Explain that in addition to providing the right conditions for the restoration of the gospel, God provided a man to be the prophet of the Restoration. This man was Joseph Smith, who was born on 23 December 1805 in Sharon, Vermont. Display a picture of Joseph Smith. Use the following material to discuss the preparation of Joseph Smith to be the prophet of the Restoration.
Joseph’s family helped prepare him
Joseph Smith came from a rich spiritual heritage. His parents and grandparents were religious, patriotic, educationally minded, and of strong moral convictions. His paternal grandfather, Asael Smith, stated years before Joseph was born, “It has been borne in upon my soul that one of my descendants will promulgate a work to revolutionize the world of religious faith” (in Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History, 27th ed. , 25).
Joseph Smith’s parents, Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, greatly influenced his life. Both were deeply devoted to God. They were also devoted parents, teaching their children the principles of faith and righteousness.
Both of Joseph’s parents had profound religious experiences. Joseph Sr. had several dreams that gave him assurances that he would enjoy the blessings of the true gospel of Jesus Christ (see Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley , 47–50, 64–66). Once while Lucy was critically ill as a young mother, she made a covenant with God that she would serve Him completely if He would let her live to care for her family. Soon afterward she heard a voice comfort her, and she made a remarkable recovery. (See History of Joseph Smith, 33–35.)
Joseph Sr. and Lucy searched actively for religious truth. Both of them felt that none of the existing churches was consistent with the Church that Jesus Christ had established. For this reason, Joseph Sr. did not join any church. Lucy felt it was her duty to be baptized, so she joined the Presbyterian Church. When the gospel was restored, they both recognized the truth and embraced it.
The religious atmosphere in western New York helped prepare him
When Joseph was about 10 years old, three years of crop failures in Vermont left the Smith family in serious financial difficulty. After much deliberation, the family moved to the area of Palmyra, New York, where there was a prospect of better farming conditions. At the time, there was great religious excitement and confusion in western New York, with many churches contending for converts.
Why was Joseph confused about which church he should join? (See Joseph Smith—History 1:5–10.) How was Joseph’s situation like that of people today who are searching to know the truth?
How did scripture study help Joseph resolve his confusion? (See Joseph Smith—History 1:11–12. Display the picture of Joseph Smith reading the Bible.) What can we learn from Joseph’s example? (You may want to emphasize that Joseph not only read the scriptures but also searched and pondered them and applied them in his life.) How have the scriptures helped you in times of need or confusion?