Brother Joseph

Unlike many Mormons, I can't get on the Joseph Smith veneration bandwagon. But I still deeply appreciate this complex man.

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A man who can be brawny, perplexing, rough-edged, and outrageous
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  • There are aspects of Joseph Smith as a man and as a prophet that are brawny, perplexing, rough-edged, and outrageous to me. I have a lot of unanswered questions. I see him as a complex man with a cosmic curiosity and robust confidence in God and in his own calling. I am grateful for what I do understand. Because I see both his humanness and God's hand evident in his life and work, I don't feel obliged to toss him out because of what I don't understand.

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    I disagree with the predominant pedagogy that believes showing the humanness of our leaders diminishes them and challenges the faith of the young. Having been an early-morning religious instructor for Mormon teens for four years, I am familiar with the bent of the lesson manuals. I have seen too many examples of young adults discovering "flaws" about the early church leaders and feeling betrayed, as though the whole structure of their belief system were based on "faith promoting myths."

    I'm not an advocate of taking a magnifying glass to every mole, but I see the theological counterpart to cosmetic surgery as being at least as damaging. Knowing that Joseph Smith and my contemporary leaders are complicated human beings allows me to feel connected to them. I am all too aware of my own faults. I become more confident that God can use even me to accomplish His work. As the old hymn says, "Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!" (from "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing").

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    Linda Hoffman Kimball
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