Part 2 (1820–1823)

  1. I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father’s family were proselyted to the Presbyterian faith and four of them joined that church — namely, my mother Lucy, my brothers Hyrum, Samuel Harrison, and my sister Sophronia.
  2. During this time of great excitement, my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness, but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. But in process of time, my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them. But so great was the confusion and strife amongst the different denominations that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. My mind at different times was greatly excited; the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all their powers of either reason or sophistry to prove their errors, or at least to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.
  3. 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? And if any one of them be right, 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 Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse [Epistle of Jacob 1:2], which reads: 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. 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, would never know, for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passage 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 darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs — that is, ask of God. I at last 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. So in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful 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 pray vocally.
  4. After I had retired into 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 seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me and had such astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness 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 call 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 despair 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 a marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being — just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. 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.
  5. My object in going to inquire 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 wrong, and the personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight, that those professors were all corrupt, that, They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power 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.
  6. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying 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 fire piece, Mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, Never mind, all is well; I am well enough off. I then told my mother, I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.
  7. It seems as though the adversary was aware at a very early period of my life that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom, or else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the oppression and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?
  8. Some few days after I had this vision, I happened to be in company with one of the Methodist preachers who was very active in the before-mentioned religious excitement, and conversing with him on the subject of religion, I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior. He treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the Devil, that there was no such thing as visions or revelations in these days, that all such things had ceased with the apostles and that there never would be any more of them. I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution which continued to increase. And though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age or thereabouts, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me and create a hot persecution. And this was common among all the sects: all united to persecute me. It has often caused me serious reflection, both then and since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, so as to create in them a spirit of the bitterest persecution and reviling.
  9. But strange or not, so it was, and was often cause of great sorrow to myself. However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had had a vision. I have thought since that I felt much like Paul when he made his defense before king Agrippa and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light and heard a voice, but still there were but few who believed him. Some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad, and he was ridiculed and reviled, but all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under Heaven could not make it otherwise. And though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew and would know to his latest breath that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise. So it was with me: I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two personages, and they did in reality speak unto me, or one of them did. And though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true. And while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart, Why persecute for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision, and who am I that I can withstand God? Or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision, I knew it, and I knew that God knew it. And I could not deny it, neither dare I do it, at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God and come under condemnation.
  10. I had now got my mind satisfied, so far as the sectarian world was concerned, that it was not my duty to join with any of them, but continue as I was until further directed. I had found the testimony of James to be true, that a man who lacked wisdom might ask of God and obtain and not be upbraided. I continued to pursue my common avocations in life until the twenty-first of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, all the time suffering severe persecution at the hand of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious, because I continued to affirm that I had seen a vision. During the space of time which intervened between the time I had the vision and the year eighteen hundred and twenty-three (having been forbidden to join any of the religious sects of the day, and being of very tender years, and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly — and if they supposed me to be deluded, to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me), I was left to all kinds of temptations, and mingling with society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors and displayed the weakness of youth and the foibles of human nature, which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations offensive in the sight of God.
  11. In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins, a disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God, as I had been. But this will not seem very strange to anyone who recollects my youth and is acquainted with my native cheery temperament.






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