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Treasures

The First Vision Stained Glass

Museum Treasures

This stunning art glass window depicts one of the most pivotal moments in history: Joseph Smith’s First Vision.

In 1820, when young Joseph Smith entered the grove of trees to pray near his home in upstate New York, he hoped to learn which church he should join. What he experienced instead changed the world forever.

In answer to his prayer, Joseph was visited by God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. They told him that “the fullness of the Gospel should at some future time be made known unto [him].”1

Over time, God restored the true Church of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith. Through Joseph we now have additional scripture, including the Book of Mormon and the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. The priesthood, or the authority to speak and act in God’s name, is again on the earth. Temples allow families to be sealed, or united together for all eternity. All of these blessings are possible today because of the First Vision and the events that followed.

Joseph F. Smith, nephew of the Prophet Joseph Smith and sixth President of the Church, said, “The greatest event that has ever occurred in the world, since the resurrection of the Son of God from the tomb and his ascension on high, was the coming of the Father and of the Son to that boy Joseph Smith.”2

It is little wonder, then, that this subject became a popular theme for art glass windows in Latter-day Saint houses of worship around the turn of the 20th century. At that time, spurred by the Arts and Crafts Movement, there was a revived interest in the use of stained glass in American church buildings.3

In 1892, the First Presidency commissioned a 12-foot window depicting the First Vision for the Holy of Holies in the Salt Lake Temple.4 Soon more First Vision windows were commissioned from various artists for Latter-day Saint meetinghouses.5 This window was manufactured in Los Angeles in 1913 for the Adams Ward chapel in Los Angeles. Like many of the windows from this period, the scene is painted on the back side of the glass. Along the bottom are the Father’s words to Joseph: “This is my Beloved Son. Hear Him!” This window was removed from the building in 1959 when the building was razed.

Although stained glass is no longer popular in Latter-day Saint meetinghouses, this window is a beautiful reminder of the First Vision, a pivotal moment in history and a cornerstone of Latter-day Saint faith.

Footnotes

[1] History of the Church, 4:536.

[2] Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939), 495.

[3] Joyce Athay Janetski, “Louis Comfort Tiffany: Stained Glass in Utah,” Utah Preservation/Restoration: A Publication for the Preservationist, vol. 3 (1981), 20–21.

[4] Joyce Athay Janetski, “Stained Glass Windows: A Latter-day Saint Legacy,” Ensign, Jan. 1981, 34–41. See also Janetski, “Louis Comfort Tiffany,” 21.

[5] Picture and caption in Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. (Church Educational System manual, 2003) 28–29.