Symposium Summaries in the Church News

Scott Lloyd published an article in the Church News with a few summaries of presentations from the recent Religious Education symposium, including Matthew Wilcox’s excellent paper on the early writings of Gordon B. Hinckley. A summary of my paper was also given:

Joseph T. Antley: “Joseph Smith’s Providential Youth”

A “medley of spiritual influences and environmental factors” influenced the Prophet Joseph Smith in his early youth, and that influence ultimately led to the first Vision and subsequent visitations from the angel Moroni, Joseph T. Antley said in his paper prepared for the Religious Education Student Symposium at BYU on Feb. 19.

Joseph Smith’s family’s inherent religious ideology combined with the evangelical revivals that frequented the Palmyra, N.Y., area in his boyhood led him to worry about his salvation and pray about which church to join, leading to his vision of the Father and the Son, Brother Antley said.

“Similarly, I argue that treasure-seeking folklore and a religious atmosphere that encouraged radical departures from orthodox religion spurred the Prophet’s visions of Moroni,” he said. “My ultimate argument is that Joseph Smith’s youth was providential; the Lord placed the Prophet in the perfect family and place in order for him to be receptive to his early visions.”

The Prophet’s father and mother, Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, were both religiously minded, and each sought the religion of the New Testament, but they were both disappointed in the sects of the day, Brother Antley noted in his paper.

“Without doubt Joseph Smith’s most prominent influence was his family,” he said. “He inherited and emulated the spiritual quests and inclinations of his parents and grandparents. Unlike them, Joseph provided the long-sought answers.… Joseph’s visions gave purpose to a wandering family and gratified their spiritual hunger. Lucy Smith remembered the visions causing their family ‘the sweetest union of happiness … and tranquility reigned in our midst.’ The family perhaps even expected the visions. Joseph’s cousin remembered their grandfather Asael remarking that he ‘always knew that God was going to raise up some branch of the family to be a great benefit to mankind.'”