One spring Day in the early 1800's
The first vision is the very “foundation of this Church” (Gospel Ideals, p.85).
Paul R. Cheesman stated: that the Mormon church “must stand or fall on the authenticity of the First Vision and the appearance of the Angel Moroni.”
Apostle Widtsoe stated: “The story of the First Vision need only be studied from original sources to assure the seeker not only of its truth, but also of the time of its occurrence” (Joseph Smith--Seeker After Truth, p.26).
Joseph Fielding Smith (10th prophet): “If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who wilfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed....Church stands or falls with Joseph Smith. Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith.. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has even seen. There is no middle ground.”(Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, p. 188).
LeGrand Richards says, “On the morning of a beautiful spring day in 1820 there occurred one of the most important and momentous events in this world's history. God, the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith and gave instructions concerning the establishment of the kingdom of God upon the earth in these latter days” (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, 1966, p.7).
It took 117 years after Joseph Smith founded the Mormon church in 1830 to reach 1 million members. It took another 19 years to add the second million: 9 more years to add the third million and only five years to add the fourth million. There were over 9.7 million in 1997, they are now have a membership of 11.5 million worldwide in the year 2002.
Ezra Taft Benson former President of the Mormon Church, proclaimed to Brigham Young University students fourteen “fundamental” statements about the relation of Mormon prophets to the Church and the LDS membership. He warned students:“OUR SALVATION HANGS ON THEM.”
The Mormons whole religion hangs on certain men’s eye-witness accounts and the testimony of their first prophet named Joseph Smith. So we need to look carefully at what Smith who is supposed to be a modern day prophet has said. We need to look at how he received his revelation, by whom and what was the content of it. If it has contradictions from his own words and the witnesses, it would have to brought into question.
One day in the spring of 1820 as Joseph Smith was reading James 1:5---“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him”-that verse suddenly came alive to him. He determined he would ask God which church to join and went into the woods to pray aloud for the first time. After much oppression following his prayer, he was finally answered.
I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head. . . . 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!”
.” . . . 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 [churches] for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof”. . . He again forbade me to join with any of them: and many other things did he say unto me which I cannot write at this time.” (from Times and Seasons, vol. 3, pp.728, 748; Joseph Smith History vs. 7, 14-19 and other resources).
If all the churches and creeds and doctrines are wrong according to Smith’s visitor from heaven than the church must have been obeying and worshipping a completely different Jesus than the one he met. This they admit. But I want us to pause and think about this. No church on earth was teaching correctly, none. How could this be? We know that many churches taught the Bible and held to what the historic church had always taught. We know this because of the facts of history. Jesus also said the gates of hell would not prevail against the church, which would be the case if there was no one left. The only way this would be possible is for one to reject the Bibles revelation and replace it with another. This is exactly the intent of the visitation by whatever spirit being this was.
Also we need to take notice what is said to Smith is said only twice in Scripture, and each occasion had a purpose. The first was at Jesus’ baptism which He was introduced to Israel and identified to John the baptiser. The 2nd time was just before he went to the cross and he reveals his real nature to his closest disciples away from the other disciples, Moses and Elijah are summoned and converse with Jesus about his soon coming death. God the Father speaks from heaven identifying Jesus as his son in human flesh. Both of these events took place in Israel, both involved his followers who knew him in the flesh. Both are recorded in Scripture. Paul says he is the last of the apostles to see Jesus recorded in Acts 9 described in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8.
Smith says in inquiring”...Who of all these parties are right, or, are they all wrong together? (It is interesting to note that just eight verses later Smith said: “...for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong...” Joseph Smith-History 1:18.) Yet he said, if any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (Joseph Smith-History 1:10.) These questions we are told are raised in Joseph's mind by “...an unusual excitement on the subject of religion”. A religious revival had allegedly occurred and four members of Joseph's family had joined the Presbyterian Church, his mother Lucy, his brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison, and his sister, Sophronia (Joseph Smith-History, 1:7.) Joseph wanted to know which church he personally should join. His purpose was not to start a new Church.
Using Presbyterian and Methodist Church records and other historical sources the Reverend Wesley P. Walters in his 26 page booklet New Light on Mormon Origins records that there was no revival in the Palmyra, New York, area in the 1820 time period and shows that the revival actually to occur in 1824 four years later. If this is an accurate count then logically to have the numerous events described in the First Vision story to the 1830 publication of the Book of Mormon would become suspicious. History bear this out Joseph Smith his 1838 account, stated that his mother, sister and two brothers were led to join the local Presbyterian Church as a result of that 1820 revival. Joseph's mother, Lucy, tells us that the revival which led her to join the church took place after the death of her son, Alvin who died on November 19, 1823 (First draft of Lucy Smith's History, p. 55, LDS Church Archives). Joseph says that in 1823, three years after the 1820 First Vision, he was visited by the angel Moroni. Moroni tells Joseph about the gold plates but Joseph must wait four more years before obtaining them. Joseph gets the gold plates in 1827 and three years later (1830) publishes the Book of Mormon. But Joseph identifies the time of the First Vision in relation to the religious revival in the Manchester-Palmyra area. If these 4 extra years are added to Joseph waiting to get the plates, this would make it the year 1831, before he actually printed the book of Mormon. (this was first published by the Utah Christian Tract Society, P.O. Box 725, La Mesa, CA 92041, 1967. also Inventing Mormonism (by H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters) (Salt Lake City, Smith Research Associates, 1994, distributed by Signature Books, pages 15-41.)
The first edition of the B. of M. has a copyright date of June 11,1829 (D.KC. Vol. 1, p. 58 found in the page prior to the preface in the original 1830 Book of Mormon). If Smith did not even get the "gold plates" until September, 1829, how could the B. of M. have a copyright date of June 11, 1829?
Joseph Smith's Official First Vision Account:
Sometime in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. . . . and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties. . . . Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist. . . . my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect . . . but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible . . . to come to any certain conclusion who was right, and who was wrong. . . . So in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. . . . I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. . . . I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head. . . . When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description. . . . One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other 'This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!' . . . I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right, (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong) and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong. . . . I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors [believers] of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age . . . yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects all united to persecute me.(Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith - History 1:5-8, 14-19, 22)
Joseph when he gave his official First Vision account, changed this story, he no longer claimed by personal Bible study he was led to the conclusion that all churches were wrong. Instead, he said that two personages ( which later becomes clarified as the Father and the Son) had personally told him that all the churches were wrong and he must join none of them. But no one, either Mormon or non-Mormon, seems ever to have heard of Joseph's encounter with two divine Personages until after 1838. (Dialogue, Autumn 1966, pp. 30-31; Saints Herald, June 29, 1959, pg. 21.)
The account which was published by Dean C. Jessee of the church historical department
in the Spring 1971 issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Mr. Jessee
informs us that this account was recorded “in the Prophet's 1835- 36 Diary by his
scribe, Warren Parrish.” The part of this account we need to focus on is: “. . .I
called on the Lord in mighty prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently
rested down upon me
Other accounts say he was frozen and fearful, they do not appear at the same time and there is no mention of this is my beloved son.
Some interesting changes and additions
In 1823, 3 years after his encounter with the Father and Son in 1820 who told him all churches are wrong, “After strong solicitations to unite with one of those different societies [churches], ... his [Smith's] mind was led to more seriously contemplate the importance of a move of this kind. ...To unite with a society professing to be built upon the only sure foundation, and that profession be a vain one, was calculated in its very nature... to arouse the mind to the serious consequences of moving hastily in a course fraught with eternal realities. To say he was right, and still be wrong, could not profit [him]; and amid so many [churches], some must be built upon the sand. In this situation where could he [Smith] go?” (DS Messenger and Advocate, Dec. 1834, p.43, Also “Letters By Oliver Cowdery, To W.W. Phelps, On The Origin Of The Book Of Mormon, and The Rise Of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,” pp. 16-17, 1844)
Why confusion on his part after so clear an answer from the personages that all the churches are apostate?
What makes an even greater contradiction in this time-period is that Fayette Lapham said that about 1830 Smith's father told him that Joseph had joined the Baptist church in about 1824 (Historical Magazine, Vol. 8, No. 5, May 1870, pp. 305-306)
Joseph Smith "caught a spark of Methodism and became a very passible exhorter in the evening meetings" (History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase, 1851, p. 214).Then we also have the story of Joseph Smith joining a Methodist church class in 1828, which had him being disobedient to the divine command directly heard from God “to join none of them. That is quite a strange thing to do if one is condemning everyone as an apostate, to join with them, this would make one an apostate as well.This is a serious move on Smiths part and yet Mormons want us to believe this cleaned up version they hand to everyone of him being persecuted for his vision.
Honest question’s need an honest answer’s. In the year 1832 Joseph Smith claimed to have a revelation which stated that a man could not see God without the Priesthood. How could Joseph Smith have seen the Father and the Son in 1820. It is claimed that “The Father and the Son appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith before the Church was organized and the priesthood restored to the earth” (Doctrines of Salvation, by Joseph Fielding Smith, vol. 1, p.4).
Is Smith exempt from the rules he himself delivered? Doctrine and Covenants clearly says that without the Priesthood no man can see God and live. Smith did not claim to have the Priesthood in 1820. Those who believe in the necessity of the restoration of the Priesthood overlook that it was the year 1832 when Joseph Smith claimed to have a revelation which stated that a man could not see God without the Priesthood. This revelation is published as Section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In verses 21-22 we read: “And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; “For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.”
The Mormon church claims “There was no man scarcely upon the earth that had a true conception of God . . . But all this was swept away in one moment by the appearance of . . . God, the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, to the boy Joseph. . . . The Father came accompanied by the Son, thus showing that there were two personages of the God-head ... Joseph saw that the Father had a form; that He had a head; that He had arms; that He had limbs; that he had feet; that He had a face and a tongue . . .” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 24, pp.371-72). In other words he saw God as a man, and he saw His face. Smith is saying he saw God’s face, His form, more than just His glory.
The Bible-Exodus 33:20, God says, “There shall no man see me and live.” In the Old Testament they saw theophanies appearances of God in glory but no prophet including Moses saw what Smith claims he did. “Jesus said “Not that any man has seen the Father, save He which is of God, he has seen the Father” (John 6:46), meaning Jesus was more than man, he was God. The Mormon vision is challenging the New Testament revelation that had brought closure to such appearances on earth. (until he returns when every eye will see him).
John 1:18 “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Jesus has declared, made the Father known” The apostle John who was hand picked by Jesus makes it clear, he writes no man has seen the Father. This makes this apostle a liar.
Smith supposedly had a greater revelation than the apostles had on the mount of transfiguration. When Jesus was physically ON EARTH. The Father only spoke and Jesus showed God’s glory that was contained in his body. Smith sees what no man has ever seen except Jesus, he sees the Father. This is something the Bible has never retracted.
1 Tim. 6:15-16 speaking of Jesus the son “which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.”
Who is right Jesus or Joseph Smith? This is no simple choice because it has one go down one road or another. If Jesus is right then Smith did not see the Father and whoever appeared to him was wanting him tot think he was indeed the Father and the Son. If Smith did actually see the Father, then Jesus is wrong and anything else He said is untrue.
Heb 8:1 “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, Heb 1:13 “But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? Since he has vanquished all his enemies he is still at the right hand of God.
Mormon, Dr. Hugh Nibley, of Brigham Young University, states that Joseph Smith did not publish the official account until 1842: “Joseph Smith's 'official' account of his first vision and the visits of the angel Moroni was written in 1838 and first published in the Times and Seasons in 1842” (Improvement Era, July 1961, p.490).
Apostle John A. Widtsoe stated: “It was an extraordinary experience. Never before had God the Father and God the Son appeared to mortal man” (Joseph Smith--Seeker After Truth, p.4). If the God the Father and his son appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820, why would this be withheld from the public, after all there was no church left on earth. Why no mention of this “important” event until 1842, twenty-two years afterwards? Considering Smith telling stories, it is doubtful he could hold this in.
The first published Mormon history began with Joseph's collaboration in 1834 by Oliver Cowdery. Joseph's own description of the first vision was not published until 1842, twenty-two years after the supernatural event occurred. “If something happened that spring morning in 1820, it passed totally unnoticed in Joseph's home town, and apparently did not even fix itself in the minds of members of his own family. The awesome vision he described in later years may have been the elaboration of some half-remembered dream stimulated by the early revival excitement and reinforced by the rich folklore of visions circulating in his neighborhood. Or it may have been sheer invention, created some time after 1834 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging.” (No Man Knows My History, New York, 1957, pp.24-25).
The fact is we are told by smith “At about the age of twelve years my mind became Seriously imprest with regard to the all important concerns for the wellfare [sic] of my immortal Soul which led me to Searching the Scriptures believing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God . . . thus from the age twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things . . . and by Searching the Scriptures I found that . . . there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament . . . [“An Analysis of the Accounts Relating Joseph Smith's Early Visions,” (by Paul R. Cheesman, Master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1965, pp.127-28).
On page 2 and 3 of his 1832 diary (Ensign, December 1984 pp. 24-26, Jan. 1985, p. 11; The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, compiled and edited by Dean C. Jessee, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, pages 4-6) Joseph Smith wrote in his own hand an account of his First Vision and his thoughts preceding it. On page 2 of the diary Joseph Smith he writes: “...by searching the scriptures I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatized from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built up the gospel of Jesus Christ...” On page 3 of the diary we notice that Joseph did not ask Jesus which of the sects was right and which he should join. Because he already knew the answer as a result of searching the Scriptures! In the official version (Joseph Smiths History 1:18) Joseph does ask which church is true. (Be sure to count all the contradictions up as they will be in the dozens before we are finished with this Prophets story.)
“After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. THICK DARKNESS gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as I were DOOMED TO SUDDEN DESTRUCTION. 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. 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. (LDS Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, No. 11, April 1, 1842, p. 748. See also History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Period 1, Vol. 1, pp. 5-6, 1946)
Why did Smith first think he was in the presence of an “enemy” being in the presence of the Almighty? Maybe his first instinct was correct, because what transpires in his account is probably the most challenging assault on the Word of God since the garden and Church of Jesus Christ in all of history.
There are several events recorded that took place while Joseph was in the woods praying that are missing in the official account: He was almost overcome by an evil power; his tongue was bound; a pillar of light fell upon him; he was “...delivered from the enemy...” he saw two personages who defy description, but they are described quite well in other accounts.
Mormon historian Scott H. Faulring, recorded are at least three accounts of the first vision. The earliest account is found in Smith's own handwriting in his diary between July 20 and November 27, 1832, this is twelve years after the event had taken place. He states he saw only the person of Christ who announced that his sins were forgiven. In this first account there is no record of seeing angels or conversation as to which church to join. He also says he was 16 years old at the time. In the church newspaper, Messenger and Advocate, dated February 1835, Oliver Cowdery, Smith's cousin and confidant, begins the church history and includes a second account of the first vision. In this account neither the Father nor the Son are mentioned, but a “personage stood before him” described as a “messenger [an angel] sent by commandment of the Lord.” On November 9,1835 Smith dictated a third account of the first vision, found in his diary. This account grew out of a discussion with a “Jewish minister” where he claimed to be “about 14 years old.” A second person appears in this account “like unto the first” who “testifyed [sic] unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” The second person is not identified as God the Father, but rather seems to be an angelic being bearing testimony to Jesus. Again, there is no discussion as to which church to join. Not until March 1,1842, in the Times and Seasons, twenty-two years after the event was supposed to taken place did the church newspaper mention two personages (Christ and God) appearing to him simultaneously. This became the official account found today in Pearl of Great Price.
The official story that they have today was not accepted for inclusion in the standard works until 1880. (Ensign, Dec. 1984, p. 38; Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 3:1071, under Pearl of Great Price.) It can now be found in the Mormon Scripture Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith-History 1:1-20, pages 47-50, 1981 Ed.
Some comparisons through Mormon history -today and yesteryear that contradict
His mother states it began at home with him searching the scriptures, the story has him going to the woods.
Joseph’s mother Lucy’s unpublished account traces the origin of Mormonism to a bedroom visit by an angel. Not a vision of the Father and the Son in the Sacred Grove. Joseph at the time had been pondering which of all the churches were the true one. The angel told him ““there is not a true church on Earth, No, not one” (First draft of Lucy Smith's History, p. 46, LDS Church Archives).
Joseph's own mother knew nothing of an 1820 vision she attributes the origin of Mormonism to an angel visiting Josephs bedroom in their home.
“I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision and saw two GLORIOUS PERSONAGES who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon-day. They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom. And I was expressly commanded to ‘go not after them....” (LDS Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, No. 9, March 1, 1842, pp. 706-707)
As the end result of all the vision stories, it brings doubt to what God has said in his word and the church able to keep to his word.
The Bible warns of both dreams, visions, and visitations are to be tested by the WORD of GOD. Smith was unable to do this because the message he received was that the word of God is wrong, so he was convinced that he would be told by a visitation and an experience would correct it. Here is where we see the same thing the Devil Did to Eve bringing doubt to what God already said “Has God said?” Smith being a young boy and naïve to deception is awe struck by a supernatural experience and divorced himself from any biblical way to test its truthfulness. He had no choice in the matter. It is the same for every Mormon today, when they believe Smith they receive the same package he did, and they too are unable to use the Bible to find the truth.
Apostle John A. Widtsoe said that, “the First Vision of 1820 is of first importance in the history of Joseph Smith. Upon its reality rest the truth and value of his subsequent work” (Joseph Smith--Seeker After Truth, p.19). So they know that if the prophet can be disproven to be consistent or accurate they can have no religion based on the prophet’s revelation.
Joseph Fielding Smith said, “If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who wilfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false, for the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all truth. If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect. The doctrines of false teachers will not stand the test when tried by the accepted standards of measurement the scriptures.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, page 188 by Joseph Fielding Smith.)
The VISION or Visions
1820 Joseph Smith purportedly has First Vision of God the Father and Jesus, (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2:3 & 17-19). We know Smiths age to be 15 having been born in Dec.15, 1805.
The immediate conflict is that Joseph is 15 years old, not 14 as the “present” official version states (Joseph Smiths History 1:7, 14).
1827Wilford Woodruff, the fourth LDS prophet, also said that Mormonism “commenced by an angel
of God flying through the midst of heaven and visiting a young man named Joseph Smith, in the year 1827.” He said that Smith was confused by sectarian claims, so he read James 1:5 and then prayed and asked God which church to join. He then
said, "The Lord heard his prayer and sent his angel to him, who informed him that all the sects were wrong, and that the God of heaven was about to establish His work upon the earth” (J. of D., Vol XHI, p. 324).
If the Lord Himself gave that message to Smith in 1820, how can an angel give it to him in 1827?1832 the First Vision account was recorded for the first time. During the year of 1832, Joseph Smith kept a diary. In it, He writes, “...I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness.... and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the 16th year … I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph my Son they Sins are forgiven thee.. . . the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the 16th year of my age a piller [sic] of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee, go [sic] thy way walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed [sic] for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life behold the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside (sic] from the gospel and keep not my commandments 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 to visit them according to this ungodliness and to bring to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Apostles behold and lo I come quickly as it was w[r]itten of me in the cloud clothed in the glory of my Father. . . . (Joseph Smith's 1832 Diary).
This is the only account in Smith's own handwriting and it contains numerous differences that are contradictory with the official account. First is Joseph Smith's age, Joseph Smith writes says he was “in the 16th year of my youth,” not 15 and “I saw the Lord... (who) was crucifyed for the world.”
Also his reason for seeking the Lord, the question of a revival at that time, and the presence of an evil power. Lord said he was “crucifyed for the world.” This, of course, would mean that the personage had to be Jesus Christ. There is no mention of the God the Father in his first account of the vision, certainly an important person to forget. If God the Father had actually appeared in this vision, Joseph Smith certainly would have not have excluded this information in his first account for the Father would be greater than the son as he is only his offspring like us according to Mormonism. Also this account says “my son thy sins are forgiven thee.” The later version also uses the word son, but this time it no longer refers to Joseph Smith but rather to another personage in the vision: “One of them spoke unto me, calling me by name, and said, (pointing to the other.) “This is my beloved Son, hear him.” Which is not in the account.
1834 The church receives New First Vision information on Joseph Smith's age.
Oliver Cowdery, one of the original Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, and whose name still appears in the front of every Book of Mormon today, wrote the following record of the events in Joseph Smith's experince. “I shall, therefore, pass over that, till I come to the 15th year of his life....” (Messenger and Advocate, Vol. 1, December 1834, p.42).
Francis W. Kirkham, in his book A New Witness For Christ In America, (vol. 1, p.17), says: The first published consecutive account of the origin of the Church began in the October, 1834, issue of the Messenger and Advocate. It consists of eight letters written by Oliver Cowdery to W. W. Phelps. This account is very important as Oliver Cowdery claims in a letter published in the October, 1834, issue, but dated September 7, 1834, that Joseph Smith assisted him in the writing of the letters.
The February, 1835 issue of the Messenger and Advocate p.78, Oliver Cowdery told how Joseph Smith made his first contact with God: You will recollect that I mentioned the time of a religious excitement, in Palmyra and vicinity to have been in the 15th year of our brother J. Smith Jr's age--that was an error in the type--it should have been in the 17th.--You will please remember this correction, as it will be necessary for the full understanding of what will follow in time. This would bring the date down to the year 1823. . . . while this excitement continued, he continued to call upon the Lord in secret for a full manifestation of divine approbation, and for, to him, the all important information, if a Supreme being did exist, to have an assurance that he was accepted of him. . . . On the evening of the 21st of September, 1823, previous to retiring to rest, our brother's mind was unusually wrought up on the subject which had so long agitated his mind--his heart was drawn out in fervent prayer. . . . While continuing in prayer for a manifestation . . . on a sudden a light like that of day, . . . burst into the room.--. . . and in a moment a personage stood before him . . . he heard him declare himself to be a messenger sent by commandment of the Lord, to deliver a special message, and to witness to him that his sins were forgiven . . .” (Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1, pp.78-79).Joseph Smith assisted in this writing and this is supposed to be a “correct” account. Notice he says “ I mentioned the time of a religious excitement, in Palmyra and vicinity to have been in the 15th year of our brother J. Smith's age -- that was an error in the type -- it should have been in the 17th.” Now we already have him being three different ages, so far 15, 16 and 17 years old. And this is from one a personal contemporary of his time. Cowdery records Joseph Smith desired to know at this time “if a Supreme being did exist” and this is 3 years after he was to have met the Father and the Son. Smith was pursuing an experience, and we all know who can deliver one if so desired. A “messenger sent by commandment of the Lord” appeared to him and told him that his sins were forgiven taking place in his room not the grove. How can this be reconciled with Joseph Smith's later story that he saw the Father and the Son in 1820 and said the same thing?
How could Joseph Smith did not even know “if a Supreme being did exist” if he had seen the God Father and the Son in 1820, 3 years earlier, as the official account has states. Unless he thought that the Father and the son are not supreme as God! Is there supposed to be one greater? So far we have the dates, his age, where it occurred and who was involved all different.
What make this suspicious and even convincing of error is that Oliver Cowdery was named the official “Church Historian,” the “Cowdery Letters” are to be the authentic record of what took place to begin Mormonism. Cowdery wrote “by laying before the world a CORRECT statement of events as they have transpired....” (LDS Messenger and Advocate, December 1834, pp. 41-42, “Letters By Oliver Cowdery, To W.W. Phelps, On The Origin of The Book Of Mormon, and The Rise Of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints,” p. 15, 1844)
He also wrote “everyIMPORTANT OCCURRENCE.... every MANIFESTATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT... to be of IMPORTANCE....”(LDS Messenger and Advocate, February 1835, pp. 77-78, “Letters By Oliver Cowdery, To W.W. Phelps, On The Origin Of The Book Of Mormon, And The Rise Of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints,” pp. 17-18, 1844)
Cowdery set out providing a full and accurate account of “EVERY IMPORTANT OCCURRENCE.” But he neglected to mention any vision of the Father and the son prior to Smith's vision of Moroni, in 1823! The 1834 - 1835 “Cowdery Letters” are missing this all important visitation.
Apostle” Widtsoe said “the First Vision of 1820 is of first importance in the history of Joseph Smith. Upon its reality rest the truth and value of his subsequent work” We agree, so lets go on.
1835, Smith again in his diary gives another version of his First Vision
“ 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 the first: he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee. He testified also unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God. “I saw many angels in this vision. I was about 14 years old when I received this first communication” (The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings, Vol. 1, pp. 125-127, Joseph Smith, also An American Prophet's Record, The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith, edited by Scott H. Faulring, p. 51).
Now we have him being 4 different ages with multiple interpretations of the same event. He is now 14, instead of 15,16,17. This time it is from Smith who knows his own birthday of 1805 and the date of 1820 when this was supposed to have happened.
November 15, 1835 in the History of the Church Joseph Smith made this statement: “This afternoon, Erastus Holmes, of Newbury, Ohio, called on me to inquire about the establishment of the church, and to be instructed in doctrine more perfectly. I gave him a brief relation of my experience while in my juvenile years, say from six years old up to the time I received the first visitation of angels, which was when I was about fourteen years old; also the revelations that I received afterwards concerning the Book of Mormon, and a short account of the rise and progress of the church up to this date (History of the Church Vol. 11, p.312; Deseret News, vol. 2, no.15, May 29, 1852).
“in the Prophet's 1835- 36 Diary by his scribe, Warren Parrish.” The important part
of this account reads as follows: . . .I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, a pillar of
fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon me
This account has “many angels in this vision.” Neither of the other versions record that there were “many angels.” Again this is a diary account which does not identify at all who these personages are yet prior to this account he was able to easily identify one as lord and another time asGod the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.
A prominent Mormon leader, W.W. Phelps, wrote. “Joseph gave 'a brief relation of my experience while in my juvenile years, say from 6 years old up to the time I received my first visitation of Angels which was when I was about 14 years old...'“ (Ibid, p. 23). no Father or son mentioned but instead several angels not a single angel. They are not mentioned in the or the 1832 account and the Official Account official account has only one angel. Also, Phelps' account of one angel or the others cannot be a reference to the appearance of the Angel Moroni. Because according to the Official Account, Moroni did not make his first appearance until three years after the First Vision. So if the Official account is to be accepted, the First Vision happened in 1820 and it was 1823 before Smith met the angel Moroni.
In the Deseret News, May 29, 1852. “ I received the first visitation of angels, which was when I was about fourteen years old.” (also History of the church vol. 2, p.312)Notice that Joseph Smith stated that “angels” appeared to him in the first vision. The word “angels” had been removed in recent editions of the History of the Church. If they do this in our time what do you think transpired before?
The original handwritten manuscript for this part of Joseph Smith's History reads exactly like the Deseret News: “. . . I received the first visitation of angels . . .” (Manuscript History, Book B-1, p.642). In addition to this, Joseph Smith's 1835-36 diary, p. 37, provides supporting evidence for the word “angels” “ I received the first visitation of angels..”
As many who have examined all the stories have pointed out that after Joseph Smith's death Mormon church leaders made some very confusing statements concerning the first vision. Because we have Joseph Smith's first written accounts of the vision we are able to understand why they were in such a state of confusion. Wesley P. Walters states: “. . . the shift from an angel to Christ, then to angels, and finally to two personages introduced such haziness that even the Mormon leaders appeared confused as to the nature of the story itself” (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1969, p.73).
George A. Smith, first counselor in the First Presidency in 1868, made this statement in November 1868: When Joseph Smith was about fourteen or fifteen years old, . . . there was a revival of religion . . . He had read the Bible and had found that passage in James. . . . he went humbly before the Lord and inquired of Him, and the Lord answered his prayer, and revealed to Joseph, by the ministration of angels, the true condition of the religious world. When the holy angel appeared, Joseph inquired which of all these denominations was right and which he should join, and was told they were all wrong . . . (Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, pp.333-34).
So here we have a single angel, not many angels. Not Jesus, not the Father, but an angel, and it states he inquired from the ANGEL which church to join.
Joseph's own brother, William, stated that the First Vision had one angel, not God and Jesus who told him the message and he was 17 years old not 14 years of age “In 1822 and 1823, the people in our neighborhood were very much stirred up with regard to religious matters by the preaching of a Mr. Lane,....Joseph, then about seventeen years of age,had become seriously inclined,.... “At length he determined to call upon the Lord.... He accordingly went out into the woods.... While engaged in prayer a light appeared in the heavens, and descended until it rested upon the trees where he was. It appeared like fire. But to his great astonishment, did not burn the trees. An angel then appeared to him and conversed with him upon many things. He told him that none of the sects were right;....” (William Smith on Mormonism, Lamoni, Iowa, 1833, quoted in A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 2, p.414-415.)
Angels, angel, different ages, yes the story becomes thick as owe go on. And if your not confused yet, there’s still more…1840 Oliver Cowdery, comes forth with this information.
“You will recollect that I informed you, in my letter published in the first No. of the Messenger and Advocate, that this history would necessarily embrace the life and character of our esteemed friend and brother J. Smith, Jr. ...“I shall, therefore, pass over that, till I come to the thirteenth year of his life” (Times and Seasons, 1 December 1940, p.1).
With the exception of the age of Smith at the time of his First Vision it is an exact quote from the Messenger and Advocate for December 1834 ( Oliver Cowdery's 1834 Account said 17 years of age.)
As with most other versions of the First Vision account, this one also confuses the account. Now Smith was 13 rather than 14,15, 16, or 17 years old, which means the First Vision took place in 1818! Or the other option he was born in 1807 for it to occur in 1820.
1855 Eleven years after the death of Joseph Smith, the second prophet of the Mormon Church, Brigham Young, seemed to be just as dazed and confused about who Smith saw that day in the Sacred Grove as were many other LDS leaders,Young explained the following story in which he denied that the Lord came to Joseph Smith in the first vision:
But as it was in the days of our Savior, so was it in the advent of this new dispensation. It was not in accordance with the notions, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas of the American people. The messenger did not come to an eminent divine of any of the so-called orthodoxy, he did not adopt their interpretations of the Holy Scriptures. The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek, the lowly, and the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowledge of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong . . . (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p.171).
What about the Jesus saying he would not come back until Israel says blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Yet he made a special appearance almost 1900 years later to a boy in the woods. Is this believable after all the contradictions we have surveyed?
Brigham Young says, “the Lord did not come” to Joseph Smith in the first vision, but instead sent “sent his angel.” Is he a prophet who doesn’t know what the first prophet said? I think this would be closer to the truth of the story than any other.
1879 John Taylor became the third prophet of the LDS Church in October 1880. He gave a sermon discussing Smith's First Vision. Taylor, in agreement with Brigham Young, stated… John Taylor, the third president of the church, made the following statement on March 2, 1879: “. . . just as it was when the Prophet Joseph asked the angel which of the sects was right that he might join it. The answer was that none of them are right. What, none of them? No. We will not stop to argue that question; the angel merely told him to join none of them that none of them were right” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 20, p.167).
Both Taylor and Young agree with each other and contradict the official account of the First Vision as told by LDS Missionaries today. According to Young, neither God the Father nor God the Son came to speak with Smith at the First Vision not angels as in the 1835 version. Rather, the Lord sent one of His angels. Now we might have come to the truth, we are warned about angels coming from heaven with another Gospel message in Gal.1:6-9 so crucial is this warning that Paul gives further insight by saying in 2 Cor.11:14 that Satan himself appears as an angel of light, exactly what Smith describes in his experience. Now that is bible truth to digest.
To add more intrigue to the story of Smith, in 1816 a minister by the name of Elias
Smith published a book in which he told of his conversion. The similarity to Joseph
Smith's first account is so similar that it brings into suspect who got what where. “. .
. I went into the woods . . . a light appeared from heaven. . . . My mind seemed to rise
in that light to the throne of God and the Lamb. . . . The Lamb once slain appeared to my
understanding, and while viewing him, I felt such love to him as I never felt to any thing
earthly. . . . It is not possible for me to tell how long I remained in that situation . .
.” (The Life, Conversion, Preaching, Travels, and Sufferings of Elias Smith,
Portsmouth, N.H., 1816, pp.58-59).
Then there is another revelation which is very similar to the story Joseph Smith published. It was published in the Wayne Sentinel (the paper to which the family of Joseph Smith apparently subscribed) on October 22, 1823: “It seemed as if my mind was struck motionless, as well as into nothing, before the awful and glorious majesty of the Great Jehovah. He then spake . . . He also told me, that every denomination of professing christians had become extremely corrupt. . . .”(from changing world of Mormonism)
Is it a coincidence that Smith had this experience and received the same words as others who came before him? Well maybe God was showing them all the same thing the same way around the same time, or Maybe not.
Some have counted at least 9 different versions of the First Vision from Joseph Smith and those who represent the Mormon church with whom he shared details with. The official version did not appear in any LDS official publication until March and April 1842, (Times and Season, Vol. III, No. 10, March 15, 1842, pages 726-728 and Vol .III, No, 11, April 1, 1842, pages 748-749.) 22 years after the alleged vision. Someone’s memory was just not the same.
How can so many prophets and apostles of the Mormon church who says they have the truth have a different story of the original prophets commission?
Which story can we trust? The only account of the “First Vision” written in Joseph's own hand in 1832 which mentions only Jesus, NOT the Father? Or should he accept Smith's “1835-1836 diary” version which includes neither the son or the Father but various “angels” sent to forgive his sins? Or should he accept Smiths first published account where he is visited by two unidentified “glorious personages” that look alike. Do Mormon pictures show them looking like each other. Young tells us neither God the Father nor God the Son came to speak with Smith at the First Vision. The Lord sent one of his angels who told Smith to join no church for they were all wrong. This is the same question Smith asked of the Father and the Son in the Sacred Grove that was answered in the Official Account.
Joseph said, “I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision...,” (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smiths History 1:25) How could he be persecuted when he kept it unknown and it was not widely known until it was published in 1842, twenty-two years afterwards. What about the account of the “First Vision,” recorded in the History of the Church? As we have looked over all the stories from Smith to His apostles to the prophets of the church we can clearly see one thing-- it is not like the apostles recording the account of Jesus, they were accurate, the Mormon churches apostles and prophets are not. Why? For the simple reason that we can’t harmonize all these contradictions into one story. In the light of such strong contradictory evidence over the period of their history, the First Vision story must be regarded as only the invention of Joseph Smith's highly imaginative mind or that there was a spiritual experience which then later brought confusion to his whole life and started an apostate Christian church. Remember the official story was not accepted for inclusion in the standard works until 1880. (Ensign, Dec. 1984, p. 38; Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 3:1071, under Pearl of Great Price.) Joseph is 15 years old, not 14 as in the official version (Joseph Smiths History 1:7, 14); The last official version story was published in Times and Seasons 20 years after the First Vision and contained information not in any of the diaries. Much of the many details cannot be covered here because this would turn into a book.
Now if they can’t even get the first story right in the early period how can anyone take seriously anything transmitted during and 150 years afterward? So many different versions that all connected to the author that it becomes impossible for one to trust in the facts given. Which facts? Those who were 150 years ago had different ones and they were closer to the time. This would be like Moses writing about the creation account with Adam and Eve and then Jesus coming along saying their names are different, it wasn’t in Eden, and then Paul comes along and has a whole other story to tell. How believable would the Bible be if this were what was presented? Yet Mormons do not look into their own history to see the variable testimonies of their prophet and the contradictions of Smith Jr.’s age, who visited him, the time period etc.
So what is left to choose? Mormons can either reject the messages of earlier LDS apostles and prophets and hold to the new LDS apostles and prophets. But this affects the validity of yesterday’s church spokesmen. If it does not affect today’s spokesmen then it affects those closest to the time of the story and some who knew Joseph Smith personally. If they accept todays story as true then those who Mormon leaders throughout the time period of their history got it wrong. How can one base their faith on something so shaky?
Lets end this with an apostle and prophet from the church sum up what is and is not accurate: Apostle Hugh B. Brown stated, “The First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith constitutes the groundwork of the Church which was later organized. If this First Vision was but a figment of Joseph Smith's imagination, then the Mormon Church is what its detractors declare it to be - a wicked and deliberate imposture” (The Abundant Life, pp. 310-311).
Heber J. Grant, prophet of the LDS Church stated, “Either Joseph Smith did see God and did converse with him, and God himself did introduce Jesus Christ to the boy Joseph Smith, and Jesus did tell Joseph Smith that he would be the instrument in the hands of God of establishing again upon the earth the true gospel of Jesus Christ - or Mormonism, so called, is a myth” (Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Alma Burton, p. 18).
Paul the apostle picked By Jesus who showed up in glory and spoke to him later warns that even if an angel from heaven visits you and gives a different gospel as this visitor did to Joseph Smith, he is accursed. Why not believe what was delivered by the Holy Spirit through the writers of the Bible?
There is a simple solution to all this confusion. Don't rely upon new prophets words that deny what the old prophets said! The only infallible standard of eternal truth is God's Word, the Holy Bible. The Mormon needs to learn to TRUST THE BIBLES WORD!
Sources used the changing world of Mormonism by the Tanners and Mormon resources