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Church Prepares To Celebrate 200th Anniversary Of ‘First Vision’

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – There is growing excitement for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world, as they join with Church leaders over the weekend to commemorate the 200th anniversary of a sacred event in the faith, The First Vision.

Our KSL Special Projects team traveled to Palmyra, New York, having researched the historical accounts.

The site known as the Sacred Grove is tucked away in the quiet town. In the spring of 1820, 14-year-old Joseph Smith, Jr., familiar with the grove because he has worked there, chose it as the place to offer his first prayer.

Church Historic Sites director Jenny Lund talked to KSL inside a log home, rebuilt on the site of the Smith family house.

“This began with a young boy who wanted to seek personal forgiveness and personal connection with God,” she said.

Lund said the answer he received was a glorious vision of God, the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. It brought about what Church leaders and members call the Restoration.

Well-respected scholar and author Professor Richard Bushman wrote the book, “Rough Stone Rolling,” about the life of Joseph Smith, Jr.

“God comes to him right there to answer his little prayer. That revelation of God’s interest was huge,” he said.

Over the years, Joseph Smith wrote about and described his First Vision. The different accounts make some inside the faith and some outside the faith question the differences in them.”

Professor Steven Harper has written about all of the versions.

“They are best understood, as not only what he experienced at the time, but the way he experienced it over time. It’s really crucial to read them with that in mind,” said Harper.

In KSL’s Conference Special airing over the weekend, we look at how church members remember “The First Vision” through art, paintings and sculpture.

Angela Johnson created the 15 scenes from the life of Jesus Christ at Thanksgiving Pointe’s Ashton Gardens. She also created an image of Joseph in the Sacred Grove.

“I came in and saw these trees, this small grove, already grown and established in the way that you see it now,” Johnson said. “This was meant to be.”

The Saints also remember the sacred event through music, said Mack Wilberg, the music director of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

“All of these hymns tell our story in a rather unique and significant way,” he said.

KSL walked the ground considered sacred with caretaker Robert Parrott, who has been nurturing the land and other historic Church sites for more than 20 years.

“Joseph, perhaps just exploring the property, went into that forest and felt the sacredness, and that’s why he close that forest to pray in,” Parrott said.

Other people walking the grounds were families who participate in the Hill Cumorah Pageant, young people who live in the area and visit the Sacred Grove often, and Smith family descendants.

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is the great-great grandson of Hyrum Smith, Joseph’s older brother.

“For I Had Seen A Vision: 200 Years Later” airs Sunday at noon on KSL-TV, and on our KSL TV app.

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