Episode 2 Part 1: “I Saw a Pillar of Light”

Guest: Dr. Steven Harper

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Did you know that the story of the First Vision is the second greatest story ever told? BYU Professor, Historian, and Editor, Dr. Steven Harper, takes us on a deep-dive into Joseph Smith History. From Joseph’s humble beginnings to facing overwhelming odds, we see Joseph Smith as the hero of a great story, one that includes each one of us.

Part I focuses on the context of Joseph Smith’s childhood, family relations and religious influences that culminates in the First Vision. Part II focuses on the First Vision, touches on the four first-hand accounts. Multiple accounts of miraculous events describe a pattern throughout the scriptures (Alma the Younger, Paul, etc.).

Follow along in your Come, Follow Me manual for the 2021 year of study.

This week’s lesson can be found:

See also Saints, 1:3-19

To read Joseph’s other accounts, see “First Vision Accounts” (Gospel Topics Essays, topics. Church of Jesus Christ.org).
Russel M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 93-96.


  • 1:21 Introduction of Guest, Dr. Steven Harper.
  • 3:00 JSH and the First Vision is the second best story in history, behind the Atonement.
  • 06:21 Family relationships in Joseph’s family.
  • 10:11 Lucy is an anxious person, which affects the family and her desire to join a church.
  • 11:39 The Lord plays chess with the Smith family and there is a volcanic eruption in Indonesia causing cold summers. The Smith family has to move.
  • 14:14 Sophronia healed through prayer. She and Joseph get Typhoid fever (goes to Joseph’s leg).
  • 16:37 Why Lucy writes about young Joseph not needing alcohol to endure surgery. There is no Word of Wisdom yet, so they discuss how unclear teachings cause disillusionment.
  • 21:26 The Smith family moves from Vermont to New York.
  • 24:58 The Smith family begins to visit churches and some join.

Additional Resources

Ezez. 2021. “1 Ask in Faith”. Churchofjesuschrist.org. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/saints-v1/01-ask-in-faith?lang=eng.

Ezez. 2021. “First Vision Accounts”. Churchofjesuschrist.org. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/first-vision-accounts?lang=eng.

Ezez. 2021. “Fire in the Bones by S. Michael Wilcox”. LDS Magazine. https://latterdaysaintmag.com/article-1-10594/.

Ezez. 2011. . Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Smith-Papers-Revelations-Translations/dp/1606419099/ref=sr_1_5?

Ezez. 2021. “Saints, Volume 1”. Churchofjesuschrist.org. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/saints-v1?lang=eng.

Harper, Steven C. 2021. . Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Smiths-First-Vision-Historical/dp/1609071549.

Harper, Steven C. 2021. . Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/First-Vision-Memory-Mormon-Origins/dp/0199329478.

Harper, Steven C. 2021. . Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/Making-Sense-Doctrine-Covenants-Revelations/dp/1629728268/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=steven+c+harper&qid=1609619487&s=books&sr=1-1.

Harper, Steven C. 2021. . Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Smiths-First-Vision-Historical/dp/1629727466/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=steven+c+harper&qid=1609619609&s=books&sr=1-3.

Harper, Steven C. 2021. “Joseph Smith’s Early Experiences with Revelation”. Churchofjesuschrist.org. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2017/04/joseph-smiths-early-experiences-with-revelation?lang=eng.

Harper, Steven C. 2021. “Home – Steven C. Harper”. Steven C. Harper. https://stevencraigharper.com/.

Press, The. 2021. “The Joseph Smith Papers: A comprehensive digital collection of the papers of Joseph Smith”. Josephsmithpapers.org. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org.

Smith, Lucy Mack. 2009. History of Joseph Smith by His Mother. Ebook. https://a.co/50QU07.

Smith, Lucy Mack, History, 1844-1845, book 2, pages 2-4, josephsmithpapers.org.

Guest Bio

Anthony Sweat is an Associate Professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University. He received his bachelor’s degree in painting and drawing Steven C. Harper is a professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University. In 2012 Steve was appointed as the managing historian and a general editor of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days. He was named editor in chief of BYU Studies Quarterly in September 2018. He served in the Canada Winnipeg Mission (1990–91) and married Jennifer Sebring (1992). They graduated from BYU (1994). He earned an MA in American history from Utah State University, where his thesis analyzed determinants of conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1830s. Chapters were published in the Journal of Mormon History and Religion and American Culture and awarded by the Mormon History Association with the T. Edgar Lyon Award for best article of the year and the Juanita Brooks Award for the best graduate student paper. Steve earned a PhD in early American history from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He began teaching courses in religion and history at BYU Hawaii in 2000 and joined the Religious Education faculty at BYU in 2002. That year he also became a volume editor of The Joseph Smith Papers and the document editor for BYU Studies. He taught at the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies in 2011–12. His first book was Promised Land (Lehigh University Press, 2006), a study of Lenape or Delaware Indians’ responses to a fraudulent 1737 land deal in colonial Pennsylvania. He also authored Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants (Deseret Book, 2008), Joseph Smith’s First Vision (Deseret Book, 2012), and First Vision: Memory and Mormon Origins (Oxford University Press, 2019), along with dozens of articles.and his PhD in curriculum and instruction. He is the author of several books, most recently Repicturing the Restoration. Anthony is a regular speaker at Latter-day Saint events and conferences. He and his wife, Cindy, are the parents of seven children.

To see Dr. Sweat’s artwork, published work and more, please find it at:



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