Firesides/28 November 2010 - Sweden/8

Table of Contents

Response to questions about the First Vision

1: BoM translation2: Polygamy and Polyandry3: Polygamy forced?4: Book of Abraham5: "Lying for Lord"6: Mark Hofmann7: Blood atonement8: First Vision9: Sanitized history10: "Not all truth is useful"11: Angelic affidavits12: Blacks and priesthood13: Temple concerns14: Evidence of Vikings15: Adam-God16: Kinderhook

The attendees of The "Swedish Rescue" fireside ask the following question:

I also have the same feeling [that our history has not been portrayed accurately] when reading about the first vision and Joseph Smith.
  • After the First Vision he claims that he was persecuted because of the vision.
  • Nobody really, not many at least, found out about the First Vision until it was written in 1838.
  • There was one account in 1832....It came about much later and the question is why....most of them hadn’t even heard.
  • So why they join the church mainly because of the Book of Mormon and the issue of the new Israel and all that.
  • The First Vision as we teach today is not the foundation of the church originally.

  • Question: Was Joseph Smith persecuted because of the First Vision?
    Answer: Yes, from the perspective of a 14-year-old.
  • First Vision and persecution. Why does Joseph Smith say he was persecuted for talking about the first vision? I believe he was. He immediately went and told his story to a religious leader in his community. That religious leader scoffed at what he had to say. And the result of that was what from his vantage point felt like persecution. From the vantage point of others it may not have seemed like a big deal, but to a young boy, it seemed like a big deal.

    —Brother Turley's response to this question at the Sweden fireside.
    • Question: Is it true that nobody really, not many at least, found out about the First Vision until it was written in 1838?
      Answer: No
    Joseph Smith's own journal demonstrates that he was telling the story of the First Vision to at least two non-Mormon strangers in 1835. Joseph's 1832 account of the vision was primarily written down by his scribe Frederick G. Williams.
    • This criticism comes from anti-Mormon authors that are decades out of date. New research demonstrates that the First Vision was discussed very early on:
      • 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],---).
      • 1830: DC 20:5 mentions the First Vision (see here for details).
      • 1831: LDS missionaries were 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).
      • 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).
      • 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." (Rev. B. Pixley, ‘’Christian Watchman’’, Independence Mo., October 12, 1832).
      • 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." [Richmond Taggart to the Reverend Jonathan Goings, 2 March 1833, 2]
      • 1833: 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….” [Missouri Intelligencer (August 10, 1833)]
      • 1833: 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.” [Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 251&ndash 252, and 258–260. (Affidavits examined) ]
      • 1834: Oliver Cowdery published the beginning elements of the First Vision story as part of a history of the Church [(December 1834) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1:43.]
      • 1835: William W. Phelps published a reference to the First Vision in October 1835 in the Church's newspaper [(October 1835) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2:208.]
      • 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).
    • In short, 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 by Joseph’s critics.
    • Question: Did early Church members complain that Joseph changed his story of the First Vision?
      Answer: No
    This criticism was only made decades after Joseph's death. Contemporary members and apostates never raised the issue—that seems strange if early members of the Church (many of whom later left) had reason to believe that Joseph was changing his story. This criticism of Joseph only became possible after a lot of historical distance sat between him and those exposed to the criticism.
    • Question: Was the First Vision as we teach today not perceived as the same foundational event of the church that it is today?
      Answer: No
    Critics have downplayed the vast evidence that shows how important the First Vision was even to 19th century members. See here.
    • Early converts and members were less impressed by the First Vision because claiming visions was a rather common thing at the time. The Book of Mormon was far more persuasive to them, because it offered tangible evidence that Joseph's claims were true. Few of Joseph's audience doubted the existence of God; a vision of God would not much change their ideas about God's reality. New scripture accompanied by other eyewitnesses, however, altered their perspective.
    • In our more skeptical age, if Joseph really translated an ancient record, then his account of God's existence tells many people something new.

    |extlink= |extsubject=Accounts of the First Vision |extpublication=Gospel Study, Study by Topic, located on |extauthor=The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints |extsummary=During a 10-year period (1832–42), Joseph Smith wrote or dictated at least four accounts of the First Vision. These accounts are similar in many ways, but they include some differences in emphasis and detail. These differences are complementary. Together, his accounts provide a more complete record of what occurred. The 1838 account found in the Pearl of Great Price is the primary source referred to in the Church.