2: “I Saw a Pillar of Light” (Joseph Smith—History 1:1–26)
What do you think of when you picture the First Vision? If you picture Joseph Smith kneeing in a lush grove with his hand raised as two figures surrounded by heavenly light stand above him, you wouldn't be the only one. While this image inspired by the Del Parson painting is an important depiction of the First Vision, it's only one depiction of this historic moment. And so in this week's study group, we invited BYU professor and artist Anthony Sweat to share important details of the First Vision found in Joseph Smith—History 1:1–26 that will help you re-picture this vital event in Church history.
Tammy's favorite Doctrine and Covenants resources
Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price Journal Editions
Repicturing the Restoration:
(Note: The first printing of this book is sold out. The next printing is expected early February, however, you can still order today to reserve your copy.)
While existing artwork that portrays the Restoration is rich and beautiful, until now many key events in Latter-day Saint history have surprisingly never been depicted to accurately represent the historical record. The purpose of this volume is to produce paintings of some of the underrepresented events in order to expand our understanding of the Restoration. Each image includes a richly researched historical background, some artistic insights into the painting's composition, an application section providing one way this history may inform our present faith, and an analysis section offering potent questions that can be considered for further discussion.
33 He called me by aname, and said unto me that he was a bmessenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for cgood and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people (JS–H 1:33).
Why Joseph Smith Wrote His History:
1 Owing to the many reports which have been put in circulation by evil-disposed and designing persons, in relation to the rise and progress of aThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all of which have been designed by the authors thereof to militate against its character as a Church and its progress in the world—I have been induced to write this history, to disabuse the public mind, and put all inquirers after truth in possession of the bfacts, as they have transpired, in relation both to myself and the Church, so far as I have such facts in my possession (JS–H 1:1).
4 His family consisting of eleven souls, namely, my father, Joseph Smith; my amother, Lucy Smith (whose name, previous to her marriage, was Mack, daughter of Solomon Mack); my brothers, bAlvin (who died November 19th, 1823, in the 26th year of his age), cHyrum, myself, dSamuel Harrison, William, Don Carlos; and my sisters, Sophronia, Catherine, and Lucy (JS–H 1:4).
Joseph Smith's Family Birth Order:
1. Unnamed son who died
2. Alvin (dies at age 26)
3. Hyrum (dies on June 27, 1844, with Joseph)
5. Joseph (dies June 27, 1844, with Hyrum)
6. Samuel Harrison (dies shortly after Joseph and Hyrum from a fever contracted while running from the mobs)
7. Ephraim (dies 11 days after he was born)
10. Don Carlos (dies when he is 25 years old)
Joseph Smith, Sr. will pass away in 1840 and Lucy will pass away on May 14, 1856, at the age of 80.
Quote: “And even if this were not the case, where is your faith? Where is your confidence in God? Do you know that all things are in his hands? He made all things and still rules over them, and how easy a thing it would be with God if every Saint here would just lift their desires to him in prayer that the way might be opened before us. How easy would it be for God to cause the ice to break away, and in a moment’s time we could be off on our journey; but how can you expect the Lord to prosper you when you are continually murmuring against him?" (Lucy Mack Smith, "Where Is Your Confidence in God?" At the Pulpit 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women).
46 By this time, so deep were the impressions made on my mind, that sleep had fled from my eyes, and I lay overwhelmed in aastonishment at what I had both seen and heard. But what was my surprise when again I beheld the same messenger at my bedside, and heard him rehearse or repeat over again to me the same things as before; and added a caution to me, telling me that Satan would try to btempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father’s family), to get the plates for the purpose of getting crich. This he forbade me, saying that I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other dmotive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them (JS–H 1:46).
- Indigent: Suffering from extreme poverty (see Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
7 I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father’s family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia (JS–H 1:7).
Lucy's account of her husband's visions: ("Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, Pages [5–9], [miscellany], The Joseph Smith Papers)
Lucy's sister's vision of Christ: ("Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, Page , bk. ," p. , bk. , The Joseph Smith Papers)
Lucy's dream: ("Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845," p. 49, The Joseph Smith Papers)
50 I obeyed; I returned to my afather in the field, and rehearsed the whole matter to him. He breplied to me that it was of God, and told me to go and do as commanded by the messenger. I left the field, and went to the place where the messenger had told me the plates were deposited; and owing to the distinctness of the vision which I had had concerning it, I knew the place the instant that I arrived there (JS–H 1:50).
10 In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be aright, which is it, and how shall I know it? (JS–H 1:10)
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5).
8 This book of the alaw shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt bmeditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success (Joshua 1:5).
13 At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in adarkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would bgive liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.
14 So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the awoods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a bbeautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to cpray dvocally.
15 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was aseized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick bdarkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction (JS–H 1:13–15).
Newel Knight Afraid to Pray Out Loud: "Chapter 10: The First Miracle of the Church: April 1830," Doctrine and Covenants Stories, ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
"The First Visions" by Anthony Sweat:
16 But, exerting all my powers to acall upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into bdespair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of clight exactly over my head, above the brightness of the dsun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself adelivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I bsaw two cPersonages, whose brightness and dglory defy all description, estanding above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My fBeloved gSon. Hear Him! (JS–H 1:16–17).
Hebrew: Messenger = Mal'ach
20 . . . When I came to myself again, I found myself alying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. . . (JS–H 1:20).
"Joseph's First Vision in the Sacred Grove" by Minerva Teichert
"The First Vision" by Del Parson
21 Some few days after I had this vision, I happened to be in company with one of the Methodist preachers, who was very active in the before mentioned religious excitement; and, conversing with him on the subject of religion, I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as avisions or brevelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them.
22 I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great apersecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an bobscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.
23 It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure aboy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily blabor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter cpersecution and dreviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself (JS—H 1:21–23).
61 The excitement, however, still continued, and rumor with her thousand tongues was all the time employed in circulating afalsehoods about my father’s family, and about myself. If I were to relate a thousandth part of them, it would fill up volumes . . . (JS—H 1:61).
Quote: "The negative commentary about the Prophet Joseph Smith will increase as we move toward the Second Coming of the Savior. The half-truths and subtle deceptions will not diminish. There will be family members and friends who will need your help. Now is the time to adjust your own spiritual oxygen mask so that you are prepared to help others who are seeking the truth" (Elder Neil L Andersen, "Joseph Smith," October 2014 general conference).
25 So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two aPersonages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was bhated and cpersecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me dfalsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not edeny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation (JS—H 1:25).
Quote: “A testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith can come differently to each of us. It may come as you kneel in prayer, asking God to confirm that he was a true prophet. It may come as you read the Prophet’s account of the First Vision. A testimony may distill upon your soul as you read the Book of Mormon again and again. It may come as you bear your own testimony of the Prophet or as you stand in the temple and realize that through Joseph Smith the holy sealing power was restored to the earth.22 With faith and real intent, your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith will strengthen. The constant water balloon volleys from the sidelines may occasionally get you wet, but they need never, never extinguish your burning fire of faith” (Elder Neil L. Andersen, "Joseph Smith," October 2014 general conference).
September 21, 1823, (that was about 197 years ago) Moroni warned 17-year-old Joseph Smith that his name would be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues. Or, that it should be both good and evil spoken among all people.
I can't even imagine someone saying that to me. I would be devastated. Like, people aren't going to like me? And it made me think of today's discussion because the entire discussion is taken from Joseph Smith—History, verses 1–26 and it begins the life of Joseph Smith. This is the beginning of his name being had for good and evil. Today's lesson is so special because knowing about Joseph Smith will add to and strengthen our foundation of faith and I can't wait to talk about him today.
Welcome to the "Sunday on Monday" study group, a Deseret Bookshelf PLUS+ original brought to you by LDS Living where we take the "Come, Follow Me" lesson for the week and we really dig into the scriptures together. I'm your host, Tammy Uzelac Hall.
Now if you're new to our study group, welcome! Make sure to check out the link in the description of this episode so you know how to use this podcast. And if you're like my friend, Shirley Clay Boyes from Cardston, Canada, who listens to our podcast every day as she commutes to and from work, and you're going to love today's episode. And our guests today, oh, I'm so excited! Our guests are my really good friends Rebecca Dowdell and Holly Butterfield Rawlings. Hi, ladies!
Now, you both are Mainers, you're from Maine. Is that right?
Ayuh. Yeah, we come from the North.
So I'm not going to refer to Holly Butterfield Rawlings as Holly at all. She'll be HB for the rest of this episode.
So how do you two know each other? Let's tell that story.
Um, we moved to—my husband and I and two kids, at the time—moved into the neighborhood. And I told my neighbor where I was from, and she said, "Well, there's another lady in the ward that's from Maine." And I said, "Well, what's her name? Because there's only two stakes in Maine. So I probably know her." And she said, "I think her maiden name is Butterfield." And I said, "Oh, well, I knew her mother. Sister Butterfield was in my ward."
So we met and her triplets are the same age as my oldest. And God put us together that we know each other, honestly, because—
Oh, yeah. It's like a miracle. It really is. There's something about being from Maine, being from the same place understanding that there's an ice cream shop in the town next to my hometown called Pete's Pretty Good Ice Cream. I think that sums up central Maine.
It's pretty good, might even be all right.
Yeah. But Becky's mom was the Relief Society president when my dad passed away. And I met her mom because, you know, she did the luncheon. And she was so nice and so kind to my mother and to us. And so I had met her mom that one time, but I mean, tender mercy to have—
And what year was that? Because I must have been in college, in '01?
Okay, so yeah, I was in college at that time. So I wasn't there then either.
You didn't make any funeral potatoes in any ham. Thanks for nothing.
Unknown Speaker 3:15
Well, and then I am blessed by association to have met Dowdle. I'll probably refer to her as Dowdell for the rest of this time, too. And the three of us have become such good friends. Like when we get together, we laugh so hard. Oh, and we just talk and talk and I love it. So I'm really excited to have you guys on today.
And if you want to know more about them and see cute pictures of them or their family, read their bios, you can find those at ldsliving.com/sundayonmonday. So go check that out.
And today's episode is going to be a little bit unique. So I'm going to have the three of us are going to talk and have so much fun. And then I invited someone to join us for three other segments. And it's going to be Anthony Sweat, who is a friend of mine, and he is a professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU. And he's going to share with us some pretty incredible insights. So I can't wait to hear what he has to say.
Okay, this is Joseph Smith 101, everything we know and some things that maybe we've never even heard of, and it's going to be so good. So, grab your scriptures and let's dig in.
Whoo, here we go!
Now, I asked both of you think about this, for either one of you, is there a family history story that has been retold throughout the years through the ages? What do you got?
I think one of my favorite stories, and this is from my dad's side. Uncle Billy got in trouble when he was in Thelma B. Carver's class, Mrs. Carver. So she made him go into the coat closet. Well, while he was in there, he got into her purse and ate a candy bar. And when Thelma B. opened up the door, there was my Uncle Billy, you know, with the dregs of the chocolate all over his face eating in the dark. I mean, there's no light in there. He was just scavenging. And so that story has gotten told and retold to the point where it was like he found a turkey dinner and, and you know, I mean, it got bigger than—
Unknown Speaker 5:09
She opened the door and he had a chicken leg in his hand.
Unknown Speaker 5:11
Yeah, totally. So, I mean—
Mrs. Carver's candy bar.
Yeah, Mrs. Carver. Mrs. Carver and her candy bar. And you know, the police were called. I mean, it just gets bigger and better. And we'd laugh and laugh and laugh because I believe he was only like, kindergarten. I think he was only just barely 5 years old.
What about you, Dowdle?
Yeah. You know, there are a couple that come to mind. My mom's parents joined to the Church. They already had several children at this point. They wanted to be sealed as a family. And the closest temple was Salt Lake City. And they lived in Maine.
Wait, and what year would this be?
This would probably be early 60s because my mom was born in 58. And I think she was a toddler. And they wanted to be sealed as a family. And so they packed up the van, this big, red van and they drove to Utah.
My grandma has, you know, journal, I have these journal entries of her talking about what they cooked on the side of the road and how my grandpa put these slings hanging in the van where people would sleep.
And so they drove across the country, you know, probably took six days. And then they got here and the temple was closed for renovations.
They didn't get the email.
Yeah. And so they then had to drive up to the Idaho Falls Temple, which, back then, there was not an I-15 that went up that way. And so it was you know, back roads, like, Yellow-Stone-type roads, and went to Idaho Falls. So, wow, that was journey. All to get sealed.
That's amazing. Okay, thank you.
The one that comes to mind in my family is I come from a long line of Greek Orthodox miners that came from Yugoslavia and mined here in Utah. Apparently, my great grandfather, when he was working in the mines, I guess he was Paul Bunyan. And the mine started to shake and collapse. And he held the the ceiling up so people could flee for their lives and make it out alive. Now I don't—
I don't know if that's really true.
Unknown Speaker 7:23
Whatever, we love to tell big stories in my family.
Well, the thing I love about these stories that get handed down is it made me think of Joseph Smith and his family. And if these stories get handed down, you know, you're sitting around, people are telling the stories, and then somebody, you're gonna have a one uper that's gonna say, "Oh, yeah, well, my uncle, he had a vision that began the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So beat that." That's the classic Joseph Smith story that would be retold.
But what I want to do is I want us to jump in and learn a little bit about Joseph Smith's family. And then I'm going to tell a story that not many people know that I think this is the story we should be passing down in Joseph Smith's storyline.
Let's look at Joseph Smith—History 1. And here's what we want to do to the outside of verse one in your scriptures just write, "why he wrote this history." Because in verse one, he basically says, look, the reason I'm writing my history right now, and he says this at the end of the paragraph, he says, "to put all inquires after truth in possession of the facts as they have transpired." It's like, I just want everyone to know, here's the deal. Here's what happened. Here's my story. And he writes this, he's much older, he's not 14 or 17, when he writes this, okay, so he's coming back and he's writing the story in 1838. The vision happened in 1820. So somebody do the math. How old is this guy?
So he's that much older writing his history. And in verse three, he tells us when he was born, which I love this, December 23. He's a Christmas baby.
I love that too.
And then he introduces us to his family in verse four.
Now I'm all about knowing family and order and who was first because I just love knowing who's the oldest who's the youngest. It tells you a lot about people. So we're going to number his siblings. And at the beginning of verse four, he says, his family consisting of 11 souls, now that is true. However, he's saying 11 who were living, but Lucy is going to also have two other children that died. And so I'm going to give you the order of children because I think this is important in the narrative of Joseph Smith, but mostly in Lucy's life, his mom.
So here's what we have. He says, "My father, Joseph Smith, and my mother, Lucy Smith," whose name was previously to the marriage was last name was Mac.
Then he says, "My brother Alvin," so I'm numbering these in my scriptures put a number two next Alvin, he was the second born. The firstborn was a son who died, we don't have a name for him. So to the outside of my scriptures, I just put a number one and I circled it and I put son died. And then the second son is Alvin. And now Alvin, he will die at age 26. And the third son is Hyrum. And Hyrum is going to die on June 27, 1844, with Joseph Smith.
The fourth child is Sophronia. Now he names the sisters at the end. So if you go down at the end of verse four, there's Sophronia, she's number four.
Oh, I didn't know that.
That's kind of fun.
So Joseph Smith is number five, and he'll die at the same time as Hyrum, June 27, 1844.
Child number six is Samuel Harrison and Samuel will die shortly after Joseph and Hyrum die, and he dies of a fever that he contracted while running from the mobs. I thought that was interesting.
Child number seven is a boy named Ephraim and Ephraim died 11 days after he was born. That's child number seven.
And child number eight is William.
And child number nine is Catherine.
And child number 10 is Don Carlos. And he'll die when he's 25 years old.
And then the baby is Lucy, child number 11.
Now, can we just take a moment and praise Lucy? Because I saw this meme one time and it took my breath away it said, it has a picture of a mom and it says, "I cannot think of anyone stronger than a mother who has lost her child and still breathes."
She will bury, look how many children she buries in her lifetime.
When did she die?
Well, she lived to be 80 years old. She died in 1856. Her husband will die in 1840. He'll die before Hyrum and Joseph die. So now she's a widow. So this is so sad, like Lucy's an incredible person. And she was committed and she was tough. And this is the story from Joseph Smith family that I wanted to share that I think is so great.
So in May 1831, Lucy Mack Smith was part of a group of saints, there were 80 of them. And they were traveling from Fayette, New York, to meet up with the saints in Kirtland, Ohio. Now, while they were traveling, there were actually men in this group. Solomon Humphrey, he's the oldest member of the Church at the time. And even Hiram Paige, who was one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon, they just didn't want to be in charge or leave the group. So they kind of deferred it to Lucy Mack Smith. And I love her because she's like, "You bet, I'll do it." And everybody agreed, let Lucy Mack Smith be in charge. And so she was in charge of making sure that people had somewhere to sleep, food to eat, everything like that.
Well, on their journey, they've been traveling for about five days, and they end up in Buffalo, New York. And while they're there, they meet up with a group of saints from Colesville, New York, who are also trying to get to Ohio. But they had been waiting for a week because there was ice in the Buffalo Harbor that wasn't allowing any boats to get through as well.
These Colesville saints said to Lucy Mack Smith and the Fayette company, "You know what, we should just wait here until the weather changes until the ice melts. And then all of us can safely get to Ohio. And by the way, let's not let anyone know we're members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like let's just keep that on the down, like just hush because we don't want to make anybody crazy and say anything about us."
And, of course, Lucy Mack Smith is like, "Yeah, I don't think that's happening." So Lucy Mack Smith takes this opportunity. She stands up on the deck of this boat. And she calls out all of the members of the Church there. And she gives one of this really awesome speeches. I just have to read this part to you. This is what she says, according to her account, quote, "Where is your confidence in God? Do you know that all things are in his hands? And he made all things and still rules over them? And how easy I think it would be with God if every saint here would just lift up their desires to Him in prayer that the way might be open beforehand? And how easy would it be for God to cause the ice to break away and in a moment's time, we could be off on our journey. But how can you expect the Lord to prosper when you are continually murmuring against him?" Close quote.
So at the very end of that speech, this is so great, all of a sudden, they hear this noise that's, "bursting like thunder, and the captain of the boat cries out, 'Every man to his post!' And the ice parted, leaving barely a pathway for the boat." And then they cross safely and quickly to the Fairport Harbor in Ohio, which is 12 miles northeast of Kirtland. And they arrived around May 11 of 1831.
How cool is that?
It's like Moses parting the Red Sea.
It totally was! Her words parted the ice. Now there's a great family history story we can pass down.
So great. I mean, talk about accessing your priesthood power.
She absolutely called upon the powers of heaven to get that boat down that river. Yes, she did. So good. I'll put in the shownotes where you can find that story because it's so good.
Now, the other thing we need to know about Joseph Smith's family is that they were so poor. So poor. In fact, Joseph Smith cites how poor they are. Turn the page to verse 46 just so you can see the word he uses in Joseph Smith—History 1:46. Scroll your eyes down to about the middle of that paragraph. And he puts in... Okay, guys, my brain is not working. What do you call those things? Parentheses? Is that the word? Like look at my hands.
Yeah. In parentheses.
So, look down to the middle of the paragraph, and in parentheses he describes how poor they are. What do you guys see?
That is pretty poor. HB, tell me about that word.
I mean, just to say you were indigent now you would basically be homeless. You would be so poor, you would be relying on charity.
Very good. That's exactly what that word means. In fact, they're so poor at one point, Joseph Smith senior is put into what's called a debtors' prison because he couldn't pay back a $14 debt.
And it's interesting to note, this is not a reflection on how hard Joseph Smith Sr. worked and Lucy couponed and tried to get the best deals at the market. You know, I mean, these were very tough times. And there was a large gap between the haves and the have nots.
And it must have been so hard because they started out well off, they started out with a farm. He was in partnership with his father for this farm. And then he became a ginseng trader for tea. And he owned a store. I mean, they started out well, and then just because of a bad business partner and poor choices, and the times they were living in, they lost everything, and they will never recover, ever.
When then what you're saying is that, even if we struggle financially, God still loves us?
Really. When I just, I was like, wow,
And think about Christ, and how he was born. I mean, he's the son of God. The King of Kings, and born lowly in a manger, very humble circumstance, the Savior himself.
That's great insight.
That's really great.
I like that. That's awesome.
I've never connected that together. Thanks, Beck.
But HB, going back to what you said, what I find interesting about this is that in my mind, I would think, "Well, if you're a prophet, surely you'd be rich. And so would your family." Like why wouldn't God somehow make that easy for you? Why of all people, you know, why couldn't God throw them a bone and let them be well, well enough off.
You know because sometimes I think, and, you know, both know me well enough. I've had some really hard challenges in my life, you know, medically and financially. But that is completely separate because, as my mission president, Dave Bailey, used to say, our heavenly parents put us in the exact circumstances to give us the very best chance to get back to them.
That's powerful. And it's hard to process because you've talked about that before. And I'm still trying to process that idea.
Mm hmm. Yeah.
But what's so interesting about you saying that is I believe that for Joseph Smith because in the next segment, we're going to see exactly that truth fulfilled.
All right, HB, I asked you ahead of time because I want you to do this. Tell us how your family joined the Church. What's that story?
So my uncle became introduced the Church at his first job after he graduated from college. He moved away from Maine and moved to Wisconsin, and he took the discussions. And he found for himself so he joined the Church.
And meanwhile, when word gets out that he's joined the Church, my grandma Gwen and my dad they always went to Methodist Church, and everyone in Maine at that time thought Mormonism was a cult. And the missionary set my uncle up with another one of his investigators who had gotten baptized and so they thought it was a marriage ring, too. And so my grandmother and my dad went out to the wedding, but everybody was not happy about it.
That next summer, I was nine. We drove in our RV to where my uncle was living in Wisconsin. I remember we decided to drive into Chicago for the day, and it was an old Oldsmobile so it was like a, you know, a nine seater even though it's a sedan. So my dad and my uncle were in the front seat. And in the back seat, it was my mom, my aunt Carol, her newborn baby, my little brother, Billy, and I, and my dad and uncle were going at it.
And my dad is yelling, "There's no way you can say that you can pray and know something's true!" And my uncle's yelling back, "Yes, you can! You can pray to know, you can pray to know that the Mormon Church is true! You can!" And my dad's you know, yelling and swearing and they're, they both are. I mean, they're right back and Bramble Junction, you know.
And so at the end of that fight, my uncle convinced my dad to let the missionaries come one time. So my dad said, "Fine, I'll let them come one time." So we got back from our trip and the next week my dad called the Church, he looked in the phonebook, found the number to the Bangor Ward, and called the church like on a Tuesday and there was someone in the building who answered, remember the hallway phones? So that phone just rings at like two on a Tuesday and picked up and my dad said, "Yeah, we want some of those mission boys to come and talk to us about the Church for one, just one, visit." And they said, "Okay." They got our address and then elder Brad Butters and Elder Jean Hill came to our house. And we were baptized on leap year, 1980.
Leap year day, February 29. Yeah.
That's a great story.
Well, the reason that I asked you to share this story is because I want us to just kind of put into context and Joseph Smith's family, where they were rooted in religion and kind of their history and what they believed because you said that you were a Methodist. Your family was Methodist?
No, my dad had been raised Methodist. My mother was raised in as a congregationalist. And when my parents married, then we went to the First Congregational Church in Brewer.
I did not know that about you. Okay, you know what's so cool. This is so fascinating, Holly, because that is the religion of Joseph Smith's family, like his grandparents on both sides, steeped heavily, rooted in congregationalism. That was where their relgious belief came from.
I did not know that. And that is that is really cool to know.
Lucy's father was a deacon of the Congregational Church, Deacon Gates.
As well as my grandfather, Bob Withem.
This is great.
Okay, so here we have this congregational religion, right. And now we're coming upon this period of time in America, which Joseph Smith says that there was great excitement at this time and that everybody was talking about religion. Everyone's trying to figure out what they're going to do and what religion they're going to join. What's so interesting about this is that we have in Joseph Smith—History 1:7 it tells us a little bit about Lucy and some of his family members, the church that they chose to go to. And look at verse seven, we read that for us, Holly?
I was at this time in my 15th year my father's family was postulated to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely my mother, Lucy, my brothers, Hyrum and Samuel Harrison, and my sister Sophronia.
So they joined with the Presbyterian Church. And the father, Joseph Smith, Sr., at the time, when he was younger, he actually joined the Universalist Society in like 1797. But for the rest of his life, he was mostly just really silent and diffident about religion. Now, he did believe in prayers. And as a family, they would pray every night as a family, they would have prayers over meals, and, in fact, he would join the family in scripture reading. So they would read as a family as well. So it wasn't that religion was not in the home. It absolutely was. It's just that Joseph Smith, Sr. didn't adhere to one main religion.
But what I think is interesting about all of this is that he came from a very religious family. And Joseph Smith, Sr. had recorded seven different visions. He himself had had visions, and different symbolic dreams about religion. Lucy will also record in her own writings about a vision that she had, and the symbolism of trees and her vision being her sons and being religion. Lucy also writes about a vision that her sister Lovina had, which was a vision of Jesus Christ. And so here we have this family that's being prepared with all of these visions. So that when you go into the Joseph Smith—History, and you read in verse 49 after Moroni comes to visit Joseph Smith, and he's exhausted, and then he falls on the ground, and Moroni says to him in verse 49, you need to go tell your father about the vision that you had. And this little boy should be terrified, right? He goes, and he does. He tells his dad in verse 50. Rebecca, will you please read verse 50?
He replied to me that it was of God and told me to go and do as commanded by the messenger.
I mean, isn't that interesting that his dad would say, "Oh, that was from God, and you need to do what the messenger said."
This applies to us. I just had this thought that if we have a tradition of sharing with our kids spiritual experiences that we've had and promptings and answers, then when they begin to have those as they mature, then they will come to us. And that will be the standard, right? That's the, that's what happens. That'll be the tradition of our family.
And it, it was weird in there in a religious context, though.
in that congregational union, there's no way this would have happened.
No, because it would be an affront. In that tradition, the nature of God is not ever really explained.
He was not a real—
No, no, he was floating around. And, and I learned so many good principles during that time in my life that prepared me. But I always wondered, and I would ask my mom, "Who is God? Where does he live?" Even when I was a little girl. No answers, you know, unless Joseph had taken the risk and gone to pray.
So let's go back then into the story where his family is Presbyterian, he's kind of leaning towards the Methodist sect in verse eight of Joseph Smith—History, but he's not quite sure what he's going to do. And so before he has the First Vision experience, he really decides he's going to read scriptures and he's going to do all the research you can. And it makes me think of your story. Holly, would you just tell us really fast what prompted you to join the Church? What was your experience?
Actually, it was in the car when my uncle, my dad were fighting. And I kept hearing my uncle say, "You can ask God! You can ask God and God will tell you!" And I had never considered ever asking God. I was nine at the time.
And so I closed my eyes. It was my very first prayer of my whole life. And I said, "Hello, God, this is Holly Butterfield." I was very formal. "And I'm listening to my Dad and my uncle fight, I'm sure you can hear it. And if the Mormon Church is true, make my right hand tingle. And if the Mormon Church is not true, make my left hand tingle. Thank you."
As soon as I had, as soon as I said, "Thank you," then my right hand caught on fire. And my brother had just rolled up my left hand in the power window. And so you would think it would have been the left hand, but it was it was the right hand. And I turned to my mom, and I said to her, "I'm going to be a Mormon." And she said, "That's great, honey, don't tell your father."
And then, when my uncle would come back and visit before my dad had called the missionaries, I would go to church with them. And so the missionaries came, they tell my parents the discussions while I was at school. And then when they asked me if I want to do get baptized, I said, "Oh, yeah, I decided that a long time ago. Just tell me where to be. Tell me where to be."
So make sure the waters warm. Awesome, so, Holly, would, you read verse 10 for us please in Joseph Smith—History?
In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself, "What is to be done? Who have all these parties are right? Or are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it? And how shall I know it?"
Sweet little 13, 14 year-old-boy, asking that question just like you did, like just so simple.
Highlight "war of words and tumult of opinions." Something so interesting is that, historically speaking, is that where he was living, it was known as the quote, burned over district unquote. And the reason why they called it the burned over district is because it was a hotbed of religious revivals. Like so many religions have been having revivals trying to recruit members that they deemed at the burned over district because it just, oh, so many religions. So there is a great deal of excitement. And this is everywhere where Joseph's living at the time. And so he decides he's going to go in and he's going to read, and we know the scripture in verse 11, it says in James, and Rebecca, will you read that? It's in italics.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Thank you. Now, Holly, I asked you as a resident English professor, tell us a little bit about the words "liberally" and "upbraideth" because that is significant to this verse of scripture and to Joseph.
I've known that in the past that it meant that he wouldn't be scolded. But as I did a little more digging about this word, the root of that word braid was a wave or a flourish of a weapon in anger. And that Joseph would read that scripture and say, wait a minute. You know what, I'm not going to get berated, told off, dressed down. criticized, scolded. God will not disapprove of this prayer, I can go to him. And I can ask.
Wow, Holly, I have never heard that definition before. I love the way that you just explained that to us. And that he gives liberally.
Just freely or abundantly, so much you can't even imagine. And I won't get in trouble for it for asking. Thank you, Holly, for sharing that.
That verse of scripture is what started this quest for him to maybe go and pray. Now, when I was teaching seminary, there is a scripture mastery scripture in Joshua chapter one, verse eight, and I love teaching it to my students every time we get to Old Testament. And I actually wrote a song to it. Go to Joshua, chapter one, verse eight, and see if I get it right. So turn there, it's in your Old Testament. Do you want me to sing it?
Me, me, me, me. "The book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shall meditate there in day and night that thou may observe to do according to," I should have started in the lower note. "All that is written, and then thou shalt make thy way. And then thou shall have got success. Joshua, chapter one, verse eight.
I mean, Tam, "America's Got Talent."
Seriously. I don't even my best singing, I'm kind of embarrassed. I was singing, we were ambassadors for America, I went to Korea. I started way too high, I'm an alto.
So I would make my kids learn that because it says if you study the scriptures day and night, that thou may observe to do according to all that has been written, then thou shalt make thy way prosperous and have good success. That's what comes from reading the scriptures.
So in the next segment, we're going to see if that worked for Joseph.
All right, I am so excited because this is the part of the episode where we get to introduce Anthony Sweat. And this is so exciting for me because I've known Anthony for a really long time. And I am just so excited that he's willing to be on our podcast. So hi, Anthony. How are you?
Anthony Sweat 32:16
Good, Tamara. So good to see you again. And I don't know if you're gonna tell our history but we go way back. I'm so excited to be with you.
Way, way back because we got hired together back in circa 1990...
Anthony Sweat 32:29
1990 something. All I know is, I think Bon Jovi was still on the radio. So that's how far back—
Living on a prayer.
Weren't we ever? We did when we taught seminary for years together. And then we just went off in our different directions. And you became a professor at BYU. You are a professor of Church history and doctrine, which is so cool. And you also are an artist, I can't wait to talk about your new book, which, everyone, do yourself a favor and buy it as an after-Christmas gift for yourselves. Because it's such a good book, but I don't talk about the book right now. We're gonna get to that.
I feel like Joseph Smith is your man, you know so much, and you have paid the price to know about him.
Anthony Sweat 33:10
Well, I'll take that because when I meet Joseph in the Spirit world, if I can be like, "My man!" I'll take it.
You will. I imagine a wonderful, brotherly embrace between the two of you.
So Anthony, you weren't here when we did this. But I did sing a little song for everybody. And I talked to them about Joshua, chapter one, verse eight. And we wanted to see if Joseph really did have success by meditating on the scriptures. And so you're here and now you get to tell us if he did have success. So I'm so excited for you to share with us these thoughts about the prayer that Joseph prayed.
Anthony Sweat 33:43
You know, I don't want to be too historical nerdy with you. But if you understand what's going on in Joseph's world, it really changes the way we understand why he's emphasizing this.
And there's some interesting words there in those verses, like in verse 13, at the end of 13, where he says, that God wouldn't upbraid and that he might venture. Like, I'm going on an adventure or it's something scary. Why is Joseph saying he's willing to venture? Well, because in his context, you know, there's different theologies at the time, but really prevalent in America is Calvinism. And this, Jonathan Edwards, his sermon, his track "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," which basically says God blesses or curses at his own whim. He brings to heaven or sends to hell with the flick of his finger and he dangles God's children over the pit of hell, and makes arbitrary decisions to drop them in.
And aren't we the spider, Anthony? Are we the spider, in that sermon? Yeah, right. We're the spider and maybe we get tossed up or...
Anthony Sweat 35:01
Smashed or? Yeah, I mean, yeah, God is feared in a lot of circles. I don't know if it's in this or another one. But I heard my colleague, Stephen Harper, who's a great Joseph Smith, First Vision scholar, him talk about this where Joseph heard from preachers, God abhors you. God abhors you. And so, yeah, I mean process, hearing that kind of thing and then wondering if you should go approach that kind of a God in prayer. It's fearful. And so that's why later in Joseph's life, and things like that contribute to, you know, teachings, like, you can't have faith in God unless you really know God. You can't have ultimate trust and confidence in a being who you don't really know that being's character. And so Joseph will say, our first object is to get to know the character of God, what kind of being he is, because then we'll know how to have faith in him and how to approach him. And so that's happening there in the First Vision.
So it's not just radical that he says he saw God and Jesus Christ, but it's also radical, because the God that he would have learned about would never have wanted you to come and ask him a question.
Anthony Sweat 36:25
Wow. I never, I never realized that.
The audacity to approach that God. The audacity for you to do that.
Anthony Sweat 36:34
We approach God so casually, almost probably too much so now in the Church. But it does take, I like that word, Tammy, audacity. And that's why he says, if he gives liberally if the scriptures really mean he will give liberally and not upbraid, maybe I'll venture. It really puts those words in that you can get into the heart of this teenage boy. And I can almost picture him as fire comes out of heaven. I bet Joseph is like, "Oh, yep, yep, this is God getting ready to send me to hell, I guess."
He took a huge risk. I mean, that was risky, business,
Anthony Sweat 37:12
Risky business is right. And then the first words out of God's mouth will be things like, "Joseph, my son," your name, you're my son, "Your sins are forgiven you." That's the 1832 account that we'll talk about soon. But, "Joseph, my son, your sins are forgiven." They are the first words that God spoke to him. And so from this very moment, from the very beginning, Joseph is learning the true nature and character of God.
Anthony Sweat 37:42
Isn't that so cool?
It's so cool.
It's so cool. But I wish that that were written because all I know is what I'm reading in Joseph Smith–History and in the Scriptures, like I don't really, I haven't read all the other accounts. So I don't know that.
Anthony Sweat 37:55
You can jump right on the Joseph Smith Papers website, they have a link on the front, you can read all these other accounts that we'll talk about, they give great insight.
The link to all of those are in our show notes. So go and check out our show notes and click on that link. And it will show all the different versions, which we'll get to in the next segment.
What I want to do, though, is knowing all of this, then let's go with Joseph into the woods. So go to verse 14. And this is where it starts. And my favorite thing about this verse, and I'm so excited to have Tony talk to us about this is, you know, he talks about how it was a spring day. And one of the things he says and one of the versions is that he went back to the stump where he had left his axe the day before he was familiar with where he was going. It wasn't some random, like he didn't drive up into the mountains and select a place he went to where it was familiar. And the way he prayed, so, Tony, tell us a little bit about that verse.
Anthony Sweat 38:48
Well, you got to give a shout out to his mom, who was known to retreat to the woods to pray. Joseph is not getting this idea from out of thin air. He watched his mother exercise faith like this, we did not doubt our mothers knew it. Joseph did not doubt because he watched his own mother retreat to the woods and pray. And so this is a familial teaching.
And then also Joseph does go probably into the grove by their farm there, we know that he tells us that, but he probably pre-picked a spot like this is a good spot to go where I feel comfortable praying and some great insights there.
But I'm sure you know, he says "Amidst all my anxieties, I have never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally." And some people are like, "Well, so what did not grow up in a praying house?" Well, no, he did grow up in a praying house. Of course he did. But you also have to understand there is a cultural teaching at this time is that if you pray out loud, Satan will attack you.
I think that still exists today.
Anthony Sweat 39:52
I do too. I've actually heard people say, I think it's taking it to an extreme because they'll say things like, "Well, I'm not gonna to tell people that I'm going to the temple because then Satan will know my plans and thwart them. So I'm just going to keep them in my mind."
Isn't that funny how Satan's used himself to keep us from praying out loud?
Anthony Sweat 40:13
But he does, listen, in all my knowledge of Joseph Smith comes from, prior to adulthood, came from the old movie where he throws the corn in the air. And they showed it at every baptism, then, like, easy on that corn. But, um, but he does, you know, he does pray and then the scariest Church movie scene in all of our cinema.
Anthony Sweat 40:42
I mean, I hate that. That scared me about praying. Maybe till right now.
Anthony Sweat 40:49
So tell us about that because it wasn't necessarily him praying out loud that had that moment come. It was what was about to happen, right?
Anthony Sweat 40:58
Yeah. And I think that's usually how we take the story is that the adversary knew, you know, the great work. And Joseph says that later in in Joseph Smith—History here, "It seems the adversary was aware at a very early time otherwise, why such intense opposition." But that's usually how we interpret it. Like the adversary knew that God was getting inaugurated great work through Joseph since we tried to stop him. But you—
It's not about the vocalization.
Anthony Sweat 41:23
It's not the vocalization. But that cultural teaching is likely in Joseph's mind. We see it later, he's working with his friend Newel Knight when the church is organized. I'm jumping ahead 14 years, but Newel Knight tells Joseph, they're at a church meeting. And he says I'm afraid to pray out loud, because I'm afraid if I pray out loud that Satan will attack me. And so it's a it's a common teaching in 19th century frontier America this time.
And in the 1970s, at the First Congregational Church of Brewer, Maine, where I was raised. I mean, yeah, no, this is putting my whole worldview about who God is. I mean, this is making so much sense to me, and I appreciate it.
Anthony Sweat 42:06
It's a paradigm shift isn't it?
Anthony Sweat 42:08
Well, look what the first vision is teaching us right up front. It's teaching us that God loves us. God will not arbitrarily cast you into a pit. God knows your name. God will forgive sins. God answers prayers. God is more powerful than the adversary, you can pray to Him, you can talk to him. This is why we talk about the First Vision is because it does cut through a lot of cultural false doctrine and misunderstandings to try to get at the true nature and character of God.
That is powerful, Anthony, powerful. And for me, going into this story, for me, the doctrinal truth also is that. And I just taught this to my daughter a couple of weeks ago because she was preparing to get her patriarchal blessing. And it was amazing, the weeks leading up to getting that blessing, how difficult things had been in her life. And she had really been struggling. And she came to me crying and asked why. And as a mom, it was great for me to be able to pull out this Joseph Smith story and say, Joseph Smith, and then Moses had this experience, and that anytime something amazing in your life is about to happen, quite often, Satan will either come before or after the experience to do whatever he can to get you to deny it, or just turn your back on it or not even do it. And right before Joseph Smith had this experience, yeah, you're right, Holly. It is the scariest scene in all of Mormon cinema. But the new version is scary and powerful, the most recent First Vision one. And I get chills every time I see it.
Anthony Sweat 43:43
I love that one too.
It really happened.
That was, that was incredible discussion of just those verses. So thank you, Anthony.
Anthony Sweat 43:51
So in the next segment, we're going to jump into the First Vision and we're going to study it in a way you've probably never done before, and I cannot wait.
Alright, so here's what I'm going to do. Now for this next part for Anthony, one of the cool things about him is that he has an incredible artist. And he has repainted the First Vision, which is so powerful. And I put a copy of the picture in our show notes. So those of you who are following along with our show notes, I want you to go there and look at this painting because Anthony is going to teach us about the First Vision based on the painting that he has recently done. You can find this in his book, you can also purchased this painting, and it is it's just so cool the way he's done it and he's going to talk to us about the First Vision based on how he has depicted it. And I'm just gonna, I'm not gonna say anything else. I'm just gonna let you go. Just take it away, Anthony, and teach us about the First Vision.
Anthony Sweat 44:44
Thank you, Tamara, I appreciate that. I did get my, my original plans were to be a full-time artist, a full-time painter. And God led me into religious education, which I'm grateful, but I still use my art to teach and to express and inspire. So I hope this image does for people as well.
And the reason why I painted a little different is because what I wanted to do in this image was to bring in all nine accounts of the First Vision into this scene. So, you know, there's nine known accounts, contemporary accounts with the First Vision, meaning they were produced during Joseph Smith's lifetime. Four of them Joseph Smith oversaw the production of, and they're known as the primary accounts. And then there's five others that heard Joseph relate the First Vision wrote it down.
And those are known as secondary accounts, which, by the way, I think is wonderful. I don't, I've never quite understood why people think it's problematic that there are a number of accounts of the First Vision. To me, I wish there was 100 accounts of the First Vision. And each account emphasizes different aspects.
You know, one time, I was in front of a big group of people, and somebody asked me how my wife and I met and got married. And I said, "Well, you know, we've known each other since we were 12. Went to junior high and high school together. And after my mission, we hit it off and got married." And later, my wife said, "That's the lamest version of our love story that I've ever heard." And I said to her, "They didn't ask how we fell in love, or they didn't ask me how I knew and how you knew that we were right to get married. They asked how we met."
And so there's three things that I kind of break this down to that influence why we tell a story, the way we tell it. It's our audience, or the contexts or our audience changes what we say. The second thing that influences it is our purpose and why we're saying what we're saying. And then the third thing that influences it is simply our memory at the time, what we're remembering, or what's on our mind. All three of those things influence why Joseph, is who he's talking to. It's why he's saying what he's saying, his purpose, and it's how he's remembering and thinking about it at the time. All of those influence the account, so we get different details in each account. They all tell the same story of a young boy confused over religion who goes to a grove of trees and prays and is visited by God. Every one of them tell that same story. But you get cool details in the various accounts.
For example, back to my image, one of the main differences in my image is I literally painted it as fire, kind of real Old-Testament-type fire coming down of heaven, almost licking up and wrapping around Joseph. And the reason why is because in the 1832 account, the first time Joseph writes the First Vision, he says, "I saw a column of fire." And he crosses out the word "fire" and searches for another word and writes "light." But in many of the other accounts, the word "fire." In one of them it says, "I saw a pillar of flame come out of heaven." Orson Pratt says that the flames were so powerful and bright, and that he thought the entire grove was going to consume in flames. And then he found that it produced a peculiar sensation, not a burning, but warming almost, and that wrapped around him and enveloped him. So in my image, it's this yellow, not it's not soft, white, effervescent, 60-bulb light bulb. It is Old Testament pillar of fire coming down and wrapping around him. So there's, there's one difference.
Another thing I painted that somewhat different is that I did not put the Father and the Son right next to each other. The Father is standing kind of behind Joseph's shoulder as though he has just finished talking to him. And now he's kind of opening up his body and with his left armies motioning toward His Son, who's coming down out of heaven, as though He's just appearing with His arms open. And the reason why—
So Jesus is the upper image?
Anthony Sweat 49:04
Jesus is the upper image. And if you look, if you look on a more detailed version of it, you can see that I even painted marks in Christ's hands, just send that message. And the reason why I painted that way is because we're used to thinking of the First Vision of two beings appearing side by side and at the same time, that's actually not how the accounts describe it. And there are three different accounts that say that one being appeared to Joseph Smith. One. And then the phrases that it uses is "after a while."
I did not know that.
Anthony Sweat 49:39
Or, "shortly thereafter," another being appeared. Isn't that fascinating? It's not a dual appearance, it's a singular appearance.
And then when God the Father seems to finish speaking to Joseph, then His Son also makes an appearance, and he introduces His Son to him. And in one of the accounts, after God spoke to Joseph, the Son appears. And in that account, it says in that one, it's Jesus who says, "Thy sins are forgiven thee."
So, in my image, I wanted to kind of show that a little differently to kind of get at that part of the story as well.
You did an excellent job doing that.
Anthony Sweat 50:20
This resolves any concern I ever had about multiple accounts because, you know, there's a million books about World War II, but it doesn't negate, yeah, it doesn't negate the war.
Yeah, it did happen.
And then this even goes back how you just taught us about how the First Vision tells us about the nature of God. And, of course, our Heavenly Father would want to introduce His Son to his other son.
Anthony Sweat 50:53
And he's done that. That's how it's always, in all scripture, it's God introduces, then His Son shows. Wow, that's awesome.
Anthony Sweat 51:04
A few people, when they've seen the painting, they said, "Why didn't you put Jesus on God's right-hand side?" And that's a perfectly appropriate metaphor that Jesus Himself uses on the right hand of the Father. None of the First Vision accounts say that that's how They appeared. So that's one of my reasonings behind it, but also to tell that story.
Another part that if you look at the image behind Jesus, you see concourse of angels beginning to appear. In the 1835 account, Joseph, just almost as an aside, leaves a little post script, where he says, "And I saw many angels in the vision." And so it's not just the Father and the Son, but there's multiple angels. They're present, witnessing and testifying. I don't know what their role is. But that's just such a beautiful aside. And I deliberately painted those angels, male and female, to represent different genders. And I deliberately painted them with different skin tones to represent all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people that this vision would impact.
So that's a, that's a little artistic license on my end that none of the accounts mentioned the look of the angels or the gender of the angels. But that's why I painted that way was to try to send that message a little bit.
I love the idea of that, Anthony, because in Hebrew, the word for angels is mal'ach. It's angels is messengers. And I'm imagining me, like anyone who has served a mission, anyone who would bring his message, at this point for the restoration on, I kind of want to think that I'm part of that group, you're living this moment as a messenger.
Anthony Sweat 52:48
I love that thought.
That's actually the first thing I noticed in your painting was, "Oh, who's the crowd in the back?" And I thought, "Oh, wow, they are all different ethnicities and genders." That would only make sense, right?
Is it at all possible that this was a dream?
Anthony Sweat 53:09
Oh, Rebecca, you are opening up a can of worms. That is a great question. And I don't want to play semantics too much. Was it the First Vision or was it the first visitation? And maybe the answer is yes to both. And the reason I say that, like when Joseph has his vision of the eternal worlds, of the celestial, terrestrial, telestial kingdom, and he saw those kingdoms, he saw Jesus, it was a real vision of a real person.
And maybe the veil parted and they made their literal appearance to him. But I also do believe there were people who saw Joseph had the vision of the three degrees of glory, and they were in the room while Joseph and Sidney Rigdon were having that vision, and they didn't see anything.
So I'm not certain that if you and I would have stumbled across and come upon a teenage boy, Joseph, in the grove, having the vision, I'm not certain if you or I would have seen anything.
Please don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that God and Jesus and angels did not visit him. And I do believe they did. But it was a veil-parting experience. Almost like Paul, whether I was in the body or out I cannot tell is what Paul says. Joseph, when the vision closes, he says, "I came to myself. I found myself up on my back. I lacked strength."
Anthony Sweat 54:37
I'm not sure Joseph would know if it was in the body or out.
Okay, that makes a lot of sense. Thanks for explaining that.
Anthony Sweat 54:42
One person dismissed the vision as the dream of a pure-minded boy. I would be reticent to label it as a dream.
Now, I know Lehi had a vision and a dream. Joseph does not say he was asleep. He does not say, I mean it's in a bright daytime. It is a vision and visitation of heavenly messengers. But I do think there is a transfiguration, a veil parting, an opening up of heaven that's happening that maybe isn't quite just so pedestrian has two people talking in the trees to him.
Thank you. Those were great questions. And thank you, Anthony. That was so, I said we would study the First Vision like we've never had before. And this has opened our eyes and our minds. And I've just loved, I've loved the feeling, just this good, peaceful feeling. As you've talked, I keep thinking, "This is the Spirit testifying that this happened." That's how I felt as I listened to this. That was incredible.
Anthony Sweat 55:40
Awesome, thank you.
So in the next segment, we are going to jump back into more of this artwork and talk more about different versions of how the First Vision has been painted.
So I said at the beginning that Anthony has recently come out with a new book, and it's called, "Repicturing the Restoration." And I'm telling you right now, do yourself a favor, get yourself your after-Christmas gift because you didn't get what you wanted, you're going to want this. And it's so good. And I remember when Anthony was doing this, and like a year ago, Anthony, we were together and you were showing me some pictures that you had painted because you decided you're going to paint the restoration, meaning you're painting pictures that no one's painted before. So tell us why you did this painting of the First Vision, give us a little history.
Anthony Sweat 56:28
We learn a lot through art. And we are very blessed that we have, I don't know, I don't think Latter-day Saints realize that we are in a church that it has an unhealthy proportion of gifted artists. And they have done a huge body of work to bless the Church, and they're much more gifted than I am. I want to say that up front. Where I bring something to the table that might be a little different is that because I'm a professor of Church history and doctrine, as I teach our Church's history, I repeatedly have come across a lot of important events that either have never been depicted before or haven't been depicted quite consistent with the historical record. And so that's what my project was over the last six years, I painted 25 important paintings from the restoration that have either never been depicted or under depicted with the historical record to open up dialogue and understanding and expand our vision. And because we just do learn so much through art, we almost unconsciously consume it.
And all the Nephites are ripped and Abinadi is old with his shirt off.
Stripling warriors are incredibly strong.
Anthony Sweat 57:37
The "Sports Illustrated" of a painting.
Anthony Sweat 57:42
And that's a credit to Arnold Friberg because he painted such masterful images. But we all just need to understand that images really affect how we understand something.
And so even coming to this, the heart of this podcast on the First Vision, we haven't realized how much our conceptions of the First Vision have been formed based off the art that has been done.
And that's great. We need these images. And they all are trying to express different things. But we also should make sure we're reading the sources because every time we see an image, we are getting that artists translation.
Artists are translators. And it doesn't mean it's the only way to picture it. So we need to read the sources ourselves and kind of use the art to inspire us, but get the details from the sources.
And I've done some research on this and published on it. But surprisingly, the earliest image of the First Vision wasn't published until 1873. So 50 years after the first vision, before somebody illustrated it, and ironically, it was published in a non-Mormon actually anti-Latter-day-Saint book, called the "Rocky Mountain Saints" written by somebody who left the Church. And that's the first image.
It's very different than the image that we typically think of. Joseph looks like he's really young, his hair's kind of curly. His arms are down, he's wearing dark clothing, the Father and the Son are kind of flying towards him. Rays of light are shooting out from them. It's really, really beautiful image.
But what was the purpose of the artist? Was it to dissuade?
Anthony Sweat 59:24
No, I don't think so. I actually, I actually think it's a respectful image. It's not a pejorative image at all. I think it was just trying to tell the story through it.
But what's interesting is the first time we do a First Vision image, we actually commissioned the renowned glass company, Tiffany and Company. We commissioned Tiffany and Company to do a stained glass for the Salt Lake Temple when it's being built and finished in the late 1800s.
That's the one that's still in the temple?
Anthony Sweat 59:55
Yes. It goes into the Holy of Holies.
Yeah, that's awesome.
Anthony Sweat 1:00:00
It's beautiful and Tiffany and Company did a number of stained glass in the Salt Lake Temple. So again, the second image is done by non-Latter-day Saints.
And we don't really start to get Latter-day Saints painting the First Vision, we get, the earliest one is in 1912, a few more in the 1930s, Minerva Teichert comes along, and her images of the First Vision are beautiful, and so different. She's got lilies and flowers and pastels and wonderful symbolism.
But my point in saying this is, we don't really start to get a standardized First Vision look until the 1960s and 70s. That's when we get Joseph, usually in a full-leaf summer grove, wearing a white shirt and brown pants, with his hand in the posture holding up blocking the light. And two beings in white robes, side by side, standing next to each other and soft white light. That is an icon and an appropriate one. But we need to recognize that's a symbol, it's an icon of the First Vision.
And it may not be how the vision looked or how the vision happened. And there might be a lot more to it, as we've kind of talked about from these other accounts. Angels, adversaries, Father, Son, what they looked like, how they appeared, that will still come to fruition.
I guess what I'm trying to say is have your mind open to picturing the First Vision and maybe some different ways. The icon's great, the symbol's great. But there's more to explore there is what I'm trying to say,
Yeah, I really appreciate that you just said have your mind opened to re-picturing the First Vision in a different way. That is powerful right there.
And many of us have read it. And the wording is beautiful. And if you served a mission, you had to memorize it, and say in whatever language you spoke in, but just the idea that there's more to it is proof of the restoration. It's proof that Joseph Smith began the restoration, and now we're living in it and more things are coming and being restored to us.
And I really feel like that's what your book does, is it's adding to our knowledge of what happened. And it's expanding our ideas of what it looked like to join the Church.
Anthony Sweat 1:02:24
Yeah, that's what I'm trying to do in every one of those images is, here's an image maybe you haven't pictured before. Here's a background, some history, open your mind up to it. Here's an application or what this, why I want you to think about this part of our history to deepen and expand your faith. So that's the intent with every one of those images that I painted.
You did it beautifully.
Yes, thank you.
But why the ax?e I need to know this. Why the axe on the bottom right corner?
Anthony Sweat 1:02:53
In the 1842 account, Joseph says he went to the spot where he struck his axe when he finished the previous day's work. It likely, some people have conjectured that this is sapping season Maple tapping season when the maple is starting to run in the trees, and they were busy all day long. And maybe the only day off that Joseph had was a Sabbath day.
So that would have been in March.
Anthony Sweat 1:03:21
Yeah, there's, there's some people who, and it's not known, we don't know the day. All Joseph says is early spring.
My grandfather, after he retired, he tapped the trees. And the thaw was always in March. And I can hear the clinking in those metal buckets that would have been wouldn't for Joseph, but the plop, plop, plop. And so I've gone and collected those buckets. And I know how much work that was and how exhausted. And for teenager Joseph to say, "This is my one afternoon off, I'm going to head out into the woods and go back to that spot."
Well, it would have been a sacrifice for sure for this young boy to have a day off. I like how you pointed that out, Holly.
Well, we didn't even get a chance to talk about in your painting. For those of you that get the painting or see it, notice in the bottom left-hand corner that you painted Satan in the painting.
Anthony Sweat 1:04:14
We didn't even get into that.
Anthony Sweat 1:04:17
Ten second, so I gotta say it. We don't put Satan in there because that's part of almost every narrative of the First Vision and I wanted people to see that God has more power than the adversary does. And so he's off in the—
Did you paint him as a weasel?
Anthony Sweat 1:04:30
No, I actually used the same kind of image that Carl Bloch uses in his classic painting of Christ casting out the tempter
Oh I see it.
He looks like Voldemort.
Anthony Sweat 1:04:49
I painted him without clothing. Now, just from the waist up to keep it Latter-day Saint appropriate, of course. But so that kind of sends the message of he is not, he does not have glory. He is not clothed upon or invested with power and authority like God and Jesus and angels are.
Incredible. So good. Okay, well, we'll let you go. Thank you for joining us. This was great. And we're gonna keep our discussion and Joseph and everything about his life in the next segment.
Thank you, Anthony.
Anthony Sweat 1:05:21
Thank you for having me on.
Great discussion, nice to meet you all and be with you all. See ya.
Now, HB, you recently spent some time in Nauvoo and Carthage. And I just want to know, what was that like for you? And did it have an effect on your testimony or anything that stands out?
You know, I went to visit a friend. It was in October, college roommates, and one of them said, "Which is your temple?" And our friend said, "Oh, it's Nauvoo." And our other friend, teared up. And she said, "Can we go? Can we go?" And our host, hostess said, "Yes, of course, you can go."
So we left early on a Saturday morning. So we hadn't planned it. And we went to Carthage first. And I was excited. I'd never been to any of that. But I was bummed because it's, you know, Corona times, COVID times and I, I knew we weren't gonna be able to go into anything and see any stuff and like, I don't know, eat some taffy and see people dressed up like the pioneers and the tap dancers and all that kind of stuff. I was like, "Oh, it's a bummer."
But it was a beautiful, beautiful fall day. And we got out of the car, and we got to Carthage and you walk down this path. And there are all these kind of smaller monuments that tell the First Vision. And then at the end of that kind of cobblestone brick pathway, there is a statue of Joseph and Hyrum with their arms around each other standing there. When I looked up, and I saw that, I began to cry. And I was so moved at how much those two brothers loved each other. And I was so sad of the way their lives were ended, like one right after another, these feelings. And then I was just so grateful that they had done that, but they had completed that sacrifice. Because every single thing I hope for and know is because Joseph and Hyrum and Emma, and all those saints what they did, so that I can know that I can be with my family forever. That I can know that the Atonement, it covers my sins, but also my sadness. Like, I wouldn't know any of this, the plan of salvation, nothing. And I was so grateful. And it was such a really sweet experience. In fact, I found myself just saying, "Thank you. Thank you so much."
Thank you for sharing that. That was a great experience you had there.
I know that statue.
Yeah, and I mean, we went on to go, we went on to go to Nauvoo. And I mean, there's nobody there. I mean, it was deserted. And I took off, we took off our shoes, and we stood in the water. I couldn't believe I was standing in the Mississippi, and where they have been driven out after, you know, the martyrdom and, and that they have so much faith. I mean, just to be there, it was holy ground.
Well, what about you Dowdle? Are there any stories about you or your family that have taught you something about the gospel?
So my mom's mother, was, you know, I'm from Maine. And she went down to Washington, DC to work during the war, during World War II. And she would send her money home to her parents. She was kind of supporting her parents and, and had read in the Bible about tithing. And felt like God was telling her that that's what she needed to do. She needed to pay tithing.
And so she would send the checks home to her mother in Maine and say, "Be sure you bring 10% to pastor so and so in Rockland at the church." And my mom is just right now getting copies of these letters that her grandmother would write back to her mom and she'd be like, "Yes, I gave the money to someone." So really irritated with her that she's sending this money like, "Wow, aren't you so rich," and stuff. But she just felt like that, that was something she needed to do.
So then, later on, she married my grandpa and she had children. And the missionaries knocked on the door, and they listen to the lessons and when she heard about tithing, she knew that was true and they joined the Church. But yeah.
Wow. That's a great story.
What I like about that story, and what I like about what HB just shared is that it's just this this common theme of, of truth and truthfulness that came because of the First Vision and how all of us have benefited from Joseph's experience and from his martyrdom, and from Hyrum's.
And, you know, Joseph gets a bad rap. And he talks about it in Joseph Smith–History, that he found it so curious and strange that even as a young boy, after he started, he was just this obscure, nobody, that people went buck wild.
In fact, let's look at those verses. It's Joseph Smith—History one verses 21 through 23. And I asked you guys ahead of time to mark words that stood out to you in those three verses.
I marked great a lot. A great deal of prejudice, great persecution, bitter persecution, great sorrow that that brought him. So it wasn't just like, "Yeah, I was persecuted. It was, it was great. There's a lot.
And that they would take notice of this obscure boy, sufficient to cite the public mind against me and create, like Becky said, that bitter persecution. I mean, certainly, you would retract your statement. You would say, "You know what, the world isn't ready for that. I'm going to just keep it to myself, I'll share with my family one day, and it'll be really great. And I'll just have to break the news to Moroni and God and Jesus that, um, you know, this isn't going to work out. Find someone else." Because his character was assassinated at the time, from the time he told until the day of his death, and it hasn't stopped since.
And then we have all these other accounts. And then people looking through the lens of today's lens, trying to hold people from 200 years ago to a certain standard. And I think we would be naive to think that the furor that happened, the frenzy that happened when he told about his vision, wouldn't still be perpetuated today by the adversary, right? It would be naive to think that.
Because sometimes I'll hear some strange things and, and the great thing is, we can do just what Joseph did. We come to the table like, "I, yikes. I just read something on, you know, social media that was really upsetting about this." Or, "I'm seeing friends leave the Church because of things they've read."
And I can go to to the Lord and say, like, "Ah, this, I don't feel good about this. I, this is upsetting to me, like, help me out." And then I can come to know my own answer.
You know, Holly, as you were talking about that, in Joseph Smith—History 1:61, it's worth noting this verse because it was so extreme that he actually brings it up again. And he says, in verse 61, the, Holly, in fact, read that for us, please. Just to you get to the word volumes.
Excitement, however, still continued and rumor with her thousand tongues was all the time employed and circulating false hoods about my father's family and about myself. If I were to relate a thousandth part of them, it would fill up volumes.
Can you imagine? I mean, just—
I don't know why I have never read that. I don't know how, or I don't remember reading it.
Oh, yeah, we'd be naive to think that it stopped somehow and that there's merit to the 1,000 tongues. There is no way that the Lord would choose a bad man to be the one to restore, to begin the restoration. It wouldn't make any sense. He's a flawed man, sure, but not an evil man. Not a creep.
Well, Dowdle. I want you to read this quote by Elder Neil L. Anderson. And then tell me some of your thoughts.
The negative commentary about the Prophet Joseph Smith will increase as we move toward the second coming of the Savior. The half-truths and subtle deceptions will not diminish. There will be family members and friends who will need your help. Now is the time to adjust your own spiritual mask oxygen mask, so that you are prepared to help others who are seeking the truth.
And I think back to my time on my mission I didn't have that mask on. And I can remember a specific moment where the thought came, "You don't really know if Joseph Smith is Prophet, and you probably should go home from your mission." And I struggled and wrestled for days because I felt like I hadn't had a vision. I hadn't had an experience like Joseph Smith, I didn't really know if any of it was true. Honestly, I just went on a mission because I was single at 21. I mean—.
Yeah, what's up is Satan that, like, sends mixed messages.
I went down that rabbit hole so fast and, and I prayed. So I got on my knees, and I started asking Heavenly Father for a testimony of Joseph Smith, and I prayed my heart out. And then I woke up the next morning and put on a skirt and tracked it. And I just serve my mission. And then I lived my life. And I kept going to church and doing everything.
And it wasn't until I was 31 years old, teaching this story to my students at Skyline High School, seventh period, end of the day. I've taught this lesson six other times. And I have them look up at this poster that I have on my wall. And I've had it there for a year now. And I have them read out loud. And it's Joseph Smith—history one. And I want us to look at this verse. Joseph Smith—History, one, verse 25. And I said to them, I'll read it out loud, and I started to read it. And I'm just going to read it to us.
So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.
And I had that experience I'm having right now. I had it that moment. And I looked at my students, I was crying. And I said, "This really happened." And one kid goes, "Duh, duh Sister Uzelac." And I go, "Yeah, but I haven't known that till this very minute. And I prayed to know it when I was 21. This really, truly happened." And I got my testimony, and it took 10 years, but I got it. I got it in that moment because I I did I got up and put on a skirt and tracted.
And I think that in this talk Elder Neil Anderson talks to us about those of us who are still struggling to put on that oxygen mask. It's okay. In fact, let's read this quote and, HB, will you read this quote by Elder Anderson?
“A testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith can come differently to each of us. It may come as you kneel in prayer, asking God to confirm that he was a true prophet. It may come as you read the Prophet’s account of the First Vision. A testimony may distill upon your soul as you read the Book of Mormon again and again. It may come as you bear your own testimony of the Prophet or as you stand in the temple and realize that through Joseph Smith the holy sealing power was restored to the earth.22 With faith and real intent, your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith will strengthen. The constant water balloon volleys from the sidelines may occasionally get you wet, but they need never, never extinguish your burning fire of faith.”
That's great, I had never read that before.
I love that.
So my challenge to everyone is to get that mask on. And to take this challenge to get a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, it is what is our foundation is built on because of him. The restoration of the gospel happened because of him. We have nine doctrinal truths that will never change because of him. We know about the Godhead, priesthood, sealings, families can be sealed together forever. I just, it's amazing that he began the restoration and we're living in the restoration and everything that comes to us as part of the Church being restored on the earth today and I'm so grateful for that.
Amen. And amen.
So that's it.
And you know, I had the thought like, he was probably, he probably didn't want to sign up for that. He just wanted to know what church to join. He's like, "I don't want to be. I don't want to be now ushering in this and this whole thing. What?"
Methodist is good for now, right?
Yeah. Listen, I don't know what to tell you. God knew it. I knew it. I don't know. I mean, it happened. I'm just saying I didn't even want it to happen.
Right. And he's so young.
And he gets nothing. I mean, if we look at the fruit from this, he brings forth so much goodness into our lives. But personally, he loses everything.
Oh, I'm so glad you brought that up. My testimony is rooted in that actually. If he was a false prophet, he would have been so rich. And he would have just skimmed off the top of everybody's tithing. And he's the poorest of the poor.
Yeah, and, and he showed us that you can have a doubt. And you can be wondering, "Oh my gosh, my mom's a Presbyterian now. My dad doesn't, you know, pledged to any particular faith." And, and, and you can have all the questions in the world. But don't leave. Just don't leave because I need you.
HB, that is so true. We need everyone. Everyone has a purpose in this gospel. And you just you never know if you're going to be the person who someone needs.
Okay, ladies, well, thank you.
So what I want you to do is just take a minute and think about what is your takeaway from today, and there's a lot on how you have narrowed down to one. So give us what your takeaway was from today's discussion.
I mean, my take away, was seeing Anthony's depicting the First Vision, and how there were angels also. And that makes so much sense to me. I think art really does have that impact. And that art puts that picture in your mind. And so it's always just been the one way, the one painting that I've seen. So then seeing it another way, totally changed that for me.
Awesome takeaway, so good.
I think mine was that Elder Andersen quote because nobody in an air emergency is going to blame themselves for not putting on the oxygen mask before they took off.
We're not putting on an oxygen mask before we take off. But we want to be prepared and get that ready, and, and have that on. So when we're more in a faith crisis of our own, we have that spiritual connection that we can go and that we can ask and we don't need to be embarrassed about it.
And we can tell the truth and say, "Yeah, I got some serious concerns about Joseph Smith, or tithing or you name it, right. Or this doesn't feel right to me, and I'm worried about it. And I'm nervous, and we can just be honest, and if we can be vulnerable and honest with each other. I mean, look what happened to Joseph Smith when he was honest and vulnerable. You got to know the true nature of God. And now we know that God loves us, and He wants us to come to Him and we can trust Him.
Awesome. Thank you, Holly. Thanks, HB.
I gotta be honest, I think my takeaway was just how I felt through this entire episode. And I mentioned it a couple of times, but I'm going back to it about just this good peaceful feeling. And that is the Spirit. That is what Galatians chapter five verses 22 and 23 teach us that one of the fruits of the Spirit is peace and love and joy.
And I felt that through this whole episode, and it just reconfirm to me that everything I heard is true. But that was my takeaway.I love that.
Well for those of you listening, we would love to hear what your big takeaway was from this episode because there were a lot. So if you haven't already joined our discussion group, come on and get on Facebook and Instagram. It's totally worth it because it's so fun to read what people are learning throughout the week.
And then on Sundays, we always ask for what your big takeaway was. So comment on the post that relates to this lesson and let us know what you learned. And I do I read every single one of them. It's so much fun. And then on Monday, I post a little video sharing a takeaway that stood out to me on Instagram, so make sure you go on and you can see those you can get to both our Facebook and our Instagram by going to the show notes for this episode on ldsliving.com/sundayonmonday.
And it's not a bad idea to go there because that's where you're going to find the links to all the references we used as well as a complete transcript of this entire discussion, which I have a feeling is going to be worth reading, so go check it out.
The Sunday on Monday study group is a Deseret Bookshelf PLUS+ original as brought to you by LDS Living.
It's written and hosted by me, Tammy Uzelac Hall and today our awesome study participants were Rebecca Dowdle, Holly Butterfield, Rawlings, and Anthony Sweat.
Our podcast is produced by Katie Lambert and me, Tammy Uzelac Hall. It's recorded and mixed by Mix at 6 Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom.
Thanks for being here. We'll see you next week. And please remember, when God used Joseph Smith's name, insert your name right here. Blank, you are God's favorite.
I want to know when we're going to lunch with Anthony.
Anthony Sweat 1:25:25
I'll go to lunch with you ladies anytime. Are you kidding me?
This, this is not—Anthony, I'll make you a tuna sandwich that'll make you cry. I can't get an I can't get enough of this.