“Home-Study Lesson: Joseph Smith—History 1:1–65; Doctrine and Covenants 2 (Unit 2)” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual (2013)
“Home-Study Lesson: Unit 2,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual
This lesson can help students deepen their understanding of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. It also provides them an opportunity to learn of the effort required to seek answers to questions and to appreciate their role in gospel learning. Students will learn ways to strengthen their faith against the persecution and opposition they may experience.
Ask students to think about a time they desired an answer to a spiritual or gospel-related question. Then ask the following question:
What did you do to find the answer to your question?
Remind students that Joseph Smith was the age of many seminary students when he became concerned about a significant question and began searching for an answer. While Joseph’s experience was unique, the events that led to it are a pattern that each of us can follow to receive help and answers from God.
You may want to suggest that students mark the phrase “I have learned for myself” in Joseph Smith—History 1:20.
Divide students into groups of two or three. Ask each group to read Joseph Smith—History 1:8, 11–12, 14–15, looking to see what Joseph Smith did to receive an answer to his question. Invite each group to send a representative to the board to record one important element his or her group found. Tell the class not to duplicate any items on the board. If students have difficulty finding what Joseph did, you might help them by suggesting some of the following: Joseph engaged in serious reflection (thought), attended church meetings, studied the teachings of the different denominations, studied the scriptures, prayed with determination.
Ask the following questions:
What principle can you learn from Joseph Smith about what it takes to learn spiritual things? (Although students may use different words, they should identify the following principle: Spiritual learning requires effort on our part. You may want to write this principle on the board.)
Why do you think it is necessary for us to put forth effort to learn spiritual truths?
How can applying this principle help you in your personal study of the Doctrine and Covenants this year?
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:16–17 aloud, and ask the class to follow along in their scriptures and look for what Joseph experienced as he put forth effort to gain knowledge.
According to verse 17, whom did Joseph Smith see? (Be sure it is clear that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.)
What did he learn during this vision about these two personages?
Ask a student to read aloud the following statement from President Joseph F. Smith, who explained the significance of the First Vision:
“The greatest event that has ever occurred in the world, since the resurrection of the Son of God from the tomb and his ascension on high, was the coming of the Father and of the Son to that boy Joseph Smith” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 495).
Why do you feel it is important to have a testimony that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ actually appeared to Joseph Smith?
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:18–20 aloud, and ask students to find what Joseph learned for himself because of his effort to act in faith. Then ask the following questions:
What did Joseph learn for himself?
What can we learn from Joseph Smith’s experience about what can happen when we study the word of God and then act on what we read? (Answers might include the following truth: If we diligently study God’s word and act on it in faith, then we can come to know the truths of the gospel for ourselves. You may want to write this principle on the board and invite students to write it in the margin of their scriptures.)
How might this truth help a friend or family member who has questions about the gospel?
How might this truth help you with your questions or concerns?
Ask students to review what happened to Joseph Smith following his First Vision. Be sure they understand that the Prophet experienced severe persecution after telling others of the vision. Invite them to read the end of Joseph Smith—History 1:20 on their own, starting with the phrase “It seems as though. …” Then ask students the following questions:
According to Joseph Smith, why did he experience great persecution at such a young age? (Persecution came from Satan’s influence because he recognized that Joseph Smith would be “a disturber and an annoyer of [Satan’s] kingdom.”)
What are some situations in which you or others you know might experience persecution today?
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:24–25 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify what we can do to gain strength during difficult times.
What can we do during difficult times to gain strength to be faithful? (Students may give many different answers. Ensure that they identify the following principle: During difficult times, we can draw strength from the examples of faithful individuals in the scriptures. You may want to write this principle on the board and invite students to write it in the margin of their scriptures.)
Invite students to review Joseph Smith—History 1:24–25, looking for words or phrases that might give them courage or strength to do what is right in times of persecution. After students report phrases they find, you may want to suggest that they mark the phrase “I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it.”
Ask students the following questions:
What does this phrase teach you about Joseph Smith’s testimony of the First Vision?
How might this phrase help you when someone challenges your testimony or persecutes you because of your beliefs?
Conclude this lesson by sharing your testimony of the principles discussed in this lesson. Invite students to share their experiences or feelings about these truths.
How were the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon that Joseph Smith translated lost and never recovered? As students study the next unit they will learn about Martin Harris and the lost manuscript. They will also learn about the Lord’s counsel to those who desire to serve God.