically. Then he blessed him, encouraged him, and added, “Walk such things under your feet.” Meaning, of course, “It’s trivial by comparison with your calling—don’t let it wear you down.” Elder Pratt recorded: “I was comforted, encouraged, filled with new life.”47

Joseph may have learned that principle from the inspiration of his retranslation of the Sermon on the Mount. There are verses there that clearly have to do with forgiving, with going the second mile—some of them specially directed to the Twelve. They were told not to appeal to law, not to exact their just due, even if in fact it was just. They were told to move on—they hadn’t the time to take offense at each little thing that happens in a day. They were to get on with the work of the ministry. There are those of us who seem to think that our calling is to draw a line and then spend our lives seeing that no one steps over it. Not so. Not a disciple of Christ.

And finally, again Brigham Young: He told the Prophet in the spring of 1844, “Joseph, you’re laying out work for 20 years.” And the Prophet replied, “You have as yet scarcely begun to work; but I will set you enough to last you during your lives, for I am going to rest.”48 Years later President Young said: “From the first time I saw the Prophet Joseph I never lost a word that came from him concerning the kingdom. . . . I was anxious to learn from Joseph and the spirit of God.” He was not ascribing this knowledge and wisdom to Joseph the man; he recognized that there was a fountain to which this man had access.

To Brigham Young, the revelations of the Prophet were to be “treasured”—he would say that they were more precious than all the wealth of the world. Now Brigham Young has been criticized as a temporally minded man, a money-minded man—even, some have said, an autocrat. Well, he had a capacity for earning and for spending, and he was a man who understood basic principles of economics. But the Prophet Joseph well knew that. He knew that when Brigham consecrated his efforts, far from that being a weakness to be blindly condemned, it would be, in the hands of the Lord, a blessing. Brigham meant what he said about treasuring Joseph’s words beyond all earthly wealth: “This is the key of knowledge that I have today, that I did hearken to the words of Joseph, and treasured them up in my heart, laid them away, asking my Father in the name of his Son Jesus to bring them to my mind when needed. I treasured up the things of God, and this is the key that I hold today.”49

Brigham Young never claimed he was a great leader independent of Joseph Smith. Some have said, “Yes, Joseph was the spiritual leader, Brigham the colonizer.” This is a distortion. Brigham went with Joseph on a march approximately the same length—Kirtland to Independence—as from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake City. Much of what he knew about how to command a body of men in the spirit of Israel he learned firsthand and in that laboratory with Joseph Smith.

In sum, then, Joseph Smith was, whatever his natural gifts, supernaturally blessed to teach, to speak, and to counsel. This was a major component in his unusual power. Josiah Quincy, later mayor of Boston, said to him, “You have too much power.” Joseph replied, according to Quincy: “In your hands or that of any other person, so much power would, no doubt, be dangerous. I am the only man in the world whom it would be safe to trust with it.” Then five words spoken as a “rich, comical aside,” Quincy says: “Remember, I am a prophet!”50

And he was.

© 1989 Truman G. Madsen. ℗ 2003 Deseret Book Company. All rights reserved.

For personal, educational use only. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means outside of your personal digital device without permission in writing from Deseret Book Company at permissions@deseretbook.com or PO Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130.


1. D&C 88:122–38.

2. D&C 88:138. To become “clean” in this sense required an ordinance. It was also interpreted to require carrying the gospel abroad (see journal of Jonathan H. Hale, p. 27). One purpose of the washing of feet, Joseph explained, was “to unite our hearts, that we may be one in feeling and sentiment” (TPJS, p. 91). In addition there are sacred instructions that “after partaking of bread and wine” the President of the Church is to gird himself and wash the feet of his brethren (D&C 88:140–41). Mother Smith recorded the following: “At this time [when] my sons were all called home [from missions] . . . Joseph took all the male portion of our family into the . . . schoolroom and administered to them the ordinance of washing of feet; after which the Spirit fell upon them, and they spake in tongues, and prophesied. . . . At that time I was on the farm a short distance from the place where the meeting was held, and my children being anxious that I should enjoy the meeting, sent a messenger in great haste for me. I went without delay, and shared with the rest, the most glorious out-pouring of the Spirit of God that had ever before taken place in the Church. We felt that we had gained a decided victory over the adversary.” (History of Joseph Smith, p. 224.)

3. “Being born again,” Joseph told the Twelve, “comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances” (TPJS, p. 162; WJS, p. 12).

4. D&C 88:122.

5. D&C 88:133.

6. “I say unto you, my friends . . .” (D&C 88:117; see also 93:51; 94:1; 100:1). Joseph referred to this designation as a privilege: in his dedicatory prayer at the Kirtland Temple he spoke gratefully of “a revelation . . . calling us thy friends” (see D&C 109:6).

7. TPJS, p. 24.

8. D&C 63:61, 64, 66.

9. TPJS, p. 69.

10. Once the Prophet was pacing back and forth in the hallway of his home. Two of his sons were imitating him, trying to take steps as long as his, and often stumbling and scuffling. The peals of laughter from the other children who were watching were accompanied by the two boys’ squeaky shoes. The Prophet was apparently unaware, or in any case unperturbed. (See reported recollection of Adeline Hatch Barber in YWJ 28 [December 1917]: 656.)

11. D&C 100:7–8.

12. D&C 84:85.

13. TPJS, p. 320. This statement was made at the funeral of Judge Higbee.

14. See WJS, p. 80; also Snow, “Sketch of My Life,” The Relief Society Magazine 31 (March 1944): 136.

15. Recounted to the author by Elder Hugh B. Brown, whose wife, Zina, was a granddaughter of Brigham Young. See New Era 6 (April 1976): 16.

16. John 15:5.

17. D&C 50:16–24.

18. Said in conversation with the author.

19. D&C 11:21.

20. See discourse of Jedediah M. Grant in JD 3:67.

21. JD 8:206.

22. TPJS, p. 162; WJS, p. 12.

23. D&C 1:24.

24. As cited in Journal History, February 19, 1837. “His deportment is calm and dignified . . . no ostentation, no affectation of address or manners” (journal of William I. Appleby, 1841).

25. YWJ 16 (December 1905): 556.

26. YWJ 16 (December 1905): 558.

27. See McGavin, Nauvoo the Beautiful, pp. 81–82.

28. YWJ 2 (September 1891): 574.

29. “Joseph Smith a True Prophet,” YWJ 31 (April 1920): 212. Elizabeth H. B. Hyde recalled a meeting in the Grove on her first Sabbath in Nauvoo. “His words thrilled my whole being, and I knew he was a prophet of God.” (Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 3 [1912]: 207.)

30. Journal of Alfred Cordon, 1841–44.

31. YWJ 17 (December 1906): 546.

32. P. 18.

33. John 3:5.

34. Luke 17:21; italics added.

35. “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God; second, except a man be born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (WJS, p. 209; italics added).

36. See recollection of Daniel Tyler in JI 27 (February 1, 1892): 93–94.

37. Autobiography of Mary Louisa Woolley Clark, p. 1; Arrington, From Quaker to Latter-day Saint: Bishop Edwin D. Woolley, pp. 86–87; Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia 1:631–32.

38. See D&C 132:51; HC 2:182; TPJS, p. 322; WJS, pp. 246, 372.

39. See the author’s “Power from Abrahamic Tests,” in The Highest in Us, p. 49.

40. “I told her also that we would never be separated” (“Last Sermon of Heber C. Kimball,” p. 123).

41. See Helen Mar Whitney (daughter of Heber C. Kimball), “Scenes and Incidents in Nauvoo,” p. 74.

42. TPJS, p. 258.

43. TPJS, p. 241.

44. TPJS, p. 364.

45. See reported recollection of Jesse W. Crosby in Cox, “Stories from Notebook,” p. 2; Andrus, They Knew, p. 144.

46. See, for example, D&C 3:1–15; 20:5; 93:47; 132:60. He was reproved for having “gone on in the persuasions of men” and for having “suffered the counsel of [his] director to be trampled upon from the beginning” (D&C 3:6, 15). In section 20 the Lord speaks of Joseph’s being “entangled again in the vanities of the world” (D&C 20:5), and then of his having repented and received commandments which “inspired him” (D&C 20:6–7). After the loss of the 116 manuscript pages, the Lord told Joseph: “Repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work” (D&C 3:10).

47. “Brother Parley, God bless you, go your way rejoicing, preach the gospel, fill the measure of your mission, and walk such things under your feet” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 118).

48. See discourse of Brigham Young in JD 5:331.

49. See discourse of Brigham Young in The Deseret News, June 6, 1877, p. 274.

50. Quincy, Figures of the Past, p. 397.

For full citations see “Author’s Note on Sources, Abbreviations, and Bibliography” in the Joseph Smith Lecture Series.


See the complete list of abbreviations here

Truman G. Madsen

Truman G. Madsen, Richard L. Evans Endowed Professor and BYU professor of philosophy, delivered eight lectures on the Prophet Joseph Smith at BYU Education Week in August 1978.