In the Ontario County of New York in the early 1800’s, a great Religious uprising occurred. During this time of the Great Awakening, multiple sects of Christianity appeared in the area. Preachers contended for followers, and people began to divide into the different churches.
Joseph Smith, Jr. and his parents and siblings found themselves caught in this wave of religion. After attending meetings of the various churches, the family began to attach themselves to the sects they felt most comfortable with. Although Joseph’s mother and three siblings joined the Presbyterian faith, Joseph was more hesitant. He was concerned with the way the different sects conflicted, stating that:
“In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?”
One day Joseph was reading in the Bible and came upon James 1:5, which reads,
“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.”
Joseph reflected on this verse, feeling that,
“Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know…”
He decided to put the verse to the test: to ask God, believing that he would receive an answer. One spring morning in 1820, when Joseph was 14 years old, he went into the woods near his home and knelt down to pray. His prayer was answered in a remarkable way. In Joseph’s own words,
“I saw a pillar of light, exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me, I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said, pointing to the other, ‘This is my beloved Son. Hear Him!'”
Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. He asked his question: which of all the churches was correct, and which he should join. He was answered that he was not to join any of the churches: in the period between Christ’s earthly ministry and Joseph’s inquiry, many plain and precious truths had been taken from the churches. Rather, God was going to work a great and marvelous work and restore the complete Gospel of Christ, with all of the authority necessary to be in Christ’s Church.1
On April 6, 1830, ten years after Joseph’s first vision, this came to pass when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized. In the years between the vision and the organization of the Church, many important events occurred: Christ’s authority, or Priesthood, was conferred upon Joseph Smith and his associate, Oliver Cowdrey. The Book of Mormon, another testament of Christ, was translated. This book is the proof that everything that Joseph said happened actually occurred: he claimed that the book was given to him and translated under the authority of God. If the book is true, then Joseph was telling the truth and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church with Christ’s authority and approval. For this reason, we invite all to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder it’s message in their hearts, and to ask God in faith if it is true. Those who follow this pattern will gain a testimony of the truth of the Book of Mormon by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”2
Brigham Young University-Idaho is a private university that was founded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of the purposes of the university is to develop disciples of Jesus Christ who are leaders in the community, the Church, and their homes.3 We accomplish this mission through many ways, one of them being developing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Special Collections assists in this by providing access to information about Mormon History. We have an extensive “Mormon Collection,” which includes books and pamphlets from the very beginning of the Church to books published this year.
All are invited to come learn more about Mormon History at Special Collections. We are open from 9-5, Monday through Friday.
1. Joseph Smith History, The Pearl of Great Price.
2. The Book of Mormon. (Moroni 10:4-5)