DID THE FIRST Vision happen on March 21, 1820 the spring equinox?
Did Peter, James and John visit Joseph and Oliver on June 21 the summer solstice?
Those are questions I've been noodling this week as the fall equinox approaches. Next Monday, Sept. 22, we officially move into autumn. And many religions will celebrate that day. The dates we associate with changing seasons play a role in many faiths, including Catholicism, Celtic faith and several Native American rituals.
But only recently have I begun to feel those days might play a large role in Mormon history as well.
We know Joseph Smith was born on Dec. 23, for example. That's the day when the "light" first begins returning to the world after a long absence. And we know the Angel Moroni visited him on Sept. 22 for three years running. That's the autumnal equinox, the day when the earth comes to a "turning point" in its course.
As a farmer, Joseph would have been well-aware of such parallels. He lived his life by the calendar. But do those special days for the changing seasons also play a symbolic role in the "planting" and "harvesting" of spiritual things as well?
I don't see why not.
It's no coincidence we celebrate Easter when the earth itself is being reborn in the spring, and we celebrate Christmas when the world welcomes the return of the warmth of the sun. So, for me, if the grand events in the modern church happened on days when the world was also "changing course," it would simply add to the wonder of it all.
The other night, just for my own amusement, I got out the Book of Mormon and looked up all the scriptures where "months" and "days" are mentioned. I was determined to figure a few things out about special days. In 3 Nephi 8:5 it says, "And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land."
That was the day of Christ's Crucifixion. And if you use the ancient Jewish ecclesiastical calendar (based on movements of the moon), I found, that would make the day the fourth day of Nissan on or around our April 4.
When it comes to the changing seasons in the Book of Mormon, it's interesting that September and December play a large part in events. (By the Jewish calendar, Alma was likely converted in September). The sun and moon always seem to play a part.
But then what could be more Mormon, in the end, than the sun, moon and stars?
As for Joseph's First Vision happening at the spring equinox on March 21, who can say? It's all speculation. In fact, some readers may feel I've gotten a little too free with "the mysteries" in even discussing all this. They may feel such ruminating should be the role of others.
Forgive me. But I'm a guy who sees everything as a mystery from the warm feelings I get in sacrament meeting to the miracle healings I've witnessed. If I didn't deal with mysteries, I'd never get out of bed.My life is built on them.
Jerry Johnston is a Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears weekly in the Mormon Times section.
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