Joseph Smith-History (Part 3)

This is a continuation of the previous post (Joseph Smith-History Part 2).

So far in this record, we have learned what kind of boy Joseph Smith was. This history has explained what happened in his vision of God and Jesus Christ. He learned that none of the churches on the earth were true. He tried to share what he had experienced and learned, but many people persecuted him for it. This record goes on to say the following:

27 I continued to pursue my common vocations in life until the twenty-first of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, all the time suffering severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious, because I continued to affirm that I had seen a vision.
28 During the space of time which intervened between the time I had the vision and the year eighteen hundred and twenty-three—having been forbidden to join any of the religious sects of the day, and being of very tender years, and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me—I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God. In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been. But this will not seem very strange to any one who recollects my youth, and is acquainted with my native cheery temperament.
29 In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when, on the evening of the above-mentioned twenty-first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one.

Three years after receiving the first vision, Joseph continued to bear his testimony through trial and persecution due to the vision he had witnessed. He had been faced with a lot of temptations in these years and had at times given into them. No one is perfect and even the best of us will falter when faced with temptations. Joseph says that these were not some great sins, but he had sinned nonetheless. He says that he was not behaving as a man who was called of God should behave and that he felt badly for his weaknesses. He decided to pray for forgiveness of his sins. The first part of the repentance process, is recognizing something we’ve done is not right or recognizing that there are things we are not doing that we should be. I think the more faithful we are, the more we notice all the little things we don’t do quite right. These are things that the average person would see as normal and simply as part of who we naturally are. As members of the church, we are not striving to be normal, but to be better than we naturally are. Joseph recognized his mistakes and then decided, as we should, that he needed to confess them to the Lord so that he could be forgiven.

He also went in prayer to the Lord because he was still waiting for more information about the true church and gospel. Because he had been called of God and seen a vision, he knew that he would be able to have more revealed to him. This is how faith and knowledge work. At first he had to test his faith by acting without an absolute knowledge of the result. Then after receiving the first vision he knew what the outcome could be when he prayed. This knowledge allowed him to have confidence in the answers to his prayer. We can use this active pattern of faith to build upon our own knowledge.

30 While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.
31 He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. His hands were naked, and his arms also, a little above the wrist; so, also, were his feet naked, as were his legs, a little above the ankles. His head and neck were also bare. I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open, so that I could see into his bosom.
32 Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me.

In answer to his prayer, Joseph was visited by a messenger from Heaven. This messenger was Moroni, who was a prophet from the Book of Mormon. With this visit came a great amount of bright light. Every time we read of visits from Heavenly messengers, they are always accompanied by a light. The footnote here, references a scripture that talks of a pillar of fire. I think that this heavenly light is probably one that cannot be truly explained in a way that we can understand, but that the closest descriptions are a brightness greater than the sun, or a fire. I think it is so interesting that Joseph would be inspired to share what the angel Moroni looked like, even so far as how he was clothed. His robe, like that of other messengers found in the scriptures, was a brilliant white. Joseph could see the glory of the angel Moroni in his appearance. I believe that we will all have a glorious countenance when we are in heaven and that those who are transfigured to witness marvelous things such as this, take on a glorious countenance as well so that they can stand to see just how bright it is.

I sometimes wonder if the fear that they talk about when heavenly messengers are seen, is more like being struck with awe or perhaps having the feeling of being less than worthy to see something so wonderful. This is a common thing for the prophets of God to feel. The accounts of angels often tell of the angel telling them not to have fear. Joseph records that the fear did not last long, and this was probably due to being changed (transfigured) to be able to witness these things.

33 He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.

Our names have such a personal meaning to each of us. Knowing that an angel of God knew his name, must have given the value of his words an even greater meaning to Joseph. When we are addressed as a group, it can be easy to only pay attention to the things we think apply to us. In contrast, when we are addressed by name, we can know that each word is for us specifically. It is not surprising to me, that when we receive blessings through the priesthood, that they are addressed to us personally. It helps me to know that I have a purpose in God’s plan, and that God knows us personally.

The angel Moroni told Joseph that he had a job to do. This job would make his name go down in history. Some would understand the good he would do, while others would see it as evil. This is so true. Joseph Smith is a name that is known by many people today. Some understand that he was a prophet and called of God to do a great work, which has brought many people to the salvation of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who do not understand that he was a man of God. They think that the things he taught and testified of were false and some even go so far as to call him evil. There is no way that Joseph Smith could have written this revelation and known from his own mind that he would have become a name known throughout the world. To even think such a thing, especially in the time when he lived, would have been ridiculous. He said these things, because they were revealed to him by a messenger from God. I wonder how it must have been to be a boy of around 17 years old and to be told this. I would have had an overwhelming feeling and probably greatly felt the weight of that revelation.

34 He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;
35 Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.

The angel Moroni told Joseph about the Book of Mormon, which is a record of the people who lived on the continent we know now as America. He told him that the gospel, which Joseph had been searching for, was in that record. He told him that the Savior had brought the gospel to those people, which is the first revelation in modern times that the Savior had indeed visited other people. Moroni also told him of the tool used for translating the record, called the Urim and Thummim. Those who used this tool, were the seers of old. The Bible Dictionary teaches us “A seer is a revelator and a prophet also”. It is completely fitting that Moroni would reveal these things to Joseph, because he was the person who had preserved the records during his own life. He had placed them in the ground many years before this, and they were kept safe from the hands of men until the perfect time according to the plan of God.

36 After telling me these things, he commenced quoting the prophecies of the Old Testament. He first quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi; and he quoted also the fourth or last chapter of the same prophecy, though with a little variation from the way it reads in our Bibles. Instead of quoting the first verse as it reads in our books, he quoted it thus:
37 For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
38 And again, he quoted the fifth verse thus: Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
39 He also quoted the next verse differently: And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
40 In addition to these, he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled. He quoted also the third chapter of Acts, twenty-second and twenty-third verses, precisely as they stand in our New Testament. He said that that prophet was Christ; but the day had not yet come when “they who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people,” but soon would come.
41 He also quoted the second chapter of Joel, from the twenty-eighth verse to the last. He also said that this was not yet fulfilled, but was soon to be. And he further stated that the fulness of the Gentiles was soon to come in. He quoted many other passages of scripture, and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here.

The Angel Moroni quoted many scriptures to Joseph. Moroni quotes scriptures of prophecy, which were yet to be fulfilled. Joseph Smith played a key role in some of these prophecies, and in the restoration, which prepares us for the coming of the Lord and the destruction of the wicked. The priesthood was restored to the earth, through Joseph Smith and also the sealing powers which bind fathers to their children and children to their fathers. Moroni told him Isaiah 11 was about to be fulfilled, which is a chapter about the gospel being brought to the gentiles and the beginning of the gathering of Israel. It was fulfilled in the coming years during Joseph’s life.

42 Again, he told me, that when I got those plates of which he had spoken—for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled—I should not show them to any person; neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim; only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed. While he was conversing with me about the plates, the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited, and that so clearly and distinctly that I knew the place again when I visited it.

The location of the gold plates was revealed to Joseph with a warning that he must not show them to anyone, but those who he would be commanded to. This seems to be pretty common when someone is shown heavenly revelations, there are things that either cannot be expressed or must not be. There are many sacred things that are not meant for the world because they would be treated lightly or worse.

43 After this communication, I saw the light in the room begin to gather immediately around the person of him who had been speaking to me, and it continued to do so until the room was again left dark, except just around him; when, instantly I saw, as it were, a conduit open right up into heaven, and he ascended till he entirely disappeared, and the room was left as it had been before this heavenly light had made its appearance.
44 I lay musing on the singularity of the scene, and marveling greatly at what had been told to me by this extraordinary messenger; when, in the midst of my meditation, I suddenly discovered that my room was again beginning to get lighted, and in an instant, as it were, the same heavenly messenger was again by my bedside.
45 He commenced, and again related the very same things which he had done at his first visit, without the least variation; which having done, he informed me of great judgments which were coming upon the earth, with great desolations by famine, sword, and pestilence; and that these grievous judgments would come on the earth in this generation. Having related these things, he again ascended as he had done before.
46 By this time, so deep were the impressions made on my mind, that sleep had fled from my eyes, and I lay overwhelmed in astonishment at what I had both seen and heard. But what was my surprise when again I beheld the same messenger at my bedside, and heard him rehearse or repeat over again to me the same things as before; and added a caution to me, telling me that Satan would try to tempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father’s family), to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich. This he forbade me, saying that I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them.
47 After this third visit, he again ascended into heaven as before, and I was again left to ponder on the strangeness of what I had just experienced; when almost immediately after the heavenly messenger had ascended from me for the third time, the cock crowed, and I found that day was approaching, so that our interviews must have occupied the whole of that night.

Moroni left Joseph to think about the things that he had seen and heard. Then he came again and repeated the same things to him, adding information about the judgments that would come to the people of the earth. Then he left again, leaving Joseph to ponder on what he had witnessed. Then Moroni appeared a third time, repeating the same thing again and adding a warning of the temptations of Satan, which he would be faced with. Then Moroni left again. This to me is an evidence of just how important this message was for Joseph. He had to understand the sacred purposes of the restoration and specifically of the plates of Gold. He had to know that if he was not righteously prepared, he would not be able to fulfill this purpose. The idea of repeating the same teachings and lessons time and time again is so common throughout the scriptures. Heavenly Father knows that we need to have repetition to truly have eternal principles sink into our hearts and minds. In addition to the repetition, the teachings were built upon. He had time to process what he had heard the first time, and then to have it added upon. Then he had the time to process it all again, and then it was added upon again. I have learned that this truly is the pattern of how we learn in the gospel. Once we have an understanding of something, the spirit can take us to the next level and add a little more to our understanding.

48 I shortly after arose from my bed, and, as usual, went to the necessary labors of the day; but, in attempting to work as at other times, I found my strength so exhausted as to render me entirely unable. My father, who was laboring along with me, discovered something to be wrong with me, and told me to go home. I started with the intention of going to the house; but, in attempting to cross the fence out of the field where we were, my strength entirely failed me, and I fell helpless on the ground, and for a time was quite unconscious of anything.
49 The first thing that I can recollect was a voice speaking unto me, calling me by name. I looked up, and beheld the same messenger standing over my head, surrounded by light as before. He then again related unto me all that he had related to me the previous night, and commanded me to go to my father and tell him of the vision and commandments which I had received.

Since he had not only been awake all night, but also had the draining spiritual experiences that he had, he was unable to do his daily work. He fell down from exhaustion, and was unconscious when he was visited again by Moroni. Joseph was told to go back and tell his father what he had experienced and the commandments that were given to him. In my study it seems as though he had already been told this the night before, but he did not do it right away because of the time of night that it was. I think it was extremely important for Joseph Smith to have the support and sustaining power of his family to be able to accomplish the things that would be required of him. All things in the gospel are based on the priesthood which has a patriarchal order. Even though they did not have the priesthood restored yet, I think it was perfectly fitting that he should tell his father of these things, as the patriarchal head of his family.

50 I obeyed; I returned to my father in the field, and rehearsed the whole matter to him. He replied to me that it was of God, and told me to go and do as commanded by the messenger. I left the field, and went to the place where the messenger had told me the plates were deposited; and owing to the distinctness of the vision which I had had concerning it, I knew the place the instant that I arrived there.
51 Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood. On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth.
52 Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger. The box in which they lay was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement. In the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them.
53 I made an attempt to take them out, but was forbidden by the messenger, and was again informed that the time for bringing them forth had not yet arrived, neither would it, until four years from that time; but he told me that I should come to that place precisely in one year from that time, and that he would there meet with me, and that I should continue to do so until the time should come for obtaining the plates.
54 Accordingly, as I had been commanded, I went at the end of each year, and at each time I found the same messenger there, and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews, respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days.

His father, in his wisdom, told him that if it was a commandment from God then he should do as he was commanded. This teaches us a bit about the character of Joseph Smith Sr.. He clearly was a man who loved his son, and respected him enough to hear what he had to say without judging him and getting back to his own work without counseling him. He was a man who understood that commandments are for keeping and supported his son in his calling. Joseph, was also an obedient son, who followed the counsel of his father and immediately went to see where the plates were hidden. They had a great relationship, which I wish more family members had today.

Joseph found the rock where the plates were hidden, and had another visit from Moroni when he attempted to remove them from their box. Moroni told him that they would not be ready to be removed for four more years and that he would need to come back annually to this place to meet with him. In my study I read that he was told that he would not able to collect the plates until he obeyed the commandment to only do it for the purposes of the Lord. Joseph was obedient and returned each year as he had been commanded. At each of these meetings with the angel Moroni, Joseph was taught how things that seem like preparation specific for the prophet of the church in the latter-days.

I am glad to know that the things of the Lord must be taken seriously and treated as sacred, or the Lord will not allow them to be had. I am grateful that Joseph Smith was a young man of good character. It is good to know that he was not perfect and had temptations to face, just as we all do. Even with his imperfections, he could be forgiven, taught and prepared for the many great things that he would do. The Lord knows our weaknesses. He knows how Satan will tempt us, and He has the power and desire to keep us safe from these temptations, if we will make good choices and obey the commandments.

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About My Scripture Study Buddy

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.

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