A Young Folks' History of the Church by Nephi Anderson - HTML preview

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The First Vision


At the time when Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States, there was born among the Green Mountains of Vermont a boy who was to become the great prophet of the last days. The hills and valleys of Vermont look beautiful in the summer, but at the time here spoken of they were no doubt covered with snow, for it was the 23rd of December, 1805, in the town of Sharon, Windsor county, that Joseph Smith first saw the light of the world.

Joseph was named after his father, whose name was Joseph. His mother's maiden name was Lucy Mack. Joseph had five brothers and three sisters whose names were Alvin, Hyrum, (then Joseph), Samuel, William, Don Carlos, Sophronia, Catherine and Lucy; so you see that there was a large family for the father and mother to take care of. Joseph's parents were poor and had to work hard for a living, so when the boys were old enough they had to help on the farm; this they willingly, did. For this reason Joseph did not go to school much, but he learned to read, to write fairly well, and to work some examples in arithmetic. Though Joseph did not get much of an education at school, yet he was a great student; and then God became his teacher, so that before he died, as you will see, he became one of the most learned men in the world.

When Joseph was ten years old they all moved from Vermont to Palmyra, in the western part of the state of New York. Four years later they moved again to the small town of Manchester, in Ontario, now Wayne County, New York.

While the family was living at Manchester there arose a great religious excitement all through the country. The different religious sects held many meetings and tried to get people to join them. Joseph was now in his fifteenth year and he also became interested, as his parents had always taught him to believe in God and the Bible. Joseph thought he would like to join the true church of Christ, but what troubled him was to know which of all these sects was the true church. He could see that all of them could not be true, as God surely would not have a great many churches, one striving against the other; also, no doubt, he had read in the Bible that there was but "one Lord, one faith, one baptism," etc., which the Lord accepted. Joseph went first to one meeting, then to another. His mother and some of his brothers and sisters had joined the Presbyterians, but Joseph could not make up his mind what to do.

But there is a way by which anyone may find out which is the true church and therefore which to join, and every boy and girl that reads this book should remember it. It is this: Ask God. Joseph did not know this until one day while reading in his Testament he came to the fifth verse in the first chapter of James, which reads as follows:

"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."

This was just the thing. God had surely led him to read that verse. Joseph certainly lacked wisdom, and here was a way to find out what he wanted to know about the sects. The Lord would tell him. All he had to do was to ask. How simple it was!

On a beautiful morning in the spring of the year 1820, Joseph decided to ask the Lord for wisdom. He went out into a grove near his father's house, and after looking around to make sure that he was alone, he kneeled down on the grass under the trees and began topray. No sooner had he begun than some awful power which he could not see took hold of him and made it nearly impossible for him to speak. It soon became dark around the boy, and Joseph thought the unseen power would kill him; but he struggled hard and tried to pray to God for help.

Just at that moment Joseph saw a great light coming down from above, and then the evil power left him. The light was brighter than the sun, and as it came down and touched the tops of the trees, Joseph wondered why it did not burn them. Then it shone all around him, and in the light, standing in the air above him, he saw two persons who looked like men, only they were shining with a glory that can not be described. One of them, pointing to the other, said to the boy:

"Joseph, this is my Beloved Son; hear him."

Joseph then asked which of all the religions was right, and great was his surprise when he was told that none was right; that they all had gone astray from the truth; and that he must join none of them. Joseph was told many other things, among which was that some day the true gospel would be made known to him. Then they left him alone in the woods.

What a wonderful thing! God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ had actually come to Joseph. He had seen them and they had spoken to him. That same Jesus of whom he had read in his Bible had come from heaven and his Father had come with him to introduce him to the boy praying in the woods!

This was the first vision and the beginning of the gospel in our day; and by thinking carefully about this vision, we may see that it teaches us many things. First, that God has a body like unto man's. Second, that the Father and the Son are two persons, not one, as many in the world believe. Third, that the many religions which man has made are not accepted by God. Fourth, that God has not ceased to give revelations to men on the earth.

Topics.—1. Joseph's Boyhood. 2. The Vision. 3. What may be learned from the vision.

Questions and Review.—1. When and where was Joseph Smith born? 2. To what places did Joseph move? 3. What led Joseph to ask God for wisdom? 4. Repeat James I:5. 5. Why can not all the sects in the world be right? 6. Did the Father and the Son come to Joseph solely because of this prayer? [Note: Not.—If we say that the Father and the Son came to Joseph because of his prayer, we might conclude that every boy who prayed should receive such a visit. No; the time had come for the ushering in of a new dispensation, etc. To bring out this thought is the idea of this question.] 7. Why did the evil one try to destroy Joseph? 8. What may we learn from this vision?