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.
There was a fascinating show that my wife and I watched last night on Mind Field with Vsauce (Michael Stevens). It was season 3, episode 7, titled "Behavior and Belief."
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.
Two readers posted comments recently on my article about Joseph Smith as tertön and the Book of Mormon as terma. They were both similar in questioning the idea that the Book of Mormon may not be a historical text.
Deep within me a thousand sweet breaths of Silence
cover my lips and say—
My wife, Raven, and I went to see the film The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman, a week ago. Say what you will about the movie/story, but we thought that the soundtrack was phenomenal, and the songs have stayed with me over the last few days. They deeply move me! What is it that moves me? The Life, the Joy, the Light. I believe these are reflections of the Divine within us all.