On Sunday in our Teacher's quorum we talked about prayer. One point I tried to teach our Teachers is that God really does answer our prayers. The topic of prayer and answers to prayers leads naturally, at least for me and especially when teaching 14-15 year old boys, to the prophet Joseph Smith.
When Joseph was a preteen he starting thinking about the universe and the nature of God. He started seeking for truth. As he entered his teenage years he became surrounded by tumultuous teachings and preachings. A religious revival was underway - Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists were all preaching their gospels and vying for converts. Each minister had the same Bible (more or less) and each read the same verses but there was little agreement of key doctrines of the gospel (there still is little agreement). Joseph Smith was confused by all the controversy. If there was one Bible and one God, should not there be one gospel?
In order to sort out his confusion, Joseph did what the faithful have done throughout history - he sought the Lord in prayer. Joseph went into a grove of trees near to his home and knelt down in humble prayer. Joseph wanted to pray aloud, something he had not done before. But as soon as he started to pray he was attacked by a dark being; Satan himself tried to snuff the life out of the boy Joseph. This was one prayer Satan did not want uttered. Joseph felt the will to live flowing out of him; he started to despair but continued to pray in his heart. Then the darkness was gone and Joseph saw a light that was brighter than the sun. When this light rested upon him, Joseph saw two Beings - radiant, glorious, perfect Beings. Then came what was one of the most powerful words spoken in this dispensation - "Joseph" said one of the Beings.
The particular word "Joseph" was not what was powerful, the implications of the word were. With this simple word, Joseph's name, the boy learned a powerful lesson, a lesson we all can learn. God loved Joseph Smith; God knew him. God loves each of us; He knows each of us by name. We are not faceless entities created to worship the Almighty God (although we should!), we are His children. He sees us with his perfect love. That is what the utterance of Joseph's name taught - that God knows us; He hears our prayers and He answers them. Our prayers will likely never be answered in a similar manner as Joseph's but our sincere prayers are heard and answered.
That is the lesson I wanted my Teachers to learn - they are loved of God. He knows each of their names and cares about their lives. Joseph Smith was a special person, he was called to be the Lord's prophet but each of us are special too - we are all sons and daughters of God. While Joseph's experience was powerful, each of us can know with the same power - the power of the Holy Ghost - of God's love for us.