Spring, 1820 – Joseph Smith experienced his “First Vision”
I’ve experienced some defining moments in my life—discovering my testimony of the Book of Mormon, meeting my husband for the first time, experiencing the deaths of my beloved mother and grandmother—the list goes on.
Joseph Smith also had many defining moments, but it all began with what has come to be known as his “first vision.” It sounds unbelievable: a 14-year-old boy seeing Jesus Christ and God the Father. How could anyone believe such a tale?
When I was 21, I’d finished college and a successful internship. Rather than pursuing a career, I chose to serve a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’d studied French for years, so I was shocked to be called to serve in the Germany Berlin mission.
I set off on a life-changing adventure. I learned a new language and culture and I met people from all walks of life and from all over the world. I left my apartment every day and tried to talk to complete strangers about my belief in Jesus Christ and His Church. Most often, people didn’t have the time, but sometimes we’d strike up a conversation.
In these conversations we’d share the story of Joseph Smith’s first vision. Time and time again I’d quote the words I’d learned by heart:
“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me… 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: 16-17
Every time I spoke those words, in a language I’d struggled to learn, a peculiar feeling entered my heart. It was a palpable feeling. I saw in the eyes of the people I spoke to that they felt it, too.
It’s a difficult feeling to describe. My heart feels warmer and tighter somehow. I suppose everyone experiences the presence of the Holy Spirit differently, but I know that when I talk about the first vision I feel the Spirit near.
I reached out to my local missionaries to see how they felt about the story of the first vision.
“When I think about what the first vision means to me, my heart is flooded with emotions,” said Elder Tanner Arsenault from Idaho. “The first vision shows that God still speaks to us individually and still calls Prophets to guide His children. God hasn’t abandoned us. He is reaching out to us.”
Elder Arsenault said that when he began his mission he prayed to know if the first vision was true.
“After my prayer I had such an incredible feeling wash over me and the Spirit testified to me that the things which I pondered were true. Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. I know he did. I have been able to walk the same streets as Joseph Smith. I have been to the place of his martyrdom and his grave. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet and we are still being led by a prophet today.”
Elder Hunter Foutz from Arizona called the first vision, “one of the most powerful experiences ever to be had on the face of the earth.” He said that Joseph Smith saw and heard his Creator and Maker and he received an in-person answer to his question.
Sister Sadie Muncey, from Utah, agreed. “I can testify that God hears and answers prayers and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know that as we have the faith to ask God as Joseph did, we too will be able to know that this is Christ’s restored church on the earth today.”
“The first vision is such a blessing in my life,” said Sister Paige Burwell from Utah. “I know because of it that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us and know us individually… I am so grateful for the first vision and for this restored gospel that brings so much joy and peace into my life.”
So, how could anyone believe such a tale? To put it simply, the Spirit teaches us that it is true.
What has the Spirit taught you? What defining moments have you had in your life? Comment below!
Further Reading & Sources
- John 15: 26 (New Testament)
- Moroni 10: 5 (Book of Mormon)
- Joseph Smith History, Chapter 1 (Pearl of Great Price)
- First Vision Accounts, Gospel Topics
- Account’s of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, The Joseph Smith Papers
- Saints: Volume 1, Chapter 2: Hear Him