“Joseph Smith—History 1:21–54,” The Pearl of Great Price Teacher Manual (2017)
“Joseph Smith—History 1:21–54,” The Pearl of Great Price Teacher Manual
Satan uses ridicule, false doctrine, lies, and prejudice to persecute the humble followers of God (see Joseph Smith—History 1:21–25; see also Isaiah 32:6–7; 1 Timothy 4:1–2; 3 Nephi 1:6, 22; D&C 109:29–30).
True followers of God will remain faithful to Him, no matter how intense persecution becomes or how long it lasts (see Joseph Smith—History 1:24, 27; see also Daniel 3:13–18; Acts 5:40–42; 12:1–11; 16:19–25; 26:19–23; Mosiah 17:5–20; Alma 20:28–30; D&C 121:7–8; 122:5–7).
The Lord teaches His people “line upon line.” We should remain faithful to the direction we receive from the Lord until He gives us further instructions (see Joseph Smith—History 1:26–27; see also 2 Nephi 28:30; D&C 42:61).
Ask students who they would want to tell if they had an unusual spiritual experience, and why. Who did Joseph Smith tell about his vision (see Joseph Smith—History 1:20)? Display the following statement, and invite a student to read it aloud:
“Eventually [Joseph] confided his theophany [vision of God] to other family members. His brother William affirmed, ‘We all had the most implicit confidence in what he said. He was a truthful boy. Father and Mother believed him, why should not the children?’ [in J. W. Peterson, “Another Testimony, Statement of William Smith, Concerning Joseph the Prophet,” Deseret Evening News, 20 Jan. 1894, p. 11]” (in Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 34).
Ask a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:21 aloud. Ask the rest of the class to follow along and find another person Joseph told. Explain to students that Joseph trusted that the minister would welcome his great news from heaven. Invite students to read silently and ponder the last sentence of verse 23. Discuss guidelines students should follow in sharing their spiritual experiences with others. The following statement by President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles may be helpful:
“I have come to believe also that it is not wise to continually talk of unusual spiritual experiences. They are to be guarded with care and shared only when the Spirit itself prompts you to use them to the blessing of others” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53; see also Matthew 7:6; D&C 6:12; 10:37; 41:6).
Ask students to search Joseph Smith—History 1:22–23, 27 for who else eventually heard about Joseph’s vision, and how. According to these verses, what did these people do to Joseph? (Answers might include that they stirred up prejudice, inflicted great persecution, excited the public mind against him, and so forth.) Discuss other times that Satan used these tools to persecute the righteous and deceive the people (see Matthew 9:32–34; 26:57–68; 28:9–15; Acts 16:16–24; 1 Nephi 17:17–22; Alma 1:16–20; 12:1–6; Helaman 16:13–23; 3 Nephi 6:10–15; D&C 71, section heading). Display the following statement by Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915–94) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud:
“Neither the Apostle Paul nor Joseph Smith wavered, though they faced severe trials. … In our present day there are many who are sowing seeds of dissension and discord. With half truths and slander, they are endeavoring to lead members of the Church of Jesus Christ into apostasy” (Marvin J. Ashton, “The Word Is Commitment,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 63).
Discuss this statement and how we can recognize and overcome these negative influences today.
Display and ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), which he made in reference to Joseph Smith—History 1:25:
“There is no lack of certitude in that statement. For Joseph Smith that experience was as real as the warmth of the sun at noonday. …
“It is that kind of certitude that has moved this Church forward in the face of persecution, ridicule, sacrifice of fortune, the leaving of loved ones to travel to distant lands to carry the gospel message. That conviction motivates today as it has done from the beginning of this work. Faith in the hearts of millions that this cause is true, that God is our Eternal Father, and that Jesus is the Christ, must ever be the great motivating force in our lives” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Faith: The Essence of True Religion,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 7).
Discuss the character traits required to remain faithful to God in the face of opposition. How did Joseph Smith demonstrate these traits in his life?
Invite a few students to take turns reading Genesis 39:9; Revelation 2:14–15, 20–23; and Doctrine and Covenants 59:21 aloud, looking for what offends God. In Joseph Smith—History 1:25, what did Joseph Smith say would have been offensive to God? Display the following statement by Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915–94) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask a student to read it aloud:
“Joseph Smith placed commitment ahead of life itself. From the time of his first vision until his martyrdom, he was a victim of bitter persecution, reviling, and ridicule, but never did he falter” (Marvin J. Ashton, “The Word Is Commitment,” 62).
Ask a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:25–26 aloud. Invite the rest of the class to follow along and list the truths that Joseph Smith said he learned from his experience. Compare what Joseph learned to what he was confused about or did not know before his vision. What are some important aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ that Joseph would learn about later? Why did the Lord not reveal all those truths to Joseph during the First Vision (see 2 Nephi 28:30; Alma 12:9)?
We are all weak and imperfect, so we all need to constantly strive to improve (see Joseph Smith—History 1:28–29; see also 1 John 1:8–9; 2 Nephi 4:17–19; Alma 7:15–16; Helaman 12:1; Ether 12:27; D&C 62:1).
The prophet Moroni, the last writer in the Book of Mormon, appeared as a glorified, resurrected being to Joseph Smith. He told Joseph about a book buried in a hill near the Smith farm, written on golden plates and containing the fulness of the gospel (see Joseph Smith—History 1:30–35; see also Revelation 14:6; Mormon 8:1, 4, 12–14; Moroni 1:1–4; 10:34; D&C 20:6–10; 27:5; 128:20).
The coming forth of the Book of Mormon continued the latter-day work of the Restoration spoken of by numerous Old Testament, New Testament, and Book of Mormon prophets (see Joseph Smith—History 1:36–41, 45; see also Ezekiel 37:15–23; Acts 3:19–21; 3 Nephi 21:1–11, 28; Mormon 8:14–16; Ether 4:17).
The visitations of Moroni to the Prophet Joseph Smith are an example of how the Lord instructs those He calls to serve Him. Regular, repeated, inspired instruction and interviews regarding how to fulfill our callings are an important part of conducting the affairs of the kingdom of God. For almost all of us instructions come through authorized servants rather than from divine manifestations, but it is the same as divine messengers speaking to us (see Joseph Smith—History 1:33–54; see also D&C 1:38; 33:16; 38:23; 88:78; 107:85–89).
Our only motive for Church service should be to build the kingdom of God; otherwise, the work we do will not prosper (see Joseph Smith—History 1:46; see also Proverbs 16:3; Moroni 7:6–7; D&C 4:2, 4–5; 88:67–68).
We should share our spiritual experiences with righteous parents, who can help and encourage us to do what is right (see Joseph Smith—History 1:49–50).
Ask students what commanded their time and attention during their teenage years. Ask a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:27–29 aloud, and then discuss the habits Joseph Smith said he “fell into” during these years. How did Joseph Smith feel about these years? Display the following statement by President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency, and invite a student to read it aloud:
“While Joseph sought perfection, he did not claim perfection. If he were intending to fabricate a great falsehood or wanted to perpetrate a fraud or practice deceit, would he have been so truthful about his own humanness? His complete candor in admitting human frailties and in declaring the loving discipline of God offers powerful proof of his honesty and probity [uprightness]. His statements stand on more solid footing because they were declarations against human nature and admissions against self-interest” (James E. Faust, “The Expanding Inheritance from Joseph Smith,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 77).
You may want to suggest that students mark the phrase “no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins” in their scriptures (Joseph Smith—History 1:28). Point out what a great blessing it is to be able to describe one’s life in this way. Discuss why our younger years can be so challenging and how we can stay close to Heavenly Father during this time (see Alma 37:35–37; 53:20–21).
Compare what certain scribes and Pharisees asked of the Lord in Matthew 12:38–39 to what Joseph Smith asked for in Joseph Smith—History 1:29. Invite students to use Doctrine and Covenants 63:8–12 to explain why Joseph received his manifestation, while others, such as the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 12, did not. You may want to invite students to study other examples of people who asked for and received manifestations from the Lord (see Judges 6:11–24; 2 Kings 20:8–11; Mark 9:20–27; Helaman 11:1–5; Ether 3:6–16). Make sure students understand the importance of asking in faith and of accepting the will of the Lord when asking for any kind of inspiration or divine manifestation.
Ask students to imagine that they have been assigned to teach someone to do a task that is difficult and complex, such as building a house or performing surgery. Invite several volunteers to share what steps they would follow to accomplish this training responsibility. Explain to students that the angel Moroni had such an assignment with young Joseph Smith. Ask students to search Joseph Smith—History 1:30–54 and list what Moroni did to teach Joseph. (For example, Moroni called Joseph by name and introduced himself, see verse 33; he briefly explained what was to be done, see verse 34; he gave Joseph insights into the importance of his work, see verses 36–41; he gave clear and specific instructions, see verse 42; he repeated his instructions to Joseph several times, adding new insights each time, see verses 44–45; and so forth.)
Show students pictures of temples that have a statue of the angel Moroni on top, and invite them to share what they know about Moroni’s mortal and postmortal life. You may want to review with students Mormon 8:1–7; Moroni 1:1–4; 9:20–22, 25–26; 10:1–2; Doctrine and Covenants 27:5; and Joseph Smith—History 1:33, discussing what we learn about Moroni from these verses. List on the board and discuss what Moroni taught Joseph Smith regarding the Book of Mormon and its translation in Joseph Smith—History 1:34–35.
Review with students Joseph Smith—History 1:36–41. Divide the class into five groups, and assign each group to study and report what one of the following scripture blocks from the Bible teaches: Isaiah 11:1–16; Joel 2:28–32; Malachi 3:1–6; 4:1–6; Acts 3:19–21. Invite each group to explain the main points of their assigned scripture block and how those verses apply to the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the latter-day work. What do all of these scriptures have in common? (Answers might include that they are all prophecies of the last days, soon to be fulfilled; they all predict the Restoration of the gospel; and they all speak of Christ.)
How does Satan tempt people? Why do people sometimes give in to temptation? Ask a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:42, 46 aloud. Display the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud:
“When the young prophet first went to Cumorah, in 1823, the angel refused to give him the plates containing the Book of Mormon, saying it was not yet time (Joseph Smith—History 1:53). During the four years he had to wait before receiving the plates, young Joseph struggled with his motives. In 1832 he looked back on this period and wrote:
“‘I had been tempted of the advisary and saught the Plates to obtain riches and kept not the commandment that I should have an eye single to the glory of God therefore I was chastened and saught diligently to obtain the plates and obtained them not until I was twenty one years of age’ (D. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, p. 7).
“In this revealing account we find the Lord seeing into the heart of the young prophet, chastening him for his improper motives in respect to the plates, giving him time to repent and mature, and eventually forgiving him and allowing him to go forward with the performance of his mission” (Dallin H. Oaks, Pure in Heart , 16).
Discuss how our motives can help us resist Satan’s temptations. Ask a few students to take turns reading Joseph Smith—History 1:49–54 aloud. Invite students to share how they think Moroni helped Joseph examine and refine his motives for obtaining the golden plates (see also the commentaries under “Joseph Smith—History 1:50–53. Joseph’s First Visit to the Hill Cumorah” and “Joseph Smith—History 1:54. Joseph’s Annual Visits to the Hill” in the student manual).
Ask a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:49–50 aloud. Explain to students that the history written by Lucy Mack Smith (Joseph’s mother) states:
“The personage whom he saw the night before came to him again and said, ‘Why did you not tell your father what I told you?’ Joseph said he was afraid his father would not believe him. ‘He will,’ said the angel, ‘believe every word you say to him’” (Lucy Mack Smith, “Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845,” book 3, page 11, josephsmithpapers.org; capitalization, punctuation, and spelling standardized).
Ask students why they think it was important for Joseph’s father to know about this experience. Invite students to share how talking with their parents about their experiences has helped them in their lives.
Ask students to give examples of areas of their lives that require proper “timing.” (Answers might include dating, missions, marriage, and so forth.) Discuss why the timing of things is so important. What can go wrong when one’s timing is “off”? Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:53 aloud. Apply these principles of timing to Joseph’s circumstances. What blessings can we receive by doing things in the Lord’s proper time and way, rather than our own (see Jacob 4:8–10; D&C 98:1–2; 112:10; 121:41–42)? Share with students an experience from your life when you were blessed by following the Lord’s timing instead of your own.