PROVO, Utah In the process of bringing forth the Book of Mormon, the young Joseph Smith learned line upon line the things he had to learn in order to become the Prophet of the Restoration, President James E. Faust told the 115 mission presidents and their wives assembled for three days of training.
Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon "lie at the very heart of what we do in missionary work," he said.
Speaking June 22 in the Provo Missionary Training Center, President Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, was less concerned with the how to's of missionary work, and instead emphasized the "fundamental consideration in proclaiming the gospel."
"The process of translating the Book of Mormon was an education for Joseph Smith," said President Faust. "Like so many of our young missionaries, when the Lord called Joseph Smith, he was a young man, unlearned, simple and very ordinary in the eyes of the world. . . .
"For him the Spirit had to be the teacher and translating the Book of Mormon provided the schooling."
President Faust said it was interesting to observe how rapidly the prophetic mission of Joseph Smith unfolded after the Book of Mormon was translated and published.
"We can conclude from this that the Book of Mormon is necessary both to weave the threads of the prophetic mantle of Joseph Smith, and also to lay the foundation for restoring the dispensation of the Fulness of Times," he said.
"You and your missionaries can expect increased attacks upon Joseph Smith as a prophet and upon the Book of Mormon. Satan will attack us at the core of our belief."
President Faust told an experience from the life of President David O. McKay's father, Bishop David McKay, who served as a missionary in Scotland in 1881.
Because of bitterness and antagonism, Bishop McKay felt the best way to reach the people was to teach of the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ and first principles of the gospel and avoid bearing witness of the Restoration.
In a month he felt oppressed with gloom. He lacked the spirit of the work, but didn't know the cause of his depression.
"Weighed down with such heaviness . . . he went to the Lord and said, 'Unless I can get this feeling removed, I shall have to go home. I can't continue my work thus hampered,' " President Faust said.
The discouragement continued for some time. One morning, following a sleepless night, he felt to retire to a cave near the ocean and pray. He heard a voice distinctly say, "Testify that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God."
He then remembered what he had tacitly decided six weeks or more before. Being overwhelmed with the thought, he realized he had not given the Prophet's special mission the attention it deserved. He cried, "Lord, it is enough."
President Faust recounted the work of missionaries in his mission in Brazil where only three people were converted one year. "In 1992, in this same country, more than 40,000 souls were converted," he said. "There are now 184 stakes and 867,000 members. . . .
"What is the difference between then and now?" he asked.
"In large measure it was because the only scripture we had was the Bible. . . . Only after the Book of Mormon was translated into Portuguese and the book published in that language did the great harvest of converts come," he said.