By Scot Facer Proctor - April 2, 2020                                        

I love this season of celebrating the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth.  I love the Prophet Joseph Smith and delight in bearing testimony of him whenever I can.

I have carefully studied Joseph’s life for the past 50 years. I have been to the sites of the early days of the Church.  I have followed Joseph Smith’s life in as much detail as I possibly can.  I have studied thousands of records, manuscripts, journals, primary source materials, books and accounts of Joseph. In all that I have read, in all that I have learned, in all that I have come to know—I am filled with a sure knowledge, an absolute witness by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith, Jr. is a prophet of God.  

He is the head of the dispensation of the fulness of times.  He was the instrument of the Almighty in restoring the true Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth after the long centuries of apostasy.  He saw God the Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ on the beautiful, clear spring morning in 1820 and they did in reality speak to him, calling him by name.  Through Joseph the holy priesthood with its divine authority was brought back to the earth so that the saving ordinances could be administered once more.  Through the miraculous instrumentality of Joseph Smith and the gift and power of God, the Book of Mormon was translated from ancient gold plates and is indeed another sacred testament and divine witness of Jesus Christ.  Through Joseph Smith the new and everlasting covenants of the temple were revealed and established in our day and the great work for the living and the dead was established.  I know all these things and as the publisher of Meridian Magazine I print them freely and declare boldly that they are true.

I have gathered some of the witnesses and testimonies of the living prophets in this dispensation, from Brigham Young to Russell M. Nelson.  This document would be great to study in your daily devotions during this bicentennial year. It would be great to review with your families and then share your own personal witness of Joseph Smith to your posterity.  

In a court of law, it is customary to have at least two witnesses to collaborate any account—the following 16 accounts (five of whom are eyewitnesses and contemporaries of Joseph Smith) are more than enough evidence from the finest men of our time to give testimony and powerful accounts of the divine calling and prophetic mantel of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I have documented every source with footnotes so, if you desire, you can see each account in context.  

17 Prophets Give Powerful Witnesses of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Brigham Young’s witness of Joseph’s foreordination.

“It was decreed in the counsels of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that he, Joseph Smith, should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people, and receive the fulness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. The Lord had his eyes upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father’s father, and upon their progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, from the flood to Enoch, and from Enoch to Adam. He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its fountain to the birth of that man. He was fore-ordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation.”[1]

Brigham Young says Joseph was a great teacher.

“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.”[2]

Brigham Young on Joseph’s courage and will.

“[Joseph’s] courage was like the courage of an angel, and his will was like the will of the Almighty.”[3]

John Taylor as eyewitness.

“If there is no other man under the heavens that knows that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God I do, and I bear testimony of it to God, angels and men.”[4]

John Taylor was there in Carthage as Joseph was killed.

“I was acquainted with Joseph Smith for years. I have traveled with him; I have been with him in private and in public; I have associated with him in councils of all kinds; I have listened hundreds of times to his public teachings, and his advice to his friends and associates of a more private nature. I have been at his house and seen his deportment in his family. I have seen him arraigned before the tribunals of his country, and have seen him honorably acquitted, and delivered from the pernicious breath of slander, and the machinations and falsehoods of wicked and corrupt men. I was with him living, and with him when he died, when he was murdered in Carthage jail by a ruthless mob. …

I have seen him, then, under these various circumstances, and I testify before God, angels, and men, that he was a good, honorable, virtuous man—that his doctrines were good, scriptural, and wholesome—that his precepts were such as became a man of God—that his private and public character was unimpeachable—and that he lived and died as a man of God and a gentleman. This is my testimony.”[5]

Wilford Woodruff is the first prophet to leave his voice on a recording device.

“I, Wilford Woodruff, being the last man living in the flesh who was present upon that occasion, feel it a duty I owe to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to the House of Israel, and to the whole world, to bear this my last testimony to all nations, that in the winter of 1843–4, Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God, called the Twelve Apostles together in the City of Nauvoo, and spent many days with us in giving us our endowments, and teaching us those glorious principles which God had revealed to him. And upon one occasion he stood upon his feet in our midst for nearly three hours, declaring unto us the great and last dispensation which God had set His hand to perform upon the earth in these last days. The room was filled as if with consuming fire; the Prophet was clothed upon with much of the power of God, and his face shone and was transparently clear.

“And the same Spirit that filled the room at that time burns in my bosom while I record this testimony.”[6]

Lorenzo Snow on the presence of the Spirit in Joseph.

“The Prophet had the power to impress in a remarkable manner all who approached him. There was something about him which went to their hearts. This was particularly the case with brethren when receiving from him their appointments to go forth and preach the Gospel. The inspiration that flowed from him possessed their souls and his words penetrated to the innermost recesses of their being. They loved him, and believed in him, and were ready to do whatever he directed for the furtherance of the work of God. He filled them with the power of his presence, and thrilled them with the testimony of his prophetic mission.”[7]

Lorenzo Snow’s witness and warning.

“I know that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet of the living God. I testify that he saw and spoke with God and with His Son Jesus Christ. The Lord gave me this living testimony and it has been burning within my soul ever since I received it. I now give it unto the whole world. I not only testify to all mankind that Joseph Smith was sent of God and that the work that was established through him is the work of God, but warn all the nations of the earth concerning the predictions made by the Prophet, and testify in the most solemn manner that I know them to be true.”[8]

Joseph F. Smith was Joseph Smith’s nephew.

“As a child I knew the Prophet Joseph Smith. As a child I have listened to him preach the gospel that God had committed to his charge and care. As a child I was familiar in his home, in his household, as I was familiar under my own father’s roof. I have retained the witness of the Spirit that I was imbued with, as a child, and that I received from my sainted mother, the firm belief that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God; that he was inspired as no other man in his generation, or for centuries before, had been inspired; that he had been chosen of God to lay the foundations of God’s Kingdom.”[9]

Joseph F. Smith says his uncle was raised up for this work.

“I bear my testimony to you and to the world, that Joseph Smith was raised up by the power of God to lay the foundations of this great latter-day work, to reveal the fulness of the gospel to the world in this dispensation, to restore the Priesthood of God to the world, by which men may act in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and it will be accepted of God; it will be by his authority. I bear my testimony to it; I know that it is true.”[10]

Heber J. Grant says it’s either true or it is not.

“In many places I have met people who have studied our faith. Some of them would say: “I could accept everything that you people teach were it not for this man Joseph Smith. If you would only eliminate him!”

“The day can never come when we will do that. As well might we undertake to leave out Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Either Joseph Smith did see God and did converse with Him, and God Himself did introduce Jesus Christ to the boy Joseph Smith, and Jesus Christ did tell Joseph Smith that he would be the instrument in the hands of God of establishing again upon the earth the true gospel of Jesus Christ—or Mormonism, so-called, is a myth. And Mormonism is not a myth! It is the power of God unto salvation. It is the Church of Jesus Christ, established under His direction, and all the disbelief of the world cannot change the fundamental facts connected with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”[11]

Heber J. Grant testifies that we have the true authority of the priesthood.

We announce that the identical man who baptized the Savior of the world, known as John the Baptist, came to this earth, laid his hands on the heads of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and he gave them the Aaronic, or lesser Priesthood, which has the authority to baptize. After giving them this ordination, he told them to baptize each other, and he promised them that Peter, James, and John, the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, who stood at the head of the Church after the crucifixion, should visit them later and bestow upon them the apostleship, the Melchizedek, or higher Priesthood.

“We announce to all the world that they did come and that we have received that authority, and all the disbelief of all the world cannot change the fact of those two visitations,—those two ordinations. If these things are a fact, disbelief cannot change them. And we announce that these are facts.”[12]

George Albert Smith said God knew what He was doing in calling Joseph Smith.

“Our Heavenly Father knew what was coming when in this latter day he restored the gospel in its purity. He knew of the apostasy in the world among his children, and that they had departed from the plain truth, and in his great mercy, he revealed this latter-day work. From the country he chose a boy from among the people, and inspired him to begin the work that was destined to revolutionize the religious world. He knew that the world was groping in darkness, and in mercy restored the light. There is no other way that happiness may be enjoyed by the children of men but by lives of righteousness, and people cannot live righteous lives and be out of harmony with truth. There was much truth in the world but it was so mixed with error that the Lord himself told the Prophet Joseph Smith that the men who were the teachers and instructors in the churches taught for doctrine the commandments of men, and warned the boy that he was not to be identified with them. He then restored the gospel, the power of God unto salvation, unto all those who will believe and obey it.”[13]

David O. McKay testifies of the significance of the First Vision.

“The appearing of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith is the foundation of this Church. Therein lies the secret of its strength and vitality. This is true, and I bear witness to it. That one revelation answers all the queries of science regarding God and his divine personality. Don’t you see what that means? What God is, is answered. His relation to his children is clear. His interest in humanity through authority delegated to man is apparent. The future of the work is assured. These and other glorious truths are clarified by that glorious first vision.”[14]

“The world still does not comprehend its significance; but as a contributiive factor to man’s knowledge of his relationship to Deity and of his place in the universe; as a means of establishing proper relationships between men as individuals and groups of men as nations; as a revelation pointing the way to man’s happiness and peace on earth as well as in the eternities to come, the appearing of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith and the subsequent restoration of the priesthood and the establishing of the Church of Jesus Christ in its fulness, will yet be recognized not only as the greatest event of the nineteenth century, but as one of the greatest of all ages.”[15]

Joseph Fielding Smith says Joseph Smith is the revealer of the knowledge of Christ.

“We link the names of Jesus Christ and of Joseph Smith. Christ is the Lord; he worked out the atoning sacrifice; he is the resurrection and the life; through him all men are raised in immortality, while those who believe and obey his laws shall also gain eternal life.

“Joseph Smith was a prophet, called in these last days to receive by revelation the saving truths of the gospel and to stand as a legal administrator, having power from on high, to administer the ordinances of the gospel.

“Since these truths revealed through him are the ones which shall go forth to every nation before the Second Coming, it is little wonder that we find Moroni saying to Joseph Smith that his “name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.”[16]

“Joseph Smith is the revealer of the knowledge of Christ and of salvation to the world for this day and generation.”[17]

Harold B. Lee says we must have a testimony of Joseph.

“We must know for certainty in our hearts and minds that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world. We must know that this is indeed the Church of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God on earth in these last days; and finally we must have a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.”[18]

“From the depths of my soul, I … know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the living God. I know that he lived and died to bring to this generation the means by which salvation could be gained. I know that he sits in a high place and holds the keys of this last dispensation. I know that for those who follow him and listen to his teachings and accept him as a true prophet of God and his revelations and teachings as the word of God, the gates of hell will not prevail against them. [See D&C 21:4-6] [19] 

Spencer W. Kimball witnesses that through Joseph truth and authority were restored.

“Knowing full well that before long, in the natural course of events, I must stand before the Lord and give an accounting of my words, I now add my personal and solemn testimony that God, the Eternal Father, and the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith. I testify that the Book of Mormon is a translation of an ancient record of nations who once lived in this western hemisphere, where they prospered and became mighty when they kept the commandments of God, but who were largely destroyed through terrible civil wars when they forgot God. This book bears testimony of the living reality of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of mankind.

“I testify that the holy priesthood, both Aaronic and Melchizedek, with authority to act in the name of God, was restored to the earth by John the Baptist, and Peter, James, and John; that other keys and authority were subsequently restored; and that the power and authority of those various divine bestowals are among us today. Of these things I bear solemn witness to all within the sound of my voice. I promise in the name of the Lord that all who give heed to our message, and accept and live the gospel, will grow in faith and understanding. They will have an added measure of peace in their lives and in their homes and by the power of the Holy Ghost will speak similar words of testimony and truth.”[20]

Ezra Taft Benson testifies that Joseph stands at the head of this dispensation.

“Joseph Smith was a prophet of the Living God, one of the greatest prophets that has ever lived upon the earth. He was the instrument in God’s hand in ushering in a great gospel dispensation, the greatest ever, and the last of all in preparation for the second coming of the Master.”[21]

“The first vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith is bedrock theology to the Church.”[22]

“Christian denominations the world over have prayed for centuries for the kingdom of God to come [see Matthew 6:10]. We earnestly and publicly declare: that day is now here!”[23]

“I know that Joseph Smith, although slain as a martyr to the truth, still lives and that as head of this dispensation—the greatest of all gospel dispensations—he will continue so to stand throughout the eternities to come.”[24]

Howard W. Hunter testifies of the truthfulness of Joseph’s declaration.

“The responsibility I feel for the work the Prophet Joseph inaugurated fills me with a determination to do all I can in the time and season allotted to me. Surely Joseph was faithful and true to his time and season! … I bear solemn testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith as the Lord’s anointed servant in these the latter days. To his testimony of the divinity and reality of Jesus Christ I add my own.”[25]

“Joseph Smith was not only a great man, but he was an inspired servant of the Lord, a prophet of God. His greatness consists in one thing—the truthfulness of his declaration that he saw the Father and the Son and that he responded to the reality of that divine revelation. …

“I testify … that the Father and the Son did appear to the Prophet Joseph Smith to initiate this great rolling forth of the latter-day work in our time."[26]

Gordon B. Hinckley says every claim of divine authority and truth finds root in the First Vision.

“How truly remarkable was that vision in the year 1820 when Joseph prayed in the woods and there appeared before him both the Father and the Son. One of these spoke to him, calling him by name and, pointing to the other, said, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith-History 1:17).

“Every claim that we make concerning divine authority, every truth that we offer concerning the validity of this work, all finds its root in the First Vision of the boy prophet. Without it we would not have anything much to say. This was the great curtain-raiser on the dispensation of the fulness of times, when God promised that He would restore all the power, the gifts, the blessings, of all previous dispensations.”[27]

“Standing as the 15th in line from Joseph Smith and bearing the prophetic mantle which came upon him, I solemnly declare my testimony that the Prophet Joseph’s account of [the events of the Restoration] is true, that the Father … bore witness of the divinity of His Son, that the Son instructed the boy prophet, and that there followed a train of events which led to the organization of “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” [D&C 1:30].[28]

Thomas S. Monson testifies that Joseph Smith was the instrument of restoring all things.

“The Father and the Son, Jesus Christ, had appeared to Joseph Smith. The morning of the dispensation of the fulness of times had come, dispelling the darkness of the long generations of spiritual night…He was visited by the angel Moroni. He translated, from the precious plates to which he was directed, the Book of Mormon, with its new witness of Christ to all the world. He was the instrument in the hands of the Lord through whom came mighty revelations pertaining to the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the course of his ministry he was visited by John the Baptist, Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, and John, that the Restoration of all things might be accomplished. He endured persecution; he suffered grievously, as did his followers. He trusted in God. He was true to his prophetic calling. He commenced a marvelous missionary effort to the entire world, which today brings light and truth to the souls of mankind. At length, Joseph Smith died the martyr’s death.”[29]

“I know he was God’s prophet, chosen to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days.”[30]

Russell M. Nelson bears solemn testimony that Joseph was foreordained for this great work.

“During decades prior to my call to the Twelve, I . . . have been to the place of the Prophet’s birth in Vermont and to the vicinity of his childhood, where he was operated upon without the mercy of an anesthetic. I have trod their farmland in the State of New York and have reverently entered that grove made sacred by his First Vision in 1820. I have climbed Cumorah’s Hill as well as the steps of Kirtland’s Temple inwardly rejoicing in the experiences he had there. I have wept for him at the jails of Liberty and Carthage. Now, I do know for myself that these things are true. The Lord God has manifest them unto me by the power of his Spirit. This is the witness of revelation which is in me.

“I testify not only to the reality that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that this is his church restored in these latter days, but I fervently and sincerely declare that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God foreordained from before the foundations of the earth to the mission assigned to him, for which he paid with his life.”[31]

Joseph Smith, the Prophet gives his own testimony.

“I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.”[32]

[1] Discourses of Brigham Young, Selected and Arranged by John A. Widstoe, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 1941, pp. 108.

[2] Ibid, p. 463.

[3] Ibid, p. 464.

[4] Deseret News (Weekly), 25 Mar. 1863, 306.

[5] John Taylor and G. Homer Durham, Gospel Kingdom: Selections from the Writings and Discourses of John Taylor, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 1943, p. 355; paragraphing altered.

[6] “An Epistle to the Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Millennial Star, November 14, 1887, 722.

[7] “Reminiscences of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” 1.

[8] Ibid.

[9] John A. Widstoe and Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 5th ed. (1939), 493.

[10] Ibid, pp. 168-69.

[11] Gospel Standards, p. 3.

[12] Ibid, p. 8.

[13] In Conference Report, Oct. 1916, 46–47.

[14] McKay, David O., Gospel Ideals: Selections from the Discourses of David O. McKay, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 1953, p. 85.

[15] Treasures of Life, comp. Clare Middlemiss (1962), 227.

[16] In Conference Report, October 1970, p. 6.

[17] “The First Prophet of the Last Dispensation,” Ensign, Aug. 1971, 7.

[18] The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams (1996), 371.

[19] The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 371.

[20] Kimball, Spencer W., Remarks and Dedication of the Fayette, New York Buildings, April 6, 1980, Fayette, New York.

[21] In Conference Report, Apr. 1961, 114.

[22] The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 101.

[23] Benson, Ezra Taft, “May the Kingdom of God Go Forth,” Ensign, May 1978, 34.

[24] “A Message to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, 34.

[25] “The Temple of Nauvoo,” Ensign, Sept. 1994, 63–64.

[26] “The Sixth Day of April, 1830,” Ensign, May 1991, pp. 64-65.

[27] Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 226.

[28] “Special Witnesses of Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 2001, 20–21.

[29] Monson, Thomas S., They Showed the Way, General Conference, April 1997.

[30] Monson, Thomas S., The Prophet Joseph Smith: Teacher by Example, General Conference, October 2005.

[31] “At the Heart of the Church,” in The Prophet and His Work: Essays from General Authorities on Joseph Smith and the Restoration (1996), 64–65

[32] Joseph Smith—History 1:25.


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