Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, LDS Church Young Women General President, delivered the final BYU devotional of the year in front of a crowd of BYU students and faculty.
Sister Oscarson based her remarks on Joseph Smith’s example. December is the month of his birth, she said, and lessons from his life might help students in their current situations.
The first lesson she discussed from Joseph Smith was the importance of fulfilling foreordained missions.
“When God wants a great work done in the world or a great wrong righted, he goes about it in a very unusual way,” she said, quoting E.T. Sullivan. “He doesn’t stir up his earthquakes or send forth his thunderbolts. Instead, he has a helpless baby born.”
Just like Jesus Christ was born to accomplish a great work, so was Joseph Smith, she said.
“Who could have guessed that this little obscure baby boy born in a small rented log house in the woods of Vermont to a family of very meager means would one day be described like this,” Sister Oscarson said.
Sister Oscarson said she testifies everyone in the audience came to earth foreordained to accomplish certain things. She said students have the potential to make a great difference in the world.
“Each of you, both men and women, need to understand that you have been given great opportunities for a uniquely balanced education and my hope for you is that you don’t sell yourselves short,” she said. “All of you should be aiming for the stars!”
She encouraged the audience to prepare for marriage, seek education and listen to the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
Standing up to criticism was the second lesson she emphasized from Joseph Smith’s life. He faced unrelenting persecution for his heavenly vision, Sister Oscarson said.
Smith relied upon what he knew to stand up to the skeptics surrounding him, even at the tender age of 14, Sister Oscarson said, and she believes people receive help from the Lord as they exercise faith in what the Lord has already given them.
She quoted Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who said that some insist upon studying the Church only through the eyes of its defectors, like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus.
Sister Oscarson encouraged her audience to seek truth from trustworthy sources like the Holy Ghost, the scriptures and the words of the living prophets.
The third and final lesson she taught was about the principle of repentance. She illustrated this with the example of Smith giving into peer pressure and making a significant error while translating The Book of Mormon. His choices resulted in losing 116 pages of the manuscript.
The Lord told then him he should not have feared man more than God. Even though Smith was chosen to do an important work, he could fall through transgression, the Lord warned.
Oscarson told students to put themselves in the shoes of this young prophet.
“Can you imagine how he must have felt as this whole episode unfolded?” Sister Oscarson said. “We are all human, which means we are all going to sin and make mistakes.”
But she also reminded students the Lord told Joseph he is merciful and willing to forgive people who repent.
Sister Oscarson said the ability to repent is one of the most basic and glorious doctrines of the gospel. Repentance is not negative, she said, and it should be part of daily thoughts and behavior.
She concluded by bearing her personal witness of the prophet Joseph Smith. She gained a testimony of his divine call as a young child reading a book about his life and experiences, and her testimony later grew as a seminary student.
“I was thrilled to think that the Lord speaks to his children on earth and that we have prophets in our day,” Sister Oscarson said. “It was the beginning of my conviction and testimony of the restored Church of Jesus Christ being established in these latter days.”
She said accurate knowledge and faith are the best defenses against skepticism and slanderous reports against Joseph Smith.
“Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and Joseph Smith was called and foreordained before this world was to stand at the head of this dispensation as the legal administrator with the keys and authority of time,” Sister Oscarson said. “He is the revealer of the knowledge of Jesus Christ and of salvation for our day.”
President Kevin J Worthen and Sister Peggy Worthen will speak in the first devotional of next Winter Semester on Jan. 10, 2017.