Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/For my Wife and Children (Letter to my Wife)/Chapter 1

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Response to "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife"): Chapter 1 - The First Vision

A FairMormon Analysis of: For my Wife and Children (Letter to my Wife), a work by author: Anonymous
Chart LTMW first vision.png

Response to claims made in "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife"): Chapter 1 - The First Vision

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Response to claim: By the time of the "first publication in 1842" of the First Vision in the Times and Seasons, "not a single one of 23,564 members of the Church ever recorded hearing about it"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

The Times and Seasons began publication in 1839, but the story of the vision was not printed in its pages until 1842. There are no records of transcribed sermons by Joseph or the other elders of the Church, no personal journal entries by Joseph or journals entries by any of his family or followers, and no LDS periodicals or publications describing this historic event. By its first publication in 1842, not a single one of 23,564 members of the Church ever recorded hearing about it.

Author's sources:
  1. Voice of Warning and Instruction to All People, published in 1837 by apostle Parley P. Pratt

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

Orson Pratt published the story of the First Vision in 1840, two years before the Times and Seasons printed it. Pratt published it in 1842 as A Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records (Edinburgh, 1840). This document may be viewed on the Joseph Smith Papers website here: Appendix: Orson Pratt, A Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, 1840.



Orson Pratt (1840): "a very bright and glorious light in the heavens...He expected to have seen the leaves and boughs of the trees consumed, as soon as the light came in contact with them"

Orson Pratt describes Joseph Smith's First Vision in, A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, 1840:

[Joseph], at length, saw a very bright and glorious light in the heavens above; which, at first, seemed to be at a considerable distance. He continued praying, while the light appeared to be gradually descending towards him; and, as it drew nearer, it increased in brightness, and magnitude, so that, by the time that it reached the tops of the trees, the whole wilderness, for some distance around, was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner. He expected to have seen the leaves and boughs of the trees consumed, as soon as the light came in contact with them; but, perceiving that it did not produce that effect, he was encouraged with the hopes of being able to endure its presence. It continued descending, slowly, until it rested upon the earth, and he was enveloped in the midst of it. When it first came upon him, it produced a peculiar sensation throughout his whole system; and, immediately, his mind was caught away, from the natural objects with which he was surrounded; and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness. He was informed, that his sins were forgiven. He was also informed upon the subjects, which had for some time previously agitated his mind, viz.—that all the religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines; and, consequently, that none of them was acknowledged of God, as his church and kingdom. And he was expressly commanded, to go not after them; and he received a promise that the true doctrine—the fulness of the gospel, should, at some future time, be made known to him; after which, the vision withdrew, leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace, indescribable.[1]


Response to claim: "Several religious publications in the New England area demonstrate that such visions were common"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Several religious publications in the New England area demonstrate that such visions were common...

Author's sources:
  1. The Religious Experience Of Norris Stearns, 1815
  2. The Life, Conversion, Preaching, Travels, and Sufferings of Elias Smith, 1816
  3. Asa Wild, Wayne Sentinel, 1823. https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/BYUStudies/article/viewFile/6482/6131
  4. Memoirs of the Life and Travels of B. Hibbard: Minister of the Gospel
  5. The Christian Guide to a Right Understanding of the Sacred Scriptures, John S Thompson, 1826
  6. John Taylor, Nauvoo Journal, Jan-Sept 1845, BYU Studies 23 no.3, p.45. Referring to A Sketch of the Experience of Solomon Chamberlin, Lyons, New York, 1829

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Such visions were not uncommon, and we do not judge whether or not those visions were real: God can speak to any of His children when and however He wishes. However, one of the unique characteristics of Joseph's vision was that he was told not to join any of the churches at that time. What ultimately set Joseph Smith on a different path from others who had reported visions of God and Jesus Christ was the visit of the angel Moroni and the production of the Book of Mormon.



Question: What is the difference between Joseph Smith's first vision and other reported visions of God at the time?

The type of event that we now refer to as Joseph Smith's First Vision was not entirely uncommon at the time

There were at the time people who went to the wood to pray after reading the Bible, and as a result received visions and epiphanies. Visionaries are not that uncommon in environments where people are routinely open to the divine. Even the famous Charles Finney had one. Finney, after retiring to the woods to pray, described the experience:

Just at this moment I again thought I heard someone approach me, and I opened my eyes to see whether it were so. But right there the revelation of my pride of heart, as the great difficulty that stood in the way, was distinctly shown to me. An overwhelming sense of my wickedness in being ashamed to have a human being see me on my knees before God, took such powerful possession of me, that I cried at the top of my voice, and exclaimed that I would not leave that place if all the men on earth and all the devils in hell surrounded me. "What!" I said, "such a degraded sinner I am, on my knees confessing my sins to the great and holy God; and ashamed to have any human being, and a sinner like myself, find me on my knees endeavoring to make my peace with my offended God!" The sin appeared awful, infinite. It broke me down before the Lord.

Just at that point this passage of Scripture seemed to drop into my mind with a flood of light: "Then shall ye go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. Then shall ye seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." I instantly seized hold of this with my heart. I had intellectually believed the Bible before; but never had the truth been in my mind that faith was a voluntary trust instead of an intellectual state. I was as conscious as I was of my existence, of trusting at that moment in God's veracity. Somehow I knew that that was a passage of Scripture, though I do not think I had ever read it. I knew that it was God's word, and God's voice, as it were, that spoke to me. I cried to Him, "Lord, I take Thee at Thy word. Now Thou knowest that I do search for Thee with all my heart, and that I have come here to pray to Thee; and Thou hast promised to hear me."

That seemed to settle the question that I could then, that day, perform my vow. The Spirit seemed to lay stress upon that idea in the text, "When you search for me with all your heart." The question of when, that is of the present time, seemed to fall heavily into my heart. I told the Lord that I should take Him at his word; that He could not lie; and that therefore I was sure that He heard my prayer, and that He would be found of me.

He then gave my many other promises, both from the Old and the New Testament, especially some most precious promises respecting our Lord Jesus Christ. I never can, in words, make any human being understand how precious and true those promises appeared to me. I took them one after the other as infallible truth, the assertions of God who could not lie. They did not seem so much to fall into my intellect as into my heart, to be put within the grasp of the voluntary powers of my mind; and I seized hold of them, appropriated them, and fastened upon them with the grasp of a drowning man.

I continued thus to pray, and to receive and appropriate promises for a long time, I know not how long. I prayed till my mind became so full that, before I was aware of it, I was on my feet and tripping up the ascent toward the road. The question of my being converted, had not so much as arisen to my thought; but as I went up, brushing through the leaves and bushes, I recollect saying with emphasis, "If I am ever converted, I will preach the Gospel."[2]

Although Finney doesn't claim to have seen any personages, he does describe a communication with God. Joseph Smith describes his experiences in much the same way as others in his environment did.

Joining a church at that time required one to explain one's standing with God to a preacher

Keep in mind that Joseph prayed to find out if his sins had been forgiven. And he discovered that they had. This pleased him greatly. Why did he pray about this matter? The reason is that joining a church at that time often required that one explain one's standing with God to a preacher. We are dealing with Protestant sects. And conservative Protestants believe that one is saved (justified) at the moment one confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. So Joseph, as he faced the competing Protestant sects, was deeply concerned about his sins. One had to demonstrate to oneself and also convince a preacher that one had been saved--that is, justified. And there were, as you mention, many instances in which prayers were answered by visions in which the person learned that God had forgiven their sins.

One difference between Joseph's vision and others is that Joseph was told not to join any denomination

The difference between Joseph's experience and many other accounts by visionaries, is that, in addition to being told that his sins were in fact forgiven, he was also told not to join any denomination. When he told that part of his visionary experience, it got him into big trouble with preachers. It was not the vision that was a problem for preachers, but his reporting that he should not join some sect.

So the fact is, contrary to our current way of telling his story, the First Vision was not the beginning of Joseph's call as Seer, Prophet, Revelator and Translator. Although we now see that his vision signaled the beginning of the restoration, his vision did not begin the work of the restoration, but it steered him away from joining one of the competing denominations. It was Joseph's subsequent encounters with Moroni that made him a Seer, and eventually the founding Prophet of a fledgling Church, and not his initial vision, which was initially for him a private event about which he was reluctant to talk, though eventually he dictated some very sketchy accounts that were found and published during our lifetime. And Joseph told a few people about it, and word got around, which caused him much trouble with Protestant preachers.

Neither Joseph nor others at that time offered the First Vision as a reason to become Latter-day Saints

Joseph eventually wrote the account of that early vision late in his life because rumors about it had circulated and caused him difficulty. But neither Joseph nor any of the other early Saints offered that vision as a reason for others to become Latter-day Saints during his lifetime. It was only much later that what we now call the First Vision began to take on a special importance for the Saints. One reason is that Americans soon did not live in a visionary environment. The great Charles Dickens, writing in England, explained why. He called Joseph Smith vision an absurdity--"seeing visions in the age of railways."

Wilford Woodruff came into the Church of Jesus Christ because he had known earlier in his life someone he believed was a prophet who had alerted him to the soon to be restoration of primitive Christianity. This remarkable story, which was included in the lesson manual on President Woodruff, illustrates the visionary world in which Joseph was raised. Though there were a few--one or two--instances in which the visionary reported encounters with two heavenly messengers, it was most often God the Son who they reported appearing to them.

But there have been and still are peoples not impacted by post-enlightenment skepticism about divine things who are open to visions and other dramatic encounters with the divine, though they often do not speak in public about such things, since they tend to see them as strictly private blessings and not something about which one ought to be gossiping and boasting.

The establishment of the restored Church of Jesus Christ began with the Book of Mormon

The first missionaries in the Church used The Book of Mormon, not the First Vision, as a witness that the heavens were open, and that each individual, by applying the promise in Moroni 10:3-5, can receive a direct manifestation from Heavenly Father, through the Holy Ghost, that The Book of Mormon is true. After that testimony is gained, it follows that Joseph Smith is a true prophet, as he brought The Book of Mormon forth and restored the fullness of the Gospel under the direction of the Savior.

The fledgling Church of Christ began with the Book of Mormon, the witnesses to the plates, the restoration of priesthood keys, and not directly with what we call the First Vision, though that initial experience assisted in Joseph avoiding what could be perceived as damaging sectarian contamination. The historical record shows that Joseph never gave any attention to the creeds or arguments of quarreling preachers. This was the purpose served by the First Vision.


Response to claim: "In his first account written in 1832, Joseph mentions that he had already concluded that the world had apostatized from the faith"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

In his first account written in 1832, Joseph mentions that he had already concluded that the world had apostatized from the faith and that “there was no society or denomination built upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament.”

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The mistake: How would Joseph, at age 14, have determined that there was no true "denomination upon the earth" by examining the few churches that he had access to in Palmyra? He may have determined that none of the ones that he was familiar with were true, but how would he know that there wasn't one on the entire earth unless he asked God during his vision?

Logical Fallacy: Composition/Division—The author assumed that one part of something had to be applied to everything.

Joseph stated that at age 14 that he had determined that there was no true church upon the earth prior to the First Vision. Joseph had access to, at best, four or five churches within the Palmyra area, and therefore based his assumption upon what he knew. During his vision, he asked Jesus Christ if there was a true church upon the earth. This is entirely logical.

Question: Did Joseph Smith decide that all churches were wrong before he received the First Vision?

Criticisms of Joseph's 1832 account compared to his 1835 account of the First Vision

In his 1832 history, Joseph Smith said:

I found [by searching the scriptures] 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 built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament.

But in 1835 he said, “I knew not who [of the denominations] was right or who was wrong.”

  • It this a contradiction and is this evidence that the First Vision story evolved over time?
  • One critic of the Church states, "In the 1832 account, Joseph said that before praying he knew that there was no true or living faith or denomination upon the earth as built by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. His primary purpose in going to prayer was to seek forgiveness of his sins. . . .In the official 1838 account, Joseph said his “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”…”(for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)”"

If you had come to the conclusion that mankind has apostatized from the true faith, and you suddenly found Jesus standing in front of you, wouldn't you ask Him if any of those churches was the correct one?

If you had come to the conclusion that mankind has apostatized from the true faith, and you suddenly found Jesus standing in front of you, wouldn't you ask Him if any of those churches was the correct one? Or would you simply tell Him, "never mind, I already figured it out for myself?"

Besides, where is the inconsistency? How many churches did Joseph have immediate knowledge of? Three or four? Joseph determined that the churches with which he had direct experience did not adhere to the scriptures and that therefore mankind "had apostatized from the true and living faith." During his vision, he then asked the Lord which church was right, because it had not occurred to him that the Lord's church didn't exist anywhere on the face of the earth. It had never entered into his heart that all churches were wrong.

Joseph's motivation in his 1832 account, in addition to seeking forgiveness of his sins, was also to determine whether God's church was upon the earth

Josephs.1832.account.which.church.is right.jpg

There is no contradiction in the two texts presented in the above argument, only a short-sighted understanding of some isolated sources. The answer to this apparent contradiction lies in a detailed examination of relevant texts.


Question: How could Joseph Smith come to the conclusion that all churches were wrong on his own?

Joseph was in doubt as to what his duty was regarding joining a church

The answer to this apparent contradiction lies in a detailed examination of relevant texts. It is important to first compare Joseph Smith’s November 1832 text (which is in his own handwriting) with a newspaper article printed earlier that same year which refers to the Prophet’s inaugural religious experiences.

1832 (February): “not attached himself to any party of Christians, owing to the numerous divisions among them, and being in doubt what his duty was, he had recourse [to] prayer” (Fredonia Censor).
1832 (November): “my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations . . . . 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 built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament” (handwritten account by Joseph Smith).[3]

Joseph Smith concluded that none of the denominations with which he had acquaintance was built upon the New Testament gospel

When both of these texts are taken into consideration the following storyline suggests itself: Joseph Smith had come to the conclusion, through personal scripture study, that none of the denominations WITH WHICH HE HAD AN INTIMATE ACQUAINTANCE was built upon the New Testament gospel. He prayed for guidance because he was “in doubt what his duty was.” This doubt is obliquely referred to again in Oliver Cowdery’s February 1835 Messenger and Advocate partial First Vision recital where he said that because of the religious excitement the Prophet had “determination to know for himself of the certainty and reality of pure and holy religion.”[4]

Doubt is present again in the Prophet’s November 1835 diary entry: “I knew not who was right or who was wrong and I considered it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involve eternal consequences.”[5] So the conclusion this fourteen-year-old boy had reached through personal scripture study did not altogether solve his dilemma. In fact, in the May 1838 account he clarifies that because of his youth and inexperience in life he could not make an absolute decision with regard to this matter: “it was impossible for a person young as I was and so unacquainted with men and things to come to any certain conclusion who was right, and who was wrong”; “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 right which is it, and how shall I know it?”; “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.”

Joseph wanted to know which of the many hundreds of denominations on earth was the correct one

Orson Pratt’s 1840 First Vision account helps to explain why the ‘Joseph-decided-every-existing-church-was-wrong’ theory cannot possibly be valid. Elder Pratt reports, “He then reflected upon the immense number of doctrines now in the world which had given rise to many hundreds of different denominations. The great question to be decided in his mind was—if any one of these denominations be the Church of Christ, which one is it?” This expansive view is reflected in the Prophet’s 1838 account. There he states, “My object in going to enquire 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.”


Response to claim: "He then has an encounter with “the Lord,” but makes no mention of two separate personages"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

He then has an encounter with “the Lord,” but makes no mention of two separate personages.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event





Question: What differences are there between Joseph Smith's 1832 First Vision account and later accounts?

"At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously imprest"

At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns of for the wellfare of my immortal Soul which led me to searching the scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God...
∗       ∗       ∗

"my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations"

...thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations led me to marvel excedingly for I discovered that they did not adorn instead of adorning their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository...
∗       ∗       ∗

"this was a grief to my Soul thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen"

Did Joseph's 1832 account not mention any religious revivals in his area?

Summary: A religious revival is not mentioned in Joseph Smith's handwritten 1832 First Vision account.

"for I become convicted of my sins....I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world"

Was Joseph's motivation in the 1832 account different than later accounts?

Summary: Joseph Smith's stated motivation for praying to the Lord changes between the first known account of the First Vision (1832) and the official version of it (1838).

"by searching the scriptures I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord"

...and by searching the scriptures I found that mand mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and liveing faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament...
∗       ∗       ∗

"I cried unto the Lord for mercy"

...therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and to obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness...

"in the 16th year of my age"

Joseph Smith's 1832 First Vision account states he was 15 years old rather than 14

Summary: In Joseph Smith's 1832 First Vision recital he said that he was "in the 16th year of [his] age" when the manifestation took place but when he created the 1838 account he changed this information to say that he was "in [his] fifteenth year."

"I saw the Lord"

Why isn't the Prophet's struggle with Satan in the 1832 account?

Summary: Joseph Smith says in the official Church history account of the First Vision that directly before the theophany occurred he had a struggle with Satan. But this struggle is not mentioned in his 1832 recital of the experience.

Did Joseph Smith claim to see only one Personage in his 1832 vision account?

Summary: In the 1832 account of the First Vision—which is in the handwriting of Joseph Smith—it only says that Jesus Christ made an appearance to the Prophet; the Father is missing.

Is the 1832 vision set in heaven or on the earth?

Summary: There seems to be a discrepancy between the location of Deity in the Prophet's 1832 and 1838 First Vision accounts. The 1838 version says that the Prophet saw two Personages standing in the air above the earth, within his proximity. But the 1832 version is not so clear - it seems to locate Deity in heaven.

"thy sins are forgiven thee"

Did Joseph really not mention being forbidden to join other churches in 1832?

Summary: The 1832 First Vision account does not portray the Lord giving Joseph Smith an injunction against joining any church; it does not portray the Lord as announcing that all the churches were corrupt. These details do not show up until the 1838 account.

Did Joseph Smith join other churches contrary to commandment in the First Vision?

Summary: Did Joseph Smith join the Methodist, Presbyterian, or Baptist churches between 1820 and 1830—despite the claim made in his 1838 history that he was forbidden by Deity (during the 1820 First Vision experience) from joining any denomination?

Question: Why doesn't Joseph Smith's 1832 First Vision account mention a "new dispensation"?

Summary: One critical author states, "Joseph [Smith] added new elements to his later narratives that are not hinted at in his earlier ones. His first vision evolved from a forgiveness epiphany [1832 account] to a call from God the Father and Jesus Christ to restore the true order of things [1842 account]."

Question: Did Joseph Smith decide that all churches were wrong before he received the First Vision?

Question: How could Joseph Smith come to the conclusion that all churches were wrong on his own?

"all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life"

Does the 1832 account say that eternal life is given to everyone regardless of church affiliation?

Summary: When Jesus Christ speaks to Joseph Smith in the 1832 First Vision account He says that all of those who believe on His name may have eternal life. Does this mean that one receives eternal life regardless of what church they are affiliated with?

"mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth"

Why does the 1832 account mention destruction of the wicked but the 1838 account doesn't?

Summary: One difference between the 1832 First Vision account and the official 1838 recital is that it portrays Jesus Christ as prophesying that He will return to earth quickly to destroy wicked mortals. The 1838 story makes no mention of the impending doom of this planet's depraved inhabitants.

"I could find none that would believe"

Why was persecution for his vision absent in Joseph's 1832 account?

Summary: Joseph Smith's 1832 First Vision account does not say that he was persecuted for relating his spiritual manifestation to others.

"I pondered these things"

nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart about that time my mother and but after many days</span>I fell into transgression and sinned in many things which brought a wound upon my soul and there were many things which transpired that cannot be writen and my Fathers family have suffered many persicutions and afflictions and it—came to pass when I was seventeen years of age I called again upon the Lord and he shewed unto me a heavenly vision
∗       ∗       ∗

Source text of the 1832 First Vision account


Prothero (2003): "in the 1832 version, Jesus appears to Smith alone, and does all the talking himself. Such complaints, however, are much ado about relatively nothing"

Stephen Prothero, American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon (2003):

Critics of Mormonism have delighted in the discrepancies between the canonical [1838 PGP] account and earlier renditions, especially one written in Smith's own hand in 1832. For example, in the 1832 version, Jesus appears to Smith alone, and does all the talking himself. Such complaints, however, are much ado about relatively nothing. 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.[6]


Response to claim: "Joseph’s 1835 account notes that while one of the two personages testifies that Jesus is the Son of God, neither personage is specifically identified as God or Jesus. Also sees 'many angels'"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Joseph’s 1835 account notes that while one of the two personages testifies that Jesus is the Son of God, neither personage is specifically identified as God or Jesus. Also sees “many angels.”

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Actually, Joseph never specifically the two personages as God or Jesus in any of his accounts, including the one in the Pearl of Great Price. The identity of the personages is implied when one identifies the other.
  • In the 1835 account, a personage stated that "Jesus Christ is the son of God."
  • In the 1838 account, a personage stated "This is my beloved Son, Hear him."



Question: Why does Joseph Smith's 9 November 1835 account of the First Vision mention "many angels?"

Criticisms related to Joseph Smith's 9 November 1835 account of the First Vision

The capitalized word "Angels" in Joseph Smith's diary entry for 14 November 1835 has given rise to two distinct criticisms by detractors of the faith, and one misguided conclusion by some Latter-day Saints.

Criticism #1 - Critics note that this word is plainly used in reference to the First Vision and thus assume that Joseph Smith did not consistently claim to see Deity during this manifestation and that he therefore contradicted himself.
Criticism #2 - Critics conclude that the official History of the Church was "falsified" when this reference was changed without any notation.
Misguided Conclusion - Some conclude that since the word "Angels" is capitalized in the text Joseph Smith must have been applying this title to Deity.

Both the two personages and "many angels" are mentioned

The mention of "many angels" in the November 9, 1835 diary entry is a clarifying detail. The appearance of the Father and Son are clearly referenced separately from the mention of the "many angels." Since the visit of the Father and Son are acknowledged in the diary entry for the 9th the change from "first visitation of Angels" to "the First Vision" in the History of the Church entry is not a "falsification" of information.


Response to claim: "Even the elders of the Church, who labored with him closely, did not know that Joseph saw two personages...Brigham Young"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Even the elders of the Church, who labored with him closely, did not know that Joseph saw two personages...Brigham Young...

“The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven ... but He did send his angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, 1855, p.171)

Author's sources:
  1. Brigham Young, (1855) Journal of Discourses 2:171.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Brigham was aware of the "official" account of the First Vision, which had been published in the Pearl of Great Price since 1851 (four years earlier). Brigham actually used several phrases from Joseph's published First Vision account in the sermon quoted by the author. And, just six years later, in 1861, Brigham says, "The Lord chose Joseph Smith, called upon him at fourteen years of age, gave him visions."

Question: What is Brigham Young claimed to have said that leads one to doubt that he denied the First Vision?

Brigham stated that "The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven..."

It is claimed that President Brigham Young taught in an 1855 sermon that the Lord did not appear to Joseph Smith and forbid him from joining any of the religious denominations of his day, and that it was an "angel" who delivered this message instead. [7]

Note that the same critics also claim that Brigham Young never spoke about the First Vision at all:

An edited version of the 1855 sermon text—as it is presented by Church critics—reads as follows:

"The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven...But He did send His angel to...Joseph Smith Jun[ior]...and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day."[8]

Brigham actually said "The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven...with aught else than the truth of heaven..."

A complete quotation of the relevant 1855 sermon text reads as follows (bolded words indicate anti-Mormon usage):

"the Lord sent forth His angel to reveal the truths of heaven as in times past, even as in ancient days. This should have been hailed as the greatest blessing which could have been bestowed upon any nation, kindred, tongue, or people. It should have been received with hearts of gratitude and gladness, praise and thanksgiving.

But as it was in the days of our Savior, so was it in the advent of this new dispensation. It was not in accordance with the notions, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas of the American people. The messenger did not come to an eminent divine of any of the so-called orthodoxy, he did not adopt their interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek[,] the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowledge of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith Jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that He had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before Him."

Brigham actually used several phrases from Joseph's published First Vision account in this sermon

The portion of the second paragraph that critics focus on in their argumentation contains distinct themes found in the official, previously-published history of Joseph Smith. It is, therefore, necessary to exvaluate President's Young's remarks in that light. Consider the following comparison of texts -

  • BRIGHAM YOUNG (1855 sermon): "informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong."
  • JOSEPH SMITH (1842 published First Vision text): "I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong."
  • BRIGHAM YOUNG (1855 sermon): "they were following the precepts of men."
  • JOSEPH SMITH (1842 published First Vision text): "they teach for doctrine the commandments of men."
  • BRIGHAM YOUNG (1855 sermon): "instead of the Lord Jesus."
  • JOSEPH SMITH (1842 published First Vision text): "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me" [Jesus Christ speaking].

Since President Young was obviously drawing his ideas from the official, published First Vision text it is reasonable to propose that he was referring to a completely different event after the comma that follows the word "Revelator" . . . while still referring to the "He" at the beginning of the sentence. Hence, "He" (the Lord) send His angel (Moroni) to Joseph Smith but "He" also—ON A DIFFERENT OCCASION—told Joseph Smith not to join any of the churches.

It should be noted that this sermon was not primarily about the foundational events of Mormonism, but about the United States government and its treatment of the Saints. President Young's remarks on foundational events were incidental, not central, to his message. It should also be pointed out that President Young did not personally deliver this sermon, but had Thomas Bullock read it to the audience which had assembled in the Salt Lake City tabernacle. Bullock served as a scribe on the Joseph Smith history project between 1845 and 1856. It is likely, therefore, that when Bullock delivered President Young's sermon in 1855 he was aware of the First Vision accounts found within the previously-published Joseph Smith history.

The First Vision story had been published nine times before Brigham gave this sermon

It should also be remembered that long before President Brigham Young's 1855 sermon was delivered in Salt Lake City his subordinates in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had published the First Vision story on nine different occasions: (Orson Pratt - 1840, 1850, 1851); (Orson Hyde - 1842); (John E. Page - 1844); (John Taylor - 1850); (Lorenzo Snow - 1850); (Franklin D. Richards - 1851, 1852). It is doubtful that President Young would have remained ignorant of these publications and their content. In fact, it is known that Elder Lorenzo Snow wrote to President Young on 1 November 1850 and mentioned explicitly that his publication contained accounts of "visions of Joseph" - including the First Vision story.[9]

The charge that President Brigham Young said an angel inaugurated the last dispensation instead of Deity cannot be supported. Evidence suggests that President Young's 1855 sermon is closely paraphrasing distinct First Vision story elements that were publicly available to all of the Saints in 1842.


Question: Did Brigham Young confirm or expound on Joseph Smith’s first vision?

Milton V. Backman, “I Have a Question: Did Brigham Young confirm or expound on Joseph Smith’s first vision?,” Ensign, Apr. 1992, 59:

President Young’s conviction of the divine calling of Joseph Smith included an unwavering acceptance of Joseph’s testimony regarding the First Vision. In 1842, Joseph Smith published two accounts of his 1820 theophany in the Times and Seasons—one he had written and included earlier in the Wentworth Letter, and the other a more extended history that appeared in serial form. This latter account (the account which appears in the current edition of the Pearl of Great Price) was reprinted in the Deseret News, the Millennial Star, and the first editions of the Pearl of Great Price during the presidency of Brigham Young. That President Young was well acquainted with this history is evident by the fact that he periodically cited the work in his sermons and writings.[10] —(Click here to continue)


Question: When and how often did Brigham Young refer to elements of Joseph Smith's First Vision in his discourses?

It cannot be denied that Brigham Young was aware of the official version of the First Vision as published by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois

It has been claimed that "Brigham Young never once mentioned the First Vision of God the Father and his Son in his 30 years of preaching as President of the Church." Note that the same critics also claim that Brigham Young taught only that an angel came: a strange claim to make while insisting that Brigham never spoke of the First Vision at all.

It cannot be denied that Brigham Young was aware of the official version of the First Vision as published by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois. And it is almost beyond comprehension to believe that President Young was not aware of numerous First Vision story recitals (both in print and over the pulpit) by high Church authorities such as Orson Pratt, Lorenzo Snow, John E. Page, George Q. Cannon, Orson Hyde, John Taylor, Franklin D. Richards, and George A. Smith.

First Vision elements and other revelatory claims for Joseph in Brigham Young's addresses

  • JS called at fourteen[11]
  • JS called as a youth[12]
  • Revival or Reformation[13]
  • All churches wrong; Don’t join any church[14]
  • Two personages[15]
  • Moroni and Book of Mormon[16]
  • Priesthood restored[17]

Chronological mentions of First Vision and other visitations by Brigham Young

This charge is not historically accurate. It can be plainly seen in the information provided below that Brigham Young was aware of the First Vision story during his tenure as President of the Church and not only shared it with non-Mormons in written form but also spoke to the Saints about it over the pulpit.

1832

  • Brigham Young September 1832, declared that he “received the sure testimony, by the spirit of prophecy, that he [Joseph Smith] was all that any man could believe him to be, as a true Prophet.”[18]

1835–36

  • Around 9 August 1835 Joseph Young (Brigham Young’s brother) was serving as a missionary with Burr Riggs and they were teaching the First Vision story.[19] In the Summer of 1836 Joseph Young and Brigham Young were serving together as missionaries.[20]

1838

  • Brigham Young, 22 December 1838:
I left Kirtland in consequence of the fury of the mob … who threatened to destroy me because I would proclaim, publicly and privately, that I knew, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of the Most High God.[21]

1841

  • “On the 4th June I started for home, in company with Elders Young and Taylor.—Elder O. Pratt remained in New York to republish the book he had printed in Edinburgh, Scotland, giving a history of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and of which he intended to publish 5,000 copies…. [78] Elder Orson Pratt arrived here this week…”[22]

1845

  • Brigham Young, June 25, 1845: we received the priesthood from God through Joseph Smith…. The Twelve Apostles who received the priesthood from Joseph[23]

1847

  • Brigham Young, D&C 136:37 (January 14, 1847): … Joseph Smith, whom I did call upon by mine angels, my ministering servants, and by mine own voice out of the heavens, to bring forth my work.[24]
  • Brigham Young, January 17, 1847: Dr. Richards read ‘The Word and Will of the Lord’ [D&C 136:] and all present voted unanimously to receive it. I addressed the assembly showing that the Church had been led by revelation just as much since the death of Joseph Smith as before, and that he was as great and good a man, and as great a Prophet as ever lived upon the earth, Jesus excepted. Joseph received his apostleship from Peter and his brethren[25]
  • Brigham Young
When Brother Joseph received the priesthood he did not receive all at once but he was a prophet, seer and revelator before he received the fullness of the priesthood and keys of the kingdom. He first received the Aaronic Priesthood and was ordained under the hands of John the Baptist. He then had not power to lay on hands to confirm the church but afterwards he received the Patriarchal or Melchizedek Priesthood from under the hands of Peter, James and John, who were of the Twelve apostles and were the presidency when the other apostles were absent.[26]

1848

  • Brigham Young wrote, late December 1848: “Elder Orson Pratt published a series of pamphlets on the first principles, viz., Divine Authority, or the Question, Was Joseph Smith Sent of God…. Kingdom of God parts 1 & 2…. Also reprinted his pamphlet entitled Remarkable Visions 16 pages… All of which were published in Liverpool, England”....[27]

1850

  • Brigham Young, June 23, 1850, Bowery: “[sin and darkness] makes it necessary for the Lord to speak from the heavens, send his angels to converse with men, and cause his servants to testify of the things of God”[28]
  • On 1 November 1850 Lorenzo Snow wrote a letter to Brigham Young and informed him that he had produced a tract called The Voice of Joseph which included information on “visions of Joseph Smith.” This tract talks about the Prophet’s First Vision experience. [29]

1853

  • Brigham Young 19 June 1853:
All persons who are acquainted with this kingdom, who knew Joseph Smith from his boyhood, from the time the Lord revealed to him where the plates containing the matter in the Book of Mormon were deposited, from the time the first revelation was given to him, and as far back as he was known, in anywise whatever, as a person professing to have received a visitation from heaven—all must know that as much priestcraft as was then within the circle of the knowledge of Joseph Smith, jun., he had to bear on his back, and to lift from time to time. On the other hand, as his name spread abroad, and the principles of the Gospel began to be more extensively taught, in the same proportion he had more to bear. The Lord began to raise him up, and endow him with wisdom and power that astonished both his friends and his foes.[30]
  • Brigham Young 24 July 1853:
the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet of the Lord, that an angel from heaven administered to him, that the Latter-day Saints have got the true Gospel, that John the Baptist came to Joseph Smith and committed to him the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood; and that Peter, James, and John also came to him, and gave him the keys of the Melchisedek Priesthood....[31]

1854

  • The Lucy Mack Smith autobiography called Biographical Sketches became available in Utah. Since Brigham Young protested vigorously against some of this book’s content he was more than likely aware of the 1838 Church history First Vision material printed within it. [32]
  • Brigham Young, March 31, 1854:
“….After the administration of baptism, we believe in laying hands upon the candidate for his confirmation as a member of the Church, and for his reception of the Holy Ghost; and we believe that these, and all other ordinances pertaining to salvation, should be administered by persons actually clothed with the priesthood, as again restored to the earth through the ministration of angels to the Prophet JOSEPH SMITH…. Trusting that this reply, though brief, will be satisfactory on the points of your inquiry” I remain, respectfully, your obedient servant, BRIGHAM YOUNG, [33]

1855

  • Brigham Young, (Feb 18, 1855):
But as it was in the days of our Savior, so was it in the advent of this new dispensation. It was not in accordance with the notions, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas of the American people. The messenger did not come to an eminent divine of any of the so-called orthodoxy, he did not adopt their interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek, the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowlege [knowledge] of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that He had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before Him. No sooner was this made known, and published abroad, and people began to listen and obey the heavenly summons, than opposition began to rage, and the people, even in this favored land, began to persecute their neighbors and friends for entertaining religious opinions differing from their own.[34]
  • [NOTE: compare the above with this by George Q. Cannon in 1889:
“But you may ask, ‘How shall I know concerning this? Shall I expect the Lord Himself to come, or His Son Jesus, or send a holy angel to me?’ In reply, we say, No; do not look for such things. This is not the Lord’s way of dealing with His children. It is true, the Father and the Son and angels visited the Prophet Joseph. This was necessary. He was a chosen instrument to accomplish a great work, and to do this he was visited in this manner, so that through him knowledge that had long been lost might be restored”[35] (308b)

1857

On 13 August 1857 Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Daniel H. Wells, John Taylor, Willard Richards, and Wilford Woodruff placed several publications in the southeast cornerstone of the Salt Lake Temple that contained First Vision accounts. They were:
  • The Pearl of Great Price
  • Lorenzo Snow, The Voice of Joseph
  • Orson Pratt, (various tracts)
  • Franklin D. Richards, Compendium
  • John Jaques, Catechism for Children
  • Millennial Star, vol. 14 supplement
  • Millennial Star, vol. 3[36]

1858

  • On 20 January 1858 apostles Wilford Woodruff and George A. Smith appended a statement to the published Church history stating that “since the death of the Prophet Joseph, the history has been carefully revised under the strict inspection of President Brigham Young, and approved of by him.” This history contains the 1838 First Vision account.[37]

1859

  • In the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on 1 September 1859 Brigham Young referred to Joseph Smith’s published 1838 First Vision account. He asked, “[H]ave I yet lived to the state of perfection that I can commune in person with the Father and the Son at my will and pleasure? No . . . . [three sentences later] Joseph Smith in his youth had revelations from God. He saw and understood for himself. Are you acquainted with his life? You can read the history of it. I was acquainted with him during many years. He had heavenly visions; angels administered to him. The vision of his mind was opened to see and understand heavenly things. He revealed the will of the Lord to the people, and yet but few were really acquainted with brother Joseph.” [38]

1860

  • Brigham Young 3 June 1860
The Lord has led this people from the beginning. From the day that Joseph obtained the plates, and previous to that time, the Lord dictated him. He directed him day by day and hour by hour.[39]

1861

  • In the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on 3 March 1861 Brigham Young said: “The Lord chose Joseph Smith, called upon him at fourteen years of age, gave him visions, and led him along, guided and directed him in his obscurity until he brought forth the plates and translated them, and Martin Harris was prevailed upon to sustain the printing of the Book of Mormon. All this was done in the depths of poverty, obscurity, and weakness."[40]
  • Brigham Young 6 April 1861:
The Book of Mormon was translated near where we [BY and HCK] then resided, as we might say, in our own neighbourhood. It was translated about as far from where brother Kimball then lived as it is from here to Little Cottonwood; and where Joseph first discovered the plates was about as far from where I then lived as it is from here to Provo. Here we would have considered the discoverer of those plates and the translator of the Book of Mormon as [p.2] one of our neighbours. We are in the habit here of travelling more frequently and further than we were there. From the time that Joseph had his first revelation, in the neighbourhood where brother Kimball and I then lived, appears but a few days. Since then this people have passed through, experienced, and learned a great deal.[41]
  • Brigham Young, April 7, 1861:
We are not able to print a book for want of paper. Now we are prepared to go to work and make our own paper. As I have remarked, we have most excellent machinery; we also have good paper-makers; and what hinders our making the best of paper, and all the paper we want to use? Then we can print, in book form, the History of Joseph Smith, and do it in a respectable manner. Then we can print the Church History for ourselves and for the world, and every book we need.[42]

1864

  • On 1 September 1864 Brigham Young signed and dated a copy of the Pearl of Great Price and donated it to Harvard university. This volume contains Joseph Smith’s 1838 First Vision account.[43]
  • Brigham Young 4 June 1864:
The Lord had not spoken to the inhabitants of this earth for a long time, until He spoke to Joseph Smith, committed to him the plates on which the Book of Mormon was engraved, and gave him a Urim and Thummim to translate a portion of them, and told him to print the Book of Mormon, which he did, and sent it to the world, according to the word of the Lord….. it was first organized on the 6th of April, 1830. This was a slow business, but at last he organized the Church, for the Lord had revealed to him the Aaronic priesthood upon which the Church was first organized; after that he received the Melchisedec priesthood, when the Church was more fully organized, and a few more believed, and then a few more and a few more.[44]
  • Brigham Young 13 November 1864
The first act that Joseph Smith was called to do by the angel of God, was, to get the plates from the hill Cumorah, and then translate them, and he got Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery to write for him. He would read the plates, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, and they would write.[45]

1866

  • Brigham Young 17 June 1866:
He called upon his servant Joseph Smith, jun., when he was but a boy, to lay the foundation of his kingdom for the last time. Why did he call upon Joseph Smith to do it? because he was disposed to do it. Was Joseph Smith the only person on earth who could have done this work? No doubt there were many others who, under the direction of the Lord, could have done that work; but the Lord selected the one that pleased him, and that is sufficient. [46]

1867

  • Brigham Young, June 23rd, 1867
When the Lord called upon Joseph he was but a boy--a child, only about fourteen years of age. He was not filled with traditions; his mind was not made up to this, that, or the other. I very well recollect the reformation which took place in the country among the various denominations of Christians--the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and others--when Joseph was a boy. Joseph's mother, one of his brothers, and one, if not two, of his sisters were members of the Presbyterian Church, and on this account the Presbyterians hung to the family with great tenacity. And in the midst of these revivals among the religious bodies, the invitation, "Come and join our church," was often extended to Joseph, but more particularly from the Presbyterians. Joseph was naturally inclined to be religious, and being young, and surrounded with this excitement, no wonder that he became seriously impressed with the necessity of serving the Lord. But as the cry on every hand was, "Lo, here is Christ," and "Lo, there!" Said he, "Lord, teach me, that I may know for myself, who among these are right." And what was the answer? "They are all out of the way; they have gone astray, and there is none that doeth good, no not one." When he found out that none were right, he began to inquire of the Lord what was right, and he learned for himself. Was he aware of what was going to be done? By no means. He did not know what the Lord was going to do with him, although He had informed him that the Christian churches were all wrong, because they had not the Holy Priesthood, and had strayed from the holy commandments of the Lord, precisely as the children of Israel did. …[70] When the Lord called upon His servant Joseph, after leading him along for years until he got the plates, from a portion of which the Book of Mormon was translated…. The Lord sent John to ordain Joseph to the Aaronic Priesthood, and when he commenced to baptize people he sent a greater power—Peter; James, and John, who ordained him to the apostleship, which is the highest office pertaining to the Kingdom of God that any man can possess on the face of the earth, for it holds the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven....[47]

1868

  • President B. Young 6 October 1868:
Orson Pratt spoke: some seven years before the Lord entrusted them [the plates] to his care…. The Lord revealed himself to this youth when he was between fourteen and fifteen years of age....[48]

1870

  • Brigham Young, Tabernacle, SLC, July 17, 1870:
Is there any harm in believing in the Lord Jesus Christ? I frequently ask the question for my own satisfaction. Is there a doctrine taught in this book (the Bible), that would ruin or injure man, woman or child on the face of the earth? Not one. Is there a doctrine taught by Jesus and his disciples that would not do good to the people morally, physically, socially, religiously or politically? Not one. Did Joseph Smith ever teach a doctrine that would not elevate the soul, feelings, heart and affections of every individual who would embrace it? Not one. Did he ever teach a doctrine that would lead those who embraced it down to wretchedness, woe and misery, that would give them pain for ease, darkness for light, error for truth? No; but just the reverse. He proffered life and salvation--light for darkness and truth for error. He proffered all that was in the Gospel of the Son of God, and proclaimed that very Gospel that John saw the angel flying through the midst of heaven to restore. That angel delivered the keys of this apostleship and ministry to Joseph Smith and his brethren”....[49]

1871

  • Brigham Young, General Conference, April 8, 1871:
Did Joseph Smith ever arrogate to himself this right? Never, never, never; and if God had not sent a messenger to ordain him to the Aaronic Priesthood and then other messengers to ordain him to the Apostleship, and told him to build up his kingdom on the earth, it would have remained in chaos to this day.[50]

1872

  • John Taylor, May 26, 1872 Tabernacle, Ogden Tabernacle[51]

1873

  • Brigham Young 18 May 1873:
When Joseph Smith first learned [p.42] from God the principle of baptism for the remission of sins, he undoubtedly thought that he had learned something great and wonderful; so, also, when he received his ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood under the hands of John the Baptist. But he did not fly off at a tangent, and think he had it all, but was willing and anxious to be taught further. After receiving this authority, he baptized his friends. When he organized the Church, he received the higher Priesthood, after the order of Melchisedec, which gave him authority not only to baptize for the remission of sins, but to confirm by the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost. The Aaronic Priesthood holds power to baptize, but not to lay on hands to confer the Holy Ghost. When Joseph Smith received this higher power, he did not throw away the first, but received additions to it. He learned of and administered the Sacrament, then went to preaching a year or two, and received the High Priesthood, which he imparted to others, and then obtained other communications and powers, until he received the full pattern and authority to build up the kingdom of God, preparatory to the coming of the Son of Man, which also he imparted to others.[52]
  • Brigham Young June 29, 1873 Logan Bowery
From the time that Joseph obtained a knowledge of the plates in the hill Cumorah he received little by little, a little at a time. When he first obtained a knowledge of these plates I apprehend that he knew nothing, in comparison, of their contents and the design of the Lord in bringing them forth. But he was instructed little by little until he received the Aaronic priesthood, then the privilege of baptism for the remission of sins, then the Melchizedek Priesthood, then organizing a church, &c.,[53]
  • Brigham Young, 10 August 1873, SLC Tabernacle:
The condition of the nations of the earth, politically, socially and religiously, was next dwelt upon, and, in concluding, President Young bore a powerful testimony to the gospel of Christ as revealed in this age of the [564] world, through Joseph Smith, the prophet.[54]

1874

  • President Young’s Address; Railroad Celebration.—Opening of the U.S.R.R. to Provo [read by David McKenzie]
JOSEPH SMITH. It is true that the angel, commissioned to restore, in this our day, the fullness of the everlasting Gospel, found Joseph but a youth and comparatively unlearned, he having had but limited opportunities for education in the then wilds of Western New York; but, from that date, until so foully massacred with his brother Hyrum in Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois, on the 27th June, 1844, in the 39th year of his age, he assiduously applied himself to studying the English, German, Hebrew and other languages, and gaining all information of worth from every available source, especially through revelation from Heaven, the fountain of all light and knowledge. (5)[55]
  • Brigham Young 21 June 1874:
We have passed from one thing to another, and I may say from one degree of knowledge to another. When Joseph first received the knowledge of the plates that were in the hill Cumorah, he did not then receive the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood, he merely received the knowledge that the plates were there, and that the Lord would bring them forth, and that they contained the history of the aborigines of this country. He received the knowledge that they were once in possession of the Gospel, and from that time he went on, step by step, until he obtained the plates, and the Urim and Thummim, and had power to translate them.[p.240] This did not make him an Apostle, it did not give to him the keys of the kingdom, nor make him an Elder in Israel. He was a Prophet, and had the spirit of prophecy, and had received all this before the Lord ordained him….. He received the Aaronic Priesthood, and then he received the keys of the Melchisedek Priesthood, and organized the Church. He first received the power to baptise, and still did not know that he was to receive any more until the Lord told him there was more for him. Then he received the keys of the Melchisedek Priesthood, and had power to confirm after he had baptized, which he had not before. He would have stood precisely as John the Baptist stood, had not the Lord sent his other messengers, Peter, James and John, to ordain Joseph to the Melchisedek Priesthood. …[56]

1876

  • Orson Pratt, October 8, 1876, General Conference:
“He spoke of some who had attained to a perfect knowledge. Joseph Smith, when a youth of fourteen years of age, had a knowledge of the existence of God the Father, Jesus Christ his Son, and holy angels, for he not only saw them with his eyes, but heard their voice” [BY spoke morning and twice in the afternoon sessions.][57]
  • Brigham Young: Sunday afternoon 17 September 1876 SLC Tabernacle:
“Brother Cannon speaks of Christians. We are Christians professedly, according to our religion. People have gathered to themselves certain ideas, and laid them down as systems, calling them religion, all professing to believe and obey the Scriptures. Their religious are peculiar to themselves—our religion is peculiar to God, to angels, and to the righteous of time and eternity. Why are we persecuted because of our religion? Why was Joseph Smith persecuted? Why was he hunted from neighborhood to neighborhood, from city to city, and from State to State, and at last suffered death? Because he received revelations from the Father, from the Son, and was ministered to by holy angels, and published to the world the direct will of the Lord concerning his children on the earth. Again, why was he persecuted? Because he revealed to all mankind a religion so plain and so easily understood, consistent with the Bible, and so true. It is now as it was in the days of the Savior; let people believe and practise these simple, Godlike traits, and it will be as it was in the old world, they will say, if this man be let alone he will come and take away our peace and nation....[58]
  • Brigham Young 21 May 1877 Logan:
[144] The priesthood which Peter, James and John held while in the flesh was the highest ever bestowed upon the children of men, and it was conferred upon Joseph and Oliver, and without it they never could have built up the Kingdom. … The Lord sent his messengers, Peter, James and John, to ordain him to the highest authority that could be given…..[59]

1877

  • Brigham Young died August 29, 1877.


Brigham Young (1861): "The Lord chose Joseph Smith, called upon him at fourteen years of age, gave him visions"

Brigham Young:

The Lord chose Joseph Smith, called upon him at fourteen years of age, gave him visions, and led him along, guided and directed him in his obscurity until he brought forth the plates and translated them, and Martin Harris was prevailed upon to sustain the printing of the Book of Mormon. All this was done in the depths of poverty, obscurity, and weakness. [60]


Response to claim: "Even the elders of the Church, who labored with him closely, did not know that Joseph saw two personages...Wilford Woodruff"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Even the elders of the Church, who labored with him closely, did not know that Joseph saw two personages...Wilford Woodruff...

The same organization and Gospel that Christ died for ... is again established in this generation. How did it come? By the ministering of an holy angel from God, out of heaven, who held converse with man, and revealed unto him the darkness that enveloped the world ... He told him the Gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of His kingdom in the world ... Joseph was strengthened by the Spirit and power of God, and was enabled to listen to the teachings of the angel. ... The man to whom the angel appeared obeyed the Gospel.” (Journal of Discourses, vol.2, 1855, pp.196-197)

Author's sources:
  1. Wilford Woodruff, (1855) Journal of Discourses 2:196-197.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Wilford Woodruff became the superintendent of the printing office in Nauvoo, Illinois where the Times and Seasons newspaper was published on 3 February 1842 [61] and remained there through at least 8 November 1843.[62] During this period of time, Joseph Smith had two separate accounts of the First Vision printed on the pages of the Times and Seasons, and Elder Woodruff would have been the person who was ultimately responsible for their production and distribution.
  • Times and Seasons 3 no. 9 (1 March 1842), 706–707. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) [Wentworth Letter First Vision account].
  • Times and Seasons 3 no. 11 (1 April 1842), 748–749. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) [History of the Church official First Vision account].

Question: Did Wilford Woodruff teach something other than the traditional story of the First Vision?

Woodruff's quote is edited by critics so that it appears that he was not aware of details of the First vision

Wilford Woodruff is claimed to have said in an 1855 sermon that the Church had been established in the last days only by "the ministering of an holy angel", and not by the Father and the Son.[63] The following text is the one used by critics of the Church to try and make it look like Apostle Wilford Woodruff taught something other than the traditional storyline of the First Vision.

"That same organization and gospel that Christ died for...is again established in this generation. How did it come? By the ministering of an holy angel from God...The angel taught Joseph Smith those principles which are necessary for the salvation of the world...He told him the gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of His kingdom in the world" [64]

An examination of the original text of the sermon in question reveals that Wilford Woodruff's words are being taken out of context by critics. The bolded words below show which sections of the paragraph have been selected by detractors to try and rewrite history.

"The gospel has gone forth in our day in its true glory, power, order, and light, as it always did when God had a people among men that He acknowledged. That same organization and gospel that Christ died for, and the Apostles spilled their blood to vindicate, is again established in this generation. How did it come? By the ministering of an holy ANGEL from God, out of heaven, who held converse with man, and revealed unto him the darkness that enveloped the world, and unfolded unto him the gross darkness that surrounded the nations, those scenes that should take place in this generation, and would follow each other in quick succession, even unto the coming of the Messiah. The ANGEL taught Joseph Smith those principles which are necessary for the salvation of the world; and THE LORD gave him commandments, and sealed upon him the Priesthood, and gave him power to administer the ordinances of the house of the Lord. HE told him the gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of HIS kingdom in the world, that the people had turned away from HIS true order, changed the ordinances, and broken the everlasting covenant, and inherited lies and things wherein their was no profit. HE told him the time had come to lay the foundation for the establishment of the Kingdom of God among men for the last time, preparatory to the winding up scene" (emphasis added).

Woodruff's quote does not state that it was the angel who told Joseph Smith that "the gospel was not among men"; it was the "the Lord" who provided this information

When critics break the above quotation into pieces in the manner that they have, they create an unrecognized problem for themselves. A careful reading of this material indicates that it was not the angel who told Joseph Smith that "the gospel was not among men"; it was the "the Lord" who provided this information (see the capitalized/italicized words above: ANGEL, THE LORD, HE, HIS). The anti-Mormons have, through their editing of the text, made it falsely appear as if the words of the angel and the Lord were one and the same.

The attempt to use Wilford Woodruff's words to obscure the details of Mormon history is a misguided one because the evidence does not lead to the conclusion that critics advocate. Elder Woodruff was in the second highest leadership quorum of the Church during the lifetime of Joseph Smith and never once did he mention that the Prophet told two different tales about the founding of the last gospel dispensation.


Question: Did Wilford Woodruff have knowledge of the First Vision prior to his 1855 remarks about an angel?

Before Elder Woodruff made his 1855 remarks six other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles published First Vision accounts

It is difficult to believe that Elder Wilford Woodruff did not have an accurate knowledge of the traditional First Vision story prior to his 1855 remarks since on 3 February 1842 he became the superintendent of the printing office in Nauvoo, Illinois where the Times and Seasons newspaper was published[65] and remained there through at least 8 November 1843.[66] These dates are significant because in-between them the Prophet Joseph Smith had two separate accounts of the First Vision printed on the pages of the Times and Seasons and so Elder Woodruff would have been the person who was ultimately responsible for their production and distribution.

  • Times and Seasons 3 no. 9 (1 March 1842), 706–707. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) [Wentworth Letter First Vision account].
  • Times and Seasons 3 no. 11 (1 April 1842), 748–749. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) [History of the Church official First Vision account].

It should also be noted that before Elder Woodruff made his 1855 remarks six other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles published First Vision accounts: (Orson Pratt - 1840, 1850, 1851); (Orson Hyde - 1842); (John E. Page - 1844); (John Taylor - 1850); (Lorenzo Snow - 1850); (Franklin D. Richards - 1851, 1852). It seems highly unlikely that Elder Woodruff would have remained unaware of these publications, which were made available to the public by his closest associates.


Wilford Woodruff (1855): "Joseph Smith, whom I did call upon by mine angels, my ministering servants, and by mine own voice out of the heavens"

Wilford Woodruff:

That same organization and Gospel that Christ died for, and the Apostles spilled their blood to vindicate, is again established in this generation. How did it come? By the ministering of an holy angel from God, out of heaven, who held converse with man, and revealed unto him the darkness that enveloped the world, and unfolded unto him the gross darkness that surrounded the nations, those scenes that should take place in this generation, and would follow each other in quick succession, even unto the coming of the Messiah. The angel taught Joseph Smith those principles which are necessary for the salvation of the world; and the Lord gave him commandments, and sealed upon him the Priesthood, and gave him power to administer the ordinances of the house of the Lord.He told him the Gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of His kingdom in the world, that the people had turned away from His true order, changed the ordinances, and broken the everlasting covenant, and inherited lies and things wherein their was no profit. He told him the time had come to lay the foundation for the establishment of the Kingdom of God among men for the last time, preparatory to the winding up scene. Joseph was strengthened by the Spirit and power of God, and was enabled to listen to the teachings of the angel. He told him he should be made an instrument in the hands of the Lord, if he kept His commandments, in doing a good work upon the earth, that his name should be held in honor by the honest in heart, and in dishonor throughout the nations by the wicked. He told him he should be an instrument in laying the foundation of a work that should gather tens of thousands of the children of men, in the generation in which he lived, from every nation under heaven, who should hear the sound of it through his instrumentality. He told him the nations were wrapt in wickedness and abomination, and that the judgments of God were ready to be poured out upon them in their fulness; that the angels were holding the vials of His wrath in readiness; but the decree is that they shall not be poured out until the nations are warned, that they may be left without an excuse. This man to whom the angel appeared obeyed the Gospel;[67]


Juncker (1994): "Unknown to many, the early church fathers often referred to Jesus as an Angel....in antiquity the word 'angel' meant 'messenger.'"

Günther Juncker (at the time of this writing), Master of Divinity candidate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School:

Unknown to many, the early church fathers often referred to Jesus as an Angel. And they gave him this appellation long before the (alleged) distortions of Constantine, the Controversies, the Councils, and the Creeds.... the word Angel has a prima facie claim to being a primitive, if not an apostolic, Christological title. Before pronouncing judgement on the Fathers, men who were often quite close to first-century apostles and eyewitnesses, we may recall that in antiquity the word "angel" had a broader semantic range than at present. When we think of angels, we immediately think of super-human, bodiless spirits, all of whom were created and some of whom fell with Satan in his rebellion. But in antiquity the word “angel” meant “messenger.” It was primarily a functional (as opposed to an ontological) description and, thus, could refer to messengers who were human, angelic, or divine (the best known of the latter being Hermes, “the messenger god”). Likewise in Scripture, in both the OT and the NT, the term angel refers to human as well as to angelic messengers.[68]


Woodruff (1890): "the Father and the Son both appeared to the Prophet Joseph in answer to his prayer"

Wilford Woodruff:

Sixty years ago, last Sabbath, this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in Fayette, Seneca Country, New York…. [24] I have never read anywhere, that I know of, of the same power manifested in any dispensation to the children of men, which was manifested to the Prophet of God in the organization of this Church, when the Father and the Son both appeared to the Prophet Joseph in answer to his prayer, and when the Father said, ‘This is my beloved Son; behold him; hear ye Him.’ This was an important revelation, which has never been manifested in the same manner in any dispensation of the world, that God has given concerning His work. So in its organization, the Prophet of God was administered to by the angels of heaven. They were his teachers, they were his instructors.[69]


Woodruff (1892): "the Father and Son both appeared to the man whom He had chosen"

Wilford Woodruff:

This is the only dispensation that I have ever read of in which the Father and Son both appeared to the man whom He had chosen to establish His Church. Joseph Smith received this great honor. He was a Prophet of God.[70]


Woodruff (1894): "Both the Father and the Son presented themselves unto him in the clouds of heaven"

Wilford Woodruff:

Joseph Smith, when fourteen years of age, while calling upon God in the wilderness, had the heavens opened unto him. Both the Father and the Son presented themselves unto him in the clouds of heaven, and the Father said, ‘This is my beloved Son; hear him.’[71]


Response to claim: "Even the elders of the Church, who labored with him closely, did not know that Joseph saw two personages...George A. Smith"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Even the elders of the Church, who labored with him closely, did not know that Joseph saw two personages...George A. Smith...

He [Joseph Smith] went humbly before the Lord and inquired of Him, and the Lord answered his prayer, and revealed to Joseph, by the ministration of angels, the true condition of the religious world. When the holy angel appeared, Joseph inquired which of all these denominations was right and which he should join, and was told they were all wrong.” (President George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses, 1863, vol.12, pp.334)

Author's sources:
  1. George A. Smith, (1863) Journal of Discourses 12:334.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Elder Smith, during a public discourse on 15 Nov 1864 (the year following the author's quote from 1863), quoted directly from the official First Vision account, which was first published in the Times and Seasons newspaper on 15 March 1842 and 1 April 1842. Elder Smith recited the line, “This is my Beloved Son, hear Him” – leaving no doubt that he knew the specific identities of the two "personages" who appeared to Joseph Smith during the First Vision event.

George A. Smith (1864 - quoting Joseph Smith): "When the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description...'This is my beloved son, hear him'"

George A. Smith (1864 - quoting Joseph Smith):

"When the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said, pointing to the other—'This is my beloved son, hear him.'" (George A. Smith, (15 Nov 1864) Journal of Discourses 11:2.)


Question: Was George A. Smith unaware that the Father and Son appeared to Joseph Smith during the First Vision?

George A. Smith was aware that the Father and Son appeared prior to making his statements about an "angel" appearing

Apostle George A. Smith said on two separate occasions that Joseph Smith's First Vision was of an "angel"—not of the Father and the Son. However, the argument that George A. Smith was simply not aware of a Father-and-Son First Vision account when he made his "angel" statements is nonsense since it can be shown from a documentary standpoint that he did indeed have prior knowledge of such a thing. An argument of ignorance is also untenable in light of the fact that Brother Smith's close associates in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had published orthodox recitals of the First Vision on nine different occasions long BEFORE he made his verbal missteps at the pulpit: (Orson Pratt - 1840, 1850, 1851); (Orson Hyde - 1842); (John E. Page - 1844); (John Taylor - 1850); (Lorenzo Snow - 1850); (Franklin D. Richards - 1851, 1852).

Historic documents appear to verify the claim that on two different occasions George A. Smith spoke of an angel appearing during Joseph Smith's First Vision

This does not mean that Brother Smith was not aware of the Father and the Son appearing to the Prophet at the time that he made his anomalous remarks. The following timeline demonstrates that the Prophet's cousin was well aware of the official version of events. His out-of-place comments need to be evaluated from that perspective.

7 April 1854

Elder George A. Smith was appointed at General Conference to be the new Church Historian.

9 August 1855

Elder George A. Smith wrote to the editor of the Deseret News on 9 August 1855 and gave permission to publish a short Church history that was originally requested for inclusion in a non-Mormon publication, but which ultimately did not appear in print. When Elder Smith told the First Vision story in this history he said that Joseph Smith beheld "two glorious Beings" during the experience. The capitalization of the word "Beings" indicates that the two individuals were considered to be Deity. Elder Smith then went on to tell the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon which, he said, was instigated by an "angel" who was commissioned of God (Deseret News, vol. 5, no. 26, 5 September 1855, 2).

15 August 1855

The First Vision account as found in the Wentworth Letter (1 March 1842) was published in Salt Lake City in connection with the official History of the Church. This account speaks of "two glorious personages" and then later speaks of the single "angel" who was involved in revealing the existence of the Book of Mormon plates. Since Elder Smith was the Church Historian at this time he likely would have known about the content of this publication.[72]

6 August 1862

Elder George A. Smith's short Church history (see 9 August 1855 above) was reprinted on the pages of the Deseret News. In this First Vision account Elder Smith referred to "two glorious Beings" and then later spoke of the single "angel" who was involved in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon[73]

15 November 1864

In a discourse on historical matters, Elder George A. Smith quoted directly from the official First Vision account, which was first published in the Times and Seasons newspaper on 15 March 1842 and 1 April 1842. Elder Smith recited the line, “This is my Beloved Son, hear Him” – leaving no doubt that he knew the specific identities of the two "personages" who appeared to Joseph Smith during the First Vision event.[74]

15 November 1868

President George A. Smith (now a counselor in the First Presidency) accurately related many First Vision story elements - as published in the Church’s official history - but mistakenly mixed them together with several accurate angel Moroni story elements - as published in the Church’s official history. He said,

  • Joseph Smith was 14 or 15 years old
  • There was a revival involving Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists
  • There was a scramble after the revival to secure converts
  • Unpleasant feelings were the result
  • Joseph Smith had attended those meetings
  • Joseph Smith prayed because of James 1:5
  • The Lord sent an angel to Joseph Smith in answer to his prayer
  • Joseph Smith asked the angel which church was right and the angel said they were all wrong
  • The vision was repeated several times and Joseph Smith was commanded to tell his father about it
  • Joseph Smith’s father told him to observe the instructions that were given to him.[75]

20 June 1869

President George A. Smith mistakenly mixed together accurate First Vision story elements with accurate angel Moroni story elements. He said,

  • Some members of Joseph Smith’s family joined the Presbyterians
  • Joseph Smith reflected much on religion
  • Joseph Smith was astonished at the bad feelings manifested at the end of the reformation
  • Joseph Smith was led to pray because of James 1:5
  • Joseph Smith had a vision of a holy angel
  • Joseph Smith asked which of the denominations in the vicinity was right
  • Joseph Smith was told that they had all gone astray and wandered into darkness
  • Joseph Smith was instructed not to join any of them
  • Joseph Smith was told that God was about to restore the gospel in its simplicity and purity.[76]

1869

President George A. Smith published a small pamphlet which contained the Wentworth Letter account of the First Vision.[77]

20 November 1870

President George A. Smith accurately related several First Vision story elements at the pulpit. This time he did NOT mistakenly include any angel Moroni story elements in his narrative.

  • The Lord revealed Himself to Joseph Smith
  • Joseph Smith was puzzled by hearing learned men preach about different doctrines
  • Joseph Smith saw the learned men quarrel over converts
  • Joseph Smith prayed humbly, with faith, because of James 1:5
  • Joseph Smith asked the Lord which was the right way
  • The Lord showed Joseph Smith the right way.[78]

The timeline shows that George A. Smith was accurate in relating First Vision details when he had a physical text to read from

The pattern that can be seen in the timeline above is that George A. Smith was accurate in relating First Vision details when he had a physical text to read from or was formally writing down historical matters; he was accurate on many points when he was talking extemporaneously; he corrected himself after delivering erroneous verbal remarks.


George A. Smith (1868): "revealed to Joseph by the ministration of angels, the true condition of the religious world"

George A. Smith:

When Joseph Smith was about fourteen or fifteen years old, living in the Western part of the State of New York, there was a revival of religion, and the different sects in that portion of the State—principally Presbyterians, Methodists and Baptists—preached the necessity of belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, and repentance in order to be saved, declaring that unless men and women did this, and obtained what they termed, "a hope for the future," they would be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone, and there remain for ever. I have heard men spend hours in endeavoring to explain how long this hell would last. It was frequently illustrated in this manner, "Suppose a bird could carry a drop of water from this planet to another, and be gone a year on the journey, and continue this until every drop of water, on the earth was carried away, and then should take a particle of sand and go to another planet and be gone a thousand years, and carry one article of sand at a time until every particle of matter of which this globe is composed was carried away, that then this eternal punishment would have just commenced, and that the torture and pain there inflicted were so great that no mortal could conceive anything about it." The general effort in their preaching was to scare men into the road to heaven by such descriptions of eternal punishment. When eloquent men deliver such discourses they produce, especially upon ignorant people, more or less agitation, and when this is pretty general it is called a revival of religion. But when the excitement subsides and the converts have obtained what is termed "a hope," then the sects who may have united in bringing about such results begin to scramble to secure the converts. It was so at the time to which I have referred in western New York. The Baptists wanted their share, and the Methodists and Presbyterians theirs; and the scramble ended in a very unpleasant and un-Christian state of feeling.

Joseph Smith had attended these meetings, and when this result was reached he saw clearly that something was wrong. He had read the Bible and had found that passage in James which says, "If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not," and taking this literally, he went humbly before the Lord and inquired of Him, and the Lord answered his prayer, and revealed to Joseph, by the ministration of angels, the true condition of the religious world. When the holy angel appeared, Joseph inquired which of all these denominations was right and which he should join, and was told they were all wrong,—they had all gone astray, transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances and broken the everlasting covenant, and that the Lord was about to restore the priesthood and establish His Church, which would be the only true and living Church on the face of the whole earth.

Joseph, feeling that to make known such a vision would be to subject himself to the ridicule of all around him, knew not what to do. But the vision was repeated several times, and in these repetitions he was instructed to communicate that which he had seen to his father. His father was not a member of any church, but was a man of exemplary life. His mother and bro. Hyrum were members of the Presbyterian church. Joseph communicated what he had seen to his father, who believed his testimony, and told him to observe the instructions that had been given him.

These visits led, in a short time, to the bringing forth of the record known as the Book of Mormon, which contained the fullness of the Gospel as it had been preached by the Savior and his apostles to the inhabitants of this land; also a history of the falling away of the people who dwelt on this continent and the dealings of God with them. [79]


Juncker (1994): "Unknown to many, the early church fathers often referred to Jesus as an Angel....in antiquity the word 'angel' meant 'messenger.'"

Günther Juncker (at the time of this writing), Master of Divinity candidate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School:

Unknown to many, the early church fathers often referred to Jesus as an Angel. And they gave him this appellation long before the (alleged) distortions of Constantine, the Controversies, the Councils, and the Creeds.... the word Angel has a prima facie claim to being a primitive, if not an apostolic, Christological title. Before pronouncing judgement on the Fathers, men who were often quite close to first-century apostles and eyewitnesses, we may recall that in antiquity the word "angel" had a broader semantic range than at present. When we think of angels, we immediately think of super-human, bodiless spirits, all of whom were created and some of whom fell with Satan in his rebellion. But in antiquity the word “angel” meant “messenger.” It was primarily a functional (as opposed to an ontological) description and, thus, could refer to messengers who were human, angelic, or divine (the best known of the latter being Hermes, “the messenger god”). Likewise in Scripture, in both the OT and the NT, the term angel refers to human as well as to angelic messengers.[80]


Question: Is there anything wrong with early Church leaders using the term "angel" to refer to Jesus Christ?

The word translated "messenger" is the Hebrew mal'ak which can also be translated as "an angel"

What about the term "angel"? Is there anything wrong with Brigham Young or others using that term to refer to Jesus Christ? Malachi spoke of the Lord as the "messenger of the covenant whom ye delight in." (Mal.3:1) The word translated "messenger" is the Hebrew mal'ak which can also be translated as "an angel."[81] The Septugint of Isaiah 9:6, traditionally thought by Christians to refer to Christ speaks of the "messenger of great counsel." This term for Jesus was frequently used by early Christians. Eusebius stated that Christ "was the first and only begotten of God; the commander-in-chief of the spiritual and immortal host of heaven; the angel of mighty counsel; the agent of the ineffable purpose of the Father." [82] The Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah (an apocryphal work, thought to have been written before the fourth century states that when Christ descended to earth he "made himself like the angels of the air, that he was like one of them." [83] The Epistula Apostolorum (another important early Christian work, thought to have been written by 2nd Century Christians quotes the resurrected Jesus as saying,"I became like an angel to the angels...I myself was a servant for myself, and in the form of the image of an angel; so will I do after I have gone to my Father." [84] At least the use of the term "angel" in Christianity does not seem unknown.

Joseph Smith said that after his resurrection, Jesus Christ "appeared as an angel to His disciples."

How did Joseph Smith understand the term "angel"? One revelation calls Jesus Christ "the messenger of salvation" (D&C 93:8) Another states,"For in the Beginning was the Word, even the Son, who is made flesh, and sent unto us by the will of the Father." (JST John 1:16). The Father sends Jesus because he is the angel of salvation. Joseph Smith himself taught that angels of God are resurrected beings who have bodies of flesh and bone. [85] "Jesus Christ became a ministering spirit (while his body was lying in the supulchre) to the spirits in prison...After His resurrection He appeared as an angel to His disciples." [86] In Mormon theology the term "angel" has a unique doctrinal significance.

Since Joseph Smith frequently taught this doctrine, is it any wonder that those who knew him best (Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, Heber C. Kimball, George A. Smith, etc.), would frequently refer to the Lord's visit to Joseph Smith as the visit of an angel (i.e. a resurrected personage of flesh and bone)?


Response to claim: "The...statement from 3rd president of the Church, John Taylor, reveals that as late as 1879 (35 years after Joseph Smith’s death) the Church was still not teaching that he saw two personages but only an “angel"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

John Taylor

“How was it, and which was right? None of them was right, just as it was when the Prophet Joseph asked the angel which of the sects was right that he might join it. The answer was that none of them are right. What, none of them? No. We will not stop to argue that question; the angel merely told him to join none of them that none of them were right.” (Journal of Discourses, 1879, vol.20, pp.158-171)

The above statement from 3rd president of the Church, John Taylor, reveals that as late as 1879 (35 years after Joseph Smith’s death) the Church was still not teaching that he saw two personages but only an “angel.”

Author's sources:
  1. John Taylor, (1879) Journal of Discourses 20:158-171.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

That sermon was given on 2 March 1879, and John Taylor gave two sermons the same day. Why does the author ignore what he said in the other sermon?

When the Father and the Son and Moroni and others came to Joseph Smith, he had a priesthood conferred upon him which he conferred upon others for the purpose of manifesting the laws of life... [87]

In the other sermon, Taylor states that the "Father and the Son" visited Joseph. Taylor talked about the "Father and the Son" visiting Joseph in the First Vision many times, starting as early as an 1850 letter that he wrote when he was assigned to open France for the missionary activities of the Church, which included the following:

While he was thus engaged, he was surrounded by a brilliant light, and two glorious personages presented themselves before him, who exactly resembled each other in features, and who gave him information upon the subjects which had previously agitated his mind...





John Taylor (2 March 1879): "the Father and the Son...came to Joseph Smith" and "the Prophet Joseph asked the angel"

The following two statements were made by John Taylor in different discourses on the same day, 2 March 1879. In one, Taylor talks of Joseph Smith asking "the angel" which church was right, and in the other, Taylor clearly states that "the Father and the Son...came to Joseph Smith." This demonstrates how early Church leaders often used the term "angel" to refer to the personages that appeared in the First Vision, even though they clearly knew that they were the Father and the Son.

"When the Prophet Joseph asked the angel which of the sects was right"

None of them was right, just as it was when the Prophet Joseph asked the angel which of the sects was right that he might join it. The answer was that none of them are right.[88]

"When the Father and the Son and Moroni and others came to Joseph Smith"

When the Father and the Son and Moroni and others came to Joseph Smith, he had a priesthood conferred upon him which he conferred upon others for the purpose of manifesting the laws of life... [89]

Notice how one refers to an "angel" and the other refers to "the Father and the Son." Taylor was clearly aware of the details of the First Vision. This also demonstrates how early Church leaders used the term "angel" to represent the personages that Joseph saw, even at the same time that they recognized that these personages were the Father and the Son.


Question: What do critics of Mormonism say about John Taylor and the First Vision?

Critics focus only on one sermon in whichTaylor mentioned "an angel" and ignore the numerous times Taylor referred to the Father and the Son, including another sermon given the same day

Richard Abanes refers to “…the discrepancy between today’s official First Vision and the versions of it told by early Mormons, who taught that the First Vision involved an angel (or angels).” In a footnote to this comment he cites several church leaders, including John Taylor. The only citation Abanes gives for President Taylor is for March 2, 1879, but is incorrectly documented.[90]

Critic Isaiah Bennett has written:

Complications arise when one considers the statements of Smith’s successors as Mormon prophets [including John Taylor]. According to them, Smith had been visited by an angel, from whom he asked advice as to which church to join.[91]

Bennett cites the same March 2, 1879 sermon, and one other.

Jerald and Sandra Tanner have also cited Taylor’s comments of March 2, 1879.[92]:164 They later write that “Many other confusing statements about the first vision were made by Mormon leaders after Joseph Smith’s death.” [92]:166 Elsewhere the Tanners have stated that “Before the death of Brigham Young in 1877 the first vision was seldom mentioned in Mormon publications. When Mormon leaders did mention it they usually gave confusing accounts.”[93]

This warped perspective has unfortunately spilled over into less overtly anti-Mormon reference works. A past revision of the Wikipedia article on the First Vision states that “The First Vision was not emphasized in sermons by [subsequent leaders such as] John Taylor. This implies that Smith did not stress it strongly during his life, and that many early church leaders had little understanding of its prominence.”[94]

These claims are simply false, with reference to the oft-misused John Taylor.[95] Consider the following evidence, from sermons, letters, and writings, which demonstrate Taylor’s complete awareness of that event, many well before the death of Brigham in 1877.


Question: What did John Taylor have to say about Joseph Smith's First Vision?

Taylor talked about the visit of the Father and the Son numerous times

John Taylor became one of the editors of the Times and Seasons newspaper in Nauvoo, Illinois on 3 February 1842.[96]:102 He was serving in this capacity when the Wentworth Letter version of the First Vision was printed on 1 March 1842 and also when the History of the Church version of the First Vision was printed on 1 April 1842. John Taylor became chief editor of the Times and Seasons newspaper on 15 November 1842. There can be no doubt that Elder Taylor knew about the First Vision story as early as 1842.

In 1850, John Taylor was assigned to open France for the missionary activities of the Church. Upon arrival he wrote a letter, which was published in the French and English language paper. In that letter he wrote, in part:

The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was first organized in the Town of Manchester, Ontario County, State of New York, U.S.A., 6th April 1830. Previous to this an holy angel appeared unto a young man about fifteen years of age, a farmer's son, named Joseph Smith, and communicated unto him many things pertaining to the situation of the religious world, the necessity of a correct church organization, and unfolded many events that should transpire in the last days, as spoken of by the Prophets. As near as possible I will give the words as he related them to me. He said that "in the neighborhood in which he resided there was a religious revival, (a thing very common in that country) in which several different denominations were united; that many professed to be converted; among the number, two or three of his father's family. When the revival was over, there was a contention as to which of these various societies the person who was converted should belong. One of his father's family joined one society, and another a different one. His mind was troubled, he saw contention instead of peace, and division instead of union; and when he reflected upon the multifarious creeds and professions there were in existence, he thought it impossible for all to be right, and if God taught one, He did not teach the others, "for God is not the author of confusion." In reading his bible, he was remarkably struck with the passage in James, 1st chapter, 5th verse. "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." Believing in the word of God, he retired into a grove, and called upon the Lord to give him wisdom in relation to this matter. While he was thus engaged, he was surrounded by a brilliant light, and two glorious personages presented themselves before him, who exactly resembled each other in features, and who gave him information upon the subjects which had previously agitated his mind. He was given [236] to understand that the churches were all of them in error in regard to many things; and he was commanded not to go after them; and he received a promise that the fulness of the gospel should at some future time be unfolded unto him; after which the vision withdrew leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace.[97]

Elder Taylor continued with his narration, indicating that “some time later” as Joseph prayed another ‘being’ appeared surrounded by light who “declared himself to be an angel of God, sent forth by commandment, to communicate to him that his sins were forgiven…[and] that the great preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence.” The angel also told him about the plates, and the restoration about to begin. In October of that same year Elder Taylor published a pamphlet containing an expanded version of this letter, translated into French.[98] The pamphlet was reprinted again in 1852.

On 13 August 1857 John Taylor and several members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve placed a copy of the Pearl of Great Price (containing the First Vision story) inside the southeast cornerstone of the Salt Lake Temple.[99]

On 7 October 1859 John Taylor recited portions of the First Vision story in the Salt Lake City tabernacle. Among the details mentioned was the fact that Joseph Smith believed in the promise found in James 1:5 and went in secret to seek wisdom from God.[100]

In 1876 Elder Taylor spoke at a funeral service, and he stated:

Again, there are other things associated with these matters, all bearing more or less upon the same points. When God selected Joseph Smith to open up the last dispensation, which is called the dispensation [326] of the fullness of times, the Father and the Son appeared to him, arrayed in glory, and the Father, addressing himself to Joseph, at the same time pointing to the Son, said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." As there were great and important events to be introduced into the world associated with the interests of humanity, not only with the people that now are, but with all people that have ever lived upon the face of the earth, and as what is termed the dispensation of the fullness of times was about to be ushered in, Moroni, who held the keys of the unfolding of the Book of Mormon, which is a record of the people who lived upon this American continent, came to Joseph Smith and revealed to him certain things pertaining to the peoples who had lived here and the dealings of God with them, and also in regard to events that are to transpire on this continent.[101]

Later in the same sermon he stated that Joseph had also been visited by Moroni, John the Baptist, and Peter, James and John. Isaiah Bennett makes reference to this sermon, but only to page 329: and the only plausible explanation for that reference is that Taylor makes reference to the angel which appeared to John the Revelator, on the island of Patmos. Otherwise that page tells of the visitation of Moroni and the others. Earlier in the sermon, however, Taylor made clear reference to the Father and the Son appearing, as contained in the above paragraph. Bennet and those who follow his tactics deceive their readers by omitting material which disproves their case.

In General Conference October 1877, President Taylor stated:

The work we are engaged in emanated from God, and what did Joseph Smith know about it until God revealed it? Nothing. What did President Young, or the Twelve, or anybody else, know about it before the heavenly messengers, even God himself, came to break the long, long silence of ages, revealing through his Son, Jesus Christ, and the holy angels, the everlasting Gospel? Nothing at all. We were all alike ignorant until heaven revealed it.[102]

The following month President Taylor stated:

[W]e are told that no man knows the [152] things of God but by the Spirit of God. And if they cannot obtain a knowledge of God only by the Spirit of God, unless they receive that Spirit they must remain ignorant of these principles. And it matters not what the learning, what the intelligence, what the research, the philosophy, or religion of man may be, the things of God cannot be comprehended, except through and by the Spirit and revelations of God. And this can only be obtained through obedience to the principles which God has and shall ordain, sanction and acknowledge. And hence, in these last times, he first communicated a knowledge of himself to Joseph Smith, long ago, when he was quite young. Who in that day knew anything about God? Who had had any revelations from Him, or who knew anything in relation to the principles of life and salvation? If there were any persons I never heard of them, nor read of them, nor never met them. But when the Lord manifested himself to Joseph Smith, presenting to him his Son who was there also, saying, "This is my beloved Son, hear ye him;" he then knew that God lived; and he was not dependent upon anybody else for that knowledge. He saw him and heard his voice, and he knew for himself that there was a God, and of this he testified, sealing his testimony with his blood.[103]

President Taylor also defended the First Vision in letters: In 1879 he wrote to a friend

We of all others on the earth ought to be the last to oppress the Lamanites. Through the development of their record, by the ministrations of one of their old prophets, we are indebted for the introduction of the Everlasting Gospel; and of so great importance was this action considered that God Himself, accompanied by the Savior, appeared to Joseph.[104]

It was mentioned above that several of the critics point to a sermon given by John Taylor in Kaysville, Utah, in the afternoon of March 2, 1879, to ‘prove’ that Taylor did not have a clear understanding of the First Vision. However, they fail to notice that President Taylor said earlier the same day, just a few miles away, in Ogden, Utah:

When the Father and the Son and Moroni and others came to Joseph Smith, he had a priesthood conferred upon him which he conferred upon others for the purpose of manifesting the laws of life, the Gospel of the Son of God, by direct authority, that light and truth might be spread forth among all nations.[105]

Clearly President Taylor was not confused regarding what happened early in Joseph Smith’s life.

Six months later he again testified to the visitation of the Father and the Son:

The Lord has taken a great deal of pains to bring us where we are and to give us the information we have. He came himself, accompanied by his Son Jesus, to the Prophet Joseph Smith. He didn't send anybody but came himself, and introducing his Son, said: ‘This is my beloved Son, hear him.’ And he permitted the ancient prophets, apostles and men of God that existed in different ages to come and confer the keys of their several dispensations upon the prophet of the Lord, in order that he should be endowed and imbued with the power and Spirit of God, with the light of revelation and the eternal principles of the everlasting Gospel.[106]

Ten days later he again testified to that transcendent event:

Now, we will come to other events, of later date; events with which we are associated—I refer now to the time that Joseph Smith came among men. What was his position? and how was he situated? I can tell you what he told me about it. He said that he was very ignorant of the ways, designs and purposes of God, and knew nothing about them; he was a youth unacquainted with religious matters or the systems and theories of the day. He went to the Lord, having read James' statement, that "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." [James 1.5] He believed that statement and went to the Lord and asked him, and the Lord revealed himself to him together with his Son Jesus, and, pointing to the latter, said: ‘This is my beloved Son, hear him.’ He then asked in regard to the various religions with which he was surrounded.[107]

Again, just a few weeks later he stated that

as a commencement the Lord appeared unto Joseph Smith, both the Father and the Son, the Father pointing to the Son said ‘this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him.’ Here, then, was a communication from the heavens made known unto man on the earth, and he at that time came into possession of a fact that no man knew in the world but he, and that is that God lived, for he had seen him, and that his Son Jesus Christ lived, for he also had seen him. What next? Now says the Father, "This is my beloved Son, hear him." The manner, the mode, the why, and the wherefore, he designed to introduce through him were not explained; but he, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer of man, he was the one pointed out to be the guide, the director, the instructor, and the leader in the development of the great principles of that kingdom and that government which he then commenced to institute.[108]

Later, in Hooperville, Utah, he stated:

Hence when the heavens were opened and the Father and Son appeared and revealed unto Joseph the principles of the gospel, and when the holy priesthood was restored and the Church and kingdom of God established upon the earth, there were the greatest blessings bestowed upon this generation which it was possible for man to receive.”[109]

Two months later he again spoke of it:

Finally, when all the preparations were made and everything was ready, or the time had fully come, the Father and the Son appeared to the youth Joseph Smith to introduce the great work of the latter days. He who presides over this earth and he who is said to be the maker of all things, the Father, pointing to his well-beloved Son, says, this is my beloved Son, hear him. He did not come himself to regulate and put in order all things, but he presented his Only Begotten Son, the personage who should be, as he is termed in the Scriptures, the Apostle and great High Priest of our profession, who should take the lead in the management and regulation of all matters pertaining to the great dispensation that was about to be ushered in.[110]

Two months later he was in Idaho speaking:

In the commencement of the work, the Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith. And when they appeared to him, the Father, pointing to the Son, said, ‘This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him!’ As much as to say, ‘I have not come to teach and instruct you; but I refer you to my Only Begotten, who is the Mediator of the New Covenant, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world; I refer you to him as your Redeemer, your High Priest and Teacher. Hear him.’” Continuing, he pointed out that Joseph was also visited by Moroni, John the Baptist, and Peter, James, and John.[111]

In 1882 President John Taylor wrote a book on the subject of the mediation and atonement of the Savior, and its role in the life of the Restored Gospel. He included this statement:

…when the Father and the Son appeared together to the Prophet Joseph Smith they were exactly alike in form, in appearance, in glory; and the Father said, pointing to His Son, ‘This is my beloved Son; hear Him.’[112]

That same year the President said in a sermon:

we declare that God himself took part in it, and that Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, accompanied him, both of whom appeared to Joseph Smith, upon which occasion the Father, pointing to the Son said, ‘This is my beloved Son, hear him.’…. …..[32] After the Lord had spoken to Joseph Smith, and Jesus had manifested himself to him….” He later refers to the visitation of Moroni, John the Baptist, and Peter, James and John.[113]

During the October 1882 General Conference three of the General Authorities referred to the appearance of the Father and the Son. President Taylor stated that

A message was announced to us by Joseph Smith, the Prophet, as a revelation from God, wherein he stated that holy angels had appeared to him and revealed the everlasting Gospel as it existed in former ages; and God the Father, and God the Son, both appeared to him; and the Father, pointing, said, this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him.[114]

Later that same year he said:

In the first place He has Himself spoken to us from the heavens, as also has His Son Jesus Christ…. [323] Now, it is the rule of God which is desired to be introduced upon the earth, and this is the reason why the Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith….It is true that God appeared to Joseph Smith, and that His Son Jesus did…

President Taylor then went on to testify that Joseph Smith claimed that John the Baptist, Peter, James and John, and Moses had also appeared to him.[115]

At the dedication of the Logan Temple in 1884 President Taylor said:

I have heard some remarks in the Temple pertaining to these matters, and also here, and it has been thought, as has been expressed by some, that we ought to look for some peculiar manifestations. The question is, What do we want to see? Some peculiar power, some remarkable manifestations? All these things are very proper in their place; all these things we have a right to look for; but we must only look for such manifestations as are requisite for our circumstances, and as God shall see fit to impart them. Certain manifestations have already occurred. When our Heavenly Father appeared unto Joseph Smith, the Prophet, He pointed to the Savior who was with him, (and who, it is said, is the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of His person) and said: ‘This is my beloved Son, hear Him.’” Later in the sermon he mentions the appearance of John the Baptist, and Peter, James and John; and Moroni.[116]

In 1886, shortly before he died, President Taylor wrote a letter to his family, part of which reads:

We are engaged in a great work, and laying the foundation thereof—a work that has been spoken of by all the holy prophets since the word was; namely, the dispensation of the fullness of times, wherein God will gather together all things in one, whether they be things in the earth, or things in the heaven; and for this purpose God revealed Himself, as also the Lord Jesus Christ, unto His servant the Prophet Joseph Smith, when the Father pointed to the Son and said: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him.’[96]:394

As evidence that President Taylor had been telling the Saints about the First Vision throughout his life a comment made at his funeral would be pertinent; it was said there that

Brother Taylor took the testimony that Joseph gave him, that Jesus delivered unto Joseph, that God bade Joseph to listen to from the lips of His beloved Son, as he bore those tidings to foreign lands…[117]


Response to claim: "In 1902 The Church decided to adopt the 1838 version of Joseph’s First Vision as the official account now contained in The Pearl of Great Price – Joseph Smith History"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

In 1902 The Church decided to adopt the 1838 version of Joseph’s First Vision as the official account now contained in The Pearl of Great Price – Joseph Smith History

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

This is incorrect. The Pearl of Great Price, which had contained the account of Joseph Smith's First Vision since it was first published in 1851, was canonized in the October general conference of 1880. In 1880 the Conference reports were published, but only in edited versions, in Deseret News, and reprinted in Millennial Star. Those reports don't show the canonization process. However, it was noted by Wilford Woodruff in his journal:

The foregoing were all that were voted upon by Quorums separately. All the rest of the Authorities of the Church were voted for in the usual Manner by the whole Congregation, After which George Q Cannon said I hold in my hand the Doctrine & Covenants and I present them to the Conference to see if the people [p.597] will vote for them. He had also the Pearl of Great Price in Connexion with the Covenants and all the Conference voted to sustain the Revelations Contained therein. President Taylor then spoke some 20 M, followed By W Woodruff spoke 14 M. (Wilford Woodruff's Journal, October 10, 1880 [General Conference] Vol. 7, p.596)

Conference Report, October 10, 1880: “President George Q. Cannon said: I hold in my hand the book of Doctrine and Covenants and also the book The Pearl of Great Price, which books contain revelations of God. In Kirtland, the Doctrine and Covenants in its original form, as first printed, was submitted to the officers of the Church and the members of the Church to vote upon. As there have been additions made to it by the publishing of revelations which were not contained in the original edition, it has been deemed wise to submit these books with their contents to the Conference, to see whether the Conference will accept the books and their contents as from God, and binding upon us as a people and as a Church. President Joseph F. Smith said: I move that we receive and accept the revelations contained in these books, as revelations from God to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to all the world” (James R. Clark, The Story of the Pearl of Great Price (SLC: Bookcraft, 1955): 205).

Fiftieth Semi - Annual Conference. https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=2632199

The 1902 date likely refers to the canonization process following the revisions to the Pearl of Great Price by James E. Talmage, regarding chapter and verse, etc. However, it had clearly been canonized in October 1880.

So the "official" account of the First Vision was written in 1838, published in Nauvoo in 1842, included in the first edition of the Pearl of Great Price published in England in 1851, and then canonized in 1880, and the author wants to make it sound like nobody accepted the First Vision story until 1902? Nonsense.

Response to claim: "his motivation for praying seems to be different"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

his motivation for praying seem to be different

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph had two motivations for praying: forgiveness of sins, and a desire to know which church was right, each of which is mentioned in more than one account.

Question: Did Joseph Smith change his stated motivation for praying in later years after he received the First Vision?

The story elements of the vision remain steady over time

The assertion that Joseph Smith's motivation for prayer changes in later accounts of the First Vision event does not pass the test of close examination. The evidence shows, rather, that the story elements remain steady over time. Joseph's motivations for praying are not, as one critic puts it "all over the place." He had two motivations: forgiveness of sins, and a desire to know which church was right.

  • 1832 Account
    my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations, led me to marvel exceedingly. For I discovered that they did not adorn their profession by a holy walk and godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository. This was a grief to my soul....
    My mind become exceedingly distressed for I became convicted of my sins....He spake unto me saying, 'Joseph my son, thy sins are forgiven thee.
  • 1835 Account (9 Nov. 1835)
    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 and I considered it of the first importance that I should be right....
    he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee....
  • 1835 Account (14 Nov. 1835)
    This account is simply a one line summary of the vision - motive not given.
  • 1838 Account (published in 1842)
    Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?....My object in going to enquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join....
    many other things did He say unto me which I cannot write at this time....
  • 1840 Account by Orson Pratt
    ...if any one of these denominations be the Church of Christ, which one is it?...
    He was informed that his sins were forgiven.

It must be kept in mind that those who report the Prophet's inaugural manifestation in writing do not always spell things out in exactly the same way; sometimes they obscure information by the language they choose to utilize and on occasion they omit story elements altogether (possibly because of audience considerations).


Response to claim: "Continued Concealment. Using the vast resources of the Church education system, members are not informed of the inconsistencies relating to Joseph’s visions"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Continued Concealment. Using the vast resources of the Church education system, members are not informed of the inconsistencies relating to Joseph’s visions.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is an odd claim given that the author created his document in 2016, and the Church Gospel Topic essay "First Vision Accounts" (which he is well aware of) was created in 2013, three years earlier. However, the Church didn't wait until 2013 to discuss the accounts: They have been discussed a number of times in Church publications in 1970, 1985, 1996 and 2005. It seems a bit disingenuous for the author to accuse the Church of "continued concealment" when the Church continues putting the information out there.
  • April 1970 Improvement Era: "Here printed for the first time is a report on eight different accounts of the First Vision." (Dr. James B. Allen, "Eight Contemporary Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision - What Do We Learn from Them?", Improvement Era, April 1970, 4-13. off-site) On page 12 of this official publication, all known accounts of the First Vision were compared in an easy-to-understand chart, demonstrating that the author and the Church did not think they had anything to hide:
Chart of First Vision account elements from Improvement Era (April 1970): 12.
  • January 1985 Ensign: "On at least four different occasions, Joseph Smith either wrote or dictated to scribes accounts of his sacred experience of 1820. Possibly he penned or dictated other histories of the First Vision; if so, they have not been located. The four surviving recitals of this theophany were prepared or rendered through different scribes, at different times, from a different perspective, for different purposes and to different audiences. It is not surprising, therefore, that each of them emphasizes different aspects of his experience." (Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Joseph Smith's Recitals of the First Vision," Ensign (January 1985), 8. off-site)
  • January 1996 Ensign:: "I am glad, for example, that we have several accounts of the First Vision, the ministry of Christ, the Atonement, the plan of salvation, the signs of the last days, and the conditions during the millennium. None of the various accounts exhaust the subject; each contributes to its advancement line upon line, even though important elements may be repeated. We need not regard them as competing or as being at odds with each other, but rather, as enhancing our understanding of the whole." (Keith Meservy, "Four Accounts of the Creation," Ensign (January 1986), ?. off-site)
  • April 1996 Ensign: "How many First Vision reports were made while the Prophet was alive? It is better to ask how many independent accounts came from contact with the Prophet. Some vision narratives were republished and are really copies of an original record. We now know of nine contemporary reports from the Prophet himself or from those who personally heard him relate his first vision: (1) the Prophet’s handwritten description in 1832, an attempt to start a manuscript history of the Church; (2) a Church secretary’s brief 1835 journal entry of Joseph talking with a visitor who called himself Joshua, the Jewish minister; (3) the 1838 history discussed above, published in 1842 and now in the Pearl of Great Price; (4) Orson Pratt’s publication, the first publicly disseminated, of the Prophet’s vision in his Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, issued in 1840 in Edinburgh, Scotland; (5) Orson Hyde’s revision of Orson Pratt’s pamphlet, published in 1842 for German readers and adding some insights that may have come from his contact with Joseph Smith; (6) the Wentworth Letter, created in response to editor John Wentworth’s inquiry and published by Joseph Smith in 1842 in Times and Seasons; this account adapted parts of Orson Pratt’s pamphlet; (7) Levi Richards’s diary about Joseph Smith preaching in the summer of 1843 and repeating the Lord’s first message to him that no church was His; (8) a newspaper interview in the fall of 1843; (9) Alexander Neibaur’s 1844 journal entry of a conversation at the Prophet’s house." (Richard L. Anderson, "Joseph Smith’s Testimony of the First Vision," Ensign (April 1996). off-site)
  • January 2005 Ensign: "During the lifetime of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the story of his First Vision was told in print several times, by him (in 1832, 1835, 1838–39, and 1842), or by others who had heard his account and retold it (in 1840, 1842, 1843, and 1844)." (Ronald O. Barney, "The First Vision: Searching for the Truth," Ensign (January 2005), 14–19. off-site)



Response to claim: "it took at least 60 years for even the leadership of the Church to know that Joseph was visited by two personages"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

it took at least 60 years for even the leadership of the Church to know that Joseph was visited by two personages

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph Smith was openly telling non-members (in this case, Robert Matthews, a man who visited his home, also known as "Joshua the Jewish Minister") about two personages visiting him as early as 1835, 15 years after the vision:

a personage appeard in the midst of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first (Joseph Smith's Journal, 9 November 1835)

Orson Pratt published a document detailing the visit by two personages in 1840.

The 1851 edition of the Pearl of Great Price included Joseph Smith's history describing the visit of two personages.

Page 38 of the 1851 edition of the Pearl of Great Price showing Joseph's description of two personages visiting him. (See https://archive.org/stream/PearlOfGreatPrice1851/Pearl_of_Great_Price_1851#page/n45/mode/2up)

Question: What references to the First Vision exist in published documents from the 1830s?

There are several significant references to the First Vision in published documents from the 1830s

1827

  • A skeptical account from Rev. John A. Clark mixed nine First Vision story elements together with the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and said that he learned them all in the Fall of 1827 from Martin Harris (John A. Clark, Gleanings by the Way [Philadelphia: W. J. and J. K. Simmon, 1842],---).
  • A hostile account from someone who knew Joseph in 1827 reported:
I, Joseph Capron, became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Sen. in the year of our Lord, 1827. They have, since then, been really a peculiar people -- fond of the foolish and the marvelous -- at one time addicted to vice and the grossest immoralities -- at another time making the highest pretensions to piety and holy intercourse with Almighty God. The family of Smiths held Joseph Jr. in high estimation on account of some supernatural power, which he was supposed to possess.[118]
Capron obviously disliked and distrusted the Smiths, but he makes it clear that there were claims of holy intercourse (i.e., "communication" with)[119] "Almighty God."

1831

  • LDS missionaries were teaching that Joseph Smith "had seen God frequently and personally" and received a commission from Him to teach true religion (The Reflector, vol. 2, no. 13, 14 February 1831).[120]

1832

  • LDS missionaries were teaching with regard to Joseph Smith: "Having repented of his sins, but not attached himself to any party of Christians, owing to the numerous divisions among them, and being in doubt what his duty was, he had recourse [to] prayer" (The Fredonia Censor, vol. 11, no. 50, 7 March 1832).
  • In October 1832, another Protestant minister wrote to a friend about the Latter-day Saints in his area: "They profess to hold frequent converse with angels; some go, if we may believe what they say, as far as the third heaven, and converse with the Lord Jesus face to face."[121]

1833

  • A few months later, in March of 1833, the Reverend Richmond Taggart wrote a letter to a ministerial friend, regarding the activities of Joseph Smith himself in Ohio: "The following Curious occurrance occurred last week in Newburg [Ohio] about 6 miles from this Place [Cleveland]. Joe Smith the great Mormonosity was there and held forth, and among other things he told them he had seen Jesus Christ and the Apostles and conversed with them, and that he could perform Miracles."[122] Here is a clear reference to Joseph Smith stating he had seen Jesus Christ. Joseph’s ‘conversations’ with the Apostles could be a reference to having seen, spoken to, and been ordained to the Priesthood by the early Apostles Peter, James, and John. Having received that Priesthood Joseph Smith was now qualified to perform healings, and other ‘miracles’.
  • A Missouri newspaper contains an article on a mass meeting of Latter-day Saints in July 1833, and refers to the Saints’ “pretended revelations from heaven… their personal intercourse with God and his angels… converse with God and his angels….”[123]
  • Philastus Hurlbut, following his excommunication from the Church in 1833, went east to Palmyra. He there interviewed many who claimed to have known Joseph Smith before the organization of the Church. Among those interviewed were some who left statements which give us more information on what the Prophet had been claiming at that early period. On November 3, 1833, Barton Stafford testified that Joseph had “professed to be inspired of the Lord to translate the Book of Mormon.” Stafford claimed to have known them “until 1831 when they left this neighborhood.” Five days later, on November 8, Joseph Capron testified that Joseph had made “the highest pretensions to piety and holy intercourse with Almighty God.”[124] In 1884 and 1885 Arthur B. Deming collected affidavits in the Painesville, Ohio area, regarding the early Saints, and their recollection of Joseph Smith. Cornelius R. Stafford had been born in Manchester, NY, in 1813. He testified that Joseph Smith “claimed to receive revelations from the Lord.”[125]

1834

1835

1836

  • The First Vision reference by William W. Phelps was republished as part of hymn #26 in the Saints' first hymnal—March 1836 (see Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1176).

When the published 1830s fragments of the First Vision story are compared to the as-yet-unpublished 1838 recital, it becomes apparent that the Prophet's account of things stayed steady during this time frame and was probably known among a wider cross-section of the contemporary LDS population than has been previously acknowledged.

1834 - "the 15th year of his life" [Cowdery]
1838 - "I was at this time in my fifteenth year"
1834 - "There was a great awakening, or excitement raised on the subject of religion" [Cowdery]
1838 - "there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion"
1834 - "our brother's mind became awakened" [Cowdery]
1838 - "my mind was called up to serious reflection"
1834 - "his mother, one sister, and two of his natural brothers, were persuaded to unite with the Presbyterians" [Cowdery]
1838 - "My Fathers family were proselyted to the Presbyterian faith"
1834 - "his spirit was not at rest day nor night" [Cowdery]
1838 - "great uneasiness . . . extreme difficulties . . . my anxieties"
1832 - "not attached himself to any party of Christians, owing to the numerous divisions among them" [Missionaries]
1838 - "I kept myself aloof from all these parties"; "no small stir and division"
1834 - "he was told they were right, and all others were wrong" [Cowdery]
1838 - "who was right and who was wrong"
1834 - "a general struggle was made by the leading characters of the different sects" [Cowdery]
1838 - "priest contending against priest"
1834 - "Large additions were made to the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches" [Cowdery]
1838 - "multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties"
1835 - "the world in darkness lay" [Phelps]
1838 - "I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness"
1835 - "he sought the better way" [Phelps]
1838 - "I was one day reading the Epistle of James"
1832 - "being in doubt what his duty was" [Missionaries]
1838 - "I often said to myself, what is to be done?"
1832 - "he had recourse [to] prayer" [Missionaries]
1838 - "I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God"
1831 - "he had seen God . . . personally" [Missionaries]
1838 - "I saw two personages . . . One of them spake unto me calling me by name and said (pointing to the other) 'This is my beloved Son, Hear him'"

Here then are several early testimonies from friendly and non-LDS sources, confirming that Joseph Smith and/or the missionaries were talking about Joseph conversing with Jesus Christ, angels, Apostles (Peter, James and John?), and “Almighty God.” Evidently the early Saints were doing a lot more talking about these things than the critics want their readers to know about.


Question: Was the general membership of the LDS Church not familiar with the First Vision story until late in the nineteenth century?

Latter-day Saints the world over knew about it, in detail, throughout the lifetimes of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young

It has been claimed that, “Before the death of Brigham Young in 1877 the first vision was seldom mentioned in Mormon publications.” However, the First Vision story was never the garbled and evolving tale that critics of the Church want to make it out to be. Latter-day Saints the world over knew about it, in detail, throughout the lifetimes of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. They became aware of it by reading LDS books, LDS newspapers, LDS pamphlets, and LDS educational primers.

This charge has been repeatedly made by succeeding generations of anti-Mormons in their written communications, during lectures, and on the printed page. But the continual parroting of an argument does not somehow make it true. A survey of the historical record demonstrates beyond any conceivable doubt that this claim is not accurate and cannot be defended by any of the detractors of Mormonism.

President Brigham Young died on 29 August 1877. It can be demonstrated through the construction of a timeline (which can be examined by clicking on the link inside the red box at the top of this page) that before President Young passed away the First Vision was mentioned in LDS publications on more than 70 occasions. And a look at the details of the retellings of the story during the relevant time period is instructive. The documents indicate that:

  • The story was related in a published LDS history by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
  • The story was rehearsed in LDS printed material by six members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: Orson Pratt, John E. Page, Lorenzo Snow, John Taylor, Orson Hyde, and Franklin D. Richards.
  • The story was explained frequently to little children.
  • The story was told in the United States, England, Wales, Scotland, Italy, Denmark, Holland, South Africa, India, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Switzerland, and France.
  • The story was rehearsed in the English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Welsh, and French languages.
  • The story was told on a regular basis.
  • The story was expressed in consistent detail.

It should be noted that since the charge of "seldom" retellings in LDS literature is not accurate, it cannot be legitimately used to bolster the idea that confusion over the exact nature of the First Vision existed during President Brigham Young's administration. Nor can the unfounded notion be sustained that the official version of events did not get standardized until after President Young's death.


Question: What LDS publications between 1840 and 1877 include references to Joseph Smith's First Vision?

This timeline demonstrates conclusively that Latter-day Saints were never left in the dark about the cause of the beginning of the dispensation of the fulness of times

Latter-day Saints can rest assured that the First Vision story is not the end product of a lengthy sorting-out process or a tale that grew taller over time. It is the same story known by earlier generations of the faithful.

The following timeline shows LDS publications that included the First Vision story over a 37 year period (1840-1877). This timeline demonstrates conclusively that Latter-day Saints were never left in the dark about the cause of the beginning of the dispensation of the fulness of times. They were well informed about it while the founding Prophet of the dispensation lived; they continued to be acquainted with it during the administration of his legitimate successor.

September 1840

Orson Pratt, An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (Edinburgh, Scotland: Ballantyne and Hughes, 1840).
Edinburgh, Scotland.

1 / 15 December 1840

Slightly modified reprint of Oliver Cowdery’s incomplete rendition of the 1832 First Vision account and extra unwritten details (Times and Seasons, vol. 2, no. 3, 1 December 1840, 225–26; Times and Seasons, vol. 2, no. 4, 15 December 1840, 241).
Nauvoo, Illinois.

1841

First American edition of An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (expanded to 36 pages) [New York: Joseph W. Harrison, 1841]
New York City, New York.

1841

Second American edition of An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions [New York: Joseph W. Harrison, 1841]
New York City, New York.

1 March 1842

The Wentworth Letter First Vision recital is published (Times and Seasons, vol. 3, no. 9, 1 March 1842, 706–707).
Nauvoo, Illinois.

1 April 1842

The official History of the Church recital: Part 1 (Times and Seasons, vol. 3, no. 11, 1 April 1842, 748–49).
Nauvoo, Illinois.

15 April 1842

The official History of the Church recital: Part 2 (Times and Seasons, vol. 3, no. 12, 15 April 1842, 753).
Nauvoo, Illinois.

June 1842

The official History of the Church recital is reprinted (Millennial Star, vol. 3, no. 2, June 1842, 22–23) [“From the ‘Times and Seasons’”]
England.

1842

Third American edition of An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions [New York: Joseph W. Harrison, 1842]
New York City, New York.

1842

Orson Hyde, A Cry in the Wilderness (Frankfurt, Germany: Orson Hyde, 1842).
Frankfurt, Germany.

February 1844

The Wentworth Letter account is reprinted (John E. Page and Lucien R. Foster publish a pamphlet entitled Correspondence Between Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and Col. John Wentworth, Editor of “The Chicago Democrat,” and Member of Congress from Illinois [New York City: Joseph W. Harrison, 1844], 3-6).
New York City, New York.

1 January 1845

Elder Parley P. Pratt issues a proclamation to the eastern states Saints: “The people did not choose that great modern apostle and prophet, Joseph Smith, but God chose him in the usual way that He has chosen others before him, viz., by open vision, and by His own voice from the heavens. He it was that called him” (Millennial Star, vol. 5, no. 10, March 1845, 150).
New York City, New York.
England.

July 1846

Dan Jones’ Welsh publication Prophet of the Jubilee reprints a modified version of the First Vision account found in Orson Pratt’s An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions. (Ronald D. Dennis, trans. and ed., Prophet of the Jubilee [Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1997], 17-19).
Wales.

December 1848

A truncated version of An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (16 pages) is published.
Liverpool, England.

15 October 1849

Elder Orson Pratt quotes from the History of the Church First Vision account in part 2 of “Are the Father and the Son Two Distinct Persons?” (Millennial Star, vol. 11, no. 20, 15 October 1849, 310).
England.

1 August 1850

Elder John Taylor sends a First Vision account to a non-LDS journal and it is reprinted in an LDS newspaper (Millennial Star, vol. 12, no. 15, 1 August 1850, 235–37).
England.

6 September 1850

Elder Lorenzo Snow publishes a short account of the First Vision in a missionary tract called The Voice of Joseph.
LaTour, Italy.

October 1850

Elder John Taylor expands the letter he sent to the August 1850 Millennial Star and published it in pamphlet form in the French language. (Peter Crawley, Bibliography, 2:167).
France

4 November 1850

Elder Lorenzo Snow’s missionary tract called The Voice of Joseph is to be translated into French (Millennial Star, vol. 12, no. 24, 15 December 1850, 370).
France.

15 December 1850

Orson Pratt, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, No. 4: Evidences of the Book of Mormon and Bible Compared (Liverpool, England: R. James, 1850), points #10–11. Quotation of the official History of the Church First Vision account.
Liverpool, England.

Early 1851

Orson Pratt, A Series of Pamphlets (Liverpool, England: R. James, 1851). This collection includes "Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon #4" and "An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions".
Liverpool, England.

6 February 1851

Lorenzo Snow informs Orson Hyde in a letter that his missionary tract called The Voice of Joseph is circulating in Italy and Switzerland (Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1884], 176).
Geneva, Switzerland.
Italy.

15 July 1851

Elder Franklin D. Richards publishes the first edition of the Pearl of Great Price. It contains the official History of the Church First Vision account (Millennial Star, vol. 13, no. 14, 15 July 1851, 216-17).
Liverpool, England.

15 August 1851

Lorenzo Snow informs Franklin D. Richards that his missionary tract called The Voice of Joseph will be issued in a second edition (Millennial Star, vol. 13, no. 16, 15 August 1851, 252-53).

1851

Orson Pratt, An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (Sydney, Australia: Albert Mason, 1851); first Australian edition (derived from the American 3rd edition).
Sydney, Australia.

1851

An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions is published in the Danish language (Andrew Jenson, “An Epitome of the History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” in Worlds Fair Ecclesiastical History of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT: George Q. Cannon and Sons Co., 1893), 15; Andrew Jenson, History of the Scandinavian Mission [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1927], 30–31).
Denmark.

1851

Lorenzo Snow’s pamphlet called The Voice of Joseph is printed in the French language. (Lorenzo Snow, Le Voix de Joseph [Turin : Imprimerie Ferrero et Franco, 1851]).

1851

Orson Pratt’s Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon is reprinted.
Liverpool, England.

1851

Lorenzo Snow's pamphlet The Voice of Joseph is reprinted inside the book: Lorenzo Snow, The Italian Mission (London: W. Aubrey, 1851), 13-14.
London.

1 May 1852

Lorenzo Snow informs Samuel W. Richards in a letter from Malta that another edition of his missionary tract called The Voice of Joseph (revised from the Italian printing) has been published (Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1884], 215–16). [see Millennial Star, vol. 14, no. 15, 5 June 1852, 236]
Italy.

15 May 1852

The Prophet's 9 November 1835 recital of the First Vision is printed in a newspaper (Deseret News, 15 May 1852).
Salt Lake City, Utah.

15 May 1852

Notice is given that An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions will be published in India (Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1884], 220).
India.

July 1852

A second printing of An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions is released in Australia. (R. Lanier Britsch, Unto the Islands of the Sea: A History of the Latter-day Saints in the Pacific [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1986], 196–97, citing Andrew Jenson, Manuscript History of the Australian Mission, April 1855).
Sydney, Australia.

27 November 1852

A Welsh edition of the Pearl of Great Price is published by John Silvanus Davis (Millennial Star, vol. 14, no. 40, 27 November 1852, 634).
Wales.

27 November 1852

Another English printing of Lorenzo Snow’s missionary tract call The Voice of Joseph is issued (Millennial Star, vol. 14, no. 40, 27 November 1852, 635). [Liverpool, England: S. W. Richards, 1852]
Liverpool, England.

1852

Orson Pratt, A Series of Pamphlets (Liverpool, England: Franklin D. Richards, 1852); includes Remarkable Visions and Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
Liverpool, England.

1852

Elder Franklin D. Richards publishes an 88-page supplement to volume 14 of the Millennial Star which includes the official History of the Church First Vision account (See Howard C. Searle, “Authorship of the History of Joseph Smith: a Review Essay,” Brigham Young University Studies, vol. 21, no. 1, Winter 1981, 101-22).
Liverpool, England.

1852

John Taylor's French pamphlet with the First Vision account is reissued. (Chad Flake, Bibliography).
France.

13 April 1853

Orson Pratt’s Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, No. 4 is printed in the Scandinavian mission (Millennial Star, vol. 15, no. 20, 14 May 1853, 315).
Scandinavia.

19 November 1853

John Jaques publishes some First Vision information that will eventually become part of chapter 3 of his Catechism for Children. He also cites the official History of the Church account that was reprinted in the supplement to volume 14 of the Millennial Star. (Millennial Star, vol. 15, no. 47, 19 November 1853, 759).
Liverpool, England.

1853

Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and his Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, England: Published for Orson Pratt by S. W. Richards 1853), 75. Quotation of the official History of the Church First Vision account. [Date of sale for this book can be found in Millennial Star, vol. 15, no. ---, 15 October 1853, 682]
Liverpool, England.

1853

Orson Pratt’s Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon is reprinted.
Liverpool, England.

1853

Elder Orson Pratt’s Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon is translated into the Danish language.

16 November 1854

Lucy Mack Smith’s autobiography is advertised for sale in Utah. It contains the official History of the Church First Vision account (Deseret News, 16 November 1864).
Salt Lake City, Utah.

1854

John Jaques, Catechism For Children: Exhibiting the Prominent Doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Liverpool, England: Franklin D. Richards, 1854), 12, 76–77.
Liverpool, England.

31 March 1855

Elder Franklin D. Richards is informed that The Voice of Joseph missionary tract has been issued in the Dutch language in South Africa (Millennial Star, vol. 17, no. 36, 8 September 1855, 572).
South Africa.

15 August 1855

The Wentworth Letter account of the First Vision is published in a Utah newspaper (Deseret News, vol. 5, no. 23, 15 August 1855, 1).
Salt Lake City, Utah.

5 September 1855

Elder George A. Smith publishes a short history of the Church that includes the First Vision story (Deseret News, vol. 5, no. 26, 5 September 1855, 2).
Salt Lake City, Utah.

1855

John Jaques’ Catechism for Children is reprinted in the English language.
Liverpool, England.

1856

An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions is published in the Swedish language (Andrew Jenson, “An Epitome of the History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” in Worlds Fair Ecclesiastical History of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT: George Q. Cannon and Sons Co., 1893), 15; Andrew Jenson, History of the Scandinavian Mission [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1927, 30–31).
Sweden.

21 February 1857

The Wentworth Letter is published in an article entitled “Joseph Smith History” (Millennial Star, vol. 19, no. 8, 21 February 1857, 117).
England.

1857

Franklin D. Richards, A Compendium of the Faith and Doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Liverpool, England: Orson Pratt, 1857), 152, 221.
Liverpool, England.

1857

Orson Pratt’s Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon is reprinted in the English language.
Liverpool, England.

1857

Orson Pratt’s Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon is published in the Danish language.
Copenhagen, Denmark.

1860

Orson Pratt’s Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon is reprinted in English.
Liverpool, England.

1860

John Jaques’ Catechism for Children is printed in the Danish language.

6 August 1862

Elder George A. Smith’s short history of the Church is reprinted (Deseret News, vol. 12, no. 6, 6 August 1862, 2).
Salt Lake City, Utah.

1 / 15 January 1866

Elder George Q. Cannon provides the young people of the Church with a recital of the First Vision which draws information from the official History of the Church account, the Wentworth Letter, and An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (see Juvenile Instructor, vol. 1, no. 1, 1 January 1866, 1; Juvenile Instructor, vol. 1, no. 2, 15 January 1866, 5).
Salt Lake City, Utah.

1 October 1866

George Q. Cannon posed two catechism questions for children regarding the First Vision (Juvenile Instructor, vol. 1, no. 19, 1 October 1866, 75).
Salt Lake City, Utah.

15 November 1866

George Q. Cannon published the two First Vision catechism questions along with their answers (Juvenile Instructor, vol. 1, no. 22, 15 November 1866, 87).
Salt Lake City, Utah.

1869

E. L. Sloan, comp., The Salt Lake City Directory and Business Guide for 1869 (Salt Lake City: E. L. Sloan, 1869), 56.

July 1869

George A. Smith cites the Wentworth Letter First Vision account (George A. Smith, The Rise, Progress and Travels of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City; Deseret News Office, 1869], ---).
Salt Lake City, Utah.

October 1870

John Jaques’ Catechism for Children is republished in the English language.
Salt Lake City, Utah. [Announcement of impending sale given in the Deseret News Weekly, vol. 19, no. 36, 12 October 1870, 413]

1870

John Jaques’ Catechism for Children is republished in the English language.
Liverpool, England.

15 June 1871

Republication of Orson Pratt’s [Journal of Discourses, 14:140–42] First Vision discourse (Skandinaviens Stjerne, vol. 20, no. 18, 15 June 1871, 273–79, 282–83 / from the Deseret News).
Copenhagen, Denmark.

Fall 1871

Sybren Van Dyk (mission president) collaborated with Johannes H. Heman to translate John Jaques’ Catechism for Children and then published it in Holland (Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, 4:358–59).
Holland.

1 February 1872

Republication of Orson Pratt’s [Journal of Discourses, 14:261-62] First Vision discourse (Skandinaviens Stjerne, vol. 21, no. 9, 1 February 1872, 129–36; 145–49 / from the Deseret News, vol. 20, no. 46, 20 December 1871, 537-38]
Copenhagen, Denmark.

1872

John Jaques’ Catechism for Children is republished in the English language.
Salt Lake City, Utah.

1872

George A. Smith cites the Wentworth Letter First Vision account (George A. Smith, The Rise, Progress and Travels of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, rev. ed. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Publishing, 1872], 37-38).
Salt Lake City: Utah.

1872

John Jaques’ Catechism for Children is published in the German language.
Bern.

1873

George A. Smith cites the Wentworth Letter First Vision account (George A. Smith, The Rise, Progress and Travels of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, rev. ed. [Liverpool, England: -----, 1873], 37).
Liverpool, England.

1873

John Jaques’ Catechism for Children is republished in the English language.
Liverpool, England.

1873

John Jaques’ Catechism for Children is published in the Swedish language.
Sweden.

4 October 1876

Orson Pratt “History and Doctrines of the Latter-day Saints” (article written for the Universal Cylopedia in December 1874). Printed in the Deseret News, vol. 25, no. 36, 4 October 1876, 562; Millennial Star, vol. 38, no. 43, 23 October 1876, 673–77.
Salt Lake City, Utah.

11 October 1876

Publication of Orson Pratt’s 8 October 1876 [Journal of Discourses, ---] First Vision remarks (Deseret News, vol. 25, no. ---, 11 October 1876, 585; Millennial Star, vol. 38, no. 46, 13 November 1876, 721).
Salt Lake City, Utah.
England.

4 July 1877

Andrew Jenson publishes the First Vision story in the Danish-Norwegian language (Andrew Jenson, Autobiography of Andrew Jenson [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1938], 102–103).
Salt Lake City, Utah.


Question: Is there any mention of the First Vision in non-Mormon literature before 1843?

There are a number of reports in non-Latter-day Saint source which allude to the First Vision having occurred

The historical record supports the claim that the First Vision was mentioned in non-Mormon literature prior to 1843:

  • Report in a non-LDS newspaper of Mormon missionaries teaching that Joseph Smith had seen God personally and received a commission from Him to teach true religion (The Reflector, vol. 2, no. 13, 14 February 1831).
  • The “Articles and Covenants” of the Church - which contained a reference to something that happened during the First Vision - were published in a non-LDS newspaper (Telegraph, 19 April 1831).
  • Report in a non-LDS newspaper that Mormon missionaries were teaching at least six of the beginning elements of the First Vision story (Fredonia Censor, vol. 11, no. 50, 7 March 1832).
  • In April 1841 the British publication Athenæum (a literary weekly) reprinted material from Orson Pratt’s Interesting Account pamphlet.
  • A non-LDS newspaper printed the first elements of the First Vision story. They were first reported in the Congregational Observer [Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut] and then reprinted in the Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer, vol. 5, no. 23, 3 September 1841.
  • First Vision story elements from Orson Pratt's 1840 pamphlet were reprinted in The Museum of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, vol. 14 (new series), no. 42, July 1841, 370. Philadelphia: E. Littell and Co. (copied from the 1841 Athenæum article called “The Book of Mormon and the Mormonites”).
  • When the Rev. John A. Clark published his autobiography he mixed nine First Vision story elements together with the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and said that he learned them all in the Fall of 1827 from Martin Harris (John A. Clark, Gleanings by the Way [Philadelphia: W. J. and J. K. Simmon, 1842],---).
  • A non-LDS college professor published the beginning story elements of the First Vision (Jonathan B. Turner, Mormonism in All Ages [New York: Platt and Peters, 1842], 14).

The majority of these reports are garbled, fragmentary, and out of proper context but this evidence still shows that the claim being made in the source cited above is not accurate.


Notes

  1. "Appendix: Orson Pratt, A[n Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, 1840,"] The Joseph Smith Papers.
  2. Charles G. Finney, "Memoirs of Charles G. Finney," (1876) 16-18.
  3. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 2.
  4. Oliver Cowdery, "LETTER IV," Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1 no. 5 (Feb. 1835), 78.
  5. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 22.
  6. Stephen Prothero, American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), 171.
  7. Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 164.( Index of claims ); Christian Research and Counsel, “Documented History of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” full-color pamphlet, 10 pages. [There is a notation within this pamphlet indicating that research and portions of text were garnered from Utah Lighthouse Ministry]; Watchman Fellowship, The Watchman Expositor (Page 3)
  8. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:171.
  9. Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1884),127–128.
  10. Ensign (April 1992).
  11. JD 8:353-4. (3 March 1861). wiki; JD 12:67-8. (June 23rd, 1867). wiki
  12. JD 2:171. (Feb 18, 1855). wiki; JD 7:243. (September 1, 1859). wiki; JD 11:253. (17 June 1866). wiki
  13. JD 12:67-8. (June 23rd, 1867). wiki
  14. JD 2:171. (Feb 18, 1855). wiki; JD 12:67-8. (June 23rd, 1867). wiki
  15. JD 18:231. (17 September 1876). wiki
  16. JD 1:185-19. (14 March 1860). wiki JD 8:15-6. (3 June 1860). wiki JD 8:66. (3 March 1861). wikiJD 8:353-4. (6 April 1861). wiki JD 9:1. (4 June 1864). wiki JD 10:303. (13 November 1864). wiki JD 10:363-365. (June 23rd, 1867). wiki JD 12:67-8. .wiki; Deseret News Weekly 22 (June 29, 1873):388, in Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 6:79. (21 June 1874); JD 18:239-40. .wiki
  17. Manuscript History of Brigham Young (June 25, 1845); Manuscript History of Brigham Young (June 17, 1847); Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985) (journal entry dated 15 August 1847). ISBN 0941214133.; JD 1:7. (April 6, 1853). wiki [=Millennial Star 15 (24 July 1853), 489, 491.]; JD 1:233-245. (April 6, 1853). wiki; Letter to Freeport, Ill., Bulletin, 1 June 1854, reprinted in New York Times June 7, 1854; (4 June 1864) JD 10:303. (June 18, 1865). wiki; JD 11:126. (June 23, 1867). wiki; JD 12:67-8. (July 17, 1870). wiki; JD 13:216. (April 8, 1871). wiki; Deseret News 20/10 (April 12, 1871): 112; JD 14:95. (18 May 1873). wiki; JD 16:42. .wiki; Deseret News Weekly 22 (29 June 1873):388, in Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 6:79. (21 June 1874); JD 18:239-40. (21 May 1877). wiki Deseret News Weekly 26:274-275; Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 6:142.
  18. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, ed. Elden Jay Watson (Salt Lake City, 1968), 4 [Leland Nelson, 4]
  19. See Young Women's Journal 18 no. 12 (December 1907), 537–539.; Samuel W. Richards, Journal Book 2 of Travels To Nauvoo, BYU Special Collections, Writings of Early Latter-day Saints, 26; Andrew Jenson, Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 4 vols., (Salt Lake City, A. Jenson History Co., 1901; reprinted Salt Lake City, Utah : Greg Kofford Books, 2003), 1:187.
  20. Andrew Jenson, Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 4 vols., (Salt Lake City, A. Jenson History Co., 1901; reprinted Salt Lake City, Utah : Greg Kofford Books, 2003), 1:115.
  21. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, ed. Elden Jay Watson (Salt Lake City, 1968), p pp. 23-24 [Leland Nelson, 13].
  22. Heber C. Kimball, letter to Millennial Star editor, Nauvoo, July 15, 1841: Millennial Star 2 (15 July 1841), 77-78. This must refer to Remarkable Visions (Orson Pratt's account of Joseph's first vision and other revelations); nothing else had published by him yet.
  23. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, ed. Leland Nelson, 94
  24. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, William Harwell, 14; Millennial Star 14 no. 10 (1 May 1852), 151.
  25. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 16.
  26. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), [citation needed]:319-320 (journal entry dated 15 August 1847). ISBN 0941214133.
  27. Manuscript History of Brigham Young. 1847-1850, edited by William S. Harwell (Salt Lake City, Utah: Collier’s Publishing Co., 1997): 139
  28. Deseret News 1/3 (29 June 1850) [following sermon by Reverend G.B. Day]
  29. Lorenzo Snow, The Italian Mission (London: W. Aubrey, 1851), 13; also in Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1884),127–128.
  30. JD 1:185-191. (19 June 1853). wiki
  31. JD 1: (24 July 1853). wiki
  32. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 75.; Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother: Revised and Enhanced, edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), editor's introduction. ISBN 1570082677.
  33. Letter to MR. HENRY A. MCAFEE, Freeport, Stephenson Co., Ill; letter to editor of the Freeport, Illinois Bulletin June 1, 1854. Reprinted New York Times (7 June 1854), 3.
  34. JD 2:171. (18 Feb 1855). wiki
  35. George Q. Cannon, editorial, “The Testimony of the Gospel,” Juvenile Instructor 24 (1 July 1889): 308-9.
  36. Brigham Young Journal, 13 August 1857, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah; Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 5:76-77. ISBN 0941214133.
  37. Deseret News, 7/46 (20 January 1858): 363.
  38. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:243-244, (emphasis added).
  39. JD 8:66. (3 June 1860). wiki
  40. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:354.
  41. JD 9:1-2. (6 April 1861). wiki
  42. Deseret News 11/13 (29 May 1861): 97-8; Reprinted in JD 9:31-40. (7 April 1961). wiki
  43. Rodney Turner, "Franklin D. Richards and the Pearl of Great Price," in Donald Q. Cannon, ed., Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint History: British Isles (Provo, UT: BYU Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1990), 184.
  44. JD 10:303. (4 June 1864). wiki
  45. JD 10:363-365. (13 November 164). wiki
  46. JD 11:253. (17 June 1866). wiki
  47. Brigham Young, (23 June 1867) Journal of Discourses 12:67,70-70.
  48. SLC Tabernacle, General Conference, 6 1/2 p.m.; Deseret News Weekly 17:282; Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 5:133.
  49. Deseret News Weekly 19 (August 3, 1870): 303-308; also in JD 13:216. .wiki
  50. Deseret News 20/10 (April 12, 1871): 112; JD 14:95. (8 April 1871). wiki
  51. Deseret News 21 (September 25, 1872): 504-5; synopsis in Millennial Star 34/27 (July 2, 1872): 419-20; JD 15:169-70. (26 May 1872). wiki
  52. JD 16:42. (18 May 1873). wiki
  53. Deseret News Weekly 22:388; Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 6:79.
  54. Deseret News Weekly 22:441; Millennial Star 35 no. 36 (9 September 1873), 563-4.; Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 6:82.
  55. Millennial Star 36 no. 1 (Tuesday, 6 January 1874): 1-7). [From Salt Lake Herald]: 2-6.
  56. JD 18:239-40. (21 June 1874). wiki
  57. Deseret News 25 (October 11, 1876): 585; Millennial Star 38 no. 46 (13 November 1876), 721.
  58. Deseret News Weekly 25 (11 October 1876): 582; JD 18:231. (17 Setpember 1876). wiki
  59. Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 6:142.; Deseret News Weekly 26:274-275.
  60. Brigham Young, (3 March 1861) Journal of Discourses 8:354..
  61. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 4:513. Volume 4 link
  62. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:63. Volume 6 link
  63. Christian Research and Counsel, “Documented History of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” full-color pamphlet, 10 pages. [There is a notation within this pamphlet indicating that research and portions of text were garnered from Utah Lighthouse Ministry]
  64. Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses 2:196-197.
  65. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 4:513. Volume 4 link
  66. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:63. Volume 6 link
  67. Wilford Woodruff, (2 February 1855) Journal of Discourses 2:196-197.
  68. Günther Juncker, “Christ As Angel: The Reclamation Of A Primitive Title,” Trinity Journal 15:2 (Fall 1994):221–250.
  69. Wilford Woodruff, General Conference, April 4, 1890; Deseret Weekly 40. 16 (Saturday, April 12, 1890): 525; reprinted in Millennial Star 52. (April 28, 1890): 258; Collected Discourses 2. 23-24
  70. Wilford Woodruff, General Conference, October 9, 1892, Deseret News Weekly 45 (1892): 546c; Collected Discourses 3. 156
  71. Wilford Woodruff, General Conference; Deseret Weekly, 48 (April 8, 1894): 542; Millennial Star 46 (1894): 321; Collected Discourses 4. 70
  72. See Deseret News 5 no. 23 (15 August 1855), 1.
  73. Deseret News, vol. 12, no. 6, 6 August 1862, 2.
  74. George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 11:2.
  75. George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 12:334.
  76. George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 13:77-78.
  77. George A. Smith, The Rise, Progress, and Travels of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Office, 1869), 37.
  78. George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 13:293.
  79. George A. Smith, (15 November 1868) Journal of Discourses 12:333-334..
  80. Günther Juncker, “Christ As Angel: The Reclamation Of A Primitive Title,” Trinity Journal 15:2 (Fall 1994):221–250.
  81. James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words In The Hebrew Bible With Their Renderings In the Authorized English Version (Nashville: Abingdon, 1890), 66.
  82. The History of the Church Book I:2 (3), in Eusebius: The History of the Church From Christ to Constantine, G.A. Williamson Translator (Penguine Books, 1986), 33-4.
  83. Martyrdom And Ascension of Isaiah 10:30-31, in James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha 2 Vols. (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1985), 2:174.
  84. Epistula Apostulorum 14, in Edgar Hennecke and Wilhelm Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha 2 Vols. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963), 1:199.
  85. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith 162. "An angel has flesh and bones; we see not their glory." If Jesus comes as an angel he "will adapt himself to the language and capacity" of the individual.
  86. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith 191. See also D&C 129.
  87. John Taylor, (2 March 1879) Journal of Discourses 20:257.
  88. John Taylor, (2 March 1879) Journal of Discourses 20:167.
  89. John Taylor, (2 March 1879) Journal of Discourses 20:257.
  90. Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 34–35, with footnote 76, page 339–340.. ( Index of claims )
  91. Isaiah Bennett, Inside Mormonism: What Mormons Really Believe (Catholic Answers: 1999), 4.
  92. 92.0 92.1 Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979).( Index of claims )
  93. Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Case Against Mormonism, 2 vols., (Salt Lake City, 1967), 1:120.
  94. "First Vision," wikipedia.org (last accessed 6 October 2006). off-site
  95. Further examples of the Tanners' manipulation of the textual record by omitting key passages discussing the first vision can be seen at: D. Charles Pyle and Cooper Johnson, "Did early LDS leaders really misunderstand the First Vision?" FairMormon link
  96. 96.0 96.1 B. H. Roberts, Life of John Taylor (Salt Lake City, Utah: George Q. Cannon & Sons, Co., 1892).
  97. John Taylor, Letter to the Editor of the Interpreter Anglais et Français, Boulogne-sur-mer (25 June 1850). (emphasis added) Reprinted in John Taylor, Millennial Star 12 no. 15 (1 August 1850), 235–236.
  98. John Taylor, Aux amis de la vérité réligieuse. Récit abregé du commencement, des progres, de l’éstablissement, des persecutions, de la foi et de la doctrine de l’Église de Jésus-Christ des Saints des Derniers Jours (Paris 1850). [Translation: To friends of religious truth. An abridged account of the beginning, progress, establishment, persecutions, the faith, and the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.]
  99. Wilford Woodruff journal, under date (August 13, 1857); it can be found in the published version volume 5, page 76; it is also in Journal History under that date. Also, William L. Knecht and Peter L. Crawley, eds. History of Brigham Young, 1847-1867 (Berkeley, CA: MassCal Associates, 1964). [21 July 1847-29 December 1867]
  100. John Taylor, (7 October 1859) Journal of Discourses 7:322.
  101. John Taylor, "A Funeral Sermon...over the remains of Ann Tenora, etc.," (31 December 1876) Journal of Discourses 18:325-6; 329, 330 (emphasis added).
  102. John Taylor, "The Trusteeship, etc.," (7 October 1877) Journal of Discourses 19:123 (emphasis added).
  103. John Taylor, "Gathering The Result Of Revelation, etc.," (14 November 1877) Journal of Discourses 19:151-152 (emphasis added).
  104. John Taylor letter to A. K. Thurber at Richfield, Utah (25 February 1879), (emphasis added).
  105. John Taylor, "The Interest Of Humanity Should Be Observed," (2 March 1879) Journal of Discourses 20:257, (emphasis added).
  106. John Taylor, "Eternal Nature Of The Gospel, etc.," (28 November 1879) Journal of Discourses 21:116-117, (emphasis added).
  107. John Taylor, "Restoration Of The Gospel Through Joseph Smith, etc.," (7 December 1879) Journal of Discourses 21:161, (emphasis added).
  108. John Taylor, "The Revelation Of The Father And Son To Joseph Smith, And The Bestowal Upon Him Of The Priesthood, etc.," (4 January 1880) Journal of Discourses 21:65, (emphasis added).
  109. John Taylor, "The Privileges Of The Saints, etc.," (27 June 1881) Journal of Discourses 22:218, (emphasis added).
  110. John Taylor, "Duties Of The Saints — The Atonement, etc.," (28 August 1881) Journal of Discourses 22:298-299, (emphasis added).
  111. John Taylor, "Manifestation Of The Father And Son To The Prophet Joseph," (20 October 1881) Journal of Discourses 26:106-107, (emphasis added).
  112. John Taylor, The Mediation and Atonement (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Co., 1882), 138.
  113. John Taylor, "Restoration Of The Gospel," (5 March 1882) Journal of Discourses 23:29-32, (emphasis added).
  114. John Taylor, Millennial Star 44 no. 22 (29 May 1882), 337–338, (emphasis added).
  115. John Taylor, "Man's Natural Spirit And The Spirit Of God, etc.," (23 November 1882) Journal of Discourses 23:322-323 (emphasis added).
  116. John Taylor, "Manifestations To Be Looked For, etc.," (18 May 1884) Journal of Discourses 25:177-178, see also 179 for the other visitors, (emphasis added).
  117. ?, "Laid to Rest. The Remains of President John Taylor Consigned to The Grave," Millennial Star 49 no. 36 (5 September 1887), 564.
  118. Joseph Capron affidavit, 8 November 1833; in Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 258-259. (Affidavits examined)
  119. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. "intercourse." defines the term as simply "[1] Communication....[2] Silent communication or exchange."
  120. Regarding the reference in the Palmyra Reflector, Richard Abanes, in his anti-Mormon work Becoming Gods, boldly declares in the main body of his text on page 34 that "[n]ot a single piece of published literature" mentions the First Vision, yet in an endnote at the back of the book on page 338 acknowledges this newspaper account. He attempts to dismiss this by claiming that the reference is "vague," yet acknowledges that "as early as 1831 Smith might have been starting to privately tell select persons that he had at some point seen God."
  121. Rev. B. Pixley, Christian Watchman, Independence Mo., October 12, 1832; in Among the Mormons. Historic Accounts by Contemporary Observers, Edited by William Mulder and A. Russell Mortensen (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958): 74. This article by Pixley was reprinted in Independent Messenger (Boston, Mass.) of November 29, 1832; also in Missouri Intelligencer (Columbia, Mo.), and the American Eagle (Westfield, New York). Cited also in Hyrum Andrus, Joseph Smith, The Man and The Seer (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1960), 68, note 46. It is not clear what Rev. Pixley was referring to by the comment about the third heaven, though it may refer to the Vision of the Three Degrees of Glory [DC 76:], which had been received February 1832, and published in July in the Evening and Morning Star, in Kirtland, Ohio. Verse 20 indicates that “we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father….”
  122. Richmond Taggart to the Reverend Jonathan Goings, 2 March 1833, 2, Jonathon Goings Papers, American Baptist Historical Society, Rochester, New York, quoted in Hurlbut. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:205. See also Gregory A. Prince, Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995), 8.
  123. Missouri Intelligencer (August 10, 1833); quoted in John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations: Aids to Faith in a Modern Day, arranged by G. Homer Durham (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960), 337. GL direct link
  124. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:22, 24. Original in Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 251&ndash 252, and 258–260, respectively. (Affidavits examined)
  125. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:107. Original in Arthur B. Deming, Naked Truths About Mormonism newspaper (January 1888), 3.