~Answer by Michelle**
To some, it may seem impossible to believe — a 14-year-old boy sees God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, who calls him to the work of restoring the Savior’s ancient church. An angel appears to the 17-year-old Joseph and shows him gold plates, which plates Joseph receives four years later, and then translates from a lost language into English in a matter of months.
The resulting book (The Book of Mormon), first published in 1830, contains the writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent, spanning over 1,000 years of time. A pinnacle part of the book captures the visit of the resurrected Savior not long after His death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.
We believe Joseph Smith was a prophet like those in the Bible: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and many others. We believe He was given priesthood power directly from those who held the keys of this priesthood in the Savior’s day (from John the Baptist and from Peter, James, and John). We believe in additional scriptures and continuing revelation, and in a living prophet today.
All of our beliefs really hinge on whether Joseph Smith was a prophet.
So, how can one really come to know if this is really truth?
Many will attempt to “prove” through facts that Joseph Smith wasn’t really a prophet, and that his claims of visions and revelations are silly fabrications of an uneducated mind.
On the flip side, I or many others could try to convince you, using logic of some sort, that we know that Joseph was a prophet.
But the answer to the question does not ultimately lie in logic alone — although the story *is* logical if one believes in the God of the Bible who once spoke to man, in angelic messengers who ministered to people, in miracles that go beyond mortal ability or understanding. The truths of the gospel can delight the brightest of minds, even while being simple enough for a child to grasp.
Ultimately, the way to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet is to find out from the Source of truth, even God Himself.
One of the things I love about our faith is that we invite everyone to study what we believe and then ask God if the things The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes are true.
But a “testimony” of Joseph Smith’s divine calling can come in different ways to different people. I think of my father, who grew up in the Church but who didn’t really “know” like he wanted to until he became a missionary and plead for a specific and clear answer. He wanted to be able to go out as a missionary and have his own distinct witness. He received it, and he likely could tell you the day (and maybe even time) he got that answer.
Many others could probably share similar stories — they prayed and got an answer on such-and-such a day. I’ve seen this happen to one of my children — he can still remember a distinct experience. His six-year-old vocabulary described the moment (we were watching a video at home about Joseph Smith) like being wrapped in thousands of blankets. (He had a specific number — it was in the 6,000s. At age 11, he still remembers that moment.)
I, on the other hand, had my testimony of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling unfold over time. For years, my testimony in his role in the restoration of the Savior’s gospel and organization of the latter-day church of Jesus Christ was tied inextricably to my testimony of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is a tangible result of Joseph Smith’s work, and because I had come to know the Book of Mormon was of God, I knew then that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
I encourage anyone wondering about Joseph Smith to make the Book of Mormon a central part of their quest to know. Not only is it a key to knowing if what we claim is true, it’s also full of powerful teachings about the Savior and about God’s plan for His children.
I will add that I gained a more specific confirmation of the reality of Joseph Smith’s calling as I looked into people’s eyes day after day as a missionary and taught them about what happened to him, about that first experience where God and Jesus Christ visited him. It didn’t matter whether someone wanted to hear more or not — I consistently felt God’s Spirit testify to me that what I was teaching was true and real. It was thrilling to me to complete my mission knowing more than ever before that Joseph Smith was a prophet.
To those of you who are LDS and reading this, please consider sharing below how it is that you have come to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
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**Please note: The answers in “Ask a Mormon Woman” reflect the thoughts, perspectives, and experiences of individuals. Although here at Mormon Women, we strive to have our content consistent with the Church’s doctrine and teachings, we do not speak officially for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For official information about or from the Church, please visit www.mormon.org or www.lds.org.
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