One particular insight I gleaned from my reading in the Book of Mormon today took place in the 3rd Chapter of 2nd Nephi, verse 13 which reads, “And out of weakness he shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring thee, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.” [empahsis added]
This chapter is talking about a vision experienced by the Old Testament prophet, Joseph of Egypt, where he was able to see not only the Prophet Joseph Smith and the eventual Restoration, but also Moses and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; with this verse in question referring to Joseph Smith. Now for Latter-day Saints who accept the Book of Mormon as historically and spiritually authentic, this is just one of many instances of ancient prophecies being fufilled in the latter days; for the skeptic though, this chapter is one where Joseph easily created so-called prophecies out of historical events which had already transpired, as simple as myself writing the *ancient* Book of Jaxon which prophecied the already occured Battle of the Bulge.
Interestingly enough, I have come across one place which I believe speaks to the credibility of the Book of Mormon, at least in a small way, thereby causing one to wonder as to how such could have occured if the work is indeed a product of Smith’s imagination. When dealing with ancient scripture and determining its historical and spiritual validity, understanding the role and nature of prophecy is essential. One of the reasons I accept Christianity in general, is the high number of prophecies I see being given in Old Testament times and later fufilled in the Life of Christ in the New Testament. Such Messianic prophecies, which were similarly used by the New Testament authors to gain Jewish converts early on, have likewise served to validate to myself that Jesus is the Christ. But not only do I find myself convinced by the prophecies fufilled in the essential Christian writings, but also in the scripture and individuals unique to Mormonism which purports to be a Restoration Christ’s original church.
One aspect of prophecy which affects its prospective validity is to what extent it could have been purposefully manipulated in order to take place; in other words, what was its probability of even occuring in the first place. Instances where such occurs are known as undesigned coincidences. An example from the New Testament which would be near impossible to falsify is the birthplace of Christ in Bethlehem. This serves as a qualifier of sorts of assessing who could have even fufilled the role of the Messiah, thus greatly shrinking the pool of potential Christ-childs to only those born in the city of Bethlehem. Just as one’s birthplace could be quite difficult to manipulate, the place and timing of one’s death (in the instance that it is not the purposeful fault of the individual in question) is likewise near impossible to manipulate. In the case of 2nd Nephi 3:13, such I believe, serves as a less recognized component fufilled in the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Ether 12:37 reads “thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.” [empahsis added]
The importance of this pericope lies in the fact that it was of the last, if not the very last reading of the Book of Mormon held by Jospeh Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith while in their stay at Carthage Jail, on the morning of 27th of June, 1844 shortly before the both of them would be martyred by a mob consisting of around 150-200 persons.
Section 135 of the Doctrine and Covenants has been assumed or suggested by most LDS historians and commentators to have been written by the later Apostle, John Taylor, who was present alongside the Prophet at the time of his martyrdom. In it, it recounts the following in the fourth and fifth verses:
“4 When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said: “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me—he was murdered in cold blood.”—The same morning, after Hyrum had made ready to go—shall it be said to the slaughter? yes, for so it was—he read the following paragraph, near the close of the twelfth chapter of Ether, in the Book of Mormon, and turned down the leaf upon it:
“5 And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity. And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness, thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. And now I … bid farewell unto the Gentiles; yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood. The testators are now dead, and their testament is in force” [emphasis added]
This very same edition of the Book of Mormon, with the very same page folded down in the Book of Ether, is still in the possesion of the Church, even being utilized by Elder Jeffery R. Holland in his address during the October, 2009 session of General Conference titled “Safety for the Soul”. A condensed version of the talk can be seen here in the Mormon Message, Testimony of the Book of Mormon.
Why I see this as significant is in asking the question, how could such take place in the way that it did in regards to Joseph’s death? When searching the terms “weakness” and “strong” in the Book of Mormon text, the only two chapters where the words are used in close conjunction in reference to people isntead of words (as seen in 2nd Nephi 33:4) is in the two instances shared above in 2nd Nephi 3:13 and Ether 12:37. Also interesting is the former’s use of a definite future tense by the phrase “he shall be made strong” and the latter utilizing the fufilled precursor “And because thou hast seen thy weakness, thou shalt be made strong“ while being followed by “even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father” implying the forthcoming fate of the individual in question.
That Hyrum chose to read aloud that particular verse from Ether in order to comfort those present in Carthage Jail (the verse itself not addressing Joseph Smith but rather being part of an admonition of the Lord to the prophet Moroni,) on much less the day that both he and his brother would be murdered seems highly improbable and thus speaks to me of the divine Hand of the Lord in the small details behind these events. I see Joseph as a man constantly aware and accepting of his own humanity and short-comings before the Lord. Truly he had seen and was aware of his weakness, and thus had given his life to the Lord which allowed him to restore the True Church of Christ to the earth once more.
My thoughts on this instance in the scripture that I consider largely out of Joseph’s control are my own and I imagine others will find them more or less so convincing. While not definitive evidence of itself, I was delighted to add one more dot of support to the Pointilism-esque nature of Mormonism.
The Non-LDS Stephen Webb wrote: “By any measurement, Joseph Smith was a remarkable person. His combination of organizational acumen with spiritual originality and personal decorum and modesty is rare in the history of religion. He was so steadfast in his ability to inspire men and women through times of great hardship that none of those who knew him could claim to fully understand him. He knew more about theology and philosophy than it was reasonable for anyone in his position to know, as if he were dipping into the deep, collective unconsciousness of Christianity with a very long pen. He read the Bible in ways so novel that he can be considered a theological innocent—he expanded and revised the biblical narrative without questioning its authority—yet he brusquely overturned ancient and impregnable metaphysical assumptions with the aplomb of an assistant professor. For someone so charismatic, he was exceptionally humble, even ordinary, and he delegated authority with the wisdom of a man looking far into the future for the well-being of his followers. It would be tempting to compare him to Mohammed—who also combined pragmatic political skill and a genius for religious innovation—if he were not so deeply Christian.”
For a new compilation and summary of the events of the Martyrdom, I would highly recommend checking out the recently released section of the Revelations in Context below.