Episode 2 Part 2: “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.


  • 00:32 Joseph acts in faith. How is kneeling to pray or reading scriptures and act of faith?
  • 00:57 Joseph is asking which to join, showing faith includes action.
  • 02:06 Story of young woman with depression saying Joseph’s experience with the Adversary mirrored hers.
  • 06:09 Joseph’s choice to not give in is the second most consequential choice after the Savior’s choice to offer Himself for us.
  • 06:43 Massively consequential battle over the First Vision then and now.
  • 09:44 First words show God knows Joseph’s name (and ours).
  • 13:18 In all four first-hand accounts Joseph is trying to write and distinguish between what is happening in his mind and his heart.
  • 16:11 No desire to impugn other religions or the creeds but how the creeds affect religion at the time of the First Vision is discussed.
  • 22:16 Every great family needs their story.
  • 22:48 We go to Nerdville.
  • 23:03 Paul, Alma, and others have had different versions of their experiences, like Joseph.
  • 28:35 The Wentworth letter is put into context.
  • 31:59 Test your assumptions about there being multiple versions of the First Vision.
  • 36:47 The immediate effects to Joseph after the First Vision: love.
  • 39:37 Joseph never backs down. God picked an individual who is tough.
  • 41:37 Joseph Smith the farmer vs. Joseph the Prophet

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?child=1&keywords=steven+c+harper&qid=1609619609&s=books&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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