Who was Joseph Smith?
Minnie Advincula was only 13 when the gospel was introduced to her family. Her parents and only brother were baptized after a few months, but she found it difficult to accept what the missionaries were teaching. “It was my first time to hear about the apostasy and I had always believed that from Peter, the authority was passed on to the head of the Catholic church,” she admits .
“And who was this Joseph Smith?” she remembers asking. “In mymind, anybody can just claim to have seen God. In fact, many other people have made the same claim.” She adds. She sought to know more about Joseph Smith and find out if she was hearing truths or lies from the Missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Being the man chosen by God to restore His true church on the Earth, Joseph Smith played a very significant role in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He’s considered an important figure by all members of the Church, who are sometimes referred to as Mormons. It all started when, as a young teenager, Joseph was interested to know about the different churches that existed that time, and he wanted to choose which one to join. He had many questions in mind and needed guidance in making a decision. In the early years of the 18th century, a rebirth of religion was highly celebrated in his hometown of rural New York. The many religious messages confused Joseph, so he turned to the Bible for help.
As he was studying and assessing one evening, Joseph came across a verse in the New Testament that reads “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” (James 1:5).
Joseph knew then that God’s guidance is all that he needed. He accepted the invitation to “ask of God” and planned to go to a grove of trees near his home to pray and request for divine intervention.
What is the First Vision?
Though she refused to be baptized, Minnie went to Church regularly because she wanted to be with her family. “My conversion was a very slow process. Initially I was impressed by the examples of the members,” she disclosed. Citing Matthew 7:16, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” So she kept going to Church even when her family sometimes didn’t go.
In her study of Joseph Smith, she sought to know him better by his achievements, one of which was the First Vision.
The First Vision refers to the incident that resulted from Joseph’s attempt to pray out loud and ask God. It is the scene and experience that took place in response to that prayer.
Joseph entered the woods, went to an isolated grove of trees, knelt and prayed. It was the first time he did this and he experienced something extraordinary. As soon as he started praying, Joseph mumbled and was unable to speak, and he felt a “thick darkness” surrounding him.
Joseph prayed more fervently as the overwhelming darkness seems to consume him. Just when he thought all was lost, God the Father and Jesus Christ literally appeared before him, an event considered as one of the greatest miracles of modern times.
The scene started when Joseph saw a bright light coming down from the sky. As this light reached him, he saw two people standing above him in the air. He described the people as having a “brightness and glory [that] defy all description”. One of the people called him by his name, spoke, and pointed to the other saying “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith History 1:16-17)
Both God the Father and Jesus Christ spoke to Joseph, answering the questions he was praying about. They instructed Joseph not to join any of the churches and declared that he is chosen as the prophet of God who will restore the true Church of Jesus Christ to the world. Joseph received additional instructions, worked hard and exerted all efforts to follow God’s orders. Then on April 6, 1830, years after the First Vision, he organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Why is it important?
“I remember telling myself when I was 13 that there's no way this church can convince me to join them,' Minnie recalls. “I was looking for evidence.” She needed to learn more about the truth of Joseph Smith’s first vision, and she found her evidence in one of the things God asked Joseph Smith to do after the First Vision.
The First Vision of Joseph Smith became the all-important first step in the restoration of the true Church of Jesus Christ. Members of the Church have learned two basic truths that became a foundation of their beliefs and a central idea to their doctrine. First, that God and Jesus Christ are two separate beings, each having His own perfect, glorified body. Second, that God continues to communicate and reveal His will to humankind today.
After the First Vision, Joseph dedicated his life to God and Jesus Christ. He put in all the hard work in fulfilling the duties given to him. Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, a volume of ancient scripture that teaches of Jesus Christ; restored the priesthood, the power and authority of God on Earth; and continued to receive many more revelations from God.
“I read the Book of Mormon and it helped me gain a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Minnie testifies. “It can’t be that the book is true and Joseph Smith was not.” In other words, Minnie understood the truth of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.
The skeptical teenager learned for herself by reading and praying that the Book of Mormon is indeed the word of God. Common sense, logic, but most of all the Holy Ghost confirmed to her heart that the Lord will only use His prophet to translate that book; a prophet who truly saw Him and the Father as he prayed in a grove of trees.
“The Book of Mormon didn’t convince me, it changed me,” admits Minnie. “After four years of investigating the Church, I agreed to be baptized.”
Today, Minnie along with the millions of Church members worldwide, acknowledge Joseph Smith as the first in line among God’s prophets in the modern times. Since Joseph Smith’s death, living prophets have continued to be representatives and channels in conveying God’s word for the Church on the Earth. ◼︎
Click here to watch a video about the First Vision.
Click here to learn more about Joseph Smith and his life.