|Joseph Smith in a grove of trees|
As a young teenager, in upstate New York, Joseph and his family were exposed to a religious revival. Different denominations were vying for new members in what was the frontier of the United States at the time. Several members of Joseph's family had joined a particular religion and Joseph was feeling pressure to make a decision regarding what his choice would be. It is hard for me to fathom how intense the pressure may have been for him. It would have been very easy for him to choose the faith of his mother and follow in her footsteps. Thousands, if not millions, do that today.
"I was born (fill in faith here); I was raised (fill in faith here); and
I will die (fill in faith here)."
Fortunately that wasn't drummed into mine, or my brothers’, heads as we grew up. It was the same with Joseph Smith. In his time the Holy Bible was not only a source of inspiration, from a spiritual perspective, but also used to teach people to read. Joseph, while growing up, was very familiar with the Bible. It was during this period of revival which found the young Joseph pondering about what was occurring around him. In his words he said:
“My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others. In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (Joseph Smith History 1:9-10)
It is not uncommon to find in the scriptures instances in which a young man is called on to do extraordinary things. David, the youngest of several brothers, was one example of being called of God at young age. This can be found in 1 Samuel 16: 5-13. Another example, found in 1 Samuel 3 (entire chapter), is when the prophet Samuel is called as a child.
Joseph Smith was also young, about 14 years old, when all this was happening around him. One night he read a scripture from the New Testament that rang true in his heart. It was in the Epistle of James:
"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)
He took this scripture to heart. Shortly after reading this scripture he went to a secluded place in the woods to ask Heavenly Father which church he should join. What followed was extraordinary. In Joseph's words:
"So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods
to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the
spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had
made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the
attempt to pray vocally....I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the
brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me...When the
light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all
description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me
by name and said, pointing to the other-- This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!"
|Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ|
appearing to Joseph Smith
(Joseph Smith-History 1:14-17)
Here, in a matter of minutes, the confusion that surrounded the nature of God and Jesus Christ was cleared. My question regarding "3 in 1" was answered. Heavenly Father is a personage, similar in nature to that of His Son, Jesus. He isn't a spirit. He isn't some undefined entity of some mysterious sorts.
Even more extraordinary to me was that He called Joseph by name!! He is a loving, Heavenly Father who knows His children- by name. Isn't that amazing?