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Am I missing pieces to Joseph Smith's pre-1838 account of the First Vision?


Raguel

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I am new to this discussion board, or any board for that matter, so I hope I am posting this correctly. I have searched the postings but did not find anything on this topic that answered my question. I hope that someone will be able to direct me to the information that I seek.

I have a strong testimony of God, the Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ, but my testimony of Joseph Smith is hanging by a thread. This pains my soul. But the more I seek, ponder and pray, the further I end up from my original path I thought I would travel. I seek the truth. I do not want opinion or comments from spin doctors. I have also searched the FAIR and FARM sites and have not found a satisfactory answer. I am looking for facts and quotes from people who heard statements first-hand. Please tell me (a) if my sources are faulty or (b) I am missing pieces to this puzzle.

I have multiple questions that I seek answers to, which can no longer be held in abeyance. I have started with my most troubling question for this post: was Joseph Smith visited by God, the Father, and Jesus Christ and told

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I am new to this discussion board, or any board for that matter, so I hope I am posting this correctly. I have searched the postings but did not find anything on this topic that answered my question. I hope that someone will be able to direct me to the information that I seek.

I have a strong testimony of God, the Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ, but my testimony of Joseph Smith is hanging by a thread. This pains my soul. But the more I seek, ponder and pray, the further I end up from my original path I thought I would travel. I seek the truth. I do not want opinion or comments from spin doctors. I have also searched the FAIR and FARM sites and have not found a satisfactory answer. I am looking for facts and quotes from people who heard statements first-hand. Please tell me (a) if my sources are faulty or (b) I am missing pieces to this puzzle.

During the early years of the Church, the significant vision event was Moroni's visit and the publication of the Book of Mormon.

Grant Palmer (An Insider's View of Mormon Origins) is one of those who suggested that the FV was "made up" in order to bolster Joseph's authority during a leadership crisis in 1838. He pretty much ignores the significance of Joseph relating the vision in his 1835 journal entries several years prior.

The sources you posted are correct. The earliest known account of the vision was Joseph's 1832 journal entry (some of which is in F.G. Williams' handwriting). The next accounts from Joseph were the two 1835 journal entries that you quoted.

The text of those primary sources can be viewed here:

Text of the 1832 and 1835 First Vision accounts

There is an article in the January 1985 Ensign discussing these different First Vision accounts here:

Joseph Smith

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Reading them together, I find it remarkable how consistent they are, even if they differ slightly in words and phrases. They have the look and feel of authenticity, not artificial or contrived, and that he is relating something that he personally experienced.

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Define "spin doctor." That can simply mean, "the people who don't see it the same way I do." As N. R. Hansen famously said, "All data are theory laden." And Kuhn, "Anomally emerges against a background of expectation." That is, if you think you see something wrong, that is because you expect something else. Expectations should be subjected to just as much study as the data. Particularly expectations of perfection. When the question is perfection, imperfection, and only that, is decisive. If ask, "Was Joseph Smith's inspiration real?" a completely different set of information becomes relevant.

For an introduction to some of the best recent research, see Matthew Brown here:

http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2006_Joseph_Smiths_Foundational_Stories.html

And here:

http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2004_Anti-Mormons_and_Documentary_Sources.html

I decided to do a detailed comparison of the Book of Mormon story elements found in JS 1832 with non-Mormon sources that related what was said about the coming forth of the book BEFORE JS 1832 was written. It turns out that approximately 50% of the story elements available to the public are not found within the document
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1. Well, the first account dated the earliest by the way seems consistent with what we already know of the First Vision, it simply doesn't mention the Father also appearing, but clearly mentions Christ in the ways we already know. Thus, that shoots down your theory that he just "embellished more" as the years went on, especially when you read the other three quotes they simply state "Angels" and they are dated later.

2. The other three accounts could easily simply be him being told by the spirit to NOT reveal for a time (or to specific people) "who" it was exactly who spoke to him. After all, the Father and the Son themselves are Angels. Note also what is said, nothing that the Father and the Son themselves couldn't have been saying.

Seems to me he was simply keeping the full force of the first vision as "sacred", until it was time to fully reveal what happened. I should note also that there is an unspoken knowledge within the Church that ALL of the Apostles of the Church have at some point actually seen Jesus Christ, having received the Second Anointing. Yet, they don't really directly say such, only "imply" it. Though, when the spirit has led them they have at certain times directly said so (though not usually in Conference, usually it has been in some Stake or other meeting with Saints worldwide). I think Joseph was doing the same thing. Then once he wrote the OFFICIAL story, that is when he gave all the facts on the issue.

Make sure you read these links....

http://en.fairmormon.org/Topical_Guide/Church_history/First_Vision

http://fairlds.org/apol/ai063.html

Really if you had actually read all of the above articles, you shouldn't really be having any more questions.

Each article addresses a different aspect and plugs all perceived holes.

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Raguel,

Almost exactly one year ago, I was in the exact same place that you are. I read everything I could get my hands on and prayed mightily that my mind would be enlightened by the truth and confounded by error. I prayed for a witness in my mind and in my heart. I decided to go through the Journal of Discourses to see how the early church leaders discussed the First Vision hoping for some clarity. I expected that the people who knew Joseph Smith and worked closely with him would present a clear rendering of this event. That is not what I found. My confusion increased.

One year later, I still have a testimony of God and Christ that is very dear to me. However, I do not have a testimony of Joseph Smith. Others read the same things I read (the kinds of things linked in this thread) and maintain a testimony of Joseph Smith. That didn't work for me. It was incredibly difficult for me to face, as I know it is for you now, but in the end I felt that I did receive an answer to my prayers. I am more at peace with my relationship with God now than I was previously. I more look forward to being judged than I ever did. The peace I feel tells me that I am on the path that is right for me.

But that's just my story. You have your own. God bless you in your journey, wherever it leads.

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The more I read and study about Joseph, the more I love him and am convinced of his prophetic calling. I suggest watching the Joseph Smith Documentary on DVD, the CD's of Truman Madsen's lectures on Joseph Smith.

And Wiki, that is one cute baby in your avatar.

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I have a strong testimony of God, the Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ, but my testimony of Joseph Smith is hanging by a thread.

If you want to preserve a testimony of Joseph Smith, I would suggest you stop any academic inquiry into his life and focus on more "inspirational" sources (like Truman Madsen). And whatever you do, do not read "Mormon Enigma"!

I have multiple questions that I seek answers to, which can no longer be held in abeyance. I have started with my most troubling question for this post: was Joseph Smith visited by God, the Father, and Jesus Christ and told
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I enjoyed Matthew Brown's books. They made it easier for the context to register for me, don't know whether it was the writing or the content as most of the stuff I already knew, it just helped it fit together for me (perhaps it put together things I had learned in a more piecemeal style.

I think Rough Stone Rolling is still the best overall treatment of JS, I think it allows one to 'get' what JS was trying to accomplish over his life best of anything else I've read, though there was some stuff I thought should have been included that wasn't (though don't ask me now as it's been several years since I read it and I didn't take notes).

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I am looking for facts and quotes from people who heard statements first-hand. Please tell me (a) if my sources are faulty or (b) I am missing pieces to this puzzle.

How are you going to know whether or not any first hand statements are true, though.

If you had lived in the day of Joseph Smith and heard him first hand, do you think that would have been enough for you?

A testimony from God should be what you are seeking. Anything from anyone else is just not good enough.

I have multiple questions that I seek answers to, which can no longer be held in abeyance. I have started with my most troubling question for this post: was Joseph Smith visited by God, the Father, and Jesus Christ and told
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Ist das nicht ein bloeder Troll?

Ja, das ist ein bloeder Troll.

Oh du schoener

Oh du schoener

Oh du schoener, bloeder Troll!

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I decided to go through the Journal of Discourses to see how the early church leaders discussed the First Vision hoping for some clarity. I expected that the people who knew Joseph Smith and worked closely with him would present a clear rendering of this event. That is not what I found. My confusion increased.

Actually, John Taylor discussed the First Vision quite often, and many of these are recorded in the Journal of Discourses. All of the following discuss the First Vision (the links will take you to the appropriate page in the electronic text of the Journal of Discourses):

John Taylor, "A Funeral Sermon...over the remains of Ann Tenora, etc.," (31 December 1876) Journal of Discourses 18:325-6; 329, 330.

John Taylor, "The Trusteeship, etc.," (7 October 1877) Journal of Discourses 19:123.

John Taylor, "Gathering The Result Of Revelation, etc.," (14 November 1877) Journal of Discourses 19:151-152. .

John Taylor, "The Interest Of Humanity Should Be Observed," (2 March 1879) Journal of Discourses 20:257.

John Taylor, "Eternal Nature Of The Gospel, etc.," (28 November 1879) Journal of Discourses 21:116-117.

John Taylor, "Restoration Of The Gospel Through Joseph Smith, etc.," (7 December 1879) Journal of Discourses 21:161.

John Taylor, "The Revelation Of The Father And Son To Joseph Smith, And The Bestowal Upon Him Of The Priesthood, etc.," (4 January 1880) Journal of Discourses 21:65.

John Taylor, "The Privileges Of The Saints, etc.," (27 June 1881) Journal of Discourses 22:218.

John Taylor, "Duties Of The Saints

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Uh, well, it seems to me as if one is basing it too much on the proof of things.

If one really wants to know whether he really saw them, have faith, and ask God oneself, and he will reveal the answer through the Holy Ghost.

And remember "Fools mock, but they shall mourn, and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness." (Ether 12:26)

Never let another's loss of faith, or doubt in your testimony lessen your testimony, that you shouldn't.

Perhaps the best way to test it is simply, do you believe in the Book of Mormon? For if you do, you know Joseph Smith truly saw a vision, as he described it.

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WW,

Thank you for these references. The one that I found most helpful was the article in the January 1985 Ensign.

I do not have a problem with the consistency between the accounts as I do in the motive for revising the account to the 1838 version that we have today. The Ensign makes the following statement:

Early Latter-day Saint leaders who knew that Christ had instructed Joseph during his vision of 1820 sometimes declared that an angel told Joseph Smith not to join any of the churches. In their sermons, these same leaders used the term Lord to identify the Father and Son and used the words Lord, Christ, personage, messenger, and angel interchangeably. Do you have a reference for this point?

Thanks,

R

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Kevin Christensen,

The articles by Matthew Brown actually took me a couple steps backwards. He states:

But look more closely at this slide. In the area where the actual theophany takes place you will notice that Joseph Smith has incorporated three very relevant Bible stories into the telling of his tale; three stories that have to do with the appearance of heavenly beings. The first is the story of the angels who visited the shepherds and amidst a heavenly light announced the coming of the Christ. The second has to do with the appearance of the Savior to the apostle Paul when the heavenly light shown around him. And the third is about the apostle Stephen seeing both the Father and the Son. But before we move on to the next slide I will remind you what the Prophet said about the rejection he experienced when he first announced his vision. He said, 'I felt like the apostle Paul because they wouldn't believe his vision of Deity either.' Now here we see Joseph utilizing Paul's story to tell his own. Joseph used more of this story than any of the others and there is probably an important insight to be gained here. When Joseph Smith incorporates Acts 26 as a framework the parallels are so exacting that when Paul speaks in his text, Joseph speaks in his text; when Jesus addresses Paul in the Bible passage, Jesus addresses Joseph in JS 1832. And then the pattern reverts to Paul speaking and Joseph speaking.

There is another scriptural framework to be found in JS 1832, but it is on the large scale
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Raguel:

There's a difference between mimicking and using language from similiar experiences one is familiar with to express their understanding and significance. The entirety of Joseph's literary education was the Bible, and these accounts. Of course he'd see the connection, and use such biblical terms to express how he felt, and understood the experience.

But, while we're looking deeper at the first vision, may I recommend this blog post?

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Now I am thinking that he made up the experiences to mimic various portions of the Bible. This is not good.

I think you would understand the difference between mimicking a contrived tale, and using the Bible as a pattern to describe an event. We find this throughout the New Testament, making parallels to the OT prophecies and events. Christ lifted up on the cross, for example, as it parallels Moses lifting up the serpent on a staff to save the people.

It all comes down to whether you think JS was a prophet, and not on the sophistry which attempts to discredit him. There is a whole book on the so-called conspiracy of the disciples over the resurrection of Christ, twisting the words of the NT account to justify their position of deception.

Don't let the critics poison your mind with their clever words and phrases, such as "in order to bolster his credibility".

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Actually, John Taylor discussed the First Vision quite often...

SNIP

Thanks for these links. John Taylor is one of the ones that seemed to have the same understanding of the First Vision that the church has today. But by and large, as far as I was able to discover, the First Vision was very rarely part of the discussion of the church for the first generation of saints and I don't know that Brigham Young ever talked about it. If he did, I am unaware of it. The focus of the early church leaders was overwhelmingly "an angel came to Joseph, Joseph translated the Book of Mormon, and Joseph was a prophet." This is what I discovered. Preaching a consistent First Vision and giving it the prominence that is holds today was just not something that the early church seemed to do.

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