I know that some of you think that I am critical, even negative, towards the church because you might not like when I identify the mistakes that have been made, by the church, in the past. It is not my nature to be critical or negative. Mistakes have value, especially if they are properly identified as mistakes, repentance is applied, and corrective measures are taken. In this way, mistakes have greater power to progress an individual, than living a life in fear of making mistakes and refusing risks. Joseph Smith was this kind of person.
When it comes to the Lord’s work, Christ choses to work with the weak and the poor, who will humble themselves before the Lord and have faith in Him. Then Christ does the heavy lifting, making weak things become strong (Ether 12:27). The weakness that we are given is given for us to learn from our mistakes and progress through it. It is because of our mistakes that we must humble ourselves, have faith in Christ, and increase our knowledge by receiving further light and truth. For this reason, fear can be removed by degrees, as light replaces the darkness. Joseph Smith Jr. was a perfect example of this process.
Joseph Smith made three big mistakes. But, the light and knowledge that came from correcting it was far more valuable, than if Joseph never messed up. Let me identify the three mistakes, and then I’ll show you what Joseph left behind for us to avoid the same mistakes. Then, we can make “new” mistakes, and get further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord through the veil, as Joseph Smith exemplified:
- Problem #1: Micro-management- Although he instructed the saints to obtain their own revelation, Joseph would get revelations for them, and tell them what to do. Hence, they were darkened in their minds, and could not think for themselves, depending on the prophet as a crutch. While authority in the priesthood has filled the church, power in the priesthood is missing (Packer). Fix #1: Joseph wrote “The Lectures on Faith” so that the saints would not be darkened in their minds, and depend on the prophet. Instead, they would have a personal relationship with God, and all men would be prophets, as Moses wished.
- Problem #2: Franchising the Church- In his efforts to establish Zion, Joseph took the approach of a business franchise. He was influenced to do so by pastors who had joined him, who’s philosophies depended upon mingling scripture with the philosophies of the men. The more the saints blended with the world, they abandoned the ways of God in exchange. The franchise has grown into a multi-billion dollar corporation, unable to knit together the hearts and minds of the saints, and early-on, their efforts towards Zion failed. And Zion is more unfamiliar today than ever. Fix #2: Joseph gave the saints The Pearl of Great Price and The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible addresses, in good detail, two characters, who established Zion among their people. They were Enoch and Melchizedek.
- Problem #3: Not waiting upon the Lord- Joseph was young and immature, acting too quickly when he ought have waited upon the Lord to do the heavy lifting, in preparing the hearts and minds of the saints. Joseph gave the saints more than they were able to bare. The saints were given enough rope to hang themselves. They gathered mobs, persecuted, and killed Joseph Smith. Fix #3: Joseph’s experience in Liberty Jail was the result of disgruntled saints. The letters that Joseph wrote from liberty jail is instruction to all on how to wait upon the Lord.
We don’t need to make the same mistakes that the early saints made. It is of utmost importance that we study the words of Christ that Joseph Smith gave us, to avoid the same mistakes. By doing so, we can be the people who lay hold upon Power in the Priesthood, who build Zion, and who are able to wait upon the Lord.
Conclusion: It is our duty to self-select for this work. Even though the time is very late, all the Lord’s servants are paid the same. They receive eternal life. The self-selecting process is to be “the chosen,” …and not just “the many” who were called. The words of Christ are doing the calling. Those who seek to know, and can acquire the mind and will of God through His words, are being prepared by God to be chosen. Humbling ourselves before the Lord and having Faith in Him is directly tied to your knowledge of the scriptures. Then, and only then, can the Lord make weak things strong. Mistakes have value, if we repent and align with Christ.