As a fourteen year old, feeling confused about what to believe in the face of so many Christian denominations, Joseph Smith went to pray in a wooded area near his home. As he prayed, he had a vision of Jesus telling him not to join any as they had “turned aside from the gospel.”
Some ten years later he would launch the faith, now known as “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” At the core of this new religion was the story of a Jewish community known as Nephites, who had traveled to America but had been destroyed. Their destruction resulted in the loss of the “true gospel” which they were privy to.
Irrespective whether you find the story of Joseph Smith, along with story of the Nephites, believable or not, there is the yearning of a fourteen year boy under the tree which is felt by so many. Questions of “What can I believe?” and “What is truth?” are important questions.
To young Joseph Smith, it could be argued that the words of Jesus, recorded in John 14: 6 answers this question. Jesus said, ““I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Yet, Joseph Smith would argue that he has the true gospel which included Jesus, but went beyond Him. Arguably every faith around the world would believe that it has the truth.
So what gives us confidence in the teachings of Jesus and the Scriptures is that which holds the truth? At a basic level, the Bible is historically accurate, as the events recorded actually happened. In the story of the birth of Jesus, there are details around who was the Roman Emperor, who was the governor of Syria, and the accordance of a census. Archeological discoveries continue to validate the record of the Bible (for example, the pool of Bethesda recorded in John 5 was considered by skeptics to be a fabrication until it was discovered during an archeological dig in the 19th century). There is also a remarkable record of prophecies given which are fulfilled years, sometimes hundreds of years later, particularly in relation to Jesus (whether that be prophecies concerning where he was born to how he would die).
For Joseph Smith, the sad reality is there is no historical record, or archaeological evidence to support the events recorded in the Book of Mormon. There are no prophecies concerning Jesus going to America. Yet, his yearning for truth is a common human experience.
Inside each human is a longing to know what is true. Is that where you are at? If so, can I encourage you to pause for a moment to consider the claims of Jesus, and his claim to the way, the truth and at the life you are longing for.