Walking in His Shoes
“Prophet,” “Friend,” “Brother”—these are all words that have been used to describe Joseph Smith. But what about “Restorer,” “Visionary,” or even “Warrior”? Heidi’s friends (and historians) Jenny Reeder and Bob Millet share with Heidi how they would define Joseph if they only had one word to do so. Then Heidi turns to Cree Nation members Jalynne Geddes and her father, Harry Michael, to hear about who they know Joseph Smith to be.
The Days of Harmony film that Mark worked on:
Heidi Swinton 0:00
Will you just break into song and sing "Praise to the Man"–because that's my favorite song about Joseph–sing "Praise to the Man", what do you think?
Dallyn Vail Bayles 0:07
Uh... yeah, sure! Are, are you serious? Do you-
Heidi Swinton 0:11
I'm perfectly serious, because-
Dallyn Vail Bayles 0:12
On this podcast? Okay! Well-
Heidi Swinton 0:14
There's no better testimony than you in song.
Dallyn Vail Bayles 0:16
(laughing) Yeah! I'm happy to do that. Okay. Well, I haven't warmed up so uh, just a little uh... yeah, a warning disclaimer. But here we go...
(singing) Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah! Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer. Blessed to open the last dispensation, Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.
Heidi Swinton 0:54
Wasn't he amazing? Can you believe I just said to him, "Break into song, Dallyn," and he did it! Now I owe him big time. I really wanted him to sing that song to set the tone and invite the spirit for the episode today. So here we go.
Intro Jingle 1:09
(different guests' voices) The Prophet Joseph. Stand by my servant Joseph. Brother Joseph. Joseph Smith. Joseph. Joseph Smith. Brother Joseph. Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith. The Prophet Joseph Smith. Brother Joseph.
Heidi Swinton 1:11
Welcome to Joseph, a Deseret Bookshelf Plus original, brought to you by LDS Living. And I'm Heidi Swinton, your host.
Okay, so we're going on a field trip today. We're taking a walk in Joseph's shoes, but before we get too far down the road, I want to tell you a quick story about my own experience in Harmony, Pennsylvania. I remember when I was traveling with the production team to do the documentary. All I wanted to do is go to Kirtland, I'd never been there before, I wanted the experience of seeing angels on the roof in the middle of the day. That's what Presendia Huntington described. And I've always imagined it, those angels up on the roof in the middle of the day. I wanted to be in Kirtland. But we were going to Harmony, and so I was begrudging it.
We got to Harmony, not much there, but we walked over the railroad tracks. And then we started walking through the brush and pushing aside the bushes and getting down to the river. And there's just this even, flowing river, the Susquehanna, and you look out across the river, there's an island sitting in the middle of it covered with trees. And I imagined, you couldn't see anything other than the trees and the bushes and the water. It was just like it would have been when Joseph was there.
And I looked around and in my mind's eye I saw Joseph out in the river. And I saw Joseph baptizing Oliver, and Oliver baptizing Joseph. And I will never be the same. I just suddenly had the spirit of Harmony come over me. But I suddenly could feel all of that. And so much for angels on the roof! I took off my shoes, I rolled up my pant legs, and I went sloshing out into the water. And plowing through the water, I reached down–and it was deeper than I thought so I got just soaked–but I reached down and I found a rock, a rock that fit the size of my hand. And I imagined, this rock has been here since Joseph was here in Harmony. And I'm taking this rock home with me.
So this week, we're visiting Joseph's sacred places together, sort of. Now, of course, we can't actually go there. Because of COVID, and because we're not all hooked up in a caravan. But we're going to feel the sense of what it's like to be there, to walk down those lonely roads. We're going to crunch the leaves underneath our feet in Upstate New York in the Sacred Grove. We're going to stand next to the rushing waters of the banks of the Mississippi River and the Susquehanna in Pennsylvania. You're going to be hot in the summertime in Nauvoo, and you're going to feel the bugs all around you. We're going to imagine that we're right there with him. And Joseph will become real to you. Joseph will be somebody that you're walking beside down the road, and you're looking over at him and you're saying, "Hey Brother Joseph, how are you today?" So, let's get going.
We're going to start off just in Nauvoo, Illinois. Nauvoo was the gathering place for all of the converts. And now, it wasn't the best land on the river–it was a swamp and people got sick there, and they only had a few rough buildings to begin with, and a lot of people lived in dugouts on the hillside, then they began to build some more solid structures. We kind of see all those pictures of Nauvoo today with the cute little brick buildings and nice little clapboard buildings, and it didn't look like that. Those were few and far between. For the most part, they lived in log cabins, some of them lived in tents, it was hard. But Nauvoo was never about where they lived, Nauvoo was all about the temple. And everyone was committed to one cause, and that was the cause of Christ. That's what Joseph called it.
Okay, so here we are in Nauvoo, and who better to introduce us to Nauvoo than Dallyn Vail Bayles. Dallyn played Joseph Smith in the Nauvoo pageant. He's played Hyrum Smith in church productions, he's played Joseph several times. He's done more than just think about it, he's walked in Joseph's shoes.
[Tape Recorder Click]
Now Dallyn, I have to do some catch-up with you, because I haven't seen you for ages-
Dallyn Vail Bayles 6:04
It has been a while! (laughs)
Heidi Swinton 6:04
Since I went on my mission! And you were singing, and it was always so inspiring to me to be a part of a program where you were one of the presenters. Not only could you sing, but you sing with a spirit that is just really hard to duplicate. So, when we started doing this Joseph Smith project, I said, "I really would like us to use Dallyn Bayles, because he just has a grasp of the gospel, but also, he's Hyrum!"
Dallyn Vail Bayles 6:40
(laughing) That's right, I am! Reincarnate! (laughing)
Heidi Swinton 6:44
All of those things have brought you to this place! So really my question, Dallyn–when I first asked you about participating in this, and you said, "I'd love to do that, because I love Joseph Smith." Talk about what has been your journey to come and have such a demonstrative feeling about Joseph Smith, that you love Joseph Smith, tell us about that journey.
Dallyn Vail Bayles 7:09
I remember several years ago, in 2005, I was in the middle of working on the new Nauvoo Pageant, portraying Joseph Smith. I also had the opportunity to be part of the BYU Spectacular that year, which focused on the restoration of the gospel and on Joseph Smith, and I was able to portray Joseph Smith.
So, I remember quoting the angel Moroni in this production, and the thing that really stood out to me was when Moroni said that my name, Joseph's name, "should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, [and people]" (JS-H 1:33). I just had this flood of the Spirit come over me at that moment. And I thought, "I want to always speak good of his name. I love this man, I am so grateful for the work that he did that has blessed my life so immeasurably. I want to always be found speaking good of his name, I want to be part of that prophecy." And so I've always jumped at opportunities to be able to share my testimony of the prophet, my love for him.
When you think about portraying the prophet Joseph Smith–or any of these incredible people that we know and love from scripture, or from church history–you're always so concerned with how it's going to come across, and then what is he like? And so I would do all this study, and study about his life. I would study about the kind of person that he was, and I'd fall in love with these aspects of his personality, you know?
How he was more of a jovial, light-hearted guy. He was just very wonderful, but he was also very passionate, and how much he loved his friends, and how much he loved his family. The first year I went back to do the Nauvoo Pageant, the Chicago Tribune came down and actually asked me, "What quality of Joseph's do you admire the most?" And the one that I finally came to was simply love. That man had an incredible capacity to love. That's one of the reasons I know that he was a prophet, because he had that Christlike love to him. He was a man who understood the principles of love and mercy. He understood God, he was the servant of Jehovah. I have no doubt.
Heidi Swinton 9:22
It's a wonderful example. And you've played Hyrum too, so tell us what it's like to be Joseph's brother. To be a friend of Joseph, to be a stalwart that stands right next to him and says, "I'm going with you." What does that feel like? You've done both parts. So, now put on your Hyrum hat in relation to Joseph, and tell us what that's like.
Dallyn Vail Bayles 9:49
I love portraying Hyrum, because it really was just another way to see Joseph Smith. I think all the way back to the beginning, when as a 14-year-old boy, he sees God and Jesus Christ, and then he talks to his family a few years later about the appearance of this angel by his bedside. And I'm like, "how would Hyrum take that?" Hearing his younger brother spout off this story.
And we have those accounts from Lucy Mack Smith saying, yeah, “We used to,” you know, “Every evening, we'd all get together and hear what Joseph had to say about this. And he'd regale us with stories and things that he taught us,” and, what was that like? But it reminded me that Joseph could not have done what he did, and accomplish what he did, without the support of his family. Without the support of his friends, without the support of his amazing wife, Emma. There's no way.
It was so vital that he had these supports around him, that not only themselves were important in the building of the kingdom of God, but they were there to help support Joseph and this unthinkably challenging role. I just love that he was there through so much of what Joseph Smith did, from the very beginning, all the way through to things like Liberty Jail, and then finally at Carthage. There again, I just think about, that's the kind of person I want to be. I want to be a Hyrum. I want to be there speaking good of his name. I want to be there to stand up for him, when others speak ill of him. I want to be there to support the leaders of the Church, I want to be there to stand up for it's doctrines, it's history and the beautiful, beautiful truths that are taught through this gospel that have blessed my life so much.
[Tape Recorder Click]
Heidi Swinton 11:44
Dallyn's amazing, not just because he played Joseph Smith, but because Dallyn gave us something to hang on to ourselves. I love the way he described that Joseph's name was safe with him, that his name would be had for good when Dallyn was around. And I think that's an encouragement for all of us. That, though we may never stand on the stage and play Joseph Smith, his name will be safe with us as well. Now, in addition to Dallynn, we also talked to Amy Sackett, who took her family back there for six weeks, and participated in the Nauvoo Pageant. She wasn't Joseph, but she felt like she had experiences with Joseph, and she's going to share those with us.
[Tape Recorder Click]
You've been at the, in the Nauvoo Pageant with your family and this is a pageant that is performed for a period of about six weeks, as I understand it, back in Nauvoo. And the cast, volunteers coming from all over, a lot of families. You stay there for a certain period of time, you go to firesides, and you talk and you learn–how did being in the Nauvoo Pageant add to your testimony and your witness of Joseph Smith?
Amy Sackett 12:56
We went two different years, for six weeks at a time. And it was so beautiful for my children to have Joseph Smith become personalized to them. It was an incredible opportunity for my children to tell me that, during the day, they would go and get Joseph Smith drinks of water because he was thirsty. Or, Joseph Smith came and ate his hot dog by them that day. Obviously, it was an actor who was playing Joseph Smith, but it was real for them. To my kids, he was Joseph Smith.
And there's this one scene that I will always remember. It had been a long day, we were tired, it was hot. We were drenched in sweat, and soggy from humidity. The mayflies were crawling all over us, and we were supposed to remain composed. And this is about 10 o'clock at night with three of my kids under the age of nine. And it was entering into the martyrdom scene. And the scene opens with John Taylor, humming "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief."
And I thought to myself, "How am I even here? What are we doing? What is the purpose of this?" And the moment the narrator came over, describing the scene that took place in the Carthage Jail–with the men, and the mobs, and the guns. And watching Emma's reaction when she hears the news of losing her husband, and watching the sweet apostles, and his friends who stood by him, react with tears and respond. And seeing these beloved saints, myself being part of that–seeing them respond in the way that they loved this person, this, this leader that had stood by them–was so moving for me and my children. The music and, and the feeling, it was a testimony. It was a witness that the Holy Ghost bore to all of us that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.
Heidi Swinton 15:11
So what is the significance of Joseph in your life today? What part does he play?
Amy Sackett 15:17
There's no handbook that comes with your children, unfortunately. There's no written prescriptions of life and rules, and how to figure things out. And Joseph–his example of understanding how to receive personal revelation and ask questions, and to continually go to Heavenly Father and the Savior–is an example to me, as a mom and as a wife, with my relationships with all of my kids, that in order for me to understand how best to be the kind of mom and wife I need to be, I need to go to God, who knows them best. And Joseph Smith, of all people, has taught us the pattern of how to pray and how to receive revelation, and how to keep going and acting upon it.
[Tape Recorder Click]
Heidi Swinton 16:12
We always talk about Joseph pulling sticks with kids, which was one of his favorite games, but eating hot dogs with Joseph? That beats pulling sticks. I love that account. I was so impressed that what she took away from the Nauvoo Pageant–yes, there were very long days and insect bites and it was hot–but she had that feeling one night standing on the stage that the Spirit confirmed to her, it was all true. Nauvoo, the saints, the work, the restoration, and most of all, Joseph. It was all true. It was true in his time, and it's true in our time.
As we walk along in Joseph's shoes in this segment, I just hope that you're taking into your heart, as well as into your stride, that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. And that being in these locations can reaffirm that for you. Or simply hearing people's accounts of what they've experienced can touch your heart as well.
Nauvoo is so important. We're going to go to one more person, my friend Mark Lusvardi, and have him talk about his experience in Nauvoo. He's been a mission president there, he's been there scores of times because Mark had the assignment from the First Presidency to be in charge of setting up visitor centers all over the world. And so, he spent a lot of time in Nauvoo, he worked with the Nauvoo Pageant, so he knows a lot about historic holy ground. And he's going to let us see Nauvoo through his eyes.
[Tape Recorder Click]
Heidi Swinton 17:53
You've spent a lot of time in Nauvoo–both in working with just the setup of the historical setting, but most recently as the president of the mission there. How did your view of Joseph Smith change, or how did it enlarge, when you were right there on the ground where he spent so much time wrapping up his contribution to the restoration?
Mark Lusvardi 18:17
I love the historic sites of the Church. Each one is unique and has teachings that go along with whatever was happening in that particular period of the restoration. And we used to only be able to visit now, and because of the events of this year, we're now able to go there virtually. So, people who otherwise couldn't visit still now have that opportunity to go. And I think that going there, whether you're there virtually or whether your feet are on the ground, and as you literally move through the places where Joseph was, you realize that it's actual history. It's real. It happened. Joseph was there.
You go there on a hot, sultry day and you realize what it was like to be there. And now the buildings that we have in those places are air conditioned and comfortable, but they weren't then. And I love being in Nauvoo, and just imagining what it would have been like to have encountered Joseph on the street. I used to go for walks late at night, when nobody was on the streets, or I'd go out in the offseason when it was cold and snowy or icy, just so that there wouldn't be any other distraction. As I moved through that city, I thought, "This is the very same space where the prophet and Emma and other leaders walked. This is where things happened."
Heidi Swinton 19:37
When you were teaching all of these sister missionaries in your mission about the importance of Nauvoo and the significance of Joseph Smith, what did you want them to, to internalize? What did you hope that they would feel as you bore your testimony of Joseph?
Mark Lusvardi 19:54
The thing that we wanted the missionaries–and our guests that came to the historic sites–to understand, was that the restoration was for them. It's very personal. And it wasn't something that happened with the formal organization of the Church in 1830. It's something that's happening today. The restoration means blessings for us, here and now. And like President Nelson says, the restoration is ongoing. While Joseph ushered in that restoration and put certain things in place so that it could continue, it does continue. And it's for us.
Heidi Swinton 20:39
I love that Mark does the same thing that I do when he walks the streets, and imagines that he sees Joseph. I think doing that helps us put ourselves in Joseph's shoes. Imagine if you met him on the street, in Harmony, and he'd just buried his oldest child. Imagine if you met him in Kirtland. When we put ourselves in Joseph's shoes, we suddenly, we cut him a little bit more slack because we understand how hard his life was there. Um, and in addition to that, we have a feeling about him. You get a feeling about people when you're around them. And I think that happens when we talk about walking in his shoes, so I hope that happens for you. So now that we've walked the streets of Nauvoo, we're going to go to some other places. We're going to have Mark take us to Harmony, where we first started out today, and then we're going to go to Carthage.
Mark Lusvardi 21:38
One of the historic sites that has particular significance to me is Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. When we started working with that site, back in about 2007 or '08, it was largely undeveloped. There was a monument there. And there was, of course, the Susquehanna River. There was a railroad, there was a cemetery where Joseph and Emma's firstborn son was buried. The Hales are buried there, but otherwise, it was pretty well undisturbed and pristine. We made a lot of trips to that site, as we were asked by the First Presidency to restore elements of the Hale farm and the Smith farms, and so buildings were reconstructed. It was, it was so unique to see, as the archaeologists dug and revealed the foundations of their original homes. And to see those foundations come up out of the ground, and then to rebuild and reconstruct those homes on the original sites. And all of a sudden see Susquehanna kind of taking... you could start to see what it really looked like as the pathways between here and there got reestablished. And suddenly, it was as though the late 1820s were coming to life again for us, and it was a unique thing.
I remember the sweet feeling, uh, when we went down to the Susquehanna River one evening, and... for the film that was done for that site, with the film crew, when we were doing the film "Days of Harmony", which was for the Priesthood restoration site, and ultimately was shown at other historic sites as well. We had the actors who portrayed Joseph and Oliver be baptized in the river. And there they were, dressed in, in the period costume and there was a small crew down there with us, and what a sweet thing. And you just... I, I had strong impressions of, of what had occurred there before as we saw it all happening again, anew.
Everything Joseph had to do, it seems like, was done in the face of hardship. Their family had limited means, there were a lot of them, there was 11 in the family. They were moving from place to place. Everything he did seemed to bring on more persecution. There were health issues and the immediate family that was losing, once he was married, that was losing his own children, several of them to various things, as well as other close family members. And he was doing a magnificent work for the Lord. Sometimes we think we're doing some important work. And we think that because, uh, we have too many red lights on the way to the office, or uh, because it's a little cold in the morning, that we're experiencing hardship. And I don't mean to minimize that, I know that people experience serious challenges and difficulties. But can you imagine trying to do the Lord's work in Liberty Jail under those circumstances? And keep your testimony and keep strong and keep leading the Church, when you're in such horrible circumstances as that? It's, well... the Savior was not different. And He experienced persecutions. It seems that the adversary doesn't like good works.
Heidi Swinton 25:05
Works of righteousness. He's not big on that, the adversary isn't. How do you feel when you go to Carthage?
Mark Lusvardi 25:15
Carthage is a very... for me, it's a very quiet place. Not because of what happened there, uh, because that wasn't quiet. That was a rage, and it was terror. But Joseph, uh, finished his work in that place. And it's a place where we can remember him, being faithful to the end. And so for me it's just a peaceful, quiet experience to, to be there in that upper realm of the, of the jail where his life was taken
Heidi Swinton 25:54
I always think of the scripture, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). That just is that sense of stillness, that the Lord was in charge. And we needed to trust Him. When you see Joseph Smith, when you see him in the next life, what do you anticipate that will be like? Or do you think about that?
Mark Lusvardi 26:16
Oh, of course I think about seeing Joseph Smith in the next life. What a wonderful day that'll be! I don't know that it'll be quite the same as the welcome that Brigham Young had. But I remember Brigham Young, when he was laying on his deathbed and had been relatively despondent for the last few days, at in the last moments, he had a burst of energy and, and uh, uttered the words, "Joseph, Joseph, Joseph," as if Joseph were meeting him and welcoming him. I don't know that Joseph will be there to welcome me. But I hope that uh, I hope that I can go to a meeting or some gathering where he would be teaching again. I'd love to hear his voice. And I'd love to be instructed by the prophet of the restoration.
[Tape Recorder Click]
Heidi Swinton 27:10
You know, Carthage always gives me pause, because it just reminds me of all the hardship that Mark mentioned, all the hardship that Joseph experienced. You know, Carthage was really the end of Joseph's ministry here on Earth. But so much of the beginning happened in Kirtland.
I have to share with you this experience I had, because we thought we had this podcast segment all buttoned up, and I woke up in the middle of the night one night, and I thought, "Oh my heavens, we haven't taken people to Kirtland!" And of all the places that Joseph walked, Kirtland–all the revelations that came in Kirtland, the Kirtland temple, all the experiences of what happened in Kirtland–I couldn't shake it. And I thought, "Okay, we have to go to Kirtland."
And so, who do you go to? Well, you go to Mr. Kirtland, who–that isn't his real name. You go to Karl Anderson, one of the finest men you'll ever meet with an easy manner that has been born over years of coming to understand Joseph, walk in Joseph's shoes, and take people around. He spent a whole day with me, walking me around Kirtland. And I saw Kirtland through his eyes, and he sees Kirtland through Joseph's eyes. And so I felt like I was really connected, I want you to have that same experience.
[Tape Recorder Click]
Heidi Swinton 28:38
Welcome to our podcast, Karl Anderson, my dear friend.
Karl Anderson 28:43
Wonderful to be with you, Heidi! Hopefully everybody'll love Kirtland and Joseph Smith and the Savior before we're through.
Heidi Swinton 28:52
Karl Anderson 28:53
You don't meet, you don't meet Joseph Smith in Kirtland without meeting the Savior. And uh, that's what Kirtland is all about, Joseph Smith and the Savior.
Heidi Swinton 29:05
Expand on that for me!
Karl Anderson 29:07
Well, Kirtland is uh, what I call the holy ground of our dispensation. The Savior appeared in Kirtland more times than anywhere else, outside of the Holy Land. We have over 10 recorded appearances of the Savior, uh, seven recorded appearances of the Father and Son, but all of those involved Joseph Smith. So, when we talk of Kirtland we talk of Joseph Smith introducing the Savior to us. Uh, I am just so grateful for Joseph Smith–not just because of who he was, the sacrifices he made, all of the organizational steps, setting up the church in Kirtland–but it is the teaching of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Heidi Swinton 30:04
What do you feel on behalf of Joseph, as he's receiving these grand plans and directions? And what does that feel like for you, a seasoned member of the Church, who has long understood how the Lord works–and yet Joseph was just learning that?
Karl Anderson 30:24
You know, Heidi, I think of... Joseph gets the revelation to build the Kirtland temple. He hadn't- he didn't know what a temple was! Nobody had any money. They didn't even have tools, they didn't own the land. Enemies are raging all around them. He goes to the saints and says, "The Lord told me the build a temple." And they all say, "Oh, great! We'll go out and cut some trees and build a log house and call it a temple." Then the Lord gives him a vision of the temple–it's not logs (laughing). It's this beautiful building that is going to take years to build. And he has to rally the people and say, "You know, the Lord doesn't want it built of logs, He wants us to build it... I've seen it," and he describes it. And they, they... it was built of faith, they had nothing to build it with. They had to totally rely on the Lord.
I mean, you see Joseph struggling, but the Lord's behind him, the Lord's magnifying him. And the Lord is chastising him, he didn't start the temple for something like six months, five months. And the Lord says, "ye must... stand rebuked before my face; [because you've committed a sin], in that ye have not considered [my commandment to build the temple]" (D&C 95:2-3). He called it a "grievous sin," because He had to send Elias and Moses and Elijah. He had . . . 15 prophets, Joseph saw in Kirtland. And he's struggling to get people to support him. But he does it out of faith. That temple was built by the Lord, it was done solely out of faith. And the faith that it took for Joseph to do that is beyond any of our comprehensions.
Heidi Swinton 32:39
Karl, what about the people that will never have the opportunity to walk around Kirtland? They won't sit in those pews in the chapel. They won't walk the streets over to where Joseph lived. How can they feel the power that Kirtland can bring into their lives by an affirmation, that Joseph Smith was a prophet? How do they get that if they can't come?
Karl Anderson 33:07
Well, Heidi, I, I look at section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Heidi Swinton 33:14
One of my favorites.
Karl Anderson 33:16
Oh, it's literally a tour of everything that was, is, and yet to be, according to Joseph Smith. All of this. And I think of, at the end of it, the Lord tells Joseph Smith, "Now I have a sealed portion. Because, I've shown you mysteries, but those mysteries are not to be revealed," (D&C 76:114-119). But then the Lord promises that anyone can know those mysteries based on two principles: 1) those who love Me and 2) those who purify themselves before Me (D&C 76:116).
And, and what that means is that any member of the Church can go to the Lord–it'd be wonderful if they could sit in the revelation room in Hiram as I have and ponder what those mysteries would be–but the Lord's saying, "You don't have to be in the Johnson revelation room or in Kirtland. But what you need to be, if you love Me and purify yourselves, I'll reveal it." And I've gotten them. Doesn't matter where I was. If I love this Savior, and I'm trying to purify myself, we can get those.
Heidi Swinton 34:39
Yeah, no matter where we are.
[Tape Recorder Click]
Heidi Swinton 34:40
You know, I love that Karl talked about a pure heart. Let me give you an example of that by having Ben Gaughran–one of our British missionaries, he talks the Queen's English–tell us his experience of going to the Sacred Grove. And you know what, this is not going to be what you expect.
[Tape Recorder Click]
Ben Gaughran 35:04
I remember at the age of 16, I think I was, I had the opportunity to visit the Sacred Grove. And I really went there with high expectations. I was expecting to walk into this grove of trees and really feel a powerful experience and witness telling me, "Yes, this is where it happened. And this... everything that, that you've been told, growing up that happened here is real and true." And I didn't have that. I walked into the Sacred Grove and thought, "These are trees, and it's very quiet, and it's very pretty." And I could see why the prophet Joseph chose this place to come, because it was, it was very peaceful. But I didn't have any overwhelming feeling, uh, that was just, "There you go, Ben. Now you know."
And so here I was, a young English teenager, hoping to get that witness of the prophet Joseph in the prophet's Joseph's homeland. And it didn't happen for me. I was completely removed from his experience in the US. And I thought, "If I go there, that might help. That might help me to gain a witness of it." But it wasn't until I was in England, training in the England Missionary Training Center in Preston to–just before I went on my mission that I had that witness.
And it was in the strangest of circumstances. We had just been in the classroom, and we're practicing um, street contacting, and the teacher said, "Hey, the weather is sunny. Let's go outside and practice this in the carpark." And so we were walking around in companionships, and we just had to stop random people. And we decided to stop the teacher. And so we stopped him and–maybe a bit brave, but we did anyway–we stopped him and started talking with him. And I shared, I recounted and quoted the story of the First Vision. And I couldn't get through it.
Because in that very moment, stood in Preston, where so much Church History had happened for the British Isles–where Heber Kimball had been just a stone's throw away from where we were on the grounds of the temple, where other, other apostles had, had walked and preached the gospel... In that moment, hundreds and hundreds of miles away from the Sacred Grove, I received an absolute witness through the Spirit, that what happened in that Sacred Grove that I'd been to just four years before, was real and was true. And that I was now prepared to go and spend two years, and then the rest of my life, bearing testimony of that fact.
What I learned from that experience is that there are no boundaries to God's love. There are no boundaries to the promptings of the Spirit. And there are no restrictions when God wants truth to be known. And I didn't have to be stood on the, in the Sacred Grove. I didn't have to be American. I could be English and still have that same witness. I could be a person of color, and still have that same witness. God loves us all. That's what it taught me, and there's no bounds to, to His gospel reaching everywhere and everyone.
[Tape Recorder Click]
Heidi Swinton 38:58
I love Ben's description of receiving a witness in the parking lot. His heart was ready to receive, and I think when we're ready to receive it, it's not going to matter where we are. Now, we've been on this wonderful field trip. And there are places–like for me, Susquehanna. I just hear the name and I feel the water on my feet. You know, we like to think that sacred ground... like Ben was describing a parking lot by the temple and the Missionary Training Center, but sacred ground, we kind of think, you know, the heavens open and the light pours down. But it was sacred ground for Joseph in Liberty Jail. It happened for me at the fence line in Fayette, New York. And it's sacred ground for you when you're on your knees, and you're talking to your Father in Heaven and you're putting all the pieces together. It's like that journey in that roadmap, one place to the next, to the next, and really... That walking in Joseph's shoes is all about taking that covenant path back to our Father in Heaven with Jesus Christ as our leader.
We owe a big thank you to our friends! Dallyn Bayles, wasn't he an amazing singer? And we'll link to some of his stuff in our show notes, so be sure and go there. We also heard from Amy Sackett, Mark Lusvardi, Karl Anderson, and Ben Gaughran. This was a string of great people, and we're so grateful for them that they'd share their experiences with all of us.
If you want to learn more about them and find references that we used in this episode, be sure to check out our show notes at ldsliving.com/joseph. Joseph is a Bookshelf Plus exclusive, written and hosted by me, Heidi Swinton, produced by KaRyn Lay, Erika Free, and Katie Lambert. And our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. Mix at Six Studios did our sound design and the mixing for this episode. I can't wait for you to be with us next time. Remember, always stand by Joseph.