Christ-like Character Traits
One of the Most Intelligent Men
My first impression of the Prophet was that he was a meek, humble, sociable and very affable man, as a citizen, and one of the most intelligent of men, and a great prophet. My subsequent acquaintance with him more than confirmed my most favorable impressions in every particular. He was a great statesman, philosopher and philanthropist, logician, and last, but not least, the greatest prophet, seer and revelator that ever lived, save Jesus Christ only. 1
Teaching in Plainness & Simplicity
When I saw Joseph Smith, he took heaven, figuratively speaking, and brought it down to earth; and he took the earth, brought it up, and opened up, in plainness and simplicity, the things of God. The excellency of the glory of the character of Brother Joseph Smith was that he could reduce heavenly things to the understanding of the finite. When he preached to the people—revealed the things of God, the will of God, the plan of salvation, the purposes of Jehovah, the relation in which we stand to Him and all the heavenly beings—he reduced his teachings to the capacity of every man, woman, and child, making them as plain as a well-defined pathway. This should have convinced every person that ever heard of him of his divine authority and power, for no other man was able to teach as he could, and no person can reveal the things of God, but by the revelations of Jesus Christ.
When you hear a man pour out eternal things, how well you feel! to what a nearness you seem to be brought with God! What a delight it was to hear Brother Joseph talk upon the great principles of eternity. 2
The Prophet Joseph Smith was a great reconciler of discrepancies in passages of scripture which were or seemed to be in conflict with each other. Until I heard the great expounder of Bible doctrines explain the following passages I concluded there must be a wrong translation in one verse or the other. One werse read: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”—Matthew iii, 11.
Here we have baptism with water, baptism with the Holy Ghost, and baptism with fire, three in number. The question naturally arises, how can this passage be reconciled with the following: “There is one . . . Lord, one faith, one baptism.”—Ephesians iv., 4-6.
Joseph Smith reconciled these two scriptural passages. He said: “There is but one baptism; it takes the baptism of water, of the Holy Ghost, and of fire to constitute one full baptism.” 3
Knowledge of the Bible
One day in October, 1833, a wagon load of people stopped at the door of Freeman Nickerson’s home. They had with them two strange men—Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. Although so remote from the States, rumors of a new prophet and a “golden bible” had reached Mount Pleasant, Brunt County, Ontario, Canada, and had been wondered over and commented upon.
Freeman had been told that his parents had joined the new church, and he was rather disgusted with the news. His father was indeed full of the gospel he had embraced, and was so anxious for the eternal welfare of his sons in Canada that he had hitched up his carriage, gone on a visit to Kirtland, Ohio, and prevailed upon the Prophet Joseph Smith and Elder Sidney Rigdon to accompany him on a visit to his sons, Moses and Freeman, in Mount Pleasant.
“Well, Father,” said Freeman, when told who the two strangers were, “I will welcome them for your sake. But I would just about as soon you had brought a nest of vipers and turned them loose upon us.”
Moses and Freeman were wealthy merchants and men of influence in Mount Pleasant. On the evening of the arrival, after the bustle of welcome and a warm supper were over, everyone was too tired to talk, so all retired to rest.
Next morning many were the curious glances that I cast at this strange man who dared to call himself a prophet. I saw a tall, well-built form, with the carriage of an Apollo; brown hair, handsome blue eyes, which seemed to dive down to the innermost thoughts with their sharp, penetrating gaze; a striking countenance, and with manners at once majestic yet gentle, dignified yet exceedingly pleasant.
Elder Rigdon was a middle-aged man of medium height, stout and quite good-looking, but without the noble grandeur that was so distinguishing a mark of the Prophet.
The Elders were very wise. They said nothing about their views or doctrines, but waited patiently until some one should express an interest.
As evening drew near, Mr. Nickerson became anxious to hear something of the newcomer’s faith.
“Oh,” said he to his wife, “just let him talk; I’ll silence him, if he undertakes to talk about the Bible. I guess I know as much about the scriptures as he does.”
As soon as supper was over, he invited his visitors and family to go upstairs to the parlor, where he said they would have some talk. “Now Mr. Smith,” he said, “I wish you and Mr. Rigdon to speak freely. Say what you wish and tell us what you believe. We will listen.”
Turning to his wife, he whispered, “Now you’l see how I shall shut him up.”
The Prophet commenced by relating the scenes of his early life. He told how the angel visited him, of his finding the plates and the translation of them, and gave a short account of the matter contained in the Book of Mormon.
As the speaker continued his wonderful narrative, I was listening and watching him intently. I saw his face become white and a shining glow seemed to beam from every feature.
As his story progressed, he would often allude to passages of scripture. Then Mr. Nickerson would speak up and endeavor to confound him. But the attempt was soon acknowledged even by himself to be futile.
The Prophet bore a faithful testimony that the priesthood was again restored to the earth, and that God and His Son had conferred upon him the keys of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. He stated that the last dispensation had come, and the words of Jesus were now in force: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Elder Rigdon spoke after the Prophet ceased. He related some of his early experiences, and told those present that he had received a testimony for himself of the truth of what Joseph had said. “God,” said Elder Rigdon, “is no respecter of persons, but will give to all that ask of Him a knowledge of the things Joseph Smith has declared unto you, whether they are true or false, of God or of man.”
After both men were through speaking, many questions were asked by all present, for information. The listeners were honest-hearted people, and when truth is told to such they are constrained to accept and believe.
“And is this, then,” said Mr. Nickerson, “the curious religion the newspapers tell so much about? Why, if what you have said is not good sound sense, then I don’t know what sense is.”
A feeling of agreeable disappointment was felt by Mr. Nickerson and family, that these strange men were so different from the various representations of them.
Next day, notice was sent out that there would be public preaching in the Nickerson Brothers’ new store-house. A large and attentive audience was present. Elder Sidney Rigdon spoke to the people with great clarity on the first principles of the gospel, and closed with a strong testimony to the truth of so-called “Mormonism.”
The Prophet then arose and poured forth a golden stream of words, many of which were verily pearls without price, setting forth the restoration of the gospel and the great work that had commenced on the earth. With power he exhorted everyone who was present to seek for the truth of his and his companion’s words from the source of all light, all truth, and all religion, and a knowledge of the truth of the same should surely follow.
Great was the excitement among the peaceful dwellers in Mount Pleasant. 4
Meetings in Nauvoo were held in a Jack Oak Grove, in the open air, and here I listened to the words of inspiration as they fell from the lips of the Prophet. Who could listen to these words of inspiration and honestly say Joseph Smith is an impostor? No one, not even his bitter enemies. I have listened to the Prophet Joseph in public, and in private, in sunshine and shower—as many others have done; and I do know that no man could explain the scriptures—throw them wide open to view, so plain that none could misunderstand their meaning—except he had been taught of God.
I have felt ashamed myself sometimes, having studied the scriptures so much [before joining the Church, he memorized the New Testament], that I had not seen that which was so plain when he touched them. He, as it were, turned the key, and the door of knowledge sprang wide open, disclosing precious principles, both new and old. I have many times been pondering upon a subject, and seemed to come to a standstill, not knowing how to gain further information relating to it, when upon going to meeting on the Sabbath, the key would be touched by Joseph and the subject would be so plain I wondered why I had not seen it before.5
- Daniel Tyler, The Juvenile Instructor, XXVII (February 1, 1892), pp. 93-95; (February 15, 1892), pp. 127-128; (August 15, 1892), pp. 491-492; XXVIII (May 15, 1893), p. 332; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 48.
- Brigham Young, Millennial Star, XXI (July 11, 1863), p. 439; Journal of Discourses, III, p. 51; IV, p. 54; V, p. 332; VIII, p. 206; IX, pp. 89, 332; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 34.
- Daniel Tyler, The Juvenile Instructor, XXVII (February 1, 1892), pp. 93-95; (February 15, 1892), pp. 127-128; (August 15, 1892), pp. 491-492; XXVIII (May 15, 1893), p. 332; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 49.
- Lydia Bailey Knight, “Lydia Knight’s History,” pp. 14-23, in Journal History, October 19, 1833, Church Historian’s Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 41.
- Journal of Wandle Mace, Brigham Young University Library