Multiple First Vision Accounts

By: Mormon Heretic
August 13, 2012

One topic I have not discussed in my 4 years of blogging is discrepancies in the First Vision accounts.  Basically, there are 4 accounts of the First Vision.  The account in the Pearl of Great Price is the last account, and comes from 1838.   John Dehlin and Richard Bushman discuss these variations in Part 2 of John’s 4 1/2 hour interview with Richard Bushman.

JD, “Let’s jump into the first issue, and that’s the First Vision, and I’ll set you up so you can hit the ball out of the park so to speak.  I didn’t learn until well after I graduated from college that there was anything other than one version of the Joseph Smith story.”

That Joseph—you know that there was a lot of revivals when he was young, there was some confusion in his family about religion, that he attended these revivals and didn’t know which church to join.  It’s sort of the little Joseph Smith movie that we all grew up watching.  And then when he was 14 a sincere boy goes to pray and he has a vision and God the Father and Jesus appeared to him as two distinct beings.  I should mention that before the appearance some evil spirit attacks him, but he sees God and Jesus, and they tell him that none of the churches are true, and that he is to start his own, so that’s what I learned growing up.  Tell us how that doesn’t necessarily paint a complete picture.”

Bushman, “Well I think that the heart of this problem has to do with variations in these two major accounts: 1832 and 1838, then there’s some other less complete accounts along the way.  What throws people for a loop is exemplified by he says ‘Lord’, as if it was a singular being in the 183[2] account and the Father and the Son in the 1838.  Actually there are many differences, that’s just one in these two accounts.”

JD, “What are some of the others?  Just so our—”

Bushman, “Well, for example, there’s no account of Satan overpowering him in the first account, the 1832. 1832 emphasizes he went to seek forgiveness and the first words told him were ‘You are forgiven.’  In 1838, forgiveness doesn’t figure into it at all, and so it goes down the line.”

JD, “And in the 1832 version it says the Lord appeared to me, not God and Jesus appeared to me.”

Bushman, “Right.  Right, yeah.  That’s the one that usually jumps out at most Mormons. I find this problem perplexing in this way.  For some people, this is a huge issue, he couldn’t tell the story right!  How could he vary on such a significant item as who actually appeared to him and so on?

Other people say look whenever we tell a story a second time, we always tell it differently, different details spring forth into our minds and so on.  So they just can’t even get excited about the problem, so I don’t know what to do about that.  But there are two things I have to say. One is the 1832 account really has a different purpose.  It is a very naïve account.  Sentences run on to one another, they’re all compressed.  You know spelling is poor.  It’s sort of jumpy. It really is a naïve story.  It’s sort of Joseph unfolding what happened to him.

The 1838 account really is laying down upon the foundation for the organization for the church.  It is saying this is how it all got started.  So the emphasis is very on ‘none of the churches are true.’  Therefore a new church has to be established.  In the first account, there’s not much emphasis on that.  Joseph is told that people are wicked, but all sorts of millennialists knew the world was wicked.  You didn’t have the sense this institutional corruption that everything in the religious world had decayed.  So I see them as really having quite/certain different purposes from beginning to end.  That’s one thing I have to say.

The second thing is for me it is a great mystery why Joseph is so reluctant to talk about his visions. I don’t think he ever told Lucy or Joseph Sr., about the First Vision.  He explicitly says when she asked him, he said ‘never mind, I’m well enough off.  I’ve learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.’  It is not until Moroni commands him that he tells the family about the visit of Moroni and the gold plates. Then he doesn’t put the visit of John the Baptist into the church history until 1838; he doesn’t make that part of the standard story and never writes down the visit of Peter, James, and John.

In 1836, the revelation of the Kirtland Temple he had Warren Parrish write it into his journal, but so far as can be told, he didn’t tell anyone else about it in all of Kirtland. I have no way of explaining that.  He’s very concerned to publish immediately his written revelations, the ones that are coming by the Holy Spirit. He collects them, he edits them, he sends them off to the press, he says they are the foundation of the Church, but the visions, visual presentation are just not part of that story, section 76 being the one example, the one exception.

So the way I see it is that he’s holding back on these visionary experiences. He never publishes that 1832 thing, I don’t think we found it until the 1960s sometime. So I don’t know what that means, but I’m not all that surprised that the detailed version of things varies when he’s so reluctant to tell that whole story of the visions anyway.”

JD, “So it’s almost like maybe he was humble about it or felt it was sacred and didn’t want to go about just really harping on it?”

Bushman, “I think so.  I think also he was burned by that Methodist minister who told him it was all hogwash, and you know there is a visionary culture, and if you’ve read certain chapters of my book you will know that there are a lot of people who have claimed to be receiving revelations, and I think he thought they were kind of kooks, and he’s not real sympathetic to these extreme emotional expressions of spirituality, and I think he sort of felt that he didn’t want to be associated with that visionary culture, but that’s all speculation, I don’t really know what’s in his mind.”

JD, “So is there any evidence that he told his family about the First Vision prior to 1830?”

Bushman, “I don’t think so.  There is in section 20, there is a very slight reference to it in the 5th verse to the time when this elder was received a forgiveness of his sins, when he is sort of recounting the major experiences, so he is making oblique references, but I don’t think that that First Vision story was what really known by many people at all until the mid-30s, and not really publicized until 1840.”

JD, “And that’s something that our listeners are probably going to be really stunned about because now you can’t really do the first missionary discussion without the Joseph Smith story, but it sounds like many converts of the early church, the fact that Joseph had seen God and Jesus didn’t even enter in to their conversion.”

Bushman, “I think it is almost certain that it did not enter into their conversions until later.  It’s not absolutely certain they would have known the name of Joseph Smith. He was not presented as the key figure in those first five or six years.  The revelation was always in the passive voice; revelation has been received, or God is speaking to his people.  But as a personality or a significant figure, there’s no evidence that he even talked about it.

Parley Pratt writes the Voice of Warning in 1837, he never mentions Joseph Smith’s name, he doesn’t even mention revelation until something like page 122.  So they were able to preach the gospel without doing much with a story that for us now is the central part of the history.”

JD, “So what was the call if it wasn’t Joseph Smith has seen God and has been told to start a new church?  What was the call for people to convert to Mormonism?”

Bushman, “It was fundamentally the restoration of the spiritual gifts, and the building of the city of Zion, and the gathering and preparation for the Second Coming in a place of refuge.  They would teach all sorts of other things, just simple gospel principles.  They were sent forth to preach repentance to the people, they were not sent forth to teach Joseph Smith.  In 1832 Joseph Smith writes an article for a newspaper in which he tries to summarize their beliefs.  He doesn’t say anything about himself as a missionary, but talks about gathering to a city of Zion in preparation for the last days.”

JD, “So it’s just basically have faith, preach nothing but faith, repentance, and baptism to these people.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  You need to follow Christ, and come do it in Kirtland.”

Bushman, “Right, or Missouri.”

JD, “Or Nauvoo.”

Bushman, “The key thing is the restoration of gifts.  Revelations are now coming.  Spiritual gifts are coming.  It’s Mark what 16 something or other, 16:16 I guess.  That was an issue that was on people’s minds.  Everybody wants to go back to the primitive church, but they knew they didn’t have the gifts of the primitive church.  Mormons were saying we do have the gifts, we do have the healings and so on.”

JD, “Hmmm.  Ok. People like Grant Palmer like to paint the picture in this way, and even Faun Brodie I think did this.  It is sort of like the Smiths were poor in the 1820s, Joseph Smith was always concocting these schemes.  He decided that he was going to write a book because maybe he could make money off the book, and so however he wrote it, he wrote this book called the Book of Mormon.  Originally with the 116 pages it was going to be a more secular war history, but then when the pages got lost and he wasn’t able to duplicate it, he decided to make it a religious one, and Faun Brodie, I remember her writing that that was some real fortunate thing, because that launched Joseph onto the religion and church because he had to rewrite the book because the pages got lost.

So he writes the book, he sells it, he tries to sell it, and then all the sudden this church things just sort of starts happening and then it starts really snowballing because of his charisma and whatever teachings are in it, and then the way Grant Palmer tries to piece it together is by 1838, there’s some huge, because of the Kirtland Bank scandal whatever, there’s some huge apostasy.  Martin Harris gets up and says maybe we didn’t touch or see the plates at all, and so he’s trying to save the church from falling down, and so then he writes a version that’s going to make it sound really authoritative like God really called him to start the church, so he then wrote the First Vision story then, and that’s what stuck with us.   That’s the picture that’s painted, that sometimes has teeth for people who are trying to make sense of all this stuff. What would be your response to that depiction be?”

Bushman, “Well I think that there are many sensible and reasonable people who would take that very seriously.  We had a seminar, Grant Underwood and I ran a seminar on Joseph Smith for college teachers, non-Mormon college teachers and they were very attracted to Grant Palmer’s view of things, because it’s the way critics, historical critics of the Old and New Testament talk  about the writing of things.  Faith congeals over time, it doesn’t just spring bull-blown from anyone’s mind.

So, I wouldn’t say it‘s dead wrong.  What I would say is that there is a huge amount of conjecture involved in that. You’re postulating a lot of things with very few points of evidence along the way.  One of the things that Brodie makes a lot of is that Joseph Smith was not religious, and she gets that from the Hurlbut affidavits, that they had no indication that Joseph was religious, but I don’t see how that could be—first of all he lives in a religious culture, saturated with evangelical religion, and as soon as he tells his story in 1832, and this is not long after—this is before the affidavits, man he is involved in religion from the time he is 12 years old.  This is a kid that had a private religious life.  It is not evident, but he’s really anguished about the state of his soul.  He’s really worried about the existence of God, he’s had to go through all the theistic arguments.  So I don’t like any history that assumes there was no religion in Joseph Smith’s life.

Then to say I think I’ll write a book, I don’t know, where did that come from?  I’m going to write a book that’s translated from gold plates.  It’s so far from anything that’s in his immediate environment.  What you did if you were a young kid wanting to create a religion, you became a preacher, that is the well-worn path.  You go out and get a little congregation and you preach to them and then they begin to support you, and he does very little preaching.  He exhorts for the Methodists a little bit but didn’t win any followers as a preacher.  So I would say you’ve really got to do a lot of contortions to make that story work.

Let me highlight some of the big differences between the 1832 and 1838 accounts.

1.  Who visited Joseph?

a.  1832 says “Lord” (singular)
b.  1838 says God and Jesus (2 beings)

2.  Was Satan there?

a.  1832 makes no mention of Satan
b.  1838 Satan almost overcame Joseph

3.  What was purpose of First Vision?

a.  1832 says it was for Joseph to receive remission of sins
b.  1838 says it was to establish “the one and only true church.”

What are your feelings on the First Vision Discrepancies?

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98 Responses to Multiple First Vision Accounts

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 13, 2012 at 1:23 AM

    I rather like the essay at http://kevinhinckley.com/uploads/Combined_First_Vision.doc

    FYI. You might as well address all four of the accounts.

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  2. Hedgehog on August 13, 2012 at 1:48 AM

    I did notice that in the recent film the satanic opposition element is pretty much not there, when compared to the old film of my childhood which really played it up.

    Thanks for the link Stephen, interesting to read put together like that.

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  3. Andrew S on August 13, 2012 at 4:04 AM

    The first thing is…this post has an associated poll…I have gone ahead and fixed the link to that.

    The main thing I wanted to talk about, though, is how fickle memory and that stuff is. I write (very inconsistently) in a journal, and based on MY experience, I don’t see how historians can trust anything they get from journal sources. In my own life, I know that when I’m writing stuff, I have forgotten details. I might intend to write a certain amount, but then forget some of it as I get to writing it, go off on a different tangent, and so on.

    Memory itself is fickle.

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  4. NewlyHousewife on August 13, 2012 at 6:06 AM

    I was told the exact line from God’s Army. “He was talking to different audiences.”

    I don’t know how much credit I give that line, but it’s the line I stick to when I’m not ready to dive into that part of history yet. I’m still dealing with Emma and her children at this point.

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  5. the narrator on August 13, 2012 at 7:18 AM

    I wrote up my thoughts on this a while back. It’s a bit lengthy so I’ll just post a link http://loydo38.blogspot.com/2011/02/joseph-smiths-re-visioning-of-first.html.

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  6. ji on August 13, 2012 at 7:32 AM

    What’s the big deal? People tell stories differently to different audiences. The differences are meaningless.

    To early Latter-day Saints, the first vision was not a big deal — it wasn’t hardly known — it wasn’t the basis for their testimonies. In later years, we have emphasized it far more than they did in early years, maybe even over-emphasized it. I think the early Saints got it right. The first vision was a private event, for a private purpose. The basis for establishing the Church was later, with Moroni and the Book of Mormon and the priesthood, for all of which there were witnesses.

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  7. ji on August 13, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    Oops in no. 6 — rather, it was hardly known…

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  8. Bonnie on August 13, 2012 at 8:23 AM

    As I have grown older, and I was much older before I really delved into Joseph’s history, the revelations of how ordinary and similar to mine Joseph’s life was have been a breath of fresh air beyond anything I’ve discovered in the church. From the time I was young I’ve measured my life against him for some strange reason – he was like a touchstone for evaluating my life. “I am how old Joseph was when he began thinking about religion; do I care that much about religion?” “I am how old Joseph was when he got the gold plates; am I trustworthy with something of this value?” and the real kicker was “I am the age Joseph was when he was martyred; does my life mean something that will stand through eternity?”

    I know that’s an eccentric habit, but it was there without any culturing on my part. I think it was interesting that I never read Bushman’s bio, even though I held it in my hand as a Stake PR specialist and gave it to librarians, until after I had lived the length of Joseph’s life. When I did read it, my testimony of the restoration was chiseled in stone permanently. I came to see Joseph as a human being just like me who could be used by God with all his frailties to do something inconceivable.

    I don’t struggle over the different accounts. I am extremely comfortable with a Joseph who grew into being a prophet (during his 20s!) and grew to understand what was important about his defining experience. I have changed my mind many times about spiritual experiences I have had and what they meant as I’ve grown older and looked back on them.

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  9. Bob on August 13, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    I don’t know if the Church has ever/now not taught The “First Vision” was not a real “Visitation”? If you go to a Primary class today, it is taught as a real event. If you listen to Missionaries today, it taught as a real event.

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  10. KT on August 13, 2012 at 9:56 AM

    “What’s the big deal? People tell stories differently to different audiences. The differences are meaningless.”

    Yes, this is true – people do tell stories differently to different audiences – sometimes. But, there usually IS a reason for something like that. Therein lies the question. Why? I don’t necessarily think one can write it all off and say it’s meaningless. Also, there is a lack of transparency and honesty from the Church with these multiple versions. The way it is taught today is a kicker. There are lifelong members today that picture it as it is now taught and would be surprised to hear any differently.

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  11. mh on August 13, 2012 at 10:03 AM

    Steve, I was surprised that bushman didn’t address all four . From the interview, he seemed to think the other two weren’t as important.

    Andrew, thanks for fixing the poll. I agree about personal journals. I haven’t written about major events of my life and have spent enormous time on insignificant events.

    Narrator, thanks for the link. I think your position is compelling.

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  12. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 13, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    I take depositions all the time. Sworn testimony under oath, often of people who have given prior recorded statements. Andrew is closer to reality.

    On a personal note, I have been through heartbreaking pain, yet if you were to apply the critics standards to my recitations, you would conclude my children had never died.

    Different audiences and different perspectIves.

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  13. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 13, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    KT — since my link was to materials presented at BYU education week presentations, you are misinformed at best in your criticism and a troll at worst. Apologize and I will accept you were just limited in your knowledge and shallow in your rush to judgment.

    Yes, your comment grossly offened me.

    Guess everyone has that happen sometime.

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  14. Mike S on August 13, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    I think the Bushman book is amazing. It is a refreshing look at Joseph Smith from a faithful member. And far from being “damaging” to me feelings about Joseph Smith, it is actually more encouraging. If God could find a use for someone as full of contradictions and weaknesses and limited backgrounds as Joseph Smith, maybe there’s some small role that God has for me.

    Regarding this particular issue, I do think that we tend to tell stories differently. In medical studies, there are measures for intraobserver and interobserver variability. For example, two people looking at the exact same x-ray film might read it differently (interobserver). And even the SAME person looking at the same film on a later date might read it differently (intraobserver). Throwing away one’s beliefs because of differing accounts can therefore be problematic.

    Ultimately, I do like the early Saints – our relationship should be between us and God. I do think we have canonized Joseph Smith to an unnatural extent. While what he did is important, it is only so to the extent that it points us to God.

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  15. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 13, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    Mike — I am on a phone, so I can not hit like for you, Bonnie and Andrew, but I am posting to do the equivilent.

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  16. Natsy on August 13, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Thank you for providing the transcript. I don’t enjoy listening to podcasts and would much rather read things, so that was very helpful to me. Interesting thoughts and ideas.

    I’ve never really been concerned with the descrepancies. I guess, in the realm of all my church-worries it wasn’t as important to me.

    I have to agree with Mike though that “we have canonized Joseph Smith to an unnatural extent.” One of my friends told me that it “freaks her out” that we worship Joseph Smith. I explained that we don’t, but it’s really no wonder she got that impression.

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  17. Will on August 13, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    MH,

    First off, none of this impacts me or my testimony in any way about Joseph Smith or the account of the First Vision. I go to the Savior’s words, ‘by their fruits shall ye know them’ and the fruits of Joseph Smith are the Book of Mormon, the translation of the Bible, the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine and Covenants. If these fruits are true, then so is the Prophet that brought them forth.

    I have been a student of the Book of Mormon for 30 years since I received a firm testimony that it is true. The more I study and read the more I am convinced of its truthfulness. As has been stated, no good man would and no evil man could bring this book forth. With this embedded in my soul, I always look for possible answers for questions like this rather than look upon them as questions. Here are my thoughts on the three questions:

    1: Singular vs two Beings: I don’t understand the issue or problem here. If the Bishopric came by to visit my house, I could easily say to
    someone that called while they were visiting, a business associate that is not familiar with the church for instance, “Sorry, I missed your call, I was visiting with my local church leader”. They would understand this and I would not need to get into a lengthy explanation about what a Bishopric is. Now, if I wanted to use this as teaching moment, I could use the term Bishopric and most non-members would ask what that is and this would prompt a discussion. In either instance, I am being honest and I am explaining what happened. I don’t see the issue, just different context and audience.

    2: Opposition before the Blessing not Mentioned. So, what’s the issue? What is wrong with only telling the vision and not the opposition that transpired before the blessing? I do this all the time. I communicate the blessings I have received without going into the opposition (which always accompanies a blessing). Trial, tribulation, then comes the blessing. That is how it always works. Always. As for why I don’t discuss it: maybe I am short on time. Maybe I don’t want to bore the audience with the details of the opposition. Now, if I am teaching the concept of how true blessings come that I would for sure teach the concept of opposition before the blessing much like the first vision does. Satan visiting was the opposition before the blessing.

    3: Prayer. I don’t know about you, but I pray about a lot of things. I ask forgiveness every personal prayer I offer. Every time. It is pretty common. So what is so unusual about asking for forgiveness AND asking which church to join. Again, I don’t understand the problem. Seems pretty nick-picky to me and it seems like someone is looking for an excuse not to believe with this one.

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  18. Will on August 13, 2012 at 1:56 PM

    Mike S,

    “If God could find a use for someone as full of contradictions and weaknesses and limited backgrounds as Joseph Smith, maybe there’s some small role that God has for me”

    Great observation and comment.

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  19. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 13, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    Amen, Will.

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  20. mapman on August 13, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    I don’t think the differences are significant for determining whether Joseph was lying or not about having a theophany, which is the most important question for me.

    It also might interest people to read the numerous second-hand accounts of the First Vision. There’s a bunch of them but I can’t find the website where I read them… I remember that there was a rather detailed description written when the stained-glass window was being made for the Holy of Holies in the Salt Lake Temple. It even talked about Jesus’ footwear if I remember correctly.

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  21. Bob on August 13, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    “I find this problem perplexing….”(Bushman).
    Funny how many making comments today__don’t.

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  22. Howard on August 13, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    Having received profound personal revelation I am not at all concerned by the different versions of the first vision. Often profound revelation comes as a knowledge download, that is wordless but very concept dense. The receiver must then wrap words around it in order to explain it and the words are far too inadequate for the job. Over time the revelation becomes clearer and clearer eventually it is understood in a more complete context.

    A “real visitation” doesn’t exist in the way implied by this language, they were all manifestations, visions.

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  23. prometheus on August 13, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    There are lots of experiences I don’t share online, but I do in person. There are also some experiences I wouldn’t dream of sharing except behind a closed and locked door.

    My point is, Joseph didn’t talk about it a great deal and when he did, he sometimes spoke about it obliquely (D&C 20). I would imagine that the details of such an experience would be difficult to share publicly unless commanded to do so by the Lord. It simply isn’t a big deal to me.

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  24. Nate on August 13, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    Perhaps Joseph didn’t understand that God and Jesus were separate beings until later in his theological journey. Maybe he thought one of them was just another of many angels he was also seeing, or perhaps he was initially confused or overwhelmed by the experience, in the same way the endowment can be overwhelming for the first time. Only in time was he able to understand it.

    Maybe the vision was like a dream which had a subconscious element to it. Often our dreams take on different meanings as we revisit them in our conscious mind. As Joseph continually revisited a profound, but somewhat transient spiritual vision, he began to see it in different nuances and theological implications.

    The part about Satan could be interpreted as a passageway to an alternate reality in which Joseph received the vision. He could have fainted while having some kind of fit related to his feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Then he received the vision in a dream state, which is always open to various levels of meaning and remembrance.

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  25. Rigel Hawthorne on August 13, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Good discussion. I appreciate the comments made by Will. I think it is alot to expect that a 14 year old boy who asks which church to join and gets the whole enchilada walk away from that with the immediate ability to process the events and re-interpret them for others. Then to expect an older, but not yet seasoned Joseph to have the foreknowledge that every re-telling of the event would be recorded forevermore and translated into multiple languages with a historical test that all retellings would be compared side by side for ever detail. We’ve also been taught along the way that when he did try to share his experience with the religious leaders in his community, he was shut down rather vehemently. Then as the fullness of the gospel was revealed to him line upon line, waiting until the House of the Lord was built for much of those things to be revealed, many of the concepts that he was exposed to as a 14 year old became part of the tapestry of the restored doctrines, increasing his ability to re-interpret them for others. Yet I agree that when all those accounts are thrown together side by side with no context, its enough to give you a stupor of thought.

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  26. Widespread Panic on August 13, 2012 at 6:43 PM

    He either saw God and Jesus Christ, or he didn’t. GBH said, “Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud (General Conference address as published in The Ensign, November, 2002, p. 80).”

    The first vision is not some minor detail or bump in the road. It is a core seminal event in the restoration of the gospel. To even begin to say that this was not really an important event is crap.

    The church continues, today, to teach the version in written in the 1842 version in the Pearl of Great Price. It’s the same one that we as missionaries memorized and told to investigators. I can still recite the entire thing today from heart.

    If this is the official version, the one that actually happened, then why do all of the above responses and rationalizations look and feel more like a gold medal competition in the Summer Olympics of Mental [gymnastics] {edit per author request} rather than simple true story that is claimed?

    Just sayin’.

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  27. Mormon Heretic on August 13, 2012 at 7:48 PM

    Will, I agree with your comment #17 in general, especially points #1 and #2, and I’m pretty much in agreement with #3, though, IMO, it seems to miss an important point that many find very relevant, so let me play devil’s advocate a little bit to perhaps let you understand why some see #3 as a bigger issue than you have concluded thus far, and it comes down to purpose.

    In the 1832 version, Joseph simply wanted to know if he could receive a remission of his sins. He got it. That’s it. Like you, there have been times in my life that I have asked to be forgiven of my sins. I can think of one powerful incident on my mission where I did receive such a spiritual witness. To my knowledge, this is the first time I have ever written about it–I’m pretty sure I haven’t written it in a journal. It was personal and sacred to me.

    The 1838 account changes the purposes of the visit completely. Rather than simply being about a forgiveness of sins, Joseph states that God told him to start a church, and there is no mention of sins. That’s a big difference in some people’s minds. Combine that with the fact of a large scale defection due to the Kirtland Banking Crisis, then there was reason for Joseph to embellish the account and make it grander than it really was.

    Now, I’m not one that necessarily subscribes to that opinion, but I can understand that it might sway some.

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  28. Mormon Heretic on August 13, 2012 at 7:55 PM

    Bob, your comment 21 seems to be taking Bushman out of context. Bushman is perplexed that some find it a big deal, and some no big deal. As I look at our poll, 14 are saying “big deal”, and 13 are “not a big deal”, with 19 “unsure”. So, it seems that Bushman’s observation is right on the mark. People in the “unsure” category aren’t going to comment as vehemently as either of the “sure” categories. Personally, I find that exactly as I would expect.

    Widespread Panic, I haven’t seen anyone say the First Vision is “some minor detail or bump in the road” or that the First Vision “was not really an important event”. Please point to where anybody said that.

    Now there are some people that think the discrepancies are not important, but let’s not use objectionable language to assert something that nobody has said.

    And by the way, the Pearl of Great Price version was 1838, not 1842.

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  29. Bob on August 13, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    #28: MH,
    So what did I say that Bushman did not? He is ‘perplexed’ in the whole interveiw. People are making comments that there is no perplexedness in what is said by JS__(” I see nothing wrong..”). IMO, Bushman disagrees.

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  30. Mormon Heretic on August 13, 2012 at 9:47 PM

    Bob, here’s the quote, and I don’t see your comment as accurately reflecting Bushman.

    I find this problem perplexing in this way. For some people, this is a huge issue, he couldn’t tell the story right! How could he vary on such a significant item as who actually appeared to him and so on?

    Other people say look whenever we tell a story a second time, we always tell it differently, different details spring forth into our minds and so on. So they just can’t even get excited about the problem, so I don’t know what to do about that.

    So no, Bushman is not “‘perplexed’ in the whole interveiw”, nor would Bushman be surprised that “many [people] making comments today__don’t [find the problem perplexing.]” He said there are plenty of people on both sides of the issue. He’s perplexed that people don’t agree on the importance of the discrepancies.

    So yes, you seem to be mischaracterizing Bushman’s comment.

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  31. Mike S on August 13, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    There are different accounts of the First Vision. But it is entirely possible that they describe the same thing. My very first post here as a guest talks about the difficulties in describing abstract and sublime concepts in words. Ultimately, they all fail. The ultimate solution (from that post):

    This is where the Holy Ghost plays an essential role. The Holy Ghost does not rely on any of the different levels of communication. He can talk directly from abstract to abstract, bypassing all of the areas where distortion can occur, independent of vocabulary or any other limitations. He can give us “pure” knowledge, uncolored by mortal man.

    We can’t always process what we read or hear, but as Will (and others) try to describe, sometimes we “know” things that we can’t really describe how we “know”. I see the point behind the differing versions, and the skeptic in me might consider how they happened to fit what Joseph Smith personally needed in various times. At the same time, using the different accounts as a “smoking gun” to discredit everything doesn’t seem right either.

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  32. Widespread Panic on August 13, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    #28 Mormon Heretic

    Thank you, I should have been more careful in my verbiage. Yes, it was written in 1838 but published in 1842.

    However, as to people treating the First Vision as some minor detail or a bump in the road that is not terribly important in the grand scheme of things, I stand by that statement as follows:

    (And please, by no means is this a criticism of these individuals. I am simply pointing to these quotes as an example of the overall attitude that seems to be “Nothing here, nothing to see, move along.”)

    Let’s look to comment #6 by ji…

    “What’s the big deal? People tell stories differently to different audiences. The differences are meaningless…”

    or #16 by Natsy…

    “I’ve never really been concerned with the discrepancies. I guess, in the realm of all my church-worries it wasn’t as important to me.”

    or #23 by Prometheus…

    “It simply isn’t a big deal to me.”

    I guess it just boggles my mind that here we have a person making the claim that GOD and Jesus Christ both appeared to him together. This wasn’t some burning bush, it wasn’t just a finger, it wasn’t just the voice of God. It wasn’t a car accident. It was actually GOD the Father and his son Jesus Christ appearing in person to a fourteen year old boy.

    It’s like they say, if you’re going to go, go BIG! And, Joseph certainly did.

    This was SO important that they both appeared together in the flesh. This is the very basis and the beginning of the restoration. That is what we’re always taught and what is always depicted by the church. The church is always very deliberate and detailed in their efforts. (One only has to look at the altering of the angels in the painting The Resurrection by Carl Bloch in the Ensign Magazine to see that.)

    Here’s an excerpt from Joseph’s official statement in PofGP…

    [16 But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

    17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!]

    The reason for my comment about it feeling “more like a gold medal competition in the Summer Olympics of Mental [gymnastics] {edit per author request} rather than simple true story that is claimed” is because there are so many differing versions of that story and ten times the number of arguments made in an attempt to explain them away.

    How this does not raise one’s eyebrow and give serious pause is a mystery to me. The problem isn’t the crime, it’s the cover-up.

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  33. Bonnie on August 13, 2012 at 10:45 PM

    I’ve never understood why people who don’t get why others believe as they do feel compelled to tell them what fools they are to believe as they do. Your “gold medal” comment is offensive. I don’t search out sites to spew disdain; I can click away. When you’re tempted to be bilious, Widespread Panic, click away.

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  34. Will on August 13, 2012 at 10:59 PM

    Widespread,

    You cannot solve spiritual equations using secular means. It is impossible. I have received a witness the Book of Mormon is true. I know what I felt. It was the ultimate object lesson. I can still remember that day 30 years ago as if it happened 10 minutes ago. There is nothing you, or anyone for that matter, say that will changes that experience,

    With this in mind, none of the thousands of
    seemingly contradictory events, or accusations about Joseph change that preception. I know
    what I felt. The spirit of God spoke to my spirit. I know it is true; thus, the events that brought it forth are true. Had I not had that experience, I too would look upon it narrowly. With this said, I look upon these questions with the attitude their must be an answer rather than a seed of doubt.

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  35. FireTag on August 13, 2012 at 11:18 PM

    In the RLDS/Community of Christ tradition, we have certainly heard the 1838 version, but never drew the theological interpretation that God inherently had a physical body as the LDS do. For us, it would be akin to professing that God was made of spiritual wood because He appeared to Moses as a burning bush. God “takes on” such form as is necessary for the brains of men to comprehend what is important for them to understand at the time, and it is no less real than any other event in which a brain constructs an image of external reality.

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  36. Mormon Heretic on August 13, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    Widespread Panic, you are showing poor reading and language skills. JI in #6 is quoting the wording of the poll (which I wrote, not JI.)

    Natsy, is not concerned with discrepancies. True. Once again, Natsy is not “treating the First Vision as some minor detail or a bump in the road”, but she is “treating the [discrepancies] as some minor detail or a bump in the road”. So, once again, I stand by my point (which you still seem to be missing.) People can have different views of the discrepancies without diminishing the importance of the First Vision. Are we communicating yet?

    (Prometheus comment applies to discrepancies, not the First Vision as well.) And if you’re going to continue to use foul language, you are going to be edited (or banned.) So make your point without offensive language please! This is your last warning. I’m not going to be tolerant of any more foul language from you. As Bonnie said, move along if you are incapable of controlling your offensive language. It’s not welcome here, though we do like to debate things. You could easily remove 1 word from those comments and they would be fine.

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  37. Mormon Heretic on August 14, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    I just got around to reading Steve’s link in #1 (from Kevin Hinkley). I highly recommend it. Kevin essentially creates a Synoptic First Vision where he combines all the accounts into a consistent narrative. Let me quote Kevin’s narrative, and I will add the year of each account at the start of each combination. I think it’s pretty interesting, especially in regards to the question of whether 1 or 2 people appeared. (One account says “many angels” which the official church account also “underhandedly” fails to tell members.)

    [1835-Kirtland] I kneeled again, my mouth was opened and my tongue loosed; I called on the Lord in mighty prayer [1838-Kirtland] Just at this moment of great alarm I saw a … [1832] pillar of [fire] light above the brightness of the Sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me … [1838] It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound.

    [1832] I was filld with the Spirit of God and the Lord opened the heavens upon me [and]… [1841-Wentworth Letter] my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded… [1835] I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision… I saw many angels.

    …A personage appeared in the midst of this pillar of flame, which was spread all around and yet nothing consumed. Another personage soon appeared like unto the first [1841] who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness [1838] (whose brightness and glory defy all description) standing above me in the air.

    One of them spake unto me calling me by name and said (pointing to the other) “This is my beloved Son, Hear him.“

    [1832] Saying Joseph my Son thy Sins are forgiven thee. go thy way walk in my Statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life

    [1838] My object in going to enquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner therefore did I get possession of myself so as to be able to speak, than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right,

    I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, and the Personage who addressed me said that all their Creeds were an abomination in his sight

    [1832] behold the world lieth in sin arid at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside from the Gospel and keep not my commandments [1838] They teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of Godliness but they deny the power thereof.” [1832] they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth …

    I think it’s a pretty interesting combined narrative.

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  38. Widespread Panic on August 14, 2012 at 12:31 AM

    #33 – Bonnie

    “I’ve never understood why people who don’t get why others believe as they do feel compelled to tell them what fools they are to believe as they do.”

    I didn’t call anyone a fool. I expressed an opinion or thought, no different than any other on the site.

    “Your “gold medal” comment is offensive.”

    I apologize, not my intent. Thank you for letting me know that. Please feel free to edit the post to read gymnastics” in place of the offending word. I have absolutely no problem with that.

    “I don’t search out sites to spew disdain; I can click away. When you’re tempted to be bilious, Widespread Panic, click away.”

    I didn’t search this site out to spew disdain. Because my view doesn’t agree with yours doesn’t make it any more or less valid. It’s an opinion just like everything else posted. For the record, I often do click away.

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  39. Widespread Panic on August 14, 2012 at 12:45 AM

    #36 Mormon Heretic

    “Widespread Panic, you are showing poor reading and language skills. JI in #6 is quoting the wording of the poll (which I wrote, not JI.)”

    I disagree, try again. I’m well aware that JI was quoting the wording of the poll and that you wrote it. That does not change the fact that JI attributes the quote to how the early saints felt and that JI believes or feels they were right. Where was my error?

    “Natsy, is not concerned with discrepancies. True. Once again, Natsy is not “treating the First Vision as some minor detail or a bump in the road”, but she is “treating the [discrepancies] as some minor detail or a bump in the road”. So, once again, I stand by my point (which you still seem to be missing.) People can have different views of the discrepancies without diminishing the importance of the First Vision. Are we communicating yet?”

    The discrepancies and the First Vision are inseparably connected. To discount one is to discount the other.

    “Prometheus comment applies to discrepancies, not the First Vision as well.”

    Again, you can’t can’t honestly separate the First vision and the descrepancies. Like it or not, they go together.

    “And if you’re going to continue to use foul language, you are going to be edited (or banned.) So make your point without offensive language please! This is your last warning. I’m not going to be tolerant of any more foul language from you. As Bonnie said, move along if you are incapable of controlling your offensive language. It’s not welcome here, though we do like to debate things. You could easily remove 1 word from those comments and they would be fine.”

    Like I replied to Bonnie, I apologize, not my intent. Thank you for letting me know that. Please feel free to edit the post to read gymnastics” in place of the offending word. I have absolutely no problem with that.

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  40. Hedgehog on August 14, 2012 at 2:13 AM

    I’m just a bit puzzled by the arguments that seems to have blown up…
    I get Andrew’s point about memory very well, and the reliability/unreliability of witness statements, maleability of memory are all things that have been studied. That Joseph supplied several accounts at different times that differed somewhat in the telling doesn’t bother me, and seems entirely to be expected. I also like the points made about JS capacity to process the experience changing over time.
    I had thought KT and Widespread Panic’s point was that the church materials present a highly correlated and particular view in all the official lesson manuals, missionary materials etc., and that the vision is used specifically to teach a) a physical body/appearance of God b) HF and JC as separate personages. Primary and youth SunSch manuals, seminary materials are all very clear on that point, and have been for years. Stephen (#13) – material presented at a BYU education week has not, in the past at least, been readily available to all members globally (I know not the date of your link, but as previously mentioned enjoyed it). I think we can all agree that the correlated materials often lack nuance. That there were differing accounts I had had mentioned to me as a student, in conversation with an Institute director, but most Institute/Seminary teachers here in Britain are untrained, and serving in ‘callings’, and in the past would not have been aware of such things. And while the fact of there being differing accounts was mentioned to me, I did not know the details, only that they existed.
    What I ponder over is why the first vision (particularly in the specific detail taught over my lifetime at least) is seen as something so fundamental now, when that was not the case at the time of the restoration… When did that happen?

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  41. Zara on August 14, 2012 at 3:35 AM

    Here’s the thing, though. This isn’t just some random thing that happened to him. This is the second most important thing that ever happened in the history of the world, as far as Mormonism is concerned. Christ was restoring his Church, and appeared to a teenager in person. Now, I might forget a few things here and there, but if God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to me personally, that would not be something I’d be a little fuzzy on the details about.

    Also, in the early days, Joseph himself wasn’t even sure if he believed in the trinity or in separate beings. He also vacillated on whether the Father had a body of flesh and blood. If God appeared and said, “this is my beloved Son, hear him,” you’d have a pretty decent idea of whether they were separate beings or not.

    D. Michael Quinn has said that there’s evidence that seeing heavenly beings, including God, in vision was a decently common occurrence in the particular climate in which Joseph grew up.

    I just think that though there are mental gymnastics one can perform in order to explain away Joseph’s amnesia, Occam’s Razor might be a better way to go here. There are probably multiple accounts because it didn’t actually happen.

    I believed it for years and years, but that was because I had only been exposed to the Official Church Version (TM), presented as if it were the only version.

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  42. SilverRain on August 14, 2012 at 6:10 AM

    Zara, have you had a spiritual manifestation, and remembered every detail with perfect and exact clarity, with no increase of understanding over time?

    Because if not, I really don’t see how you could say that with such confidence.

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  43. Stephen R. Marsh on August 14, 2012 at 6:38 AM

    Zara also rejects the New Testament and that Christ really existed because the four gospels do not line up in exact harmony. Like Widespread Panic …

    Seriously.

    How many people realize that Christopher Columbus had a Jewish Navigator who deserves as much credit or more than Columbus for the thinking part of what occurred?

    Is that hidden, or just glossed over?

    Or take Nativity scenes. The Bible is clear that the shepherds and the wise men came at different times. But we all know that the scenes are intentional deluding falsehoods, right? Of course not.

    No one putting on a Christmas pageant or a nativity scene is trying to engage in fraud or deceit. They are just simplifying the story.

    Depth is available and is out there. Has been for many years. We presented a good deal of depth in the study groups when I was in the Hill Cumorah Pageant in the mid-70s.

    But, people find what they are drawn to find, often.

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  44. Stephen R. Marsh on August 14, 2012 at 6:45 AM

    MH “Widespread Panic, you are showing poor reading and language skills.” — when that happens, and they have the logic skills of a low level troll, it becomes hard to reason with them, other than to note that they can spew insults, including crude ones, but not hold a rational conversation.

    I don’t know what to do with such people. /Sigh.

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  45. Widespread Panic on August 14, 2012 at 8:47 AM

    #44 Stephen R. Marsh

    Nice job attacking me rather than the argument. It’s good to see you’re not letting your education get in the way of your ignorance.

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  46. Mormon Heretic on August 14, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    Widespread Panic, I fixed your comments. Now let’s get to the substance of which you and Zara seem to agree. I wish JI would respond as he/she could do a better job than me, but in regards to the point about early members of the church, JI is absolutely right, as Bushman states. Early members did not know about the vision at all. Dehlin asked,

    JD, “it sounds like many converts of the early church, the fact that Joseph had seen God and Jesus didn’t even enter in to their conversion.”

    Bushman, “I think it is almost certain that it did not enter into their conversions until later. It’s not absolutely certain they would have known the name of Joseph Smith. He was not presented as the key figure in those first five or six years. The revelation was always in the passive voice; revelation has been received, or God is speaking to his people. But as a personality or a significant figure, there’s no evidence that he even talked about it.

    Parley Pratt writes the Voice of Warning in 1837, he never mentions Joseph Smith’s name, he doesn’t even mention revelation until something like page 122. So they were able to preach the gospel without doing much with a story that for us now is the central part of the history.”

    So perhaps I should concede that you are right. The EARLY saints (say pre-1837) didn’t even know about the First Vision at all. The discrepancies weren’t known, because the First VIsion wasn’t known (and in fact the 1838 and 1841 versions weren’t written yet.) To them, it was a bump on the road. You’re right. Maybe we should make it that way too. They focused on Christ and spiritual gifts more. Maybe we should too.

    But, let’s go back to Andrew’s point about memory as a malleable thing. It’s an excellent point. I had a lawyer in my book club. He was accused of leaving his children in the car of a convenience store in the dead of winter. Some witnesses claimed that his children walked into the store (which they didn’t). Some witnesses claimed that his kids were barefoot, others socks, others shoes (all had coats and shoes). Because of the unreliability of witnesses, the charges were thrown out. He said he had learned in law school that witnesses were unreliable, but the personal experience really drove the point home.

    As a personal anecdote, I was in a car accident a few years ago. As my car drifted into the median, I thought I had swerved to miss a steel grate in the median (that I thought would damage my vehicle.) When I returned a month later to take photographs, my tracks went directly over the grate. My original memory was 100% faulty, and I have photos to prove it. It was a big family event, yet I’ve never written about it (until now.)

    Now, I’m not asking you to change your mind. If the discrepancies are too great for you, then they are, and there’s nothing I will say that will change your mind. However, I will say this. We modern Mormons have probably taken these visions out of their original context. We want there to be two physical beings because that “disproves” the trinity, so modern Mormons have appropriated the First Vision for a purpose other than Joseph intended.

    As I read the 1835 version that “I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision… I saw many angels.” Is the Church duplicitous because the church doesn’t depict these “many angels” in the First Vision? The modern church wants to turn the Vision into a Visitation, but it wasn’t the First Visitation, it was the First Vision. I think there are many inside the church that incorrectly try to make this the First Visitation.

    Now, I think Kevin Hinckley has done an interesting thing with his Synoptic (or Amalgamated) account. I’m not asking you to believe it, but I am asking you if his Synoptic account is one of many possible interpretations of the discrepant accounts (just as your interpretation that the discrepant accounts strain credulity)?

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  47. Will on August 14, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    Widespread,

    I think people’s objection to your comment is the perverted reference used in your description. People immediately (and rightly so) dismiss your comment for this reason as it is dealing with something sacred to them.

    I have provided in my commentary above reasonable responses’ to MH’s questions and the alleged variances between the accounts of the first visino. I would add to that list the object lesson of this discussion from you. Perhaps in some of his commentary Joseph too did not want to cast his perils before swine or give that which is holy to the dogs. Perhaps he too dealt with people that wanted to pervert that which is sacred and commented accordingly.

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  48. Nick Literski on August 14, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    I don’t think the various “first vision” accounts are a basis for belief or disbelief, in and of themselves. By placing such large emphasis on the “first vision” story as unique and formative, perhaps the LDS church sets some people up for disappointment.

    While Joseph’s “first vision” may have been the beginning of his theocratic career, it was anything but unique, or even unusual. In the religious fervor of Joseph Smith’s boyhood environment, theophanies were a dime a dozen. Bushman himself has pointed out published theophany stories from the late 18th and early 19th century which parallel Joseph’s story in many ways. Remember how Joseph was surprised when a Methodist minister reacted negatively to his story? There was a reason for that surprise—these theophany stories weren’t in any way strange or unusual for the time.

    Knowing a little about broader U.S. history in the 1820s would go a long way toward placing this whole question in context. Unfortunately, in this country, we tend to devalue history. After all, a history degree doesn’t lead one to establish a venture capital firm with blood money from El Salvador and become a multi-millionaire. Those “blessings from on high” take MBAs and law degrees.

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  49. KT on August 14, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    What are you even talking about? I suppose I will apologize for “offending” you, although it would help if I knew what for.

    Not really sure why you say I am “just limited in [my] knowledge and shallow in [my] rush to judgment.”

    I am speaking from my experience. I had to teach a primary class on JS History here a few years back, and that, among other experiences contributed toward what I commented. The poll asked what my feelings were and I said what my feelings were. Or is it not appropriate because I don’t fit neatly into one of the categories provided?

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  50. hawkgrrrl on August 14, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    Great post and discussion. A few thoughts:

    1 – Stephen, I think the comparison to harmonizing the 4 gospels is misplaced in that there are 4 different authors, but there are two apt parallels to that idea: time had elapsed (even more in the case of the gospels) and they were written for different audiences and purposes.

    2 – I absolutely think we’ve wandered off the reservation in the manner we use the First Vision in the church. It’s called the First “Vision,” not the first Visit. It has grown to be significant in a way that was not necessarily intended. It may have indeed been simply a vision, something like a dream, definitely subject to subconscious themes not immediately understood that change over time. I have had significant dreams that are like that. I write them down at the time or soon after, but as I think about them, I focus on different aspects, ones I didn’t even bother to record initially.

    3 – I can’t help but draw a parallel to Buddhism in my mind when it comes to JS. In the US, Buddhism is a cool little batch of insightful sayings (similar to many things Jesus said) and a path via meditation to enlightenment. We like the idea of following the example Buddha set, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Western practioner of Buddhism who “worshipped” the Buddha. Conversely, in Asia, Buddha is absolutely worshipped outright in many cultures. And yet Buddhism has a saying: “If you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him” which means you must not focus on the Buddha so much. You have to find your own enlightenment. Killing the Buddha means killing the fantasy of perfect leaders or teachers and instead realizing that WE are our own Buddha. Likewise, isn’t the point of the First Vision that WE have to seek God and our own answers, that revelation can happen to us even now? Not that because JS did, we can all ride his coattails, and not that because JS got his answers and revelation, that means everything to everybody forever. We still have to kill the Buddha to become the Buddha.

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  51. Left Field on August 14, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    If there’s been a coverup, it hasn’t been a very good one. The first vision film made in the late ’70s that we showed investigators for a couple of decades included elements from three separate accounts. (I hear there’s a new film, but I’ve not seen it.) In fact, the first time I remember reading specifically about multiple accounts was an article that can be found in the October 1977 New Era. Even then, I don’t think I was surprised in the least that there was more than one account or that the accounts included different things.

    Although the accounts are different, it seems to me that it requires quite a bit of gymnastics to even find any notable contradiction. Really, the accounts differ in pretty much the ways I would expect of multiple independent tellings over the course of years. I’d be more suspicious if he recited the same words each time. It’s not so much different audiences, although that’s probably a factor. But sometimes we tell a long version with lots of details; sometimes we tell a short version leaving some details out. Different things are more or less important on different occasions.

    I would like to know how professional historians handle such things. If General Grant tells the story of a battle three times independently over the course of several years, including different things each time, do historians discount the whole thing and conclude he made it up? Or do they welcome the new historical information found in each account?

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  52. Bob on August 14, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    I think many would like to take the First Visitation off the table inside/outside the Church, (along with the BoM). The Church has said it will not let this happen. Which means these two issues/events will more and more be debated by people inside/outside the Church as time goes by.

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  53. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 14, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    Nick, they do not even take any grad school, really.

    WP, I addressed your argument, which was devoid of reason. I then noted your comprehension level was either intentionally blocked or defective and that it made me surely about what to do about it.

    In response you ignored that your approach requires rejecting the New Testament, Columbus and most journaling and historical accounts (especially since you treat the narrative differences as discrepancies when they are not).

    It reminds me of discussing the moon landings with a denier.

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  54. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 14, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    “first time I remember reading specifically about multiple accounts was an article that can be found in the October 1977 New Era. Even then, I don’t think I was surprised in the least that there was more than one account or that the accounts included different things.”

    Vs

    ” there is a lack of transparency and honesty from the Church with these multiple versions”

    So, it can get taught over and over, but it is hidden, opaque and dishonestly concealed.

    That was what annoyed me. Perhaps too much or perhaps more than too much.

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  55. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 14, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    “Although the accounts are different, it seems to me that it requires quite a bit of gymnastics to even find any notable contradiction. Really, the accounts differ in pretty much the ways I would expect of multiple independent tellings over the course of years. I’d be more suspicious if he recited the same words each time. It’s not so much different audiences, although that’s probably a factor. But sometimes we tell a long version with lots of details; sometimes we tell a short version leaving some details out. Different things are more or less important on different occasions.”

    You said that much better than I did.

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  56. Widespread Panic on August 14, 2012 at 6:57 PM

    #46 – Mormon Heretic

    Thanks for editing that (comment.) I will be a little more careful going forward.

    Also, enjoyed your reply. I did read kevin Hinckley’s essay combining the different accounts. I actually liked the way he did that.

    Unfortunately, this debate will continue with no end in sight. When it’s all said and done, there are only two or three individuals who know what did or did not transpire in that grove of trees. JS is dead, God and Jesus are leaving it up us mere mortals to hash it out, and the instant replay camera is broken.

    I guess this is what keeps it interesting. It’s like watching a NASCAR race. It wouldn’t be as enjoyable without a few wrecks and if no one traded a little paint.

    Carry on.

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  57. Stephen R. Marsh on August 14, 2012 at 7:18 PM

    Widespread Panic — glad you read and enjoyed the account.

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  58. Zara on August 14, 2012 at 9:11 PM

    Silver Rain:

    “Zara, have you had a spiritual manifestation, and remembered every detail with perfect and exact clarity, with no increase of understanding over time?

    Because if not, I really don’t see how you could say that with such confidence.”

    Yes, I have had spiritual experiences that affected me deeply, and my response was to immediately record them so I would not remember just what I wanted to remember, but I would remember them as they affected me in the moment. When Joseph wrote down what he remembered in the first incarnation, he left out some pretty big details. I can understand not getting the neckline of the robe just right from memory, but I can’t understand failing to remember that there were two personages, one of whom indicated that the other one was Jesus Christ. That is a HUGE detail. I realize my tone probably sounds snarky, but it’s not intentionally snarky–just genuinely incredulous. I truly can’t understand/write off making a mistake that large. And I also think that if Satan had nearly pinned you to the ground, and if Jesus had told you to start a new church, those details would also make it into your first journal recording, even if you never shared it with anyone or was scared to. It’s a personal record of something incredible that happened to you, that you’d at the very least want to cherish and remember in times of a faith crisis.

    It’s possible to have new understandings from old experiences, having lived longer and gained more understanding, but I don’t think that you start recalling *events* differently and then trust those events. Especially when those events involved seeing actual deities and receiving specific instruction from them.

    Stephen M, I don’t think the Gospels comparison is an equal comparison. The gospels were not written by people who were contemporary to Jesus, working from their own memories. Nor were they all written by the same person four times, at different points in their lives. Nor were they written about the same heavenly visitation. I’m open to the comparison if you’re seeing something I’m not, but just having four different historical accounts of Jesus’ life doesn’t feel comparable to conflicting accounts from the same person, of a vision that is now seen to be the seminal event in bringing Christ’s church back to the earth.

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  59. Zara on August 14, 2012 at 9:13 PM

    *were* scared to

    I changed pronouns and forgot to change verb forms.

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  60. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 14, 2012 at 9:44 PM

    Except several gospels claim to be written by those with direct knowledge.

    Or Acts. Did those with Paul see the light or hear the voice? Which account is correct?

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  61. Hedgehog on August 15, 2012 at 2:20 AM

    Stephen (#43, #54)
    I have no wish to offend, and hope that you will forgive me if I do. I have taken from various of your posts and comments that you are probably a decade or even two ahead of me, that you are part of a strong LDS community. I’d like to point out that workshops at a pageant in the 1970s are hardly globally available in either time or place to most members now, great though it was that those things were presented and discussed then.
    I have similarly noted (Left Field #51) that whenever this type of discussion comes up there are those who respond with something along the lines of ‘but I read about it in (insert church magazine) back in 1970 something’. And it always does seem to be the 1970s, not the 1980s, not the 1990s and certainly not more recently (though I haven’t been reading blogs online that long, and might have missed something).
    This morning I conducted an online search for the particular October 1977 article mentioned and presume it is the one about the making of the film (article title ‘Lovely was the Morning’). That there is more than one account is implicit rather than explicit in the article, mentioned only in the title of a bracketed BYU studies reference from 1969. That isn’t a problem to me. However, when information is assumed to be around but rarely or never explicitly discussed, then it is no surprise to me either, that there are those to whom it will come as a surprise and maybe a nasty shock. Growing up in an area where seminary, Sunday school, primary teachers and so on are often converts, where non-correlated materials are not freely available, it is only too easy to see how that can happen.

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  62. Left Field on August 15, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    Zara #58: I don’t think anyone imagines that he made a mistake or didn’t remember seeing two personages. I think that “I saw the Lord” is a perfectly accurate and unremarkable way of describing the exact same experience he recounted in the other narratives. “Lord” could refer to either the Father or the Son, or both. Is there a particular reason why he used that language? He’s not here to ask, but I could easily come up with several perfectly plausible reasons. Perhaps he was deliberately vague because he felt he would be aggrandizing himself to say directly that God Himself spoke to him. Perhaps he wasn’t sure how to express the experience in light of his early understanding of the Trinity. Perhaps it’s the different audience thing. But I think the most likely reason is that there’s no reason at all. To me, it’s not even a question begging to be answered. Nothing about it raises an eyebrow. He just happened to choose different words to explain the experience. Just as we all do when describing our own personal experiences.

    Suppose someone tells me that he met Obama, and then I find out that he later told someone else that he met Barack and Michelle Obama. Assuming they were both there, he was telling the truth both times. He just chose different words, and in one instance conveyed some additional information. Nothing about the accounts is untruthful. Nothing suggests suggests that he’s making the whole thing up. Nothing to me even raises a question. There’s probably not even a particular reason for the difference other than that he’s truthfully relating an experience, not reciting a lie.

    To me, the accounts just ring true. They hang together to tell a coherent story. Their similarities and differences seem exactly like what would be expected from someone telling their story independently over several years.

    I’m as incredulous as you, but my incredulity is in wondering why there’s even an issue to be raised. There’s no mistake to write off: both accounts agree that he saw the Lord. Both accounts agree that my imaginary friend saw Obama. There’s no rule of narrative that says every time he tells the story, he has to be perfectly clear that both Obamas were there, or he’ll be denounced as a liar and fraud. Sometimes we just express ourselves in different language for various reasons, or for no particular reason at all. Language is like that.

    Hedgehog #61:

    The text of the New Era article is quite direct in saying that the film included material from a non-canonized account:

    “David Jacobs had been studying some research material on a recently discovered [1835] account of the vision written by Joseph. A couple of sentences jumped out at him as he read. . .Dave said, ‘that this was how I wanted to get into the darkness scene. It was dramatic. It was true.’”

    The film also narrates some of Joseph’s words from the 1841 account, as well as the more familiar 1838.

    There are of course other references to the different accounts, such as Milton Backman’s in the January 1985 Ensign, and one by Richard Anderson in April 1996, both of which directly compare the various accounts. The non-canonized accounts are mentioned prominently in an “I have a question column” in the July 1987 Ensign. The Wentworth account is published in its entirety in the July 2002 Ensign. Alternate accounts are quoted (including “I saw the Lord” and “Thy sins are forgiven thee”) and cited in a January 2005 Ensign article. A search of lds.org finds a bunch of 2012 stuff from Mormon Channel Radio (whatever that is). See here: http://mormonchannel.org/past-impressions/2 lds.org has a page dedicated to the topic with a summary of the accounts and links to other resources. And so on.

    I don’t understand the the idea that just the *existence* of multiple accounts is problematic, aside from their content. Why would it be a shock to discover that Joseph recounted his experience more than once?

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  63. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 15, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    Part of what is going on is that there is a huge volume of history combined with a huge volume of folk lore and a limited time to address it.

    So, some people see it and some groups preserve and share it (FARMS, for example, got started on a table in Jack Welch’s office dedicated to photocopies of material that was going out of print or being lost).

    Most people do not have much interest in it all. Thus a constant stream of efforts to share things and a constant stream of people who are going “huh?!”.

    Hedgehog I am not offended at all by your comment. It kind of highlights things.

    For another example. Sheriff Rockwall, used to save Utah county the price of a trial with horse thieves. But, what he did was ride up to Salt Lake with them and put them on the trail to Reno on foot.

    He felt that would teach them a lesson much better than hanging them would.

    A lot of people are still unaware that is what he did. It only came to light when one of the guys returned home. A friend of mine was going through old records in Provo and came across the records if the discovery of the practice.

    Now, is there folklore out there? Yes. Is there accurate and inaccurate history? Yes. Do most people care? Not really.

    So much like that.

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  64. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 15, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    Left field — exactly.

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  65. Phoebe on August 15, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    Usually just a lurker here but since I am studying the history of the church right now and having my own doubts I have something I would like to add to the conversation.

    The different versions of the First Vision in and of themselves do not bother me. BUT when you combine that with all the other evidences out there about different aspects of the history of the beginning of this church and Joseph Smith it begins to be troubling.

    For example if someone were on trial for robbing a convenience store and all you have are eye witnesses and circumstantial evidence, it would go something like this:

    The defendant was seen near the scene of the robbery just after the incident – not a big deal. The defendant had purchased a weapon of the same make and caliber as the weapon used in the robbery – a little more suspicious. The defendant also deposited in his bank account the exact amount of money that was taken – getting more suspicious. You have someone testify that the defendant told them he had done it – well now we are having real doubts about his innocence.

    Each item of evidence can be explained individually but not so easily when viewed as a whole. One individual discrepancy does not break a testimony but an accumulation of all of it can.

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  66. Frank Pellett on August 15, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    The different versions of the First Vision in and of themselves do not bother me. BUT when you combine that with all the other evidences out there about different aspects of the history of the beginning of this church and Joseph Smith it begins to be troubling.

    Care to elaborate?

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  67. Bob on August 15, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    #66:Frank Pellett,
    I think it is all stated by Bushman in the OP. That’s why it took hours of interviews. It’s not limited to one question or answer.

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  68. Phoebe on August 15, 2012 at 6:21 PM

    Thanks Bob, yes, he does go into a lot of the issues. There is also plenty of information out there on the web to find. I don’t really want to get into all the issues and derail this conversation.

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  69. Zara on August 15, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    LeftField,

    I get that, and in practice, yes, sometimes we tell different stories to different audiences. Your analogy is a decent one, but here’s where it breaks down for me: if I’m meeting the president, that’s the important thing, and mentioning the First Lady is nice but probably not quite as thrilling due mainly to the importance given to the office of the presidency. God, the supreme ruler of the universe, and our Heavenly Father, who sent us here to gain bodies and come back to him, should get a mention. He’s not the spouse of the main guy. If God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to me, that’s a pretty huge detail. That lends even MORE weight and importance to my earth-shattering, life-altering experience. Not only did I see Jesus, but God the Father introduced him to me! Not only did he forgive my sins, but he totally told me that I, a simple and humble teenage farm boy, should restore his church to the earth! These just aren’t things you forget. It seems more logical, combined with other evidence in Joseph’s history, to conclude that he didn’t add those details until he needed them.

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  70. Zara on August 15, 2012 at 8:37 PM

    And it’s a little different to put an official story in writing than to just tell and individual what they need to know, based on what you know of their interests, or as a function of time.

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  71. Mormon Heretic on August 15, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    Zara,

    “I can’t understand failing to remember that there were two personages, one of whom indicated that the other one was Jesus Christ. That is a HUGE detail.”

    I think there’s a BIG assumption in this statement. Who says Joseph “failed to remember–you? Is Joseph “failing to remember” or is he telling the story differently? I think the latter option is just as legitimate as the former. You’re making a character assumption there. Maybe you’re right, maybe you’re not. Remember only the 1835 version talks of “many angels”, and these don’t get recorded in 1838 or 1841 either. Why were these “many angels” not recorded in later accounts? Are you saying it is fair to assume that Joseph is being duplicitous by excluding “many angels” in the 1838 and 1841 versions? If so, what is the reason?

    Bushman says the 1832 version is naive, has poor spelling, etc. Are we to assume that a poorly written account is gets all the details right?

    In the lawyer story I mentioned in comment #46, some kids were barefoot, some not, some had coats, some not. How can these witnesses be so unreliable? These are important issues in the case of child neglect. Did they have an axe to grind against a perfect stranger?

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  72. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 15, 2012 at 9:24 PM

    “Are you saying it is fair to assume that Joseph is being duplicitous by excluding “many angels” in the 1838 and 1841 versions? If so, what is the reason?”

    Nicely noted.

    Though, as I mentioned with Paul’s story, did those with him see the light or hear the voice? He tells the story both ways in Acts.

    No one accuses him of lying or being disengenuous.

    The same when someone puts on the Christmas story and has shepherds and wise men at the same time — even though the text clearly has them arrive at different times.

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  73. Mormon Heretic on August 15, 2012 at 9:37 PM

    Phoebe, I’m not sure which issues you would like to delve into further. I have a summary post of the Bushman Interviews with links to different sections of the interview. I’d be happy to discuss other issues there if you would like to talk about some of the other issues.

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  74. Natsy on August 16, 2012 at 1:02 AM

    MH – Sorry, this is a little late in the conversation I just wanted to say “thank you!” for clarifying my mearning to WP. I meant it the way you said. Discrepancies are not a deal breaker for me.

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  75. Hedgehog on August 16, 2012 at 4:41 AM

    Left Field (# 62) My bad! I do remember reading that sentence. But was concentrating on the paragraph containing the reference when I came to write my comment. Put it down to feeling rushed in the school holidays :-) . By the time they’re over, this conversation will be long gone. I’m glad there are now a specific links on the church site for this and other issues. A general search of magazines for ‘ “Joseph Smith” and “first vision” ‘ trying to locate such references isn’t for the faint-hearted, giving rise to hundreds of results to be ploughed through to locate those dealing with history as opposed to missionary experiences, prayer etc.
    The point I was trying make, and I have been making such a poor fist of it, is not specifically limited to the first vision, but many of the issues people have (they aren’t generally issues I have, can I make clear). Simply from my observation, there seem to be two camps, those who say, ‘why aren’t we told this’, ‘I didn’t know’ etc. And those who say, ‘how can you possibly not know’, ‘its here and here’ and so on. And I find myself straddling the two somewhat uncomfortably. I don’t think anyone has set out to hide things, on the one hand, but I can understand why there are those who won’t have come across them on the other. I kind of get irritated by the ‘if you didn’t know it’s your fault’ attitudes. I don’t think that’s entirely fair either.
    I think my point about things not being explicitly discussed still stands (although poorly represented in my last comment,clearly), and it does lead to a invisibility of that information to many. I remember listening to a Laurel Ulrich Thatcher YouTube of a talk she gave at Sunstone about the new book for women ‘Daughters in my Kingdom’ in which she was discussing that it addresses polygamy, and had discovered that her grand-daughters hadn’t known about the history of polygamy in the early church at all. It hadn’t been in the curriculum materials for decades, and just didn’t get talked about.
    I hope I’m making a better fist of things this time round. Still a bit rushed though.

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  76. Bob on August 16, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    ” We all know we’re molding our stories to portray the world or the past in the way we want to do it, and so in a way, what you choose as your facts, what you choose to emphasize and the sequence you put them in is a reflection of you. You can’t just say the facts compel me to think some way. You are making a choice about how you want to view the world, and I’m just sorry, but that is—we have to begin with that realization.” (Bushman).

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  77. Left Field on August 16, 2012 at 7:24 PM

    Zara,

    Again, I don’t imagine that it has anything at all to do with “forgetting.” I’m sure that if that’s what happened to him, he never forgot that both were there. I don’t think anyone has suggested that he forgot. To me, it’s just a matter of how you relate the story. Again, there’s no law that says that if you see two or more people, you have to mention all of them every single time you tell the story. I chose the Obamas because they are both “Obamas,” just as the Father and Son could both be called “Lord,” and that’s what he called him/them in 1832. But even if it were the President and Queen Elizabeth, I still don’t think someone would necessarily mention both of them every single time. If you’re talking about what the President/Jesus told you, then the fact that the Queen/Father was also there perhaps isn’t the central point.

    As I said, I don’t think Joseph has to have a “reason” for not making clear that both were there. But if he was reticent to go there, I _totally_ get that. I understand that you (Zara) would be sure to write about everything, everything every time you told the story. But I imagine that if it were me, a simple and humble teenage farm boy, I’d be a lot more comfortable just saying I saw the Lord (as if that’s not astounding enough), and leave it ambiguous as to whether that refers to the Father, Son, or both. If I were to make a big deal about how that also included me seeing God, the Supreme Ruler of the universe, that might feel to me like name-dropping, like pouring it on. Especially since it was the other Guy that delivered the message. So I totally Get It if he didn’t feel comfortable yet proclaiming with full clarity that he was the first known mortal in several Millennia to lay eyes on the Almighty Himself. Then again, perhaps you and I upon seeing God and Jesus might both sing like a canary, but that still doesn’t necessarily provide any insight on how Joseph or someone else might respond. I might assume the fetal position and never speak again.

    Hedgehog,
    Everybody has a first time for learning new information. Whatever that time might be, it was preceded by a great deal of time during which nobody told us about it. I’ve often wondered what’s the determining factor between someone who learns something new and feels like they’ve been duped, and someone who just feels like they’ve learned some interesting new information. When I read that New Era article in ’77, if that was the first time I became familiar with additional FV accounts, I just thought it was interesting to learn something new about the FV. Clearly, other people learn about the accounts and feel otherwise. Perhaps part of it is the spin that’s put on it whenever we first encounter it.

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  78. Stephen Marsh on August 16, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    Left Field — Paul in Acts recounts his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus in two different ways. In one those with him see the light, but do not hear the voice. In the other, they hear the voice but do not see the light.

    That is someone recounting a key encounter differently.

    On the other hand, you have it correctly, with Joseph Smith we have someone recounting the experience with different degrees of detail.

    Which is why essays such as http://kevinhinckley.com/uploads/Combined_First_Vision.doc work so well.

    Someone in a life changing accident may recount that the car that hit them was dark. Then they might explain that it was dark blue. Finally they might tell someone it was navy blue and an Audi A4.

    In one account they might mention that they had three green lights in a row before they were hit. In another they might only mention that the A4 ran a red light.

    They might bring up their passenger and the errands they were running, or they might not.

    They might talk in terms of “I was going to” or “We were going to” depending on who they are talking to.

    Those are different layers of detail, not forgetting anything, not changing the story.

    I think of Columbus and accounts of his meeting with the regents of Spain. He might talk of king Ferdinand. Or of meeting their majesties Ferdinand and Isabella. Or of a presentation before the entire court. All of the same encounter.

    I agree with you on this one and think Zara just does not get it.

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  79. janice on August 17, 2012 at 4:34 PM

    Concerning telling different versions. I had an experience that no parent should have, but this is mortal life. I used to think I would share my tragedy with anyone when the subject matter would come up because I wanted to help. Mistake, because of the hateful, hurtful, flippant things people said. So I am very careful to whom I tell my story because not everyone understands. I have to really trust the person. I have had friends for years who still don’t know about my tragedy, some people only know a hint of what happened, and a handful know the whole story. Joseph Smith was careful, especially after being rebuffed by a minister whom he thought he could trust. Also he was told to be careful. The Bible says that sacred things and sacred experiences are to be guarded and treated with care. Different versions for different audiences, I totally understand.

    Personally, I think the church tries to manage its history but sometimes doesn’t do a good job. My parent’s did not tell my little brother he was adopted because they did not want him to feel different, wanted to protect him, thought they were doing the right thing. He found out from other sources, and some of the sources were cruel about it, and it messed him up mentally and emotionally. Like my parents tried to protect my brother, the church has tried to protect itself and the members from certain historical facts although, in my opinion, it is not going about it the right way. Just my personal take on things.

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  80. Bonnie on August 17, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    Janice, that is a really useful analogy. Thanks.

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  81. hawkgrrrl on August 17, 2012 at 7:57 PM

    I don’t think it’s forgetting, but different details seem important in different contexts. I wonder how reliable memory of dreams is. We know eyewitness testimony is incredibly unreliable, but when I recall dreams, they seem to get more memorable in some cases. Of course, if I’m confabulating, no one could contradict me.

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  82. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 17, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    Janice, my wife and I buried three children — you are right about how some narratives are ones that people are not ready to deal with and some there is just not room to fully explain.

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  83. Hedgehog on August 17, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    Left Field (#77)
    Well, of course there is a first time.
    I’m with you on the spin thing. I think that could be a factor. Another factor I would suggest could be the ways in which the individual had been taught the information they already had. Had their prior experience been very black and white. This how it is, and anything else is wrong, no questions about anything. I have experienced teachers like that, though in my case not often, thankfully. (More often I have heard comments by those people and been glad they weren’t my teachers or parents :-)) Or had they been exposed to more open discussion. I have been fortunate in mostly having teachers who welcomed discussion and questions, growing up in a family where discussion on religion and philosophy was eclectic to say the least, and my introduction to the information got a positive spin. But I know I have capacity to react the other way, had circumstances been different.

    Zara, just a couple of things I want to throw in for consideration:
    1. Would Joseph have even had ready access to writing materials (paper and ink) in his circumstances, or the time and privacy he would need to make a thoughtful, considered, written account if he had the materials?
    2. I mostly don’t write down my spiritual experiences. I can’t bring myself to do it. Perhaps because the act of committing them to words wouldn’t do them justice, but would instead diminish them…

    I also like your analogy Janice.

    Stephen, such private pain. Sorry.

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  84. MH on August 18, 2012 at 12:32 AM

    I think it’s also important to remember that Joseph didn’t grow up in a church that encouraged journal writing, and he didn’t take high school or college writing classes either. We shouldn’t expect a well-written account from an itinerant farmboy. That’s why he used so many scribes–because he was a crappy writer (as seen in the 1832 account.) I am reminded that the Stanford Study folks excluded Joseph from their Wordprint study because they couldn’t find enough handwriting samples from Joseph to be able to worthy of testing. (BYU did a rebuttal study.)

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  85. Bob on August 18, 2012 at 1:04 AM

    #83:Hedgehog,
    Most of your questions have been answered in the history of JS. JS was very educated by his mother, wife, and self.. He was well read. He had many books avaiable to him. His family was very active in their personal, open discussions of religion as he grew up. By the time of the writing of the BoM (1828), the paper was flying.

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  86. Stephen R. Marsh on August 18, 2012 at 2:25 AM

    “many books” — remember to define your terms.

    A modern would consider “many books avaiable to him” to mean more than 4-5 that would be “many” in Joseph Smith’s era.

    A family bible, an almanac and …

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  87. Bob on August 18, 2012 at 2:48 AM

    #86:Stephen R. Marsh,
    Google “Books owned by JS”. It’s a large list.

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  88. Hedgehog on August 18, 2012 at 2:59 AM

    Bob, my rhetorical question on paper/ink was intended to be limited specifically to the 14 year old JS at the time of the vision. I’m sorry I didn’t make that clear.
    My earlier points refered to the experiences of those living today not to JS.

    To respond to your points:1. I understood childhood learning then involved chalk and slate, predominantly, not paper and ink.
    2. I’m pretty sure Emma described JS as being lousy at writing (I’m paraphrasing obviously, and don’t have time to hunt down the reference).
    Got to dash.

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  89. Bob on August 18, 2012 at 5:51 AM

    #88:Hedgehog,
    No doubt Emma felt JS was a poor writer__He was.Emma taught school. But that did not make him a poor reader. All of you know, I am a poor writer, but I still have a college degree, and am well read.
    If you are going to accept the history of JS as a poor writer, you must also accept he was a genius at telling stories. You must also look at the books he owned, and see he was a great reader.

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  90. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 18, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    Bob, I thought we were talking the books he owned as a young man, not those he eventually owned.

    Using the Link;: http://user.xmission.com/~research/about/books.htm

    We get a number that is not large by most standards.

    Or am I missing something?

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  91. Bob on August 18, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    #90:Stephen M (Ethesis,
    What makes a young man? Under twenty? But I don’t care when he read them, but that he could and wanted to read them. JS’s father was also a profession educator. I am sure he had many books, as did Lucy and Emma in their household.

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  92. Wayfarer on August 18, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    I wrote a much longer response in my blog at http://wayfaringfool.blogspot.com/2012/08/my-vision-of-first-vision.html.

    I believe the events show the first vision to be characterized by the following:

    1. It was a lucid dream, not a physical event.

    2. In memory of the lucid dream, Joseph was trying to put into words that which defies language, hence verbal descriptions (a) do not accurately portray a lucid dream, and (b) morph over time.

    3. As time goes on, the added details of the dream progressively serve the agenda of establishing the validity of the ‘one true church’. This does not have to be a conscious, deceptive process, but rather, a natural cognitive feature of the neurology of memory.

    4. Given the nature of memories of remote, past emotional events, relying upon the first vision account to create a doctrinal pronouncement of the nature of godhead is imprudent at best.

    In short, it’s a vision, a lucid dream, and should not be a source of doctrine, either of the “one true church” polemic, nor of the nature of Godhead. I would add that there is no intential deception in this.

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  93. Wyoming on August 18, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    I appreciate the various perspectives shared on this topic. I have wondered what details of the vision were shared with one of my ancestors, Hyrum Dayton.

    After Hyrum and his wife were baptized by Joseph Smith in Parkman, OH (1838), their friends and neighbors immediately drove them from their homes. He was driven from Parkman, Kirkland, 2 communities in MO, lost a daughter on account of the mobs and driven again from Nauvoo. He stated that he had been from driven his home 5 times on account of his testimony of Jesus Christ, but that he and his wife “Never felt to murmur”.

    Something very compelling happened in their conversion in 1838 and their interaction with Joseph Smith during the early years. I wished they had recorded which early stories were fundamental to their conversions.

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  94. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 18, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    Bob, through the end of the New York period he had two books in the link you suggested.

    Appreciate that you provide a citation and when I note it, you then start changing definitions and such. /sigh.

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  95. Bob on August 18, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    #94:Stephen M (Ethesis),
    #86: “remember to define your terms”!
    Now: “You then start changing definitions and such. /sigh.
    I withdraw.

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  96. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 18, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    Bob, you put “young man” as through twenty. Ok, that takes us into the New York period. That puts us at two books.

    When that did not work for you is when you started playing a bit loose — not a bad time to withdraw.

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  97. Hedgehog on August 21, 2012 at 2:54 AM

    Bob (#89)
    I was addressing your comment only in so far as it had any bearing on the point I was attempting to make previously.
    The book stuff looks an interesting angle for sure, but isn’t something I have the time to look at the moment, and don’t feel at all qualified to make any comment about it.
    Sorry.

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  98. seeker on February 28, 2014 at 8:04 PM

    Interesting conversation. I ran across this set of videos on this subject and not sure what to think. Anyone here have an opinion on these? Here’s the link. http://mormonchallenges.org/first-vision-playlist/

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