The first place Elder Shawn P. Murphy took me when he picked me up from the mission home my second day in the mission field in late May 1994 was the Newell K. Whitney store, School of the Prophets. It is an historic place in LDS Church history. It was not the Kirtland Temple although we frequented that historic edifice many times the next 7 months.
As we ascended the stairs to a simple room with wooden floors, a few wooden benches and a table, I was unimpressed with the simplicity of it. Then Elder Brewer, our tour guide and full time missionary commenced telling us the story of Joseph Smith and his first vision. As he spoke, I felt warm...I felt light...as though I were being lifted out of my shoes. The warmth coursed through me and the tears started to flow. I was feeling the spirit of God and the truth of the things which I was hearing.
"But the comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name. He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance. Whatsoever thing I have said u to you." John 14:26
Joseph Smith shared and documented the "First Vision" where he saw our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ standing side by side in a pillar of light. The experience occurred in 1820 when he was fourteen years old. (He asked that his experience be documented in 1832, 1835, 1838, 1842) He wrote or assigned scribes to write four different accounts of the vision. He published two accounts of the first vision during his lifetime, the first, known as Joseph Smith History was canonized as scripture in the Pearl of Great Price. The various accounts of the First Vision tell a consistent story though they differ in emphasis and detail. Because it is the account most read and canonized by prophets of God as scriptures, I share a portion of his account here.
JSH 1:13 At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness 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 give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.
14 So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, 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 pray vocally.
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 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.
16 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.
17 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!
What do we now know about theology through Joseph Smiths experience in these last 5 verses? I list but a few that are poignant to me.
1) God our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ are separate and distinct individuals, thus dispelling the notion of a trinitarian godhead. Indeed, the trinitarian notion is "incomprehensible" and false.
2) Like our God is real, The Son of the Morning, Satan is real
3) Satan doesn't want us to pray
4) God is more powerful than Satan
5) God and Jesus are full of light
6) Praying "vocally" (out loud) may make a difference in our prayers
7) Reading scriptures leads us to do good things
8) God hears and answers our prayers
9) God and Jesus have perfect bodies, they point and they speak verbally
10) Jesus has been resurrected
11) Quiet places are good places to pray
12) Sometimes the answers to prayers only come in our most desperate hours
13) When we have "anxieties" we should turn to God
14) God knows us by name
15) Jesus knows us by name
16) Darkness may surround us but the light always cuts through the darkness
17) God commands us to listen to His Son
18) We are always given agency or choice to pursue the path we deem appropriate
19) If the first President of a now 15 million member church "lacks wisdom" and turns to God; oh how much more need have I to be humble and turn to God
20) "Determination" is a part of the process to receive answers to our prayers
Well, the list of learnings from Josephs history could go on and on. I share but 5 verses of his history; however, there are many more. I am so grateful for the experience of this uneducated farm boy. This experience preceded the translation of the Book of Mormon, Another testament of Jesus Christ. Having these other works of scripture helps us understand biblical teachings more fully.
Some family side notes: It was an amazing week. Amy and I spent 2 days with President Christiansen, Elders Ringwood and Wilson at the mission presidents seminar. We were taught by the spirit. We were instructed how to be better leaders. We understand better how to help our missionaries.
We came home from the seminar and Josh and I went on an overnight scout camp in Huntsville. It was beautiful but tiring. (It rained on us all night) I forgot how much I dislike sleeping on the ground in a tent.
We returned from scout camp Saturday morning and I baptized Joey Morton, a friend we have come to know the last few weeks.
Last night we experienced a powerful windstorm that felled many trees in our neighborhood. The power is out in several neighborhoods still. One fell on our roof but didn't break it. We are grateful all the missionaries are safe.