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Lesson Two: Gaining a Testimony of the

Prophet Joseph Smith - Faithful History

 

The Unofficial LDS Family Home Evening Resource Book


 


 

 

An earnest discussion of events from Lucy Smith's original history which has been revised and enhanced to make it easier for the family to gain a testimony of Joseph Smith's First Vision.

 

 
PURPOSE

 

This lesson encourages us to better understand Joseph Smith's First Vision by reading what his mother wrote about it in her history. It also teaches us about faithful history. 

 

FOR THE PARENT

 

This lesson was prepared for families who are ready to go beyond a milk only diet and indulge on teaching with substance. It is meant to bring about meaningful thought and discussion; and, challenge the participants to obtain a deeper understanding of the LDS faith. Therefore, parents are advised to first carefully read the lesson all the way through in order to make sure it is appropriate for each and every family member.        

 

PREPARATION


(Optional)

Kool-Aid

Mix up a package of unsweetened Cherry flavored Kool-Aid with chilled water, yet, do not put any sugar in the Kool-Aid yet. Pour about 2 ounces into glasses; one for each family member. Have everyone take a sip to taste how bitter the Kool-Aid tastes without any sugar. Then, add the appropriate amount of sugar to the mix, and, fill the glasses with the sweetened Kool-Aid. Ask each family member to take a drink to see how much better the Kool-Aid tastes with the sugar added. The reason for doing this is explained near the end of this lesson.   

 

INTRODUCTION

Read what Joseph Smith's mother Lucy Smith said in her original history about her son Joseph's 1823 bedroom vision story:

 

"One evening we were sitting till quite late conversing upon the subject of the diversity of churches that had risen up in the world and the many thousand opinions in existence as to the truths contained in scripture. …After we ceased conversation he (Joseph) went to bed and was pondering in his mind which of the churches were the true one… he had not laid there long till he saw a bright light entered the room… an angel of the Lord stood by him. The angel spoke I perceive that you are enquiring in your mind which is the true church..." (First draft of Lucy Smith's History, p. 46, LDS Church Archives/Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 1, pp. 289-290).

 

Tell the family that what the angel said next is very important:

 

“... there is not a true church on Earth No not one.” (First draft of Lucy Smith's History, p. 46, LDS Church Archives/Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 1, p. 290).

 

Because, the official first vision story teaches us that Joseph Smith learned that all the churches were wrong three years earlier, in 1820.

 

On this subject, read the following section describing the First Vision:

 

Due to the recent conversion of his mother, two brothers and one sister to the Presbyterian faith, and the confusion in Joseph Smith’s mind over which church he should join, a fourteen year old Joseph Smith walks out to the woods early one morning to pray. While praying, a pillar of light descends upon him and God the Father and His beloved Son appear.

 

The Father pointing to the Son said,

 

“This is My Beloved Son Hear Him."

 

Joseph Smith asked which church he should join and the Son answered,

 

“…join none of them, for they were all wrong." (Joseph Smith History of the Church, Volume One, 1:17 & 19)

 

 

Tell the family that Joseph Smith's 1823 bedroom vision story sounds a lot like the Sacred Grove vision story; then, read this example of the bedroom vision:  

 

"After strong solicitations to unite with one of those different societies, and seeing the apparent proselyting [proselytizing] disposition manifested with equal warmth from each, his [Joseph Smith's] mind was led to more seriously contemplate the importance of a move of this kind. ... To say he was right, and still be wrong, could not profit; and amid so many, some must be built upon the sand.

In this situation where could he go? If he went to one [church] he was told they were right, and all others were wrong-If to another, the same was heard from those: All professed to be the true church..." (Messenger and Advocate, December, 1834, pp. 42-43)

 

Also, read the following section:

 

Oliver Cowdery continues this narrative in the next issue of the Messenger and Advocate:

"... You will recollect that I mentioned the time of a religious excitement, in Palmyra and vicinity to have been in the 15th year of our brother J. Smith Jr.’s age — that was an error in the type — it should have been in the 17th.

...

But if others were not benefited, our brother [Joseph Smith] was urged forward and strengthened in the determination to know for himself of the certainty and reality of pure and holy religion.-And it is only necessary for me to say, that while this excitement continued, he continued to call upon the Lord in secret for a full manifestation of divine approbation, and for, to him, the all important information, if a Supreme being did exist, to have an assurance that he was accepted of him. ...

On the evening of the 21st of September, 1823, previous to retiring to rest, our brother's mind was unusually wrought up on the subject which had so long agitated his mind-his heart was drawn out in fervent prayer, and his whole soul was so lost to every thing of a temporal nature, that earth, to him, had lost its claims, and all he desired was to be prepared in heart to commune with some kind messenger who could communicate to him the desired information of his acceptance with God." (Messenger and Advocate, 1835, pp. 78-79)

 

Mention to the family that these last two sections from the Church magazine, Messenger and Advocate, agree with what Lucy Smith said about her son's 1823 bedroom vision < see documentation

 

Also, ask the family if it makes sense to anyone that Joseph Smith would be wondering,

 

 "... if a Supreme being did exist ..."

 

in the year 1823, if God had visited him three years earlier in 1820?

 

Listen intently and respond to any questions that may arise?

 

Explain that: Quotes from Lucy Smith's original history are somewhat bitter, like the Kool-Aid we sipped before the sugar was added.

 

Then read what was written by a person who has spent a great deal of time studying Lucy's original history:

 

"She [Lucy] remembers that her son’s famous first vision occurred in his bedroom at night, echoing the well established tradition of her husband’s own prophetic dreams." (Lucy’s Book, ... Introduction by Irene M. Bates, Signature Books / Salt Lake City)

 

Explain that any history which claims Lucy Smith knew about Joseph having a vision before his 1823 bedroom vision is a made up story and this is why The Encyclopedia of Mormonism spells out:

 

"The Prophet does not suggest that he confided his first vision to his family..." (BYU Studies, Smith, Lucy Mack, by Anderson, Richard Lloyd/The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Macmillan, 1992)

 

Then, read the following quote attributed to Joseph Smith's mother about Joseph Smith's 1820 Sacred Grove vision story from a modern "history":

 

"Joseph spoke, his voice full of energy, about retreating to the trees to pray as I had supposed. He had a vision where God the Father and His Son came down from Their thrones and visited him to tell him none of the churches were correct." (MOTHERS OF THE PROPHETS SERIES, Lucy Mack Smith, LISA J. PECK, 2004, published by Cedar Fort inc. p. 49)

 

Also, read the next quote:

 

"Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph’s mother, knew the truth through revelation from the Holy Ghost:

'When I heard this experience from my son’s trembling lips, knowing he wasn’t one for wild imaginations, and also knowing him to be true of character, I searched his face, his eyes, and studied his countenance. There was no doubt that this incredible tale was the truth... My boy was the instrument through whom the Lord had chosen to bring His message... We now knew without doubt that God lived and He was personally involved in our lives and He was going to see that the truth was brought back to the earth!'

History of Joseph Smith, by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith, ed. Preston Nibley, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1979." (Gaining a Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Retrieved 2-24-15 from LDSfamilyfun.com)

 

Tell the family that the last [above] quote about Lucy Smith being told by her son Joseph of a Sacred Grove / First Vision experience is not actually from the book which LDSfamilyfun specifies in their FHE lesson on the subject.  In reality, it is from page 49 of a book entitled MOTHERS OF THE PROPHETS SERIES, Lucy Mack Smith, LISA J. PECK, 2004, published by Cedar Fort inc.

 

State that we may never find out why the quote from a work about, 

 

"... what the people might have thought, felt, and said"1

 

was claimed to have come from Assistant Church Historian Preston Nibley's edition2 of Lucy Smith's history, which is a trusted LDS sanctioned publication. Yet, one thing is certain: The quote in question is a great example of Faithful History; which are stories that families put their faith in, which in reality are made up out of whole cloth. 

 

Then, explain the meaning of whole cloth.

 

Definition of WHOLE CLOTH:

 

pure fabrication —usually used in the phrase out of whole cloth

 

(Merriam-Webster Dictionary online)

 

Also, read this section from Lucy's first published history:

 

“…He called me by name, and said unto me me [sic] that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Nephi; that God had a work for me to do, and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues; or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people…” (Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and His Progenitors for Many Generations, Lucy Mack Smith, Coray/Pratt 1853, Chapter 18).

 

Then, tell the family that most early accounts which mention the angel by name call him Nephi, not Moroni. < see documentation

 

Nevertheless, in 2004 a history of Joseph Smith was written with Lucy Smith supposedly saying the angel's name was Moroni:

 

"Later, Joseph Jr. saw an angel, Moroni, who repeatedly visited him. This angel instructed Joseph to live God's laws." (MOTHERS OF THE PROPHETS SERIES, Lucy Mack Smith, LISA J. PECK, 2004, published by Cedar Fort inc. p. 50) 

 

Ask the family members if they are starting to see how Lucy's history was changed over the years; and, compare those changes to making something that tasted somewhat bitter, sweeter, by adding sugar.

 

Then, tell the family that we can learn more about Joseph's actual history by studying it more and ask if any family members would like to find out the Truth; even if at first it tastes somewhat bitter?

 

Compliment those who want to dig deeper in a quest for knowledge; and, let them know that the next lesson will help make the subject matter as clear as water:

 

Lesson Three: Joseph Smith Obtains The Golden Plates

 

FHE Index

 


Endnotes:

 

1.

While describing her book, Lisa J Peck wrote:

"In the late fifties a new type of book was created called a 'nonfiction novel.' ... Because the books were also novels, the author was offered the freedom to include what the people might have thought, felt, and said." (MOTHERS OF THE PROPHETS SERIES, Lucy Mack Smith, LISA J. PECK, 2004, published by Cedar Fort inc, Forward)

2.

History of the Mormon Joseph Smith by His Mother and Devoted Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Author Lucy Mack Smith
Contributor Preston Nibley
Edition reprint
Publisher Kessinger Publishing, 2004
ISBN 1417968699, 9781417968695

The 1902 edition was further edited with notes and comments by Assistant Church Historian Preston Nibley in 1945 and published by Bookcraft of Salt Lake City under the title "History of Joseph Smith By His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith." The first paperback edition is the one I read when I joined the Church in 1979. There were many editions of the Nibley version: I have seen the following editions available for sale: 1945, 1954, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1979, 2000, 2004. (History of Joseph Smith By His Mother)