A few Sundays ago, at church, a man bore his testimony about the First Vision. He spoke beautifully and the spirit was there, until the moment he said, “Joseph Smith had struggled to say what he wanted to say, but when he tried again, he was able to speak to God.” I was stunned! This good man had just glossed over a battle — one of the greatest physical fights man has ever had with Satan!
Joseph Smith told us that his tongue was bound; that it was tied up and unable to move. He couldn’t utter a sound. And just as he was about to abandon himself to eternal destruction, he used all his energy to call to God to be saved from a being who was trying to destroy him. Holy mackerel! That was not a small struggle. That was a life or death battle! Satan wanted to stop Joseph from praying because he knew what was coming next. He knew who Joseph was even though Joseph didn’t know it yet.
Joseph’s First Battle
Here it is in Joseph’s own words:
15. 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 had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me and had such an 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.
16. 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 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. (Emphasis added.)
You may feel it is redundant for me to quote the Prophet Joseph, but I am moved by his account every time I read it. Satan is an actual being, not a concept, not an excuse for man’s weakness. And I think sometimes we diminish the very physical struggle Joseph battled through before he was able to see God the Father and His Son. It’s understandable, really, because the First Vision is SO marvelous and glorious that I often want to jump to the good stuff, too. But the First Vision has a major lesson for all of us when we don’t gloss over the battle before the vision.
Have you ever noticed that before a big blessing in your life, things often go terribly wrong? When my son was baptized, our family had the worst week just beforehand. There was so much fighting in our home, but the moment he was baptized, it all went away. The same happened to me before I received my endowments. I have seen it with missionaries preparing to serve, too.
Before any big blessing, the adversary steps in and tries to mess things up. He tries to distract us and make us miserable. I know he is hoping we won’t follow through with the plans we have. And I have seen many people decide not to get baptized because their lives had gotten so difficult. Sadly, that is exactly what the adversary wants.
In the scriptures, the Lord warns us that this will happen. In Ether 12: 6 & 7, Moroni says:
6. And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.
7. For it was by faith that Christ showed himself unto our fathers, after he had risen from the dead; and he showed not himself unto them until after they had faith in him; wherefore, it must needs be that some had faith in him, for he showed himself not unto the world. (Emphasis added.)
The sad reality is that this world is a place of opposites. We battle daily with light and darkness, hope and despair, good and evil, and all other opposites that reside here. It’s the only time in eternity we will experience them all. But what Joseph’s experience has taught me is that if we hold on and fight through it, there WILL be relief and a bright light at the end of our battle.
Every time I have continued toward the good and righteous thing that the adversary is trying to dissuade me from, I am blessed. The journey is not easy, and I sometimes really hate it. But God is always at the end to cheer with me as I celebrate my victory. And He will be with you too.
So please don’t gloss over all that Joseph went through in the Sacred Grove, because there is a giant, important, eternal lesson for all of us waiting in his story. It’s a lesson of triumph — and a warning that the adversary is real. It’s a message that we will succeed if we just keep trying.
I am so grateful for Joseph Smith. All he endured has blessed the world with the restored gospel and a greater understanding of God and how invested He is in each of us. Because of Joseph, I have the tools to overcome. And I’m so grateful for that.
Abby is capable and caring. She is learning more about Autism and parenthood every day. Having completed training to be an RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) for ABA therapy she is beginning to understand her son. And even though she is the first to admit she makes a lot of mistakes, she is so grateful to be on this journey. She comes from a family with many autistic members. She invites us to join her, as she shares her adventures. She wishes to emphasize that Autism is a difference not a defect. If you or a family member have autism, Abby wants you to know that the challenges can be overcome, and there are blessings in autism. You or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will teach the world this new language.