As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we gratefully sing the hymn, "Praise to the Man", which goes, in part:
Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation [or period of time when the gospel is upon the earth]
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.
Joseph Smith: Prophet of God
Obviously there is no lack of gratitude among the latter-day Saints for this wonderful, selfless man. But to many not of our faith, he is a mysterious figure, whose life and name have been "had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds,...tongues,...and people" (Joseph Smith--History 1:33). Many believe we worship him, or that he is some kind of savior to us. Others believe we follow blindly the account of his communion with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Who is Joseph Smith, and why is he so important to us?
Joseph Smith was, and is, the prophet through whom God restored the priesthood (the authority to act in God's name--see Matthew 16:19 and Acts 8:14-24) and the Church of Jesus Christ in these last days before Jesus Christ comes again. He was a man with a special mission from God to restore and share plain and precious truths about Jesus Christ's teachings. He was led to an ancient record of scripture written by believers in Christ, prophets even, who lived in the ancient Americas--we now have this precious record as The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. He was called upon to bear incredible sorrow and eventually give his life as a martyr. He is no savior to us--that title alone belongs to Him whose church Joseph was called to restore, Jesus Christ. He is no fanatical or insurrectionist--truly he lived a Christlike and Christ-devoted life.
I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was in fact a prophet, called like any prophet has ever been called--by God Himself. Read the Book of Mormon, which is the "good fruit" (Matthew 7) of the Prophet. Ask God if it is true and if Joseph really was His prophet. I know God will tell you too! I add my voice of gratitude as I sing: "praise to the man!"