Mark L. McConkie, a professor in the school of public affairs at the University of Colorado, compiled hundreds of eye witness accounts of Joseph Smith to create his book Remembering Joseph: Personal Recollections of Those Who Knew the Prophet Joseph Smith. Below are two quotes from Howard Cory regarding his experience with and impression of Joseph Smith.
I soon went to Nauvoo—became acquainted with the Prophet—heard him preach and saw him conduct the April Conference of 1840. The power and wisdom that he displayed on this occasion was more evidence . . . I have studied the Gospel as revealed by Joseph Smith and wondered if it were possible for any one unaided by the spirit of God to have revealed such a system of salvation and exaltation for man. My conclusion is in the negative.
I sat and listened to his preaching at the stand in Nauvoo a great many times when I have been completely carried away with his indescribable eloquence—power of expression—speaking as I have never heard any other man speak—I have heard him prophesy many things that have already come to pass, I have seen him translate by the Seers stone. I was present when he received a revelation on priesthood; he blessed me and prophesied that on my head, which has been literally fulfilled; and I have seen him by the aid of the Spirit of the Lord, as a prophet raised up to usher in the dispensation of the fullness of times; besides this, the work and the workings of it, have been made manifest to me by the good spirit. . . .
(“Howard Cory to Martha Jane Lewis, Aug. 2, 1889,” LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.)
Many who came to know Joseph Smith expressed similar impressions of disbelief that anyone unaided by God could have created a system of religion as complete as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph Smith, furthermore, had very little formal education. At the time of his first vision, he was only 14 and could barely compose a complete sentence. Yet, within a few years’ time, aided by teachers and messengers from heaven, he was so eloquent and wise that he left an impression on all who met him that he truly held the Spirit of God.
Howard Cory also recorded the following:
While thus engaged [as Joseph Smith’s secretary], I had many very precious opportunities great and Small, almost every day, were calling on him, some for one thing, and some for another.—polititians and preachers and of different persuations—some with the view of testing the depth of his knowledge and, if possible, confounding him and putting [him] to shame. Well, what did I discover—that he was equal to every occasion, that he had a ready answer for all questions. I heard him say that God had given him the key of knowledge by which he could trace any subject through all its ramifications.
I had heard it remarked that Joseph Smith was Sidney Rigdon’s cat’s paw: soon after he returned from the East he came to see Joseph, and the thought went through my mind: now I will see, who the cat’s paw is.—well, I did see; after passing the usual compliments, Rigdon said to Joseph:—”When I was preaching in Philadelphia after I had finished my discourse a man stepped up to me and desired me to explain something in John’s Revelation, mentioning at the same time what it was)—”Well, I could not do it, how is it Joseph?” Joseph cited him at once right offhand to a passage in Ezekiel and something in some other book of the old Testament, saying that they explained all about it.” I thought to myself, that don’t look much like Joseph’s being a cat’s paw. [A cat’s paw is a 19th century colloquialism meaning “dupe” or “fool.”]
Not only did Joseph contain the “key of knowledge by which he could trace any subject,” but he also promised this power to all those who sought it. In the Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:5, it reads:
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
Though these are not Joseph’s words, he did translate them by the power of God. God is the one whose Holy Spirit enlightened and taught Joseph eternal truths. That same spirit is promised to each of us, to enlighten our minds in all things, if we keep God’s commandments and receive baptism and confirmation by those who are in authority.
Howard Cory recognized Joseph Smith as a prophet of God. Every person today has the same opportunity to recognize a prophet of God in Joseph Smith, and we gain that witness through the power of the Holy Ghost speaking to our hearts, the same way He witnesses of all truth.
This article was written by Doris White, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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