Neal A. Maxwell acknowledges that Joseph was not perfect and was even criticized by God in the Doctrine and Covenants for his sins and shortcomings.

Neal A. Maxwell

Neal A. Maxwell, The Promise of Discipleship (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2001), 116-17

Deseret Book
Joseph Smith, Jr., Neal A. Maxwell
Reading Public

The Everest of ecclesiastical truth built from the translations and revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith speaks for itself—it towers above the mere foothills of mortal philosophy. At times, Joseph's phonetic spelling, characteristic of the time, may have left something to be desired, but he certainly provided us with the essential grammar of the gospel!

Joseph was open, generous, and anxious to share. Yet, he knew there were still some things he could not share. Or, if shared, they might be distorted, contributing perhaps in some situations to Joseph's being "marred" as prophesied (3 Nephi 21:10). Moreover, Joseph Smith Sr., in a father's blessing given in December 1834, told his prophet son that he would be marred "for a little season" but he would eventually triumph as "thousands and tens of thousands shall come to a knowledge of the truth through thy ministry, and Thou shalt rejoice with them in the Celestial Kingdom."2

To mar suggests trying to make the object less attractive, at least on the surface. Church members should not be surprised, therefore, if enemies seek to mar prophets and the Church itself, by attempting to render them less attractive and influential, thus causing some to discount the Lord's work and His servants. One of the early Twelve, Elder Orson Hyde, observed that the "shafts" intended for the Church "are always aimed at the head first."3

Being marred can be part of the experience of discipleship for many: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake" (Matthew 5:11). If we as members are likewise marred while doing the Lord's work, it will prove to be yet another dimension of sharing the fellowship of Christ's sufferings (Philippians 3:10).

Good but imperfect prophets are especially likely to be slandered. Nor are they immune from trials. In fact, of the responsibilities of priesthood leaders, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, "The higher the authority, the greater the difficulty of the station."4 President John Taylor further said, "God tries people according to the position they occupy."5

Near the end, the Prophet noted, "I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught."6 The Prophet Joseph, then and since, has been subjected to intense mortal scrutiny. Yet, as prophesied, many in the world ever continue to "inquire after [his] name" (D&C 122:1).

The Lord on occasion chastised the good but nevertheless imperfect prophet for falling short (D&C 5:21). The Lord was tutoring—not indulgent—of Joseph, and Joseph recorded his own chastisement. He loved Joseph and called him, but God was also willing to correct him.

In the midst of his own allotted "these things," Joseph came only gradually—rather than instantly and fully—to appreciate all the intertwinings and all the implications of some of the deep doctrines which had come, almost surflike, through him, whether by translation or revelation (D&C 122:7). Why should anyone be surprised at the "precept by precept" process? (D&C 98:12).

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