Joseph Smith: First Prophet of This Dispensation

Smith Ushered in the Last and Final Dispensation of the Fullness of Times

Painting by an unknown painter, circa 1842. The original is owned by the Community of Christ archives. It is on display at the Community of Christ headquarters in Independence Missouri, where its provenance is explained. The painting was originally in the possession of Joseph Smith III (died 1914), who is recorded as commenting on the painting. The c. 1842 date is given by the Community of Christ, the painting's owner.
Unknown - This work was published before January 1, 1923 and it is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 91 years or less since publication.

Who was Joseph Smith? Why was he confused about religion? Learn how Joseph Smith sought truth by praying to God, how he had a vision and received an answer, and was later called as a prophet and eventually martyred for God.

Joseph Smith was Confused

In 1820, at age 14, Joseph Smith, Jr. was a young boy who was confused about religion. He attended many of the local churches but didn't know which one to join.

He wanted to know which church was true. Joseph recorded that, "so great were the confusion and strife among 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" (Joseph Smith History 1:8).

Joseph Smith Sought Truth

One day as Joseph studied the Bible in search for understanding, the following verse in James powerfully touched his heart:

"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" ( James 1:5).

Joseph Smith Prayed to God

Joseph determined that he needed to follow James' advice and pray to God to know what to do. He went to a nearby grove of trees, called the Sacred Grove, and knelt and prayed.

Joseph Smith Saw a Vision

As Joseph Smith prayed a pillar of light appeared over his head, and this is what he saw:

"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!" ( JSH 1:17).

Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith Received an Answer

Joseph Smith asked God and Jesus which of all the churches was true, that he may join it. He was told that he "must join none of them, for they were all wrong" (JSH 1:19) and that all religions were teaching incorrect doctrine.

After having this vision (called the "first vision") Joseph Smith left the grove of trees (known as the "sacred grove") with a true knowledge of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and an answer to his question.

Joseph Smith Called of God

Through this, and many other experiences and visions, God called Joseph Smith to be His prophet (also see What is a Prophet?) Through Joseph, Jesus Christ restored His gospel and the priesthood- Christ's authority- upon the earth. Some of the basic truths that were restored through the prophet Joseph Smith, are summarized in the 13 Articles of Faith.

Joseph Smith Translated The Book of Mormon:

One of the greatest tasks the Lord gave to Joseph Smith was to translate The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, from a set of gold plates.

"Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: 'I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book'" ( Introduction, Book of Mormon).

The Book of Mormon is one of the four volumes of scriptures used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Request a free Book of Mormon.

Joseph Smith Martyred for God:

Joseph Smith, along with his brother, Hyrum, were assassinated in 1844 while in the county jail at Carthage, Illinois. Elder John Taylor, who was wounded during the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum, later wrote:

"When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said: 'I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer's morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men'" ( Doctrine and Covenants 135:4).

You Can Know the Truth about Joseph Smith

Everyone can come to know for themselves that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

I know Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, that he restored the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that he translated the Book of Mormon. If I denied this I know I would be lying, the Holy Ghost has witnessed this truth unto me.

There are five important steps that need to be followed to gain a testimony and to know the truth. In so doing you can gain your own personal testimony about Joseph Smith. Continue learning more with these Joseph Smith Quotes or this FAQ: Do Mormons Worship Joseph Smith?.

Updated by Krista Cook.