Sunday, May 1, 2016

What I Learned from Joseph Smith’s First Vision

Tonight (Sunday, May 1st, 2016) Elder Richard J. Maynes, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke to the young adults of the church in a CES Worldwide Devotional. He spoke of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith and focused on the First Vision that Joseph had when he was 14 years old. At the end of the fireside he asked those who were listening to share their answers to two questions at #LDSdevo:
  1. What truths have you learned from Joseph Smith’s First Vision?
  2. How has the Lord answered you as you have sought for truth and answers to questions you have had?
Before answering those questions, I would like to give you some of my background in the LDS Church. My parents joined the church before I was born. My two older brothers were very young when they joined and my mother was pregnant with me when they were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. They moved to Indiana after my father graduated with his teaching degree when I was two years old. We lived 30 miles from the nearest LDS Church and would attend fairly regularly. In those days the church had Sunday School and Priesthood meetings in the morning on Sunday and you would go back later in the day for Sacrament meeting. Primary, Mutual and Relief Society meetings were help during the week. From what I recall we mainly went to Sunday School on Sunday mornings and rarely went to Sacrament meetings. We never attended any of the week day meetings. We were the only members of the LDS church in our town and so I had no friends that were members. I was baptized when I was eighty years old but shortly after my parents stopped traveling the 30 miles to church and we started going to the Methodist Church that was next door to our home.

For the next ten years we attended the Methodist Church with my friends and classmates. We went to bible study classes in the summer and as a teenager attended their youth meetings. Even though I had very little knowledge of LDS Doctrine and beliefs, I did not understand or believe many of the teaching of the Methodist Church, especially the doctrine of the Trinity. It just did not seem right. I knew in my heart that God and Christ were more than just beings that did not have bodies and filled the universe. These teachings made no sense to me. Evidently the LDS teachings did manage to sink into my heart that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father and that Jesus Christ was resurrected with a physical body just like His Father.

I remember one Sunday when our youth group had someone come speak to us. He talked of the importance of accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and developing a relationship with him. That night when I went home his challenge to ask Christ for his forgiveness and to accept him as my Savior made me want more. I remember praying and asking God for forgiveness and to know if I could be forgiven. I remember the warm feeling that came over me, I know my prayer was answered and that God was real and His Son, Jesus Christ, died for me and had forgiven me of my sins. Later when I became active again in the LDS Church (an even longer story for another time) I realized that the experiences I had as a youth attending the Methodist Church was because I had been baptized when I was eight and given the gift of the Holy Ghost. I was able to recognize the truth when it was taught and I could recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost to pray to know God and Jesus.

So with that background in mind hopefully you will understand my answers to Elder Maynes’ questions. First “What truths have I learned from Joseph Smith’s First Vision?
  1. That God is our Father and that he is waiting for us to ask him which of all the churches on the earth is his church.
  2. That Jesus Christ lives today as a separate being from God the Father.
  3. That reading the scriptures and praying to understand their meaning and purpose for us will lead us to the truth and a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
  4. hat Heavenly Father is no respecter of persons. If he was willing to answer the honest pray of a fourteen-year-old boy, he will answer our prayers and let us know what we need to do to develop a personal relationship with him.
  5. That if we go to God in sincere prayer, we can know if we are forgiven of our sins or what we need to do to be forgiven. 
The Second question that Elder Maynes asked was “How has the Lord answered me as I have sought for truth and answers to questions I have had?”

  1. This first answer is not so much of how he answered me but how the answer came. I have learned that there are wonderful God loving people in all churches and God loves them. We can be brought close to Heavenly Father and our Savior by learning truth and following it no matter who teaches it.
  2. Just like the Prophet Joseph Smith wanted to know which church was true, I have asked the same question. Though my answer was not like Joseph Smith’s by a visit from God and Christ, I have felt the Holy Ghost witness to me that we have a loving Heavenly Father, that we are his children, and we are here to prove our worthiness to live with him after we leave this mortal existence.
  3. The Lord has answered my prayers to know what he wants me to do, where he wants me to be, and how best to serve by putting the people in my life that have blessed me, or that needed me or my influence, or that have influenced me to know what I needed to do.
  4. As I have prayed to know if I can be forgiven for my sins I have come to know the love that our Savior Jesus Christ has for me personally. I have come to know that he suffered for me personally. I know that atonement is a personal experience, not a group thing.
  5. As a Bishop, I have seen how the atonement has changed the lives of the members in my ward that have confessed their sins and have been born again and become new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and “putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ” (Mosiah 3:19).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored again to the earth. We have living prophets to guide us today. God and Jesus Christ live today and are waiting for us to ask our questions and if we will ask with a “sincere heart, with real intent having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth unto us by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4)

Your comments and questions are welcome.

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