Joseph Smith’s concerns about his standing before God led him to the Sacred Grove, where the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ began.
The First Vision:25901_000_004
Of his youthful searching, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote in 1832: “At about the age of twelve years, my mind became seriously impressed with regard to all the important concerns for the welfare of my immortal soul. … [For three years] I pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world of mankind.” Then he added, “I felt to mourn for my own sins.” 2
As he searched for the truth, he concluded that the religious world in which he lived “had apostatized from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament,” something the Lord later confirmed to him.
While Joseph’s youthful apprehension about his standing before God may seem insignificant as a motive to inaugurate the work destined to fill the whole earth, it was part of the motivation that inspired his searching prayer that spring morning in 1820.
The Prophet Joseph wrote: “I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must … ask of God. I at length came to the determination to ‘ask of God,’ … [and] 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” (JS—H 1:13–14).
Indeed, when 14-year-old Joseph entered the secluded stand of timber on his family’s farm near Palmyra, New York, he had salvation on his mind.
Young Joseph’s desire to please God and to be found acceptable by Him was a characteristic of his personality. He finally resolved to call upon “the Lord for mercy, for there was none else to whom I could go [to] obtain mercy.”
Hence, he “kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of [his] heart to God” (JS—H 1:15).
Of his experience in the Sacred Grove, the Prophet Joseph wrote, “A pillar of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day came down from above and rested upon me.” Within that light, he said, “I saw the Lord and he spake unto me.” The first words that Joseph heard from the Savior filled him with unspeakable joy—“Joseph, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee.”
This heavenly declaration informing young Joseph that he was acceptable to God proved to be life altering. Never again could Joseph wonder about the interest of God our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, in him or about Their love for the human family.
An Obscure Boy, by Joseph Brickey, oil, 1998.
Sacred Grove, by Frank Magleby, oil, 1995.
New York, Ontario County, Manchester, Sacred Grove, by George Edward Anderson, photograph, 1907.
Joseph Smith Seeks Wisdom from the Bible, by Harold T. (Dale) Kilbourn, oil, 1986.
The Sacred Grove, near Palmyra, New York, by George Edward Anderson, photograph, 1907.
After Much Contemplation, by Al Rounds, oil, 1989.
Joseph Smith’s First Vision, by Avard T. Fairbanks, marble, 1958.
Joseph Smith’s First Vision, by Greg K. Olsen, oil, 1988.
The First Vision, by Warren Luch, hand-rubbed linocut print, 1990.
Joseph Smith’s Desperate Plea for Deliverance, by Gary L. Kapp, oil, 2000.
Joseph Smith’s First Vision, by Cuna Indians of the San Blas Islands, Panama, mola (reverse appliqué), year unknown.
Joseph, This Is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! by Leon Parson, oil, 1999.
First Vision, by Kraig Varner, cast bronze, 2001.
Joseph Smith’s First Vision, by D. Carl Danielson, leaded stained glass, 1989.
Joseph Smith’s First Vision, artist unknown, leaded stained glass, 1913.
Lucy [Mack] Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (1853), 84.
During the lifetime of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the story of his First Vision was told in print several times, by him (in 1832, 1835, 1838–39, and 1842), or by others who had heard his account and retold it (in 1840, 1842, 1843, and 1844). All originals of the Prophet’s accounts are located in the Joseph Smith Papers, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Photocopies or transcripts of the Prophet’s originals appear in The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, ed. Dean C. Jessee (2002).