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At one time or another, each of us has received a call from our Heavenly Father. Perhaps this was in the form of a formal calling at church. Perhaps this was some kind of action we felt prompted to do. Perhaps it was a call to minister to somebody. The kind of responsibility I’m talking about can be any number of things. We all have unique responsibilities on earth, and we all promised to accomplish certain things while we were here on the earth. Some of us have children under our stewardship. Some of us have friends or siblings or parents or students that lean on us. My point is, we all have some kind of responsibility that the Lord is asking of us.
Joseph Smith likewise had a call given to him. He had been called to restore the Christ’s church upon the earth. This is a work that continues on today through our current prophet, but Joseph was given certain responsibilities to get it started.
Last week we read about his First Vision, in which he was given his first glimpses into what his life would become. This week, we read about more of the calling he was given. There are stories that Joseph told regarding his life, and these stories can become parables. There are principles in these verses that teach us about Jesus Christ and His dealings with those He has called. Let’s cover a few of them.
In the very beginning of this week’s verses, Joseph speaks of some of the persecution he received at a young age. He explains that there were many who persecuted him who should have been his friends. Because of this and his own weakness, he often found himself in foolish errors and guilty of character that was less than becoming for someone who had been called of the Lord. He emphasizes that he wasn’t guilty of anything really horrible; he just had some weaknesses.
This bothers some people. It’s hard to imagine a man receiving a vision and then going off and treating it lightly. I actually love this about Joseph Smith, not because I celebrate his weakness to feel better about my own but because it shows me what truly matters to the Lord.
Joseph Smith History 1:29 In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when, on the evening of the above-mentioned twenty-first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one.
Let’s break that down a little. Pay attention to see if you relate to any of these things. Joseph felt condemned for his weakness. He prayed for forgiveness. He prayed for a manifestation for the Lord to show him his standing. He had confidence that he would obtain a divine manifestation.
Years and years ago, I found myself plagued by an inconvenient weakness of mine. I was doing everything I could to overcome it. I prayed for help all the time. I left notes everywhere to remind myself. I read my scriptures everyday, trying to find strength beyond my own. And yet, I still often found myself falling prey to this inconvenient weakness.
I found myself driving one morning and thinking once again about some of my mistakes. As I thought, yet again, about some of my very recent mistakes, I was surprised to find that I could feel the Spirit. I felt very warm and calm and loved instead of my usual despair. It really did come as a surprise, but it was also unmistakable. I knew that the Spirit was speaking to me. In feelings rather than words, I came to know that my Heavenly Father was aware of my struggles and weaknesses and loved me. He knew I was trying to repent and be better than I was, and that’s what mattered most to Him.
All of us are unworthy of the callings and responsibilities we’ve received. Joseph, me, you. None of us could complete them on our own. The real key in being prepared to meet our Heavenly Father as well as accomplishing our promised tasks is sincere acknowledgement of our mistakes and sincere desire to overcome our weaknesses. Nothing less than sincerity, humility, and pleading will do.
Not influenced by any other motive
Joseph had to have his eye single to the glory of God.
Joseph Smith History 1:46 By this time, so deep were the impressions made on my mind, that sleep had fled from my eyes, and I lay overwhelmed in astonishment at what I had both seen and heard. But what was my surprise when again I beheld the same messenger at my bedside, and heard him rehearse or repeat over again to me the same things as before; and added a caution to me, telling me that Satan would try to tempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father’s family), to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich. This he forbade me, saying that I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them.
Joseph couldn’t be influenced by any other motive than building the kingdom. I love the word choice there. When we are placed in circumstances where the Lord can use us to build the kingdom, Satan will always try to tempt us. The thoughts can be placed within our minds, and it is our responsibility to banish them.
Not many of us will have gold plates placed into our hands. Not many of us will be offered money or worldly possessions for the gospel. However, the temptation to turn our eyes away from building the kingdom looks like a great many things. We must resist the temptation to want the glory of a calling. We must resist the desire to place ourselves at the center of things. We also have to resist the temptation to hide our gifts and try to blend in with the wall. Trying to fly under the radar to avoid callings is another way that we can be focusing on ourselves rather than building the kingdom. We have to resist any motive that tears our focus away from God’s ultimate vision.
And what does “resisting” look like? I think sometimes we believe that resisting means trying to hide from the very thought itself. However, in my own life, I’ve found this to be counterproductive. The more I try to pretend the thoughts aren’t there, the louder they become. Instead, when I choose to acknowledge my weakness and tendency for pride, I am able to ask God for help. This is a much more effective way to overcome the natural man and find ourselves acting like the Savior spontaneously rather than with great effort.
Given strength to complete
Joseph’s interviews with Moroni took up the entire night. Even beyond just being tired from lack of sleep, spiritual experiences can leave us feeling drained. The next morning, Joseph found himself unable to help his father. When he was sent home, he collapsed while trying to climb over a fence. The angel Moroni appeared once again, related the same message, and then commanded Joseph to go and tell his father.
Joseph found the strength to obey.
I don’t know if you’ve ever spent a sleepless night over a calling or responsibility from the Lord. Unofficial callings (but legitimate just the same) can leave you with enough love for someone that you lose sleep over worrying about them or trying to help them. I think of parents praying for teenagers, or people helping a friend make it through a night of grief. Even without having a sleepless night, trying to be constantly in tune with the Spirit can leave our physical bodies feeling weak.
Joseph collapsed and was unconscious for a while. And yet, when the command came, he found the strength to make it back over the fence to his father and then hike up a hill to move a huge stone with a lever. He was strengthened.
We will likewise be strengthened. When you are emotionally, physically, or spiritually exhausted, the Lord can give you what you need to fulfill your responsibilities if we can simply remember to ask for it.
Protected if he gave his all
This is one of my favorite principles.
Joseph Smith History 1:59 At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. On the twenty-second day of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge: that I should be responsible for them; that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off; but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he, the messenger, should call for them, they should be protected.
They should be protected. Who was really protecting the plates? I can tell you right now that it wasn’t Joseph.
This is the same for all of our callings. The Lord expects our heart and soul in our responsibilities, but He is the one who does the real work. This is awesome to me. It’s awesome because it means that I get to grow, but that I can also have faith. When I find myself overwhelmed with a responsibility, I simply do all I can and it works out. The Lord pushes for us to grow by asking us to strive, but He is the one who does the work.
This is even true for the principle of repentance. We work hard to repent, but it is ultimately the Savior who actually did the work for it. Our portion of hard work went towards our own personal growth.
There are so many principles in these verses that can help us know how to go about our callings. The Lord spent long stretches of time not directly communicating with Joseph. The Lord sent repeated messages to Joseph with slight variations. He sent tender mercies like Emma Hale and Martin Harris. Joseph still faced trials and lost his brother. Signs follow those who believe though signs do not actually serve our faith. It would be far too long a post if I tried to cover it all so I suppose that I encourage you to read it for your own and find your own principles that will help you in your own responsibilities.