The Come, Follow Me lesson for this week came from Joseph Smith – History 1. According to the student manual for studying the Pearl of Great Price, this chapter talks about the early years in the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is an extract made by Elder Franklin D. Richards, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, from a longer history that Joseph Smith started in 1838. The extract was first printed in England in 1851 as part of the first Pearl of Great Price.
This section covers a lot of history, including an account of the First Vision, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and the restoration of both the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthoods. The excerpts were taken from what would become the first five chapters in the seven-volume History of the Church (see Joseph Smith – History 1:1-44). Joseph Smith – History became scripture when the Pearl of Great Price was canonized as one of the standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Joseph Smith was the author of the account found in the Pearl of Great Price, but this was not his first attempt to record his early experiences. He was commanded in April 1830 to keep a record, and he tried several times. However, his work was interrupted frequently by lawsuits, time in prison, poverty, and mob actions. There were several recorders of the history, including Oliver Cowdery (April 1830 to March 1831 and from September 1835 to 1837) and John Whitmer.
Various clerks and historians began three more historical accounts between 1834 and 1836. In the difficult years of 1837 and 1838, Joseph Smith and the First Presidency worked on the history of the Church, sometimes taking a grammar lesson before the writing sessions. Finally, in June 1839, the Prophet undertook the work again. Materials from the previous efforts were assimilated into a new history, which eventually was published in the Times and Seasons beginning March 1, 1842. Elder Franklin D. Richards published extracts from the 1842 history in 1851, and they are now called Joseph Smith – History.
There are some foundational and fundamental messages in Joseph Smith – History. The most important message is “the reality of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world.” The student manual continues,
Joseph Smith left the Sacred Grove with a personal knowledge of the reality of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. He knew that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; that because of the mercy and grace of His Atonement his sins were forgiven; that Heavenly Father was pleased with His Son, the Savior; and that he was to listen to and obey the words of the Savior.
Another message of great importance is that “there was an apostasy and loss of the true Church from the earth.” When the Apostles were martyred and none were ordained to replace them, the power to act in God’s name was lost from the earth. The Savior told Joseph Smith that he was to join none of the churches, “for they were all wrong” (Joseph Smith – History 1:19). “Such a statement makes it clear that the gospel and church established by the Savior during His mortal ministry had been lost and that “none of them was acknowledged of God as His Church and kingdom” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 438).
A third important message taught in Joseph Smith – History is that Joseph Smith was called to be a prophet by God. He wrote that he was told by the angel Moroni that “God had a work for me to do” (Joseph Smith – History 1:33). Joseph Smith was instrumental in every event of the Restoration of the gospel, and every one of them proves that God revealed His gospel to mankind through a prophet.
A fourth fundamental message of Joseph Smith – History is the coming forth of the Book of Mormon as the word of God. “The events surrounding the coming forth of the Book of Mormon testify of its divinity, and its message not only testifies of Christ, but is a catalyst for greater revelation from God and for the gathering of scattered Israel into the church and kingdom of God.
The fifth foundational message found in Joseph Smith – History is that the Church of Jesus Christ was restored to earth in the latter days. Jesus Christ promised Joseph Smith that “the fulness of the gospel would be made known to him (see Teachings: Joseph Smith,438). The translation of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the priesthood laid the foundation for the reestablishment of the church and kingdom of God on earth (Pearl of Great Price Student Manual – Religion 327 .
There is a final message from Joseph Smith – History that I wish to discuss. This history teaches that God will answer our prayers if we ask in faith (Joseph Smith – History 1:5-18). The current Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even Russell M. Nelson, taught the following about this principle:
The Prophet Joseph Smith set a pattern for us to follow in resolving our questions. Drawn to the promise of James that if we lack wisdom we may ask of God [see James 1:5], the boy Joseph took his question directly to Heavenly Father. He sought personal revelation, and his seeking opened this last dispensation.
In like manner, what will our seeking open for you? What wisdom do you lack? What do you feel an urgent need to know or understand? Follow the example of the Prophet. Find a quiet place where you can regularly go. Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2018, 95; as quoted in the Pearl of Great Price Student Manual – Religion 327 .
I have followed the pattern set by Joseph Smith on numerous occasions. Whenever I need wisdom, I take my questions to Heavenly Father. I always receive answers, but I do not always understand the details until further searching or by exercising patience. I recommend the pattern of Joseph Smith to anyone. I know that God lives and loves us, and I know that He answers prayers in a manner in a way and language that will give us wisdom.