Last weekend I watched the movie “Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration” again. In one of my Special Ops Moms blog posts I wrote how I felt about the movie when I first saw it:
“When I sat in the theater after seeing this for the first time, I could not get up. I just sat there under the dim lights as everyone exited. Wave after wave of soul-piercing energy filled my heart. I didn’t want to let the emotion out because it was way too powerful and sacred. I just tried to contain it all inside of me. It wasn’t like I was just touched. It was more like the crashing waves of the ocean. So powerful. So true. So utterly sweet.
“Again, even in this account of Joseph Smith, I knew the depiction was not perfect. What movie or story can capture actuality? But who he really was came through to me in the interstices—in between the scenes. And the music certainly didn’t help in the way of controlling my emotions either. So much admiration! So much respect for him.
“Some people say we worship Joseph Smith. What I say is I worship Jesus Christ and if a man comes near to being like him, that worship mechanism in my heart activates. It’s telling me, ‘This is a man you can trust’ (D&C 1:38).”
When I watched the movie this weekend I was looking for the specific characteristics that made my heart do what it did. Why was I so profoundly moved by this person? Even after the 6th or 7th time seeing it, my heart was filled with the most intense admiration for a long time afterwards. I have come to recognize that when my heart feels that way, it is testifying of Christ. The characteristic I noticed the most in Joseph Smith was what I’ll call Standing Steadfast in Christ. I’m going to define that characteristic the way I see it in this blog post. It’s not a simple definition.
Synonyms and Definitions for Steadfast
Faithful • Loyal • Committed • Devoted • Constant • Tenacious
- resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering
- tending to keep a firm hold of something; clinging or adhering closely
- not readily relinquishing a position, principle, or course of action
The “in Christ” part of this characteristic is key. We can be tenaciously faithful to a Cause that is totally untrustworthy, imbalanced, Survival-of-the Fittest-like, and who will lead us in a direction that will prevent us from obtaining Sustainable Joy and Sustainable Life (false Christs and false prophets). So the adjective steadfast is not sufficient to describe this characteristic I saw in Joseph Smith. The “in Christ” part is what takes time defining. I’ll start out with some short definitions:
- resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering in studying the scriptures and applying what they teach to our lives
- tending to keep a firm hold on Christ’s doctrine; clinging to it or adhering closely to it even when persecuted or ignored because of it
- not readily relinquishing the Holy Ghost and what he is personally guiding us to do when the going gets tough
- not turning and reviling again when others abuse or neglect us
- taking the punch without punching back
“Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God.” ~3 Nephi 6:13
“And now my beloved brethren, I would exhort you to have patience, and that ye bear with all manner of afflictions; that ye do not revile against those who do cast you out because of your exceeding poverty, lest ye become sinners like unto them;” ~Alma 34:40
Criticize in an abusive or angrily insulting manner
Complain or protest strongly and persistently about
During Joseph Smith’s early life, there were so many people trying to tell him what to do as he was searching for the truth. In the movie they depict an example of these Conflicting Causes with a local preacher character. He seemed to be a family friend. He was trying to convert Joseph and his family to his religion. That’s not a bad thing. Helping our friends learn about what we believe the truth to be is good. We all want to share a good thing when we find it. And this man appeared to be genuinely concerned about Joseph’s soul. The problem was what he was trying to teach him. It was false doctrine. For example, when Joseph’s oldest brother Alvin died the preacher told him that Alvin was lost—damned because he was never baptized. Joseph didn’t know if this was true or not but it caused him a lot of additional pain during a time when he was already grieving. Even if the doctrine the preacher was trying to convey to Joseph were true, was this really the best time to be shoving it down his throat? Whether the preacher meant well or not, he caused Joseph pain. It was a punch in the gut. So what was Joseph’s response? He heard the preacher out but did not respond. That doesn’t mean he agreed with him. In fact we know he didn’t. It’s what he didn’t say or do that amazes me. The natural response when people cause us pain is to defend ourselves.
Another example is when Joseph told the preacher about his sacred vision. The preacher responded by telling him there are no such things as visions in those days. He said God does not talk to people anymore. His communication with people on the earth ended with the death of the apostles.
“Some few days after I had this vision, I happened to be in company with one of the Methodist preachers, who was very active in the before mentioned religious excitement; and, conversing with him on the subject of religion, I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them.” ~Joseph Smith—History 1:21
That’s pretty offensive. Joseph just told him that he did in fact see God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. And this man was basically telling him to his face that he was a liar or that he was screwed up. He told Joseph not to speak of it again. Another verbal punch. How did Joseph respond? We know it hurt him inside. He wasn’t impervious to offenses and the sorrow they caused, especially from people who called themselves Christians. But Joseph said nothing. He didn’t turn and revile again. He could have verbally attacked that preacher in self-defense. But he didn’t. He just walked away. Silent.
“And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace.” ~Matthew 26:62-63
“Then [Herod] questioned with [Jesus] in many words; but he answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.” ~Luke 23:8-11
They Mocked Him
Additionally, during Joseph’s early life he was often mocked by the members of his community. In the movie this was depicted in a scene where there were a bunch of men working on the Erie Canal in 1823, among which was his older brother Alvin. When Joseph showed up one man mocked him in front of everyone for his beliefs, his values, what he professed to be true. All the men (except for his brother) joined in laughing their heads off. Pretty heavy punch by a large group of people. A mob-like verbal attack. Joseph didn’t respond. You could tell it hurt him but he did not turn and revile again. Alvin took him under his arm and left with him. That’s amazing in and of itself. By doing so, Alvin joined himself to the subject being mocked, which would put him under direct fire.
The following excerpt from Joseph’s history is how he did respond.
“I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.
“It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.
“However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.
“So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.”
~Joseph Smith—History 1:22-25
Now that is the epitome of Standing Steadfast in Christ! He did not turn and revile again but he also continued to hold on to his deep convictions. The abuse and the negligence did not cause him to change his position or to keep it hidden. He held steadfast and took the punches without punching back, while maintaining his course of action. So incredibly like Jesus!!!
“Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?” ~John 18:20-23
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” John 1:12
It’s never going to be popular to Stand Steadfast in Christ…until he comes again. Why? Because standing for him should test our faith. It should prove it. So whatever our individual circumstances, we will be tried. Expect it. Don’t think something is wrong with you just because your getting persecuted for following the guidance you’re receiving from Him personally. Do the best you can to determine that it is His voice you’re hearing and then move forward knowing the punches are going to come from somewhere.
“For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words—they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels.” ~1 Nephi 19:7
This account in Joseph Smith’s history in combination with his whole life of repeated refusal to to return reviling and railing stand as retribution in and of themselves. They were a solid testimony against all those who persecuted him or treated him like he and his message were worthless. In the end Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, and all those who Stand Steadfast in Christ in the face of adversity receive the heavenly glory. The other guys get none of it. That’s a pretty heavy consequence.
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” ~Matthew 5:10-12
“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.” ~John 12:48-50
Saying Nothing vs. Objectively Answering
Standing Steadfast in Christ is not just about saying nothing in response to a verbal punch. There are many example’s in Christ’s life in which he did respond to contentious, persecuting, accusing people. But he kept his response objective. It wasn’t about vengeful self-defense. It was about teaching them and all of us who are watching him. It wasn’t full of uncontrolled emotions that would compromise his ability to respond in balance. And so we learn from Him: Sometimes it’s best to not say anything at all because the person throwing punches is completely unreasonable or because we do not presently have control over our emotions. But if there are some in our audience that may be receptive and we can keep our response balanced and objective then we are also Standing Steadfast in Christ. Often times, as in Joseph Smith’s case, we are able to write a true account of the event in our own history (journal) when our emotions are settled down. If we can hold our tongue even though we are emotionally compromised internally in very difficult situations, we can later report the truth, admitting our imperfections and describing the punches objectively.
“You know, you know, you know, you know we had it right
We don’t gotta say anything
Don’t gotta say anything
Don’t say a word at all
Don’t say a word at all
We don’t gotta say anything
Don’t gotta say anything
Don’t say a word at all
Don’t say a word at all”
~”San Francisco” 5 Seconds of Summer
I’ve heard my kids play the above song. I didn’t really know what it was about but these lyrics at the end synced well with my soul especially with the topic in this blog post. They seem to carry a completely separate message than the rest of the song. They form a song in and of themselves. The rest is a little sketchy for the sacred message I’m trying to communicate in this blog post so if you find it on the web, forward it to 2.35. They removed the video I originally found and I can’t find another one. But awesome musical talent.
In the next blog post I’ll talk about the opposite of this strength. It’s a weakness that I’m naming: Turning and Reviling Again. I’ll do this in order to really drive home the value of Standing Steadfast in Christ.