Thoughts on Lesson 3

JS-H 1:11 "I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse"

"This single verse of scripture has had a greater impact and a more far reaching effect upon mankind than any other single sentence ever recorded by any prophet in any age. It might well be said that the crowning act of the ministry of James was not his martyrdom for the testimony of Jesus, but his recitation, as guided by the Holy Ghost, of these simple words which led to the opening of the heavens in modern times.

"And it might well be added that every investigator of revealed truth stands, at some time in the course of his search, in the place where Joseph Smith stood. He must turn to the Almighty and gain wisdom from God by revelation if he is to gain a place on that strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life."
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:246-47.)

JS-H 1:12 "Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine"

"Joseph Smith was the noble and great one who had been prepared from all eternity to receive the heaven-sent word, 'Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man,' he said, 'than this did at this time to mine.' The Spirit of God rested mightily upon him. Not even Enoch and Abraham and Moses and the ancient prophets had been overpowered by such yearnings for truth and salvation as then filled Joseph's soul. As guided from on high, he retired to the place before appointed by the Lord of heaven and there began to offer up to God the desires of his heart."
(Bruce R. McConkie, New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 5.)

"Revelation comes to men in an unlimited number of ways. Three separate mediums are mentioned in the first recorded account of revelation-the spoken word, the visitation of angels, and the power of the Holy Ghost... Another medium is an impelling impulse of the nature received by the Prophet when he read James 1:5." (Marion G. Romney, in Improvement Era, June 1964, p. 506.)

JS-H 1:13 "I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs"

"This budding prophet had no preconceived false notions and beliefs. He was not steeped in the traditions and legends and superstitions and fables of the centuries. He had nothing to unlearn. He prayed for knowledge and direction. The powers of darkness preceded the light. When he knelt in solitude in the silent forest, his earnest prayer brought on a battle royal which threatened his destruction. For centuries, Lucifer with unlimited dominion had fettered men's minds. He could ill-afford to lose his satanic hold. This threatened his unlimited dominion...

"...For this young boy, clean, free from all antagonistic and distorted ideas and with a sincere desire to find the truth, knelt in a secluded spot in a New York forest and poured out his soul to God, and with a faith the size of mountains he asked serious questions that none of the sects upon the earth had been able to fully answer.

"A new truth, a concept not understood by the myriads of people on the earth, burst forth, and in that moment there was only one man on the face of the whole earth who knew with an absolute assurance that God was a personal being, that the Father and Son were separate individuals with bodies of flesh and bones [and that he] had been created in their image. As the Son was in the image of his Father, the Father God was the same kind of image as the Son."
(Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 428-29.)

JS-H 1:14 "In accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt"

"He must ask of God, as all men must, and ask he did. He walked a short distance from his country home to a secluded place in a grove of trees. There, alone, he knelt and prayed, pouring out his soul to his Maker, offering up the desires of his heart to God.

"This was the hour of destiny and hope. Amid the gloom of apostate darkness a light would shine forth. Creation's decree, the great proclamation-'Let there be light'-was to be issued anew. The light of the gospel, the light of the Everlasting Word, would soon shed its rays o'er all the earth."
(Bruce R. McConkie, in Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 18.)

JS-H 1:14-19

"There has been no event more glorious, more controversial, nor more important in the story of Joseph Smith than this vision. It is possibly the most singular event to occur on the earth since the Resurrection. Those who do not believe it happened find it difficult to explain away. Too much has happened since its occurrence to summarily deny that it ever took place.
What was learned in the First Vision?"

  1. The existence of God our Father as a personal being, and proof that man was made in the image of God.
  2. That Jesus is a personage, separate and distinct from the Father.
  3. That Jesus Christ is declared by the Father to be his Son.
  4. That Jesus was the conveyer of revelation as taught in the Bible.
  5. The promise of James to ask of God for wisdom was fulfilled.
  6. The reality of an actual being from an unseen world who tried to destroy Joseph Smith.
  7. That there was a falling away from the Church established by Jesus Christ-Joseph was told not to join any of the sects, for they taught the doctrines of men.
  8. Joseph Smith became a witness for God and his Son, Jesus Christ."
(James E. Faust, in Ensign, May 1984, p. 67.)

JS-H 1:17 "When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages"

"The God of all these worlds and the Son of God, the Redeemer, our Savior, in person attended this boy. He saw the living God. He saw the living Christ. Few of all the man-creation had ever glimpsed such a vision-Peter, James, and John, yes, and Moses, Abraham, and Adam, but few others. Joseph now belonged to an elite group-the tried and trusted, and true. He was in a select society of persons whom Abraham describes as 'noble and great ones' that were 'good' and that were to become the Lord's rulers. (Abraham 3:22-23.)"
(Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 430.)

"There were two Personages appeared unto Joseph Smith, Jun.,-God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Whatever errors had existed, whatever doubts had prevailed up to that time concerning the being of God were swept away, never to return." (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, 1:130.)

JS-H 1:17 "This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!"

"I would like to call your attention to one little thing in the first vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is very significant, and Joseph Smith did not know it. If he had been perpetrating a fraud, he would not have thought of it. You will recall in your reading that the Father and the Son appeared, and the Father introduced the Son and told the Prophet to hear the Son.

"Now suppose the Prophet had come back from the woods and had said the Father and the Son appeared to him, and the Father said, 'Joseph, what do you want?' and when he asked the question and told him what he wanted, the Father had answered him; then we would know that the story of the Prophet could not be true. All revelation comes through Jesus Christ."
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:16.)

JS-H 1:18 "I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right"

"Joseph Smith sought seclusion, by himself, alone, as a teenage individual to attempt to pray. He asked the Lord two questions: first, which of all the churches is true, and next, which he should join. These two questions are appropriate for every teenager to ask, those of you who are in the Church and those of you who are seeking after truth. Now, if you have the inclination or the desire to find out for yourselves, you are entering in by the way."
(Boyd K. Packer, in Improvement Era, Dec. 1962, p. 926.)

"His seeking knowledge from God upon this very question-'which of all the sects is right?' is a confession of his own inability to determine the matter. No human wisdom was sufficient to answer that question. No man in all the world was so preeminent as to be justified in proclaiming out of his own wisdom the divine acceptance of one church in preference to another, or God's rejection of them all. Divine wisdom alone was sufficient to pass judgment upon such a question as that. And there is peculiar force in the circumstance that the announcement which Joseph Smith makes with reference to this subject is not formulated by him nor by any other man, but is given to him of God. God has been the judge of the status of modern christendom, Joseph Smith but his messenger, to herald that judgment to the world." (B.H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:62.)

JS-H 1:19 "I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong"

"No man in and of himself, without the aid of the Spirit of God and the direction of revelation,can found a religion, or promulgate a body of doctrine, in all particulars in harmony with revealed truth. If he has not the inspiration of the Lord and the direction of messengers from his presence, he will not comprehend the truth, and therefore such truth as he teaches will be hopelessly mixed with error. This is proved to be the case with many professed founders of religious creeds. Their teachings cannot be made to square themselves with the revelations of Jesus Christ and his prophets." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:189.)

JS-H 1:20 "Many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time"

"But on another occasion the Prophet was permitted to write one of these other things. He was told, in effect, that if he remained faithful and true, he would be the instrument in the hands of the Lord to restore the everlasting gospel. In process of time he became that instrument; he received revelation upon revelation; heavenly ministers visited him; keys and powers, rights and prerogatives were restored, until the gospel in its fulness had been given again, which means that everything had been restored that was needed to enable men to gain a fulness of exaltation hereafter. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was set up, and the power of God was again manifest to men on the earth."
(Bruce R. McConkie, in Improvement Era, Dec. 1962, p. 908.)

JS-H 1:21 "He treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil"

"God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ revealed themselves to Joseph Smith in a marvelous vision. After that glorious event, Joseph Smith told a minister about it. Joseph was surprised to hear the minister say that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days, that all such things had ceased.
"This remark symbolizes practically all of the objections that have ever been made against the Church by nonmembers and dissident members alike. Namely, they do not believe that God reveals his will today to the Church through prophets of God. All objections, whether they be on abortion, plural marriage, seventh-day worship, etc., basically hinge on whether Joseph Smith and his successors were and are prophets of God receiving divine revelation."
(Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Apr. 1975, p. 95.)

JS-H 1:22 "I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion"

"No wonder Joseph Smith rejoiced, he now possessed greater knowledge than all the professors and diviners in all the world! Naturally he desired that others should share his joy and partake of his wonderful information. He would proclaim it to them with gladness, surely they would be pleased to receive it and would rejoice with him! But great disappointment awaited him, for with one accord his message was rejected. Only the members of his household would believe. He was treated with scorn by great men of learning, although he was but a boy. He was mocked and shamed. Instead of the spirit of love and gratefulness following him for revealing this glorious message of truth, it was the spirit of contempt and hatred with which he had to contend. In sorrow he learned to hold his peace and wait-wait for further light and inspiration which he had been promised. Though all the world would mock and former friends deride, he knew he had beheld the vision. There was one Friend to whom he now could go and pour out his soul in humble hope of encouragement and succor. What did it matter though the whole world should laugh, if the Son of God would hearken to his humble pleadings?"
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History, pp. 47-48.)

JS-H 1:26 "I had found the testimony of James to be true-that a man who lacked wisdom might ask of God,and obtain, and not be upbraided"

"Another day dawned, another soul with passionate yearning prayed for divine guidance. A spot of hidden solitude was found, knees were bended, hearts were humbled, pleadings were voiced, and a light brighter than the noonday sun illuminated the world-the curtain never to be closed again, the gate never again to be slammed, this light never again to be extinguished. A young lad of incomparable faith broke the spell, shattered the 'heavens of iron' and reestablished communication. Heaven kissed the earth, light dissipated the darkness, and God again spake to man revealing 'his secret unto his servants the prophets'(Amos 3:7). A new prophet was in the land, and through him God set up his kingdom-a kingdom never to be destroyed nor left to another people-a kingdom that will stand forever."
(Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 424-25.)

JS-H 1:29 "I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation"

"The family were still living in the log house they had first erected on their farm .... This log house had a low garret divided into two apartments, and it was doubtless to one of these apartments that the Prophet retired. He betook himself to prayer and supplication to God for forgiveness of all his sins and follies; and also pleaded for a manifestation that would make known to him his standing before the Lord. There was a heart-yearning to know if the youthful follies had alienated him from God. He felt confident that he would receive a manifestation, but would it be one of reproof and rejection, or one of pardon and further instruction? He was not long left in doubt." (B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:71.)

JS-H 1:33 "My name should be had for good and evil among all nations"

"He has therefore chosen you as an instrument in his hand to bring to light that which shall perform his act, his strange act, and bring to pass a marvelous work and a wonder. Wherever the sound shall go it shall cause the ears of men to tingle, and wherever it shall be proclaimed, the pure in heart shall rejoice, while those who draw near to God with their mouths, and honor him with their lips, while their hearts are far from him, will seek its overthrow, and the destruction of those by whose hands it is carried. Therefore, marvel not if your name is made a derision, and had as a by-word among such, if you are the instrument in bringing it, by the gift of God, to the knowledge of the people."
(Oliver Cowdery, in Messenger and Advocate, 1 [Feb. 1835]:79-80.)

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