Study Series: The First Vision

“Glorious truths are clarified by that glorious first vision.” -David O. McKay

Serving in the Cradle of the Restoration is doing wonders for my testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. When I first got here, my trainer told me that for the most part, each missionary that is called here–was called here for them. We need that strong conversion rooted in the First Vision that we’ll undoubtedly need to testify of more than once in our adult lives. I’ve come to firmly believe that. There will come times in my life where I will be the one defending the truth of what happened here. Having the opportunity to spend 18 months right where it happened is not a coincidence.

So in preparation for my inevitable encounters, I’ve been doing a study on everything that can be learned from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appearing to the boy Joseph Smith. Let’s be honest–most all truths can be rooted back to this one occurrence. Even since 1820, modern prophets, seers and revelators have testified of the magnitude it had on the world. Joseph F. Smith said, “The greatest event that has ever occurred in the world since the resurrection of the Son of God from the tomb [is the First Vision].” Howard W. Hunter said, “My faith and testimony hinge upon this simple story, for if it is not true, Mormonism falls. If it is true—and I bear witness that it is—it is one of the greatest single events in all history.” And Harold B. Lee said, “Joseph, the man, could not have done this, but Joseph, actuated by the power of Almighty God, could and did perform the miraculous service of bringing forth the kingdom out of obscurity in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.” Let me remind you, prophets, seers, and revelators.

The First Vision was only the fourth time since Christ’s birth (in recorded history) that Eloheim has attested the Son’s authority. Christ’s baptism, the Transfiguration, and His appearance to the Nephites. So yes, this is kind of a big deal. Here are some truths from the First Vision that I’ve found to help build my testimony.

  • CHRIST LIVES. He’s a real person. The resurrection is certain. We will have our bodies again after we die.
  • God still speaks to men, just as He did in the Biblical times. Why would He only talk to a certain group of His children?
  • Both Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know us by name. In fact, they know you better than you know yourself.
  • If anyone really wants to know, they will know.
  • The Godhead is made up of three distinct and seperate personages. “The unity of the Godhead was a oneness of perfection in purpose, plan and action.” –Jesus the Christ p. 764
  • Satan is absolutely real, and the only way we can get out of his wrath is to faithfully call upon our Heavenly Father, and Him sending Jesus Christ to help us.
  • God and Christ have bodies just like us. We were made in the image of Them. They have bodies of flesh and bone.
  • Prophets are called by God Himself, and by those who truly want to serve Him.
  • Our life on earth is a test–we have the free agency to prove it.

So, how can you realize the magnitude of this? I’m still attempting to do that. I can tell you all you want, but you must study it for yourself. “…and if it is right, I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore you shall feel it is right.” -Doctrine and Covenants 9:8. Study the Apostacy. Study the role of the prophets. Study the gathering of Israel. But most importantly, study the Atonement. If there was one little thing that proved the Smith’s really didn’t live in Palmyra, or the plates weren’t in the Hill Cumorah, or Joseph really wasn’t friends with Oliver Cowdery–our whole religion would be on the line. Well,  it’s a good thing it everything matches up. Science has tried to prove it wrong over and over again…and guess what…they can’t. Because it’s true. As President Uchtdorf perfectly puts it, “Truth…exists beyond belief. It is true, even if nobody believes it.”

The First Vision really did occur in the spring of 1820, and it really did happen just a few miles away from where I am sitting right now. If you read, pray and ponder about the Book of Mormon, you will know that, too. Excuse me while I go walk in the footsteps of my Book of Mormon comrades, and tell exactly that to the people out on the streets of Western New York. Because they were in this same area, doing the same thing as I am…only 2100 years eariler. Now try not to tell me that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.