One morning, we don't know for sure what day it was, but Joseph tells us that it was a sunny day early in the spring of 1820, he got up very early, left his house and began walking. He went to a grove of trees not far from his house where he could have some privacy. He wanted to kneel down by himself, in private, and ask God to give him the answers to his questions. He went to a nice quiet spot in the grove, where he could be alone. He looked around, and seeing that he was completely by himself, knelt to the ground and he began to pray. He later wrote that this was the first time that he had ever prayed vocally. I would imagine that means that he had prayed silently, in his heart, without actually verbalizing what he wanted to say. This was the first time that he actually opened his mouth and spoke in prayer. He described his experience much better than I can so I will defer to Joseph’s words at this point:
. . . I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized 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 darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
But, exerting all my powers to call 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 despair 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 light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other--This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”
He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying 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.
Wow! What an experience for a 14-year-old boy to have. And who was it exactly that appeared to him and spoke to him? “One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other--This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” God the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ appeared to this exceptional young man.
Now, as you might expect, this is the point where some people hearing this story for the first time say, “yeah. . ., I don’t think so”, and walk away. And that might very well be what you are thinking as well. But before you walk away, take just a moment to ask yourself, “If this story were true, what difference would it make to me? Would it be important, or would I just say, ‘that’s very interesting’, and then not give it much thought?” If you think it would be interesting, but still not very important to you, then it’s OK to stop reading here. I hope you know that the friendship and love that I have for you has nothing to do with whether we both believe in the same things. Neither friendship nor family ties should ever be based on something like that. I hope you feel the same way.
If you are interested, here is a short Youtube video about Joseph’s experience:
So, what is it about this story, the experience of Joseph Smith praying in the Grove, that is so important, or should be important, to me and to you? The importance lies in what Joseph Smith learned. He learned that:
- God the Father and Jesus Christ actually do exist.
- God does want to communicate with His children, in all times and places, not just the Jews and their descendants, and only in the times described in the Bible.
- God the Father and Jesus Christ are two separate personages, or beings, not simply different manifestations of the same being.
- The true nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ is that they are physical beings that look just like us, or rather, we look just like them. We truly were created in their image as taught in the Holy Bible.
- None of the churches that existed at that time on the earth were recognized by God as his church, or in other words, none of them represented Him in any way.
If these things seem important to you, it would be good to continue learning about them and to find out for yourself if Joseph Smith actually saw what he said he saw, or if it's just a fairy tale that he made up. I have learned for myself that it did actually happen.
After this experience, Joseph Smith continued with his normal daily routine. He continued to work to help support his family, and he continued to attend church from time to time, although he did not join any of those churches, just as he had been instructed.
Sometime later he recounted his experience to a minister that he respected, and who he thought could give him some good advice. The minister actually became angry with him and told him that what he had seen was of the devil, and that he should not tell other people about that experience. He went on to say that in that day and age God no longer spoke with people, that there was no such thing anymore as visitations of angels or revelation from God. He said that all of God's revelations were contained in the Bible, and that there would be no more communication from God to men. He ridiculed Joseph and treated the experience as something silly and unbelievable. He later passed on this information that Joseph gave him in private to others, and soon the entire community was aware of what Joseph had claimed to have experienced. From that point on, he was treated very badly by the community, and all kinds of strange stories were made up about him, none of which was true . He simply continued working for his family’s support as he had done before. He did not have any other spiritual experiences of this type for some time.
About three years later, Joseph decided to find out what God would like him to do, other than just remaining aloof from the various churches of the day. Be sure to read my next post when I will talk about Joseph’s next pivotal experience. And if you are still wondering about my comment that you can know for yourself if any of this is actually true, well, hang in there! That discussion is coming soon!
See you back here on Monday, August 30, 2021.