Lesson 6: The Prophet Joseph Smith—A Light in the Darkness

"Lesson 6: The Prophet Joseph Smith—A Light in the Darkness," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual, (1996)


Objective

To create a desire in class members to find out for themselves that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Before this lesson, ask a class member to read Joseph Smith—History 1:13–26 and prepare to report his or her feelings about it to the class. The reading and discussion of this scripture are the most important parts of the lesson. Allow time for this even if something else must be left out.

  2. 2.

    Prepare a handout of “Joseph Smith’s Importance to Me” for each member of the class (at the end of the lesson).

  3. 3.

    Arrange for a globe (or large ball to represent the earth). Cover it with a very dark cloth before class.

  4. 4.

    See that each class member has a copy of the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price. Check with the meetinghouse library for additional copies if needed.

  5. 5.

    Obtain the following pictures of Joseph Smith from the meetinghouse library: The First Vision (62470; Gospel Art Picture Kit 403), Moroni Appears to Joseph Smith in His Room (62492; Gospel Art Picture Kit 404), and Melchizedek Priesthood Restoration (62371; Gospel Art Picture Kit 408).

  6. 6.

    Ask permission from the bishop or branch president to ask someone in the ward or branch who has struggled to gain a testimony to explain to the class how he gained that testimony.

Suggested Lesson Development

Introduction

Poster or chalkboard

Have the following questions written on a poster or the chalkboard:

How can I know for myself that Joseph Smith was a prophet?

How can I know he saw and heard what he said he did?

What does knowing the answers to these questions mean to me?

Display the poster and ask the class to read it.

Handout and discussion

Note: The following discussion should help class members strengthen their testimonies. A teacher’s strong conviction and confidence in the truth helps to inspire class members. Point out that because Joseph Smith did tell the truth it is important for us, especially as members of the Church, to have a testimony of that truth.

Give each class member a copy of the handout “Joseph Smith’s Importance to Me” (see the copy that follows the end of the lesson).

Joseph Smith’s Importance to Me

Ask a class member to read the first numbered statement on the handout: “I have learned where my spirit came from before my birth, why I am here on earth, and where I will go after this life.” Tell the class that the modern revelations are important because no one in the Christian world of 1820 had the full truth.

  • Why didn’t they know the full truth? Prophets in other times had known and taught the full truth. (Because of wickedness, many “plain and precious” parts of the scriptures had been removed [see 1 Nephi 13:20–29].)

Explain that because of Joseph Smith we know who we are and where we came from. We know that we can return to our Father’s presence by obeying his commandments. However, the people of the world in general still do not know this. We have the knowledge to recognize false doctrine, and if we will obey God and his prophets, we will have the strength to resist all doctrine of the devil and those he deceives.

Have a class member read the handout’s second statement: “I have learned that Heavenly Father is a real person who hears and answers my prayers.”

  • What do the churches of the world think about God and Christ? (Explain that almost all churches of the world think God and Christ are spirits or one spiritual essence having no physical body. It is wonderful to know the truth—that God the Eternal Father and Jesus Christ are exalted, tangible beings, with resurrected bodies in whose image we are made, and that Jesus Christ is literally the Father’s Only Begotten Son in the flesh. Try to help class members see the great significance of knowing what God and Christ are like and of learning what the Lord’s plan for mankind is.)

Object lesson

Draw attention to the globe (or ball) covered with a black cloth that represents the world. Explain that the world in 1820 was in a state of spiritual darkness. Although many good people were searching to know about God, there were no prophets nor authority. There was no true church to teach the truth, and there were so many incorrect teachings and principles that there was much confusion.

Then the Lord, through the young Joseph Smith, was able to bring truth, new understanding, authority, and revelation, or in other words light to the world. This was much as the Lord had done through biblical prophets like Moses. Uncover the globe.

Make clear that the dispensation when the world must be prepared for Christ’s second coming has arrived. We have the gospel, a gift of great worth. We can share it with others only if we learn for ourselves its truthfulness and great worth.

Discussion

Have a class member read the third statement on the handout: “I have learned that the true Church is on the earth and I am a member of it.”

Reassure the class that they can strengthen their testimonies and know for sure, if they do not know now, that the Church is true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

Scripture

Read together Moroni 10:4.

Chalkboard and discussion

Put the “Process of Gaining a Testimony” chart (without words on the steps) on the chalkboard or on a large poster. Write Testimony on the top line or step.

Process of Gaining a Testimony

Desire

Prayer

Study

Repentance

Obedience

Testimony

  • What is the process a person must go through to find out if Joseph was a prophet or that the Church is true? (When a correct answer is given, write it on any line until the chart is completed.)

Testimony

If you received permission from the bishop or branch president, have the person you asked in the ward or branch who has struggled to gain a testimony explain to the class how he gained that testimony.

Increasing Our Understanding and Appreciation of Joseph Smith

Discussion

Tell the class that learning about young Joseph Smith and what his feelings were will help increase our appreciation and understanding of him.

  • In what ways was Joseph like you? (He was the same age. He loved his family. He worried about earning a living, about doing what was right. He was trying to be good. He wanted to know the truth. He was probably afraid of some things, like failing or being sick [there were no antibiotics, anesthetics, or immunizations as we have today and he had had a very painful bone infection in his leg when he was younger]. He had chores to do to help the family. He liked sports. He felt pain when he was hurt. He prayed.)

Pictures and review

Display the pictures of Joseph Smith, especially in the Sacred Grove. Review briefly (or have a class member tell about) Joseph’s feelings that led him to the Sacred Grove.

Studying about the First Vision Can Strengthen Our Testimonies

Scripture reading and discussion

Read Joseph Smith—History 1:13–26 as class members follow in their own scriptures. Read slowly. Tell the class members not to interrupt until the entire passage is read.

After the reading, ask some of the following questions:

  • Why do you think Satan tried to stop Joseph from having this experience? (Because Satan knew that the truth and light of the gospel and the power and authority of the priesthood were going to be brought to the earth again. Satan is an enemy to all of these; he fights against them.)

  • Why do you think Satan did not overcome Joseph? (God’s power is stronger than Satan’s. He would not allow Satan to destroy Joseph.)

  • What do you think Joseph’s feelings were?

  • When do you think he stopped being afraid? (The reassuring peace and spirit of the Holy Ghost comforted him as it would comfort each of us if we were having such an experience. It would be a joyful experience.)

  • Why did Joseph have “no strength” after the vision? (It was a physically draining experience.)

Explain that one has to be “quickened” or strengthened and protected by the Spirit of God, as Joseph was, to be able to withstand the power and glory of the presence of the Lord. Otherwise, no mortal man or woman “has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God” (D&C 67:11).

Report

Have the assigned class member report his or her feelings or testimony about Joseph Smith’s experience in the Sacred Grove.

Testimony and Challenge

Refer back to the “Process of Gaining a Testimony” chart on the chalkboard or poster and challenge the class to do what Joseph did. He sought and received revelation, and we can, also. In addition to gospel questions, each day we need wisdom to meet challenges in dealing with many things that face us, such as school, family, friends, money, or how to act. We must ask of God in faith, with real intent. We will get answers. We can know what to do.

Scripture and testimony

Read James 1:5–6. Bear your testimony.