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In the spring of 1820, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith as he prayed in a grove of trees near his home in western New York. This event is known as The First Vision.


Joseph’s Story

The story began during the Second Great Awakening. 14-year-old Joseph was surrounded by religious tumult. In his personal history, recorded in the Pearl of Great Price, he says, “Great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people.” Part of his family joined the Presbyterian Church, but with all of the strife and arguments among the different sects, Joseph could not decide which to join. One night, when studying the Bible, he came across James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, what giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” The scripture struck Joseph with such intensity that he reflected on it repeatedly, finally deciding that he would indeed ask of God.

Thus, early in Spring, 1820, Joseph entered a grove of trees, now called the Sacred Grove, where he knelt to pray aloud for the first time in his life. Joseph recounts the following of his experience:

“After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

“But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

“It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. 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!”

Since Joseph had come to pray about which of the churches was the correct church and the one he should join, he asked. The answer that Joseph received was one he had never expected: that none of the churches was right, and he shouldn’t join any of them. (Click here for full text.)

Conclusion

Joseph received much more information, but little of it was recorded at that time. In spite of the great persecution Joseph received for claiming to have seen God and Jesus Christ, he continued to testify of his great vision. More and more people began to believe him, and today, more and more people continue to believe the truth of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. Mormon missionaries all over the world—many of them only five or six years older than Joseph Smith was when he saw the vision—tell of Joseph’s wonderful encounter and bring to those that will listen the joy of a gospel restored by God.

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