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Mormon Scholars Testify: Karl Ricks Anderson - "Testimony of Joseph Smith"

TitleMormon Scholars Testify: Karl Ricks Anderson - "Testimony of Joseph Smith"
Publication TypeWeb Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsAnderson, Karl Ricks
Access Date19 March 2018
Last Update DateDecember 2011
PublisherMormon Scholars Archive
KeywordsEarly Church History; Persecution; Prophet; Smith, Joseph, Jr.; Testimony; Translation

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Karl Ricks Anderson

Testimony of Joseph Smith

My conviction that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s restored Church is centered in Joseph Smith and his calling and work as a prophet. A friend characterized my feelings for Joseph when he said, “I love Joseph because of the many thousands I meet who love and believe in Jesus Christ because of him.” Joseph Smith centered his life and teachings in Jesus Christ. He re-introduced Christ to the world. Revelations dictated by Joseph focused on Christ and His redemption of mankind. The words of this canonized Book of Mormon scripture, translated by Joseph, stood at the center of his life: “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Nephi 25:26)

In 1838, Joseph felt compelled to compose his equivalent of a press release. In it, he clarified what he considered to be the foundation of the church. He said, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” (History of the Church, Vol. 3, p. 30)

In revelations given to Joseph Smith, Christ bore witness of Himself and His mission of atonement and redemption dozens of times. The Savior reinforced, expanded, and clarified earlier teachings and introduced new principles and insights into His redemptive mission, declaring it to be “glad tidings.” In one revelation, Joseph recorded, “This is the gospel, the glad tidings. . . . That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness; That through him all might be saved.” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:40-42) Joseph recorded the key aspects of the Savior’s mission and His willingness to take upon Himself the sins of the world. He documented the Savior’s suffering and agony. He documented well over 100 descriptive names and titles that Christ used for Himself that identify aspects of His divine mission.

Joseph Smith endured a lifetime of persecution. Apparently, like ancient prophets, it was part of his calling. In an early revelation, Joseph was told, “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many.” (Doctrine and Covenants 24:8) Toward the end of his life Joseph exclaimed, “The envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life. . . . deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become a second nature to me; and I feel, like Paul, to glory in tribulation.” (Doctrine and Covenants 127:2) However, also like ancient prophets, Joseph apparently had received this divine assurance, which he declared, “They never will have power to kill me till my work is accomplished.” (History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 58)

My conviction has also been strengthened by research that clearly shows me that Joseph knew and willingly accepted his life of intense persecution. Like the ancients, Joseph was willing to endure all and even offer up his life in the pattern of his Master. His life became one of never-ending persecution, affliction, false accusations, and imprisonments. He was falsely arrested over twenty times. He was severely beaten, tarred, feathered, mocked, and derided. In one instance, he was jailed for months, during the cold of winter, in primitive and inhumane conditions with only prison bars for windows. A son died as an indirect result of one attack. Mobs chased and forced him, with his wife and children, out of four states into Illinois where they martyred him. He could have easily stopped all of this had he been willing to recant what he knew to be true. But, he could not! He said:

How very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age… should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling…. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation. (Joseph Smith History 1:23-25)

In one instance, after a severe mob beating which almost cost Joseph his life, his commitment and relationship with the Savior became evident. He said:

I will try to be contented with my lot knowing that God is my friend. In him I shall find comfort. I have given my life into his hands. I am prepared to go at his Call. I desire to be with Christ. I Count not my life dear to me only to do his Will. (Dean C. Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, p. 238)

One of his close associates disclosed private conversations wherein Joseph confirmed that he understood his fate, “He often said to me…’I shall die for it . . . It is the work of God and he has revealed . . . it.’” (Brigham Young Discourse, Oct. 8, 1866, Church Archives)

Joseph Smith lived under the constant scrutiny of harsh critics who did not believe in his divine calling. Many judged him unfairly and looked for faults they could expose. Joseph conceded, “Although I do wrong, I do not the wrongs that I am charged with doing.” (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 140) He addressed his own faults and said, “I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.” (History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 366) On one occasion, in addressing statements of critics, he blurted out in frustration, “I have it from God, and get over it if you can.” (History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 475) Perhaps those who want to understand Joseph would benefit most by focusing on what he gave the world as a prophet. A great example of this is the Book of Mormon. Speaking from the perspective of a mature author with an advanced college degree, I could not even begin to attempt to compose what the young, uneducated Joseph did—and he did it without the capabilities of a computer. I know of no other author, as well, who could have accomplished such an undertaking. A recognized authority put the translating effort in this perspective:

One of the most amazing facts about the Book of Mormon is that it took Joseph Smith only about sixty-five working days to translate a book that, in the current edition, is 531 pages long…. That works out to be an average of eight pages per day. At such a pace, only about a week could have been taken to translate all of 1 Nephi; a day and a half for King Benjamin’s speech. Considering the complexity, consistency, clarity, artistry, accuracy, density, and profundity of the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Joseph’s translation is a phenomenal feat. (John W. Welch, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Jan. 1988, 46)

Joseph became a conduit through whom the equivalent of over 1200 pages of holy scripture were given, which have become an inspiration and beacon and have been treasured by millions who love Christ and have drawn nearer to Him through these pages of scripture.

My testimony is strengthened through my research of Joseph Smith’s contemporaries who were present during visions of Deity and direct revelation from the heavens. I have researched over twenty men who signed published statements certifying that they were witnesses to the divinity of his revelations. Over twenty-five saw visions of Deity with him. Others heard the voice of God. Some left detailed descriptions of the personage of God and Jesus Christ. Hundreds, with Joseph, saw and heard angels. These many additional witnesses bear irrefutable testimony of the divine work the Lord began through Joseph Smith

It is my conviction, based upon research, prayer and a lifetime of experiences, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and did restore Christ’s church once again on the earth. God and His son, Jesus Christ, did in reality appear in vision and instruct Joseph Smith many times, beginning in 1820 near Palmyra, New York. President Gordon B. Hinckley stated the importance of this divine beginning simply:

Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heaven. . . . This must be our great and singular message to the world. We do not offer it with boasting. We testify in humility but with gravity and absolute sincerity. We invite all, the whole earth, to listen to this account and take measure of its truth. (President Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 78)

I love Joseph Smith. I love him because he endured trials and persecutions and was faithful to his calling. He even gave his life for it. I love Joseph Smith because of the Book of Mormon and other divine scripture he revealed to the world. The Lord speaks to me through their pages. I love Joseph Smith because he received and dispensed the keys to temple building and ordinances, assurances, and covenants. I feel God’s Spirit there. I love Joseph Smith because of the peace, joy, happiness and love that come into my life radiating through the Gospel he restored.

I am amazed at all Joseph accomplished in his short thirty-nine years of life, which were cut short by assassins’ bullets. After many years of research, it is my conclusion that Joseph Smith is who he claimed to be—a prophet of God. I believe that he felt his central mission was to testify of Christ. I firmly believe that he would want us to place our focus and belief on Jesus Christ because of him. Yes, I love Joseph Smith. Because of him, my quest has become one of striving to draw nearer and become more like my Lord, Savior, and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.


Karl Ricks Anderson is affectionately known as “Mr. Kirtland” throughout the Church because of his love for, and his research and well documented writings on, the 1830s period in Ohio Church history. Originally a native of Ogden, Utah, Karl has lived for over forty years in the Kirtland area. He is a noted authority on Kirtland history and has played a primary role in its restoration. The Mormon Historic Sites Foundation honored Karl in 2006 by awarding him their second annual Junius F. Wells Award in recognition of his leadership and lifelong contributions to the preservation of Historic Kirtland. The first annual award was given to President Gordon B. Hinckley.

Utilizing his expertise on the Kirtland area, he is a popular author and entertaining speaker. He wrote the book Joseph Smith’s Kirtland: Eyewitness Accounts. He co-authored the book Teachings and Commentaries on the Doctrine and Covenants. He also co-authored Church Sites in Ohio, which is a guidebook to seventy-eight LDS historic sites. Karl is in the process of publishing a new book highlighting the visions and voice of the Savior from Kirtland. He has also authored articles in the Encyclopedia of MormonismEncyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, and the Historical Atlas of Mormonism.

Karl has taught seminary and institute with the Church Educational System for over thirty years and is presently serving as coordinator and institute director for Northern Ohio. He received both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in business from the University of Utah and has more than twenty-five years of experience working in business.

Brother Anderson has spent much of his time giving church and community service. He served as president of the Cleveland Ohio Stake, as Regional Representative, and as Area Family History Advisor to the North America North East Area. He is currently serving as patriarch in the Kirtland Ohio Stake. Karl served as a full-time missionary in the Swiss-Austrian Mission from 1957 to 1960. He has been on the board of directors for the Greater Cleveland Council of the Boy Scouts of America for thirty-four years, and serves as an officer and board member of the Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family Foundation. He also played a central role in restoring the Smith Family Cemetery, by the Homestead in Nauvoo, Illinois.

He is married to Joyce Hirschi, and they are the parents of seven children and the grandparents of twenty-eight grandchildren.