In his address in which he refers to the “latitude and longitude” of our position as a Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to by many in the world as the Mormon Church), President J. Reuben Clark stated:
I have set out these matters because they are the latitude and the longitude of the actual location and position of the Church, both in this world and in the eternity. Knowing our true position, we can change our bearings if they need changing; we can lay down anew our true course. And here we may wisely recall that Paul said: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
Like sailors upon the sea we are often tossed to and fro by the tempest of our modern world, and like the sailors, we need to know where we are, to take confidence in our knowledge and experience, and to be able to figure out our course to a safe return to the safe harbor of our Father in Heaven.
That which is of man must be modified and changed to meet the demands of various ages in which mankind lives, but that which is of God will endure, as the gospel of Jesus Christ, as revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, has endured the scrutiny of critics, the discoveries and the light of science in our day and time. (Conference Report, October 1901, p.53)
In the Bible, in the New Testament, in 1 Peter 3:15-17 we read these words:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
What is this “hope” that is within each of us? I humbly believe that it has something to do with knowing what we believe, why we believe it, and being willing to unashamedly share those beliefs with all who are seeking to know more about our Mormon beliefs. This “hope” that is within us is what encourages and enables us to want to tell people about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism), the “Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ)”, and about God’s chosen Prophet of the Restoration of the Gospel, Joseph Smith. We may not be able to quote Joseph Smith’s history verbatim, but we can testify of that which we know about his history and its importance, and through that testimony plant seeds in the hearts of those who are seekers of knowledge of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, that one day, they too may gain a testimony of its truthfulness.
In 1938, President J. Reuben Clark of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a landmark address to the seminary and institute leaders of the Church at that time in which he refers to the “latitude and longitude” of our position as a Church.
The latitude of our position is our knowledge that Jesus Christ IS the Son of God. The Apostle Peter testifies of this fact as recorded in the Bible, in the New Testament, in Matthew 16:13-16 where we read these words:
When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
In the New Testament book of John, in John 6:69, we read the Apostle Peter’s testimony once again as he declares, “And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”
It is the longitude of our position that I wish to discuss. The longitude of our position is our knowledge that Joseph Smith IS the Prophet of the Restoration. To better understand this position we need to have an understanding of who the man Joseph Smith was.
President Wilford Woodruff once stated: “No greater prophet than Joseph Smith ever lived on the face of the earth save Jesus Christ.” (JUD, 21:317) Elder Bruce R. McConkie, a modern day Apostle of the Church, once stated:
Who will honor the name of Joseph Smith and accept the gospel restored through his instrumentality? We answer: the same people who would have believed the words of the Lord Jesus and the ancient Apostles and prophets had they lived in their day. If you believe the words of Joseph Smith, you would have believed what Jesus and the ancients said. If you reject Joseph Smith and his message, you would have rejected Peter and Paul and their message. (Ensign, November 1981, p.48.)
Joseph’s wife, Emma Hale Smith, had this to say about Joseph concerning the translation of the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ):
I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired. For when [I acted] as his scribe, [Joseph] would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. . .It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this, and for one so. . . .unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible. (Quoted by Mark E. Petersen, Ensign, November 1977, p.12.)
Concerning the Prophet Joseph Smith’s first vision, President Gordon B. Hinckley stated:
To me it is a significant and marvelous thing that in establishing and opening this dispensation our Father did so with a revelation of himself and of his Son Jesus Christ, as if to say, to all the world that he was weary of the attempts of men, earnest though these attempts might have been, to define and describe him. Strange as it seems, we alone, among all the great organizations that worship God, have a true description and a true definition of him. The experience of Joseph Smith in a few moments in the grove on a spring day in 1820, brought more light and knowledge and understanding of the personality and reality and substance of God and his Beloved Son than men had arrived at during centuries of speculation. (Conference Report Apr 1960).
As I close my remarks, may I reaffirm the recent request and reminder of the First Presidency concerning using the full name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The full name of the Church clearly defines who we are and what we believe. It serves as an invitation for truth-seekers to search further. We are reminded in the “Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ)” in 3 Nephi 22:7-8:
Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake. And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.
With that reminder, our message to the world is that we are not members of Joseph Smith’s Church, nor are we members of Mormon‘s Church. We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe that the church that was established anciently by a man of humble beginnings, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, has been restored to its fullness in modern times through another man of humble beginnings, the Prophet Joseph Smith. That is we believe that a young 14 year old farm boy named Joseph Smith did indeed see and speak with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ in the Scared Grove in upstate New York in the spring of 1820. We further believe that this same Joseph Smith was indeed called and blessed of the Lord to be the Prophet of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness.
We stand confidently in the knowledge of our situation, our location in terms of the latitude and longitude of our knowledge. We know where we are, where we need to go, and can chart a course to our ultimate destination.
I bear my testimony that I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s true Church. I also testify that Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Lord, and our Redeemer, is indeed the Son of the Living God. I further testify that I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, Seer and Revelator, and an obedient servant of the Lord. Being called of the Lord as His Prophet, he did indeed bring forth the Restoration of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth in its fullness. I have personally read the Book of Mormon in its entirety nine times thus far, and with each reading I gain a renewed assurance of the truthfulness of the Gospel and the love that the Savior has for me. “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!” (D&C 76:22).