The title of this painting comes from the book of James, in the New Testament. James writes, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, which giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”1
In the spring of 1820, Joseph Smith read this scripture and decided to ask God which church he should join. Joseph Smith writes, “So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day. . . .It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt.”2
This is the moment Rane depicts in this painting. The artist likes to depict elements of a story that are not often told, so rather than choosing to portray Joseph Smith’s First Vision, where he sees God the Father and Jesus Christ, he paints the young boy “having looked around me, and finding myself alone” as he searches for a place to pray.3 This moment heightens the sense of drama in the painting for viewers who know what Joseph is about to experience.
The browns of the dying winter and the small hints of vibrant green in this painting reinforce both the literal time of year—springtime—and the fact that after a long winter of spiritual darkness, a new era of revelation is about to be born. The twinkling green bush in the right-hand corner invites comparison to the burning bush Moses saw when God appeared to him. This bush foreshadows the vision Joseph is about to have. While Joseph wears his shoes, he holds his hat in his hands—the nineteenth-century equivalent of “put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”4
Video: “The Restoration”
Further reading: “The Fruits of the First Vision”