96986_000_007Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.
A friend of mine says he can accept everything about the Church except Joseph Smith’s first vision. What should I tell him?
Ever since the time of Adam, God has called prophets to deliver his word to his children on earth. In the Bible, he said, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
Visions are just one way that the Lord communicates with his prophets. As he said, “If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream” (Num. 12:6).
Today, as in ages past, the Lord guides us through living prophets. One of the great messages of the Restoration, in fact, is that God, “knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon … Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments” (D&C 1:17).
Joseph Smith didn’t seek to become a prophet, any more than Moses did. But they each had a dramatic vision that changed not only their lives, but also the lives of millions of people. Moses’ vision came on a rugged mountainside as he investigated a mysteriously burning bush. Fourteen-year-old Joseph’s vision came in a secluded grove of trees as he sought to know which church was true. That question opened the heavens, and Joseph Smith became the chosen instrument through which the Lord restored the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth in our day.
Encourage your friend to do what young Joseph did as he sought the truth: read the scriptures and ask God for guidance. Study the counsel of the latter-day prophets, follow their teachings, and pray for a personal testimony.
A testimony of the Book of Mormon is also a testimony of Joseph Smith’s divine calling as a prophet. Dexter Donayre, from the Santa Cruz Davao del Sur Ward, Digos Philippines Stake, says: “I know from experience that one way to convince people that Joseph Smith received a divine visitation is to have them read the Book of Mormon. If they observe Moroni’s promise and ask Heavenly Father if what they read is true (see Moro. 10:5), they will gain a testimony of the scripture. If they believe the Book of Mormon is true, then they must believe in the man who translated it through the power of God.”
Apparently, your friend is ready to accept the message but not the messenger. The gospel of Jesus Christ is now on the earth as a result of Joseph Smith’s heavenly vision. That vision was the first of many revelations he received in the process of restoring the Church. The fruits of the Restoration are to be found worldwide.
Prayer and faith by and in behalf of your friend will lead to his accepting the Church and the Lord’s prophet, Joseph Smith.
Grazia Maria Salvatrice Battezzato, Catania Branch, Italy Catania Mission
I was like your friend. I liked the Church and what it offered very much. I accepted the doctrine, and I knew it was true. I did not fully understand the missionaries when they referred to Joseph Smith as being a prophet of God like the prophets of old. But I didn’t let this bother me. I knew that if I continued to attend church and be obedient, the Lord would bless me with understanding.
As I read the Doctrine and Covenants, I noticed that many sections begin with “Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet …” As I thought about this, it came to my mind that if each section contains messages, counsel, and commandments given by our Heavenly Father, he was in continual contact with Joseph Smith.
Later, as I read the Book of Mormon for the second time, I was very impressed when Lehi testified that Joseph of Egypt prophesied the coming of a seer whose “name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father” (2 Ne. 3:15). The Prophet Joseph Smith was named after his father, Joseph, a name also borne by a great spiritual leader in Egypt thousands of years earlier.
Then as I read about the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph, I again felt the whispering of the Spirit. I knew that the Lord had chosen a prophet in these latter days, one with the great faith needed to see our Father in Heaven and the Savior and to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Today, I have a strong testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and that President Gordon B. Hinckley leads the Lord’s church today.
I urge your friend to do as I did: Attend church regularly, listen attentively to members’ testimonies, diligently read the scriptures, and pray unceasingly for a witness of the Spirit.
Tãnia Akiko Takahashi, 15, Janaúba Branch, Brazil Belo Horizonte Mission
Read with your friend Joseph Smith—History, found in the Pearl of Great Price. Pray together as you read. Share your testimony. This approach worked for me when I had doubts at the time I was taking the missionary discussions. Now I have no doubt that Joseph Smith was a prophet, seer, and revelator.
Gerardo Varas Eofré, 19, Ovalle South Ward, Ovalle Chile Stake
If your friend accepts everything about the Church, then he must accept Joseph Smith’s first vision and the other revelations he received. Perhaps deep down your friend knows that Joseph Smith was a prophet; after all, that’s how we have the Church in these latter days.
Encourage him to fast and pray for a personal revelation, a witness of the Spirit that the Church is true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the Lord. When he receives that witness, you will have the blessing of seeing your friend enter the waters of baptism.
Rocio Rodríguez Sánchez, Ampliación Ward, Madero Mexico Stake
Ask your Heavenly Father to help you find the best time and the best place for you and your friend to talk about Joseph Smith. Ask that your friend’s heart be softened and receptive to what you have to say. At this right time and place, share your testimony with your friend and let him know that through sincere prayer he may also gain a personal witness of Joseph Smith.
Stefanie Fritz, Dortmund Ward, Dortmund Germany Stake
I can empathize with your friend. Even after baptism, I still had doubts about Joseph Smith’s vision. But with time, my faith and testimony were strengthened. I think the turning point came when I finally followed the biblical counsel, “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. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:5–6).
Using this same scripture as his guide, young Joseph Smith did “ask of God,” and his prayer was answered with a glorious vision.
I can bear testimony to the reality of that vision. I know that when we sincerely pray with righteous intent, the Lord will answer us.
Jóse da Silva Matos, Leca da Palmeira Branch, Matosinhos Portugal Stake
I have been faced with this problem many times during my mission. Based on my experience, I can offer this idea: Our Heavenly Father would not reveal a true book, the Book of Mormon, to a false prophet. Share your testimony with love.
Elder Danny Vivar, Puerto Rico San Juan Mission
The scriptures tell us that “God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old; Thereby showing that he is the same God yesterday, today, and forever” (D&C 20:11–12).
I know that God the Father and Jesus Christ did appear to Joseph Smith. Through him and by him the true Church of Jesus Christ was restored in this last dispensation.
Zoe Calagos Llado, Caloocan 3rd Branch, Caloocan Philippines Stake
Teachings of the Church are true and righteous. Since these truths were revealed through Joseph Smith, then he must have been a chosen prophet of God. All of the other visions he experienced must be equally true.
Elder Séry, Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission