To help individuals understand that the First Vision account they learned about their whole life is a complete fabrication.
Read this wikipage. This volcano in Iceland is what caused not only the Smith’s farm to fail, but those of farmers all over the world. Starvation was recorded for many, many individuals.
Given that the Smiths were prone to visions and following spirits, did God need to kill so many people to get the Smiths to move to upstate New York?
What does it say about God’s character that he would kill so many rather than send an angel to Joseph Smith, Sr.? What does this imply about Joseph Smith, Sr.’s worthiness?
1. After the Apostasy, God prepared the way for the Restoration.
Let’s talk apostasy. The church manuals take as given that “persecution, divisions, and apostasy increased. Within a few decades, there was a falling away from the Church, as the Apostles had prophesied.” And yet no evidence is ever presented for this thesis, other than scriptures that are non-specific. Indeed, the apostasy talked about by Amos could refer to the Kirtland Apostasy, or the formation of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, could it not? They don’t give any details.
In fact, when everyone else talks about the “Great Apostasy,” they are talking about this, especially under the “Historicity” section. This basically places the apostasy at A.D. 300 under Constantine.
This is fascinating since writers in the church gave quotes like this one long before that point:
“See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles. Do ye also reverence the deacons, as those that carry out the appointment of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 8:2 (c. A.D. 110).”
By A.D. 100, practically all the sacred scriptures were approved, the episcopacy confirmed as the means of ecclesia administration, the liturgy was in place and had uniformity of belief and practice throughout the entire ancient Christian world, and the Apostles Creed was professed by all believers in Christ.
That’s 20 years after John the Beloved wrote the Gospel of John, meaning that the entire apostasy would have to have happened in about two decades time (unless we want to discuss if the Gospel of John was also part of the apostasy).
Ah well, back to the official lesson:
“Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve taught that preparation for restoring the gospel began centuries before the First Vision.”
This is grafting in all the good works of other religions as part of Mormonism. Imagine, if you will, a religion in A.D. 2060 that claims that Joseph Smith laid the foundation for their prophet. How would most mormons feel about that claim? Especially if they said “his death was important to ensure our truths”?
Well, let’s just see how most LDS feel about the FLDS… yeah, not very flattering, right? Bruce R. McConkie stealing the martyrs of the 14th century forward is pretty crass.
Further, he doesn’t include false positives. Did the Gnostics and the Greek Pagans also set up the work? How about the Atheists throughout history? No, only those great successes are claimed, and everyone else is ignored. Not hard to be successful if you only steal stories of success.
a) The Renaissance was a rebirth of learning, particularly in literature, art, and science. Inventions such as the printing press emerged.
Let’s forget how gross the misrepresentation of history is here; as the Dark Ages really had a lot of learning. The printing press was introduced around 1440.
The Dark Ages lasted into the 15th century by most accounts, with the 1300s and 1400s being the Italy/Spain Renaissance.
But you can read all about boat-rigging and sail formation technology improvements throughout this time period.
Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve said the Renaissance was not a chance occurrence but rather “a development predetermined in the Mind of God to illumine the enlighted minds of men in preparation for the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which was appointed to be accomplished some centuries later.”
Let’s think about this a bit… So God needs hundreds of years to prepare the minds of men for the Gospel, during which he doesn’t focus on religious leaders, but inventors such as Volta, Galileo, and Da Vinci.
And the main preparation they mention is the printing press.
Isn’t this like saying “The internet and scientific atheists of our day are preparing some great future work”?
They not only steal the religious individuals like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, but men who were martyred for Science… all to prepare for Joseph Smith. And they call exmormons “Proud”!
One great reformer they don’t mention, and never mention, is Alexander Campbell. If one reads his religion and tracts, you’ll totally see that the Book of Mormon is an anti-Campbellite tract. It covers all the issues that Sidney Rigdon argued with Campbell on.
Funny they never mention him.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve said that Martin Luther and other reformers “were inspired to create a religious climate in which God could restore lost truths and priesthood authority” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 85; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 66).
Yes, doubtful that the Book of Mormon would have ever existed without great religious men like Alexander Campbell. cough
The Americas were discovered. The United States was colonized by religious people and eventually became an independent nation.
And here they take Christopher Columbus and the other explorers like Cortez, who slaughtered thousands, and destroyed innumerable antiquities of culture for the glory of Spain, and graft them in as “part of God’s Plan.” But then a God who kills people via starvation just to make a farmer fail so he’ll move to a spot that he isn’t even aware of… that kind of God can’t be expected to be merciful in His plans, can he?
2. God prepared Joseph Smith to be the prophet of the Restoration.
Joseph Smith came from a rich spiritual heritage. Including a family dagger with masonic symbols on it, magical lamen, and a belief in the occult. Yes, exactly the sort of people the church teaches are “spiritually prepared” today.
His parents and grandparents were religious, patriotic, educationally minded, and of strong moral convictions. For more on this, read the first 75 pages of “Rough Stone Rolling” .
His paternal grandfather, Asael Smith, stated years before Joseph was born, “It has been borne in upon my soul that one of my descendants will promulgate a work to revolutionize the world of religious faith” (in Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History, 27th ed. , 25).
Yes he said that. But he also said other things. Confirmation bias.
Joseph Smith’s parents, Joseph, Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, greatly influenced his life. For example Joseph Smith, Sr.’s vision showed up in the middle of the Book of Mormon. Lucy and Joseph, Sr. paid to have Joseph trained as a seer, and Joseph, Sr. took Joseph on treasure hunting expeditions at an early age.
Both were deeply devoted to God. And to the Occult. They saw white magic as being part of the spiritual realm. They were also devoted parents, teaching their children the principles of faith and righteousness, including, if accounts are to be believed, that animal sacrifice would help to find buried Indian treasure.
Joseph Sr. had several dreams that gave him assurances that he would enjoy the blessings of the true gospel of Jesus Christ (see Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley , 47–50, 64–66)
Very interesting they don’t quote the dream, isn’t it?
Once, while Lucy was critically ill as a young mother, she made a covenant with God that she would serve Him completely if He would let her live to care for her family. Soon afterward she heard a voice comfort her, and she made a remarkable recovery. (See History of Joseph Smith, 33–35.)
This is true, and might explain her full devotion to her son who claimed to speak for God.
Both of them felt that none of the existing churches was consistent with the Church that Jesus Christ had established. This is a bit of a twist. Lucy certainly was comfortable in the Presbyterian faith by 1824. Joseph Smith, Sr. didn’t like any of the churches of the area.
Adversity helped prepare him.
And here we are with the leg story again. I mean, don’t get me wrong. A 7 year old with typhoid fever is not small thing, but is this the only example of adversity they could find?
Actually, pretty much. There is no evidence that the Smiths were persecuted in any way earlier than 1826, when Joseph is taken to court.
The religious atmosphere in western New York helped prepare him.
What they don’t mention is that, by all accounts, the religious revival in New York happened in 1824. That’s 4 years after the First Vision, by the 1839 account.
Which account mentions the following that would also place the First Vision in 1824:
Lucy Smith joined the Presbyterian church in 1824, Joseph mentions her as having joined. The Presbyterian church was not built in Palmyra until 1824.
Oliver Cowdery’s account in the 1834 “Messenger and Advocate” stated that the “first vision” occurred in 1823, and that “religious excitement in Palmyra and vicinity” was in Smith’s “17th year,” which would have been 1823.
Early recountings of the First Vision place Joseph at age 17.
His sister, Lucy, is mentioned as part of the story, but was not born in 1820 (She was born July 18, 1821).
His brother William’s account:
“In 1822 and 1823, the people in our neighborhood were very much stirred up with regard to religious matters by the preaching of a Mr. [George] Lane, an elder of the Methodist Church…..The consequences [of this growing religious revival] was that my mother, my brothers Hyrum and Samuel, older than I, joined the Presbyterian Church. Joseph, then being about seventeen years of age , had become seriously inclined, although not ‘brought out’, as the phrase was, began to reflect and inquire, which of all these sects was right… He continued in secret to call upon the Lord for a full manifestation of his will, the assurance that he was accepted of him, and that he might have an understanding of the path of obedience.”
For further reading of 1823 references and modifications to the First Vision: http://www.mormonthink.com/firstvisionweb.htm 
3. The First Vision ushered in the restoration of the gospel.
TL;DR – There is no reason to believe that Joseph went to the grove in 1820.
Many truths were revealed in the First Vision.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “I submit that in the few minutes that Joseph Smith was with the Father and the Son, he learned more of the nature of God the Eternal Father and the risen Lord than all the learned minds in all their discussions through all centuries of time” (Church News, 24 Oct. 1998, 6).
Let’s consider this statement for a bit. Do you see that God could have been revealing this sort of thing for generations? Why leave the world in darkness? Honest men were seeking Him for generations previous.
But let’s take this as it stands. Why would God reveal the most information about the universe to a single boy in the woods? Why not have say 2-3 witnesses to establish truth (2 Corinthians 13:1 ), or have a prophet state that this was the where the restoration would occur (Amos 3:7 )?
Now, let’s look at Joseph’s 1832 First Vision  and realize how many of the key points of the lesson are invalidated:
a. God the Father and Jesus Christ live – Given that only one person visited, and that it sounds more “dream” than “vision” this is debatable.
b. The Father and the Son are real, separate beings with glorified bodies of flesh and bones. – Clearly not.
c. We are created in the image of God. – Not necessarily. By a modal Christianity this could just be God “appearing to be man-shaped,” or by traditional Christiantiy, it could have been an angel appearing. No certainty that it was Jehovah himself appearing.
d. Satan and his power are real, but God’s power is infinitely greater. – Satan does not visit in the 1832 version.
e. God hears and answers prayers and cares for us. – This one stands.
f. None of the churches on earth had the fulness of Christ’s gospel. – This one stands.
g. Revelation has not ceased. – Given the sheer number of people in the neighborhood and surrounding areas publishing revelations in newspapers, it’s hard to see why this is relevant.
So out of 7 points, only 3 stand, and of those, only 2 are key. This is the EARLIEST version of the First Vision.
Don’t you just hate it when Joseph invalidates himself?
President David O. McKay, the ninth President of the Church, testified that the First Vision “answers all the [questions] regarding God and his divine personality. … His relation to his children is clear. His interest in humanity through authority delegated to man is apparent. The future of the work is assured. These and other glorious truths are clarified by that glorious first vision” (Gospel Ideals , 85).
sigh… What can you say when the prophets of the church are clearly only willing to use a standardized truth regardless of it “being true”?
Conclusion and TL;DR
Joseph Smith’s account that was canonized is most likely a fabrication. The Great Apostasy is not what the church claims. In all truth, this whole section is misleading and misdirecting and it is the foundation of the church’s claims.
Why trust the rest, when it is clear they are willing to lie, deceive and twist history, facts, science and anything else to convince you that you should be part of this organization?