Question: Did Wilford Woodruff teach something other than the traditional story of the First Vision?

Table of Contents

Question: Did Wilford Woodruff teach something other than the traditional story of the First Vision?

Woodruff's quote is edited by critics so that it appears that he was not aware of details of the First vision

Wilford Woodruff is claimed to have said in an 1855 sermon that the Church had been established in the last days only by "the ministering of an holy angel", and not by the Father and the Son.[1] The following text is the one used by critics of the Church to try and make it look like Apostle Wilford Woodruff taught something other than the traditional storyline of the First Vision.

"That same organization and gospel that Christ died for...is again established in this generation. How did it come? By the ministering of an holy angel from God...The angel taught Joseph Smith those principles which are necessary for the salvation of the world...He told him the gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of His kingdom in the world" [2]

An examination of the original text of the sermon in question reveals that Wilford Woodruff's words are being taken out of context by critics. The bolded words below show which sections of the paragraph have been selected by detractors to try and rewrite history.

"The gospel has gone forth in our day in its true glory, power, order, and light, as it always did when God had a people among men that He acknowledged. That same organization and gospel that Christ died for, and the Apostles spilled their blood to vindicate, is again established in this generation. How did it come? By the ministering of an holy ANGEL from God, out of heaven, who held converse with man, and revealed unto him the darkness that enveloped the world, and unfolded unto him the gross darkness that surrounded the nations, those scenes that should take place in this generation, and would follow each other in quick succession, even unto the coming of the Messiah. The ANGEL taught Joseph Smith those principles which are necessary for the salvation of the world; and THE LORD gave him commandments, and sealed upon him the Priesthood, and gave him power to administer the ordinances of the house of the Lord. HE told him the gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of HIS kingdom in the world, that the people had turned away from HIS true order, changed the ordinances, and broken the everlasting covenant, and inherited lies and things wherein their was no profit. HE told him the time had come to lay the foundation for the establishment of the Kingdom of God among men for the last time, preparatory to the winding up scene" (emphasis added).

Woodruff's quote does not state that it was the angel who told Joseph Smith that "the gospel was not among men"; it was the "the Lord" who provided this information

When critics break the above quotation into pieces in the manner that they have, they create an unrecognized problem for themselves. A careful reading of this material indicates that it was not the angel who told Joseph Smith that "the gospel was not among men"; it was the "the Lord" who provided this information (see the capitalized/italicized words above: ANGEL, THE LORD, HE, HIS). The anti-Mormons have, through their editing of the text, made it falsely appear as if the words of the angel and the Lord were one and the same.

The attempt to use Wilford Woodruff's words to obscure the details of Mormon history is a misguided one because the evidence does not lead to the conclusion that critics advocate. Elder Woodruff was in the second highest leadership quorum of the Church during the lifetime of Joseph Smith and never once did he mention that the Prophet told two different tales about the founding of the last gospel dispensation.

Notes

  1. Christian Research and Counsel, “Documented History of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” full-color pamphlet, 10 pages. [There is a notation within this pamphlet indicating that research and portions of text were garnered from Utah Lighthouse Ministry]
  2. Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses 2:196-197.