Many years ago, when I was still a new member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I took a trip with my eleven-year-old brother from Indiana to New York. The purpose of our journey was to witness the Hill Cumorah Pageant and visit the Sacred Grove, a site with special significance to the Latter-day Saint community as the location where Joseph Smith received the glorious First Vision of the Father and Son.
The power of the pageant is impressive: the volunteers practice and prepare so faithfully that the public is able to view the power of God through their performance. When the destruction scenes come with thunder and lightening, the special effects seem beyond the skill of man as if the Lord is providing his own fireworks.
My first visit to the Sacred Grove was no less impressive, though not accompanied by such a thunderous display. Instead, the power was simple and personal. I proceeded to look for the place where Joseph received the marvelous First Vision of our dispensation. Somehow I missed the signs leading to the guided path and I accidentally entered the Grove by another way. I enjoy walking in the woods, especially when it is green and the sun is shining. There is unmatched peace in such a setting but this day was even more remarkable to me.
As I walked further into the Grove, I came to a particular spot where I stopped completely, feeling a spirit of peace and calm that testified to my soul that I had reached the place where Joseph had knelt in prayer and God had in fact answered this unpretentious farm boy. I knew without any man telling me, without the benefit of sign or marker, that this was indeed the place that God and his Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith. I was no more convinced when I found the posted signs leading to the exact location.
I received an impression much stronger in my soul and my heart than any manmade sign could give. It was the witness of God through the Holy Ghost, the residue of the presence of divine beings in that sacred spot. I will never forgot the feeling I had those many years ago. What God writes into the heart of man is not so easily erased as speculations, conjectures, and theories. When spirit speaks to spirit, there is no doubt or confusion.
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