Approximately 184 years ago the second most important event in the history of the world happened in a small grove of trees in the state of New York. This event was only second to to the atonement and resurrection of Christ himself. This event is referred to as the first vision.
To understand the first vision I believe we need to first look and why it happened. Christ originally organized his church while he was on earth. When he organized his church he called 12 apostles to lead and guide his church. He taught his gospel to his apostles who in turn taught this gospel to the Jews and the gentiles. During his ministry he also taught that there would be a falling away from the church that he organized. Thessalonians chapter 2 vs 3
We were told that a falling away must happen and was going to happen. But what was this falling away. And how does this relate to the restoration of the gospel. After Christ had ascended to God after his resurrection the apostles were left to continue the work of Christ. Despite there efforts eventually all the original apostles were killed and the church became fractured. Revelation ceased. The churches now leaderless began to lose the direction and guidance that was sorely needed. Left to there own devices and with no hard copies of the scriptures they relied on what they remembered being taught and there own interpretation of the gospel of Christ.
This contention between the now differing philosophy’s of men mingled with scripture lead to what is now known as the Nicene creed. Jeffrey R Holland described it like this.
“In the year 325 A.D. the Roman emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to address—among other things—the growing issue of God’s alleged “trinity in unity.” What emerged from the heated contentions of churchmen, philosophers, and ecclesiastical dignitaries came to be known (after another 125 years and three more major councils) as the Nicene Creed, with later reformulations such as the Athanasian Creed. These various evolutions and iterations of creeds—and others to come over the centuries—”
The Gospel of Christ had become corrupt. The church leaders used the gospel for there won selfish purposes and used the tithes of the people to gain power politically and morally. This lead to what is now called the dark ages.
This would not last as revolutionarys like Martin Luther and his 95 thesis, John Calvin, John Wycliff, William Tindale took it upon themselves to try with there limited abilities to bring back the gospel though without the authority of God via the priesthood. All were considered heretics by the church at the time. Now considered heroes by many.
The invention of the printing press in 1453 was the beginning of the widespread availability of the bible to the common masses. This angered the church as it was the beginning of them loosing control over the people. William Tindale was quoted as saying “I defie the Pope and all his lawes. If God spare my life, ere many yeares I wyl cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture, than he doust. ”
The Reformationist and their followers fled Europe and settled in America in pursuit of religious freedom.
America became a land of religious liberty and freedom. The environment was perfect for God to restore his church once again upon the earth
Only 44 years after the revolutionary war a young boy of 14 years old was beginning to wonder about what he was being taught as well, he wanted to know what if any of the churches were true. His name was Joseph Smith. Every church taught something different and understood things very different. Joseph Smith recounts this experience and the first vision in Joseph smith History
“For, notwithstanding the great alove which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more bpretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.”
” 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 aright, which is it, and how shall I know it?
While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the aEpistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack bwisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Never did any passage of ascripture 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 bwisdom 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; for the teachers of religion of the different sects cunderstood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.
At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in adarkness 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 bgive liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.
So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the awoods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a bbeautiful, 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 cpray dvocally.
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was aseized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick bdarkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
But, exerting all my powers to acall upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into bdespair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of clight exactly over my head, above the brightness of the dsun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
It no sooner appeared than I found myself adelivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I bsaw two cPersonages, whose brightness and dglory defy all description, estanding above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My fBeloved gSon. Hear Him!
My object in going to ainquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all awrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those bprofessors were all ccorrupt; that: “they ddraw near to me with their lips, but their ehearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the fcommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof.”
He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself alying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, bmother inquired what the matter was. I replied, “Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.” I then said to my mother, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” It seems as though the cadversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the dopposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?
This was the beginning of the restoration of the church. Over the next 10 years Joseph was taught, and education in the gospel and translated the book of Mormon from the gold plates in the hill Cumorah. The church was formally organized on April 6 1830 and the Church was restored. Joseph smith was the first prophet of this dispensation. He was called and restored the true church of Christ. God himself came to deliver his message personally to Joseph Smith. The restoration was essential in order for the gospel to be preached to all the world.