“Lesson 2 Teacher Material: The First Vision,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material (2019)
“Lesson 2 Teacher Material,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material
Display the following statement from Joseph Smith—History 1:21:
“There [are] no such things as visions or revelations in these days.”
What are your feelings about this statement?
How would your life be different if you believed this statement?
Explain that this statement was made by a Methodist preacher when young Joseph Smith told him about his First Vision. Invite students to read Joseph Smith—History 1:15–19, and ask them to think about how Joseph’s description of what he experienced refutes this preacher’s claim. After they read, invite students to share what they think.
Write the following truth on the board: God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and spoke with him.
Invite a few students who would like to bear testimony of Joseph’s First Vision to answer the following question:
How has your spiritual witness of the First Vision come to you?
Remind students that Joseph Smith gave four different accounts of the First Vision that we know of. We also have five additional accounts of this vision recorded by those who heard Joseph talk about it. Just as there are differences in the accounts of the Savior’s life recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, each account of Joseph’s First Vision emphasizes different aspects of his experience. But they all share important elements of what Joseph saw and heard. Some people attempt to dismiss the First Vision because of differences in the various accounts. (For example, the 1832 account emphasizes that Joseph was seeking forgiveness of his sins and also uses the title “the Lord” instead of referring to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ separately. The 1835 account describes Heavenly Father appearing first, followed by the Savior.)
To help explain why there are differences in these accounts, ask students to think of a significant or meaningful experience they have had in their lives.
How might your telling of that experience differ depending on who your audience is? How might it change depending on when or why you were telling about the experience?
How would you respond to someone who argues that variations in the different accounts of the First Vision call into question the reality of Joseph’s experience? (If needed, encourage students to think about what they learned from section 2 of the preparation material.)
Display the following incomplete statement: We learn from the First Vision that …
Explain that we can learn wonderful truths from all of Joseph’s accounts of the First Vision. Remind students that they were invited to prepare for this class by making a list of truths they identified from these First Vision accounts. If needed, give students time to review what they marked and truths they noted. (You may need to provide time for students to study the accounts in class if you are combining the first two lessons and students have not been able to prepare for class.)
Invite students to share some of the truths they found and also the verse, verses, or portion of the account that teaches those truths. Write student responses under the incomplete statement you just displayed.
Note: For examples of truths that we can learn from Joseph Smith’s First Vision, see the talk “The First Vision: Key to Truth” (Ensign, June 2017, 60–65) by Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Seventy, referenced in the “Want More?” section of the preparation material.
As students share the truths they found, consider asking them one or more of these follow-up questions:
Why do you think this truth is important to know and understand?
How has knowing that truth blessed you?
What do you learn about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ from what you have studied about the First Vision?
Explain that many people in Joseph’s community rejected his testimony of what he saw and heard and that many persecuted him for it (see Joseph Smith—History 1:21–23).
Invite students to read Joseph Smith—History 1:24–25, looking for how the Prophet Joseph Smith responded to those who ridiculed his testimony of the vision.
What phrases from Joseph Smith’s testimony stand out to you? Why?
How can Joseph Smith’s example help you if you encounter ridicule or challenges to your testimony of the First Vision and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ?
Display or hand out the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley, and invite a student to read it aloud:
For more than a century and a half, enemies, critics, and some would-be scholars have worn out their lives trying to disprove the validity of that vision. Of course they cannot understand it. The things of God are understood by the Spirit of God. There had been nothing of comparable magnitude since the Son of God walked the earth in mortality. Without it as a foundation stone for our faith and organization, we have nothing. With it, we have everything.
Much has been written, much will be written, in an effort to explain it away. … But the testimony of the Holy Spirit, experienced by countless numbers of people all through the years since it happened, bears witness that it is true, that it happened as Joseph Smith said it happened. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Four Cornerstones of Faith,” Ensign, Feb. 2004, 5)
Encourage students who may desire a deeper testimony of Joseph Smith and the First Vision to follow Joseph’s example of seeking truth by continuing to study these accounts and asking God to confirm the reality of the First Vision to them through the Holy Ghost. You might conclude class by sharing your testimony of the First Vision and of the Restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Ask students to think about challenging questions they or others have had about the teachings, practices, or history of the Church. Explain that in the next class, they will learn what to do when difficult questions or issues arise. Encourage students to study the preparation material for lesson 3 so that they can come ready to discuss principles that will help them acquire greater spiritual knowledge.