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Statue memorializes Prophet Joseph

Joseph Smith's life was short, but his works are eternal, said President Gordon B. Hinckley during the unveiling ceremony Dec. 23 of a statue honoring the Church's first prophet.

The bronze statue, which is 1 1/2 times life size, is located in the Legacy Theater lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Titled, "Leaning into the Light," it depicts the young Joseph Smith seated on a wooden chair reading from the Bible. The book is open to James 1:5 - the passage that led the then-14-year-old to pray for guidance about which church to join.Accompanying President Hinckley to the unveiling were his counselors, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust; Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, both of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Joe J. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy; and Bishop Richard C. Edgley and Bishop Keith B. McMullin of the Presiding Bishopric.

President Hinckley, who was assisted by several children, unveiled the statue 192 years to the day after the Prophet Joseph was born in upstate New York.

"This is his birthday," said President Hinckley. ". . . He became the great prophet of this dispensation. I marvel at Joseph Smith. I absolutely marvel at him, at what he accomplished during his short lifetime."

Quoting John Taylor, President Hinckley said: " `Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. . . . He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people, and like most of the Lord's anointed in ancient time, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood. . . .' "(D&C 135:3.)

President Hinckley noted that the statue illustrates the prophet searching the Bible before going to the Sacred Grove, where God and Jesus appeared to him.

"In a very few minutes he learned more about the nature of God, and His resurrected Son than all the divines that had pondered that question through the centuries of time," President Hinckley said. "People say we don't believe in Christ. We of all people believe in Christ. We have the knowledge that has come directly from Him."

President Hinckley said it is fitting that the statue should stand in the Church building which memorializes Joseph Smith's name.

"People mock the story of Joseph Smith. They try to tear it apart," he said. "I have never met the prophet, but I have read the Book of Mormon. I have read the Doctrine and Covenants. I have read the Pearl of Great Price. I have had conferred upon me the priesthood. I have exercised the priesthood. . . . There beats in my heart a testimony of the truth of this great work."

President Hinckley recalled a visit to the Sacred Grove one morning several years ago. There he and local Church leaders stood, bowed their heads, and prayed together. "I did not hear a voice, but there came into my heart . . . a certain witness that the things of which the Prophet spoke occurred there where we were at the time. I leave that testimony with you."

President Hinckley expressed deep appreciation to the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers and six donors who raised the funds for the project. He also acknowledged the sculptor, Stanley James Watts, who created a "very impressive and beautiful piece of work."

Brother Watts also spoke at the unveiling ceremony. He said he had a "wonderful experience" creating an image that honors Joseph Smith and his desire to "ask of God."

"A great man once said that when . . . you give man light he will find his own way," said Brother Watts. "Our light is the scriptures. This is a monument to that."

He said he was inspired while creating the statue. "I stand before you this day with a firm conviction that we as Latter-day Saints can do nothing greater in our lives . . . than to kneel in humble prayer and ask for wisdom and guidance."