Patience with Joseph

March 7, 2005 | 2 comments
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At the time the Church was organized, Joseph was called as its prophet and the Saints were told :

“Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.”

This is pretty straightforward doctrine; Joseph, and the prophet more generally, is to be obeyed when they are receiving the word of the Lord. What drew my particular interest was the closing clause, that we should receive and give heed to the words with “all patience and faith”. Faith seems obvious, since we must believe the revealed words come from God and that to follow them brings us closer to Him, but why patience? Now I know that patience is important as a Christlike attribute, but why, of all the virtues, is patience worthy of particular mention in respect to prophetic counsel?

Here are some possible links between prophetic counsel and patience, with varying amounts of scriptural support:

1. We may not immediately know if the words are coming from God, and so we exhibit patience as we pray for confirmation.

2. Sometimes Joseph is going to make mistakes, we should be patient with those errors. This works okay, but is not so much about Joseph’s revelations as about his stewardship over the Church. In other words, his mistakes are not from God, and so perhaps don’t fit into this discussion, where God is talking about revealed truth. Or maybe, since we have trouble discerning revealed truth from not, we are to have patience as with all of Joseph’s decisions.

3. Revelation is hard work, received line upon line. Thus there may be things the Saints wished Joseph would tell them through revelation, but he didn’t, didn’t right away, or couldn’t. We must have patience that those things will be revealed in due time. Paul repeatedly links patience to hope, that we await a glorious thing to come, but must wait for it (see here, here, and especially here). Perhaps revelation is one of those things, either patience waiting that something will be revealed or that we will understand the revelation, or that we will know the revelation is from God (as in 1).

4. Patience may be being used as a synonym for “endure”. Thus God will ask us to do hard things, through his servant Joseph, and we must be patient and endure those hard things. As Paul puts it “but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;” which is an apt description of the trials of those who followed Alma at the waters of Mormon, who were persecuted in the wilderness but “did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord”.

5. Perhaps “[we] have need of patience, that, after [we] have done the will of God, [we] might receive the promise”. In which case, we obey, but see no immediate blessing, and so are counseled that we must be patient awaiting the promised blessings.

So does one of these fit better than the others? Am I missing some connection between prophetic counsel and patience?

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2 Responses to Patience with Joseph

  1. Ben S. on March 7, 2005 at 1:46 pm

    I just posted this quote to another thread, and it seems relevant here as well.

    ” If we hear any principle taught from the stand that we do not understand, let us seek to comprehend it by the Spirit of God. If it be not of God, we have the privilege of knowing it. We are not required to receive for doctrine everything that we hear. We may say, “I do not know whether this is true or not; I will not fight it, neither will I endorse it, but I will seek knowledge from God, for that is my privilege, and I will never rest satisfied until I have obtained the light I require.”

    If you hear a doctrine that does not agree with your feelings or that you do not believe, take this course; do not reject nor endorse hastily without knowing or understanding. By taking this course you will develop the principle that God designs we should possess, and we will thus become a wise and understanding people, for we will be based on the rock of revelation. ”

    -George Q. Cannon, GOSPEL TRUTH, p. 270

  2. greenfrog on March 7, 2005 at 1:47 pm

    I understand (perhaps heretically) the phrase to be simultaneously a message from God and a message from Joseph Smith.

    Whenever I’ve been called to a position within the Church, I’ve hoped that those with whom I’d work would interact with me faithfully and patiently. I’ve found that the more faith people place in me, the more likely I am to do the very best I can. The less faith, the less likely I am to deliver my best.

    When I think of God as separate, independent, and not integrated with the prophet or with us, then this phrase tends to be less meaningful to me. But when I understand God to be integrated with each of us individually and all of us collectively, then it makes perfectly good sense that our faith and patience are as necessary components to the divine result intended as any other elements.