A friend of mine says he can accept everything about the Church except Joseph Smith’s visions. What should I tell him?
It seems from the question that your friend might see the Church as having wonderful programs for self-improvement and friendly members who make social events enjoyable. But the purpose of the Church is much greater and more important than that.
Nearly every dispensation or era of time on earth has had prophets. In the Bible, the Lord 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). In other words, the way the Lord has chosen to speak to his Church on earth is through prophets. And it only makes sense that the Lord would communicate with people on earth today in the same way he has always communicated with men.
“A vision from God is a form of revelation whereby God discloses himself and his will. … The visions of Joseph Smith and of the Book of Mormon prophets are comparable with those of the other testamental epochs [and] show similar patterns of revelation from God” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 1511). If the Lord spoke to prophets through visions in olden times, then why wouldn’t he speak to his prophets today through visions? We need his guidance just as much, or maybe even more, today as did the people who lived anciently.
Joseph Smith didn’t set out to start a new church. As a boy of 14, he was confused about what churches were teaching about the will of God. He wanted to understand for himself which church was teaching the truth. The answer to his prayer was a marvelous vision. The Lord chose a new prophet for this period of time. So instead of an answer to prayer that affected just one life, Joseph Smith’s vision was a call for him to be a prophet, and in time the priesthood and the Lord’s church were reestablished on the earth. This restoration has affected millions.
In a kind way, explain to your friend that if he does not believe in the person who received the revelation, then he can’t truly believe in the message. The Prophet Joseph Smith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints go together. All the good things your friend sees in the Church came from a good source, the Lord speaking to his prophets.
The Prophet Joseph and all the presidents of the Church, including President Benson, have not asked us to accept their word just because they have said it. As members of the Church, we are encouraged to go to the Lord in prayer and ask for a testimony or confirmation of what the prophets teach. Just as Joseph Smith read the scriptures, followed their teachings, talked to his mother and father, and studied about other religions before he went to the grove to pray, we also must study things out as we pray. In other words, to find out if the Church is true we need to study what the Church teaches, live its teachings, talk to teachers, and search the scriptures as we pray. Your answers may not be as dramatic as a vision, but they can lead you to the truth.
How important is it to understand that Joseph Smith was a prophet? The words in Doctrine and Covenants 135:3 [D&C 135:3] really say it all: “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. … He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood.”
I had the opportunity to go to the Sacred Grove where Joseph had his first vision. While we were in the grove the Spirit was so strong. It strengthened my testimony of Joseph Smith and all he did for the Church. Share your testimony with this person. I know others have strengthened my testimony about the Church. So I hope my testimony of Joseph Smith will help his.
Ben Boettcher, 17 Weiser, Idaho
Ask him if he believes that God appeared to Moses and that Jesus appeared to Peter and his Apostles after He was resurrected. If he does believe these things happened, ask him if he thinks God has changed. Also try asking your seminary teacher or bishop for advice on ways to help him understand.
Candice Yee, 17 Salt Lake City, Utah
Since your friend believes everything about the Church except Joseph Smith’s vision, he must have felt the Spirit. Ask him to read about Joseph’s experience and pray about it. He will feel the Spirit telling him it is true if he will study and pray in the right frame of mind. Remember that you can’t make someone accept any part of the gospel. They must find it out for themselves.
Abraham Smith, 15 Booneville, Arkansas
In 2 Nephi 27:23, it reads, “For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.” [2 Ne. 27:23] So, just as Adam and Noah received revelations and visions in their time, Joseph Smith did in his. No mortal mind could organize the Lord’s true church without the divine guidance of God and his messengers.
Jeff Vines, 16 Greenwood, Arkansas
If you want to accept Joseph Smith’s vision, you should do just what he did. You need to pray sincerely, and read and study the scriptures.
Annie Harrell, 17 Salt Lake City, Utah
I love Joseph Smith for having the courage to pray to our Father in Heaven. I often ponder where I would be today if Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ did not visit the Prophet Joseph Smith. If it weren’t for the visions that Joseph Smith had, I wouldn’t be able to share my testimony with you.
Cara J. Woodruff, 18 Weiser, Idaho