The family wanted me to put my farewell talk here on the blog so here it is! My topic was “gaining a testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith.”
Good morning brothers and sisters. My name is Abby Butikofer and I have been asked to speak on “gaining a testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith.” But before I get around to my talk, something that I have always looked forward to about speaking in a new ward is getting to introduce myself! I was actually in this ward about four years ago, so many of you are familiar faces, but this is a military ward and people are in and out of here a lot so I will tell you a little bit about myself and then get into my talk.
Like I said, my name is Abby and I am Mitch and Leslie Butikofer’s daughter. I am 19 and I go to school at Utah State. I have been home from school for several weeks now, I have been attending the Young Single Adult branch in this stake, and I am leaving on a mission on Tuesday! Yes, Tuesday, like two days from now. I have been called to serve in the Perú Trujillo Mission. I report to the Peru MTC and I will be speaking Spanish.
I am grateful that the topic I have been assigned to speak on is “gaining a testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith” because I know this concept is extremely important in one’s conversion to the gospel and I know that I will be helping the people I teach gain a testimony of Joseph Smith for themselves. LDS.org actually says, “For a testimony of the restored gospel to be complete, it must include a testimony of Joseph Smith’s divine mission.”
And because we are all investigators in the Church and we are all working on our own personal conversion to the gospel, I have decided to spin this talk in a way that I as a missionary might try to help an investigator gain a testimony of Joseph Smith.
In working towards gaining a testimony of Joseph Smith and the work he did, I think it is important to understand Joseph’s character. When he first prayed in the Sacred Grove, he was only 14. He didn’t and he couldn’t have had ulterior motives…he was quite simply a boy with a question.
And although he was anxious to receive an answer to his question, he didn’t act in haste…he deliberately selected a spot, ultimately being the Sacred Grove, that he thought would be appropriate and personal enough to kneel in humble prayer. This shows that even at a young age Joseph Smith was thoughtful, considerate, and I think very mature.
Both the nature of his question and his way of preparing himself to ask that question reveal the intent of his heart. John Taylor, who was with Joseph Smith at his martyrdom, said: “I testify before God, angels, and men, that he was a good, honorable, virtuous man … —that his private and public character was unimpeachable—and that he lived and died as a man of God.”
As Elder Holland said in his talk Safety for the Soul, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.”
Another “strategy,” you could call it, to use when trying to strengthen your testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith is to simply grab onto and hold onto one part of the gospel that you DO have a testimony of, a testimony that you know is unshakeable.
One of my favorite things about the gospel is that is all builds upon itself “line upon line and precept upon precept” and a testimony of one principle of the gospel can help you gain a testimony of another part of the gospel. So if your testimony of Joseph Smith is struggling, but you do have a strong testimony of the Word of Wisdom, remember that the Word of Wisdom was a revelation, given to Joseph Smith, and if that is true, which you have a testimony of, then Joseph Smith must receive revelation from God, therefore he must be a prophet.
I am especially excited to use this little tactic with my investigators on my mission because it demonstrates how connected all the principle of the gospel are, how they build upon each other, as well as it allows a testimony of one principle to serve as a foundation for a testimony of another principle.
One thing I feel I must point out, however, is that we can’t allow our testimony of all the principles of the gospel to be rooted in a testimony of one small doctrine. Imagine a Lego tower, where you’re just stacking the Legos on top of each other.
Your tower can get pretty tall, but if it gets too tall its foundation can’t support itself anymore and the whole tower comes tumbling down. I believe you can allow a testimony of one principle to serve as the foundation for a testimony of another principle for a while, but eventually you should gain a testimony of that principle directly. Which brings me to my next point.
In his talk in the October 1985 General Conference, Dean L. Larsen discussed the “ultimate test that can be applied to determine the divine nature of any religious work.” In fact, this is a test that the Lord himself prescribed. Matthew 7:15-20 says:
“Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”
“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruits; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
The fruits of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ are the real test of Joseph and his work. Among these fruits which are easily available for assessment today are the scriptures that came from his efforts. These, of course, include the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. They are tangible fruits and they contain the revelations of God.
And a way to test this fruit is to make it as a little seed in your heart. Alma 32:28 says,
“Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.”
So if this little seed is “delicious to you,” then it will yield a good fruit. And if it yields a good fruit, then it must be of a good tree, because “by their fruits ye shall know them.”
The fruits of Joseph Smith’s labors are the scriptures, missionary work, the temple, the Church itself, and these we know are good fruits. Therefore we know that Joseph Smith was an upright, Godly man, and his work was indeed divine and he was commanded by God – therefore he was a prophet.
As Latter-Day Saints living in Illinois, we are lucky to have so much Church history right here in our state. Whether you are looking to gain a testimony of Joseph Smith, or you just want to learn a bit more about him, Nauvoo is just a few hours’ drive away and there you can learn more about the history of the Church, Joseph’s work, his struggles, his life, and his death.
When I was in high school I had the opportunity to go to Palmyra for a youth conference. That was one of the coolest experiences ever. First of all, upstate New York in the summertime is absolutely breathtaking. The air was so clean and clear and it smelled so good, the weather was perfect, and it was gorgeous. All the youth were split up into “families,” as they called it, and we had a Ma and Pa and our little family.
Each family had free time each day, and on our last day my family decided to go to the Sacred Grove one last time.
We were allowed to wander the grove and pretty much do what we wanted, so I went to the back of the grove and found a nice spot to sit down in the grass and I sat in the Sacred Grove and sang hymns to myself. Now of course I didn’t have some huge spiritual experience, but being able to spend time in the Sacred Grove and realize that I was in the place that the Restoration began was testimony-building.
I know that Joseph Smith was called of God and I know that the work he did was divine. I know that the Church he established is the same church that Jesus Christ established when He was on the earth. I know that he is the prophet of the Restoration and I know that Thomas S. Monson is our prophet today.
I am so excited to serve in Perú and bring Heavenly Father’s Peruvian children the joy and the happiness that the gospel give me. I know that Jesus Christ is our loving Savior and that the Atonement is real. We can become more like our Father in Heaven each day though the Atonement and for that I am so grateful. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.