Joseph Smith was born in 1805 in Sharon, Vermont. At the time this narrative begins, he was 14 years old, living with his family in New York, and earnestly considering which church to join. The following is Joseph's experience, written in his own words.
During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness. . . . 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 right, which is it, and how shall I know it?
While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: "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."
Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart
of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great
force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again,
knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act
I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I
would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects
understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy
all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.
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.