Draft:Comparison of First Vision accounts

Recorded accounts of the vision [ edit ]

The importance of the First Vision within the Latter Day Saint movement evolved over time. There is little evidence that Smith discussed the First Vision publicly prior to 1830.[1] Mormon historian James B. Allen notes that:

The fact that none of the available contemporary writings about Joseph Smith in the 1830s, none of the publications of the Church in that decade, and no contemporary journal or correspondence yet discovered mentions the story of the first vision is convincing evidence that at best it received only limited circulation in those early days.[2]

1830s reference to early Christian regeneration [ edit ]

In June 1830, Smith provided the first clear record of a significant personal religious experience prior to the visit of the angel Moroni.[3] At that time, Smith and his associate Oliver Cowdery were establishing the Church of Christ, the first Latter Day Saint church. In the "Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ," Smith recounted his early history, noting

"For, after that it truly was manifested unto [Smith] that he had received remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world, but after truly repenting, God visited him by an holy angel ... and gave unto him power, by the means which was before prepared that he should translate a book."[4]

No further explanation of this "manifestation" is provided. Although the reference was later linked to the First Vision,[5] its original hearers would have understood the manifestation as simply another of many revival experiences in which the subject testified that his sins had been forgiven.[6]

1832 Smith account [ edit ]

The earliest extant account of the First Vision was handwritten by Smith in 1832, but it was not published until 1965.[7]

Unlike Smith's later accounts of the vision, the 1832 account emphasizes personal forgiveness and mentions neither an appearance of God the Father nor the phrase "This is my beloved Son, hear him." In the 1832 account, Smith also stated that before he experienced the First Vision, his own searching of the scriptures had led him to the conclusion that mankind had "apostatized from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament."[8]

1834 Cowdery account [ edit ]

In several issues of the Mormon periodical Messenger and Advocate (1834–35),[9] Oliver Cowdery wrote an early biography of Smith. In one issue, Cowdery explained that Smith was confused by the different religions and local revivals during his "15th year" (1820), leading him to wonder which church was true. In the next issue of the biography, Cowdery explained that reference to Smith's "15th year" was a typographical error, and that actually the revivals and religious confusion took place in Smith's "17th year."

Therefore, according to Cowdery, the religious confusion led Smith to pray in his bedroom, late on the night of September 23, 1823, after the others had gone to sleep, to know which of the competing denominations was correct and whether "a Supreme being did exist." In response, an angel appeared and granted him forgiveness of his sins. The remainder of the story roughly parallels Smith's later description of a visit by an angel in 1823 who told him about the golden plates. Thus, Cowdery's account, containing a single vision, differs from Smith's 1832 account, which contains two separate visions, one in 1821 prompted by religious confusion (the First Vision) and a separate one regarding the plates on September 22, 1822. Cowdery's account also differs from Smith's 1842 account, which includes a First Vision in 1820 and a second vision on September 22, 1823.

1835 Smith accounts [ edit ]

On November 9, 1835, Smith dictated an account of the First Vision in his diary after telling it to a stranger[10] who had visited his home earlier that day.[11] Smith said that when perplexed about religions matters, he had gone to a grove to pray[12] but that his tongue seemed swollen in his mouth and that he had been interrupted twice by the sound of someone walking behind him.[13] Finally, as he prayed, he said his tongue was loosed, and he saw a pillar of fire in which an unidentified "personage" appeared.[14] Then another unidentified personage told Smith his sins were forgiven and "testified unto [Smith] that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."[14] An interlineation in the text notes, "and I saw many angels in this vision."[14] Smith said this vision occurred when he was 14 years old and that when he was 17, he "saw another vision of angels in the night season after I had retired to bed" (referring to the later visit of the angel Moroni who showed him the location of the golden plates).[14] Smith identified none of these personages or angels with "the Lord" as he had in 1832.[15]

A few days later, on November 14, 1835, Smith told the story to another visitor, Erastus Holmes.[16] In his journal, Smith said that he had recited his life story "up to the time I received the first visitation of angels, which was when I was about fourteen years old."[17]

1838 Smith account [ edit ]

In 1838, Smith began dictating the early history of what later became known as the Latter Day Saint movement.[18] This history included a new account of the First Vision, later published in three issues of Times and Seasons.[19] This version was later incorporated into the Pearl of Great Price, which was canonized by the LDS Church in 1880, as Joseph Smith–History. Thus, it is often called the "canonized version" of the First Vision story.

This canonized version differs from the 1840 version because the canonized version includes the proclamation, "This is My Beloved Son, hear Him" from one of the personages, whereas the 1840 version does not. The canonized version says that in the spring of 1820, during a period of "confusion and strife among the different denominations" following an "unusual excitement on the subject of religion", Smith had debated which of the various Christian groups he should join. While in turmoil, he read from the Epistle of James: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."[20]

One morning, deeply impressed by this scripture, the fourteen-year-old Smith went to a grove of trees behind the family farm, knelt, and began his first vocal prayer. Almost immediately he was confronted by an evil power that prevented speech. A darkness gathered around him, and Smith believed that he would be destroyed. He continued the prayer silently, asking for God's assistance though still resigned to destruction. At this moment a light brighter than the sun descended towards him, and he was delivered from the evil power.

In the light, Smith "saw two personages standing in the air". One pointed to the other and said, "This is My Beloved Son, hear Him." Smith asked which religious sect he should join and was told to join none of them because all existing religions had corrupted the teachings of Jesus Christ.[21]

In his 1838 account, Smith wrote that he made an oblique reference to the vision to his mother in 1820, telling her the day it happened that he had "learned for [him]self that Presbyterianism is not true."[22] Lucy did not mention this conversation in her memoirs.[23][24]

Smith wrote he "could find none that would believe" his experience.[25] He said that shortly after the experience, he told the story of his revelation to a Methodist minister[26] who responded "with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there was no such thing as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there never would be any more of them."[27] He also said that the telling of his vision story "excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase."[28] There is no extant evidence from the 1830s for this persecution beyond Smith's own testimony.[29] None of the earliest anti-Mormon literature mentioned the First Vision.[30] Smith also said he told others about the vision during the 1820s, and some family members said that they had heard him mention it, but none prior to 1823, when Smith said he had his second vision.[31]

1840 Pratt account [ edit ]

In September 1840, Orson Pratt published a version of the First Vision in England.[32] This version states that after Smith saw the light, "his mind was caught away, from the natural objects with which he was surrounded; and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision."[33] Pratt's account referred to "two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness".[33]

1842 Wentworth Letter [ edit ]

In 1842, two years before his death, Smith wrote to John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat, outlining the basic beliefs of his church and including an account of the First Vision.[34] Smith said that he had been "about fourteen years of age" when he had received the First Vision.[35] Like the Pratt account, Smith's Wentworth letter said that his "mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision."[35] and had seen "two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon-day."[36] Smith said he was told that no religious denomination "was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom" and that he was "expressly commanded to 'go not after them.'"[36]

Smith's accounts found in later reminiscences [ edit ]

Late in his life, Smith's brother William gave two accounts of the First Vision, dating it to 1823,[37] when William was twelve years old. William said the religious excitement in Palmyra had occurred in 1822–23 (rather than the actual date of 1824–25);[38] that it was stimulated by the preaching of a Methodist, the Rev. George Lane, a "great revival preacher"; and that his mother and some of his siblings had then joined the Presbyterian church.[39]

William Smith said he based his account on what Joseph had told William and the rest of his family the day after the First Vision:[40]

[A] light appeared in the heavens, and descended until it rested upon the trees where he was. It appeared like fire. But to his great astonishment, did not burn the trees. An angel then appeared to him and conversed with him upon many things. He told him that none of the sects were right; but that if he was faithful in keeping the commandments he should receive, the true way should be made known to him; that his sins were forgiven, etc.[40]

In an 1884 account, William also stated that when Joseph first saw the light above the trees in the grove, he fell unconscious for an undetermined amount of time, after which he awoke and heard "the personage whom he saw" speak to him.[41]

Differences in written accounts [ edit ]

In the first written accounts of the First Vision, the central theme is personal forgiveness, while in later accounts the focus shifts to the apostasy and corruption of churches.[42] In early accounts, Smith seems reluctant to talk about the vision; in later versions, various details are mentioned that were not mentioned in the earliest narratives.[43]

Jerald and Sandra Tanner cite the multiple versions of the First Vision as evidence that it may have been fabricated by Smith.[44] For instance, they have specifically pointed out that it is unclear between various versions whether Smith was 14 or 15 at the time of the vision; whether he attended a contemporaneous religious revival; whether the supernatural personages told Smith that his sins were forgiven; whether the personages were angels, Jesus, God, or some combination; and whether Smith had already determined for himself that all churches were false before he experienced the vision. However, Stephen Prothero argues that any historian should expect to find differences in narratives written many years apart, and that the key elements are present in all the accounts.[45]

Some believers view differences in the accounts as overstated. Richard L. Anderson wrote, "What are the main problems of interpreting so many accounts? The first problem is the interpreter. One person perceives harmony and interconnections while another overstates differences."[46] Other believers view the differences in the accounts as reflective of Smith's increase in maturity and knowledge over time.[47]

The following table gives a summary of differences in First Vision accounts:

Source of First Vision Supernatural beings Messages from beings Notes
1832 Joseph Smith's own handwriting from his LetterbookThe Papers of Joseph Smith, v1, p. 5-7, Dean Jessee (ed.), Deseret Book Company 1989.[48] And Early Mormon Documents, v 1, p. 27-29, Dan Vogel, Signature Books, 1996. "The Lord" "Thy sins are forgiven thee"; the "world lieth in sin" and has "turned aside from the gospel"; and a brief apocalyptic note.[49] Only account in Joseph Smith's handwriting. Frederick G. Williams edited Joseph's account to take place in his "16th year" (i.e. when he is 15 years old). All other accounts state his age as 14.
1835, Nov. 9, 14 - Joseph Smith diary (Ohio Journal, handwritten, Warren Parrish scribe)The Papers of Joseph Smith, Dean Jessee (ed.), v2, p68-69. Deseret Book Company 1989.[48] Two personages, and "many angels" "Thy sins are forgiven thee" and Jesus is the "son of God" No message of revivals or corrupt churches.
1838/1839 - History of the Church, Early Draft (James Mulholland Scribe) Two personages appear, and one says "This is my beloved Son, hear him". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. No mention of "sins forgiven". A revival is mentioned.
1842, March - Times and Seasons March 1, 1842, vol. 3 no. 9, pp 706–07. Two personages appear, and one says "This is my beloved Son, hear him". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. No mention of "sins forgiven". A revival is mentioned.
1842, March - Times and Seasons March 15, 1842, vol. 3 no. 11, pp. 727–28, April 1, 1842, vol. 3, no. 11, pp. 748–49. This version was later incorporated into History of the Church, and later into the Pearl of Great Price as Joseph Smith–History and thus is sometimes referred to as the "canonized version". Two personages appear, and one says "This is my beloved Son, hear him". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. No mention of "sins forgiven". A revival is mentioned. When this version was incorporated into the History of the Church, it was put into a context that suggests it was composed in 1838, but 1842 is the first known publication of this version.
1843, July - Letter from JS to D. Rupp An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States, Daniel Rupp, Philadelphia, 1844. pp. 404–10. Two personages appear. No mention of "this is my son". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. No mention of "sins forgiven". No revival mentioned. Available online here. See also the Wentworth letter.
1843, Aug 29 - Interview with journalist David White Reprinted in Jessee vol. 1 pp. 443–44.[48] Two personages appear. "Behold my beloved son, hear him". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. Revival is mentioned. No mention of "sins forgiven".

Accounts of others:

Source of First Vision Supernatural beings Messages from beings Notes
1840, September - Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions , Orson Pratt, Ballantyne and Huges publ, 1840 (reprinted in Jessee, vol. 1 pp. 149–60).[48] Two "glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features". "his sins were forgiven". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. This is the first published version. No mention of revival. Online here.
1841, June - A Cry from the Wilderness , Orson Hyde, published in German, Frankfurt, 1842 (reprinted in Jessee, vol. 1 pp. 405–09).[48] Two "glorious personages" who resembled "each other in their features". No specific message. No mention of "sins forgiven" or revival. Smith determines for himself that all churches are corrupt.
1844, May 24 - as told to Alexander Neibaur Alexander Neibaur Journal, reprinted in Jessee, vol. 1, pp. 459–61.[48] Two personages appear. One has a "light complexion" and "blue eyes". "This is my beloved son harken ye him". Methodist churches are wrong. All churches are corrupt. Revival is mentioned. No mention of "sins forgiven".

Side by Side Comparison of Joseph Smith Vision Accounts [ edit ]

Summer 1832 History[50] November 1835 Journal[51] 1838 History[52] 1842 Wentworth Letter[53]
My mind became exceedingly distressed, for I became convicted of my sins, and by searching the scriptures I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatized from the true and living faith, and there was no society or denomination that was built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament. I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world, for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday, today, and forever, that he was no respecter of persons, for he was God.

Being wrought up in my mind respecting the subject of religion, and looking at the different systems taught the children of men, I knew not who was right or who was wrong.

My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.

In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be aright, which is it, and how shall I know it?

When about fourteen years of age, I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state, and upon enquiring about the plan of salvation, I found that there was a great clash in religious sentiment; if I went to one society, they referred me to one plan, and another to another, each one pointing to his own particular creed as the summum bonum of perfection. Considering that all could not be right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion, I determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God had a church it would not be split up into factions, and that if he taught one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances, he would not teach another principles which were diametrically opposed.
For I looked upon the sun, the glorious luminary of the earth, and also the moon, rolling in their majesty through the heavens, and also the stars shining in their courses, and the earth also upon which I stood, and the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and the fish of the waters, and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in majesty and in the strength of beauty, whose power and intelligence in governing the things which are so exceedingly great and marvelous, even in the likeness of him who created them. And when I considered upon these things, my heart exclaimed, “Well hath the wise man said, ‘It is a fool that saith in his heart, there is no God.’” My heart exclaimed, “All, all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power, a being who maketh laws and decreeth and bindeth all things in their bounds, who filleth eternity, who was and is and will be from all eternity to eternity.” And I considered all these things and that that being seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth.

And considering it of the first importance that I should be right in matters that involve eternal consequences, being thus perplexed in mind I retired to the silent grove and bowed down before the Lord, under a realizing sense that he had said (if the Bible be true), “Ask, and you shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened; seek, and you shall find,” and again, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” Information was what I most desired at this time, and with a fixed determination to obtain it,

While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.

Believing the word of God, I had confidence in the declaration of James; “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.”

Therefore, I cried unto the Lord for mercy, for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy. And the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness, and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord, in the sixteenth year of my age, I called upon the Lord for the first time in the place above stated. Or in other words, I made a fruitless attempt to pray; my tongue seemed to be swollen in my mouth, so that I could not utter. I heard a noise behind me, like some person walking towards me. I strove again to pray but could not. The noise of walking seemed to draw nearer. I sprung up on my feet and looked around but saw no person or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of walking.

I kneeled again. My mouth was opened and my tongue liberated, and I called on the Lord in mighty prayer.

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, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm,

I retired to a secret place in a grove and began to call upon the Lord. While fervently engaged in supplication, my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded,

a pillar of light above the brightness of the sun at noonday came down from above and rested upon me. I was filled with the spirit of God, and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord. A pillar of fire appeared above my head. It presently rested down upon me and filled me with joy unspeakable. A personage appeared in the midst of this pillar of flame, which was spread all around and yet nothing consumed. Another personage soon appeared, like unto the first. I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noonday.
And he spake unto me, saying, “Joseph, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee. Go thy way, walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments. Behold, I am the Lord of glory. I was crucified for the world, that all those who believe on my name may have eternal life. Behold, the world lieth in sin at this time, and none doeth good, no, not one. They have turned aside from the gospel and keep not my commandments. They draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me. And mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth, to visit them according to their ungodliness and to bring to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and apostles. Behold and lo, I come quickly, as it is written of me, in the cloud, clothed in the glory of my Father.” He said unto me, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” He testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God. And I saw many angels in this vision. My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven.

They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines and that none of them was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom. And I was expressly commanded to “go not after them,” at the same time receiving a promise that the fulness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me.
My soul was filled with love, and for many days I could rejoice with great joy. The Lord was with me, but I could find none that would believe the heavenly vision. Nevertheless, I pondered these things in my heart. I was about fourteen years old when I received this first communication. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, “Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.” I then said to my mother, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?

References [ edit ]

  1. ^ "The earliest allusion, oral or written, to the first vision is the brief mention that was transcribed in June 1830 and originally printed in the Book of Commandments." (Palmer,[specify] 235).
  2. ^ Allen 1966
  3. ^ The account was first published to non-Mormons in 1831. Howe (1831).
  4. ^ Howe (1831).
  5. ^ Allen (1980, p. 45); Bushman (2005, pp. 39, 112).
  6. ^ Bushman (2005, p. 39).
  7. ^ "One of the most significant documents of that period yet discovered was brought to light in 1965 by Paul R. Cheesman, a graduate student at Brigham Young University. This is a handwritten manuscript apparently composed about 1833 and either written or dictated by Joseph Smith. It contains an account of the early experiences of the Mormon prophet and includes the story of the first vision. While the story varies in some details from the version presently accepted, enough is there to indicate that at least as early as 1833 Joseph Smith contemplated writing and perhaps publishing it. The manuscript has apparently lain in the L.D.S. Church Historian's office for many years, and yet few if any who saw it realized its profound historical significance." (Allen 1966, p. 35)
  8. ^ Joseph Smith History, 1832, as found in Vogel 1996, p. 28
  9. ^ See the full text of the Messenger and Advocate from December 1834, page 42[unreliable source?] and January 1835, 78-79.[unreliable source?]
  10. ^ The stranger was Robert Matthias, a religious con-artist using the alias "Joshua the Jewish minister". Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 275-76.
  11. ^ Smith (1835, pp. 22–24).
  12. ^ Smith (1835, p. 23).
  13. ^ Smith (1835, pp. 23–24).
  14. ^ a b c d Smith (1835, p. 24).
  15. ^ Abanes,[specify] 16: the 1835 account Archived April 14, 2005, at the Wayback Machine[unreliable source?]. In 1835, Smith approved the "Lectures on Faith", an orderly presentation of Mormonism (probably written by Sidney Rigdon) in which it was taught that although Jesus Christ had a tangible body of flesh, God the Father was a spiritual presence—a view not out of harmony with orthodox Christian belief. The "Lectures on Faith" were canonized by the LDS Church and included as part of the Doctrine and Covenants until de-canonized after 1921. (Bushman,Rough Stone Rolling, 283–84.)
  16. ^ Smith (1835, p. 35).
  17. ^ Smith (1835, pp. 35–36). When LDS Church historian B. H. Roberts included this account into his History of the Church 2:312, he changed the words "first visitation of angels" to "first vision."
  18. ^ The original 1838 manuscript has been lost, but the account was copied to manuscripts dating from 1839, which indicates that the year of writing was 1838, a fact also confirmed by Smith's journal entries. See Jessee (1969, pp. 6–7).
  19. ^ Times and Seasons, March and April, vol. 3 nos. 9, 11.
  20. ^ James 1:5; Joseph Smith–History.
  21. ^ SeeGreat Apostasy.
  22. ^ Roberts 1902, vol. 1, ch. 1, p. 6
  23. ^ Lucy Smith's Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, first published in Liverpool in 1853. (Vogel 1996, p. 227)
  24. ^ "The First Vision: 1838 Joseph Smith History Account", Woodland Institute, Richard N. Holzapfel, archived from the original on 2012-08-25
  25. ^ Smith 1832, p. 2
  26. ^ According to Mormon apologist Larry C. Porter, the Methodist minister, George Lane, may have passed very near the Smith home and preached at a camp meeting along the way in July 1820. "In the pursuit of his ministerial duties Rev. Lane was in the geographical proximity of Joseph Smith on a number of occasions between the years 1819-1825. The nature degree or indeed the actuality of their acquaintanceship during this interval poses a number of interesting possibilities .... In July 1820 Lane would have had to pass through the greater Palmyra-Manchester vicinity..unless he went by an extremely circuitous route. Present records do not specify Lane's itinerary or exact route ... but they do for Lane's friend, Rev. George Peck .... [Peck's] conference route took him north to Ithaca, then on to a camp meeting in the Holland Purchase, subsequently passing along the Ridge Road to Rochester .... As Rev. Peck, [Lane] may even have stopped at a camp meeting somewhere along the way. A preacher of his standing would always be a welcome guest." (Porter 1969, p. 335). Smith never mentions the name of the minister.
  27. ^ Smith 1842c, p. 748; Roberts 1902, vol. 1, ch. 1, p. 6
  28. ^ Roberts 1902, vol. 1, ch. 1, p. 7
  29. ^ Allen 1966, p. 30: "According to Joseph Smith, he told the story of the vision immediately after it happened in the early spring of 1820. As a result, he said, he received immediate criticism in the community. There is little if any evidence, however, that by the early 1830s Joseph Smith was telling the story in public. At least if he were telling it, no one seemed to consider it important enough to have recorded it at the time, and no one was criticizing him for it."
  30. ^ Allen 1966, p. 31: "Apparently not until 1843, when the New York Spectator printed a reporter's account of an interview with Joseph Smith, did a non-Mormon source publish any reference to the story of the first vision."
  31. ^ Palmer 2002, p. 245: "There is no evidence of prejudice resulting from this first vision. If his report that 'all the sects...united to persecute me' were accurate, one would expect to find some hint of this in the local newspapers, narratives by ardent critics, and in the affidavits D. P. Hurlbut gathered in 1833. The record is nevertheless silent on this issue. No one, friend or foe, in New York or Pennsylvania remember either that there was 'great persecution' or even that Joseph claimed to have had a vision. Not even his family remembers it."
  32. ^ Orson Pratt, "Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions", Orson Pratt, Ballantyne and Huges publ, 1840 (reprinted in Jessee,[specify] vol. 1 pp. 149–60)
  33. ^ a b Pratt 1840, p. 5
  34. ^ Smith 1842a, pp. 706–710.
  35. ^ a b Smith 1842a, pp. 706
  36. ^ a b Smith 1842a, pp. 707
  37. ^ Smith 1883, pp. 6–8
  38. ^ Persuitte 2000, p. 26
  39. ^ Smith 1883, p. 6
  40. ^ a b Smith 1883, pp. 6, 8–9
  41. ^ Smith 1884
  42. ^ Bushman (2005, p. 40) ("In the 1835 account and again in 1838, the balance of the two parts of the story—personal forgiveness as contrasted to apostasy of the churches—shifted. Joseph's own salvation gave way to the opening of a new era of history.")
  43. ^ Bushman (2005, pp. 39–40) ("At first, Joseph was reluctant to talk about his vision .... When he described the First Vision in 1832, he abbreviated the experience.")
  44. ^ Tanner, Jerald and Sandra (1987), Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? (5th ed.), Utah Lighthouse Ministry, pp. 143–62
  45. ^ American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon Publisher=Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2003. p. 171. ("Any good lawyer (or historian) would expect to find contradictions or competing narratives written down years apart and decades after the event. And despite the contradictions, key elements abide. In each case, Jesus appears to Smith in a vision. In each case, Smith is blessed with a revelation. In each case, God tells him to remain aloof from all Christian denominations, as something better is in store.")
  46. ^ "One person perceives harmony and interconnections while another overstates differences. Think of how you retell a vivid event in your life—marriage, first day on the job, or an automobile accident. A record of all your comments would include short and long versions, along with many bits and pieces. Only by blending these glimpses can an outsider reconstruct what originally happened. The biggest trap is comparing description in one report with silence in another. By assuming that what is not said is not known, some come up with arbitrary theories of an evolution in the Prophet's story. Yet we often omit parts of an episode because of the chance of the moment, not having time to tell everything, or deliberately stressing only a part of the original event in a particular situation. This means that any First Vision account contains some fraction of the whole experience. Combining all reliable reports will recreate the basics of Joseph Smith's quest and conversation with the Father and Son."(Anderson 1996)
  47. ^ "I've actually studied the various accounts of Joseph's First Vision, and I'm struck by the difference in his recountings. But as I look back at my missionary journals, for instance, which I've kept and other journals which I've kept throughout my life, I'm struck now in my older years by the evolution and hopefully the progression that's taken place in my own life and how differently now from this perspective I view some things that happened in my younger years." Frontline and American Experience, "Interview: Marlin Jensen", in Helen Whitney (ed.), The Mormons, PBS
  48. ^ a b c d e f Jessee 1989
  49. ^ Vogel (2004, p. 30): "...the vision confirmed what [Smith] and his father had suspected, that the world was spiritually dead. Jesus told Joseph Jr. that 'the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned aside from the gospel and keep not my commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me.'"
  50. ^ "History, circa Summer 1832," p. 1, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed February 23, 2020,
  51. ^ "Journal, 1835–1836," p. 23, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed February 23, 2020,
  52. ^ "History, circa June 1839–circa 1841 [Draft 2]," p. 2, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed February 23, 2020,
  53. ^ "“Church History,” 1 March 1842," p. 706, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed February 23, 2020,

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