Sunday, 12 January 2014

A Prophet's Life

This past week in preparation for the Relief Society lessons this year, I decided to read the first part of the Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, which is a kind of summary of his life! I was truly amazed and touched by so much of it, but a couple of things really stuck out to me and this really seemed like a good place to share my discoveries!
For those new to this blog and therefore new to me, I am a Mormon :) born and raised, and living the commandments and principles we believe out of choice because of my faith. In the future I will do a post on this so you can get to know me and my beliefs a bit more, but for now just go over to this website :D you can pretty much get any answer to any questions you may have! I sure you'll be able to take something from this post anyway!

Both of the snippets I want to share are missionary orientated in a way.....
In this first section it is talking about the letters his family wrote to Joseph whilst he was serving his mission in England (he got married just before he got the call to serve so his wife, Louie, was left behind for two years.)
Pg. 11-12.

Louie sent letters at least once a week. “Remember,” she once wrote, “I am here to love and pray for you and that I never forget you for one single moment. … Bless you, my own precious husband, is my prayer always.”25 Louie was clear about her devotion to her husband, and she was equally clear about her devotion to the Lord and His work. She consistently reminded Joseph not to allow homesickness to weaken his resolve to serve.
Elder Smith needed such encouragement, for he rarely found anyone who would receive the message of the restored gospel. Years later, he “told his son Joseph that conditions were so bad and the people so disinterested that he reached a frame of mind where he thought that he could not continue. One night he lay awake thinking of the need to work for passage home.”26 But inspired by encouragement from loved ones and strengthened by their prayers and his own desire to serve, he overcame such thoughts. He knew that the Lord had called him, and he knew that he needed to work diligently for the good of the people he served and for the good of his family. He wrote: “I would rather stay here forever than come home without an honorable record and release. … I pray that I may have the spirit of the gospel and a love for my fellow man that I may be able to stay here until I am released honorably. If it were not for the many prayers that are offered up for me at home as well as my own I could not succeed.”27
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith was honorably released from his mission on June 20, 1901. In his two years of diligent service, “he did not make one convert, did not have opportunity to perform one baptism, although he did confirm one convert.”28 However, he and his companions had planted gospel seeds, helping many people find greater peace and understanding, and he had grown personally as a student and teacher of the gospel and as a priesthood leader.

I feel like this part of President Smith's life can be a source of real encouragement for, first of all, missionaries. We often as members measure a missionary's success by the numbers they accumulate. But this affirms to me that it is about how honourably you served the Lord and what he makes of your efforts. Baptisms are obviously important, but they are not the measure of a missionary. It also relates to the rest of us, with an eternal perspective in mind- are we going to return 'home' to our Heavenly Father with an 'honourable record and release'. I hope so!!

This next one's a biggy, but was of real interest to me!

Pg. 23-25
In 1939, President Heber J. Grant assigned Elder and Sister Smith to tour all of the Church’s missions in Europe.
Although World War II had not yet erupted when the Smiths arrived in Europe, tensions between the nations were increasing. On August 24, while the Smiths were in Germany, the First Presidency instructed Elder Smith to see that all missionaries in Germany were transferred to neutral countries. He coordinated this work from Copenhagen, Denmark. During this transferral of missionaries, Wallace Toronto, the mission president in Czechoslovakia, found it necessary to send his wife, Martha, and their children to Copenhagen for safety. He remained behind to ensure the safe evacuation of four missionaries who had been detained. Days passed without any word from them. Martha later recalled:
“The day finally came when all trains, ferries, and boats made their last runs from Germany and we prayed that Wally [President Toronto] and his four young charges would be on that last ferry as it headed for its home port. Seeing that I was very worried and getting more upset by the minute, President Smith came over to me, put his protecting arm around my shoulders and said, ‘Sister Toronto, this war will not start until Brother Toronto and his missionaries arrive in this land of Denmark.’ As the day advanced into early evening, a telephone call came. … It was Wally! The five of them had come out of Czechoslovakia with the British Legation on a special train that had been sent in for them, boarded the last ferry from Germany, and they were now on the coast [of Denmark] waiting for transportation to Copenhagen. The relief and happiness felt in the mission home and among the 350 missionaries was like a dark cloud lifting to reveal sunshine.”52
Elder Smith was grateful to the people of Denmark, who allowed so many evacuated missionaries into their country. At the outbreak of the war, he prophesied that because of their generosity, the Danish people would not suffer for lack of food during the war. Years later, “the people of Denmark had survived the war perhaps better than those of any other European nation. The Danish Saints had even sent welfare packages to distressed Latter-day Saints in Holland and Norway. Membership had steadily increased, and tithing receipts in the Danish Mission had more than doubled. … The Danish Saints considered their circumstances a direct fulfillment of [the] prophecy that Elder Joseph Fielding Smith had made.”53
As the war began, Elder Smith organized the evacuation of the 697 American missionaries serving in Europe. Because some of the missionaries had served as district and branch leaders, Elder Smith transferred those leadership responsibilities to local members. After fulfilling these duties, Elder Smith sailed for the United States with Jessie. They took a train from New York and arrived home seven months after they had left.
Although Elder Smith was happy that the American missionaries were able to return safely to their homes, he expressed concern for the innocent people now caught in the tragedy of war in their homelands. He wrote: “My heart was sick every time we held a meeting and shook hands with the people at its close. They all greeted us warmly, and their [friendship] meant more to me than they perhaps realized. Some of them shed tears and said they were looking for grave trouble, and we would never meet again in this life. I feel sorry for them now, and pray each day that the Lord will protect them through this dreadful time.”54
Elder Smith’s son Lewis, who was in England when World War II began, was part of the last group of missionaries to return home.55 About two and a half years later, Lewis crossed the Atlantic Ocean again, this time to serve in the military. “This condition brought sadness to us all,” wrote Elder Smith. “It is a shame that the clean and the righteous are forced into a conflict of world proportions, because of the wickedness of men.”56
On January 2, 1945, Elder Smith received a telegram informing him that his son had been killed in the service of his country. He wrote: “This word came to us as a most severe shock as we had high hopes that soon he would be back in the United States. We had felt that he would be protected as he has escaped several times before from danger. It was hard for us to realize that such a thing could happen. … As severe as the blow is, we have the peace and happiness of knowing that he was clean and free from the vices so prevalent in the world and found in the army. He was true to his faith and is worthy of a glorious resurrection, when we shall be reunited again.”57
I had often wondered what happened to members of the Church during those years of war and turmoil. This account was a real eye opener to the realities of that time. It also is a testimony to me of the power of our Heavenly Father, and how even in the hardest of circumstances, when man is at his most destructive, people can still receive and feel his Spirit and influence. Makes me so grateful to live in a country where my beliefs are protected and where I can walk, talk and worship freely, like so many other religious and non-religious persons!
I know this post is a little different to the usual, but I really wanted this blog to reflect my life, and my faith is a HUGE, if not the foundation, part of my life! It's cheesy but true, so deal with it :D Feel free to comment any of your thoughts and feelings on these matters :D

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