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Latter-day Appearances of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ Appearing to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple, by Gary E. Smith (1980, oil on canvas 36" x 42"). Regarding the Savior's appearance in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836, Joseph Smith wrote: "We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit" (D&C 110:2). Courtesy Blaine T. Hudson.

by Joel A. Flake

As shown in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, after his resurrection, Jesus Christ can, and also does, appear to people in this latter-day dispensation of the gospel. When these sacred manifestations are for personal instruction, they are not spoken of openly. However, when it is appropriate, the divine communication is made public. It is a principle of the gospel that the Lord Jesus Christ can, and will, manifest himself to his people, including individual members, "in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will" (D&C 88:68).

The most important appearance of the Savior in this dispensation occurred when he and the Father came to Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820. This theophany, commonly called the first vision, revealed the separate nature of these two members of the Godhead and ushered in the dispensation of the fulness of times and the restoration of all things. (See the Prophet Joseph's personal account of this event)

In 1832, Jesus Christ again appeared in a vision to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. Both men saw and conversed with him (D&C 76:14) and also witnessed a vision of the kingdoms to which mankind will be assigned in the life hereafter. The Lord also appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in April 1836 in the Kirtland Temple shortly after its dedication and manifested his acceptance of this first latter-day temple (D&C 110:1-10).

A revelation pertaining to the salvation of the dead was given to Joseph Smith in an earlier appearance of Jesus Christ and the Father in the Kirtland Temple on January 21, 1836: "The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld…the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son" (D&C 137:1, 3). Joseph Smith said that visions were given to many in the meeting and that "some of them saw the face of the Savior" (HC 2:382).

Joseph Smith also recorded other occasions when Church members beheld the Savior. On March 18, 1833, he wrote of a significant meeting of the School of the Prophets: "Many of the brethren saw a heavenly vision of the Savior, and concourses of angels, and many other things, of which each one has a record of what he saw" (HC 1:335). He wrote of a similar experience of Zebedee Coltrin (HC 2:387), and on another occasion he reported that "the Savior made His appearance unto some" at a meeting the week after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple (HC 2:432).

Appearances of Jesus Christ have not been restricted to the early days of the Church. In 1898 the Savior appeared to Lorenzo Snow, the fifth President of the Church, and gave him important instructions regarding the Church (My Kingdom Shall Roll Forth, pp. 68-70, Salt Lake City, 1980). The sixth President of the Church, Joseph F. Smith, saw the Savior in a vision in 1918, as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants section 138. This vision showed the Savior's visit to the spirits of the dead while his body was in the tomb between the time of his crucifixion and resurrection. In 1985, Ezra Taft Benson, the thirteenth President of the Church, said, "Today in Christ's restored church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, He is revealing Himself and His will—from the first prophet of the Restoration, even Joseph Smith, to the present" (p. 4).

It is a teaching of latter-day revelation that individual members can have a personal visit from the Savior, and see his face, and receive instruction from him, when they are prepared, and when the Lord chooses to grant such an experience (D&C 93:1; see Jesus Christ: Second Comforter).


Benson, Ezra Taft. "Joy in Christ." Ensign 16 (Mar. 1986):4.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, Jesus Christ, Latter-day Appearances

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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