Giuseppe's Story – from "The Friend" 2009


Joseph’s Journey
(Based on the life of Giuseppe Efisio Taranto)

Part I

From The Friend, January 2009

Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land (2 Nephi 1:20).

Joseph Toronto woke up in a panic and looked around the ship’s dark cabin. Pulling the scratchy wool blanket up to his chin, he realized that it was just a dream that had awakened him. He’d been dreaming about how the missionaries who had recently baptized him counseled him to go to Nauvoo. But Joseph loved being on the sea in the sunshine and salty air. Even though he couldn’t swim—none of the sailors could—he planned on spending his whole life out on the water…. Joseph went back to sleep, listening to the gentle creaking of his small ship and the other ships in the harbor as they rocked in the ocean.

The next time he awoke it was morning, and Joseph heard his fellow sailors already at work. Joseph felt troubled about the dream. Pushing the feeling away, he got up and prepared for a long day of trading and selling fruits and vegetables.

It was 1845, and Boston Harbor was one of the busiest trading ports in the world. Ships large and small from many countries sailed to this harbor to trade their products for American goods. Joseph was the captain of his ship, and he had sailed from his home country of Italy to do the same.

On deck, Joseph secured the cargo as his men brought up the anchor. They were going to sail across the harbor to meet with other traders, but a flash of lightning on the horizon made Joseph uneasy. Dark storm clouds were gathering in the sky. Still, Joseph and his crew headed out, sure that they could make it before the storm hit. But they were only halfway across the harbor when the wind started churning up the water. All the ships in the harbor were being tossed around like toys.

Rain poured down, and the rumble of thunder mixed with the sound of Joseph yelling orders to his men to secure the sails and get below. They quickly tied the sails to the tall mast so the fabric wouldn’t rip in the wind, then ran to the lower decks for safety.

Joseph glanced around the top deck to make sure all his men were below, then looked up to see another ship being thrown straight at them by the wind. He jumped toward the door to the lower decks, but the two ships collided and everything went overboard, including Joseph.


Part II

From The Friend, February 2009

Why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called? (Alma 29:6).

In Part 1, Joseph Toronto has recently been baptized, and the missionaries have counseled him to travel to Nauvoo. However, Joseph chooses to stay on his ship in Boston Harbor. When a fierce storm blows in and his ship collides with another, Joseph falls overboard.

Joseph kicked his legs and arms and tried to stay afloat in the stormy sea. But not knowing how to swim, he knew he probably wouldn’t last long. The rain made it impossible for him to see what had happened to his ship, and the waves kept pushing him deeper under the water. As he waved his arms around, hoping someone would see him, his hand hit something. It was a wooden barrel that must have gone overboard with him. He grabbed it and hung on, knowing that it was his only chance for survival.

After what seemed like several hours, the storm calmed, and Joseph saw his ship coming for him. After his men helped him on board, he went straight to his cabin. He changed into some dry clothes and lay on his bed in exhaustion, thinking about what had happened. He knew that finding the barrel had been a miracle.

Joseph remembered the Bible story of Jonah, the prophet who had run away from what God had commanded him to do. Jonah had tried to sail far away from the wicked people he was supposed to preach the gospel to, only to be thrown overboard and swallowed by a whale. The whale spat him out on a beach three days later. Jonah repented and went to teach the wicked people.

God saved Jonah from drowning because He had a job for Jonah to do. Did God save Joseph from drowning because Joseph had a job to do? Joseph thought of the missionaries who had wanted him to go to Nauvoo. He thought of how he had stayed in the harbor instead. Joseph asked Heavenly Father for forgiveness, then went on deck as the ship arrived at its destination on the other side of the harbor.

After a few days, Joseph found a buyer for his damaged ship. Along with his life savings, he had $2,600 in gold coins, which made him a very rich man. But Joseph wasn’t tempted to spend the coins on himself. Instead, he put the money in some small cans, tied them around his waist, and headed for Nauvoo.

It took three weeks of wagon rides and walking to get there. During the hot, rough journey Joseph looked forward to meeting other members of the Church. He imagined Nauvoo as a beautiful community with friendly people who would welcome and accept him.

But when he arrived in Nauvoo, the town was in disarray. The people were poor, and a half-built temple stood at one end of town with hardly anybody working on it. The people were certainly friendly, and they did accept him, but Joseph began to wonder why God wanted him in this broken-down town. He missed his ship and the open water—what was he supposed to do now?


Part III

From The Friend, March 2009

In Parts 1 and 2, Joseph Toronto has recently been baptized, and the missionaries have counseled him to travel to Nauvoo. However, Joseph chooses to stay on his ship. He falls overboard during a fierce storm but is miraculously saved. Joseph realizes that God must have a job for him to do. He sells his ship and sets out for Nauvoo with $2,600. He looks forward to being in beautiful Nauvoo with other Saints, but becomes discouraged when he finds the city poor and in disarray.

Joseph sat with a heavy heart, confused as to why he had been led to Nauvoo. His thoughts were soon interrupted by some passing townspeople talking about a meeting that everyone was invited to. A man named Brigham Young was to be the speaker.

Joseph stood up and asked a young woman about this meeting. She explained that the leader of the Church, Brigham Young, wanted to speak to everyone in town at the town hall. She pointed down the street to a large building.

The town hall was muggy from the afternoon heat and the large number of people packed into it. Joseph found a place near the back and sat down. A man stood at the pulpit and began to speak. Joseph knew this must be Brigham Young, for his burning heart told him that he was listening to a man of God.

Brigham Young began by thanking the people for coming. He then told them that he knew of their hardships and lack of money. But he said they must pay their tithing regularly so the temple could be finished, and that the temple should be their most important priority. He also told them that more food for the workers and more money for the building materials were desperately needed.

Joseph still had most of the $2,600 in the cans he had strapped around his waist—he had only spent a small amount to get to Nauvoo. As Brigham Young spoke of the need for money, the cans seemed to get heavier and heavier. But as the prophet spoke of the importance of the temple, Joseph’s heart became lighter and lighter. He knew why he had been guided to Nauvoo.

After the meeting, Joseph went straight to Brigham Young’s office and introduced himself. He told President Young about the missionaries, about the storm that almost drowned him, and about God leading him to Nauvoo.

Brigham Young then watched as Joseph unstrapped the belt from around his waist and rolled the gold-filled cans across the table. “I want to give myself and all I have to the kingdom of God,” Joseph said.

When Brigham Young opened the cans and saw what was inside, he was touched by Joseph’s sacrifice. The money would be enough to finish the temple. Brigham laid his hands on Joseph’s head and gave him a blessing. In the blessing he promised that Joseph and all his posterity would always have the things they needed if they remained faithful.

The temple was completed, and Joseph Toronto became part of Brigham Young’s family, later traveling with them to the Salt Lake Valley.

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