Mormonism and Wikipedia/First Vision/Interpretations and responses to the vision

Table of Contents

An analysis of the Wikipedia article "First Vision"


A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia: Mormonism and Wikipedia/First Vision
A work by a collaboration of authors (Link to Wikipedia article here)
The name Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.. Wikipedia content is copied and made available under the GNU Free Documentation License.
The article is indeed one of the most neutral articles about Mormon doctrine on Wikipedia, and I'll do my best to keep it as neutral as one non-Mormon can.
—Wikipedia editor John Foxe (6 October 2007) off-site
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Interpretations and responses to the vision  Updated 9/17/2011

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Among contemporary denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, the First Vision is typically viewed as a significant (often the most significant) event in the latter day restoration of the Church of Christ. However, the faiths differ in their teachings about the vision's precise meaning and details. Secular scholars and non-Mormons view the vision as a lie, false memory, delusion, or hallucination, or some combination of these.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  • This is a summary of the following sections.

}}

Early awareness by Latter Day Saints

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

The importance of the First Vision within the Latter Day Saint movement evolved over time. Early adherents were unaware of the details of the vision until 1840, when the earliest accounts were published in Great Britain. An account of the First Vision was not published in the United States until 1842, shortly before Joseph Smith's death. Jan Shipps has written that the vision was "practically unknown" until an account of it was published in 1842.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  References not included in the Wikipedia article
    This simply is not true: Pratt's article was discussed in England and Scotland almost immediately after its publication, the London one being reprinted in Philadelphia:

“The Book of Mormon and the Mormonites”, The Athenaeum 701 (April 3, 1841): 251-3; the Athenaeum article is also reprinted in The Museum of Foreign Literature, Science and Art (Philadelphia) 42 (July 1841): 370-374.

  • Furthermore, Orson Pratt published it three times in New York City immediately after returning from England: Heber C. Kimball, letter to Millennial Star editor, Nauvoo, July 15, 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…” (Millenial Star 2 (1841): 77-78).
  • That this refers to Remarkable Visions is clear from Pratt’s history:

“In the spring of 1841, set sail from Liverpool with several of the Twelve, and arrived in New York city, where I republished the Remarkable Visions”, (Millennial Star 27 (1865): 88).

  • We have the publication data of those three editions.
  • Milton Backman wrote in 1992:

“The widespread popularity of Remarkable Visions is evident by the fact that three editions were printed in New York in 1841-1842. Other editions were published in Liverpool, England, in 1848 and in Australia in 1851. It also served as the basis for a missionary tract published in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1842. After securing a copy of this work, Elder Orson Hyde, another apostle who was a close associate of Joseph Smith, verified the accuracy of this publication by translating it (with only few modifications) into German.” Milton V. Backman, Jr., “Defender of the First Vision”, in Larry C. Porter, Milton V. Backman, Jr., and Susan Easton Black, eds., Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint History: New York. (Provo: BYU Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1992): 38.

  • Furthermore, Pratt's work was noticed in Times and Seasons, Vol. 2.19 (2 August 1841): 502 [Also August 16, September 1, 1841]:

4. An interesting account of SEVERAL REMARKABLE VISIONS, and of the late discovery of ANCIENT AMERICAN RECORDS, which unfold the history of this continent from the earliest ages after the flood, to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. With a sketch of the rise, faith, and doctrine of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. By O. Pratt.

  • Here it was commented on: “This last work will be found to contain information of great importance, as it will save the traveling elders the labor of constantly relating, over and over again, those things in which every new enquirer is so deeply interested, and upon which he is so very anxious to obtain correct information.”

The scene was certainly being set for the publication of Joseph’s own history, which began March 1842. }}

Interpretation and use by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

The canonical First Vision story was not emphasized in the sermons of Smith's immediate successors Brigham Young and John Taylor within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hugh Nibley noted that although a "favorite theme of Brigham Young's was the tangible, personal nature of God," he "never illustrates [the theme] by any mention of the first vision."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.
    Violated by John Foxe —Diff: off-site

    The wiki editor has misrepresented Nibley's intent—He was pointing out that reticence about mentioning the First Vision does not mean that Brigham didn't believe that it didn't occur, but that such matters were so sacred that they should not be talked about lightly, or without permission.
  •  References not included in the Wikipedia article
    In the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on 1 September 1859 Brigham Young referred to Joseph Smith’s published history, which includes the 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... 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” (Providences of God, etc., Journal of Discourses 7:243])

  • Full context of the Nibley quote (full text available online here):

If among a hundred fairly consistent reports of the first vision story three or four differ radically, that is simply to be expected; their existence does not discredit the consensus. And where such intimate and personal things as unique revelations to individuals are concerned it would be very strange indeed if wild aberrations and wide discrepancies did not appear in the reports. We know the policy of the early leaders regarding the reporting of revelations. A favorite theme of Brigham Young's was the tangible, personal nature of God, which he never illustrates by any mention of the first vision. Why not? He has explained at length:

That man who cannot know things without telling any other living being upon the earth, who cannot keep his secrets and those that God reveals to him, never can receive the voice of his Lord…Should you receive a vision of revelation from the Almighty…you should shut it up and seal it as close, and lock it as tight as heaven is to you, and make it as secret as the grave. The Lord has no confidence in those who reveal secrets, for he cannot safely reveal Himself to such persons…If a person understands God…and the Lord reveals anything to that individual no matter what, unless he gives permission to disclose it, it is locked up in eternal silence.[1]

[1] Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:287-88., (emphasis added).

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

John Taylor gave a complete account of the First Vision story in an 1850 letter written as he began missionary work in France,

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  • Editor John Foxe presents this odd argument to justify an attempt to remove Taylor's quote, which now appears in the footnote:

I eliminated the quotation from the Taylor letter of 1850 on the grounds that it doesn't refer to the First Vision; at best it's a conflation of the First Vision and the Moroni Vision. Again, you could always say that 'apologists argue.' John Foxe (20 October 2007) off-site

  • "Apologists" need argue no such thing—simply read Taylor's account and compare it to Joseph's 1838 account.
  • 1850: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.
  • 1850: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.]

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

and he may have alluded to it in a discourse given in 1859.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.

    Why bother to imply that there was an "allusion" in 1859, when it has already been demonstrated that Taylor had a clear understanding of the First Vision in 1850?
  •  References not included in the Wikipedia article
    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 (Wilford Woodruff Journal, Brigham Young Journal)

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

However, when Taylor discussed the origins of Mormonism in 1863, he did so without alluding to the canonical First Vision story,

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: No Original Research off-site— Do not use unpublished facts, arguments, speculation, and ideas; and any unpublished analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position.
    Violated by John Foxe —Diff: off-site

    Is the use of the word "however" supposed to imply that Taylor had discounted the importance of the First Vision by 1863? Recall that we just learned that he wrote about it in detail a pamphlet in 1850. The wiki editor relies on a primary source (Taylor's 1863 discourse) to create a new "fact" in the wiki article which implies that Taylor felt that the First Vision was of little importance.
  •  References not included in the Wikipedia article
    John Taylor references to the First Vision between 1863 and 1877:
  • 1876: "When God selected Joseph Smith to open up the last dispensation, which is called the dispensation of the fullness of times, the Father and the Son appeared to him, arrayed in glory..."
    John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 18:325-326; 329, 330.
  • 1877: "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?..."
    John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 19:123.
  • 1877: "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;"
    John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 19:152.

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

and in 1879, he referred to Joseph Smith having asked "the angel" which of the sects was correct.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.

    John Taylor mentioned the visit of the Father and the Son numerous times during his discourses. The wiki article focuses on one instance in which he referred to "the angel," and ignores another statement made the same day that refers to the Father and the Son. This is intended to imply that Taylor was confused about the details of the vision or that it was of diminishing importance in his mind.
  • The actual "Mormon apologetic response" is addressed below and in the FAIR Wiki here: John Taylor's understanding of the First Vision.
  • The implication that John Taylor was confused as to the nature of the First Vision is unsupportable. There is a considerable amount of supporting primary source material that is hidden by the reference to the "Mormon apologetic response" in the wiki article.
  • Another odd comment from John Foxe:

"I accept that John Taylor mentioned the First Vision at least twice. That he did not emphasize it during his tenure as President is just as true as ever." John Foxe (21 October 2007) off-site

  •  References not included in the Wikipedia article
    The article only mentions one of John Taylor's 1879 talks which refer to the First Vision. This is a very common tactic of critics. Note that a second talk by Taylor given the very same day (March 2nd, 1879) as the one cited in the Wikipedia article states,

"When the Father and the Son and Moroni and others came to Joseph Smith..."
John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 20:257. (2 March 1879)

  • In addition to the clear reference made on the same day as the "angel" comment, there are additional missing references which show that Taylor clearly understood the nature of the First Vision and actively talked of it—as one can clearly see from the following citations, any attempt to imply that Taylor didn't know about the First Vision or emphasize it must ignore a mountain of historical evidence:
  • 25 February 1879: "God Himself, accompanied by the Savior, appeared to Joseph...."
    John Taylor letter to A. K. Thurber at Richfield, Utah (25 February 1879).
  • 28 November 1879: "He came himself, accompanied by his Son Jesus, to the Prophet Joseph Smith."
    John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 21:116.
  • 7 December 1879: "...the Lord revealed himself to him together with his Son Jesus, and, pointing to the latter, said: "This is my beloved Son, hear him."
    John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 21:161.
  • 4 January 1880: "...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."
    John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 21:65.
  • 27 June 1881: "And hence when the heavens were opened and the Father and Son appeared and revealed unto Joseph the principles of the Gospel..."
    John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 22:218.
  • 28 August 1881: "...the Father and the Son appeared to the youth Joseph Smith to introduce the great work of the latter days."
    John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 22:299.
  • 20 October 1881: "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."
    John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 26:106-107.
  • 1882: John Taylor, Mediation and Atonement (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Company, 1882; Photo lithographic reprint, Salt Lake City, 1964), 138.
  • 5 March 1882: "After the Lord had spoken to Joseph Smith, and Jesus had manifested himself to him..."
    John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 23:32.
  • 29 May 1882: "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."
    John Taylor, Millennial Star 44 no. 22 (29 May 1882), 337–338. (emphasis added)
  • 23 November 1882: "It is true that God appeared to Joseph Smith, and that His Son Jesus did;"
    John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 23:322.
  • 18 May 1884: "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."
    John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 25:177-178.
  • 1892: "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.’"
    John Taylor, cited in B. H. Roberts, Life of John Taylor (1989; 1st published 1892), 394.

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Three non-Mormon students of Mormonism, Douglas Davies, Kurt Widmer, and Jan Shipps agree that the LDS emphasis on the First Vision was a "'late development', only gaining an influential status in LDS self-reflection late in the nineteenth century."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Mormon historian James B. Allen also argues that the First Vision "did not figure prominently in any evangelistic endeavors by the Church until the 1880s."

Author's sources:
  1. Allen, 43-69, summarized in Kurt Widner, Mormonism and the Nature of God: A Theological Evolution, 1833-1915 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2000), 103.

FairMormon Response

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

The first important visual representation of the First Vision was painted by the Danish convert C. C. A. Christensen sometime between 1869 and 1878, and George Manwaring, inspired by the artist, wrote a hymn about the First Vision (later renamed "Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning") first published in 1884.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.

    The article points out that Manwaring published his song Joseph's first prayer in 1884. That is not so: it was written in 1878, and published then and at least 3 more times before becoming part of the hymnal.

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Kurt Widner states that it was primarily through "the post 1883 sermons of LDS Apostle George Q. Cannon that the modern interpretation and significance of the First Vision in Mormonism began to take shape."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.

    This assumes, of course, that we ignore the repeated references to the event in conference talks by John Taylor between 1876 and 1883.

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

As the sympathetic but non-Mormon historian Jan Shipps has written, "When the first generation of leadership died off, leaving the community to be guided mainly by men who had not known Joseph, the First Vision emerged as a symbol that could keep the slain Mormon leader at center stage."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.

    Only in Wikipedia is it necessary for Jan Shipps to be qualified as a "sympathetic but non-Mormon" historian!

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

The centennial anniversary of the vision in 1920 "was a far cry from the almost total lack of reference to it just fifty years before."

Author's sources:
  1. Allen (1980) , p. 57: "The Mutual Improvement Associations issued a special commemorative pamphlet, the vision was memorialized in music, verse and dramatic representations, and the church's official publication, the Improvement Era, devoted almost the entire April issue to that event."

FairMormon Response

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

By 1939, even George D. Pyper, an LDS Sunday School superintendent and manager of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, found it "surprising that none of the first song writers wrote intimately of the first vision."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  • Why is the surprise expressed by Pyper, quoted in the wiki article, worthy of note? the First Vision had been published dozens and dozens of times by many many members of the church, prior to the penning of Manwaring's song. If it had not been widely spoken of, there would have been no context in which Manwaring could have written the song. Manwaring didn't popularize the first vision; he merely put it into poetic form.

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

LDS Church president Joseph F. Smith is credited with having fully raised the First Vision to its modern status as a pillar of Mormon theology. Largely through Joseph F. Smith's influence, Smith's 1838 account of the First Vision became part of the canon of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1880 when the faith canonized Smith's early history as part of the Pearl of Great Price.

Author's sources:
  1. Bitton (1994) , p. 86as quoted inAnderson (1996)

FairMormon Response

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

After plural marriage ended at the turn of the 20th century, the First Vision was promoted heavily by Joseph F. Smith, and it soon replaced polygamy in the minds of adherents as the main defining element of Mormonism and the source of the faith's perception of persecution by outsiders.

Author's sources:
  1. Flake (2004) , pp. 120–21.

FairMormon Response

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

As a result, belief in the First Vision is now considered fundamental to the faith, second in importance only to belief in the divinity of Jesus.

Author's sources:
  1. Allen (1966) , p. 29.

FairMormon Response

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

An official website of the Church calls the First Vision "the greatest event in world history since the birth, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  • From the cited source,

Joseph Smith's first vision stands today as the greatest event in world history since the birth, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. After centuries of darkness, the Lord opened the heavens to reveal His word and restore His Church through His chosen prophet.

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

In 1998, Gordon B. Hinckley, then Church President and Prophet, declared,
Our entire case as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the validity of this glorious First Vision. It was the parting of the curtain to open this, the dispensation of the fullness of times. Nothing on which we base our doctrine, nothing we teach, nothing we live by is of greater importance than this initial declaration. I submit that if Joseph Smith talked with God the Father and His Beloved Son, then all else of which he spoke is true. This is the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to the path of salvation and eternal life.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

In 1961 Hinckley went even further, "Either Joseph Smith talked with the Father and the Son or he did not. If he did not, we are engaged in a blasphemy."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.

    This quote was used in order to include the word "blasphemy" as a preface to what comes later. Note that the wiki editor considers Hinckley's statements regarding the First Vision to be a "boon to us non-Mormons since he's willing to bet the farm on a date that creates all sorts of problems for apologists." (John "Foxe," 29 September 2007) off-site
  • In 1961, Gordon B. Hinckley "went even further" than he did 37 years later in 1998?

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Likewise, in a January 2007 interview conducted for the PBS documentary "The Mormons," Hinckley said of the First Vision, "[I]t's either true or false. If it's false, we're engaged in a great fraud. If it's true, it's the most important thing in the world....That's our claim. That's where we stand, and that's where we fall, if we fall. But we don't. We just stand secure in that faith."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

According to the LDS church the vision teaches that God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate beings with glorified bodies of flesh and bone; that mankind was literally created in the image of God; that Satan is real but God infinitely greater; that God hears and answers prayer; that no other contemporary church had the fullness of Christ's gospel; and that revelation has not ceased. In the 21st century, the Vision features prominently in the Church's program of proselytism.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  • Note the deliberate counterpoint between the use of the words "blasphemy" and "great fraud" in the previous statements by Gordon B. Hinckley with a list of beliefs that evangelical Christians consider blasphemous. Is there any doubt as to which audience this wiki article is targeted?

}}

Perspectives within the Community of Christ

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

William B. Smith, a younger brother of Joseph Smith, Jr., and a key figure in the early Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS, renamed Community of Christ in 2001) gave several accounts of the First Vision, although in 1883 he stated that a "more elaborate and accurate description of his vision" was to be found in Joseph Smith's own history

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • REMAINDER OF SECTION SKIPPED - NOT RELEVANT

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The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite)

Skipped

Church of Christ (Temple Lot)

Skipped

Skeptical criticism

Alleged chronological problems

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Writing of the "unusual excitement on the subject of religion" described in the First Vision story canonized by the LDS Church, Milton V. Backman, Jr., associate professor of history and religion at Brigham Young University, said that although "the tools of the historian" could neither verify nor challenge the First Vision, "records of the past can be examined to determine the reliability of Joseph's description regarding the historical setting."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Grant Palmer and others claim that there are serious discrepancies between the various accounts, as well as anachronisms revealed by lack of contemporary corroboration.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  References not included in the Wikipedia article
    Once again, Joseph's 1835 account is ignored. From Joseph's 1835 diary:

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, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; and I saw many angels in this vision I was about 14 years old when I received this first communication;
Diary of Joseph Smith, Jr. (1835-1836)

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

For instance, in the canonized account, Smith said that when he shared his vision with a Methodist minister, the latter treated his "communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days." Smith said that he became the "subject of great persecution, which continued to increase."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

But according to emeritus Brigham Young University history professor James B. Allen, there is no known evidence beyond Smith's word that he ever mentioned his vision to a minister—or in fact, to anyone else—for years after the event is supposed to have occurred. Nor is there any known evidence that the young Smith was persecuted for telling the First Vision story during the 1820s.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.
    Violated by John Foxe —Diff: off-site

    The wiki editor is using Allen, by name, to support the assertion that "there is no known evidence beyond Smith's word that he ever mentioned his vision to a minister," yet Allen actually says that it "received limited circulation." Allen does not express an opinion regarding Joseph's conversation with the minister. He certainly does not state that there is no evidence that Joseph ever mentioned his vision to a minister.

}}

Discrepancies cited by critics

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Critics of the First Vision cite the multiple versions of the First Vision as evidence that it may have been fabricated by Smith.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Critics specifically identify the following discrepancies between the various versions:

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Was Smith 14 or 15 at the time of the vision?

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Did Smith attend a contemporaneous religious revival?

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Did the supernatural personages tell Smith his sins were forgiven?

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Were the supernatural personages angels, Jesus, God or some combination?

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Did the vision declare all contemporary churches (or specifically the Methodist church) corrupt, or did Smith believe this to be true before he experienced the vision?

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

}}

Joseph Smith's Accounts

 Violates Wikipedia: No Original Research off-site— Do not use unpublished facts, arguments, speculation, and ideas; and any unpublished analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position.

The entire chart comparing details of different accounts of the First Vision constitutes original research. The chart was not taken from a specific source—it was created by Wikipedia editors. Per Wikipedia rules, editors should be quoting published authors' opinions regarding the comparison of accounts. Instead, Wikipedia editors have examined the primary sources and analyzed phrases from them by synthesizing them into a chart for the purpose of comparison.

 Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.

Note that this section is simply labeled "Joseph Smith's Accounts," while the following section is labeled "Apologetic Responses." This section is portrayed as "data" rather than criticism, while the following section is portrayed as a defense by believers.

- Source of First Vision Supernatural beings Messages from beings Notes FAIR Commentary
1832 Joseph Smith's own handwriting from his Letterbook The Papers of Joseph Smith, v1, p5-7, Dean Jessee (ed.), Deseret Book Company 1989.Jessee, Dean, (1989), The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings Deseret Book Company And Early Mormon Documents, v 1, p27-29, Dan Vogel, Signature Books, 1996. "The Lord" "Thy sins are forgiven thee". Smith decides for himself that all churches are corrupt. Vision in Smith's "16th year" (i.e. when he is 15 years old). All other accounts state his age as 14.
1835, Nov. 9 - Joseph Smith diary (Ohio Journal, handwritten, Warren Parrish scribe) The Papers of Joseph Smith, Dean Jessee (ed.), v2, p68-69. Deseret Book Company 1989. Two unidentified personages, and "many angels" "Thy sins are forgiven thee" and Jesus is the "son of God" No message of revivals or corrupt churches.
1835, Nov. 14 - Joseph Smith diary (Ohio Journal, handwritten, Warren Parrish scribe) The Papers of Joseph Smith, Dean Jessee (ed.), v2, p79. Deseret Book Company 1989. "visitation of angels" None. No mention of revival, or sins forgiven, or corrupt churches.
1838/1839 - History of the Church, Early Draft (James Mulholland Scribe) Two personages appear, and one says "This is my beloved Son, hear him". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. No mention of "sins forgiven". A revival is mentioned.
1842, March - Times and Seasons March 1, 1842, v3 no 9, p706-707. Two personages appear, and one says "This is my beloved Son, hear him". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. No mention of "sins forgiven". A revival is mentioned.
1842, March - Times and Seasons March 15, 1842, v3 no 11, p727-728, April 1, 1842, v3, no 11, p748-749. This version was later incorporated into The History of the Church, and later into the Pearl of Great Priceand thus is sometimes refered to as the "canonized version". Two personages appear, and one says "This is my beloved Son, hear him". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. No mention of "sins forgiven". A revival is mentioned. When this version was incorporated into the History of the Church, it was put into a context that suggests it was composed in 1838, but 1842 is the first known publication of this version.
1843, July - Letter from JS to D. Rupp An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States, Daniel Rupp, Philadelpha, 1844. p404-410. Two personages appear. No mention of "this is my son". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. No mention of "sins forgiven". No revival mentioned. Available online here. See also the Wentworth letter.
1843, Aug 29 - Interview with journalist David White Reprinted in Jessee v1 p443-444. Two personages appear. "Behold my beloved son, hear him". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. Revival is mentioned. No mention of "sins forgiven".

Accounts of Others

- Source of First Vision Supernatural beings Messages from beings Notes FAIR Commentary
1840, September - Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions , Orson Pratt, Ballantyne and Huges publ, 1840 (reprinted in Jessee, v1 p 149-160). Two unidentified "glorious personages, who exactly resembed each other in their features". "his sins were forgiven". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. This is the first published version. No mention of revival. Online here.
1841, June - A Cry from the Wilderness , Orson Hyde, published in German, Frankfurt, 1842 (reprinted in Jessee, v1 p405-409). Two unidentified "glorious personages" who resembed "each other in their features". No specific message. No mention of "sins forgiven" or revival. Smith determines for himself that all churches are corrupt.
1844, May 24 - as told to Alexander Neibaur Alexander Neibaur Journal, reprinted in Jessee, v1, p 459-461. Two personages appear. One has a "light complexion" and "blue eyes". "This is my beloved son harken ye him". Methodist churches are wrong. All churches are corrupt. Revival is mentioned. No mention of "sins forgiven".

Apologetic Responses

 Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.

The title "Apologetic Responses" is pejorative. Most readers unfamiliar with the term will interpret "apologist" as one who "apologizes" for their position. Although this section is titled "Apologetic Responses," we see no apologists quoted here. We see Church leaders, a BYU professor, and an evangelical theologian. It is inaccurate to classify any and all believers as "apologists."

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have acknowledged that the First Vision as well as the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith himself constitute "stumbling blocks for many." Apostle Neal A. Maxwell wrote:
In our own time, Joseph Smith, the First Vision, and the Book of Mormon constitute stumbling blocks for many—around which they cannot get—unless they are meek enough to examine all the evidence at hand, not being exclusionary as a result of accumulated attitudes in a secular society. Humbleness of mind is the initiator of expansiveness of mind."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  • The various accounts of the First Vision are addressed in the January 1985 Ensign. The article is by Milton V. Backman, Jr.: Joseph Smith’s Recitals of the First Vision. The article discusses the 1832, 1835, 1838 and 1842 accounts. Backman states,

In an important way, the existence of these different accounts helps support the integrity of the Latter-day Saint Prophet. It indicates that Joseph did not deliberately create a memorized version which he related to everyone. In the legal profession, attorneys and judges recognize that if a witness repeats an incident by using precisely the same language, the court might challenge the validity of such a statement.

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Some believers view differences in the accounts as overstated. Richard L. Anderson, a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University wrote, "What are the main problems of interpreting so many accounts? The first problem is the interpreter. One person perceives harmony and interconnections while another overstates differences."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Other believers view the differences in the accounts as reflective of Smith's increase in maturity and knowledge over time. In a recent PBS interview, Marlin K. Jensen, General authority and Church Historian said:
I've actually studied the various accounts of Joseph's First Vision, and I'm struck by the difference in his recountings. But as I look back at my missionary journals, for instance, which I've kept and other journals which I've kept throughout my life, I'm struck now in my older years by the evolution and hopefully the progression that's taken place in my own life and how differently now from this perspective I view some things that happened in my younger years.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

In another interview on the same PBS documentary, Richard Mouw, an evangelical theologian and student of Mormonism summarized his feelings about the First Vision in this way:
My instinct is to attribute a sincerity to Joseph Smith. And yet at the same time, as an evangelical Christian, I do not believe that the members of the godhead really appeared to him and told him that he should start on a mission of, among other things, denouncing the kinds of things that I believe as a Presbyterian. I can't believe that. And yet at the same time, I really don't believe that he was simply making up a story that he knew to be false in order to manipulate people and to gain power over a religious movement. And so I live with the mystery.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

}}

References

Wikipedia references for "First Vision"
  • Abanes, Richard, (2002), One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church , New York: Four Walls Eight Windows .
  • Allen, James B., (1980), Emergence of a Fundamental: The Expanding Role of Joseph Smith's First Vision in Mormon Religious Thought off-site .
  • Allen, James B., (1966), The Significance of Joseph Smith's First Vision in Mormon Thought off-site .
  • Anderson, Richard Lloyd, Joseph Smith’s Testimony of the First Vision off-site .
  • Anderson, Richard Lloyd, (1969), Circumstantial Confirmation Of the first Vision Through Reminiscences off-site .
  • Backman, Milton V., Jr., (1969), Awakenings in the Burned-over District: New Light on the Historical Setting of the first Vision off-site .
  • Berge, Dale L., Archaeological Work at the Smith Log House off-site .
  • Bauder, Peter, Vogel, Dan (editor) (1834), Early Mormon Documents , Salt Lake City: Signature Books .
  • Bitton, Davis, (1994), Historical Dictionary of Mormonism , Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press .
  • Brown, Matthew B., Historical or Hysterical— Anti-Mormons and Documentary Sources Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research off-site .
  • Bushman, Richard Lyman, (2005), Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling , New York: Knopf .
  • Cowdery, Oliver, Far West Record: Minutes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1844 , Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company .
  • Cowdery, Oliver, (1834), Letter III off-site .
  • Cowdery, Oliver, (1835), Letter IV off-site .
  • Flake, Kathleen, (2004), The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle University of North Carolina Press .
  • Hill, Marvin S., (1980), The First Vision Controversy: A Critique and Reconciliation .
  • Howard, Richard P., (1980), Joseph Smith's First Vision: The RLDS Tradition off-site .
  • Howe, Eber Dudley, ed., The Mormon Creed off-site .
  • Jessee, Dean (1989), The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings {{{pages}}}
  • Jessee, Dean C., (Spring, 1971), How Lovely was the Morning off-site .
  • Jessee, Dean C., (1969), Early Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision .
  • Mormon History off-site .
  • Mack, Solomon, (1811), A Narraitve [sic] of the Life of Solomon Mack Windsor: Solomon Mack off-site .
  • Matzko, John A., (2007), The Encounter of the Young Joseph Smith with Presbyterianism .
  • McKune, Joshua, Review of Mormonism: Rejoiner to Elder Cadwell off-site .
  • Neibaur, Alexander, (1841–48), Journal of Alexander Neibaur off-site .
  • Palmer, Grant H., (2002), An Insider's View of Mormon Origins Signature Books .
  • Phelps, W.W., ed., (1833), A Book of Commandments, for the Government of the Church of Christ , Zion: William Wines Phelps & Co. off-site .
  • Porter, Larry C., (1969), Reverend George Lane—Good "Gifts", Much "Grace", and Marked "Usefulness" off-site .
  • Pratt, Orson, (1840), A Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records , Edinburgh: Ballantyne and Hughes off-site .
  • Quinn, D. Michael, (1998), Early Mormonism and the Magic World View Signature Books .
  • Ray, Craig N., (2002), Joseph Smith's History Confirmed Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research off-site .
  • Riley, I. Woodbridge, (1903), The Founder of Mormonism: A Psychological Study of Joseph Smith, Jr. , New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. off-site
  • Roberts, B. H. (editor) (1902), History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints LDS Church off-site .
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., Jessee, Dean C (editor) (1832), Personal Writings of Joseph Smith , Salt Lake City: Deseret Book off-site .
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., Jessee, Dean C (editor) (1835), Personal Writings of Joseph Smith , Salt Lake City: Deseret Book off-site .
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., (1838), History of the Church , copied to Jessee, Dean C (editor) (1839–1843), Personal Writings of Joseph Smith Deseret Book .
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., (1842a), Church History [Wentworth Letter] off-site .
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., (1842b), History of Joseph Smith off-site .
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., (1842c), History of Joseph Smith off-site .
  • Smith, Lucy Mack, (1853), Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations , Liverpool: S.W. Richards off-site .
  • Smith, William, (1883), William Smith on Mormonism: A True Account of the Origin of the Book of Mormon , Lamoni, Iowa: RLDS Church off-site .
  • Smith, William, (1884), The Old Soldier's Testimony off-site .
  • Tanner, Jerald and Sandra (1987 (5th ed)), Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? {{{pages}}}
  • Taylor, John, How a Knowledge of God is Obtained—The Gospel to the Dead—Various Dispensations of the Most High to Mankind—Power of the Priesthood—Restoration of the Gospel Through Joseph Smith—Failings of the Saints—Corruptions of the Wicked off-site .
  • Tucker, Pomeroy, (1867), Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism , New York: D. Appleton off-site .
  • Turner, Orasmus, (1851), History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase, and Morris' Reserve , Rochester, New York: William Alling off-site .
  • Vogel, Dan (editor) (1996), Early Mormon Documents , Salt Lake City: Signature Books .
  • Vogel, Dan (editor) (1999), Early Mormon Documents , Salt Lake City: Signature Books .
  • Vogel, Dan (editor) (2000), Early Mormon Documents , Salt Lake City: Signature Books .
  • Vogel, Dan (editor) (2002), Early Mormon Documents , Salt Lake City: Signature Books .
  • Vogel, Dan (editor) (2003), Early Mormon Documents , Salt Lake City: Signature Books .
  • Vogel, Dan, (2004), Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet , Salt Lake City: Signature Books .
  • Waite, David Nye, Sr., The Prairies, Nauvoo, Joseph Smith, the Temple, the Mormons &c off-site .

Further reading

Articles on this subject

FairMormon's Wikipedia Article Reviews

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris"

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article "Oliver Cowdery"

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article "First Vision"

Summary: Current review is based upon Wikipedia revision dated 9/17/2011. This article has undergone moderate improvements in its use of sources since our last review. The article still contains a substantial amount of original research based upon primary sources, with the intent to disprove the vision and highlight perceived discrepancies between vision accounts. Believing scholars are labeled "apologists" in an attempt to diminish their credibility.

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article "Joseph Smith"

Summary: Current review is based upon Wikipedia revision dated 9/3/2011. This article has undergone substantial improvements in its use of sources since our initial review in 2009. Most of the citations are now accurately represented.

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article "Golden plates"

Summary: Current review is based upon Wikipedia revision dated 9/21/2011. This article has undergone only minor improvements in its use of sources since our last review. The article contains a large amount of original research on the part of the wiki editors.

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article "Three Witnesses"

Summary: Current review is based upon Wikipedia revision dated 9/28/2011. This article has been constructed in such a way as to discredit the witnesses by emphasizing any perceived contradictions in their various statements regarding their encounter with the gold plates.


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