What has Spencer McBride, host of "The First Vision: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast," learned from devoting years of his life to studying the Prophet's personal letters and journals? On today’s episode, McBride shares what led Joseph to the grove, how studying the First Vision can teach us about personal revelation, and how the farm boy's life has forever changed his own.

“When you look back on Church history and you see what God can do with ordinary people back then, it reminds you of what He can do with ordinary people in our own time.”


EPISODE REFERENCES: 

Check out Spencer's podcast here: The First Vision: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast

LDSLiving Article: "What You Can Learn From the Church's New First Vision Podcast"

From the Desk Q&A with Spencer: Introducing 'The First Vision: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast'

Show Notes 

3:25- A Once in a Lifetime Project
5:39- The Context of the Vision
8:05- “To Him, It Was About Salvation”
10:45- Shining Moments and Mistakes
13:50- An Ordinary Man Doing Something Incredible
17:46- An Intellectual and Emotional Pursuit
19:56- What the Restoration Is
21:38- Everyone Is At Some Point A Convert
25:40- How Teenage Worries and Anxieties Led To The Grove
27:25- “For good and evil among all nations”
29:27- Maintaining Faith While Exploring History
35:38- A Prolonged Process Vs. A Miraculous Moment
40:24- What Does It Mean To Be “All In” the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Transcript

Morgan Jones  

Before we get into this week's episode, I wanted to remind you that I'm recording just the intros and extros from home. After the intro, your sound quality will be totally back to normal so hang in there folks. Speaking of hanging in there, man, what a weird time to be alive. I wanted to invite you, though, to join me this week and praying not only for the decision-makers in our countries and communities to be guided as they make some of the most important decisions of their lives but also for doctors, researchers, and scientists who are working hard to combat COVID-19. Today's episode is all about a young boy's prayer that brought about miracles, and I believe that exercising our faith at this time can also bring about miracles. We believe in a God who hears and answers prayers.

In the 2019 General Conference, President Nelson said, "The year 2020 will be designated as a Bicentennial year. General Conference next April will be different from any previous conference. In the next six months, I hope that every member in every family will prepare for a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel." He went on to say, "Immerse yourself in the glorious light of the Restoration. As you know general conference next April will be not only memorable, it will be unforgettable." Knowing what we know now, we know it will absolutely be different than any previous conference, but will it be because you're watching the Prophet speak from a different room on Temple Square or because you have prepared like never before? We wanted to offer our listeners a special opportunity to hear from someone who has truly immersed himself in the Restoration of the gospel. In fact, that is Spencer McBride's full-time job. 

Spencer W. McBride earned a Ph.D. in history at Louisiana State University. He is a historian and documentary editor at the Joseph Smith Papers and the host of the First Vision podcast. He is also the author of "Pulpit and Nation: Clergyman and the Politics of Revolutionary America." A specialist in the history of the American Revolution and the early American Republic, McBride frequently writes and speaks on the evolving role of religion in American political culture.

This is All In, an LDS living Podcast where we ask the question, "What does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?" I'm Morgan Jones, and I am honored to have Spencer McBride here with me today. Spencer, welcome. 


Spencer McBride  

Thank you. I'm happy to be here. 


Morgan Jones  

Well, I have looked forward to this and I have a coworker who has me on strict command that I have to make sure that she meets you because she is a huge fan. Is it weird for you to feel like you have fans now? 


Spencer McBride  

Yeah. But I think because it's a podcast, most people don't know what I look like. So I can actually, you know, go about my normal life. But yeah, every now and then someone does recognize me or my voice and it's always fun to talk to them. 


Morgan Jones  

That's awesome. Well, I heard an interview where you said that you are doing what you always wanted to do. And I'm so curious, have you always wanted to study Joseph Smith and Church History? Or have you always just been fascinated by history in general?


Spencer McBride  

I've always been fascinated by history. I grew up in a family where most of my relatives including my dad, were history majors in college, who went on to work in some other field, but it meant that our family conversations often centered around history. You know, family road trips, where we were that family that stopped to see the roadside attractions, the historical markers or even went way out of our way to go see a historical site. And it was in the eighth grade, when I was 13, that I had just a really dynamic and good American history teacher. And I knew I wanted to do something with history. And that's changed over the years, whether it was teaching or researching or writing. But I knew at 13 I wanted to be working in history, and I guess they kind of got lucky because we want to do a lot of things when we're 13. And most of us, it just changes over time. And it just worked out that my mind didn't change. 


Morgan Jones  

That's so cool. So, with Joseph Smith, how did you get into the Joseph Smith Papers project and everything that you've done to study the life of the Prophet Joseph? 


Spencer McBride  

So I went to graduate school did a Master's and Ph.D. in history focusing on religion and politics in early American history. Not necessarily the Latter-day Saints or Latter-day Saint history, although that was part of my interest, and so when I was finishing my Ph.D. I, of course, saw job advertisement at the Joseph Smith Papers, was intrigued by it, looked into the project a little more, and just thought, how cool would it be to be a part of this kind of once in a lifetime project. So I applied for the job and through a long process was able to come on board and I've been, I've been at the project almost six years. And it's been fantastic. It's still one of those things that, the project will eventually come to an end, and I'll be so grateful that the timing just worked out that I was able to work on it. 


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. Well, I want to talk so much about Joseph Smith and about the things that you've learned from studying his life and, and specifically his words because that's what Joseph Smith Papers is all about. I read something where you said in many ways, Joseph Smith and his accounts of his 1820 vision are tied to a time and place but 200 years later, this story resonates with men, women, and children throughout the world. So I want to kind of start off with this question about context. In what ways is the vision tied to a time and place? And why does that time and place matter when we're looking at the story of Joseph Smith? 


Spencer McBride  

Yeah, I think on one level, it matters because we need to understand why things happen the way they did for Joseph Smith. He was in an area with religious excitement, and we can look back as historians with distance and just think in the abstract, "Oh, yeah, there were a lot of religious meetings, a lot of revival meetings." But it helps us to put ourselves in Joseph's shoes, so, to say, "What would it be like to be a teenager in western New York, when the talk of the town, the talk everywhere you go, seems to be centered on religion?" I think if we do that, it's a small thing, but we could begin to understand the anxiety that Joseph Smith felt as a teenager saying, "What is my standing before God?" And if this is what people all around you are talking about, I think it's, it's easier for us to understand why there was so much worry and concern in Joseph's mind and why he felt he needed answers at this young age. And so for my teenage years, I don't remember, yes, I had anxieties. I had worries like any teenager - some of them may have been a little different than Joseph Smith's - but we understand why he worried about what he worried about only when we recreate the world in which he lived. And so it is a story that's very much tied to Western New York in 1820, but the reach and the relatability goes beyond. The world's changed a lot since then. I think the human experience in many ways has stayed the same. And so we can look to the story, we can look to the peculiarities of that time in history to understand Joseph Smith, but we can also look at Joseph Smith's experience to understand ourselves.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. I couldn't help but think as you were talking about an experience when I was young, we had a boy in our neighborhood take the missionary lessons at our house. And I remember the missionaries, you know, they had the chart of the plan of salvation, and they were talking to us about it, and I remember - I was probably 11 years old - and that night when I went to bed, I just laid awake thinking about, and it was so hard to wrap my head around, and so I can only imagine that had to kind of be the way when Joseph is hearing all of these different opinions and thoughts about religion that it was keeping him awake at night.


Spencer McBride  

Yeah. And he even writes in one of his accounts, that he would look up at the stars, he would look up at the moon, and those would suggest to him that there was a God, but his desire to know about that God, to feel connected to his God, was what worried him. And that's where the question of which church to join really came up for him. It wasn't simply, "Well, I need to join a church. So which one looks best?" To him, it was about salvation. He wanted to know God. He believed in Jesus Christ, wanted to know how to be forgiven of his sins, and it was only in this set of questions that he comes to the big question that we know so well -- which church to join. And so yeah, it's only when we kind of flush out this whole history that we begin to understand kind of the depth of anxiety and concern, as you say, that was probably keeping him up at night.


Morgan Jones  

And, it's interesting also, I think, when you look at Joseph Smith's life as it continues to go on, even after the First Vision, how that topic of, like, the plan of salvation seemed to be so important to him because of certain life events like his brother passing. And I think it's so interesting because I do think we have different things that are forefront in our minds as we approach the gospel because they're the things that are in our hearts and it does seem like that was one of those things for Joseph.


Spencer McBride  

Yeah, absolutely. Understanding where your family members are after they pass away meant a lot to Joseph, means a lot to us today. And yeah, people approaching come to the gospel from different backgrounds, from different angles. What drove them to seek the gospel when they did, often influences the way that they share it with others and what they kind of emphasize in their own discipleship because they're coming at it as an individual with unique experiences.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. Okay. I read a quote where you said that after years of working with Smith's surviving documents, you have come to better understand him as a person, and then I love what you said after that. You said, "I am more familiar with his personality, his strengths and weaknesses, his shining moments and his mistakes." And I think this is something all of us as human beings, we all have those things. We all have strengths and weaknesses, we all have these great moments and then we also have mistakes or failures. What were some of Joseph's shining moments? And then what were some of his mistakes?


Spencer McBride  

Yeah. So, there's a lot to pick from, but I think with shining moments, you see a sincere and a tough young man in Joseph Smith. He perseveres when things get tough. There were many times where he could have looked around and said, "This is hard. I'm just going to stop. This is too much. This isn't what I bargained for." But he doesn't, he keeps on going. And, throughout his time as the president of the Church, he has people that he's close friends with that they have disagreements and they fall away. And he could be frustrated with them and he could air that frustration. You know, sometimes in the letters, he's upset with somebody who's actively working against the Church while living in the Nauvoo area. And he's a relative of another Church leader, and he writes to this man and says, you know, some pretty harsh things, he doesn't hold back. And then there's a "PS just in case you didn't know what I think about you already, here's some more." And so you can see Joseph sometimes lose his temper or get frustrated, and, you know, lose his patience. And I think we can relate to that. 

But then we also see Joseph on the flip side, as being willing to forgive and to forgive quickly. We see this with William W. Phelps, and maybe people have heard the story a lot, but the depth of exactly what William W. Phelps did to hurt the Latter-day Saints in Missouri - It was big. And then when he's ready and wants to make amends, that's when Joseph just very quickly welcomes him back. And so we see a very human Joseph Smith, someone with passion, someone with feelings, who gets irritated, who sometimes loses his patience. But then we see a Joseph Smith, who, on the flip side of that, is willing to make amends even if someone hurt him deeply to forgive, to forget and move on. A very human experience we can all relate to. 

And I like to joke when I meet different Church members and speak to them that you learn a lot by reading somebody's mail. That's kind of what we're doing at the Joseph Smith Papers. We're reading his mail hundreds of years later, but it's in those letters that we get to learn more about the man who was called to be a prophet and not just kind of the figure that we don't get three dimensions of sometimes in our historical tellings.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. I think this is interesting. I just recently was talking with someone who is talking about when you are reading someone's journal, and they've passed away, you feel like you're invading their privacy. And I think that that's a natural reaction to feeling that, but then it's like, "Oh, well, that's why they kept a journal." So when you're reading these things, how does it kind of humanize Joseph? How has he come alive for you? And do you ever feel like you're invading his privacy?


Spencer McBride  

Yeah, well, so, not so much the privacy thing. And this is something really interesting because we keep journals, and even though you want it to be private sometimes, the very keeping of a journal suggests that one day you expect someone to read it. Even if it's just yourself later. And so actually makes it very hard for me as a historian to keep a journal because if you want to talk about overthinking, and thinking, how might somebody misinterpret what I just wrote? I better add it, and so my daily entries then become like novels because I have to explain myself, but when you read Joseph's journal when you read his letters, two things really come forward. One, you see that there's an everyday-ness about Joseph Smith and his life. But you also realize he's doing something spectacular. He's an ordinary man who was called to do something extraordinary. And you get both. At the same time, you're seeing his ordinary-ness. Is that is that a word?


Morgan Jones  

I say, we accept it.


Spencer McBride  

Sounds good! You see his everyday-ness, you also see just how extraordinary what's going on is and the man thought big. And we believe that's because of the revelation he received. I mean, he's planning cities in the western United States. He's building them. He's building these huge temples. He's thinking big. And I believe because he's inspired of God to lead a movement and that's what he's doing. And so it's very interesting because some of his journal entries are very mundane. It's just daily life. Then you get to these entries where you realize he's doing something really incredible.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. How has studying all of these things strengthened your testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet and did restore the gospel of Jesus Christ?


Spencer McBride  

You know, in some ways, it's the same that any Church member would experience I have spiritual promptings, spiritual manifestations that tell me what you believe is true. I think on the historical side, so my testimony is not based on this academic pursuit, but the academic pursuit then strengthens what the Spirit tells me. I think there's actually something that builds my faith and strengthens my testimony about the fact that I am familiar with Joseph's strengths, but also his weaknesses. Because when you look back on Church history, and you see what God can do with ordinary people back then, it reminds you of what He can with ordinary people in our own time. And it's not just Joseph Smith, it's all the people around him, the men and women who followed him, who led the Church with him. You see these stories of faith, these stories of sacrifice, and this genuine belief, they believed that what they were doing was building the kingdom of God. And there will be times where the Spirit manifests to me, usually in subtle ways, that that's exactly what they were doing, even if they were imperfect in their pursuit of that goal.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah, I think that is one of the biggest things that I have taken comfort in my own life is knowing that God can work through us even when we're very imperfect. I wondered how this study, Spencer, has it changed you at all personally?


Spencer McBride  

Yeah. It's specifically with the First Vision study. You know, President Nelson asked us to start preparing back in October. And as the historian I was already well underway with this podcast; part of my preparation for me was making the podcast with the Church. And I think one of the things that really stuck out to me more than any other time I had studied the First Vision was, yes, Joseph was asking which church was true, which church he should join, but this just deep desire to connect with heaven. And it has me thinking, as I probably should regularly, how am I connecting with heaven on a regular basis? What am I doing to feel the Spirit in my life, to feel the presence of God in my life? Because it's one thing to approach these subjects intellectually, and it's a good thing to do that, but also, what am I doing to feel God in my life on a regular basis? Because that was one of the things Joseph Smith wanted more than anything, was to know about God and to know his standing before God. What am I doing to bring that into my life? And so it came from my study of the First Vision and understanding the way Joseph Smith approached the pressing questions of his soul, that it was almost a chance for me to remind myself, I need to have both sides of my spiritual pursuit, both the intellectual and the feeling, the emotional.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. We just had someone in here for an interview. And she was talking about that, about how sometimes we in the Church, spend so much time learning about God, but we don't spend a ton of time with Him. And I think that's a powerful thought, you know, and that's Joseph, when he went in the grove, he didn't go in trying to learn about God, although we did learn a lot about God from his experience, he went in to spend time with God.


Spencer McBride  

Exactly. It's a great way of putting it, too.


Morgan Jones  

I want to talk a little bit—you brought up conference. And I love that you said that this podcast was part of your preparation because in my mind, I'm like, okay, when you're studying about the restoration, and Joseph Smith all the time, what do you even do to prepare? Have you done anything with your family? Aside from your work?


Spencer McBride  

Yeah, you know, I've done a lot with my children. My wife and I, we talk to them about what the Restoration is, in addition to how the Restoration blesses your life. This is another thing I think that it benefits for us to remember because we've become very good in Sunday School and other Church classes at saying, "This is how the Restoration blesses my life." And it's good to be aware of that. But we also need to know what the Restoration is. I want my children to know how the Restoration blesses their lives, but they need to know what the Restoration is, in order for that to be as powerful, as impactful as it can be. So we've talked about the apostasy, we've talked about the falling away from Christ's time, to later modern times, and what was being restored by Joseph Smith. What was he bringing to the world of Christianity to help us better understand Jesus Christ and His gospel? And so with kids, you need to find the right ways to teach that, right? It's not a college lecture, you find different activities, different ways, object lessons, ways of teaching this. But it's been really useful, I think, for us to think, not only how does the Restoration bless my life, but what was restored.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. I wondered, as you were just talking about that, I think, it's been neat to see how excited people have been about the Restoration, and about these challenges from President Nelson. For someone who has devoted so much time to the study of this stuff, what has the kind of renewed excitement meant to you?


Spencer McBride  

So it is, I mean, I'm a historian. Anytime people get excited about history and want to talk about history, I'm 100% there for. And so, that has me really excited because there's an interest, there's an excitement for studying this time period. And there are folks at the Joseph Smith Papers, my colleagues and I, we're always happy to talk with people about this. And so it's given us an opportunity to speak with a lot of different audiences about the history of the Latter-day Saints. And so I think on one level that gets exciting, but even at a personal level, as a Latter-day Saint, this history means a lot to me personally. My parents are converts, but we have distant family members who were with Joseph Smith in that time in place during his lifetime. And so, maybe I don't feel always the strong personal connection to this history in that at all my family members were there, but it's a story of my faith. And it's a story about my faith's past, and how it became what it is today. And so it's really, I think, exciting to be with my fellow Latter-day Saints, and look at why we believe what we believe.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. Before we go on, I want to ask you, you mentioned that your parents are converts. How did they come in contact with the Church? and how has being a convert, how has your parents being converts of the church shaped your experience as a Latter-day Saint?


Spencer McBride  

Yeah, so that's a good question. My parents joined the Church a few years before my siblings and I were born in the 1970s living in California. And my mom joined before my father did, but they were very, very purposeful in their commitment to joining the Church, and they've been strong and faithful members ever since. I wonder to some extent, sometimes if their perspective rubbed off on me in a way that the house I grew up in, this wasn't maybe, this is just what we do in terms of religion and church. But it had been a conscious decision that they had made as adults to join the Church and to commit to living the Gospel


Morgan Jones  

Which is not an easy decision.


Spencer McBride  

It's not easy, but I think, and it may sound cliched, but everyone whether they are born into a family that has been members of the Church for generations, or maybe they're converts themselves or are first-generation members, everyone, ultimately at some point, needs to make that commitment themselves. I don't think it's easier for someone or harder for someone just based on the circumstances in which they're born. I think that commitment needs to be made at some point. And for me, it was helpful though, to know that my parents came to the Church, they came to the gospel because there was something they wanted in their lives. And it inspired me and it inspires me to this day that they made that choice and all these blessings came into my life because of their choice. What am I doing with those blessings now?


Morgan Jones  

Right. How are you showing appreciation for that choice that they made and the way that they pass that along to you? 


Spencer McBride  

Yeah, absolutely. 


Morgan Jones  

And I think you're right. I think - I grew up, my family has been in the Church for generations - but I think the same thing about my parents like they made tough decisions. It wasn't whether or not to join the Church, but to stay in it, and how am I showing appreciation for that choice? So I love that you brought up that it's an individual thing. I know that you said that Joseph Smith started studying at the age of 12. And I wondered, what do you think the youth of the church specifically can learn from studying the First Vision?


Spencer McBride  

Yeah, and you know, and I think, you know, Joseph Smith's adolescence on a day-to-day life probably looks very different than it does for most teenagers in the Church today. But I think there's a time in Joseph Smith's life where he started to worry about things. And I think that's something that every teenager, in and out of the Church can relate to - the anxiety, the questions that come in that phase of life. And so, the way Joseph approached it, he approached it very thoughtfully. He approached it very carefully, and he approached it faithfully, believing that if he prayed, God would provide answers to him. I don't know, I don't think that Joseph knew exactly how dramatic the answer he would receive was going to be when he was 14. And most of us don't receive the same dramatic visions that Joseph did. But I think the lesson there is when you're in that time of your life as a teenager - when you're filled with worry and anxiety and concerns - that you can turn to Heaven, and that in one way, shape or form, Heaven's going to answer and help you if you're willing and faithful.


Morgan Jones  

That's beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. And I think you're so spot on because if there is ever been a time where young people are experiencing anxiety and concerns, it seems to only be growing. And so knowing that you can turn to God, is so so important. 

Spencer, with the podcast, I'm curious if there was anything - obviously, it's six episodes, right? - Was there anything that you had to cut out that you wish you could have included, but you had to due to time? 


Spencer McBride  

You know, I think there were some ideas earlier that I want to explore in greater detail than we actually did. They weren't necessarily cut at the end. One of the things we wanted to do, we wanted to make this very accessible. Historians are sometimes known for being long-winded, and we didn't want this to be the case. You know you want to leave your audience wanting more and so that's what we tried to do. In the last episode we talked about kind of the First Vision after Joseph Smith's life - how does the sacred grove become a sacred site, a site that's visited by people on vacation every year? But we also talked about why the story of a farm boy praying in western New York in 1820 resonates all around the world now 200 years later. And we had some really good examples shared - I wish we could have more. I think that's something that if I could go back and we could find the time and space to do it, I'd like to talk to more people from all around the world to know how this story of Joseph Smith in 1820 has influenced and changed their lives today in 2020. And so, I don't know how that would have quite fit into the podcast. Maybe that's why it's not ultimately there. But it's something I think about a lot. And especially as people reach out to me, after listening to the podcast and sharing their own experiences, the more of those experiences I can capture and share with others, I think we will all benefit from them.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. It is so hard to know how to leave people wanting more in terms of a podcast because I've listened to somewhere I'm like, "Okay, wrap it up!" you know? But I think that you guys did a wonderful job with the First Vision because it did leave people wanting more and you did hit all the high points. If anybody hasn't listened, you should do it. How, Spencer, do you maintain a faithful perspective, while exploring history? Because I imagine, while we talked about it, you see the shining moments but you also see the mess. How do you maintain faith as a historian doing that?


Spencer McBride  

Really good question. And I think it's an important question because there are times in the study of Church history, that you come across things that just maybe don't make sense to you. You don't quite understand what you're reading, what you're hearing about. What do you do in those moments? And I use an analogy sometimes when I'm speaking to different groups in the Church of this earthquake I experienced. Now I grew up in California, I've experienced plenty of earthquakes to the point that, unless they're big, I don't often even feel it sometimes. And, but I remember that it was, it was about 15 years ago, I was in working in the top floor of a tall building in San Diego, and there was a big earthquake. And the building swayed, and I never experienced an earthquake that high up off the ground, and it was kind of unnerving to have the building sway. But I remember in the days following this experience, I talked to a friend who's an engineer and he explained that actually the skyscrapers are designed to have a bit of sway in them, especially in California for earthquakes. Because if they're rigid, they will crack under the pressure. And I think there's an analogy in there for how I approach my faith where Church history is concerned - having a flexible approach to Church history. We talked about this earlier, but understanding that God worked with imperfect people, you're going to find mistakes, you're going to find things that maybe don't make sense - and maybe they're not mistakes, we just don't fully understand them because there are limited records left behind. But there's gonna be things that maybe we don't fully understand. But if we have a flexible understanding of how the Restoration occurred as a process, and not just some miraculous moment where everything went according to a checklist, we can absorb that information, and it's not going to send us into a tailspin necessarily. And so this is useful because I think it's okay if someone's studying Church history and something raises a concern and raises a question - maybe it instills some doubt in their mind - and it's okay. It's okay to have questions. It's okay to have doubts. But we also, as we work through those questions and work through those doubts, we hold on to the spiritual manifestations we've experienced in the past. We let those be part of the equation too. And, so it's this flexible approach to the history of the Church. I'm not expecting the past to be perfect. And that allows me to maintain my faith, even when, and especially when, I come across moments of imperfection.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah, I love that analogy so much. I, as a follow up to that, I have an institute teacher who went to Divinity School, and he said that the most frequent question that people outside of the Church ask him is, they say, you know, "You've seen it all. You've seen all the things that we've seen, and yet you still believe, like, I don't get it." How would you respond to people in that situation?


Spencer McBride  

You know, for me, my testimony, my faith is based on both what I've learned, but also what I've experienced. And I need both. I need to remember the times I've experienced God in my life. And what he's confirmed to me through the Spirit is true. It doesn't mean they're things that I don't understand. There are certainly things they don't understand, both in terms of doctrine, but also in the way things sometimes happened in the history of the Church. And I have all sorts of questions. And I'm hoping there's a chance on the other side where I can get answers to a lot of these questions. But even in the absence of sure knowledge, my faith rests on the spiritual experiences I've had, and the things I've learned in the process of trying to understand those spiritual experiences. And both parts of the equation are essential to my personal faith journey.


Morgan Jones  

I agree with that completely. And I think when we look at the ways that the gospel blesses our lives, like, my life is so much better as a result of having the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so it's like impossible for me to deny it, in my mind and in my heart because of the way that I can't even count all the blessings that I have, because of my membership in this Church.


Spencer McBride  

Yeah, I feel similarly. And, at the same time, while experiencing that myself, my study of history also makes me especially sympathetic to my fellow Church members who maybe experience doubt and experience questions. It makes me all the more desirous to let them know that it's okay that you have these questions, it's okay that you have these doubts. You're welcome in this Church, there's a place for you. This is the place to work through those questions and those doubts.


Morgan Jones  

That is beautiful. And I think you're spot on because I've been thinking about that lately, about how we have to create a space within the Church for people to question and to feel welcomed, even amidst their questions and their concerns, because we all have them. And I think, to pretend that we don't, like I said, for me, like the gospel has blessed my life in so many ways that I can't deny those blessings, but that doesn't mean that I don't have questions. And it doesn't mean that there aren't things that are super hard. And so I think creating that space where we can all come together because the Church is the place to work through those doubts and those questions. I have one last question for you before we get to our final question: One thing that we noted on our team here at LDS Living as we were listening to your podcast is that repeatedly there's a statement made along the lines of "Revelation is a prolonged process and not simply a miraculous moment."


Spencer McBride  

Yeah. 


Morgan Jones  

And I think this is something that President Nelson has done an incredible job of teaching us in his time as president of the Church - the importance of personal revelation - but how have you seen that, in Joseph's life, that revelation is a prolonged process and not simply a miraculous moment?


Spencer McBride  

It's an important question. And I think, when we actually get into Joseph Smith's writings, the actual documents left behind, we see this process of capturing what he's inspired to know, what he's inspired to do, what he feels, what he sees, and how do you share that with the Church within the constraints of our imperfect language? How do you describe the things of God in a way that those who have not seen the same thing you've seen can understand them? And that's, that's something that Joseph Smith had to do. And one of the things I take away is that revelation often is a process. Sometimes you feel the Spirit, you know, you're feeling the Spirit, but it's not immediately clear what you're being inspired to know or do. And that takes time. And you work through your thoughts and your feelings until you come with action or knowledge that matches up with what the feelings of the Spirit were prompting you. And I think, I think sometimes we receive more revelation than we realize. We just are so focused on what we might call a light switch moments where the revelation comes in and kind of an aha moment. Like instantly we know what we're supposed to do, and those happen. But if we're only looking for those moments, we're missing these quieter, subtler moments. Maybe we're receiving more revelation than we knew, we just didn't know what to look for.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. Are there any examples of that in Joseph's life where he you see him like little by little gain knowledge?


Spencer McBride  

Yeah, there's a couple that really come to mind. One is in actually writing the First Vision account. So in this case, he's writing about a vision he had, how do you describe this light that came down from the sky? And sometimes he describes it as 'fire' and then he actually crosses it out and changes it to 'light.' How do you describe a light that's brighter than any light you've ever seen before? and it's hard. And by the time we get to 1838, he's pretty much settled on 'light.' And we see this in the manuscript revelations, the handwritten revelations that became the Doctrine and Covenants. And we see him adjusting language here and there, often small things, just to make sure that the written revelation captures the revelation that Joseph had received as a prophet. And then I think one of the ones that - and this really stuck out to me while making the First vision podcast - Joseph began to understand with time, the significance of the First Vision. In his very first account in 1832, he writes about it as a personal conversion experience. Essentially, "This is how I came to know that God was real, that Jesus Christ is the Savior and that he will forgive us of our sins." By 1835, he's talking with a minister and he says, "Let me tell you how the Book of Mormon came forth." And he doesn't start with Moroni in 1823, he starts with the Sacred Grove. And then by 1838, they're writing an official history of the Church - and this is the account most Church members know best, it's in the Pearl of Great Price - and by 1838, he gets it. Yes, the First Vision was a personal conversion experience for Joseph Smith, but he recognizes that it was also about the Restoration of the gospel. He sees that it has greater significance. And how many of us can look back in our lives, and we had these spiritual experiences in our youth, and they're important to us in that time and place, we recognize that, but it's only with the passing of years and the gaining of experience, that we then look back at that moment and say, "Yes, that was a spiritual experience for me in that moment. But there was something bigger at play there that God saw that I would need later in my life." And we see that with Joseph Smith and the First Vision. He gets its bigger significance with time and experience. 


Morgan Jones  

It's amazing how much clearer things are in retrospect than they can be in the moment. But I love that so much. Thank you for sharing that. Spencer, thank you for all the work that you've done on behalf of all members of the Church, and thank you for being here with us. My last question for you and you know, this one's coming, is what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? 


Spencer McBride  

And for me, at its very core, it's a belief in Jesus Christ, but it's also a trust in Jesus Christ. I think those things are related. It's a belief that if I follow Jesus Christ and I keep His commandments, all the blessings he's promised, I will receive. But it's also a trust. It's a trust that when there are things I don't understand when there are things that don't make sense to me, that if I have patience, if I persevere, if I keep going and do my best, things are going to be okay. And that's hard. Sometimes it's really hard. But it's not just believing Jesus Christ and believing in Jesus Christ. It's trusting that he's taking care of things. I personally believe that, you know, we live in a world filled with, filled with injustice, filled with inequality, some of it just doesn't make sense to me. But I believe that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ when it's all said and done, all inequality, all unfairness will be taken care of through His Atonement. And that gives me a lot of confidence, it gives me a lot of, it strengthens my faith, it buoys me up in tough moments. But it also reminds me that, if that's what Jesus Christ is going to do for mankind, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, I need to work to make things better for other people. I need to do things to help ease inequality, to ease suffering, to ease anxiety, concerns and doubts. If I'm going to trust that Jesus Christ will ultimately ease all those things for me, I need to work to help ease those things for my fellow brothers and sisters.


Morgan Jones  

That is beautiful. Thank you so much, Spencer,


Spencer McBride  

My pleasure.


Morgan Jones  

A huge thank you to Spencer McBride for joining us on today's episode. We are looking forward to this general conference and we hope this episode has been helpful in your preparations. We know that at this time, we're all out of our routines, but we want you to know how much we appreciate you taking the time to listen. We continue to read every review left on Apple Podcasts, and we are so grateful to all of you who have shared this podcast with your family and friends. As always, thank you to Derek Campbell of Mix At Six studios and we'll look forward to being with you again next week.