The name Joseph Smith inspires an entire possible spectrum of emotions from those who have heard it before. While many revere and love the things he accomplished, there are others who view him as either a deceived fool or an ingenious deceiver of others. It is safe to say that he is one of the most controversial figures of the nineteenth century.
But all of this considered, I'd say Joseph Smith and his legacy have had a profound impact on my life. As a boy I was taught the stories of his life: his encounter with God and Jesus Christ at age fourteen, the visitation of an angel named Moroni, who led him to a set of golden plates inscribed with the record of ancient Jews in America. As a kid, I never doubted this. Why should I? It was what I was taught from an early age, alongside the stories of the Bible.
These cherished beliefs were taken for granted. It was just part of me, as much the part of me that knew the sky was blue. But as anyone who has ever grown up knows, age brings with it some degree of cynicism. The sunny world of our childhood, if we let it, can become the oppressive regime of our teen years. Of course, I never felt "oppressed" by my religion. But, as everyone does, I began to analyze the world around me with more scrutiny. In my formative late teens, I was confronted with all manners of challenges to my faith, which ironically seem to shape my faith today.
As I became a man, I felt the need to discover myself, to (much like Joseph Smith had) really figure out what I believed. This involved much study, much prayer, and faith that my Lord would answer these prayers. I think the problem most people run into with this is that they expect their answer to be all at once, a sweeping glorious experience of faith-affirming revelation. This can happen, but is frequently untrue. My testimony-building experience has been, and still is, gradual. Isaiah's timeless words ring true in my life: "But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little..." (Isaiah 28:13)
The abundance of material out there that purports to "disprove" Joseph Smith and his claims does not bother me, because my study and prayer has led my to a different conclusion: that Joseph Smith did not, and could not churn out a pseudo-religious novel as complex as the Book of Mormon. My study and prayer has confirmed in my mind that, though imperfect, this man was a prophet ordained of God, who truly saw what he said he saw, and instructed by God to restore the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth once more. 
Joseph Smith, his legacy of faith, and his love for Jesus Christ have compelled me, changed me even. I am ever grateful that in 1820, he knelt in a grove of trees, and asked his Father for clarity, and eternally grateful that his prayer was answered when he witnessed God the Father and Jesus Christ. I love this gospel with all my heart, and am grateful for it every day.I'll close in the name of Jesus Christ-- Amen. 


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