He could do nothing of himself…

There is a passage from B.H. Roberts’ History of the Church that I find inspiring and simultaneously, to my shame, personally damning. Roberts cites a statement reportedly made by David Whitmer to Wm. H Kelly and G. A. Blakeslee concerning Joseph Smith and his translation of the Book of Mormon.

Whitmer said of the Prophet Joseph:

He was a religious and straightforward man. He had to be; for he was illiterate and he could do nothing of himself. He had to trust God. He could not translate unless he was humble and possessed the right feelings towards everyone. To illustrate so you can see: One morning when he was getting ready to continue translation, something went wrong about the house and he was put out by it. Something that Emma, his wife, had done. Oliver and I went upstairs and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation but he could not do anything. He could not translate a single syllable. He went downstairs, out into the orchard, and made supplication to the Lord; was gone about an hour–came back to the house, and asked Emma’s forgiveness and then came upstairs where we were and then the translation went on all right. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful.

Though, unlike Joseph, I am somewhat literate, I do not think that my need to rely on the Lord is any less. The idea that I can do anything of worth without his aide is pure delusion, though I often find myself under such delusions.

And the fact that the Lord’s aide might have been withdrawn from Joseph merely because he was “put out” about something his wife had done, makes me tremble at my own sins.

I have found that the Lord reminds me of this fact every time that I make a mistake: inevitably someone asks if I will give them a priesthood blessing shortly thereafter–and I am forced to humble myself before both the Lord and those I have offended before I am able to pronounce the blessing.

The Lord is amazingly patient and merciful with me, and for that I am grateful.

4 thoughts on “He could do nothing of himself…

  1. It feels like we have a tendency in the church to de-emphasis our need for divine guidance. It goes back to the grace thing. Did you check out article on grace which is in the August (I think) Ensign?

    Even as we sing “I need thee every hour” we get caught up in perfecting ourselves without recognizing how much of that can’t happen on our own.

  2. Since Friday, my wife and I have been having a quiet, family crisis because of some misbehavior by our grown son who left home a couple of years ago and has recently moved back in with us. Because of the stress caused by the family situation, my wife has said a number of things to hurt my feelings which I know she would not normally have felt, much less expressed. What has been my response? Have I responded as Christ would have, forgiving her by reminding myself of the tremendous strain that she is under? No, like the fool I so frequently am, I have responded by becoming angry. I haven’t said anything to express my anger, but she has seen the angry set of my jaw and heard my silence. When I finally learn to school my feelings as well as I school my words, then perhaps our love will become stronger and our place together in the eternal worlds more assured. I don’t see how anyone can function well in this life, much less hope for a better life in the hereafter, until they become more humble than I am. And that kind of humility only comes from a closer relationship with the Lord. We literally depend upon him for our every breath. And if we don’t, then we are just kidding ourselves.

  3. Thank you, J. Max Wilson for your inspired comments.

    This has especially hit home for me at this time in my life. I have pondered recently that we are like the family of Lehi; that as they traveled to the ocean and then on to the New World how much they depended on the Liahona for direction. Like the family of Lehi how much easier our journey would be if we sought after the Lords guidance, followed the commandants and especially kept peace with those around us.

    Thanks for the great example in the life of Joseph Smith. That was truly humbling.

  4. Great post. I agree with the use of the words “rely on the Lord†as said by J. Max, but I think it’s interesting that when we begin to use the phrase “rely on the Lord†we begin to de-emphasize our need for works/being like Christ. And not to put a spotlight on Adeline’s comment, but that comment is a perfect case in point.

    The story about Joseph was as “pro-works†a story as there can possibly be. If ever there were a case to be made for the necessity of our being as perfect as we can be, it is expressed in the story J. Max shared.

    I find it fascinating that the phrase “rely on the Lord†immediately translates to opposite things in different people’s minds. In the context of the story, I think the phrase means, “being as faithful and obedient as we can possibly be.†Whereas, in our culture, it frequently translates to “don’t worry so much about being strictly obedient, as long as you remember his grace, the Lord has got you coveredâ€.

    And I think “I need thee every hour†is a song expressly about perfecting ourselves. It means we need to keep the commandments best we can, or we’re going to lose the spirit of the Lord – something which is essential. The last line of the song, after all, is “I come to Thee†not “You come to me.†But too often that meaning just gets lost…

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