“I Had Seen a Vision”
Lesson 3 – Joseph Smith—History 1:1-26; Our Heritage, pgs. 1-4
When Christ’s atonement and earthly mission were completed, the Apostles, with the senior apostle, Peter, at their head, led the Church Jesus had organized. Persecutions, lack of unity, and apostasy led to a fulfillment of the Apostles’ prophecy that a falling away from the truth—The Great Apostasy—would come to pass. (Acts 20:28-20; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, 2 Timothy 2:3-4).
Consequences of the Great Apostasy included: (D&C 1:15-16; Joseph Smith—History 1:8-9, 19, 21; Mormon 1:13-14)
· No priesthood authority remained on the earth
· No apostles and no prophets on the earth
· Knowledge of the true nature of God was lost
· The doctrines of the gospel were corrupted
· Sacred ordinances such as baptism were altered
· The original Church divided into competing, discordant, and apostate groups
Before the Restoration which the Lord had planned, the earth was in spiritual darkness for many centuries. Then, the Lord began preparing the way for a final restoration. The long journey out of darkness began in the 1300’s. The following events prepared the earth and the people for enlightenment:
· The rebirth of learning, literature, art, and science heralded the Renaissance. Elder James E. Talmage said of the Renaissance was no random happening, but rather “a development predetermined in the Mind of God to illuminate the benighted minds of men in preparation for the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which was appointed to be accomplished some centuries later” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 749).
· The Reformation was based on the belief that the churches had lost the truth of the Savior’s teachings. Elder M. Russell Ballard said that Martin Luther and other reformers “were inspired to create a religious climate in which God could restore lost truths and priesthood authority” (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 66).
· Europeans discovered the Americas and the land was populated with people who believed in establishing a country with religious tolerance and freedom. Later, the Constitution guaranteed religious freedom under the law. Elder Ballard said, “God inspired the earlier explorers and colonizers of America and the framers of the Constitution of the United States to develop a land and governing principles to which the gospel could be restored” (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 66).
Heavenly Father not only created the right environment that was conducive to the restoration of the gospel, but He also prepared valiant leadership—the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Joseph Smith’s Family helped prepare him for his calling. He came from a religious background that instilled strong moral values, patriotism, and an appreciation of education. His grandfather, Asael Smith, said, long before Joseph’s birth, “It has been borne in upon my soul that one of my descendants will promulgate a work to revolutionize the world of religious faith” (Essentials in Church History, Joseph Fielding Smith, 27th ed. , 25).
Joseph’s parents, Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack, were both faithful believers and devoted parents. They taught and exemplified godly attributes to the future prophet, preparing him with faith and righteous behavior. They also shared with him some of the religious experiences they enjoyed. Each had had special spiritual blessings given in dreams or in answer to prayer. They were active seekers of truth and felt that the churches they had attended were lacking. Joseph Sr. did not join any church because he felt none were truly as God intended, but Lucy felt a duty to be baptized, so she became affiliated with the Presbyterians until the true church was restored to the earth.
In the plan to prepare Joseph, the Lord let adversity strengthen the lad. Our Heritage, pgs. 1-2 gives an account of a serious infection that affected Joseph’s leg and left him with a permanent limp. From this story, we can gain insight into the Prophet’s early trials and his response.
Joseph was prepared in an area where religious activity was frequent and fervent. Leaving Vermont at age 10, Joseph settled with his family in New York after crop failures made it necessary to move west. His history indicates that Joseph was confused about which church to join and where to find the truth he needed. His answers came in the scriptures.
In the spring of 1820, early in the morning, Joseph uttered his first vocal prayer and sought wisdom from God. See Joseph Smith—History 1:1-19 for Joseph’s account.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “I submit that in the few minutes that Joseph Smith was with the Father and the Son, he learned more of the nature of God the Eternal Father and the risen Lord than all the learned minds in all their discussions through all centuries of time” (Church News, 24 Oct. 1998, 6).
From the First Vision, we learn:
· God the Father and Jesus Christ live
· The Father and Son are real, separate beings with glorified bodies of flesh and bones
· We are created in the image of God
· Satan and his power are real, but God’s power is infinitely greater
· God hears and answers prayers. He cares for us.
· No church on earth had the fullness of Christ’s gospel
· Revelation has not ceased
President David O. McKay testified that the First Vision “answers all the [questions] regarding God and his divine personality. …His relation to his children is clear. His interest in humanity through authority delegated to man is apparent. The future of the work is assured. These and other glorious truths are clarified by that glorious first vision” (Gospel Ideals , 85).
Elder Ezra Taft Benson said, “The appearance of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ to the boy prophet is the greatest event that has occurred in this world since the resurrection of the Master” (Ensign, June 1971, 34). Each of us should develop a testimony of that first vision and the truths it revealed.
Lessons are found on the Internet at http://www.neumanninstitute.org