"As Mr. Barstow had taken the proper steps to obtain correct information, all that I shall ask at his hands, is, that he publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation." Ultimately Barstow did not include the account in the history of New Hampshire, but we value the document immensely.
Significantly, it is the first time that Joseph Smith himself published an account of his First Vision.
It is an original account by Joseph Smith testifying of his sacred call from God, his visions, and his ministry and teachings. It recounts the rise and growth of the Church and the persecutions of the Saints. It contains a prophetic declaration of the Church’s future success in the earth under the protective hand of the Great Jehovah. It also contains several important details not found elsewhere in the Prophet’s teachings, including a description of the gold plates and a sketch of the contents of the Book of Mormon. Concluding with the 13 declarations of Church doctrine now called the Articles of Faith, it stands as a powerful witness of the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Marie asked how we present the Joseph Smith story to others when it may sound fantastic to them and what significance does it have in our lives. Several sisters commented on how it is the center of what we believe and that to embrace it is to embrace the whole of the restoration. Mary Louise said that as a convert when she read that Joseph said, "For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it" this had a great effect on her and her growing testimony.
Today we see varying reports of the church both positive and negative. But we know just as Joseph testified, "nothing can stop the progress of truth."
At the end of the letter Joseph sums up the fundamental doctrines and principles of our religion in 13 brief statements we now refer to at the Articles of Faith.
- We believe in God the eternal Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
- We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
- We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
- We believe that the first principle and ordinances of the Gospel are: (1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; (2) Repentance; (3) Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; (4) Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
- We believe that a man must be called of God by prophecy and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
- We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive Church, viz.: apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc.
- We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, etc.
- We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
- We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
- We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion will be built upon this [the American] continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
- We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
- We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
- We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul, We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.