Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Use of sources/Lucy and the angel

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Lucy Mack Smith described an angel instead of God in the First Vision?

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes

Author's Claims

One Nation under Gods, page 27 (hardback and paperback)

The book claims that Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph's mother, said that the "First Vision" was of the angel in 1823 (i.e. Moroni), and that the two visions were originally described as "a single 1823 event."

Author's Sources

Endnote 24, page 493 (hardback); page 491 (paperback)

  • Lucy Mack Smith, "Preliminary Manuscript" of Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for many Generations, cited in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, vol. 1, 289-291.


The fact that ‘this manuscript’ or ‘that record’ ignores the vision of the Father and the Son does not mean that there was no such vision. Likewise, when the Book of Mormon vision is the only one given, it is not correct to refer to it as the first vision; it is simply the first of Joseph’s visions which that particular writer chose to write about. It may be the only one that a particular writer knew about, but that does not allow one to conclude that there was no vision prior to that one.

Detailed Analysis

The author makes reference to “the various ‘second’ vision versions [Moroni] that have been infused with elements from Smith’s ‘first’ vision. Such accounts effectively eradicate the 1820 encounter with God and Jesus in the woods, thus making Smith’s 1823 meeting with Moroni his actual ‘first’ vision. These ‘blended’ stories directly contradict today’s LDS-authorized history that presents the 1820 vision in the woods (First Vision) and the 1823 nocturnal appearance by Moroni (Second Vision) as separate events” (ONUG 27 (HB)). The evidence he presents for this assertion includes:

1) Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet’s mother, wrote a letter to her brother Solomon on January 6, 1831. The assertion is made:

“Many of the accounts produced during Smith’s earliest years as a Mormon leader included interviews with some of his closest/newest converts, yet none of these individuals mentioned anything about their leader having an encounter with two personages in a secluded grove. [by way of response to this claim see --] A prime example of such an account comes from Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith. In a January 6, 1831 letter to her older brother—Solomon Mack, Jr.—Lucy explains that Joseph’s first vision connected to the Book of Mormon and the formation of the Mormon church was that of a ‘holy Angel.’ No mention is made of God the Father and Jesus Christ appearing to Joseph.” [ONUG 490 (HB), 488 (PB), note 78]

2) In another place ONUG claims that “Lucy wrote that Joseph’s first vision was that of ‘an holy Angel whose countenance was as lightning….’” [ONUG, 492, note 24]. Lucy's letter is then quoted:

“ . . . . an holy Angel whose countenance was as lightning and whose garments were white above all whiteness and gave unto him commandments which inspired him from on high. And gave unto him by the means of which was before prepared that he should translate this book, and by reading this our eyes are opened that we can see the situation in which the world now stands that the eyes of the whole world are blinded, that the churches have all become corrupted, yea every church upon the face of the earth; that the Gospel of Christ is nowhere preached, this is the situation which the world is now in, and you can judge”[1]

Prior to this quotation Lucy had given a rather detailed account of the contents of the Book of Mormon, and then asked “perhaps you will enquire how this revelation come forth. It has been hid up in the earth fourteen hundred years . . . . Joseph after repenting of his sins and humbling himself before God was visited by an holy Angel . . .” [continuing as above].

Lucy’s entire letter is strictly about the Book of Mormon. She does not refer to it anywhere as Joseph’s ‘first vision’ -- a phrase which certainly has a specific connotation for Latter-day Saints. In a subsequent book, Becoming Gods, the author of ONUG has a chart (covering pages 32-33) entitled “Table 1.1 — Several of the earliest versions of Smith’s First Vision”. Lucy’s letter is the first one in the column titled “FIRST VISION VERSION.” It is not to be found on the two tables covering the First Vision in ONUG, but it is discussed in the text and in the footnotes. Clearly, Lucy’s letter is only about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; it was not intended to be about the First Vision.

For a detailed response, see: Did Lucy Mack Smith say Joseph's First Vision was of an angel?


  1. The quotation from Lucy Smith is also found in Becoming Gods, chart page 32-3, and some commentary on page 34, where it is claimed that ‘no corruption of the church’ is mentioned; yet the quotation above contradicts such a statement. Although the author indicates that the letter was “unpublished until 1906” [Becoming Gods, 32], he does not indicate where, or by whom. First published by Ben E. Rich, President of the Southern States Mission, the letter has been long available to interested students of LDS history. See Elders Journal 4 (1 November 1906): 60-62 [Southern States Mission, Chattanooga, Tenn.]. It was later published in Rich, Scrap Book of Mormon Literature, 2 volumes (Chicago: Henry C. Etten and Co., no date [Vogel suggests 1913]): 543-5; also by Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America. The Book of Mormon, 2 Volumes, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Brigham Young University 1942; 1960), 1:66.