Question: Did Brigham Young insert the reference to Joseph's First Vision into Lucy Mack Smith's history?

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Question: Did Brigham Young insert the reference to Joseph's First Vision into Lucy Mack Smith's history?

Brigham Young did not insert the reference to Joseph Smith's First Vision into Lucy's book—this was done by Orson Pratt

The irony of this claim is that the usual critical argument is that Brigham never mentioned the First Vision...yet critics want to claim that he inserted this reference into Lucy's history? You can't have it both ways.

Joseph initially treated the First Vision as private experience with respect to his family. His only response to his mother at the time is recounted in his 1838 history:

When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, “Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.” I then said to my mother, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” (JS-H 1:20)

Joseph's immediate family's first intimation of what was happening with Joseph was the first visit of Moroni rather than the First Vision.

The first vision account was in the 1853 publication by Orson Pratt, but it was not in the original manuscript version of 1845 that was not published; Pratt's version was based on a later version by Martha Coray. Pratt included it the story of the First Vision anyway, because he knew it belonged there. Vogel notes the difference between the 1845 manuscript and the 1853 edition, both of which are printed side-by-side in Early Mormon Documents: "Here (pp. 74-78) the 1853 edition inserts a lengthy excerpt from Joseph's history in the Times and Seasons 3 (15 March 1842): 727-28; and 3 (1 April 1842): 748-49, regarding the Palmyra revival and an 1820 vision of the Father and Son."

Orson Pratt picked up a copy of Lucy's manuscript on his way to England. He published it there in 1853, with the First Vision account in it (perhaps added by Pratt, but not by Brigham). In 1855, Brigham Young began objecting to some of the material in the book. In 1865 he officially censored it. Joseph F. Smith notes,

It was disapproved by President Young, on August 23, 1865, and the edition was suppressed or destroyed." (iii). “Subsequently, a committee of revision was appointed by President Young, consisting of President George A. Smith and Judge Elias Smith, cousins of the Prophet, men personally familiar with the family, and thoroughly conversant with Church history. They were instructed carefully to revise and correct the original work throughout, which they did, reporting their labors to President Brigham Young, to his entire satisfaction. The revised and only authentic copy thus prepared and reported upon was retained by President George A. Smith, and shortly after his death, September 1, 1875, it was committed to my keeping, where it has remained until now” [1]

He then appointed George A. Smith, and Elias Smith, to go through the book, making corrections and revisions. This is the work that was published in 1902 by Joseph F. Smith. Therefore is is highly unlikely that Brigham Young had anything at all to do with the inclusion of the first vision account.

If Brigham Young had included it, this would would ruin the critics' argument that Brigham never mentioned the First Vision. Brigham Young actually had nothing to do with the publication of Lucy's book—Orson Pratt did, and Brigham didn't like it.

Note that critics also claim that Brigham Young taught only that an angel came: a strange claim to make while insisting that Brigham never spoke of the First Vision at all.


Notes

  1. History of the Prophet Joseph by his Mother Lucy Smith as Revised by George A. Smith and Elias Smith (SLC, Utah: Improvement Era 1902). 296 pages. [Flake 8084] Introduction was written by Joseph F. Smith, and was dated October 8, 1901., p. iii-iv.