Today, many people consider Joseph Smith as the founder of the 16 million strong worldwide religion known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ironically, Joseph Smith started out as an ordinary fourteen-year-old boy during the spring of 1820 who was confused about which church to join.
Joseph and his family lived in upstate New York, a city that was experiencing a great religious revival during that time. Different religions were vying to recruit new members and converts, which confused Joseph and made him determined to know which of these churches was the true one. As he searched for an answer, Joseph came across a Bible passage that says “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God . . . and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). He then went to the woods located near his home, and prayed and asked God for an answer. Joseph’s humble prayer was answered as God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him.
The event called as the First Vision
In describing the miraculous event, Joseph described seeing a pillar of light as being “above the brightness of the sun.” God the Father and Jesus Christ then appeared to him as two separate personages with glorified bodies of flesh and bone. Jesus Christ was introduced to Joseph by the Father as His beloved Son. It was Jesus who directed him not to join any of the existing churches. This miraculous breakthrough and sacred experience is known in the history of the Church as the First Vision of Joseph Smith.
Translation of the Book of Mormon
It was also Joseph who translated the Book of Mormon, an ancient volume of sacred scripture that, together with the Bible, affirms and testifies of Jesus Christ. It all started when Joseph was praying in his bedroom one night, and an angel named Moroni appeared and told him about the work God had for him. Moroni narrated about an ancient record etched on gold plates and buried in a nearby hill. The Lord wanted this record called The Book of Mormon to be translated and Joseph was asked to fulfill it. The Book of Mormon was said to contain the fullness of Jesus Christ’s gospel, but the time for Joseph to get the plates had not yet arrived.
Joseph waited for four years, and on September 22, 1827, a few years after he married Emma Hale, he was able to obtain the plates. Many opposed Joseph’s mission, and he was severely persecuted, but “by the gift and power of God”, and through special instruments provided by God called the Urim and Thummim, Joseph began translating the record.
Many of the contents of the Book of Mormon were translated in Harmony, Pennsylvania by Joseph Smith with the help of a scribe. The scribe wrote down the words Joseph dictated as he translated the writings on the golden plates. The whole translation process was astonishingly fast and the book was first published in March 1830. Currently available in 110 languages, the Book of Mormon is a tremendous blessing to members of the Church located in different parts of the word.
The Restoration of the true Church of Jesus Christ
About ten years after Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ told Joseph not to join any church, and after he was given the power to act in God’s name through heavenly messengers, Joseph was able to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ to the earth. The restoration was a very meaningful thing for the Latter-day Saints because they firmly believe that the Church of Christ was taken away from the earth after the original twelve apostles of Christ died.
There were only six initial members when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, and it happened on a small gathering of believers in Fayette Township, New York on April 6, 1830. With Joseph Smith at the helm, the Church saw continued growth and stability.
Migration to the West
The Church was growing steadily, with more people converting and believers gathering together to worship and learn from Prophet Joseph Smith. However, misunderstanding and conflicts arose due to political, social and cultural differences. The chaos caused the Church to relocate several times to various places, seeing thousands of members gather in locations such as Kirtland, Ohio, then Missouri and on to Nauvoo, Illinois.
Brigham Young succeeded Joseph Smith as the prophet and President of the Church right after the latter was killed by a mob in Illinois in 1844. Brigham Young stood as the leader of the Church as they travelled across North America heading to its present-day headquarters in Utah. Presently, the Church has more than 16 million members scattered all around the world, and instead of the members going to the Church headquarters, they gather, worship and celebrate in their home countries.
Why is this important?
The events surrounding the history of the Church and the Restoration of the Gospel were all highly significant, especially the First Vision and the official organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph Smith’s life was short yet very meaningful, and was crucial to the restoration of the true Church. He translated the Book of Mormon; restored God’s holy priesthood to the earth; organized missionary work to preach the gospel; and taught about and helped construct holy temples where families can be sealed together eternally. The Restoration of truth is believed by Latter-day Saints as an ongoing process, where God manifests His loving guidance to His children through today’s living prophets. ◼︎
The Beginning of the Church in the Philippines
On 28 April 1961, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley traveled to the islands and met with a small group of American residents, servicemen and Filipino members. He officially opened the islands for missionary work. Elder Hinckley told a group gathered at the American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila in 1961. “What we will begin here will affect the lives of thousands and thousands of people in this island republic, and its effect will go on from generation to generation for great and everlasting good.”