This has been in my drafts forever because I didn’t know how to articulate all of my thoughts. But here it goes:
Have you ever TOLD someone the First Vision? I don’t mean TAUGHT someone. Teaching it is a whole other matter. I mean just sat down and factually said what occurred? Yes? No? Well, if you have, then you know how completely ridiculous it sounds. 😆
Some months ago, I had some friends ask me about the First Vision and Joseph Smith, so I started to TELL them about it instead of TEACH them. I think sometimes it is so much easier teaching strangers about the gospel than our friends because with friends you are risking a lot more. It hurts more if they reject you for it, and it can add strain and hurt feelings to the relationship.
And let’s face it – none of us want to make our friends uncomfortable or add strain to our relationships.
So, as I was telling them what occurred, I realized how completely dumb it sounded. Like, SO dumb guys! Here I am telling them a 14-year-old boy named Joseph Smith talked to God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ… a boy who had a 4th grade education… and that SAME BOY ended up TRANSLATING the ancient languages on gold plates only four years later! And the best part was when they asked where the Gold Plates are now, and I was just like… “Well, see… an Angel took them back….”
GUYS!! I was DYING. Listening to myself just TELL the story without actually TEACHING it made me CRINGE. And then I remembered what Joseph Smith said. He said, “I don’t blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have believed it myself.”
So then why in the world do we believe Joseph Smith and that he experienced what he said he experienced?
See here’s the thing, when we get right down to it, Joseph’s story is pretty incredible. In a LOT of ways, it is doubtful. And yet… if it’s so false, how are educated, logical scholars duped all over the world into believing it? How are world-renowned heart surgeons convinced or coerced to believe in such a fairytale.
Because… maybe it’s not a fairytale. Because maybe they KNOW without a doubt that it is true.
The only way to truly know, is to ask God. That’s what started this entire thing in the first place, isn’t it? A 14-year-old boy just kneeling down to ask Heavenly Father what is right and true. And that’s what we do too.
We don’t need to convince the world of the validity of Joseph Smith’s story. In fact – I don’t think any man could convince someone it’s true.
No, the only way to know for certain (and the only way the rest of us have come to know so undoubtably) is through prayer and asking Heavenly Father specifically if what happened to Joseph Smith in that Sacred Grove… is true.
And that’s when we know. That’s why scholars, world-renowned heart surgeons, and everyday folk alike, have testimonies of this Church. Because each one has received that powerful, bone-shaking, ELECTRIFYING feeling from the Holy Spirit that it is true. What happened… is TRUE. And if what happened to Joseph Smith is true… then the rest of it – this Church – truly is God’s Church re-established in its FULLNESS on this earth.
I wish I could go back. I wish I wouldn’t have just TOLD Joseph Smith’s history because I feel like I did a great disservice to my dear friends. I gave them jumbled facts without serious and clear context. But if I could, I would ask them to find a quiet place alone and read (out loud and slowly) Joseph’s own words of what happened to him that spring morning in the grove, which are:
“…I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me… 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—Joseph, this is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith – History 1:16-17)
Joseph later related the following,
“I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among 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 this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.
It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.
However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.
So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.” (Emphasis added, Joseph Smith – History 1:22-25)
I’m not here to convince anyone of the truthfulness of Joseph’s experience. No… if you are reading this and you don’t know if it’s true – there’s only one way to truly find out… and that is kneeling in prayer and asking God, The Father.
So, although it might sound crazy or fairytale-ish to some, there is no doubt in my mind and in my heart and in my soul that it is true. Like Joseph said, I know it to be true. And I know God knows that I know it to be true.
There are a few times in my life where Heavenly Father has spoken so profoundly and so directly to me. Where He has witnessed truth and direction. Those moments are seared into my heart and into my soul. They are moments that I will never be able to deny because I know without a doubt they were truly from God. Only He, the one who created me in His image, has the ability and power to give me those earth-shattering, electrifying moments in my life.
Those are the moments I hold on to. Those are the moments that allow everything else, every question or confusion, to fade away… and allow me to trust Him entirely. Whole-heartedly.