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(revised January 2018)
The Church of Jesus Christ was put on the earth at the time of Adam and Eve. When the people lived by God's laws His church could be on earth. When they would not obey God's laws the church disappeared and only a few people scattered here and there would remember to do God's will. About 300 or 400 years after Christ, His church which He and his disciples had put back on the earth, had completely disappeared. Everything was changed from what God had told the people to do. We call this the Apostasy. Apostasy is when people turn away from God's teaching and do things their own way.
By the 1800's there were many people who sensed that something was wrong and that the way we worshipped God was not right. Because of this, there began to be many churches. The people could not agree on how to worship God. This was not their fault, because God's teachings had been hidden away from them and they had even been tortured and killed if they did things differently than some people thought they should.
On April 6, 1830 Jesus Christ's church was put on the earth again. This is the story of how it came to be.
Joseph Smith was born December 23, 1805 in the state of Vermont. When he was ten years old his family moved to the state of New York. Joseph had a father, Joseph Smith, Sr., a mother, Lucy Smith, five brothers and three sisters.
When Joseph was fourteen years old there came a religious revival to the county. Now, in those days there were no televisions, radios, video games, or computers. So a religious revival was great entertainment, almost like a circus or fair.
Three different churches took part in the revival, the Methodists, the Baptists, and the Presbyterians. Each church had preachers to tell the people why their church was the right one to join. Everything was very friendly and exciting while the people were beginning to think about which church they would join. But soon when the people began joining the different churches there began to be hard feelings and arguments. Each preacher said he was right and the other preachers were wrong. Each convert, or person who had just joined a certain church, was sure that he or she was right and anyone who did not join the same church was wrong.
Four members of Joseph's family joined the Presbyterians. Joseph was sort of thinking of joining the Methodists. But all the arguing and fighting was beginning to make him very confused. They all had good reasons why they were right and everyone else was wrong. But they could not all be right. Which church was right? Joseph knew that he was not smart enough to figure this out.
One day during all this Joseph was reading the Bible. In those days many families owned a Bible. It might be the only book they owned. Joseph was reading the first chapter, verse 5 of James, which is in the New Testament.
"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."
This is a very important scripture. Some people do not believe it. They believe that God does not tell anyone anything or that He only tells it to certain people. Joseph was only fourteen and was not an important person in the opinion of the people who lived around him. He was not rich, famous, a great leader, or a greatly educated man who people would listen to. He was just an ordinary boy who believed what the scripture said to him.
Joseph decided to go to the woods where he could be alone. He wanted to go and pray and did not want to be disturbed. He wanted to know which church to join and he believed that God would tell him. After all, he had just read the scripture that said that God would give him wisdom.
Joseph found a good place and knelt down and began to pray. Almost immediately something happened to him which was so frightening that he thought he was about to be destroyed. He could not talk. A thick darkness gathered close around him. Joseph was afraid but he did all he could to ask God to help him. Just as Joseph was the most afraid that this enemy would destroy him there came a bright light right over his head. It was brighter than the sun. As soon as the light appeared Joseph was saved from the terrible darkness. The light came slowly down until it rested on Joseph.
Now the story is a little confusing. In 1832 Joseph wrote about the experience in his own handwriting. In it he said that in the light there was "a personage". In other accounts it says there were "two personages". Did Joseph Smith Jr. see the Father and Jesus Christ, the Son? Or did he only see Jesus Christ, the Son? I believe that if Joseph Smith's was honest and truthful about his experience, then he saw Jesus Christ, the Son. The scriptures say that if we have seen Jesus Christ we have seen the Father. The Book of Mormon teaches us that Jesus Christ is the Father and the Son.
I will write more about this later. It is important that we should study the scriptures which we claim to believe.
It took a little while for Joseph to manage to be able to say anything. Finally he asked to know which of the churches was right so that he would know which one to join.
Jesus told Joseph that he must join none of the churches, they were all wrong. He said that all their creeds, or what they claimed to believe, were an abomination in his sight. That means that their creeds were disgusting to God and Jesus Christ. He said, "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; they teach for doctrine the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof."
What does that mean? Jesus was saying that the preachers preached about God and Jesus. They were always talking about them and pretending to know all about God and what everyone else should believe. They pretended to be very good men, maybe better than everyone else. But in their hearts they did not really believe in God or in the power of God. They believed that God was not really interested enough to talk to anyone and so they had the right to tell other people how they should live. And many of the things they were teaching the people were wrong.
Jesus again told Joseph not to join any of the churches. He told Joseph many things which Joseph could not write about until later.
Finally Joseph came to himself, kind of like he had been sleeping or unconscious and suddenly woken up. He was lying on his back looking up into heaven. I don't know if this meant he was looking up at the sky or perhaps he actually saw into heaven.
Joseph did not join any of the churches at the religious revival.
Adapted by Lois M. Anderson from
The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Volume 1, pp.6-10
to be continued . . .
Copyright 2001 Lois M. Anderson: All Rights Reserved
Last revised: January 17, 2018