Thursday, March 26, 2020

Bicentennial of the First Vision

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.
—JSH 2:4

By Tausha Larsen

Today is a special day—Not because commerce has all but stopped and many of us have been forced to stay home from work and school, but because something miraculous happened on this day—something that would forever change the world—on March 26—two hundred years ago, when a young boy walked into the woods to ask God a question, and to this young boy’s surprise, God appeared to him and answered him.

Please read this very well done article on the actual date of the First Vision:

Or consider this documentary, which is also very compelling:

I know that many of us have read Joseph Smith’s History many times, but as I reread his account today, some things stood out to me in a way that they never have before. I’d like to share a few insights regarding Joseph’s early life.

Joseph Smith’s life did not start out easy. At age 5 he was “attacked” with typhus fever, it becoming so severe that his father feared for his life. The doctors broke the fever, but then it 
“settled” under his shoulder.

In Joseph’s words, “Dr. Parker called it a sprained shoulder and anointed it with bone ointment, and freely applied the hot shovel when it proved to be a swelling under the arm, which was opened and discharged freely, after which the disease removed and descended into my left leg and ankle, and terminated in a fever sore of the worst kind, and I endured the most acute suffering for a long time under the care of Doctors Smith, Stone, and Perkins of Hanover.” (T&C Joseph Smith History, Part 1:3)

Many doctors came from the nearby medical college with the intent to amputate Joseph’s leg, which Joseph refused, but gave permission for them to try a new procedure to remove a large section of bone from his left leg. After removing even another fourteen pieces of bone, his leg finally began to heal.

Joseph used crutches to move around as his leg continued to heal until his father moved to New York to prepare a new homestead for his family. Joseph’s father hired a man named Caleb Howard and paid him to bring his family to New York. On the journey, Mr. Howard squandered the money given him to move the Smith family on drinking, gambling, etc. leaving the Smith family quite destitute as they continued their journey. Along the way, another family named Gates, joined the company traveling toward New York.

Mr. Howard decided he would rather have the company of the Gates daughters with him in the wagon than Joseph, and thereby forced Joseph to walk in his weakened state and “through the snow for 40 miles per day, for several days, during which time he suffered the most excruciating weariness and pain.” Joseph goes on to relate “and thus he continued to do day after day through the journey, and when my brothers remonstrated with Mr. Howard for his treatment to me, he would knock them down with the butt of his whip.” (T&C Joseph Smith History, Part 1:5)

When the Smith family arrived in Utica, New York, Mr. Howard threw their belongings out of the wagon onto the street, and tried to run off with the horses and wagon. Luckily, Joseph’s mother, seized the horses reigns and cried out to nearby witnesses that the horses and wagon belonged to them.

Because Mr. Howard had squandered the funds to safely escort the Smith family to Palmyra, Joseph’s mother had to come up with more money to make the journey from Utica to Palmyra. She did this by selling small pieces of cloth and some of the families clothing until they had the funds to travel. On the way from Utica to Palmyra, the entire way being covered with snow, Joseph was left to ride in the last sleigh in the company, but when it was time for him to board, he was knocked down by the driver, one of the Gates sons, and left to “wallow” in his blood until a kind soul came and picked him up and carried him to Palmyra.

Later as Joseph recounted his history he stated: “It seems as though the adversary was aware at a very early period of my life that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom, or else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the oppression and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?” (T&C Joseph Smith History Part 2:7)

As I read the history of Joseph’s earlier years, I was shocked at the difficulties he faced as a young child. I had read and heard the story about his leg operation many times, but I had not really thought about and contemplated the absolutely terrible hardship it caused him in the following years. I had not realized the difficulty his family went through in moving from Vermont to New York. The adversary was most assuredly aware of Joseph and his soon to be involvement with God’s Kingdom, and caused him much oppression and persecution even at the very young age of five.

Joseph did prove to be a “disturber and an annoyer” to the adversary’s kingdom. When he entered the woods to ask God his question about “which church to join,” the world which had been enveloped in darkness, was suddenly encompassed by light. The heavens which had been closed, were unanticipatedly opened, and God once again spoke to man. This is exactly what the adversary was trying to prevent.

What is our status today? Is the earth still filled with the the light brought forth by the Restoration? Are we moving toward greater light, or has the light dimmed? If light cannot remain static or stationary, then the amount of light we possess must be either increasing or diminishing.

I like Denver Snuffer’s description of light. “Light grows or dims; it never stays static. It is in constant motion just as we see in the moon, either waxing or waning, always either growing or receding in light. So also with the sun. From solstice to equinox, to solstice to equinox, it grows, then dims. It is impossible to freeze the light. It will grow or it will fade.”

I find it interesting that Joseph’s birthday, December 23, was the day after the winter solstice, when light began to overtake the darkness, The First Vision, March 26, occurred at the time of the spring equinox, when light and darkness are perfectly balanced. Joseph’s martyrdom and death, June 27, happened to be close to the summer solstice when darkness once again overtakes the light, and Joseph’s four visits by the angel Nephi occurred on the fall equinox, where light and darkness again find perfect balance.

As Alma states: “All things denote there is a God. Yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form doth witness that there is a supreme creator.” (Alma 16:9) And so it was, nature testified of the most important events of Joseph’s life because God was witnessing to us, that He was working in and through Joseph to teach us. Joseph was God’s mouthpiece.

Today, I remember Joseph’s First Vision. I remember the very difficult hardships he endured in early life that helped bring him to the point of retiring to the woods to pray and seek an answer from God. I remember the straight out miracle that occurred when God appeared to Joseph and answered his prayer. I praise God that because of Joseph’s example, we know how to approach the Lord ourselves and receive answers in the same manner.

Today, I believe heaven will smile upon us if we take a moment to remember the glorious miracle of this world-changing event.

Him have I inspired to move the cause of Zion in mighty power for good, and his diligence I know and his prayers I have heard, yea, his weeping for Zion I have seen and I will cause that he shall mourn for her no longer, for his days of rejoicing are come unto the remission of his sins and the manifestations of my blessings upon his works. 
—JSH 18:4