Thursday, January 12, 2012

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith

When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints first started using compilations of the teachings of past presidents of the Church as the manuals for adult priesthood and Relief Society lessons, they decided to use the teachings of Brigham Young.  I was on my mission at the time, so I experienced this series for the first time in Russian.  (The series has not been translated into all languages; for example, this year is the first year the manual has been printed in Czech.)  It should go without saying that I liked it.  You can't go wrong with reading the words of a prophet.  The editors, obviously, stuck with teachings and counsel that applies to fundamental principles and the basic aspects of our testimonies, but I would argue that fact is the very reason these books are so great.  The one question that always went unanswered for me, though, was when was the Church going to use Joseph Smith's teachings as our course of study?

Book cover.In 2008, my question was answered, and the Church published Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith for use in priesthood and Relief Society meetings throughout 2008 and 2009.  Following the standard format, the book contains some historical information on Joseph Smith and then two years' worth of lessons (47 chapters in this case).  Each one is about one or another aspect of the gospel.  For the most part, the content of the chapters is taken directly from Joseph Smith's writings or sermons.  As a result of the nature of the time he lived in, a healthy amount of the material from his sermons is according to a scribe or someone who heard the message first-hand and then wrote it on their own.  All of the content has been carefully checked and corroborated by Church historians and editors before being approved by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  There is no room for doubt that one is reading the words of the prophet that opened this dispensation.  The words, or the things we are all supposed to learn and come to know as true, explain just why this period of time on Earth, with the fully restored true church, is so special.  From the Book of Mormon to the nature of God and from true priesthood authority to faith and from the organization of the Church to the reality of a living prophet, Joseph Smith laid out the teachings of God as he worked to restore the fullness of the gospel, and now we can read about it.

It's kind of embarrassing to write about this book now, but I only put up these comments once I finish a book, and even though we started using this book long ago and even finished using it in church long ago, I was always behind in my reading (it was this lack of reading from this manual that made me set a goal to read the most recent manual much more faithfully and diligently).  Still, what makes the book so good (as with all the books in this series) is that it doesn't matter when you read it, you will still learn.  I like how each concept gets a few pages of focused attention in a format that anyone can understand.  With each paragraph, I found myself impressed with one idea or another and always finished the chapter thinking I had learned something new, had an old concept reinforced, or knew what I needed to do to be a better person.  In D&C 88:118, God counsels His children, "[Y]ea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith."  There is no question that this book qualifies, and with prayerful study, your faith and testimony are guaranteed to grow.

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1 comment:

Eric said...

This Sunday we were asked to read chapters 1 and 24. You'll be proud to note that I read both chapters *ahead of time, as well as the historical overview of George Albert Smith's life.