I suggest that Joseph Smith's earliest direct encounters with God happened in mystical experience, or what is also known as altered states of consciousness.
Mormonism traces back its history in modern times to its founding prophet, Joseph Smith Jr., and his "First Vision." Joseph was a young farmer boy who lived in western New York, born in the early nineteenth century. This was the time of what's known as the Second Great Awakening, and where Joseph lived is known as the "burned-over district." It was a time of much Protestant religious excitement, revivals, reforms, and the formation of new religious movements and denominations (which eventually included Mormonism). A Restoration Movement grew in popularity in the area, which involved ideas of "restoring" a pure, primitive, uncorrupted, and original form of Christian faith.
Jesus is, of course, the center of Christianity, including Mormonism. In Mormonism, he is prominently identified in the name of the largest denomination of which I was a member, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Everything revolves around Jesus.
"The highest form of meditation is not an activity that is undertaken by the mind. It is a relaxing, falling back or sinking of the mind into its source or essence of pure awareness, from which it has arisen."
I perceive that priesthood was originally an inner experience of Divine Power and Presence in humans, a deep Realization when they subdued their egoic psychological "natural man" self in consciousness, and perceived their real Being underneath it in Glory, beyond words. I believe humans eventually organized this mystical experience, and the knowledge of it, instituting it into the "ordination" to an "office" of "priesthood," meant to indicate those who had direct experience of God.
The SciShow Psych channel on YouTube published a video about near-death experiences, below. I've mentioned near-death experiences a couple times before in relationship to mysticism and visionary experience. They are very much related, it seems to me.
A kind reader reached out to me and asked me to elaborate how my writings about the nature of God work with Joseph Smith's First Vision, since it seems that his vision was meant to "clear up the confusion" surrounding the nature of God, the prevailing idea that God "was not made with body, parts or passions." Wasn't "the point" of his vision to "define for the world who/what God was"?
The only God that we can find and perceive and know directly as such, I believe, is the one that can be found in the very center and heart of our own Self and Being and Consciousness. That is where God is. That is where God lives. That is God, in humanity.
I shared this account in my introductory paper about mysticism, but I think it should be shared as a stand-alone post as well. This is because it is so stunningly similar in many respects to Joseph Smith's accounts of the First Vision.
I've now posted eighteen "First Vision" accounts here on ThyMindOMan.com. There are many more coming. I thought I'd take a moment to share some comments about them as a whole.