How do we react when we are called by God to assist Him in his work? Do we focus on our weaknesses and worry that we will not do well enough? Do we place too much confidence in our own abilities and fail to rely sufficiently on Him? Are we impatient to get started and discouraged when things move more slowly than we would like?
Three and a half years after Joseph Smith received the First Vision, Moroni, the last author of the Book of Mormon, appeared to him as an angel and explained that Joseph had been chosen to translate an ancient record, engraved on metal plates. Moroni showed Joseph in vision where he could find the plates, buried in the ground in a hill near his home. He also quoted many Biblical passages, telling Joseph that all of these prophecies were about to be fulfilled (Joseph Smith—History 1:27-49).
Joseph went to the hill the next morning and found the plates buried in a stone box, but Moroni told him that he wasn’t allowed to retrieve them yet. Instead, he was to return to that place every year on that day—September 22—until it was time for him to obtain the plates and begin the work of translation (Joseph Smith—History 1:50-54).
Four years later, he obtained the plates and got to work. His friend Martin Harris took some characters which Joseph had copied from the plates to a professor in New York City, who certified that the characters were genuine and that the translation was accurate. However, this professor was unwilling to be associated with a translation process involving angels, and he withdrew his endorsement after learning more about the provenance of the document he had reviewed (Joseph Smith—History 1:63-65). Isaiah had prophesied that a book would be rejected by the learned and read by the unlearned. The person chosen to read the book would protest that he was not qualified, to which God would respond, “The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do mine own work.” (See 2 Nephi 27:15-23, Isaiah 29:11-12.)
So, when we are called to participate in God’s work, here are some lessons we can learn from Joseph Smith’s experience:
- Don’t let your weaknesses discourage you. God can help you overcome your shortcomings: “Which Easily Doth Beset You” – Alma 7:15.
- We can trust that God will give us the help we need to accomplish the things He asks of us: What Is the Urim and Thummim?
- Joseph Smith had to wait a long time to obtain the plates. Our enthusiasm to serve God needs to be tempered by patience: Until the Time Should Come.
- God knows what He’s doing when He asks for our help. He will magnify our efforts: “I Am Able to Do Mine Own Work” – 2 Nephi 27:20-21.
Here are some additional principles I’ve learned from some of the Biblical passages Moroni quoted to Joseph:
- Even as we recognize that difficult days are ahead, we can be confident in the knowledge that God will be with the righteous: What Is the Day of Burning Spoken of by Malachi?
- The sealing power allows marriages to be bound together beyond the grave and allows parents and children to be permanently linked together: How Did Elijah Turn the Hearts of Fathers and Children Toward Each Other?
- Jesus Christ is our intermediary with the Father: Who Is the “Prophet” that Moses Promised Would Come?