Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

Photo by Valeriy Andrushko on Unsplash

“Joseph Smith’s First Prayer” Performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

The account of the First Vision given by Joseph Smith is unlike anything in modern history. 

In 1817, the family of Joseph Smith moved to the area of In Palmyra, New York. A few short years after their arrival, many of the religions began competing for souls, which resulted in differing opinions and great confusion among the people who lived in the area, including young Joseph.

In the early spring of 1820, after some of the members of his family were proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, Smith was unable come to a conclusion as to which church was right or wrong. After a period of serious reflection he found a passage of scripture that was so powerful to him in his time of need. The scripture was from James 1:5 and reads, “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.”

After reading this scripture passage, Joseph reflected over and over and realized that since all of the religious sects understood passages of scripture so differently, he wouldn’t be able to receive the wisdom he desired. He came to the following conclusion: “I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God.” Smith then went into the woods near his home and attempted to pray vocally for the first time in his life. Hence the title of the hymn “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer.”

What happened next can only be described as a miracle—Joseph saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, and They spoke to him. The full account can be found in Joseph Smith—History 1:5–20, in the Pearl of Great Price.

The hymn, written by George Manwaring, with music by Sylvanus Billings Pond, describes the conditions of the early spring day, Joseph’s feelings as he prayed, the appearance of God and the Savior to man, and the words which God the Father spoke to Joseph: “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”

This single event, known as the First Vision, was the beginning of what is known to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Restoration of the gospel. 

Joseph Smith’s First Prayer (Lyrics)

Oh, how lovely was the morning!
Radiant beamed the sun above.
Bees were humming, sweet birds singing,
Music ringing thru the grove,
When within the shady woodland
Joseph sought the God of love,
When within the shady woodland
Joseph sought the God of love.

Humbly kneeling, sweet appealing—
’Twas the boy’s first uttered prayer—
When the pow’rs of sin assailing
Filled his soul with deep despair;
But undaunted, still he trusted
In his Heav’nly Father's care,
But undaunted, still he trusted
In his Heav’nly Father's care.

Suddenly a light descended,
Brighter far than noonday sun,
And a shining, glorious pillar
O’er him fell, around him shone,
While appeared two heav’nly beings,
God the Father and the Son,
While appeared two heav’nly beings,
God the Father and the Son.

“Joseph, this is my Beloved;
Hear him!” Oh, how sweet the word!
Joseph’s humble prayer was answered,
And he listened to the Lord.
Oh, what rapture filled his bosom,
For he saw the living God,
Oh, what rapture filled his bosom,
For he saw the living God.