I talk often about “going to the source” when you’re seeking information/truth … talking to Mormons (vs. anti-Mormons) about Mormonism, reading The Book of Mormon for yourself if you want to know if it’s true, not just taking someone else’s word for it, etc., etc. Along this same line of thought, you really can’t do much better than to read Joseph Smith’s own testimony of his extraordinary first vision and subsequent experiences as he was called to be a prophet and to lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve always appreciated it. It’s so humble, pure, and touchingly real. I’m not even referring to the account of his First Vision, as we call it. (If you’re not familiar with his story, Click Here to watch a short two-minute video about it). I’m referring more so to his reflection on the experience afterward and his thoughts on the subsequent rejection he was experiencing, the persecution he began to face, and the way he felt both about it and his situation itself. It’s an intimate and powerful look into the heart of the boy who became the man, Joseph Smith the Prophet.
Joseph Smith History 1: 22-25
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 persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure 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 boy, 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 labor, 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 persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.
24 However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.
25 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.
I don’t know how anyone could read these words without feeling the simple yet powerful spirit and conviction thereof. They touch me everytime I read them and I hope they do the same for you.
Joseph Smith wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes as we all do. He was an uneducated 14-year-old farm boy when he saw God and Jesus Christ and was called to be a prophet. But, he was the Lord’s chosen vessel and he did a great work before being martyred at a very young age. Today there are millions of us all over the world that feel indebted to him.
He was a great man and I’m grateful to have learned his story.
Patrick Laing – Portland, Oregon USA