Help class members apply Joseph Smith’s example of seeking gospel knowledge. We will focus on pondering the scriptures and asking inspired questions.
Gospel Study Skills
Searching for principles.
Today will discuss the events that led up to Joseph Smith’s First Vision and how we can apply them to our lives. As we talk, I want you to pay attention to principles. A principle is a truth that guides our actions. Sometimes principles are stated plainly in the scriptures or words of the prophets, and other times they are implied in a story.
As we discuss, think about the following questions:
• What principles do I learn from this passage?
• Are they different from what I thought or learned in the past?
• Do they inspire me to change anything in my life?
(Write questions on the board or have word strips and put them on the board)
Can someone summarize for us what was going on in Joseph Smith’s life when he was 14?
Joseph had a gospel question. Talk about questions. Some questions are more important than others.
Read JS-H 1:8-10, looking for words and phrases that show how important this question was for Joseph Smith.
How did Joseph Smith feel?
“My mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness”
“My feelings were deep and poignant”
“My mind at times was greatly excited”
“I often said to myself, ‘What is to be done?’
An Obscure Boy by Joseph Brickey
Notice that Joseph Smith didn't immediately pray and receive the First Vision. What kinds of things did Joseph do in these verses?
Ask yourself: Is it OK to have gospel questions? Is there room in this church for questions?
As you think about those questions, read the following quotes:
“In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth … It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.”
(Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, “Come, Join with Us,” General Conference, October 2013)
“In this Church there is an enormous amount of room—and scriptural commandment—for studying and learning, for comparing and considering, for discussion and awaiting further revelation. We all learn ‘line upon line, precept upon precept,’ with the goal being authentic religious faith informing genuine Christlike living.”
(Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Prayer for the Children,” General Conference, April 2003)
One day Joseph was reading in the Bible and read a scripture we are all familiar with. I want to you put yourself in Joseph’s shoes. Imagine that you felt what he felt and then imagine you are reading this scripture for the first time.
Have a class member 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.”
Read JS-H 1:12
Joseph said, “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know…”
Have you ever felt a scripture or gospel teaching reinforced to you like this?
How did Joseph apply this scripture to himself?
Read JS-H 1:13
“At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.”
Trust in this scripture is what led Joseph to the Sacred Grove and to the First Vision. There he learned that Go would indeed give liberally. We are each blessed by the light, knowledge and power that flowed down from Heaven through Joseph Smith.
Joseph Smith by Walter Rane
As you read the following quotations ponder these questions:
Why is it important that we ask gospel questions?
Why is it important to search for our own answers?
“Sometimes we think we can do it by ourselves, that it will make us strong to struggle through a problem alone. Or sometimes we think that no one can help us, no one can understand us. The Savior can and will do both. James 1:5 is that wonderful scripture that gave the boy Joseph Smith courage to go out into the Sacred Grove. Let’s paraphrase it so that it applies to us more directly: “When we lack wisdom, we should ask God. God will give us wisdom generously, without scolding and finding fault. Wisdom will be given to us.” I think that God is waiting for us to ask him. He wants to give to us and give generously, and he will not scold or reproach us. He doesn’t say, “Can’t you figure this out on your own?” or “You, again! Didn’t I just see you this morning?” No, he’s anxious to fill our souls with his goodness and his love. Our questions are just as important to us as Joseph Smith’s question was to him. And who knows, maybe the Lord has an answer for us that turns out to be as important to the world as Joseph Smith’s answer was to us today!”
(Chieko N. Okazaki, former 1st Counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency Cat’s Cradle, pg 87)
“As a means of coming to truth, people in the Church are encouraged by their leaders to think and find out for themselves. They are encouraged to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to such knowledge of the truth as their own consciences, assisted by the Spirit of God, lead them to discover. Brigham Young said: ‘I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security. … Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not’ (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe , 135). In this manner no one need be deceived.”
(James E. Faust, Former Second Counselor in the First Presidency, “The Truth Shall Make You Free,” Ensign, September 1998)
“Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t seek revelation or answers from the scriptures or the handbooks because we think we know the answers already.
Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?”
(Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, “Acting on the Truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Worldwide Leadership Training 2012)
Watch Mormon Messages video, “Origin”
How to you feel after viewing this video?
We can learn from Joseph that God is aware of us and our lives. Like Joseph, we can feel confident that our questions are important to God. He will answer them in his own way and time. Like Joseph, we must put forward effort to study, ponder and pray for guidance. Then God can use our humility and diligence to reveal knowledge to bless our lives and the lives of those around us.
“Can you imagine how 14-year-old Joseph must have felt to see God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and to hear Heavenly Father call him by his name?
When I visited the Sacred Grove, I tried to imagine what it must have been like to have been Joseph Smith. In those quiet moments, the Spirit whispered to my beating heart that I was standing on holy ground and that all that the Prophet Joseph Smith had said was true. Then came the powerful realization that we are all the beneficiaries of his faith, courage, and steadfast desire to obey God. He had received an answer to his humble prayer. He had seen the Father and His Beloved Son. There in the Sacred Grove, I knew that Heavenly Father not only knew Joseph Smith by name, but He also knows each of us by name. And just as Joseph Smith had an important part to play in this great and marvelous work, we too have an important part to play in these latter days.
Did you know that Heavenly Father knows you personally—by name? The scriptures teach us that this is true … You may not have heard the Lord call you by name, but He knows each one of you and He knows your name … Each of us will play an important part if we follow the pattern established by Joseph Smith. The Lord strengthened Joseph Smith for his divine mission. He will strengthen you for yours.”
(Elaine S. Dalton, Former 2nd Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, “He Knows You by Name,” General Conference, April 2005)