(Image Credit: http://radiowest.kuer.org/post/first-vision)
The prophet Joseph restored and revealed an innumerable set of doctrines and principles to help us draw closer to our Savior and Heavenly Father. Let’s look at Joseph Smith History– but read these verses in light of someone who is battling depression or from the vantage point of someone who is just in a dark place. JSH:15 reads, “…I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.”
I have had so many students that have battled depression and they describe the feelings they have with the same terminology that Joseph used to described the power of Satan. Being seized. By a dark powerful force, it having an astonishing influence. Some have said they can’t speak because they are so afraid. They’ve talked about seeing and feeling darkness gathering and some have felt they would die and were doomed to destruction, just like Joseph.
But the amazing part of the First Vision account is Joseph’s being freed from those evil powers and feelings. Look what he did to be freed in vs 16: “But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me…”
Next, look at WHEN the delivery came: “At the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction…just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound…” In others words, in the darkest moment, God intervened.
You’ve read in the New Testament about the disciples on the sea of Galilee thinking they were going to die in the storm as Jesus watched them from the mountainside. The Lord did some amazing things to save them during that 3am-6am “fourth watch of the night” (so called because the ancient Romans divided the night into four watches of the military guard). In both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark we read: “Now in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went to them, walking on the sea…. Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I—do not be afraid.’”
This storm on the sea of Galilee had raged all night long. It meant that the disciples were exhausted and defeated, that they had battled a critical weather event with every ounce of their human strength – but it was not enough. The storm was going to defeat them. And it was the darkest part of the night.
Until Jesus came and spoke words that calmed the sea.
Why did Jesus wait so long? Why, when it was at their last bit of strength, did he suddenly appear – a ghost-like figure walking on the stormy seas? Why did he wait until it was as dark as it could be? After all, I want him to come on the first watch, not the fourth!
But, turning back to Joseph Smith’s First Vision and just as we sing in our hymn about his Vision, “Suddenly a light descended…” All of a sudden, out of the blue (or, we could say, out of the dark), God appeared. Joseph (and the disciples on the sea of Galilee) had no idea when or if the relief was coming and then, unannounced, it came. Just as when Joseph of Egypt in the Old Testament suddenly received news that he would be freed as a prisoner or just as when the Israelites suddenly received the news that they would be freed from slavery, the Lord shows up in each of our lives!
I want to encourage you when you have those dark moments and down times, hold on. The Light will come! I promise. The scriptures promise. It’s been evidenced all over the scriptures and in the lives of faithful people all over the world. Hold on – especially as it gets darker and darker. The Light will come. Never late and always right on time.
-Eric D. Richards