Sunday, 15 February 2015

Sermon: Our Church Heritage

Joseph Smith junior’s first known autobiographical sketch states the idea that his birth,  was "of goodly parents, who spared no time to instruct me in the Christian religion." The year before his martyrdom, Joseph Smith spiritedly defended religious liberty for "any other denomination" and then became personal: "…love of liberty… was diffused into my soul by my grandfathers while they dandled me on their knees."  The Prophet’s paternal great-grandfather, Samuel Smith, gave considerable public service to his town and state legislature. He was characterized in his obituary as "a sincere friend  of his country, and a strenuous advocate for the doctrine of Christianity." His son Asael promoted this patriotic tradition as a soldier in the American Revolution, though then a father with five children aged eight and under. An enterprising farmer, Grandfather Asael Smith was prominent for years in several communities of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The Prophet’s memory of his grandfather is easily provable in its continuity, for Asael looked forward to the spread of liberty from the United States to the world. Political views merge with religious ones, since Asael believed literally that the second chapter of Daniel would be fulfilled as all the monarchical and ecclesiastical tyranny will be broken to pieces. It is no wonder then that on hearing of the Book of Mormon prior to his death in 1830, he said it was true, for he knew that something would turn up in his family  that would revolutionise the world. He never joined any permanent congregation although he did worship. In 1797 he joined the Universalist society in Tunbridge along side Jesse Smith and Joseph Smith senior.
 
In 1803 Asael wrote "We believe there is one God, whose nature is love, revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of Grace, who will finally restore the whole family of mankind." Six years before the birth of the prophet Asael wrote to his wife and children starting with the phrase "My Dear Self's." The priceless original of this document (now housed in the LDS Church Historian’s Office) reveals the profound Christian piety of Asael. Asael wrote to his family "Do all to God in a serious manner—when you think of Him, speak of Him, pray to Him, or in any way make your addresses to His great Majesty be in good earnest. Trifle not with His name nor with His attributes, nor call Him to witness to anything but is absolute truth." True religion for him consisted not of empty ceremonies, but of personal goodness, it should be tested by the "two witnesses" of "the scriptures" and "sound reason.” Such a heritage of commitment does not die easily. Grandfather Asael spoke to the parents in his family one of whom was Joseph Smith Sr.
 
Once the known convictions of Asael Smith, Solomon Mack, and their wives are identified, they become significant in understanding Joseph Smith in two ways. First, the Prophet’s parents obviously possessed characteristics formed in the Smith and Mack homes. Second, the Prophet had some direct contact with his grandfathers, who (as he said) taught him to value the freedom that they had fought for. Most significantly, however, their achievements and ideals were clearly respected and taught to the young Joseph Smith by his own parents. Smith commented on accompanying them at the beginning of their westward trek. The parting scene was the grandmother’s "last admonition" to Lucy Mack Smith "to continue faithful in the service of God to the end of your days, that I may have the pleasure of embracing you in another and fairer world above."  No informed biographer can deny the sustained exposure of the young Prophet to profound ideals and rational religious commitment. The intelligent sincerity of Joseph Smith’s grandparents goes a long way toward proving his own. In doing so we have been left with a lasting heritage, a heritage that shone forth from our founding prophet and leader and had come don to us today in all his character and his teachings. Our church heritage is therefore linked with the smith family and is an intrinsic part of who we are as a people. I for one value our church heritage and what it stands for and i bare testimony of it here in this sermon. My brothers and sisters I encourage each and everyone of you to gain a firm grasp on the history of our great church and the heritage that it has left us, for without it we stand naked and exposed to the world, but with it we are enwrapped in the joy and commitment that has been handed us by God. Let us remember that we to will leave a lasting heritage to those that come after us, and let it be a good one, let it be one that rings true and sincere just as brother Joseph's rang true for us. Amen.
 
Apostle Elder Philip A. Gill

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