By Kevin V. Hunt
On a beautiful Spring morning in 1820, a young boy of just fourteen (in his “fifteenth year” as he said) went into a grove of trees to pray. The boy was Joseph Smith. On that occasion, Joseph’s prayers were answered in a way that he never dreamed possible. As he prayed, God, the Father of all creation, and His Son, Jesus the Christ, the Savior of all mankind personally appeared to the boy Joseph. This later became known as Joseph’s “First Vision”. And this vision would forever change the world. Having studied Joseph with my heart and soul – over many years, I have come to know that his vision was divine. I know that it happened. I know that he saw God and Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost has borne witness to my soul that this vision is true.
How grateful I am that I have been blessed to know of this Vision. How grateful I am for the focus that this vision has given to me in my life – and those of family members. I am grateful that the Gods of the Universe came to the young Joseph and that they directed him in future years to restore in its fullness, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for Joseph Smith and for the answers given to him that day in what we now call “The Sacred Grove”.
Reference: Joseph Smith History written in 1838 and as found in “The Pearl of Great Price”, a book of canonized scripture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Inspired by an invitation from our current Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, to read and study the First Vision in preparation for the upcoming 2020 April General Conference sessions as the bicentennial (200 Years) of the First Vision was to be celebrated, I took him up on his challenge. This article or treatise is now written from that personal study.
BACKGROUND AND SETTING:
Joseph’s family had lived in Vermont and other places as they tried to eke out a living as poor but determined farmers. And recently they had moved to the village of Palmyra in Western New York. This was not a chance move for the Smith family. The Lord guided and brought them to this location. He needed them there. He needed Joseph to be there for future events. For fourteen hundred years before this time, God had directed an ancient American Prophet, named Moroni, to bury sacred metal records in a hill near this Palmyra. Joseph needed to be there to be prepared to obtain and receive this record.
In 1820, young Joseph Smith went into a grove of trees near his home to pray. He was a religious, sober, and reflective young man who was very concerned about his standing before God. Following his prayer, he was visited by God, our Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost was also present and testified to Joseph’s heart of the divinity of his Heavenly messengers. We can learn much truth from this vision and subsequent events surrounding the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
JOSEPH’S FAMILY HELPED PREPARE JOSEPH FOR HEAVENLY ANSWERS:
Joseph was a young man who was brought up in a strong religious home. Scripture reading and prayer were a part of his everyday experience as he grew up in the Smith home. The Bible was readily available to him in his home. The scriptures were read frequently as a family and he spent much individual time reading the scriptures. This Christian upbringing prepared Joseph’s young mind for his questions relative to God’s plan for him, taught him that with faith, he could talk to God and receive answers from Him.
There was much action in the community relative to religion. God also had a hand in this revival excitement in that it helped instill questions and concerns in the mind of young Joseph. Joseph attended the meetings of various preachers and denominations. He had read of the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible. He seriously sought for a church that mirrored that of the former day church. But the more he heard from these various preachers, the more he was confused. His family members added to the confusion as they joined different churches. And being a serious and a contemplative boy, Joseph did not want to make a hasty decision. He wanted to KNOW which church was right and which he should join before he took action. He sincerely believed that there was a true church to which he should become affiliated. And Joseph was concerned about his own spiritual situation and wanted to be “right with God” in his conscience, feelings, and actions.
JOSEPH PREPARED HIMSELF SPIRITUALLY TO RECEIVE PERSONAL REVELATION:
Joseph teaches us how to study the scriptures: As a family and individually. The Smith family often read the Bible together each night after the heavy and strenuous work of the day. There was no technology and very few books in that day. So, much of the teaching from one generation to the next came through a dedicated and purposeful study of the Bible. Joseph also spent much personal time in the scriptures. He read them often. But he went beyond just reading. He seriously pondered the truths that he read. He tried to apply them to his own life. With his background with the scriptures and prayer, he went to the grove of trees to pray. He wanted to know where he stood with God and wanted to repent of his sins and shortcomings. And being confused with the many religious beliefs of the day, he wanted to know which church he should join. He was looking for a church that matched the early-day Church as established by Christ in the New Testament. He had a basic belief that there was a God and that He could answer his prayers. This was a teaching given him through the faith and teachings of his God-fearing parents. When he read James Chapter 1, Verse 3-5 in the Bible, these verses rang true to him.
“I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of god, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not: and it shall be given him. Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did … (JSH-Verses 11-12)”
Joseph thought of these verses frequently over time and pondered their application to himself. His was not just a single reading of these verses. Joseph studied them over and over again and thought of them deeply. “Can God really hear me and answer my prayers,” he wondered? “If any of you lack wisdom …” And Joseph certainly felt that he did lack wisdom. “Let him ask of God … And let him ask in faith …” Joseph wondered if he had the faith to ask of God and to receive an answer.
At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God”. (JSH-Verse 13)
Again, this was not a quick decision. He thought of these questions again and again. This pondering, combined with his simple but strong faith in God, ultimately led him to the grove.
So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt.” (JSH-Verse 13)
Again, he did not make a hasty decision. He checked out possible places in the grove, maybe going there multiple times to ponder his questions and heart desires. Finally, he found his desired spot and he thought of this spot a few times and maybe even visited the spot over the next several days as he tried to envision how he would pray and what he would do.
Then, having made his decision, Joseph was at peace. He was excited as he looked forward to the experience ahead. And then the morning came. He got up real early (likely on a Sabbath Day but if a weekday before the planned work of the day).
It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty” (JSH-Verse 14)
Joseph went firmly knowing of his plan for prayer and he had the faith to know that he could receive his desired answers.
“… I retired to the place where I had previously designed to go … [and] looked around me, and [found] myself alone” (JSH-Verse 15)
Joseph purposely went to the quiet place he had previously selected and where he knew he could be alone to commune with his Heavenly Father and to offer his heart out to God. He went to his chosen spot deep in the woods – a place in nature that was calm and beautiful. He went to the grove in the early morning – when the world was most beautiful and serene. No doubt he sat again and pondered the beauty around him and his mission in going there. He enjoyed the peace and solitude of the morning as well as the beautiful creations around him. He prepared spiritually for his desired experience. He likely had no idea of the magnitude of what would follow but somehow in his heart, he believed in faith that he would feel and know the desires of his heart. He knew that it was time to exercise his mission and reason for going to the woods.
“I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God.” (JSH-Verse 15)
Joseph knelt and folded his arms and quietly bowed his head. He waited a few moments as he tried to imagine speaking with God and the questions that permeated his mind. In faith he began softly …
“It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never made the attempt to pray vocally.” (JSH-Verse 14)
Joseph had prayed in his mind and heart many times in his life before this occasion. But this occasion was different in that he felt a need to pray vocally. He had not done this before. But, in so doing, he believed that he could more directly speak with God. He wanted to use his voice and not just inner feelings. He spoke vocally with the faith that his God could actually hear his voice. He opened his mouth and slowly began with the words, he had read so many times in his scriptures: “Oh, God, the Eternal Father … Hallowed be Thy name …” He probably paused there a moment thinking of how to say next what he wanted to say and waiting for a response back. He wanted to know and feel that he was being heard.
“… Immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.” USH-Verse 15)
Joseph was overcome with a power of darkness. He knew that he was struck by a very negative power. He could not move. He was about to give up as this power bore down upon him. From this experience, he came to know without a doubt that Satan was real and that he was working hard to thwart the work of God.
“Exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction – not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being …” (JSH-Verse 16)
JOSEPH IS DELIVERED FROM THE EVIL INFLUENCE THAT HAD HELD HIM BOUND:
Joseph prayed with great fervor and increased intensity exerting all inner strength that he had, “OH GOD … Help me … Save me …” (He was trying desperately to hold on … to be rid of the overwhelming power of darkness. The record does not say this, but Joseph likely needed help to get rid of Satan. God appeared and likely told Satan to depart).
JOSPEH IS VISITED IN PERSON BY TWO ANGELIC BEINGS:
And then with Satan ousted from the scene, God then was able to speak to Joseph. Joseph was probably worn out, exhausted from his encounter with Satan.
“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.” (JSH-Verse 16) “I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound.” (JSH-Verse 17)
Joseph must have looked with great joy and gladness upon the two personages there before him. He was then overcome and amazed at the brightness around him. The Holy Ghost came upon him and he was able to see and comprehend the two people who stood before him. He thought he was seeing angels. At this point, he did not know who they were. But he knew that the darkness and depression was gone. And he could feel and see the glorious and exquisite brightness before him. As his eyes adjusted to the light, (and as now prepared of the Holy Ghost to see God), Joseph now relieved, overwhelmed with joy and peace as he basked in the light and glory of the scene before his eyes.
“When the light rested upon me, I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other – This is my Beloved Son, Hear him!” (JSH-Verse 17)
GOD CALLS JOSEPH BY NAME AND INTRODUCES HIS SON TO JOSEPH:
We can only imagine how God the Father and Jesus smiled upon Joseph. They likely told him that they had come in answer to his prayers. And then God smiled again and quietly said, “Joseph … This is my Beloved Son, here him!” Joseph knew then that it was God, the Father, who was talking with him. He gazed and listened with rapt attention and great joy as the significance of the occasion began to sink into his soul.
Jesus added his own self-introduction to himself as he said, “I am the Lord of Glory. I was crucified for the world …” (First Vision 1832 Version) The Lord then asked Joseph, “Joseph, what can we do for you?” Joseph then said that he had come seeking forgiveness of his sins. Imagine the joy as the Lord said, “Joseph, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee. Go thy way. Walk in my statutes and keep my commandments.” (1832 Version of the First Vision)
Joseph expressed his sincere gratitude for this feeling of grace that he felt from his Savior. He had a feeling of great joy and peace in his mind and heart.
“My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects were right. … and which I should join.” (JSH-Verse 18)
Joseph then also stated the second reason why he had come to the Lord in prayer. He said, “I am confused about the many churches and I want to know which church I should join.” J
“At this time, it had never entered into my heart that all [churches] were wrong …”
Joseph was surprised when the Lord told him that none of the churches then on the earth were His true church and that Joseph was to join none of them, The Lord said to Joseph:
“… they [are] all wrong … [for] their creeds [are] an abomination in [my] sight, … those professors [are] all corrupt; [and] they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof”. (JSH-Verse 19)
Jesus “again forbade me to join with any of them.” (JSH-Verse 20)
Joseph was “called of God” (JSH: Verse 28) for a future work and told by the Lord that he, Joseph, would later be an instrument in His hands to restore His true church to the earth. We have no other details at this time, but there must have been much other conversation and instruction given to Joseph from his Heavenly visitors. For said Joseph,
“And many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time.” (JS History, Verse 20)
As the “interview” concluded, Joseph found himself on his “back looking up into heaven.” Joseph notes that “when the light had departed, I had no strength”. (JSH-Verse 20) He was spiritually and physically exhausted. He remained in the grove for a time as he pondered on what he had just experienced. And having recovered somewhat, Joseph returned to his home. He went quietly – in reverent awe of what we now refer to as “Joseph Smith’s First Vision”. He said within himself,
“I beheld a [glorious] vision … I know that I did. I saw God, the Father of the Universe and His Son, my savior, Jesus Christ.” And said Joseph, “My soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great joy. The Lord was with me.” (1832 Version of The First Vision)
Joseph did not run quickly to tell his mother of his experiences but as he came into the house, Lucy Mack Smith could see that Joseph was exhausted. She wondered what had happened to him. Mother Smith asked her son if he was alright or if he was sick. Joseph told his mother what he had seen, experienced and felt. He knew that his mother would believe his words. And she did. And then he gave her a little jab as he said, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism [the church she had joined] is not true” (JS-History verse 20.)
What a glorious vision Joseph Smith experienced. And because of his experience, he would never be the same. And the world would also be forever changed. Joseph came out of that grove of trees on that spring morning knowing more about God and Christ than any other man then on the earth. He would go forth to testify of that which he learned and knew. Persecution began immediately to rear its ugly head in opposition to the vision that Joseph had seen. And he recalled the New Testament words of the Apostle Paul who had seen a similar vision soon after the death and resurrection of Christ.
“It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom, else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?” (JSH-Verse 20)
Joseph lamented as he experienced intense persecution and said, “It was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.” (JS History, v. 23) but Joseph would forever be bold in his testimony to the world, saying,
“It was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. … “I saw a light, and heard a voice.”
And while those of the world would say he was dishonest or mad, and ridiculed and reviled him, this did not destroy the reality of Joseph’s vision.
“I did see a light, and in the midst of that light, I saw two personages, and they did in reality speak to me. I had seen a vision, I know that I did, I know it, and I know that God knows it, and I cannot deny it and none of this persecution can make it otherwise.” “And,” said Joseph, “I will know to my latest breath that I [did] see a light and heard a voice speaking unto me and all the world could not make me think or believe otherwise. … I continued to affirm that I had seen a vision.” (JS-History, Verse 25, 27)
Joseph knew that he must join with none of the other churches of the day. This, combined with the relentless persecution from neighbors, former friends, and seemingly everyone around him (but his supportive family) made for a very lonely life for young Joseph. He was left to himself much of the time because others did not believe what he said that he saw and heard.
“… My telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among the professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution. … and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.” (JSH-Verses 22-24)
Joseph knew that he must “continue as I was until I was further directed.” (JS-History, Verse 26). That must have been a very hard time for Joseph, but it was a time to ponder, reflect and to prepare for his future mission. And says Joseph, “I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections” (JSH: Verse 29) Joseph knew that he had been called of God (JSH: Verse 28) and that the Church would be restored through him, but Joseph was not given the timetable for the events. When no further direction came to him, he would have been tempted further of the father of lies and who would try to make Joseph doubt the reality of his experience or to give up on his forthcoming mission. But, in the meantime, Joseph waited patiently knowing that eventually, he would be given further direction. He continued to read, study, and ponder. And as time passed, Joseph wondered continually of his status with God. “Am I still worthy? What am I to do?” Joseph wondered what the next step would be and when it might happen. Finally, the time did come.
“[On] the twenty-first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one” (JSH: Verse 29).
Moroni, also a resurrected being, came in the form of a man to Joseph on the night of September 21, 1823. In a series of visits, Moroni, the last surviving prophet of the ancient Americas came to Joseph. As the Father and Son had earlier, Moroni came in a pillar of light that was brighter than noonday and “his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. (JSH: Verse 32) And Moroni also called Joseph by name (an indication that the angels of heaven know us mortals here on the earth).
Moroni stated that he was “a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do.” (JSH: Verse 33)
Moroni was very specific in what Joseph needed to do and quoted many Bible scriptures (with some variance from the current Bible wording) and prophesied about the coming forth and restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Once again, Joseph knew that God remembered him, that God loved him and still had a great work for him to do.
“He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants.” (JSH: Verse 34)
Moroni appeared to Joseph five times on the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd of September. He quoted many scriptures and told Joseph that he, Joseph would help these to be fulfilled. Joseph was told by Moroni to go tell his father all that had transpired.
“I obeyed: I returned to my father in the field, and rehearsed the whole matter to him. He replied to me that it was of God, and told me to go and do as commanded by the messenger.” (JSH: Verse 50)
Joseph was led of the spirit – and following Moroni’s instructions – to the nearby Hill Cumorah. And again, it was interesting that Joseph and his Smith family then lived in very close proximity to this referenced hill. Joseph knew the place as he arrived there. He dug into the ground as directed by Moroni and there he beheld the sacred records written by Moroni and other prophets. Moroni himself had buried these records and other sacred items before his death some 1,400 years previously.
Joseph was instructed that the time to obtain the plates was not yet – and in fact would not come until some four years later.
“I made an attempt to take them out, but was forbidden by the messenger, and was again informed that the time for bringing them forth had not yet arrived, neither would it, until four years from that time.” (JSH: Verse 53)
Joseph was instructed to come to the same place exactly one year later and subsequently each year until it was time to obtain the plates. As he had been commanded, Joseph
“… went at the end of each year, and at each time I found the same messenger there, and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews, respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days.” (JSH: Verse 54)
Joseph ultimately received the promised golden plates from the Angel Moroni on September 22, 1827. Joseph had remained true to his call and mission. He was careful to safeguard the plates – even amid the intense persecution which was ever present around and against him.
“For no sooner was it known that I had them, than the most strenuous exertions were used to get them from me. Every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to for that purpose. The persecution became more bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were on the alert continually [from Satan] to get them from me if possible. But, by the wisdom of God, they remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand. … [Then] according to arrangements, the messenger called for them. (JSH: Verse 60)
By this time, Joseph was married to Emma Hale. Her folks had originally been very opposed to Joseph and what he was doing but ultimately their hearts were softened by the power of God. They became friendly to Joseph and Emma and invited Joseph and Emma to come to live with them in Pennsylvania.
Following the direction of Moroni, and under intense inspiration of the Holy Ghost, Joseph began the translation of then the historic and sacred record that later would come to be known as The Book of Mormon. The Lord sent Oliver Cowdery to assist Joseph as scribe in the translation process.
Joseph copied some of the characters from the Golden Plates – along with a written translation. Martin Harris took these to New York and showed them to two different professors of ancient languages. It is very interesting that the first, Professor Anton, answered exactly as had been prophesied some 2,500 years previously in a vision given to the ancient American Prophet, Nephi. (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi – Chapter 27) as well as to Isaiah an ancient Jewish prophet (Isaiah Chapter 29) Again, God knew from the beginning of time, events that would surround the Restoration of the Gospel in latter days.
As the work of translation transpired, Joseph and Oliver read of the need for baptism. They inquired of the Lord and received guidance and instruction as they knelt and prayed (again in a grove) near the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.
“We still continued the work of translation, when, in the ensuing month (May 1829), we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquirer of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us saying, ‘Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness” (JSH: Verses 68-69)
And so, heavenly messengers once again came – on May 15, 1929 – to Joseph (and Oliver). The messenger said that his name was john – the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament. John the Baptist, … who had been beheaded in the time of Christ, but who was now resurrected at the resurrection of Christ, appeared. John stated that he was acting under the Priesthood authority, keys and direction of Christ’s ancient Apostles, Peter, James, and John. He ordained Joseph and Oliver to what he called the Levitical Priesthood and commanded Joseph and Oliver to be baptized.
“It was on the fifteenth day of May, 1829, that we were ordained under the hand of this messenger, and baptized. Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father [and we] prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. … We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation.” (JSH: Verse 73)
Oliver is eloquent in his description of the event and states that on that sacred occasion, “we heard the voice of Jesus, and the truth unsullied as it flowed from a pure personage, dictated by the will of God, is to me past description.” (JSH in notes following the last verses recorded by Joseph) This was the grandest of occasions and one for which Jesus and His Father had looked for thousands of years – even from before the creation of the world. Oliver does not give details, other than to say that they heard the voice of Jesus, but perhaps Jesus could have even been there to witness this joyous occasion in fulfilment of His Father’s Plan. Oliver also said of the occasion: “We were wrapped in the vision of the Almighty. The Heavens were parted.” Could it be that Jesus himself was there as one of the two required witnesses of this great event? Interesting to ponder and to contemplate!
Later, Joseph would indeed become the Lord’s representative to restore the church once more to the earth. What joy and gladness! The Church of Jesus Christ once more established and restored to the earth just as in ancient times and in fulfilment of words spoken to his Prophets since the beginning of earthly time. The Lord’s Church, with priesthood authority to act in the name of Christ, was once more upon the earth.
Joseph’s “First Vision” and all subsequent events that brought forth this restoration were miraculous and amazing. And because of these events, the world would forever be changed as the Gospel would roll forth to all the world in preparation for the promised Second Coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
And indeed, we can learn many great and marvelous truths from the First Vision and other events of the Restoration. And it now becomes the mission of all members of the Church of Jesus Christ – the Latter-day Saints, to be bold in testimony of these truths – knowing that we have the divine revealed knowledge and truths that the world does not know or have. The people of the world are depending upon and waiting for us to share the glorious message with them. It is essential to them and for the salvation of all of God’s children now on the earth – and for all future generations.
So, what are the truths that we learn from the First Vision and other events of the Restoration?
GOD HAS A MASTER PLAN FOR OUR EARTH AND THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST UPON THE EARTH:
God the Father had his eye on the Smith family for some 4,000 years before Joseph was born. In the Book of Mormon, as Lehi gives a blessing to his son, Joseph, Lehi quotes a prophesy of Joseph the son of Isaac (the same that was sold into Egypt). In this prophesy, the patriarch Joseph said that he who would restore all things would be called Joseph (after him, the patriarch) and that his name would be named after the name of his father (Joseph Smith, Sr.) (Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 3:15)
As already noted, The Smith family was BROUGHT to New York to be near the buried plates and future events already planned by The Father in his eternal plan.
God delegates to Christ the administration of this earth but is there to introduce and support him.
God and Christ knew the name of Joseph as a son of God.
God can indeed appear to man – though some may say that “No man has seen God”. (He was able to see God because he was first prepared “of the Holy Ghost” to see them.
We are commanded to hear Christ – we go to God through Christ and His church.
Joseph was called of God to accomplish a specific work or mission.
When God wants to implement a new plan, He works with someone young and teachable.
Joseph was told that he would be the instrument through which the true church of Jesus Christ would once again be restored to the earth.
When God wants to communicate with us or with our church leaders, he does it through Jesus Christ.
The next step in the restoration of the Gospel after Joseph’s “First Vision” was the introduction of The Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the everlasting Gospel.
God prepared the Urim and Thummim thousands of years earlier for use in translation of the sacred record [into the English language. Joseph became a Seer because he had the Urim and Thummim.
The Book of Mormon records and prophesies concerning the taking of translation samples to noted professors of the day and what the men said was recorded over a thousand years before they men said what they said.
Satan also knows the eternal plans of God.
There is now one true church of Jesus Christ upon the earth
NATURE AND ATTRIBUTES OF GOD AND CHRIST:
God is real!
God and Christ have physical bodies.
God and Christ spoke to Joseph with their mouths, and he heard with his ears and saw with his eyes. God has ears to hear our prayers, eyes to see our actions, a mouth to speak to us, and a heart to feel compassion and love.
Joseph saw a light and heard a voice. God and Christ appear in pillars of light. God and Christ have light brighter than the “noon-day sun”.
Light dispels darkness.
God and Christ come in great glory “The Glory of the Lord”.
God the Father is the literal father of Jesus Christ.
God and Christ are separate beings (an important truth not known to most of the world).
God is a personal being and all men and women are made in his physical image.
God and Christ exactly resembled each other (a trait of human genetics)
When God the Father comes to earth (on very rare occasions) he comes to introduce His Beloved Son.
Joseph Smith testified that God does live, and that Jesus Christ also lives.
Jesus is a resurrected being (as is The Father). He rose from the dead and lives today. (And because of His resurrection, we too may all be resurrected).
The Holy Ghost is separate from God and Christ.
The Holy ghost is conferred upon us by the power the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood.
NATURE OF ANGELIC VISITORS
Angels have appeared to minister to men in our modern day.
Moroni and John the Baptist both appeared as resurrected beings. Both had died during mortality. Resurrection restores the full body even as in John’s case, parts of the body were separated.
John the Baptist was beheaded in New Testament times. Moroni had died on or after the year of 422 AD. He died and was resurrected – so the resurrection is ongoing from the resurrection of Christ.
Moroni and John the Baptist had physical bodies.
Angels bring commandments and direction acting by direction from God.
There is life after death. We knew our ancestors prior to our birth and made sacred promises to them to help them to receive sacred Priesthood ordinances and covenants.
Angels may give direction of events that may take place – now – or at a later time.
We need to be obedient to the directions from Heaven.
Angels often appear in pillars of light.
Angels from heaven know us by name and work at God’s direction to us individually.
Angels recognize that parents need to be consulted and informed when their children receive heavenly communications (as Moroni instructed Joseph to go tell all to his father).
CHRIST AS OUR REDEEMER:
Jesus told Joseph that his sins were forgiven.
Christ said that he saved us from death and hell.
John the Baptist was beheaded as a mortal being but came to Joseph Smith as a full person who had been resurrected with other saints who had died prior to the resurrection of Christ (they were resurrected with Christ) through the power of the Atonement and resurrection of Christ.
THE POWER OF SATAN:
Satan is real and powerful.
With fortitude we can overcome the temptations of Satan and his followers
Satan tries to thwart the work of God’s plan. He inspires opposition.
Satan also knows us by name and knows who we are as sons of God and our specific roles for building the Kingdom of God. Satan knew Joseph personally and knew of his upcoming mission.
God is Light but Satan is darkness.
Satan will motivate evil-disposed and designing persons to thwart the rise and progress of the church.
At that moment, Joseph was overcome with darkness and the power of Satan himself. He learned that:
Satan prompted church priests and converts (of churches of the day in 1820) around Joseph Smith to create “a scene of great confusion and bad feelings with priest contending against priest, and convert against convert” (JSH-Verse 6)
Satan used “both reason and sophistry” to confuse people interested in religion (JSH-verse 9), prompting people to “establish their own tenets and di disprove others” (JSH-Verse 9) and causing a “war of words and tumult of opinions” (JSH-Verse 10)
Satan wanted to keep Joseph (and us) from praying.
Satan will cause those around us to treat our gospel communications “not only lightly, but with great contempt” – saying that “it is of the devil, [and] there [are] no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things … ceased with the apostles, and that there [will] never be any more of them.” (JSH-Verse 21)
Satan knew God’s eternal plan (including God’s plan for Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the Gospel) and wanted to keep it from happening.
Satan is real.
Satan appears in darkness and deceit.
Satan can physically appear (as a spirit) as well as through other means.
Joseph could (and we can) exert faith to get Satan to depart from us. It took great personal strength and determination to get Satan to depart.
Satan made him (and can make us) depressed and want to give up.
Satan used all his resources to militate against Joseph and his First Vision to make it less likely or possible (JSH-Verse 1)
Satan does not want us to listen to God.
Satan does not want God to speak to us.
Satan can overpower our emotions and even our physical being if we allow him to do so.
THE PROCESS OF PERSONAL REVELATION:
Joseph’s “mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness, with deep and poignant feelings” (JSH-Verse 8) which caused him to reflect seriously upon religion, and which church was right and who was wrong.
Joseph Smith had questions he wanted answered: “What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right which is and how shall I know it?” (JSH-Verse 10)
Confusion led Joseph to dig deeper into the scriptures for answers (JSH-Verse 11)
Joseph read with his mind and “felt” the scriptures with his heart. The scriptures he read “seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart.” (JSH-Verse 12)
Joseph reflected upon verses of scripture again and again. He wanted to receive wisdom from God. (JSH-Verse 12)
When a scripture is not understood, one needs to go to God – the ultimate source of all truth – for additional light and knowledge.
When we lack wisdom, we can ask of God, and obtain, and not be upbraided. (JSH: Verse26)
The heavens are yet open in our day – not closed as in the dark ages of the past. There is revelation and there are visions in our day.
To receive revelation, we need to retire to quiet places where we can be alone to pray.
Revelation and answers from God often come in the early morning hours when our mind is clear and alert.
We can and often will receive answers to prayers out in “nature” or in the mountains (forests and mountains)
We need to pray vocally as well as in secret – and use all our faculties.
All revelation comes through Christ to us.
God has an answer to religious and other confusion in our lives.
Personal scripture study can bring revelation.
We should ponder and meditate on the scriptures and not just “read” them.
Faith can bring answers from God.
Feelings of the heart can bring us closer to God.
God can give us guidance and answers in our search for truth.
The spirit of prophesy comes after baptism and receipt of the Holy Ghost. Sometimes new converts can prophesy after baptism and receipt of the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost enlightens our minds.
If we ask of God, we can know that we can receive answers.
Great mysteries can be unfolded to us as we study the scriptures.
Christ can speak from Heaven to us and can also appear in person.
The Holy Ghost can bring understanding to the scriptures.
We each have the opportunity to STUDY, PONDER AND PRAY for divine guidance.
We can all pray to know of our own standing before God.
God speaks to the poor and the humble.
We can prepare for prayer by kneeling and humbling ourselves – getting in the right location where we can be alone.
God and Christ promised Joseph further light and knowledge – additional revelation.
We must be true to revelation and inspiration we receive/
To receive revelation, we must be specific in our requests and what we seek.
Having received revelation from God, we must act and testify to others.
We can have confidence in God’s promises.
We need to call upon God for strength to overcome feelings of darkness and depression.
Receiving revelation can physically and emotionally drain us.
Following baptism and receipt of the Holy Ghost we can “have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of.” (JSH: Verse 74)
THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST WAS RESTORED TO THE EARTH:
There was an Apostacy from the true church of Jesus Christ following his death.
God knew the whole plan of the gospel on the earth – from the beginning – including the creation and fall of man, the Atonement of Christ, the restoration of the Gospel and how and by whom the restoration would come (many thousands of years before it came about). Then, all happened according to the divine plan of the Father.
God inspired an unusual excitement (an extraordinary scene of religious feeling and zeal) about religion in Joseph’s area as a foundation for Joseph to seek greater truth. (JSH-Verse 5-6)
All churches existing prior to 1820 were not true (in the words of Christ himself).
The name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (JSH-Verse 1)
The Gospel of Jesus Christ and obedience to the ordinances thereof can bring us joy and peace.
The Church needed to be fully restored subsequent to 1820.
Joseph wrote his history of the Restoration events to put “inquirers after truth in possession of the facts” (JSH-Verse 1) in truth and righteousness as they transpired (JSH-Verse 2).
Religious professors [in 1820] were corrupt, gave lip service but their hearts were far from God, teaching commandments of their own – thereby denying the power of God.
Seers are called of God to give revelation to mortals, and they can also use stones or other means to translate records by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Joseph and Oliver Cowdery were ordained by John the Baptized and received the Priesthood from him.
Joseph and Oliver received the priesthood through the “laying on of hands” of John the Baptist.
Joseph and Oliver were promised that they would later receive the Higher Priesthood.
Families – fathers and sons, etc. are saved as their hearts turn to each other.
Building God’s Kingdom should be our highest priority.
The Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the everlasting Gospel.
The Prophet Elijah held/holds the Priesthood keys of binding families together (JSH: Verse 38) Elijah would come again (after 1820) to restore Priesthood keys relative to eternal families. Additional LDS Scriptures notes that Elijah did return April 3, 1836 as the Kirtland Temple was dedicated and he did restore the promised priesthood keys. (See D&C Section 110)
The Levitical or Aaronic Priesthood was restored on May 15, 1829.
Having been ordained to the Priesthood, Joseph and Oliver could ordain others.
The Levitical Priesthood has the power to perform baptisms.
By the Priesthood we can see angels, repent and be baptized.
Men and angels act in the name of Jesus Christ.
Baptism is to be performed by immersion.
The Priesthood will never again be taken from the earth.
There are two Priesthoods: The Aaronic or Levitical and the Melchizedek.
Priesthood authority and the power to act in the name of Jesus Christ was taken from the earth and needed to be restored.
Baptism and gospel ordinances require proper Priesthood authority and keys from God.
Heavenly beings appeared to Joseph Smith and restored the Priesthoods of God through the laying on of hands.
Man cannot perform for God without His authority.
John the Baptist acted under Priesthood direction from Peter, James, and John (showing that they too are alive.
THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL AND ITS INFLUENCE UPON OURSELVES AND OUR FAMILIES
As we drew nearer to God, we experience persecution.
By “continuous labor we can get a comfortable [earthly] maintenance”.
Men of influence and power can work to thwart the work of God.
Family members can have hearts softened as they see the influence of the Gospel upon us and as they are touched by the Holy Ghost.
Our preparation to do the work of God can take years. God will protect and provide for us so that we can accomplish His work.
MY OWN TESTIMONY AND WITNESS:
Having read, studied, pondered, and prayed about Joseph Smith, his “First Vision” and subsequent visits from angelic messengers, I (Kevin Hunt) have felt the witness of the Holy Ghost relative to Joseph and the coming forth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our day. I know that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, did in reality, come to earth and that they spoke as live and resurrected beings to Joseph Smith – giving him much guidance and instruction for our day. I have come to know that Joseph was indeed called of God and that the Church was restored once again to the earth through him. I know that Joseph became and was a prophet of God. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is indeed the Lord’s only true church here upon the earth. I know that The Book of Mormon is true and contains the fulness of the Lord’s Everlasting Gospel.
I love the Prophet Joseph Smith! I am and will forever be grateful for this knowledge and for the truths restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph and because of his visit from God and Christ. I am so deeply grateful that my prayers have been answered. I am grateful for the testimony that I have of Joseph Smith, his First Vision, and subsequent acts and visions that ultimately restored the true Church of Jesus Christ once more upon the earth. I am grateful for the blessings of that Restored Gospel in my life and in those of my family.