Joseph Smith's First Vision/Church Hides Accounts (1998-2003)

Table of Contents

LDS-authored publications (1910-1968)

A FairMormon Analysis of: Church publications which discuss various First Vision accounts, a work by author: Various

LDS-authored publications which discuss various accounts of the First Vision (1998-2003)

2003 Mark L. McConkie, Remembering Joseph. Personal Recollections of Those Who Know the Prophet Joseph Smith (Deseret Book Company. Salt Lake City, Utah. 2003) “Joseph Smith gave several accounts of the vision during his lifetime, and several contemporary accounts were also produced before the Prophet's death. The picture painted by these additional, secondhand accounts helps us to see that Joseph told the story of his experience in the grove much more than had previously been imagined. The pattern that emerges is one of constant retelling of the First Vision and of Joseph deliberately using it as an aid to missionary work” (17). McConkie includes several late reminiscences (307-313)

2002 Glen M. Leonard, Nauvoo. A Place of Peace, a People of Promise (Deseret Book 2002). “While advising others on relocating at Commerce [soon to be renamed as Nauvoo] and conducting other church business, the Prophet found time on June 11 [1839] to sit down with his clerk, James Mulholland. On that day, Joseph Smith began a regular process of dictating his personal history, beginning with his youthful search for salvation in upstate New York” (57-8) In the footnote to this statement Leonard cites The Papers of Joseph Smith, ed. Dean C. Jessee, both volume 1.230-31, 265, 267 [editorial notes to the documents used]; and volume 2. 233, 321 [these two related to beginning dictation]. Leonard discusses the writing of the history on page 239.

2002 Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith revised 2nd edition.(Salt Lake City: Deseret Book 2002). Contains letters and journals. Journals include 1832, 1835, 1838 versions; Wentworth letter reproduced here.

2001 Kent P. Jackson, The Restored Gospel and the Book of Genesis (Deseret Book 2001). “The Prophet attempted to provide context for the revelations by beginning the compilation of what was called then the ‘History of Joseph Smith.’ He commenced it in 1838 by dictating an account of his early experiences…. The history was compiled by him and his clerks from available sources, including his memory, his journals, and the records of others. The publication began in 1842, with installments appearing periodically in the Church’s newspaper, the Times and Seasons. At the Prophet’s death, the history had been compiled to 1838 but was published only to 1831. The work continued, both in Nauvoo and eventually in Utah, where installments were published in the Deseret News until 1858. Decades later, Elder B. H. Roberts compiled the history into six volumes, refining it with his own careful editorial hand. It was published as History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by Joseph Smith [beginning in 1902]” (59). In a footnote Jackson writes: “The earliest narratives are found in Dean Jessee”, The Papers of Joseph Smith volume 1 (Deseret Book 1989), and Jessee, ‘The Writing of Joseph Smith’s History,’ BYU Studies 11. 3 (Spring 1971): 439-73.

2001 Kent Jackson, sv. “Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions” in Encyclopedia of Latter-Day Saint History, Donald Q. Cannon, Richard Cowan, Arnold K. Garr, editors (Deseret Book 2001). “… the most important aspect of Elder Pratt's booklet is that it presents the earliest published account of Joseph Smith's First Vision. The tract was later republished with minor changes in the United States and in Europe.

2001 Donald Q. Cannon sv Orson Pratt, in Encyclopedia of Latter-Day Saint History Donald Q. Cannon, Richard Cowan, Arnold K. Garr, editors (Deseret Book 2001). Between 1839 and 1841 Elder Pratt served in the highly successful mission of the Twelve to Britain. In 1840 in Edinburgh he published his first missionary pamphlet, entitled Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, which included one of the earliest published accounts of the First Vision.

2001 Milton V. Backman, Jr. sv. First Vision, in Encyclopedia of Latter-Day Saint History Donald Q. Cannon, Richard Cowan, Arnold K. Garr, editors (Deseret Book 2001). “On at least four different occasions, Joseph Smith wrote or dictated to scribes accounts of his First Vision. They were prepared at different times, under different circumstances, for different audiences, and for different purposes. Therefore, these accounts emphasize different aspects of Joseph's experience. The Prophet never prepared a complete account describing everything he learned during this vision. In his most descriptive version, an account written in 1838 and included in the Pearl of Great Price, he declared, "Many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time" (JS-H 1:20). By examining all these accounts, one can gain a more complete understanding of who appeared to Joseph Smith, as well as the message that unfolded in 1820 (Backman, Appendix A-D). Joseph Smith also related his experience to early converts and to nonmembers of the Church, who wrote accounts of the First Vision based on what they had learned from him. Although these contemporary accounts substantiate Joseph Smith's testimony, they do not include any major concepts not found in versions prepared by the Prophet (Backman, Appendix E-J). Citing Backman, Joseph Smith’s First Vision (1980) Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith (1989)

2000 Bruce L. Olsen, “‘Out of Obscurity and Out of Darkness’,” Ensign, Jan 2000, 44-9. Orson Pratt’s “essay An Interesting Account, published in 1840, was the first publication containing the story of the First Vision.” (46)

2000 Revelations of the Restoration. A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants and Other Modern Revelations. Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler (Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah: 2000). After quoting from the canonized version, they write “In an earlier account of his formative years…” (1832). They also cite Neibaur (1844); Wentworth (1842) (5-6). Wentworth is also repeated at 1003, along with a reference to the Rupp version (1844). William Smith 1894 account (8); Orson Hyde 1842 (9); “Orson Pratt wrote the earliest published account of the First Vision in 1840” (10). Later in the volume, when discussing the Wentworth Letter, the authors write: “It is a significant guide to those involved in missionary work that the Prophet in telling the story and teaching the doctrines of the Restoration chooses to begin with what we have come to call the First Vision. Evidence suggests that this was his pattern. At present we have nine contemporary reports of his doing so. As the circumstances in which the story was told were different, so his telling of the story differs in length and detail. As would be expected, the richest view of what he experienced is obtained by a careful reading of each of these accounts. In order they are (1) An account apparently in the handwriting of John Whitmer, then the Church historian. This 1832 account indicates that the search that led Joseph Smith to the Sacred Grove was three or four years in length. (2) A Church secretary's account of a conversation the Prophet had with a visitor in Kirtland calling himself Joshua and claiming to be a Jewish minister. In this account the Prophet tells us that he saw many angels in the vision [November 9, 1835]. (3) The formal account now found in the Pearl of Great Price and in common use in missionary pamphlets [1838]. (4) Orson Pratt's publication of the vision in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1842. (5) Orson Hyde's revision of Elder Pratt's pamphlet published in 1842 in Frankfurt, Germany. (6) The Wentworth Letter here being considered. (7) A terse diary entry by Levi Richards written in Nauvoo [1843]. (8) A newspaper interview published in the fall of 1843 [Pittsburgh Gazette]. (9) A very rough but moving account written in the diary of Alexander Neibaur, a German convert in Nauvoo [1844]. (1003)

2000 Church History in the Fulness of Times. The History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Prepared by the Church Educational System. Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah. 2nd edition 2000; 1st edition 1993. “Revivals and camp meetings affected young Joseph. He wrote in his personal history … [1832 account]. The volume also cites the November 9, 1835, Wentworth Letter (1842), and the 1894 interview with William Smith, as well as citing Lucy Mack Smith’s 1853 Biographical Sketches (29-36). Elsewhere the volume relates the request of John Wentworth for some information about the church. Joseph Smith “sent Wentworth a multi-page document containing an account of many of the early events in the history of the Restoration, including the First Vision….” (256-7) The reader is referred to Dean Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, and to Milton Backman, Jr., Joseph Smith’s First Vision.

1998 Elder L. Tom Perry, General Conference April 1998, Ensign (CR), May 1998, p.22 Let us review for a moment how the Articles of Faith came to be. The Prophet was often asked to explain the teachings and practices of Mormonism. John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat, asked Joseph Smith to provide him with a sketch of 'the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-Day Saints.' " Mr. Wentworth, originally from New Hampshire, desired this information to help a friend compile a history of his native state. "Joseph complied with this request and sent Wentworth a multi-page document containing an account of many of the early events in the history of the Restoration, including the First Vision and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. The document also contained thirteen statements outlining Latter-day Saint beliefs, which have come to be known as the Articles of Faith." The information sent to Wentworth was not published in the Chicago Democrat, but in the Church newspaper, Times and Seasons, published in March of 1842. "In 1851 the Articles of Faith were included in the first edition of the Pearl of Great Price published in the British Mission. After the Pearl of Great Price was revised in 1878 and canonized in 1880, the Articles of Faith became official doctrine of the Church" (see Church History in the Fulness of Times [Church Educational System Manual, 1993], 256-57).

Further reading

First Vision Publications