“Joseph Smith—History 1:1–20,” The Pearl of Great Price Teacher Manual (2017)
“Joseph Smith—History 1:1–20,” The Pearl of Great Price Teacher Manual
Joseph Smith—History 1:1–20
Joseph Smith’s Early Life and the First Vision
Joseph Smith—History 1:1–10: An Unusual Excitement
Some Important Principles, Doctrines, and Events
Satan circulates false reports through “evil-disposed and designing” people to distort the true nature of the Church and its inspired leaders (Joseph Smith—History 1:1–2; see also Helaman 16:22; 3 Nephi 1:22; D&C 10:22–27, 28; Moses 4:4).
Events in the lives of Joseph Smith’s family members during his early years reveal the guiding and protecting hand of the Lord (see Joseph Smith—History 1:3–5; see also Proverbs 3:5–6; Romans 8:28).
Events leading up to the First Vision help explain the Apostasy and the loss of the true Church of Jesus Christ from the earth (see Joseph Smith—History 1:5–10; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:1–3; 2 Timothy 3:1–5; 2 Peter 2:1–2; 1 Nephi 13:23–29; D&C 1:15–16).
Suggestions for Teaching
Joseph Smith—History 1:1. Many Reports by “Evil-Disposed and Designing Persons”
Invite a few students to take turns reading Helaman 16:22; 3 Nephi 1:22; Doctrine and Covenants 10:22–27; and Moses 4:4 aloud. Ask the rest of the class to follow along and make a list of what Satan does to try to keep people from the truth. Next, invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:1–2 aloud and explain Joseph’s reasons for writing this history. You could also display and ask a few students to take turns reading aloud the commentary under “Joseph Smith—History 1:1. What Were the ‘Many Reports … by Evil-Disposed and Designing Persons’?” in the student manual. Discuss ways students can help “disabuse the public mind” and “put all inquirers after truth in possession of the facts” (verse 1).
Joseph Smith—History 1:3–4. “I Was Born”
Ask students why the information in Joseph Smith—History 1:3–4 is important and helpful to know. Invite students to turn to Church history maps in the appendix to the triple combination and find the places where the Smith family lived. You may want to suggest that students mark these places on the maps in their scriptures. You may also want to review with students some of the stories about Joseph Smith’s family and his early life under “Joseph Smith—History 1:3. What Was Joseph Smith’s Early Life Like?” and “Joseph Smith—History 1:4. Joseph Smith’s Family” in the student manual. Discuss ways that Joseph’s personality and character were influenced by his family and his circumstances. Ask students if they would have liked being in Joseph Smith’s family, and why.
Joseph Smith—History 1:5–20. Overview
Ask students to list the events that they can remember from the story of the First Vision, in the order the events occurred. Invite students to share their lists, and then quickly review Joseph Smith—History 1:5–20 to see how well the students knew this important story. Invite students to share about times when they have told the story of the First Vision to people who are not members of the Church.
Joseph Smith—History 1:5–7. Different Religious Parties
Invite students who have lived with family members who belong to other religious faiths to share what it is like. Give students a moment to use a computer or mobile device to search and list the names of several churches in your area. Ask students what they would say if somebody asked them why there are so many different churches. How would you respond to those who say that all churches are about the same, or that all churches are true and can lead us to heaven? Invite a few students to take turns reading Joseph Smith—History 1:5–7 and 1 Nephi 13:23–29 aloud while the rest of the class follows along. Ask students to explain how the subject of Nephi’s prophecy contributed to the religious climate described by Joseph Smith.
Joseph Smith—History 1:8–10. “Serious Reflection and Great Uneasiness”
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:8–10 aloud. Ask students if any of them have ever had such experiences or feelings. Explain to students that Joseph’s struggles are similar to the struggles many of us go through (see 1 Nephi 1:4–6; 2:16; Enos 1:2–4; Alma 22:15–18). What gospel principles did you learn from such experiences?
Joseph Smith—History 1:11–20: The First Vision
Some Important Principles, Doctrines, and Events
God answers the sincere prayers of those who ask in faith (see Joseph Smith—History 1:11–13; see also Matthew 7:7–11; James 1:5–6; 1 Nephi 15:8–11; 3 Nephi 18:19–20; D&C 42:68).
Satan is a real being with power. The power of God is greater than the power of Satan (see Joseph Smith—History 1:14–17; see also 2 Nephi 9:8–9; D&C 3:1; 10:14, 20, 43; 76:25–29).
God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith. They are separate, distinct, glorified beings with bodies of flesh and bones (see Joseph Smith—History 1:17; see also Acts 7:55–56; D&C 76:20–23; 130:22).
The Lord commanded Joseph Smith not to join any church because all of them were wrong (see Joseph Smith—History 1:18–20; see also 2 Timothy 4:3–4; Mormon 8:28, 32–38).
God and Satan both know who we are and the roles we can play in the establishment of the kingdom of God. Satan uses whatever means he can to try to thwart us from attaining our divine destiny (see Joseph Smith—History 1:20; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:3–10; Moses 7:26).
Suggestions for Teaching
Video presentation—“Ask of God: Joseph Smith’s First Vision”
Explain to students that there are several accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. The account recorded in Joseph Smith—History was first published in 1842 in the Times and Seasons, the Church’s newspaper in Nauvoo, Illinois. Consider showing the video “Ask of God: Joseph Smith’s First Vision” (6:35), which depicts the First Vision with details from several of Joseph Smith’s accounts. For further information on Joseph Smith’s accounts of the First Vision, see the Gospel Topics Essay “First Vision Accounts,”available on LDS.org.
Joseph Smith—History 1:10–16. Joseph Smith’s First Vocal Prayer
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith’s questions in Joseph Smith—History 1:10 aloud while the rest of the class follows along. You may want to suggest that students mark these questions in their scriptures. What did Joseph do in verses 11–16 to get answers to his questions? Ask students how they could apply in their own lives what Joseph Smith did.
Joseph Smith—History 1:11–17. An “Actual Being from the Unseen World”
Invite a few students to take turns reading Joseph Smith—History 1:11–17 aloud, and ask the rest of the class to follow along. Invite students to make two lists on the board: (1) ways the Lord helped Joseph receive answers to his questions, and (2) things Satan did to try to hinder Joseph. Ask students to explain how the power of Satan was overcome. Display the following statement by President Wilford Woodruff (1807–98), and invite a student to read it aloud:
“There are two powers on the earth and in the midst of the inhabitants of the earth—the power of God and the power of the devil. … Whenever the Lord set His hand to perform any work, those powers [of the devil] labored to overthrow it” (Wilford Woodruff, in Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others , 5:198).
Why is the combination of our righteous choices and the power of God always greater than the power of Satan (see D&C 3:1; 10:43; 29:36–38; Moses 1:12–22)? Testify of the truth of the appearance of the Father and the Son to the boy Joseph.
Joseph Smith—History 1:14–20. The Significance of the First Vision
Invite a few students to take turns reading Joseph Smith—History 1:14–20 aloud (see also James E. Faust, “The Magnificent Vision Near Palmyra,” Ensign, May 1984, 68; see also Carlos E. Asay, “One Small Step for a Man; One Giant Leap for Mankind,” Ensign, May 1990, 63–64). Ask the rest of the class to follow along and make a list of the truths we learn from these verses. (Answers might include that Satan is a real being who seeks to stop the work of God; God appears to man; man is made in the literal image of God; Jesus is a personage, separate and distinct from Heavenly Father; there was an apostasy of the Church that Jesus Christ established during His mortal ministry; the true Church was not on the earth in 1820; the Lord keeps the promise found in James 1:5; direct revelation from the heavens has not ceased.) Read or sing “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer” (Hymns, no. 26). Display and ask a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Robert L. Simpson (1915–2003) of the Seventy. Then discuss the meaning of the statement as a class:
“[The First Vision is] the most significant singular event in the world since the resurrection of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The First Vision is the very foundation of this Church, and it is my conviction that each member of this Church performs his duty in direct ratio to his personal testimony and faith in the First Vision” (Robert L. Simpson, “Our Fundamental Obligation: The Priesthood,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 87).
Invite students who would like to share what they thought and felt when they first heard about the First Vision to do so. Also invite students who have had the opportunity to teach investigators about the First Vision to share their experiences.
Joseph Smith—History 1:18–20. Joseph Listened to the Lord
Read or sing “The Morning Breaks” (Hymns, no. 1), and then invite students to ponder how their lives have been influenced by this singular event.
Joseph Smith—History 1:20. “I Was Destined”
Write God, Satan, and Joseph Smith on the board. Invite a student to read the last part of Joseph Smith—History 1:20 aloud, which begins “it seems as though … ,” and ask who of these three people knew who Joseph Smith really was and why he was here on earth. How did Joseph Smith know that Satan knew his destiny? Replace Joseph Smith with You on the board. Display the following statement by President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask a student to read it aloud. Then discuss the statement as a class:
“There is great protection when you know who you are, why you are here, and where you are going. Let your unique identity shape each decision you make on the path toward your eternal destiny” (Russell M. Nelson, “Choices,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 75).