The year was 1820. The place was Palmyra, New York. Joseph Smith was 14. At this time, people were unusually excited about religion. There was lots of conflict between the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians.Some of the Smith family had joined the Presbyterian church and he leaned towards the Methodists. So, Joseph couldn't make up his mind. He wanted to know for sure which was true, or if they were all wrong together. So he opened his good old family bible and found James 1:5.
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.
Well then, Joseph thought, I'll try that. He went to the woods behind his house, knelt down, and prayed for the first time.
What happens next? In his own words:
"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!
My object in going to inquired of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)- and which I should join.
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong: and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that; "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof."
He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned upto the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replies, "Never mind, all is well-I am well enough off." I then said to my mother, "I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true." It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?"
His account goes on to talk about how people ridiculed him, especially other religious leaders, because of his age. And, you know, the whole Jesus thing. In 1830, he established The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with six members. It wasn't easy. He was tarred and feathered, arrested on trumped up charges, separated from his family, had his teeth punched out, and lost four children. He continued to serve it until his assassination by a mob in 1844. But the church, this little religion that wouldn't exist without a young boy, didn't die with him.
Now there are 14,782,473 members. Which is kind of bigger than six. Youth involvement is heavily emphasized. There are summer camps, seminary classes, and weekly meetings for youth. At eighteen or nineteen, young men and women are encouraged to spend 18 months to 2 years of their lives as full time missionaries*. There are currently 58,990 of them. Not only has the LDS church touched millions of people, it's changed the way so many teenagesrs live our lives.
And it all came from a fourteen year old boy.
*My cousin Aimee (22) is serving in Spain right now. My friend Isabella (19) recently left for Missouri.