Joseph Smith, the first prophet of our dispensation, restored the true knowledge of God. When the fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith went into a grove of trees to pray in the spring of 1820, he went in response to scripture. He was one of many people who were searching for the true church, but he could not decide which church to join. One day he was reading in the New Testament and came to 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.”
Joseph decided to follow the counsel of James and went into a nearby grove of trees to pray vocally for his very first time. He went to ask God a question and was surprised with how his answer came. “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 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!” (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith – History 1:15-17).
In that instant Joseph knew more about God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ than anyone else on earth at the time. Even though all the ancient prophets, the apostles of Jesus Christ, and the people of His church knew the true doctrine concerning God, this simple truth had been lost to the world. For the first time in nearly 1800 years the knowledge was restored that the Father and the Son are two separate personages.
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “It should be remembered that the entire Christian world in 1820 had lost the true doctrine concerning God. The simple truth which was understood so clearly by the apostles and saints of old had been lost in the mysteries of an apostate world. All the ancient prophets and the apostles of Jesus Christ had a clear understanding that the Father and the Son were separate personages, as our scriptures so clearly teach. Through apostasy this knowledge was lost…. God had become a mystery, and both Father and Son were considered to be one unknowable effusion of spirit, without body, parts, or passions. The coming of the Father and the Son placed on the earth a divine witness who was able by knowledge to restore to the world the true nature of God.”
President Smith also said, “The [first] vision of Joseph Smith made it clear that the Father and the Son are separate personages, having bodies as tangible as the body of man. It was further revealed to him that the Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit, distinct and separate from the personalities of the Father and the Son [see Doctrine and Covenants 130:22]. This all-important truth staggered the world; yet, when we consider the clear expressions of holy writ, it is a most astounding and wonderful fact that man could have gone so far astray. The Savior said, `My Father is greater than I;’ [John 14:28] and he invited his disciples, after his resurrection, to handle him and see that it was he, for, said he, `A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.’ [Luke 24:39.] The apostles clearly understood the distinct entities of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to which they constantly refer in their epistles; and Paul informed the Corinthians of the fact that when all things are subject to the Father, `then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.’ [1 Corinthians 15:28.]” (See Teachings of Presidents of the Church – Joseph Fielding Smith, pp. 37-38.)
We have the personal testimony of Joseph Smith that He saw two Personages – the Father and the Son; he knew what he saw and he shared this information with the world. The world in general could not or would not accept his testimony, and Joseph Smith sealed his testimony with his blood.
I have a painting of the First Vision hanging in a prominent spot in my home because I too have a testimony that the Father and the Son are two separate and glorified Personages with bodies of flesh and bone. I know there is a God in heaven who loves you and me. I know that He lives, and I know that His Son, even Jesus Christ, lives. I know that the Father and the Son hear and answer prayers and want us to be happy. I am grateful for the opportunity to have this knowledge and wish to share it with you.