The First Vision Essay is Dishonest

Sarony May 2014

The First Vision essay by the church is fundamentally dishonest because it omits two official, published accounts. ... s?lang=eng
These two accounts are by Oliver Cowdery in 1835 and Brigham Young in 1855.

Cowdery's account covers three critical elements that, taken together, are contrary to the 1838 version.

First Element: Joseph was inquiring about true religion when he got the “first vision”.

Second Element: Joseph’s “first vision” was with an angel, named [Nephi] Moroni, and NOT with a god (Jesus and/or The Father).

Third Element: Joseph’s “first vision” would include information of an ancient, buried record (gold plates).

Oliver Cowdery's account was approved by Joseph Smith and it was published in The Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 1 (Feb 1835) 77-80. That periodical was as official as today's 'Ensign' and

Here is Oliver Cowdery’s account.

First Element
“… [t]his would bring us down to the year 1823 ….
… 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…

Comment: Joseph was obviously enquiring about true religion if he did not know in 1823 ” if a Supreme Being did exist ….” This also is a serious problem for any pre-1823 vision of Smith’s.

Second Element
“On the evening of the 21st of September, 1823 … and in a moment a personage stood before him…

Third Element
“… and also gave a history of the aborigines of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham … this history was written and deposited not far from that place ….” (Oliver Cowdery to W. W. Phelps, published in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 1 (Feb 1835) 77-80).

Brigham Young's Account
On February 18, 1855, Young spoke of Smith’s prophetic call. Young emphatically asserts it was an angel and not God who visited first. This is consistent with Cowdery's account.
Here is an excerpt of what Young said, followed by the full text.
“The Lord … did send His angel to … Joseph Smith Jun. … and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day ….

“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 interpretation 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, 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; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that He had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before Him.”
(Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 2: 171.)

Mother Smith, William Smith (Joseph's brother), and Oliver Cowdery were close to Joseph Smith in the early days before 1830. I believe it is safe to assume they received first-hand accounts of Smith’s earliest visions.

Mother Smith’s account (1845) is identical Cowdery's account (1835) and William Smith's account (1841), in these three significant elements.

Historians lend more credence to accounts that are independent, have diverse motivations to record them, are the earliest, and independently agree on key elements.

(1)Mother Smith, William Smith and Oliver Cowdery knew Joseph personally before 1829, because
(2)their accounts are independent and corroborate these three details, because
(3)they are from people who are friendly to Smith and to his reputation, and finally because
(4)the details are contrary to the 1838 Official Version of the First Vision,
the details are probably accurately recorded and in line with Smith’s stories at the time he told them.

Here is Mother Smith’s account, taken from Dan Vogel’s collection of Early Mormon Documents:

[1845 MS 1, CONT.]
About this The 3[rd] harvest time88 had now arrived since we opened our new farm and all the our sons were actively employed in assisting their Father to cut down the grain and storing it away in order, for winter One evening we were sitting till quite late conversing upon the subject of the diversity of churches that had risen up in the world and the many thousand opinions in exis=tence as to the truths contained in scripture[.] Joseph who never said many words upon any subject but always seemed to reflect more deeply than com=mon persons of his age upon everything of a religious nature

Second Detail
This After we ceased conversation he went to bed and but he had not laid there long till a bright
entered the room where he lay he looked up and saw an angel of the Lord stood by him

First Detail
The angel spoke[:] I perceive that you are enquiring in your mind which is the true church[.] there is not a true church on Earth[,] No not one[,] Nor has not been since Peter took the Keys 90 into the Kingdom of Heaven[.] The churches that are now upon the Ear=th are all man made churches.

Third Detail
Joseph there is a record for you and you must get it one day get it There is a record for [p. 40] you and Joseph when you have learned to keep the com-mandments of God but you cannot get it untill you learn to keep the commandments ofGod[.] But it is to bring forth that light and intelligence which has been long lost in the Earth[.] Now Joseph beware when you go to get the plates your mind will be filled with darkness and all maner of evil will rush into your mind To keep

you hom keeping the comman=dments of God and you must tell your father of this for he will believe every word you say[.] the record is on a side hill on the Hill of cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone[,] pry that … Brigham Young condemned Mother Smith’s original memoirs: “the book contained errors, occasioned by its not being carefully compared with historical data ….” (Introduction to the First Utah Edition of “History of Joseph Smith, by his Mother Lucy Mack Smith”). Young “suppressed and destroyed” (ibid) the original. But Young’s revision committee of “George A. Smith and Judge Elias Smith, cousins of the Prophet” (ibid). It is significant that Young did not change Mother Smith’s above account in these three critical elements, despite extensive revision of the entire book. V. And here is William Smith’s 1841 account: First Detail About the year 1823, there was a revival of religion in that region, and Joseph was one of several hopeful converts. The others were joining, some one church, and some another, in that vicinity, but Joseph hesitated between the different denominations. While his mind was perplexed with this subject … Second Detail … he prayed for divine direction, and afterwards was awaked one night by an extraordinary vision. The glory of the Lord filled the chamber with a dazzling light, and a glorious angel appeared to him and told him that he was a chosen vessel of the Lord to make known true religion. Comment: Joseph was in “the chamber” which is likely his bedroom and definitely is not a sacred grove. Third Detail After this he had other similar visions, in one of which the existence of certain metallic plates was revealed to him, and their location described–about three miles off, in a pasture ground. The next day he went alone to the spot, and by digging discovered the plates in a sort of rude stone box. They were eight or ten inches long, less in width, about the thickness of panes of glass, and together made a pile of about five or six inches high. They were in a good state of preservation, had the appearance of gold, and bore inscriptions in strange characters on both sides. [17] The “First Vision” as told modernly, with the account of the Father and the Son does not get untangled from these earlier accounts until the current official account. This is one reason these early accounts are overlooked. VI. When Smith had leadership crises, he revised his stories to strengthen his position over his rivals (Rigdon, Whitmer, Cowdery). The first crisis was 1832 when he wrote of a theophany where he saw “The Lord”. The next crisis was in 1835 when he wrote two angels appeared to him, the first one testifying Jesus was the Son of God. The next crisis was 1838 (Cowdery was excommunicated at this time) where the God-visit (“which church do I join?”) gets finally untangled from the Angel-visit (“which church do I join?”). What are we to learn from these accounts by intimates of Smith? How could Smith have so misrepresented the “First Vision” to his mother, brother, and to the Second Elder of the Church, before 1830, to have them tell the same critical elements that are contrary to the official version?
Templar Re: The First Vision Essay is Dishonest Why would anyone expect to get honest information from a dishonest organization?
GNPE Re: The First Vision Essay is Dishonest Lies have a 'Nasty Habit' of catching up, 'eh?
mrtranquility Even if you cut JS some slack for not getting the details right... There are two kinds of memory: semantic and episodic. Semantic memory has to do with basic facts like generally who, where, and when. Overall, human semantic memory is not too bad, less than perfect, but not too bad. Episodic memory deals with what a person may have said during a certain occurrence. Human episodic memory is generally lousy. When you look at the multiple versions of the FV it contains gross errors in SEMANTIC memory. So if God, the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ appeared to you, how could you ever get that detail wrong!!!???!!! You may jumble what God told you, but how could you confuse the person(s) who told you, especially when they explicitly identified themselves??? The very start of my deconversion was that I had some doubts, so I did some research and bought Grant Palmer's book. I read the chapter on different versions of the FV and that was it, I was done - deconverted in 30 minutes. When someone tells very disparate versions of the same story they're obviously fibbing or delusional. That's something we learn in Kindergarten. There's really nothing to discuss or debate - it's end of story.
Sarony Re: Even if you cut JS some slack for not getting the details right... Interesting about Semantic memory. Interesting because three expressions using episodic memory are semantically harmonious. This would be the episodic accounts of Oliver Cowdery, Mother Smith, and William Smith. They get three critical elements semantically the same.
Wally Dauter Re: The First Vision Essay is Dishonest It certainly creates doubt as to the 1838 version. And it suggests the church will not change unless it is dragged, kicking and screaming, to a damaging factual disclosure. Therefore, people should insist all unofficial versions should be disclosed in the essay.
Wally Dauter Ahem! Ahem! "Official" not "unofficial."
Stray Mutt Re: The First Vision Essay is Dishonest Well, the whole 1st Vision thing is a lie itself, so...

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