This month in my creative writing class, we were given the assignment to create a tribute to someone that we admire or look up to. After a lot of thought, I decided that I wanted to do a tribute to Joseph Smith. I wanted to teach everyone about who he was and how amazing he is. Everyone had questions about him so I thought that I could teach them about Joseph and they would understand Mormons better.
I spent hours on my computer doing research, recording narration, finding pictures, editing music clips and editing everything so that it flowed perfectly together. I prayed that I would be able to create something that wouldn’t embarrass Joseph Smith and that would convince people to have respect for what he did in his life. By the time my presentation came around, I had created a ten-minute mini-documentary about the life and trials of Joseph Smith. I was proud of my work and was excited to share it with my classmates.
I went to the front of the class and explained that I had chosen Joseph Smith, the founder of my church, to do my presentation on. I heard a couple people snicker, but I just smiled and pressed play. I sat down in my seat and watched along with my classmates. As I narrated the images on the screen and songs such as “Praise to the Man” and “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer” told the rest of Joseph’s story, the class did more than snicker. Within two minutes, half the class was full on laughing at me and the other half was just shaking their heads and ignoring my video. I tried to smile and laugh it off but it was humiliating. Even my close friends in the class were laughing. Even my teacher got in on some of the jokes. I’ve always been able to handle people making fun of me, but they started to mock Joseph Smith and the Church and it was one of the worst ten minutes of my life. I smiled as long as I could, then I just stared straight ahead. When the video finally ended, I got up and went to retrieve my laptop. I walked back to my seat, ignoring all the laughter and “are you sure it’s over?”s. At the end of these presentations, people were supposed to clap, but when I sat down there was no sound other than the final snickers. When everyone got over their fits of laughter, the next person went up to present their tribute.
I stared at my desk for the rest of class and when the bell rang, I rushed to the bathroom and cried. I was humiliated and worried that I had embarrassed Joseph Smith with my amateur presentation. I knew that my class wasn’t full of mature people, and yet I had spoken of a man I truly admire and look up to in front of them. Joseph deserved more than to be mocked.
While that day is still a touchy subject for me, I’ve come to realize that moments like that come with the territory. In John 15, we read, “ If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” People said awful things about Jesus Christ and about Joseph Smith and about many amazing people in the world. That didn’t make them any less awesome. We learn that good and evil would be spoken of Joseph Smith in this time, but I had never understood just how bad it could get. The point was, that I had tried. I had done my best to honor his memory and teach people about him. And, who knows? Maybe someone in that class will open the door to a pair of missionaries one day and remember that girl in their high school class who cared enough about this church to give a ten-minute presentation of one of its prophets. And even if that never happens, I shouldn’t be ashamed of trying to be a missionary.
Being a member missionary is hard, and it is a road paved with failure. But we keep walking it because Christ has walked it before and is walking it again with us. It’s better to try and fail than to never try at all. God is never ashamed of a failed missionary moment.