“January 4–10. Joseph Smith—History 1:1–26: ‘I Saw a Pillar of Light,’” Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Doctrine and Covenants 2021 (2020)
“January 4–10. Joseph Smith—History 1:1–26,” Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: 2021
Record Your Impressions
The Doctrine and Covenants is a book of answers to prayers: many of the sacred revelations in this book came in response to questions. So it’s appropriate to begin studying the Doctrine and Covenants by considering the question that began the latter-day outpouring of revelation—the one Joseph Smith asked in a grove of trees in 1820. A “war of words and tumult of opinions” (Joseph Smith—History 1:10) had left Joseph confused about religion and the state of his soul; perhaps you can relate to that. There are many conflicting ideas and persuasive voices in our day, and when we want to sort through these messages and find truth, we can do what Joseph did. We can ask questions, study the scriptures, ponder, and ultimately ask God. In response to Joseph’s prayer, a pillar of light descended from heaven; God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared and answered his questions. Joseph’s testimony of that miraculous experience boldly declares that anyone “who [lacks] wisdom might ask of God, and obtain” (Joseph Smith—History 1:26). We can all receive, if not a heavenly vision, at least a clearer vision, illuminated by heavenly light.
The purpose of Joseph Smith’s history was to put us “in possession of the facts” because the truth about Joseph has often been distorted (Joseph Smith—History 1:1). As you read Joseph Smith—History 1:1–26, what strengthens your testimony of his divine calling? Note the evidences you find that the Lord prepared Joseph Smith for his prophetic mission. As you read, you might also record your thoughts and feelings about Joseph Smith and his testimony.
See also Saints, 1:3–19.
Have you ever “lacked wisdom” or felt confused about a decision you needed to make? (Joseph Smith—History 1:13). What do you learn from Joseph Smith’s experience in verses 5–20? Think of your own need for wisdom and greater understanding, and consider how you will seek truth.
See also 1 Nephi 10:17–19; 15:6–11; Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 93–96.
For 360-degree views of historic sites associated with the Doctrine and Covenants sections in this outline, click here.
During his life, Joseph Smith recorded his experience in the Sacred Grove at least four times, often using a scribe. In addition, several secondhand accounts were written by people who heard Joseph talk about his vision. Although these accounts differ in some details, depending on the audience and setting, they are otherwise consistent. And each account adds details that help us better understand Joseph Smith’s experience, just as each of the four Gospels helps us better understand the Savior’s ministry.
To read Joseph’s other accounts, see “First Vision Accounts” (Gospel Topics Essays, topics.ChurchofJesusChrist.org). What do you learn from reading all of these accounts?
Joseph Smith trusted that God would answer his prayer, but he could not have anticipated how that answer would change his life—and the world. As you read about Joseph’s experience, ponder how the First Vision has changed your life. For example, you might complete this sentence in different ways: “Because the First Vision happened, I know that …” How have you been blessed because of the First Vision?
One of the blessings of the scriptures is that they contain inspiring examples of valiant men and women who faced challenges with faith in Jesus Christ. When Joseph Smith faced opposition because of his vision, he identified with the Apostle Paul, who was also persecuted for saying he had seen a vision. As you read Joseph’s account, what inspires you to remain true to your testimony? What other examples—from the scriptures or people you know—give you courage to stay true to the spiritual experiences you have had?
Joseph Smith—History 1:6.
How can we handle disagreements without becoming contentious like the people described in this verse?
Joseph Smith—History 1:11–13.
Reading these verses might inspire family members to share experiences when a scripture passage touched their hearts and inspired them to act.
Joseph Smith—History 1:16–20.
As your family reads these verses, consider showing the painting that accompanies this outline or another picture of the First Vision (perhaps your family would enjoy drawing their own depiction). You could also watch the video “Ask of God: Joseph Smith’s First Vision” (ChurchofJesusChrist.org). You could each make a list of truths we learn from this vision, then share your lists with one another. This would be a great time for family members to share how they obtained their testimonies of Joseph Smith’s First Vision.
Joseph Smith—History 1:17.
When God appeared to Joseph Smith, He called Joseph by name. When have members of your family felt that Heavenly Father knows them personally?
Joseph Smith—History 1:21–26.
How can we respond when people question our testimonies?
For more ideas for teaching children, see this week’s outline in Come, Follow Me—For Primary.
Suggested song: “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer,” Hymns, no. 26.
We are each profoundly affected by our family life, and Joseph Smith was no different. His parents’ religious convictions and practices planted seeds of faith that made the Restoration possible. Joseph’s journal records this tribute: “Words and language [are] inadequate to express the gratitude that I owe to God for having given me so honorable a parentage.”1
The following quotations from his mother, Lucy Mack Smith; his brother William Smith; and the Prophet himself give us a glimpse into the religious influence in the Smith home.
“[In about 1802], I was taken sick. … Said I to myself, I am not prepared to die for I do not know the ways of Christ, and it seemed to me as though there was a dark and lonely chasm between myself and Christ that I dare not attempt to cross. …
“I looked to the Lord and begged and plead with the Lord that he would spare my life that I might bring up my children and comfort the heart of my husband; thus I lay all night. … I covenanted with God [that] if he would let me live I would endeavor to get that religion that would enable me to serve him right, whether it was in the Bible or wherever it might be found, even if it was to be obtained from heaven by prayer and faith. At last a voice spoke to me and said, ‘Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. Let your heart be comforted. Ye believe in God; believe also in me.’ …
“From this time forward I gained strength continually. I said but little upon the subject of religion although it occupied my mind entirely, and I thought that I would make all diligence as soon as I was able to seek some pious person who knew the ways of God to instruct me in things of Heaven.”2
“My mother, who was a very pious woman and much interested in the welfare of her children, both here and hereafter, made use of every means which her parental love could suggest, to get us engaged in seeking for our souls’ salvation, or (as the term then was) ‘in getting religion.’ She prevailed on us to attend the meetings, and almost the whole family became interested in the matter, and seekers after truth.”3
“We always had family prayers since I can remember. I well remember father used to carry his spectacles in his vest pocket, … and when us boys saw him feel for his specs, we knew that was a signal to get ready for prayer, and if we did not notice it mother would say, ‘William,’ or whoever was the negligent one, ‘get ready for prayer.’ After the prayer we had a song we would sing.”4
“I now say, that [my father] never did a mean act that might be said was ungenerous, in his life, to my knowledge. I loved my father and his memory; and the memory of his noble deeds, rest with ponderous weight upon my mind; and many of his kind and parental words to me, are written on the tablet of my heart. Sacred to me, are the thoughts which I cherish of the history of his life, that have rolled through my mind and has been implanted there, by my own observation since I was born. … My mother also is one of the noblest, and the best of all women.”5