Question: Who was the "angel" in the First Vision that Andrew Jenson was referring to?

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Question: Who was the "angel" in the First Vision that Andrew Jenson was referring to?

Jenson identified the second personage, Jesus Christ, as the "angel"

Critics also neglect to tell their audience about the context of the remarks in question. Andrew Jenson is quoting - at length - from the official 1838 Church history account of the First Vision (first published in 1842). Jenson made an important modification to the quoted material that needs to be noted. When Jenson reached the part where the Prophet's two heavenly visitors identified themselves he capitalized the entire phrase, "THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, HEAR HIM". It is the "Son" who is, just a few paragraphs later, twice identified as "the angel". Thus, Jenson does not in any way confuse facts and state that an angel (in the sense of a heavenly being who is subordinate to Deity) appeared during the First Vision. Rather, Andrew Jenson was applying the title of "angel" to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The chronological timeline below demonstrates, with ample documentation, that both before and shortly after Brother Jenson produced his disputed text he understood that Joseph Smith's First Vision consisted of seeing the Father and the Son.

4 July 1877

On 4 April 1877 Andrew Jenson publicly announced that with the approbation of the First Presidency of the LDS Church, and under the direct supervision of Apostle Erastus Snow, he and another LDS convert would publish Joseph Smith's history in the Danish-Norwegian language.[1] The first pamphlet in this series was printed on 4 July 1877. [2] In the First Vision section of this pamphlet one of two personages - who are both suspended in the air - points to the other one and says, "Denne er min elskelige Son, hor ham" (Danish trans. - "That is my loveable Son, listen to him").


All of the pamphlets in Jenson's series on the history of the Prophet were combined in book form and entitled Joseph Smiths Levnetslob. The First Vision account is found near the front of the book. [3]

17 April 1883

Elder Erastus Snow wrote to Andrew Jenson and informed him that he would be allowed to publish his translation of the Pearl of Great Price in his Danish periodical called Morgenstjernen ("Morning Star").[4] Jenson read proofs for this project on 18 November 1883 [5] and the text was published in Morgenstjernen, vol. 2, 1883, pp. 81-107 and 161-78. This text identified the Prophet's visitors in the Sacred Grove as the Father and the Son.

January 1886

In The Historical Record, vol. 5, no. 1, January 1886, page 1 Andrew Jenson quoted a Church history text that was written by Elder George A. Smith in 1855[6] Jenson's quote includes the portion of Elder Smith's history that speaks of the "two glorious Beings" who appeared to the Prophet. Elder Smith's capitalization of the word "Beings" makes it clear that these individuals were Deity.

5 April 1888

In a General Conference address - only about three months after issuing his January 1888 "angel" text - Andrew Jenson said,
"We claim in regard to the Latter-day Saints that it is necessary for them today . . . to know whether Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God or not, and whether or not he did receive the manifestations and power of God; to know if he did see the Father and the Son when he went to the woods to pray . . . . When [Joseph Smith] made the declaration that all were going astray that none of the sects of the day were right and that the Lord acknowledged none of them, he only repeated what was told him. It was very presumptuous for a boy of his standing in society to make such sweeping declarations as these, especially when that boy lived in the wilderness of New York . . . withal unlearned in the things of this world, a mere youth, and yet he made the declaration that all the Christian world had gone astray, that none of the sects were right, and that he had heard the voice of Jehovah."[7]

1890 Revision

Another thing that critics have not acknowledged in their published comments about Andrew Jenson's text is that near the top of the page of Jenson's revised article he provided an important note about his source material. There he clearly stated that his record was “Compiled in part from the history of Joseph Smith, published in the Millennial Star, and from Geo[rge] Q. Cannon’s writings about Joseph, the Prophet, as published in the Juvenile Instructor.” This is very significant information since a consultation of Brother Cannon’s writings reveals that precisely twenty-two years earlier he was teaching in the Juvenile Instructor that Joseph Smith “had the glorious privilege of beholding the Father and the Son.”[8] And, of course, the story of the First Vision that Jenson was drawing details from in the Millennial Star was the 1838 official Church history account, where the Father and Son are clearly identified.

16 January 1891

In a public discourse Andrew Jenson spoke of the Prophet attending revivals, entering the woods to pray for wisdom in accordance with James 1:5, being attacked by the power of darkness, a light descending from the sky, and "then a vision of two glorious personages standing above him in the air, one of whom speaking to him, while pointing to the other, said: 'This is my beloved [S]on, hear him.' Here, then, was Jesus Christ being introduced by His Father to Joseph Smith, the praying boy, who next was informed by the Great Redeemer Himself, that all the sects of the day were wrong" [9]


  1. Deseret News, vol. 26, no. 12, 25 April 1877, 178.
  2. See Autobiography, 102-103.
  3. Andrew Jenson and Johan A. Bruun, Joseph Smiths Levnetslob (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Office, 1879), 2-4.
  4. See Autobiography, 132.
  5. See Autobiography, 134.
  6. See Deseret News, vol. 5, no. 26, 5 September 1855, 2.
  7. Millennial Star, vol. 50, no. 18, 30 April 1888, 276-77.
  8. George Q. Cannon, "Joseph Smith, the Prophet," The Juvenile Instructor 1 no. 1 (January 1866), 1.
  9. Brian H. Stuy (editor), Collected Discourses: Delivered by Wilford Woodruff, his two counselors, the twelve apostles, and others, 1868–1898, 5 vols., (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987–1989), {{{vol}}}:2. [Discourse given on 16 January 1891.]