Question: Was the general membership of the LDS Church not familiar with the First Vision story until late in the nineteenth century?

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Question: Was the general membership of the LDS Church not familiar with the First Vision story until late in the nineteenth century?

Latter-day Saints the world over knew about it, in detail, throughout the lifetimes of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young

It has been claimed that, “Before the death of Brigham Young in 1877 the first vision was seldom mentioned in Mormon publications.” However, the First Vision story was never the garbled and evolving tale that critics of the Church want to make it out to be. Latter-day Saints the world over knew about it, in detail, throughout the lifetimes of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. They became aware of it by reading LDS books, LDS newspapers, LDS pamphlets, and LDS educational primers.

This charge has been repeatedly made by succeeding generations of anti-Mormons in their written communications, during lectures, and on the printed page. But the continual parroting of an argument does not somehow make it true. A survey of the historical record demonstrates beyond any conceivable doubt that this claim is not accurate and cannot be defended by any of the detractors of Mormonism.

President Brigham Young died on 29 August 1877. It can be demonstrated through the construction of a timeline (which can be examined by clicking on the link inside the red box at the top of this page) that before President Young passed away the First Vision was mentioned in LDS publications on more than 70 occasions. And a look at the details of the retellings of the story during the relevant time period is instructive. The documents indicate that:

  • The story was related in a published LDS history by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
  • The story was rehearsed in LDS printed material by six members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: Orson Pratt, John E. Page, Lorenzo Snow, John Taylor, Orson Hyde, and Franklin D. Richards.
  • The story was explained frequently to little children.
  • The story was told in the United States, England, Wales, Scotland, Italy, Denmark, Holland, South Africa, India, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Switzerland, and France.
  • The story was rehearsed in the English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Welsh, and French languages.
  • The story was told on a regular basis.
  • The story was expressed in consistent detail.

It should be noted that since the charge of "seldom" retellings in LDS literature is not accurate, it cannot be legitimately used to bolster the idea that confusion over the exact nature of the First Vision existed during President Brigham Young's administration. Nor can the unfounded notion be sustained that the official version of events did not get standardized until after President Young's death.

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