Being in a skirt and wearing a nametag day in and day out usually draws some attention. Especially when you’re riding around on a bike, too. A lot of people ask us if we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, which we’re not, and a lot of other people turn us away without even listening to what we have to say. Some days it’s hard, but after the first few weeks or so in the field, you get used to it.
One thing I never tire of, however, is hearing what some people already think about our church. Sometimes they already know a lot. Other times we get the usual misconceptions. Sometimes people mix us up with the Amish. A lot of people think we’re not Christian. But I think my favorite was something we heard from a construction worker who we stopped to talk to outside while he was eating his lunch. After chatting for a little bit, the conversation went a little something like this:
“So what do you know about our church already?”
“I heard that Joseph Smith was wandering around in a desert and a frog hopped up to him and started talking to him and he wrote it down and that’s how your church started.”
We all stared at him for a couple minutes before just sort of chuckling and shaking our heads and very briefly recounting how the church really began. Needless to say, he was much less impressed with the actual story.
But he did get one thing right. In these days, it all started with Joseph Smith.
Joseph Smith lived in upstate New York in 1820, a time filled with countless churches arguing over who was right and who had the truth. The Smith family was really religious, but Joseph’s brothers and sisters and parents were sort of scattered all over, some belonging to one church, others to another. His father, Joseph Smith Sr., didn’t really go to church at all. Being 14 years old and wanting to follow God, Joseph was confused and didn’t really know who to believe or which church to join. After all, even the Bible says that there is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).
In his own words, this his how Joseph Smith described his experience:
“In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be aright, which is it, and how shall I know it? While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the aEpistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack bwisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. Never did any passage of ascripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed bwisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects cunderstood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible. At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in adarkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God.” (Joseph Smith-History 1:10-13)
And that’s exactly what he did. He asked God and recieved an answer. He was nowhere near a desert. There were no frogs involved. Just a boy filled with faith asking God for an answer.
He went to the origin of all truth. And you can, too.