Question: If the First Vision story was known by the public before 1840, then would anti-Mormons “surely” have seized upon it as an evidence of Joseph Smith’s imposture?

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Question: If the First Vision story was known by the public before 1840, then would anti-Mormons “surely” have seized upon it as an evidence of Joseph Smith’s imposture?

The claim that critics of Joseph would have used the vision accounts is negated by the following evidence

  • Daniel P. Kidder, Mormonism and the Mormons (New York City: Lane and Sandford, 1842), 334. The appendix heading explains that the author was drawing material from the January through June editions of the 1842 Times and Seasons (two separate First Vision stories were found in the March and April editions). Joseph Smith, as editor of the Times and Seasons, Kidder said, “commenced publishing his autobiography. It is, however, nothing but the old story about the plates and the angel, with a few emendations to save appearances.”
  • Quincy Whig, vol. 4, no. 46, 12 March 1842 – Acknowledgment that the “Wentworth Letter” had recently been published in the Times and Seasons on 1 March 1842. No mention is made of the First Vision story.
  • The Morning Chronicle, vol. 1, no. 190, 24 March 1842 [Pittsburgh] – quotes from the “Wentworth Letter” directly before and after the First Vision material but completely ignores the story (focuses on Joseph Smith’s birthday and the Book of Mormon instead).
  • John Hayward, The Book of Religions (Boston: John Hayward, 1842), 260-65, 271. This author indicates that he has possession of the Wentworth Letter and says, "we . . . are now enabled to tell [the] story [of the Latter-day Saints] in their own words." But he paraphrases the material about Joseph Smith's birth and background, completely skips over the First Vision story, provides lengthy quotes about the angel and the plates and even includes the Articles of Faith.

This is clear evidence that even if an anti-Mormon had multiple authoritative, unambiguous, printed copies of the First Vision story sitting right in front of them they would NOT necessarily seize upon it as evidence of an imposture. Some of them simply did NOT pay close attention to what Joseph Smith was saying openly.

Hugh Nibley pointed out years ago that anti-Mormon authors often went to great lengths to distort, ignore, or omit Joseph's telling of the visit of the Father and the Son.[1]

Notes

  1. See, for example, "Censoring the Joseph Smith Story," in Hugh W. Nibley, Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales About Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Vol. 11 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by David J. Whittaker, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991),55–96. ISBN 0875795161. GL direct linkGL direct link