Question: Does Doctrine and Covenants 121:28 contradict the First Vision?

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Question: Does Doctrine and Covenants 121:28 contradict the First Vision?

Joseph Smith was teaching that the Father and Son were two separate divine Beings many years before the letters comprising D&C 121 were written

In 1839 Joseph Smith received a revelation from God in which it was stated that the time would come "in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods they shall be manifest" (D&C 121:28). This was an "unnecessary revelation," since according to the official LDS Church First Vision account Joseph Smith supposedly knew that there was more than one God since 1820. This information counts as evidence that the Prophet's story was fraudulent.

This anti-Mormon argument against the First Vision is built upon a false premise; the material being used as a weapon has been misidentified (it is NOT a revelation from the Lord). Joseph Smith did indeed understand since 1820 that the Father and Son were two separate divine Beings. And he was teaching this concept to the Saints many years before he had the 1839 letters written.[1]

This is truly one of the strangest accusations that has ever been made against the veracity of the First Vision story.

A study of the origin of D&C 121 reveals that it consists exclusively of five widely-separated, but sequential, extracts from two letters written by Joseph Smith and others between the 20th and 25th of March 1839 (while they were imprisoned in Liberty, Missouri). The extracts run as follows:

  1. D&C 121:1-6
  2. D&C 121:7-25
  3. D&C 121:26-32
  4. D&C 121:33
  5. D&C 121:34-46

The comment about "one God or many gods" is found in extract #3.

Anyone who will read the original letter from whence this extract was taken[2] will quickly discover that the comment about "one God or many gods" is NOT part of a revelation from the Lord—but is rather part of comments being made by Joseph Smith.

A careful reading of the first letter also reveals that references are made to all three members of the Godhead:

  • "God the father"
  • "our Lord and savior Jesus Christ"
  • "the holy Ghost"

The anti-Mormons who constructed this argument do not seem to be aware of the great inconsistency in their own reasoning. They mention the official LDS Church First Vision account but seem to fail to recognize that it was written by 2 May 1838—about ten and three-quarters months before the D&C 121 extracts were penned. The 1838 First Vision recital clearly differentiates between the Father and the Son as separate divine Beings. Do the detractors of Mormonism really expect others to believe that Joseph Smith was so blinded by his own deceit that he couldn't keep his story straight for less than a year? This seems implausible.

Notes

  1. See D&C 76:20-21; NeedAuthor, "A Vision," Evening and Morning Star 1 no. 2 (July 1832), 10. off-siteGospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  2. Joseph Smith, Letter to the Church at Quincy, Illinois (20 March 1839), cited in Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 13.