A Hero to Follow: A Lonely Road


During the next few days Joseph could think of little else except his experience in the woods. Small wonder though. That morning had been like a huge magnifying glass, bringing his life into focus. The questions that had troubled his mind were no longer there. The Father and His Son had appeared to Joseph and told him to join none of the churches. So now he had some direction, though he wasn’t sure what he should do next.

“Be patient, son,” his father said. “The Lord will tell you in His own time.”

But while Joseph waited, there were still chores to do and errands to perform, and this was his day to drive into the village of Palmyra. The prospect was delightful so he hurried through the milking until the foam was a thick white cloud over the top of the wooden bucket. He would stop at the printing shop for the weekly paper, then trade his small load of wood for goods at the village store.

Joseph paid no mind to the mud that oozed up around the wheels of the wagon. It was one of those rain-washed spring mornings when every leaf and limb looked as clean as a reed whistle. Through the branches above him he noticed a patch of blue sky big enough to make a pair of britches with. Every farm boy knew that meant a sunny day ahead.

Then suddenly, it was there—a burst of sunlight, bathing him in its warmth. And his thoughts returned to his prayer in the woods. He was interrupted by a familiar voice calling him. Joseph turned to see one of the ministers with whom he had often visited, riding up on horseback. “Howdy, Joseph,” he said as he pulled his mare to a walk. “If you’re going into Palmyra I’ll ride along with you.”

As they traveled toward Palmyra their conversation drifted onto religion. Joseph had a sudden desire to share with his friend the wonderment of the experience in the woods. “Something happened to me the other day. I’d like to tell you about it.”

The minister nodded. “By all means.”

“Well … you know how difficult it has been for me to make up my mind about which church to join?”

“Indeed I do. But many people are confused. This is a time of great excitement over religion.”

“But I have received the answer,” Joseph said earnestly. “In the Bible it says if anyone lacks wisdom he should ask of God.”

“Very good. You prayed about it then?”

“Yes, I did. Early one morning in the woods. I was frightened at first because a thick darkness gathered about me and an unseen power seemed to bind me until I couldn’t speak. I thought I was going to die. Then, just at that moment, a pillar of light appeared above me. It was brighter than the sun. And when the light appeared I suddenly found myself free from the force that held me.”

The preacher leaned forward on the pommel of his saddle, listening intently. “Yes, go on.”

Joseph’s voice softened and his blue eyes grew warm. “When the light rested upon me I suddenly saw two Beings, standing above me in the air. I can’t begin to describe their brightness and glory. One of Them spoke, calling me by name, then He pointed to the other and said, ‘This is my beloved Son. Hear Him!’ Suddenly I realized it was God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ!”

The minister sat back in his saddle and looked at Joseph from the corners of his eyes. A slight smile narrowed his lips. “That’s quite a story!”

“Oh, that isn’t all. You remember the reason I inquired of the Lord was to learn which church was right so I would know which to join. As soon as I recovered enough to speak, it seemed natural to ask. So I did.”

“Really?” the minister asked, a note of amusement in his voice. “Did … a … Jesus give you an answer?”

“Yes, He did. He said I should join none of them.”

“Now really, Joseph,” chided the minister, “do you expect me to believe all that?”

Joseph was puzzled by the minister’s reaction. “It happened, sir, just as I’ve told you.”

“My dear young man! How do you expect me to believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ actually appeared to a boy like you?”

“Perhaps it does seem strange, but I did see a light, and the Beings in the midst of that light did speak to me.”

The minister scoffed. “It’s all of the devil. There are no such things as visions or revelations in these days! Why, they ceased long ago with the last of the apostles.”

Joseph was bewildered by his friend’s attitude.

“If you want my advice,” the preacher suggested, “you’ll not mention this to anyone.”

“I’ve already told my family,” Joseph replied with dignity. “They believe me.”

“Well, I don’t believe one word of it,” the man stormed, “and I haven’t time to listen to any more of your nonsense. Good day.” With those words the minister spurred his mount and galloped abruptly off down the road.

Joseph clenched the reins in his hands until his knuckles were white. Never before had he been accused of lying. “It’s true,” he said to the back of the disappearing minister. “I know it, and God knows it. I can’t deny it, nor would I dare … it would surely offend God!”

The minister didn’t even look back. It was at that moment that young Joseph Smith began to realize the turn his life had taken. At this point he didn’t know his destiny. He knew only that it would be a lonely road.

(To be continued.)

[illustration] Illustrated by Ron Crosby