Gordon B. Hinckley, “Dedication Remarks,” in Joseph Smith: The Prophet, The Man, ed. Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1993), xxix–xxxvi.
President Gordon B. Hinckley was First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, when this was published.
My beloved brethren and sisters, I regret that President Ezra Taft Benson is unable to be with us. He would have enjoyed this occasion. I bring his love and blessing, as I bring compliments of President Monson and other members of the Board of Trustees.
It is a significant honor to be with you to dedicate this new Joseph Smith Building on the campus of Brigham Young University. This becomes the newest and brightest star in the constellation of buildings that constitute this magnificent campus. Neither money nor skill has been spared in its planning and construction. I congratulate the architects, the contractor, the subcontractors, and the many skilled artisans who have had a hand in bringing to completion this beautiful and impressive structure that will become a place of learning for uncounted generations of eager and able students.
It replaces the old Joseph Smith Building, which was dedicated just fifty years ago on 16 October 1941. I secured from the archives of the university a copy of the proceedings of that occasion.
The opening prayer was offered by Rudger Clawson, President of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. President Franklin S. Harris, president of the university, then spoke. He noted that in those days of deep economic depression, when the Church was severely limited in its financial ability to handle such an undertaking, the building was constructed as a Church welfare project to provide employment for our people. It was built under the direction of a capable architect and an able superintendent.
I quote from his talk: “In the first year of the construction each man gave a day of work. And then last spring, each man, on ‘Y’ day, gave a day of work in making the walks; . . . thousands of voluntary days of work.”
Next, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, the Council of the Twelve and Church historian, spoke on the lineage of the Prophet Joseph Smith. An address was then given by President David O. McKay, counselor to President Heber J. Grant. At the conclusion of his address, President McKay gave a dedicatory prayer, and the benediction was pronounced by Elder Stephen L. Richards of the Council of the Twelve.
I am thankful that, because of the great faith of the Latter-day Saints in the payment of their tithes and the prospering hand of the Lord upon them, we have had the means to erect this present structure. I hope that all who use it in the future will recognize that their comfort has been made possible by the sacrifices and consecration of faithful Latter-day Saints.
I am grateful that we can have a Joseph Smith Building on this campus. I have often felt that if Brigham Young had his way, this great institution might be known today as the Joseph Smith University rather than as the Brigham Young University. I am aware that the Deed of Trust for “Brigham Young Academy” was drawn up two years before the death of Brigham Young (see Wilkinson 1:65). This, of course, is only speculation. But no man loved the Prophet Joseph Smith more than did Brigham Young. No man was more loyal to him. No man looked for light and knowledge and understanding from Joseph Smith more than did Brigham Young. He said on one occasion, “In my experience I never did let an opportunity pass of getting with the Prophet Joseph and of hearing him speak in public or in private, so that I might draw understanding from the fountain from which he spoke” (Journal of Discourses 12:269). As he breathed his dying breath, Brigham Young’s final words were, “Joseph, Joseph, Joseph.”
I need not remind you that all we have in the Church today—the great educational program that includes Brigham Young University; the thousands of houses of worship and temples scattered across this broad world; the vast missionary program carried forward in more than a hundred nations; the unexcelled family history facilities; the great work of redeeming the dead; the inspired welfare program to bless the lives of the needy both in the Church and out of the Church; and every other program and facility—all these find their roots in the life, the experiences, the teachings, and the divine authority that flow from the genius of him who was the first prophet, seer, and revelator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the man, young in years, to whom the God of heaven and his Beloved Son appeared and upon whom prophets of old bestowed the keys and divine authority long absent from the Church.
Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.
A man said to me one day: “I have great admiration for your Church and your people. The principles you teach have had a remarkable effect upon your membership. You have accomplished tremendous things. But I cannot accept Joseph Smith.” I replied, “That statement is a contradiction. If you accept the revelation, you must accept the revelator.”
To me the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith is a constantly refreshing miracle. In terms of what we do this day, it is interesting to note that this great institution is a part of the lengthened shadow of a man whose formal schooling was meager, scarcely worth mentioning. And yet from his lips flowed such words of divine revelation as these:
And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you. (D&C 88:77–80)
And then there are those tremendous words that have become the motto of this university: “The Glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (D&C 93:36). And further:
Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. (D&C 130: 18–19)
These statements of doctrine, with which all of you are familiar, are profound and tremendous in their implications. The Prophet’s mind reached for truth with a desire to share it with others. Out of this came the School of the Prophets, a little gathering of men in a room above Newel K. Whitney’s store in Kirtland. How tremendous were its consequences in the lives of the young men who became great and powerful teachers and leaders. Among them were Hyrum Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley and Orson Pratt, and Wilford Woodruff.
In Nauvoo this powerful educational philosophy of the Prophet led to the concept of the University of Nauvoo. This philosophy later bore fruit in the establishment of a number of academies in the pioneer communities of the West. Now Brigham Young University stands as the mighty residual of all of this.
With that has come a great and sacred and demanding trusteeship—that those who are responsible for what occurs on this campus see to it that divine truth is taught here with purity and power and effectiveness, and that this hallmark be found as an imprimatur on all that is taught on this campus.
I have a copy of Thomas Ford’s History of Illinois, published in 1854. The former governor, reflecting on the experiences ten years earlier at Carthage, notes:
Thus fell Joe Smith, the most successful imposter in modern times: A man who, though ignorant and coarse, had some great natural parts, which fitted him for temporary success, but which were so obscured and counteracted by the inherent corruption and vices of his nature, that he never could succeed in establishing a policy which looked to permanent success in the future. (354–55)
Such is the appraisal of the governor of Illinois whose name is primarily remembered because of his association with those events that led to the murder of Joseph and Hyrum on 27 June 1844.
I like to contrast that appraisal with words written by John Taylor, who was with Joseph and Hyrum on that fateful day. These words are found in section 135 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more save Jesus only for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fullness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. . . .
. . . Their innocent blood . . . is an ambassador for the religion of Jesus Christ, that will touch the hearts of honest men among all nations. (D&C 135:3, 7)
Thomas Ford wrote as a man without respect, appreciation, or vision. John Taylor wrote as a man who loved and reverenced his leader and friend, and he wrote with a vision of a prophet of God.
He wrote in terms of an earlier appraisal spoken about Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni as reported by Oliver Cowdery. Listen to these remarkable words:
Your name shall be known among the nations, for the work which the Lord will perform by your hands shall cause the righteous to rejoice and the wicked to rage: with the one nit shall be had in honor, and with the other in reproach; yet, with these it shall be a terror because of the great and marvelous work which shall follow the coming forth of this fulness of the gospel. (Cowdery 394–95)
When those words were spoken, Joseph was 17 years of age, the son of an inconspicuous farmer, a boy largely without schooling, friends, or money. One can scarcely imagine an individual with smaller prospects for accomplishing a work that would go forth among the nations, causing the righteous to rejoice and the wicked to rage.
How fitting it is that this new structure, dedicated to learning principles of eternal truth, should carry his name.
Great is his glory and endless his priesthood.
Ever and ever the keys he will hold.
Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom,
Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.
(Hymns # 27)
For the truths that will be taught here, he gave his life. For the testimonies that will be spoken here, he shed his blood. I like these words spoken by one who admired and loved him:
When a man gives his life for the cause he has advocated, he meets the highest text of his honesty and sincerity that his own or any future generation can in fairness ask. When he dies for the testimony he has borne, all malicious tongues should ever after be silent, and all voices hushed in reverence before a sacrifice so complete. (Dalby)
Wilford Woodruff recounts the occasion when all who held the priesthood could gather together in one small room in Kirtland. Now, as I think of a Church of more than 8,000,000 members; of its steady and consistent growth; of its vast facilities scattered through the nations; of the many languages in which its works are translated; of the thousands u pon thousands who utilize the resources of its family history program; of sacred temples now 44 in number, and that number destined to increase; of the everlasting covenants therein entered into ordinances therein administered; of this the largest private Church-sponsored university in America—all of this and more have come of his life and teachings. I stand in solemn wonder and thank the Lord, the God of heaven, for his prophet of this the last dispensation of time, who during one brief lifetime became an instrument in the hands of the Almighty for the restoration of eternal truth, the bestowal of divine authority, and the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days.
I am grateful for this new structure that carries his name. I invite each of you to bow your head and join with me in a prayer to our divine Father and his Beloved Son in dedicating this Joseph Smith Building to the memory of him who was the instrument in their hands in restoring to earth their work in this most glorious of all dispensations.
Cowdery, Oliver. “Rise of the Church.” Times and Seasons 2:391–97.
Dalby, Ezra C. Talk given in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on 12 December 1926.
Ford, Thomas. A History of Illinois, from Its Commencement as a State in 1814 to 1847: Containing a Full Account of the Black Hawk War, the Rise, Progress, and Fall of Mormonism, the Alton & Lovejoy Riots, and Other Important and Interesting Events. New York: Ivison & Phinney, 1854.
Hymns. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985.
Wilkinson, Ernest L., ed. Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years. 4 Vols. Provo, UT: Brigham Young Univ, 1975.