The Relief Society Declaration declares that, “We are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity who: Love life and learning.”
Elder David A. Bednar taught, “Understanding who we are, where we came from, and why we are on the earth places upon each of us a great responsibility both to learn how to learn and to learn to love learning.”
Brigham Young said, “We might ask, when shall we cease to learn? I will give you my opinion about it: never, never.”
Sheri Dye’s Testimony of Joseph Smith
Loving life and loving learning comes naturally for Sheri Dye. She loves learning about the Prophet Joseph Smith and agreed to share events that shaped and strengthened her testimony of him.
I’ve reached far back to my first memory of the Prophet Joseph and followed with the memories that I have used to build my testimony upon.
One of my first memories of remembering the name “Joseph Smith” was around the time I was eight years old, and baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My Sunday School or Primary teacher gave me the children’s book “Joseph Smith” by Karen Dixon Merrell, illustrated by Jerry Thompson, which I still have today.
I remember my mom or I would read it, and I remember that I felt something, but didn’t exactly know or understand completely what it was. I remember feeling sad the first time I learned he had died and wanted so badly to wind back the clock so he could still be here with us.
My next recollection is about a frequently occurring event taking place over many years. The mother of my best friend in elementary school was in Handel’s Messiah, performed every year in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. I would accompany my best friend, her little brother, and sister as her mom rehearsed each week. We would go downtown to Temple Square and sit in the benches during rehearsals or were given permission to walk around Temple Square, but were given strict instructions that we would remain on the square and never to go outside the gates. We would frequently visit the North Visitor Center, watch all the movies presentations, talk to the missionaries, look at the displays and return with pamphlets about the Gospel. I have such a fond memory of the display of the boy Joseph Smith kneeling in the Grove and once again felt special feelings about him, though not understanding it all.
Visiting Church History Sites Helped Joseph Come Alive
I next learned about his life in 1976, when I was ten years old. My dad and mom took my brothers, sisters, and me on a road trip around the United States through the south, up the eastern seaboard and back home to Utah along the church history sites. The church history site visits started in Palmyra, New York, where we got to visit the Hill Cumorah, the Joseph Smith Farm, the Grandin Press and the Sacred Grove. I know we traveled through the Susquehanna River area, visited Kirtland, Ohio, Carthage and Nauvoo, Illinois, and Adam-ondi-Ahman and Independence, Missouri. The Prophet Joseph Smith became more real to me by visiting these sites.
Beginning to Recognize the Holy Ghost’s Witness
One of the more profound memories strengthening my testimony about Joseph Smith was a Mutual fireside in the late 70s. It was a presentation given by Bryce Chamberlain about the Prophet Joseph Smith. I wasn’t yet quite twelve then, but my Mom insisted I go with her and my older sister. She piqued enough interest in me to go and guaranteed me, “You’re not going to want to miss this one!!!” She was right! I would have never felt and experience what it was that happened that Sunday evening.
We arrived plenty early so we could sit up close. We didn’t know exactly where the speaker would stand for his presentation. I still remember we sat on the right hand side of the Chapel half way up. I remember the place filled up and the back was open for overflow seating.
After the introduction, Brother Chamberlain stood up, thanked us for coming and said a few words at the podium. He was wearing a white shirt of that era and some very high waist brown/tannish pants. He was tall and very stately. He moved over in front of a large mirror and had his back somewhat to the congregation. He began applying makeup and you could see his face as he talked to us about the Prophet Joseph Smith. I remember watching this gradual transformation beginning to take place.
I distinctly remember as he was just finishing up his makeup, describing to us, “One could make something stand out by highlighting it.” He took a sponge applicator with a light color of makeup and with a swipe down to the front of his nose it became so pronounced (like Joseph’s). That did it for me! The chills went up my spine and the back of my neck as the Spirit testified of something I didn’t know anything about, but I felt it so powerfully. He then began to comb his hair forward and talk about why Joseph did this to cover up the scars he received by the mob during tar and feathering.
Slowly we saw Joseph come to life. Brother Chamberlain then took this long white sash and tied a cravat bow up around his neck. Then he turned towards us and began to put on a brown jacket of that era. He picked up a set of scriptures and walked up to the pulpit, began speaking a little more and shared his testimony. The Spirit was so strong I could hear my heart pounding in my ears, like when you know you’re supposed to give your testimony or something.
I also remembered Carthage Jail and seeing my mom crying so hard when we visited there and were taught about the Prophet and his brother’s martyrdom. This truly was a wonderful fireside and evening! My mom was right that “this was something not wanting to be missed!”
Testimony of My Son
It was many years, almost decades later, that I would feel this strong witness again about the Prophet. In 2009, prior to my son’s junior year in high school, he would go on splits with the missionaries and preach the Gospel. He loved doing it, and had done so since he was ordained a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood.
After returning home one evening with the Elders, he asked me if I’d like him to show me what he had learned. I was excited to learn from him. Still in his suit, shirt and tie, he asked me to sit down in a chair across from him. He then set “The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” on his knee and began presenting the first discussion. He began speaking and I thought, “What is going on?”
The Spirit was so strong I literally thought I was going to have to hold on to my chair. I remember my son began saying “On a Spring morning in 1820” and told me of the whole First Vision as if he had seen it himself. The tears were just streaming down my face as he talked about Joseph Smith, the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and shared his testimony. He told me I could know if these things were true by asking Heavenly Father, and that He would reveal His truth to me through the power of Holy Ghost and quoted Moroni 10:4.
He then asked me so humbly, “So what you think, Mom? Did I do okay?” I answered, “If I had never heard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you couldn’t get me into the water to be baptized fast enough!” I told him, “If he keeps sharing the Gospel with others like this, he would baptize many!”
Hill Cumorah Pageant
The next event occurred the following year as my son was selected as a member of the 2010 Hill Cumorah Pageant Work Crew. He traveled to Palmyra, New York, and for almost five weeks set up the stages and lighting for the Pageant. He visited all the historical sites of the Church and lived and worked on the Hill Cumorah.
When he returned, he shared many events that he could not keep up with in his letters. He put on the soundtrack to the Pageant and from there presented the entire Pageant to me, without leaving out the faintest details, since he had either listened to it or watched it every day it was rehearsed.
Once again the Spirit testified to me so strongly of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith. I sat and cried, and told him how much I loved him and how grateful I was for the experience he was given and able to share with me. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to go back there. He then told me he had prayed so hard that I would get better enough, and that he would be able to take me back to see the Pageant and show me everything! As I have since learned, nothing is impossible to the Lord!
In 2012 his prayer was answered through many miraculous events and people’s generosity. My son and I traveled to the 100th Anniversary of the Pageant and 25th Reunion of the Work Crew. As we flew into the Rochester area, my son pointed out the airplane window and said, “Look Mom!” and I thought, “Cumorah!” The Spirit was ever present the whole time we were there and I knew without a shadow of doubt that Joseph indeed lived there, did what he did and his efforts were so noticeable there.
The Holy Ghost Testifies of the Restoration
There is a very special feeling in the areas where the Restoration of the Gospel took place. It felt like a home to me in so many ways. I thought of something my mother said to me after she and my dad returned from a trip to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. She told me, “When you visit the Holy Land, you will know that the Savior lived, walked and ministered all around there!” That is how I felt about Palmyra.
My testimony of the Prophet Joseph is so special to me. I love him so much and for what he did for us. I can’t thank him enough for exercising such great faith in the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of his faith and endurance to the end, we have the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Priesthood of God, the Plan of Salvation, all the saving ordinances of the Gospel and the temple, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and all things in its fullness.
If he had not done what he was asked to do, we would not have a true knowledge of our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. I am grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith for asking God questions after he read from the Epistle of James, chapter 1, verse 5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
Joseph Smith testified in Doctrine and Covenants 76:22 “That he lives!”
I know the Savior Jesus Christ lives and loves us, too. I know that through love and faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can do and overcome all things. I know if we pray and ask Heavenly Father to help us in our life and our struggles, He will send answers and help us on our way. He loves us so much and wants to bless us with His love. I’m so grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith. In the name of Jesus of Christ, Amen.