April of this year – 2020, will be the 200th anniversary of what is called the first vision. It is the vision that Joseph Smith had when he saw God and Jesus Christ. This vision started the restitution of all things that the Apostle Peter spoke about (Acts 3:21). Part of that restitution was restoring the Priesthood that Jesus Christ said he would give to Peter (Matthew 16:15-19) and was given to Peter, James and John on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9). This same priesthood authority was given by Peter, James and John as resurrected beings to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as well as the Aaronic Priesthood by John the Baptist (Doctrine and Covenants 27:7-9, 12). Having the two priesthoods restored once again, Joseph Smith was commanded by Jesus Christ to establish his church again on the earth, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Doctrine and Covenants 115:3-4).
Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.
Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven!
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;
Death cannot conquer the hero again. (Hymn #27)
We speak of Joseph Smith with reverence and there are those that accuse us of worshiping him. We do not worship Joseph Smith, we worship our Savior, Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith opened the windows of heaven and showed us the real God of Heaven and his Son, Jesus Christ. He taught that we are all sons and daughters of Heavenly Father and we lived with him prior to being born in mortality. He also taught that families are eternal, and marriage does not end at death, it can be eternal if we are married by the proper priesthood authority and are faithful to those marriage covenants.
First let’s look at what Joseph said about that vision with God and Jesus Christ. At age fourteen, Joseph and his family attended many of the religious revival meetings that were being held at that time. Joseph indicated that the ministers of the different churches claimed that their church was the true church. This was confusing to the boy Joseph. He said:
While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, 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; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.
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,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture. (Joseph Smith – History 1:11-13)
Joseph Smith did decide to ask God for help. He went into a grove of trees near his home and knelt down and offered up his prayer to God. While he was praying he said he saw a light over his head that descended gradually until it fell on him. He then said:
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! (Joseph Smith – History 1:17)
The personages that appeared to Joseph were God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. The first thing Joseph learned that day was that God and Jesus were two distinct individuals and not part of a trinity that the religions of his day taught and most still believe today. The purpose of Joseph’s prayer was to know what church he should join. When he asked his question of the Lord, Joseph said:
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “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.” (Joseph Smith – History 1:19)
What an amazing experience that must have been for a fourteen-year-old boy? Is it hard to believe that such an experience could really have happened? If it were not for the many scriptures in the Old and New Testaments that tell of experiences of other prophets, some old and some very young, that had similar experiences it would be hard to believe. The scriptures say that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. If God appeared to prophets anciently then he could and would do it today.
There are only two possible answers to the question if Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, one answer is yes and the other no. Either he was telling the truth about his first vision with God and Jesus Christ or he was not. There is no partial truth. As you examine the fruits of his teachings and revelations the answer is yes, he was a true Prophet of God. The other important thing to consider is if he was a true prophet then all his revelations and teachings are true whether we understand or believe them or not. If Joseph Smith was a true prophet, you cannot disregard some teaching or principle because you don’t like it or understand it.
The same is true about the prophet that is leading the church today. If Joseph Smith was a true prophet and he did restore the true Church of Jesus Christ on the earth again, then all the prophets since are true prophets including the current Prophet, Russell M. Nelson. What he teaches today is God’s will no matter how much the world disagrees, or others try to persuade us otherwise. There is no middle ground. Either the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true Gospel of Jesus Christ or it isn’t.
To the honest seeker of truth, the promise is the same as it was for the young boy Joseph Smith, if you want to know the truth, ask God and he will give you the answer if you ask in sincere prayer. Not only is the promise in James 5:1 apply to us today, but also the promise that the Prophet Moroni gave us:
I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 10:4)
I have tested the promise and can tell you that I know that Joseph Smith did see God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, that he did receive the priesthood authority to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ again on the earth, that President Russell M. Nelson is God’s Prophet today, that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God and it is another witness of Jesus Christ and that revelation continues from God to his prophets today.
I add my voice in praise to the man who communed with Jehovah. He was and is the prophet of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that Gospel and priesthood authority is in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Ask of God - Joseph Smith's First Vision