Joseph Smith—History 1: Joseph Smith Tells His Own Story

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 11–15


Reading Bible
Joseph Smith—History is “extracts from Joseph Smith’s official testimony and history, which he prepared in 1838, and which was published serially [in parts] in the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo, Illinois, beginning March 15, 1842” (Pearl of Great Price introductory note).Elder John Taylor, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, wrote: “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it” (D&C 135:3). The brief history contained in Joseph Smith—History tells, in the Prophet’s own words, how the Restoration began. If you are diligent and prayerful, your study of the life of the Prophet Joseph, the principles of the gospel revealed through him, and his testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ can be a life-changing experience. As you read this testimony and history, look for the kind of youth Joseph Smith was. What was there about the young Joseph that showed he was to be the Prophet of the Restoration?

Understanding the Scriptures

Joseph Smith—History 1

Militate against(v. 1)Actively oppose 
Induced(v. 1)Persuaded 
Disabuse the public mind(v. 1)Correct the rumors and lies that are going around 
Commenced(v. 5)Began 
Sects(vv. 5–6)Religious groups 
Zeal manifested by the respective clergy(v. 6)Enthusiasm shown by the different ministers 
Ensued(v. 6)Followed 
Proselyted(v. 7)Encouraged to join 
Poignant(v. 8)Sharp, extreme, distressing 
Aloof(v. 8)Apart, distant 
Incessant(v. 9)Constant, unceasing 
Sophistry(v. 9)False reasoning, deception 
Tenets(v. 9)Beliefs 
Upbraideth, upbraid(vv. 11, 13)Chastises, corrects 
Personages(vv. 17–18)Persons of distinction 
Creeds(v. 19)Beliefs 
Contempt(v. 21)Disrespect, scorn 
Reviling(v. 23)Abusive and insulting language 
Sectarian world(v. 26)Various churches or religions 
Vocations(v. 27)Employment, work 
Deluded(v. 28)Deceived 
Foibles(v. 28)Small weaknesses 
Malignant(v. 28)Harmful 
Levity(v. 28)Lightheartedness, lack of seriousness 
Jovial(v. 28)Merry, jolly 
Manifestation(v. 29)Communication 
Exquisite(v. 31)Intense 
Former inhabitants(v. 34)Earlier residents 
Constituted(v. 35)Made up, formed 
Stubble(v. 37)The dry stalks that remain after grain has been harvested 
Conduit(v. 43)Channel, passageway 
Musing on the singularity(v. 44)Pondering on the uniqueness 
Desolations(v. 45)Destructions 
Pestilence(v. 45)Disease, plague 
Indigent circumstances(v. 46)Poor and needy condition 
Owing to the distinctness(v. 50)Because of the clearness 
Conducted(v. 54)Directed 
Maintenance(v. 55)Living 
Prevalent(v. 56)Widely told 
Was put to board(v. 57)Obtained room and board 
Endeavors(v. 59)Efforts 
Strenuous exertions(v. 60)Forceful attempts 
Stratagem(v. 60)Plan, plot 
Intolerable(v. 61)Unbearable 
Literary attainments(v. 64)Knowledge of ancient languages 
Sanctioned(v. 65)Approved, agreed with 
Sent to the school(v. 66)Had children who attended the school 
Ensuing(v. 68)Following 
Ordained(vv. 68, 71)Appointed by the laying on of hands 
Confer, conferred(vv. 69–70, 72)Give, gave 
Attain to(v. 74)Reach, achieve 
Owing to(v. 74)Because of 
Counteracted(v. 75)Prevented 

Joseph Smith—History 1:17—The Importance of the First Vision

Elder James E. Faust, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, listed what we know after the visit of the Father and the Son to the Prophet Joseph Smith that we did not know before:

“What was learned from the First Vision?

“1. The existence of God our Father as a personal being, and proof that man was made in the image of God.

“2. That Jesus is a personage, separate and distinct from the Father.

“3. That Jesus Christ is declared by the Father to be his Son.

“4. That Jesus was the conveyer of revelation as taught in the Bible.

“5. The promise of James to ask of God for wisdom was fulfilled.

“6. The reality of an actual being from an unseen world who tried to destroy Joseph Smith.

“7. That there was a falling away from the Church established by Jesus Christ—Joseph was told not to join any of the sects, for they taught the doctrines of men.

“8. Joseph Smith became a witness for God and his Son, Jesus Christ” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1984, 92–93; orEnsign,May 1984, 68).

Joseph Smith—History 1:19—“Those Professors Were All Corrupt”

The Prophet Joseph Smith’s experience showed him that something was wrong with the professors (ministers and teachers) of the religions of his day (seeJoseph Smith—History 1:5–6, 8–10, 12, 21–23). President J. Reuben Clark Jr., who was a counselor in the First Presidency, explained:

“This is not to say that there are not now nor that there have not been, millions of God-fearing men … , nor that there have not been over the centuries, millions upon millions of men who were honest, true, and righteous, according to their standards, living over the centuries. …

“But it is to say that their system is based in error, even as the Lord said to Joseph” (On the Way to Immortality and Eternal Life[1949], 442–43).

Joseph Smith—History 1:66—“One of Those Who Sent to the School”

It was customary in that area in those days for the local schoolteacher to stay for a time in the homes of his students as part of his pay for teaching.

Joseph Smith—History 1:68–72—Why Did the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery Ordain Each Other Again after They Were Baptized?

Oliver and Joseph

President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that John the Baptist, “after conferring the Priesthood, instructed Joseph and Oliver to go down into the water and baptize each other. After which they were to lay hands upon each other and re-confer the Priesthood which he had bestowed upon them. There are two reasons why they should be commanded to do this thing. First, to confer the Priesthood before baptism, is contrary to the order of the organized Church, therefore they were commanded to confer the Priesthood upon each other in the regular way; after they were baptized. Second, the angel did for them that which they could not do for themselves. There was no one living in mortality who held the keys of this Priesthood, therefore itwas necessary that this messenger, who held the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood in the Dispensation of the Meridian of Time, should be sent to confer this power. It is contrary to the order of heaven for those who have passed beyond the veil to officiate and labor for the living on the earth, only wherein mortal man cannot act, and thereby it becomes necessary for those who have passed through the resurrection to act for them. Otherwise John would have followed the regular order, which is practiced in the Church, and would have first baptized Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and then conferred upon them the Aaronic Priesthood” (Essentials in Church History,27th ed. [1950], 57–58).

Studying the Scriptures

Do any four of the following activities (A–G) as you studyJoseph Smith—History 1.

Activity A iconGetting to Know Young Joseph Smith Jr.

SearchJoseph Smith—History 1:1–20and do the following in your notebook:

  1. 1.

    List the names of Joseph Smith’s parents and his brothers and sisters.

  2. 2.

    Explain why Joseph began to wonder which was the right church.

  3. 3.

    Look up the scripture that inspired Joseph to go to the Lord in prayer; you may want to mark it in your Bible. Explain its meaning in your own words.

  4. 4.

    List three truths we learn from the First Vision that are significant to you and explain why they impressed you (use the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for help, if needed).

Activity B Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—Joseph Smith—History 1:15–20

Ponder the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision inJoseph Smith—History 1:14–20, and then discuss with a parent or Church leader what opportunities, blessings, and joys you would be missing if Joseph Smith had not prayed for guidance on that spring day in 1820. Write a paragraph describing what you discussed.

Activity C iconFind the Facts

SearchJoseph Smith—History 1:27–54and answer the following questions:

  1. 1.

    According to verse 27, how long had it been since the First Vision?

  2. 2.

    What did Joseph Smith expect would happen when he went to the Lord in prayer on September 21, 1823? What does that tell you about his faith?

  3. 3.

    What was the name of the messenger who appeared to him that night?

  4. 4.

    What prophecy did he make about Joseph Smith’s name? How is it being fulfilled?

  5. 5.

    How did Joseph Smith know where to find the place where the plates were buried?

    Receiving the Plates
  6. 6.

    How many times did the messenger appear to him that night and the next day? Why do you think he appeared so many times?

Activity D iconWrite Your Own Quiz

ReviewJoseph Smith—History 1:66–75and the footnote with Oliver Cowdery’s description of the events. Write five test questions that could be answered from these verses; include the answer after each question.

Activity E iconRecord Your Testimony

After reading Joseph Smith—History, write a paragraph or two describing your feelings about the Prophet Joseph Smith and all that he did for us as a servant of Jesus Christ.

Activity F iconWrite a Journal Entry

After reading of Moroni’s visits inJoseph Smith—History 1:27–54, readMoroni 1:1–4and 10:1–6. Write a journal entry describing how you think you might have felt had you been Moroni visiting Joseph Smith after waiting over 1,400 years for the plates to be uncovered and translated.

Activity G iconDraw an Event

Consider all of the different events recorded in Joseph Smith—History and draw a picture illustrating one that impressed you. Explain what impressed you about that event.