Sunday School Lesson 3

Lesson 3: Joseph Smith History 1:1-26

Verses 1-2: Why does Joseph write this history? What does that say to us about its usefulness to us?

Verses 3-4: Why does Joseph give this account of his family as part of his account of the origins of the Church? What does his birth, the places his family has lived, and the number and names of his family members to do with explaining the “rise and progress of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”?

Verse 5: Joseph emphasizes the divisions which the “excitement on the subject of religion” caused? Why does he do so; what’s the point? How can we preach the gospel without causing similar divisions?

Verse 6: What caused the strife among the sects?

Verses 8-10: What about Methodism might have attracted Joseph Smith? What things prevent him from joining the Methodists?

Verses 11-12: Was Joseph reading casually, or was he studying seriously? What in these verses might give you the answer to the question?

Verse 13: What gave Joseph the confidence to ask which religion was right? (What does it mean to give liberally? What does “upbraid” mean?)

Verse 14: When Joseph says he had never made the attempt to pray vocally, what does he mean? Do you suppose that he had never offered the prayer over the food at home? Why is it significant that he prayed vocally?

Verses 15-16: Why does this dark power prevent Joseph from speaking? Compare Joseph’s experience to that of Alma the younger. How is it different? How is it the same? What might the differences and similarities tell us?

Verse 17: Why doesn’t Joseph name the two personages who appear to him?

Verses 18-19: In what sense were the sects wrong? What does it mean to say that they are an abomination to the Lord? (How, for example, can we explain that to non-members without offending them?) What does the word “professor” mean here? University teacher? What is its literal meaning? What does it mean to draw near to the Lord with our lips but to have our hearts far from him? How might we sometimes teach for doctrines the commandments of men but deny the power of godliness?

Verse 20: What things might the Lord have said to Joseph which he didn’t write? The implication is that he could write them later, what might they have been? Our pictures often show Joseph kneeling as he listens to the Son, but what might this verse indicate? Some have used Joseph’s failure to tell his mother what happened as evidence that his story isn’t true, that it was made up years later. Why do you think he didn’t tell his mother of this experience?

Verse 21: Why does he tell the preacher what he didn’t tell his mother?

Verses 22-23: In what ways might the “professors of religion” have “excited the public mind” against Joseph? Why did they react so strongly against Joseph?

Verse 24: Joseph compares his experience to that of Paul. How are those experiences the same? How different? What might those similarities and differences tell us?

Verses 25-26: How would you describe the tone of these verses? What might that tone say about Joseph and his story? Though the unconverted might believe Joseph is deceived, I don’t think they can read this story as the story of a liar. There seem to be no people outside Joseph’s family from this period in his life who remember him telling of the first vision. How would you explain that, given the account Joseph gives here of his persecution for his vision? If a non-member asked you about this, what would you say?

9 comments for “Sunday School Lesson 3

  1. Jim, thanks for posting your comments. I have added them to the link index. Keep up the good work.

  2. Here’s a question I had while reading this lesson:

    Verse 18 states “(for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)”

    But back in verse 10 he states “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?”

    So, had it really entered into his heart that all were wrong or not? Probably not important, but I was just thinking maybe an oops on recalling his thoughts before his vision.

  3. Dustin–

    I was wondering about that, too. I wonder if this has anything to do with it:

    “Another change in the 1902 edition (originally in the 1891 edition) of the Pearl of Great Price was the omission of a phrase which had appeared in parentheses in Joseph’s manuscript history and early publications of that work. This was the comment concerning Joseph’s attitude immediately prior to his entering the sacred grove—“(for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong).â€? This statement was reinserted in the 1981 edition.” Milton V. Backman Jr., “Joseph Smith’s Recitals of the First Vision,â€? Ensign, Jan. 1985, 8f.

  4. Oops, you need the next paragraph too:

    “There appears to be a possible discrepancy between a statement recorded in the 1832 account—that Joseph decided by searching the scriptures that no denomination was “built upon the Gospel … as recorded in the New Testamentâ€?—and a comment in the 1838 account—that “at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong.â€? If there is a contradiction in these accounts, then the 1838 account should be considered as the more reliable history. The young Joseph Smith, like many others then and now, was possibly not precise in his use of all words.”

  5. I guess there could be a difference between thinking “are they wrong” and having that thougt enter into your heart. I think having it enter into your heart is more more of a testimony rather than a whim.

  6. I think the reference to “creeds” being abominble should be footnoted to Joseph Smith’s explanations about creeds in History of the Church and TPJS. E.g., “Creeds set up stakes and bounds to the work of the almighty.” and “I want to come into the presence of God and learn all things, but creeds say, come here, and no further, which I cannot subscribe to.” (Going from memory.)

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  7. Kevin–

    Good memory. I looked them up for my lesson so:

    “I stated that the most prominent difference in sentiment between the Latter-day Saints and sectarians was, that the latter were all circumscribed by some peculiar creed, which deprived its members the privilege of believing anything not contained therein, whereas the Latter-day Saints have no creed, but are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time.” HC 5:215

    “I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further”; which I cannot subscribe to.” TPJS 327

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