Posted by: 2thdocbob | 16 February 2020

Fruits of the First Vision

This talk was given today in Crestline Ward. I love the Prophet Joseph Smith, and it was a blessing to talk about his experiences and how they have blessed me.


Dear brothers and sisters, it is always a privilege to visit with you in your beautiful mountain ward. I am grateful to be here to worship with you today.

I bring you love and greetings from President Garvin and his counselors. Brother Humphries and I are here by assignment today. I am grateful to have him as my speaking companion. We have known each other for many years, and I look up to him as a master teacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I pray that the Spirit will be present this morning, so that both you and I may be edified.

————————————–

In his closing remarks at last October Conference, President Russell M. Nelson gave us an assignment. Do you remember? He said “In the next six months, I hope that every member and every family will prepare for a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel.”[1] He continued: “Select your own questions. Design your own plan. Immerse yourself in the glorious light of the Restoration. As you do, general conference next April will be not only memorable; it will be unforgettable.”

I caution you that we should not be looking for something spectacular at General Conference in April, like a live broadcast from Adam-ondi-Ahman  or something of that sort. Why? Because I know from experience that when I am prepared for Conference, when I have been pondering gospel truths and seeking for answers to questions that are important to me, that is when Conference is memorable. When the Spirit speaks to me at General Conference, it is unforgettable.

I have learned from experience that I can be an instrument in God’s hands to answer others’ prayers for guidance when I seek the Spirit as I prepare my assigned talks. I have been humbled and deeply grateful when I learn of these instances. It has happened here in this chapel.

And if the Lord can work through someone like me, then he can certainly work through those whom we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators.

This is how Conferences become spiritual feasts. I testify that our Church leaders are inspired as they prepare their talks, and if we are also seeking inspiration, we will receive it.

President Nelson suggested to us that we “may wish to begin [our] preparation by reading afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price.”

I have read and reread the first 26 verses of Joseph Smith-History in the Pearl of Great Price since the assignment was given. As I thought about it, my mind went back 43 years to my senior year in high school. We learned that we would have the opportunity to serve two-week missions that summer. Our Bishop made sure that each member of the Priest’s Quorum had a copy of the missionary discussions.

Our bishop assigned us to memorize the Joseph Smith story that was a part of the first discussion. As I walked home from school each day, I would pull out a notecard and work on memorizing the Joseph Smith story. As I reviewed this over and over and practiced reciting it day after day, the Spirit bore witness to me the Joseph’s experience was real. That had a profound impact on me that continues to this day.

Fast forward a year and a half to when I was in the Language Training Mission struggling to learn Dutch, and particularly struggling to learn the Joseph Smith story. After several days of frustration, the Lord blessed me with the gift of tongues. After that, I was able to learn it very quickly.

I want to make it very clear that my own mental efforts were not enough. The Lord made sure I understood that before he answered my prayers.

Once I was in the Netherlands, I would frequently review the story, especially when we were out on our bikes on our way to a distant contact. I often pondered what it would be like to actually converse with God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. What an amazing experience that must have been!

I am grateful that I have been able to recall these memories of some significant events in my life.

Because of these and other experiences, I have a strong witness that Joseph Smith is the Prophet of the Restoration. He was, and is a Prophet of God. He ushered in this final dispensation, and the Restoration, which began through his actions, continues today at an ever-increasing pace.

Why is this witness important? I invite you to think about how you would answer this question as I continue.

Let me share what stood out in my mind as I again pondered the account of the first vision.

First, Joseph lived in a time of “great confusion and strife” (v. 8). He reported that good feelings were “lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions (v. 6). This led him to “serious reflection and great uneasiness” (v.8).

We, too live in a time of confusion and strife. This strife is religious, political, social, you name it. The wisdom of man has not provided solutions. Until we team up with our Heavenly Father, we will remain in confusion.

Do we follow Joseph’s example and seriously reflect? Do we turn to the scriptures for understanding? Do we seek the guidance of the Spirit?

Second, Joseph often asked himself “what is to be done” (v.10). He turned to the scriptures, and pondered them.

He said that when he read James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him,”[2] it “seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of [his] heart” (v.11).

Joseph said he “reflected on it again and again” (v.12). This is the kind of scripture study that changes lives. He had a question, he turned to the scriptures, and he found a solution which led him to the answer.

Have you been touched in this way by a particular passage of scripture?

Third, Joseph made a plan and determined to take action. He decided to ask of God, even though he had never before prayed vocally. He decided where he would go to pray, and did it.

Fourth, Satan is real, and will do everything in his power to prevent our progress in God’s kingdom. Fortunately, his power is limited. And we know from revelation that our own choices limit his power.

When Joseph knelt to pray, he “was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame [him]” (v.15).

Sometimes there will be opposition to our righteous desires. Little things may come up that make it harder to study the gospel. It won’t often be just like Joseph experienced, when thick darkness gathered around him, but Satan will try to keep us from exercising our righteous desires.

Fifth, prayer is not passive. Joseph exerted all his powers to call upon God to deliver him (v.16).

Oliver Cowdery was taught “you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.”[3]

Many of you have experienced this in your own lives as you have fervently prayed for yourself or for a loved one.

Sixth, Joseph recounted, “when the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air” (v.17). God the Father and Jesus Christ are two distinct persons, with glorified bodies. Joseph saw two individuals, and each of them spoke to him in turn.

Joseph could also see that we are created in God’s image. This helped him, and also helps to us to understand our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Children do tend to look like their parents. And don’t we all hope to grow up to be like our heavenly parents?

Seventh, Joseph reported that “One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (v.17).

One of the most important doctrines Joseph learned is that God not only knew him, but he even knew his name.

If we truly understand this, we will feel enabled to resist temptations, and we will have the strength we need to get through the rough spots in our lives.

I testify that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father. He knows us. He loves us. He answers our prayers.

Eighth, we won’t have our prayers answered just as Joseph’s prayer was answered, but God does hear and answer our prayers.

Joseph received a very unexpected answer to his prayer. His question was “which church should I join?” His expectation was that he would be told which church to join, but instead he was told that all were wrong, which had never entered into his heart (v.18).

Faith in God means we can trust him to answer our prayers, but perhaps not how or when we had expected.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell commented: “Faith also includes trust in God’s timing, for He has said, ‘All things must come to pass in their time.[4]’”

But we know that our prayers will be answered by him who knows us best.

Ninth, along with prayers being answered, we learn of the reality of personal revelation. Personal revelation is available to each of us within our own stewardships.

I believe that personal revelation is the key to effective ministering. We cannot minister as the Lord would without inspiration from him.

The Come, Follow Me home study program invites us to receive personal revelation. So does the new Children and Youth Program.

Why is personal revelation so important? Our spiritual survival in the last days depends on our ability to be directed by the Lord in our actions rather than relying on our own wisdom or on others. The Holy Ghost can direct us better than Google ever will.

We need the words of prophets and apostles, stake presidents and bishops, but personal revelation can provide specific direction that can only come from the Lord.

Personal revelation can help us to be in the right place at the right time to help someone who needs us. It can help us to say the right things to someone who is struggling. It helps us to fulfill our covenants “to be called his people, and [to be] willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
“Yea, and [to be] willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in.”[5]

I bear witness that the Lord is willing to give us the revelation we need if we will diligently seek it.

We have the assurance that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father who created us in His image, who loves all his children and hears and answers our prayers and will reveal his will to us.

These are some of the fruits of the First Vision. Many events have followed as the Lord restored his church to the earth.

The First Vision was the beginning of the Restoration. It was followed by translation of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. During the translation, the priesthood was restored, with the authority of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood conferred again.

With priesthood authority on earth, the true Church of Jesus Christ was organized, providing the saving ordinances of baptism and the sacrament. Temples were built and priesthood keys were restored to the earth, including the keys of the gathering of Israel and the spirit of Elijah. Later on, temple ordinances were revealed, with the authority to create eternal families.

Additional revelations followed, in which glorious truths were revealed. Additional scriptures were published.

In our day, we saw the priesthood extended to all worthy men. We see the gospel being preached to nearly all nations, kindreds and tongues. We see temples dotting the earth and covenant blessings extended to the living and the dead. It is truly a marvelous work and a wonder.

And President Nelson assures us that the work is being hastened and that the restoration is not yet complete.

Brothers and sisters, we live in a glorious time. What a blessing it is to live in our day! Of course there are also many challenges associated with our day as well.

I am amazed to think that it all began with a teenage boy who had a simple question that he couldn’t answer on his own.

I testify that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ did indeed visit the boy Joseph Smith to usher in the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and Russell M. Nelson is our living prophet today.

I pray that we will have the courage and commitment to follow the prophet in faith as we participate in the restoration of the gospel. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Conference Report, Oct. 2019.

[2] James 1:5.

[3] Doctrine and Covenants 9:7.

[4] Doctrine and Covenants 64:32.

[5] Mosiah 18:8,9.


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