The First Vision

The First Vision

In the tops of the Rocky Mountains in Montana, the four seasons are very pronounced and have become an important part of my life. Spring in the Rocky Mountains is a particularly splendid time of year. The grass grows green and trees devoid of leaves during the winter once again take on their cloak of beautiful splendor. Mountain wild flowers whose beginnings have been hidden in the frozen ground also spring forth to bloom in a carpet of wonderful colors. Waterfalls cascade down tall peaks as the mountain snow begins to melt, bringing beauty and life to valleys below. Mountainsides previously brown and sterile become tapestries of remarkable color and life. Animals native to the area have their young in the spring so that they may be prepared for the oncoming winter, which is only a few months away. It is wonderful to see them play in the meadows and fields of a newly born landscape.

Western Africa is much different from the Rocky Mountains of Montana. However, the spring here also shows the promise of new life. As I have looked closely, beauty and splendor have been restored in the spring here as well. The flamboyant trees are rich with orange blossoms. New growth on bougainvillea and other flowering plants is stunning against the clear blue sky. The red dust of the long Harmattan winter has been washed away by the life-giving rains of spring. Colors seem more vibrant and beautiful. It is like looking through a freshly cleaned window.

So many beautiful events in the history of man have occurred during this precious time of year: the birth of the Savior, His Resurrection, the

marvelous First Vision, and the organization of the restored Church. I don’t think it is coincidence that the Savior chose this time of year for these events to occur. They all represent beautiful beginnings and a restoration of spiritual life to all mankind.

When Joseph Smith walked from his home to the peaceful grove of trees through fresh green grass and new wild flowers, kneeling in the midst of a spring of new life, little did he realize that the restoration of spiritual life to the world was about to take place. The world had fallen into a spiritual winter devoid of correct thinking and spiritual progress. For centuries the life-giving light of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its purity and completeness had vanished from the earth.

Each time I read Joseph’s description of the events of that day, my spirit is renewed by strong spiritual feelings. As you might imagine, Joseph had the opportunity to recount these events in many different situations and to many different people. The accounts as we know them vary slightly, but the truths taught by the vision are fundamental and are emphasized in Joseph’s telling of the experience. Perhaps I can describe some of the wonderful truths learned on this precious spring day.

It is helpful to quietly read Joseph’s account of the First Vision:

“After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

“But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction— not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

“It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. 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—History 1:15–17) Joseph’s vision teaches the world

anew the true nature of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, for he saw two Personages. God the Father and His Son appeared, resurrected and glorified. Restored understanding of ancient scripture once again taught: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27). Our potential as spiritual sons and daughters of a loving father becomes apparent because we are created in the Father’s image. Being created in the image of God means more than a physical likeness—it also means having characteristics of the Father. The First Vision teaches us of divine capacities and spiritual potential not taught since the early Church established by the Savior.

The Father introduces His Beloved Son. This helps us understand the relationship between the Father and the Son. It is not difficult to see the love and trust that our Heavenly Father has for the Savior. Further latter-day revelation teaches of the Savior’s roles as Creator of the earth, Jehovah, Savior and Redeemer of the world, and our Advocate with the Father.

We learn through Joseph’s account about the adversary and his desire to prevent the gospel of Jesus Christ from being restored. The exaltation of all of God’s children rested upon the restoration of the gospel, its doctrines and sacred ordinances. Perhaps most of us have felt the influence of the adversary in our own lives when we are on the verge of spiritual enlightenment. It is not unusual to hear a subtle promotion of feelings of inadequacy when we are presented with a new spiritual challenge, or the taunting of continued feelings of unworthiness and hopelessness after we have repented. While Joseph’s experience was dramatic, it is not so different than our own experiences as the adversary attempts to divert us away from a true course to our Heavenly Father.

When reading the account, it is easy to feel the love that our Heavenly Father and His Son have for all of us. In the midst of spiritual confusion, once again they provided a way, a path, a sure plan to return to Them. Their love for us is so complete and perfect that They will never leave us to our own insufficiencies but rather guide
us carefully back to Them. It is difficult to imagine a Father more patient and kind or a Son more obedient and loving, as They strive with mankind to bring to pass our eternal life.

I believe that new life came to the world on this beautiful spring day in 1820. The spiritual landscape of the world changed. Beauty was restored to the earth never again to be taken.
It was as though mankind could once again look through a newly, perfectly cleaned window into the eternities seeing with perfect clarity the true nature of our Heavenly Father and His perfect Son and Their plan for us.

I testify of the truthfulness of the First Vision. The Spirit has born witness to my soul of this truth. I bear testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He saw God the Father and His Son and followed the direction of the Son to restore the perfect gospel upon the earth. This is my solemn witness.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.