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Your Vision Of The First Vision

Your view of the First Vision  

153 members have voted

  1. 1. How do you believe the First Vision to be

    • A literal visitation in the flesh
      88
    • An awake, spiritual vision
      25
    • A divinely inspired dream-vision to Joseph Smith
      10
    • Pious fraud
      18
    • Deception
      12
  2. 2. Who appeared to Joseph Smith?

    • God the Father and Jesus Christ
      103
    • The Lord
      1
    • An Angel or angels
      1
    • Hard to define, because it was a visionary spiritual experience
      22
    • He made it up
      26


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I just read Mormon Heretic's Wheat and Tares post covering an interview with Richard Bushman's Mormon Stories interview on the topic of Multiple First Vision Accounts. I thought the interview was fascinating, and Richard's comments insightful.

I posted on my blog a response entitled "My Vision of the First Vision".

What is your vision of the First Vision?

Edited by wayfarer

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Just what the living apostles and prophets say it was.

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers...

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;"

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In regards to the first three choices for each question, in asking which of these is true I humbly quote the late Truman G. Madsen: "Yes."

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Just what the living apostles and prophets say it was.

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers...

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;"

I appreciate the reminder from Paul as to why we have our Church leadership. Although, I'm not sure if we have "evangelists" or "pastors" in the church as currently organized. I certainly hope you didn't include that quote because you feel that I as a "marginal mormon" am here to lie in wait to deceive, but hey. you never know. I could be just another dirty apostate.

But was looking for your view of what Joseph Smith said it was, not the others who came later, reading and interpreting what he said.

In regards to the first three choices for each question, in asking which of these is true I humbly quote the late Truman G. Madsen: "Yes."

I wasn't asking what the late Truman Madsen said, but rather, what YOUR Vision of the First Vision is. Both of you answered with a literal answer, and I appreciate and laud your faith in that view.

So I have a question. Given that Joseph "Came to himself" after the vision (JSH v20), and he himself revealed from Moses, between the various versions of the first vision, that "No man can see god in the flesh and live" (Moses 1:11), how do you reconcile that this was actually a physical manifestation to Joseph Smith in the flesh?

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My belief is matched to Brother Madsen's.

As to your question: transfiguration

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Heavens. 9 votes and only one non-literalist. Am I the only non-literalist on this board?

Not really knowing how "transfiguration" occurs -- in the cases where we've read about it, it doesn't appear that the person being transfigured had a 'power of satan' experience prior, nor did he "come to himself, lying on the ground" afterwards.

The account clearly indicates elements of a lucid dream:

Joseph Smith History 15 ...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 if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

When I was on my mission, I kept having lucid dreams -- dreams where my conscious mind was aware of dreaming, and still within the dream state. I experienced in this state a type of sleep paralysis, which often was quite uncomfortable, and if the dream was very nightmarish, I was unable to speak or move and it was terrifying.

Note in Joseph's case, that he went into a state where his tongue was bound, he felt doomed, oppressive darkness fell about him, and he was unable to respond. This is extremely similar to the feelings I had in lucid dreams.

This is not to take away from the reality of the first vision. I believe, and Section 88 of the doctrine and covenants gives me support in this, that natural processes are always involved in all things in this world: even and especially visions and miracles. A recent prophet said that visions often happen in the boundary between sleeping and awaking: viz., "Lucid Dreams".

Joseph Smith History 20 When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home.

"When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back". Is there any doubt in reading this that "he was not himself" when this all was occurring? It was a "vision" -- he was NOT AWAKE, in the sense of normal consciousness; but he was AWARE during the dream: a perfect description of "Lucid Dream".

Would the idea that the first Vision is indeed a...Vision...alter the reality of the message?

Edited by wayfarer

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I have come to take the 1st vision as a literal phenomenon, you know Nephi spoke of being carried to a mountain were he had never set foot, the NT disciples wanted to build tent after the transfiguration, the literal body was involved in both cases; so what made Joseph Smith case an exception?

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I have come to take the 1st vision as a literal phenomenon, you know Nephi spoke of being carried to a mountain were he had never set foot, the NT disciples wanted to build tent after the transfiguration, the literal body was involved in both cases; so what made Joseph Smith case an exception?

Joseph never used the term "transfiguration" for the First Vision, but rather, the account stands as is. As I note in the message above, the elements of a lucid dream paralysis during the early phases, coupled with "coming to himself while lying on the ground" indicate that he was in a visionary state, and he called it a "Vision". I cannot speak for the historical accuracy of the New Testament record, whether that was a vision, or what have you -- we take it on faith that there is something that happened on the Mount of Transfiguration -- we do not have the details. as for Nephi, I will let another thread deal with the historicity of the book of mormon -- that's not the topic here. The book of mormon, by it's own admission, is not meant to be a historical record, but rather a spiritual one -- one to teach the gospel and to testify of christ.

The challenge with making the First Vision more than the vision Joseph declared it to be, is that it creates the false expectation that an in-person visitation is the gold standard of prophetic revelation. If we read the words of the prophets from Brigham Young onward, there are very, very few mentions of in-person revelation (if any), and more of 'Visions' and dreams. When we realize that revelation really works the way joseph smith said it does, as noted in D&C 8:2-3, and D&C 9, we realize that the prophet, seer, and revelator's mechanism for revelation is spiritual in nature, to the mind and heart of the prophet. This is the true gold standard of revelation, and as Joseph revealed, it is the same process that led Moses, the archtype of a prophet, in leading the hosts of Israel through the desert.

In modeling and teaching us the true principles of revelation, and teaching that such power is available to each of us relative to our individual stewardship through the priesthood, we come to realize the absolute truth of the restored gospel: God reveals his will through the mind and heart of his prophets, and each of the members of the church is entitled to revelation for their life, for their families, and for their calling within the bounds the Lord has set.

Edited by wayfarer

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It took me a while to decide, since I saw the first three answers to both questions as valid.

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Wayfarer my friend, this i must disagree.

In Ex. 24:9-10, they couldn't having been having "lucid dream".

Now, how could Joseph have seen God in a "dream" and yet come to tell me He has a body of "flesh and bone"?

Please! I have no reason to believe it was a "lucid dream".

Edited by cesc101

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Wayfarer my friend, this i must disagree.

In Ex. 24:9-10, they couldn't having been having "lucid dream".

Now, how could Joseph have seen God in a "dream" and yet come to tell me He has a body of "flesh and bone"?

Please! I have no reason to believe it was a "lucid dream".

good questions.

1. We aren't talking about exodus, nor do i say that transfiguration isn't possible. i would still suggest that reconciling exodus 24 with Moses 1 and D&C 8 are required, both of which are modern revelation versus the Torah, which was written 100s of years after the events happened, and have strong evidence of multiple writers, redactors, and editors of the record. As a Latter-day Saint, I certainly would put a priority on Joseph Smith's explicit statements relating tht 1) no man can see god in the flesh, and 2) the revelatory process used by moses was to the heart and mind. i don't discount "transfiguration", whatever that means, or "visions" as being ways to see god.

2. Joseph's most inspired insight about God is the idea of being a resurrected Man. I would put this at the absolutely most essential revealed and unique concept of the restored gospel. it is the key of the Plan of Salvation -- more important, in my impression than any other concept of god.

3. In the First Vision, Joseph relates in the 1838 version that he saw two resurrected personages, God the Father and the Son. He sees in Vision complete human form, as befitting the future insights he was to have about "The Gods". Nothing in the vision says he touched them physically. Why does Joseph have to violate his own doctrine in Moses 1:11 and be there in the flesh?

4. Having had lucid dreams myself, the are quite distinct than ordinary dreams. Being consciously aware, I interacted in the dreams, and my memory of them is far more vivid than a normal dream. Modern prophets have described doctrinally detailed dreams, why could Joseph not do the same?

5. if it were not a dream, then what does he mean when he says he came to himself lying flat on the ground?

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I have come to take the 1st vision as a literal phenomenon, you know Nephi spoke of being carried to a mountain were he had never set foot, the NT disciples wanted to build tent after the transfiguration, the literal body was involved in both cases; so what made Joseph Smith case an exception?

The problem is of course that Paul the Apostle couldn't tell whether he had been transfigured in his great vision (II Cor 12:1-7, including his acceptance of Satan's buffeting of him). The typical phrase indicating transfiguration is "being in the Spirit" (Rev 1:10, D&C 76:11, and other throne theophany visions in which one is caught up into the Divine Council before the Throne of God).*

* Blake Ostler, "The Throne-Theophany and Prophetic Commission in 1 Nephi," FARMS Preliminary Report OST-82 (FARMS 1982; published in BYU Studies, 26/4 [Winter 1986], 67-95). See in particular Geo Widengren, Ascension of the Apostle and the Heavenly Book (King and Saviour III) (1950), for a look at these motifs throughout the ancient Near East; similarly, non-Mormon scholar Willis Barnstone, ed., The Other Bible (1984), 537, was quite taken with the strong parallels he adduced in comparison of the Apocalypse of Paul and the story of Joseph’s obtaining the Book of Mormon (cited by Kevin Barney in FARMS Review of Books, 13/1 [2001], 16, in review of John Tvedtnes’ The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books [2000], 39,99-100, and Appendix I – in turn dependent upon an expanded analysis by Steven Booras).

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Heavens. 9 votes and only one non-literalist. Am I the only non-literalist on this board?

It's flawed- question one doesn't even allow for a non-literalist interpretation like "It's unknowable who appeared if anyone" and then if you skip number 1, it doesn't allow you to post a result.

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Yes, my choice of belief isn't up there. "Literal vision or media presentation." I think the additional fact of a change in state (i.e. transfiguration of Joseph Smith) is a second question.

While I have from time to time certainly pondered on the mechanics of the first vision, I haven't made a conclusion nor do I feel the need to that much. I have tended to take it as a physical arrival of these two people (heavenly Father and Jesus ) on the planet, BUT maybe it was more like a holographic image or whatever media technology heavenly Father needed or wanted to use for the occasion. And/or a manipulation of what we might consider as dimensions in order to arrive at that spot in the woods from wherever it is they actually live.

I do think SOMETHING happened 'externally' to Joseph Smith's mind, although how his mind dealt with that would certainly be brought to bear.

I am not sure what the criteria or definition of pious fraud is, but I am actually nominally open to that, if I understand it correctly, if only because I see this world AS a world of perception, and we are responsible for our perceptions and creations, and I would actually consider this a "perception creation" of Joseph Smith for what he understood to be the true order of humanity and which would necessitate that I ascribe to him spiritual genius. Again, I don't really think this most of the time, but sometimes my ponderings go in that direction and I try it out.

What I really think is that the First Vision needs to be understood less from the perspective of Joseph Smith and ourselves who are asked to believe his report, but from the perspective of a God who would, or would not, arrive, to talk to his children and dispense another dispensation.

And MY God would come :).

Edit: when I say literal vision, I don't mean vision, I just mean they were THERE. (or SOMEONE was there!) That's not a vision. That's a visit. That may or may not compute with what Joseph Smith actually said about it, but that's how I usually take it.

Edited by Maidservant

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Joseph never used the term "transfiguration" for the First Vision, but rather, the account stands as is. As I note in the message above, the elements of a lucid dream paralysis during the early phases, coupled with "coming to himself while lying on the ground" indicate that he was in a visionary state, and he called it a "Vision". I cannot speak for the historical accuracy of the New Testament record, whether that was a vision, or what have you -- we take it on faith that there is something that happened on the Mount of Transfiguration -- we do not have the details.

In Acts 12:7-11, Peter is locked securely in jail and an angel breaks him out: 12:7 the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison, 12:9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. 12:10 the angel departed from him. 12:11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel.

Was Peter in a lucid dream state?

Daniel’s vision of the Lord and angel Gabriel in Dan 8:16-27 [the Lord?] said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. 8:17 I was afraid, and fell upon my face 8:18 I was in a deep sleep upon my face . . ; but he touched me and set me upright. 8:27 And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; . . I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.

Was Daniel in a lucid dream state?

Saul is blinded by vision of Jesus in Acts 9:4-19 (cf. Acts 22 & 26)

Acts 9:3 suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 9:4 And he fell to the earth 9:6 And he trembling and astonished 9:8 And when Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: 9:9 And he was three days without sight, 9:19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened.

Doesn't sound like a lucid dream. Cf. however, Gen 28:11-18, 32:24-31.

Most of these accounts seem to comport with the vision of Moses 1:9 the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; . . And as he was left to himself, he fell unto the earth. 1:10 it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man

The challenge with making the First Vision more than the vision Joseph declared it to be, is that it creates the false expectation that an in-person visitation is the gold standard of prophetic revelation. If we read the words of the prophets from Brigham Young onward, there are very, very few mentions of in-person revelation (if any), and more of 'Visions' and dreams. When we realize that revelation really works the way joseph smith said it does, as noted in D&C 8:2-3, and D&C 9, we realize that the prophet, seer, and revelator's mechanism for revelation is spiritual in nature, to the mind and heart of the prophet. This is the true gold standard of revelation, and as Joseph revealed, it is the same process that led Moses, the archtype of a prophet, in leading the hosts of Israel through the desert.

The "gold standard" of revelation or vision should be inductively arrived at via careful study of the entire range of Scripture, i.e., following good form-critical analysis of the Throne Theophany pattern, which entails Divine Council imagery (see David Bokovoy in Interpreter, 1/1 [2012], online at http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/author/davidb/ ).

In modeling and teaching us the true principles of revelation, and teaching that such power is available to each of us relative to our individual stewardship through the priesthood, we come to realize the absolute truth of the restored gospel: God reveals his will through the mind and heart of his prophets, and each of the members of the church is entitled to revelation for their life, for their families, and for their calling within the bounds the Lord has set.

An excellent way of approaching this matter for those of us who are not prophets called by the Assembly of the Gods, is contained in Elder RIchard G. Scott's address to the Oct 2009 General Conference, transcript published in Ensign, Nov 2009, online at http://www.lds.org/ensign/2009/11/to-acquire-spiritual-guidance?lang=eng . It is a very practical way to obtain revelation without going into a lucid dream state.

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Not really knowing how "transfiguration" occurs -- in the cases where we've read about it, it doesn't appear that the person being transfigured had a 'power of satan' experience prior, nor did he "come to himself, lying on the ground" afterwards.

The account clearly indicates elements of a lucid dream:

Joseph Smith History 15 ...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 if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

When I was on my mission, I kept having lucid dreams -- dreams where my conscious mind was aware of dreaming, and still within the dream state. I experienced in this state a type of sleep paralysis, which often was quite uncomfortable, and if the dream was very nightmarish, I was unable to speak or move and it was terrifying.

Note in Joseph's case, that he went into a state where his tongue was bound, he felt doomed, oppressive darkness fell about him, and he was unable to respond. This is extremely similar to the feelings I had in lucid dreams.

This is not to take away from the reality of the first vision. I believe, and Section 88 of the doctrine and covenants gives me support in this, that natural processes are always involved in all things in this world: even and especially visions and miracles. A recent prophet said that visions often happen in the boundary between sleeping and awaking: viz., "Lucid Dreams".

Joseph Smith History 20 When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home.

"When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back". Is there any doubt in reading this that "he was not himself" when this all was occurring? It was a "vision" -- he was NOT AWAKE, in the sense of normal consciousness; but he was AWARE during the dream: a perfect description of "Lucid Dream".

Some of these elements which you find odd are in fact well-known from other Scriptural accounts (as you can see above). However, as far as Satan is concerned, you may also want to consider the dictum of Ether 12:6 ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. Cf. Moses 1:12 when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, 1:20 Moses began to fear exceedingly: . . calling upon God, he received strength Rev 2:10 behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

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There's no poll option for this, but my answer is "I don't know."

However, I will say that I don't think J.S. was lying. I think he saw, or thought he saw, something. But with the different accounts of the First Vision, along with not having been there myself, I'm not certain what he saw, or what the nature of the vision (physical presence of divine visitor(s), awake dream, sleeping dream, etc.) was.

Edited by DH

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The problem I have with this poll is that, at least for me, the options miss the point. A vision can be both "physical" and "spiritual." That is, a literal visitation in the flesh is at the same time an awake, spiritual vision. Although I never got round to posting it (apologies to MFB and Jeremy Orbe-Smith with whom I was going to share), I spent two or three days in the library a few months back, gathering sources for a blog post on just this topic. A vision is not something which doesn't literally or physically exist. That is to misunderstand the mystic, visionary experience. The hidden nature of things is something that can't be percieved by the senses in an ordinary way, but must be opened by the power of God. It is then that the recipient is able to see things as they truly are. From Enoch, to Elisha, to the blind Christian widows in Rome, to St. Maximus the confessor, to Joseph Smith to the Zlotchover Rebbe, to St. Serafim Sarovsky, to St. Silouan, the visionary experience means seeing into the hidden, beyond what the noraml use of our faculties can reveal.

If one considers Motovilov's recollections of St. Serafim, it becomes obvious that the experience involved the physical, IE., palpable, tangible, physical.

http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/wonderful.aspx

More than once in other passages of Holy Scripture the appearance of God to men is mentioned.

"That is why some people say: 'These passages are incomprehensible. Is it really possible for people to see God so openly?' But there is nothing incomprehensible here. This failure to understand has come about because we have departed from the simplicity of the original Christian knowledge. Under the pretext of education, we have reached such a darkness of ignorance that what the ancients understood so clearly seems to us almost inconceivable. Even in ordinary conversation, the idea of God's appearance among men did not seem strange to them. Thus, when his friends rebuked him for blaspheming God, Job answered them: How can that be when I feel the Spirit of God in my nostrils? (cp. Job 27:3). That is, 'How can I blaspheme God when the Holy Spirit abides with me? If I had blasphemed God, the Holy Spirit would have withdrawn from me; but lo, I feel His breath in my nostrils.'

"In exactly the same way it is said of Abraham and Jacob that they saw the Lord and conversed with Him, and that Jacob even wrestled with Him. Moses and all the people with him saw God when he was granted to receive from God the tables of the law on Mount Sinai. A pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, or, in other words, the evident grace of the Holy Spirit, served as guides to the people of God in the desert. People saw God and the grace of His Holy Spirit, not in sleep or in dreams, or in the excitement of a disordered imagination, but truly and openly...

What else do you feel, your Godliness?"

I answered: "An extraordinary warmth."

"How can you feel warmth, my son? Look, we are sitting in the forest. It is winter out-of-doors, and snow is underfoot. There is more than an inch of snow on us, and the snowflakes are still falling. What warmth can there be?"

I answered: "Such as there is in a bath-house when the water is poured on the stone and the steam rises in clouds."

"And the smell?" he asked me. "Is it the same as in the bath-house?"

"No," I replied. "There is nothing on earth like this fragrance. When in my dear mother's lifetime I was fond of dancing and used to go to balls and parties, my mother would sprinkle me with scent which she bought at the best shops in Kazan. But those scents did not exhale such fragrance."

And Father Seraphim, smiling pleasantly, said: "I know it myself just as well as you do, my son, but I am asking you on purpose to see whether you feel it in the same way. It is absolutely true, your Godliness! The sweetest earthly fragrance cannot be compared with the fragrance which we now feel, for we are now enveloped in the fragrance of the Holy Spirit of God. What on earth can be like it? Mark, your Godliness, you have told me that around us it is warm as in a bath-house; but look, neither on you nor on me does the snow melt, nor does it underfoot; therefore, this warmth is not in the air but in us. It is that very warmth about which the Holy Spirit in the words of prayer makes us cry to the Lord: 'Warm me with the warmth of Thy Holy Spirit!' By it the hermits of both sexes were kept warm and did not fear the winter frost, being clad, as in fur coats, in the grace-given clothing woven by the Holy Spirit. And so it must be in actual fact, for the grace of God must dwell within us, in our heart, because the Lord said: The Kingdom of God is within you (Lk. 17:21). By the Kingdom of God the Lord meant the grace of the Holy Spirit. This Kingdom of God is now within us, and the grace of the Holy Spirit shines upon us and warms us from without as well. It fills the surrounding air with many fragrant odours, sweetens our senses with heavenly delight and floods our hearts with unutterable joy. Our present state is that of which the Apostle says; The Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). Our faith consists not in the plausible words of earthly wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and power (cp. I Cor.2:4). That is just the state that we are in now. Of this state the Lord said: There are some of those standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the Kingdom of God come in power (Mk. 9:1). See, my son, what unspeakable joy the Lord God has now granted us! This is what it means to be in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, about which St. Macarius of Egypt writes: 'I myself was in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.' With this fullness of His Holy Spirit the Lord has now filled us poor creatures to overflowing. So there is no need now, your Godliness, to ask how people come to be in the grace of the Holy Spirit. Will you remember this manifestation of God's ineffable mercy which has visited us?"

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It is difficult for me to decide for myself what exactly happened to Joseph Smith in the grove. I don't know what to make of Joseph Smith other than in some areas of theological thought he was ahead of his time and a revolutionary.

I can't answer the poll because I do not know nor am I concerned with who or what Joseph Smith saw. I do not mean to sound callous.

I have a hard enough time figuring out what it is that I actually believe.

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In Acts 12:7-11, Peter is locked securely in jail and an angel breaks him out: 12:7 the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison, 12:9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. 12:10 the angel departed from him. 12:11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel.

Was Peter in a lucid dream state?

Daniel’s vision of the Lord and angel Gabriel in Dan 8:16-27 [the Lord?] said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. 8:17 I was afraid, and fell upon my face 8:18 I was in a deep sleep upon my face . . ; but he touched me and set me upright. 8:27 And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; . . I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.

Was Daniel in a lucid dream state?

Saul is blinded by vision of Jesus in Acts 9:4-19 (cf. Acts 22 & 26)

Acts 9:3 suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 9:4 And he fell to the earth 9:6 And he trembling and astonished 9:8 And when Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: 9:9 And he was three days without sight, 9:19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened.

Doesn't sound like a lucid dream. Cf. however, Gen 28:11-18, 32:24-31.

Most of these accounts seem to comport with the vision of Moses 1:9 the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; . . And as he was left to himself, he fell unto the earth. 1:10 it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man

The "gold standard" of revelation or vision should be inductively arrived at via careful study of the entire range of Scripture, i.e., following good form-critical analysis of the Throne Theophany pattern, which entails Divine Council imagery (see David Bokovoy in Interpreter, 1/1 [2012], online at http://www.mormonint.../author/davidb/ ).

An excellent way of approaching this matter for those of us who are not prophets called by the Assembly of the Gods, is contained in Elder RIchard G. Scott's address to the Oct 2009 General Conference, transcript published in Ensign, Nov 2009, online at http://www.lds.org/e...idance?lang=eng . It is a very practical way to obtain revelation without going into a lucid dream state.

Robert, I did not say that "Lucid Dreams" are the gold standard for revelation, but rather, that the process of revelation naturally works through mind and heart, as you so effectively point out in Richard G. Scott's exceptional conference address. It is that talk that motivated me to understand more fully the process of revelation as it works through all of us.

My understanding of the mysteries of godliness are based on Joseph Smith's revelations: that God works in this world through natural processes -- what we often think of as a miracle, is therefore nothing more than natural process we do not fully understand. Yet in time, as we learn truth, be it spiritual truths or scientific, we come to understand the processes of god more fully.

Our brains (and by spiritual extension, our minds), have a wondrous, complex, modular architecture. What we know of as our Conscious mind, is but one program operating in our mind. In parallel we have other states: our non-conscious mind, which has power to extend our understanding, reveal truths to us that we do not know consciously, and is in itself aware of the same things we are aware of. In looking at the physical architecture of the brain, there are multiple, parallel pathways to different parts of the brain for our sensory input. While some of these are for automatic, trained response, it's important to know that the non-conscious acts on sensory input in multiple ways.

Under normal waking consciousness, we are typically completely unaware of the processing of our non-conscious mind. When we sleep, our conscious mind is turned off, and our non-conscious takes complete control fo the mental architecture. While these things are physical, the software -- the logical constructs of our mind -- are not physical, but rather, the instruction set that is executed by our physical mind. Call this execution of software -- this thinking of the non-conscious mind in parallel to our own conscious mind -- call this "Spirit". And as Latter Day Saints, we have the more enlightened understanding that all spirit is matter, and we have a more existential/material understanding of the workings of godliness.

Thus, regardless of the source of inspiration, the last six or so inches of divine, revelatory transmission is within the physical constructs of our wondrous, god-given mind. Understanding this miraculous organ of insight provides better understanding of the miracle of revelation, and Elder Scott's talk precisely lays out that process, far more so than when we try to literally figure out how revelation worked from those who explained things in superstitious, non-scientific terms according to their worldview.

Now you asked in several cases whether a given scriptural event was a Lucid Dream. I am not proposing that all Visions, visitations, or revelations occur in lucid dreams, but that in the case of Joseph Smith, this fits the model. A lucid dream, by the way, is an anomalous state when both the conscious program and the non-conscious program are simultaneously active and vying for control of the overall processing architecture. It is uncommon for the two programs to interact in this way, therefore, for the conscious mind, it is an exceptional event and the term "Vision" is an unscientific explanation for such a thing.

I am not trying to say that the fact that there is a material explanation of a vision, that such dimishes the reality of the vision, nor does it state that it is not divine. The beauty of the Restored Gospel is that we do not have to separate our logic from the spiritual realities of the gospel: All truth is part of the gospel, and as Pres. Henry B. Eyring's grandfather taught the great Scientist (and father of Henry B.) Henry Eyring -- we as latter day saints should be pursuing all truth, and when we understand truth as reflected in science, it should inform and enhance our understanding as LDS. (I'm paraphrasing a letter from Ed Eyring to Henry as Henry went off to Univ of Arizona to study science including evolution).

When Elder Scott speaks of listening to the spiritual promptings, and sensing what is really at play during the various events, he is noting the process of the conscious mind becoming aware of insights coming from the non-conscious mind that are always available to us if we calm ourselves, center our emotions, detach from our biases, and open ourselves to the 'still small voice'. We have within us as Latter Day Saints our Divine Nature -- the being we were before this life -- this being is not part of our conscious mind, but veiled from us. We have within us "the light of Christ", again, our conscience, which is where the non-conscious mind is speaking through our limbic system's emotions, good and evil. As baptized and confirmed members, we have within us the Holy Ghost as our constant companion. God the Holy Ghost lives within us as we are worthy to receive the Holy Ghost, and it, too, speaks through the channel of our "Mind" -- that is our conscious thoughts as they interface with our non-conscious, and our "Hearts" -- that is our limbic-system's emotions.

Our primary conscious state places priority on processing that which is in our conscious miind, thus the promptings of the holy ghost are crowded out by day-to-day rudimentary thought. When we sleep, our non-conscious mind, with the myriad influences that are upon it, is in control of our mind. Dreams are the way it plays out drama from our day into a process that tests for truth and extends our neural networks. Importantly, as our non-conscious has priority processing during dreams and altered states of consciousness, it solves problems for us, implanting into our minds truths that come from sources we are completely unaware of. As we understand spiritual influences coming from God and other sources (including satan as we understand him), the extent to which our spiritual non-conscious mind is attuned to righteousness, it then reveals to us the truth. To those minds who have allowed themselves to become polluted, the ability of our individual non-conscious to discern 'truth' is no longer there (the holy ghost being gone). Elder Scott explains this clearly in his talk, although he does not reflect the neurological basis of this.

We speak of dreams as being visions. I spoke of lucid dreaming as being potentially the mechanism of the First Vision. As well, your other examples lay out cases where individuals, or groups, entered into altered states of consciousness, either directly from a conscious state of awareness, or some other state, and I love how you point out, after the fact, that in three cases, the person 'comes to himself' after the event. All of your examples reflect boundary states between consciousness and the operation of our non-conscious mind. There likely is a factual, scientific basis to each one of these visions, visitations, and exceptional events.

My view, again, is that these events are absolutely real and divine. The fact that god operates in this world according to the natural laws of this world is one of the greatest gifts of understanding given by Joseph Smith in the restoration of the gospel.

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What I really think is that the First Vision needs to be understood less from the perspective of Joseph Smith and ourselves who are asked to believe his report, but from the perspective of a God who would, or would not, arrive, to talk to his children and dispense another dispensation.

And MY God would come :).

Edit: when I say literal vision, I don't mean vision, I just mean they were THERE. (or SOMEONE was there!) That's not a vision. That's a visit. That may or may not compute with what Joseph Smith actually said about it, but that's how I usually take it.

I love the way you liken the scripture to yourself -- there is much truth to this, and that's one of the most critical points of scripture.

I have often felt the presence of god in my life. I have had many experiences that have transported me to a place where truth and light are one. I think most of us have had these experiences. They often are so real that we think someone is physically there. Maybe there is. I have a few examples I cannot talk about that seem to indicate that.

I loved your post.

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I have also had those "waking dreams" as well. It is the weirdest thing. It is like you are waking up but you are dreaming at the same time. The last time I had that happen I had a GA bearing his testimony to me, why that I have no idea but it is what it is. I wouldn't ever call it a vision though. The thing about Joseph's visions is that other people also had them with him, like Sidney Rigdon and other fellas and ladies had them as well

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A vision is not something which doesn't literally or physically exist. That is to misunderstand the mystic, visionary experience. The hidden nature of things is something that can't be percieved by the senses in an ordinary way, but must be opened by the power of God. It is then that the recipient is able to see things as they truly are.

Exactly, completely, I'm there with you. It was a mystical experience. And with your depth of understanding of these from the literature, it's pretty hard to pull of into words what a mystical experience is all about.

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It is difficult for me to decide for myself what exactly happened to Joseph Smith in the grove. I don't know what to make of Joseph Smith other than in some areas of theological thought he was ahead of his time and a revolutionary.

I can't answer the poll because I do not know nor am I concerned with who or what Joseph Smith saw. I do not mean to sound callous.

I have a hard enough time figuring out what it is that I actually believe.

Welcome to the journey. I do find it useful, at times, to lay out what I believe in words.

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