Well… The First Vision probably happened 200 years ago today.
200 years ago, an event occurred which changed the world as we know it. 200 years ago today, God the Father and His Son showed themselves to the boy, Joseph Smith, in the Sacred Grove. In the words of Joseph Smith himself:
“Truly this is a day long to be remembered… a day in which the God of heaven has begun to restore the ancient order of His kingdom to bring about the completion of the fullness of the Gospel… to prepare the earth for the return of His glory.”
Let’s honor Joseph’s plea by remembering and celebrating this day!
The event that occurred on this day is one of the greatest events to ever happen on this earth. Elder Benson worded it perfectly in a General Conference address by saying,
“The appearance of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ to the boy Prophet is the greatest event that has occurred in this world since the Resurrection of the Master. As the restored Church of Jesus Christ we humbly and gratefully bear this witness to all men. This message is a world message. It is the truth.”
General Conference April 2020
This upcoming General Conference, we have the opportunity to celebrate the First Vision. President Nelson invited each member to ponder and prepare for this exciting conference by saying, “In the springtime of the year 2020, it will be exactly 200 years since Joseph Smith experienced the theophany that we know as the First Vision. God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph, a 14-year-old youth. That event marked the onset of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness, precisely as foretold in the Holy Bible.”
In addition, the prophet explained that because of the restoration, “the keys and offices of the priesthood have been restored, including the offices of Apostle, Seventy, patriarch, high priest, elder, bishop, priest, teacher, and deacon. And women who love the Lord serve valiantly in the Relief Society, Primary, Young Women, Sunday School, and other Church callings—all vital parts of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness.”
This day 200 years ago was the beginning of the Church as we know it. Joseph Smith was the first prophet of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days. Because he asked a simple question in a grove of trees, families can be sealed together, the gift of the Holy Ghost can be received, and the Priesthood is available to bless lives.
Joseph Smith: A Name Had for Good and Evil
As Moroni once prophesied long ago, Joseph’s name has been “had for good and evil” from the time he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ while praying in a grove of trees. Following this event, Joseph’s life would be plagued by persecution and hatred, simply because he was visited by God.
Joseph’s name was also praised and honored, and still is to this day. Today may we take a moment to honor the hard life he lived by reading the words eloquently written by W.W. Phelps in the well-known hymn “Praise to The Man”:
“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.”
Tad R. Callister said in an October 2009 address: “Attempts have been made by some to focus upon or magnify some minor weaknesses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, but in that process, they too have missed the mark, the man, and his mission. Joseph Smith was the Lord’s anointed to restore Christ’s Church to the earth. When he emerged from the grove of trees, he eventually learned four fundamental truths not then taught by the majority of the contemporary Christian world.” Those four fundamental truths are 1. God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are two separate, distinct beings; 2. the Father and the Son have glorified bodies of flesh and bones; 3. God still speaks to man today—the heavens are not closed; and 4. the full and complete Church of Jesus Christ was not then upon the earth quite yet.
Joseph’s First Vision was monumental in many ways. But specifically, as Elder Callister said, through this interaction with God the Father, Joseph eventually learned that both God the Father and Jesus have bodies of flesh and bone. We are indeed made in His image. Elder Oaks relayed its importance in an address given to students and faculty of Harvard Law School:
“Joseph Smith’s First Vision showed that the prevailing concepts of the nature of God and the Godhead were untrue and could not lead their adherents to the destiny God desired for them. A subsequent outpouring of modern scripture revealed the significance of this fundamental truth and gave us the Book of Mormon.”
In conclusion, I would like to echo the words of Elder Uchtdorf when he said,
“What happened here changed the world. Let it change your life. Through our faith in the personal witness of the Prophet Joseph and the reality of the First Vision, through study and prayer, deep and sincere, we will be blessed with a firm faith in the Savior of the world, who spoke to Joseph “on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty.”
Let this gospel change your life. Let it have an impact on you. Today, let us celebrate this monumental event that is the First Vision which allows us to have this wonderful gospel.
How has the restored gospel impacted your life because of the First Vision?