Day of rest. Went to church. It was my turn to teach in the Elder's Quorum. The lesson was on the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. A few thoughts came to me as I was preparing to teach.
I heard about Joseph Smith for the first time in the fall of 1991 from an exchange student from Idaho named Eric Anderson. We had a trade - he helped me with English in exchange for me helping him with Russian. One day I asked him to tell me about the Mormons, and he explained that the religion originated from Joseph Smith. From his account I knew that in 1820 at the age of 14 Joseph Smith saw God The Father and Jesus Christ in answer to his prayer to know which church he should join, that he was told not to join any because the true one was not on the earth, and that he was killed by a mob in 1844. At that point, I did not know much else about his life, but what I had heard was enough.
Even though I was raised to be very skeptical of any religious claim of that nature, somehow this one was different. I had a special feeling that dispelled the natural doubts I normally experienced when I heard of such claims. Somehow those two facts, the vision and the death, were sufficient for me.
Now 18 years later I know a lot more facts. I also have a lot more life experience that helps put those facts into perspective. And I can say with that perspective that the extra facts I know are just the details. The account I had heard the first time had presented the essence. Those two events testify sufficiently of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith when the light of truth is permitted to shine with a reasonable degree of brightness and the spiritual vision is not terribly impaired.