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First Of A Series Of Tough Issues Tackled By Lds.org


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I'm a historian. That means that I'm immersed almost daily in the production and/or discussion of history in some way. I have a PhD in history. I've attended numberless history seminars. I've taught history at the secondary, undergraduate, and postgraduate levels. I currently work in an editorial position at an academic history journal attached to a research university.

 

I raise these points solely because it is my impression that most of those who worry about the multiple accounts of the First Vision aren't terribly familiar with the historical enterprise. In short, from a purely historical point of view, there is nothing shocking, troubling, or worrisome about these accounts. Genuine historical accounts of real events often differ more in 'content and degree of detail' than these accounts do -- a point no legitimate historian would contradict.

 

If one were to manufacture purely secular accounts of an event, making sure that the differences amongst them exactly paralleled the differences in the First Vision account, and then presented a seminar to historians on the 'troubling concerns' these differences raise, one would be laughed at in my school ... and labelled historiographically untrained.

 

The only difference that I can discern is that Joseph Smith's accounts deal with the supernatural and more specifically with the origins of 'Mormonism' and so come already emcumbered with controversy. And I'm fine with that. The truth claims of 'Mormonism' are indeed controversial. I can personally think of 1,001 reasons a 'reasonable and intelligent' person might not be inclined to believe them. Outside of overwhelming personal experience, I wouldn't be inclined to believe them.

 

But not because the First Vision accounts raise troubling historical issues. They don't. Depending on the person, they may raise other troubling issues, but to insist that those issues are somehow historical (and, I suspect, therefore more 'legitimate' and intelligent) in the end appears, to this historian, to be academically naive.

I think you are right the discrepancies do not pose significant historical problems.  They do pose problems with how we use the first vision though.  From a psychological perspective, we know that memory is not static.  Details get added or erased from our mind the further we are from an event that transpires.  It is expected that when we retell experiences that there will be discrepancies and changes depending on how far removed we are from the situation and who our audience is (among other considerations).  From the accounts it would seem that the first vision to Joseph was an extremely personal experience.  In D&C 20, we see reference to Joseph's sins being forgiven. Joseph's first vision during the early years of the church was not heavily emphasized.  

 

This is not the case today.  The church pushes a particular slant on the first vision and it goes with a very late recollection to do it.  It puts more emphasis on it than Joseph did himself.  A couple of church manual quotes:

 

The first vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith is bedrock theology to the Church. The adversary knows this and has attacked Joseph Smith’s credibility from the day he announced the visitation of the Father and the Son. You should always bear testimony to the truth of the First Vision. Joseph Smith did see the Father and the Son. They conversed with him as he said they did. Any leader who, without reservation, cannot declare his testimony that God and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith can never be a true leader, a true shepherd. If we do not accept this truth—if we have not received a witness about this great revelation—we cannot inspire faith in those whom we lead.

 

 

Help the children understand that the First Vision is the foundation of a testimony of the true church of Jesus Christ. Once we believe that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ actually appeared and talked to Joseph Smith, then we can be sure that everything else the Prophet taught or restored to us is also the truth.

So we are teaching our children to base their testimony on a particular telling of the first vision.  We are saying that a leader that doesn't testify to a particular version of the first vision is not fit to lead (note Joseph himself would have failed this test apparently). 

 

I think that Joseph had a profound spiritual experience early on in his life near the year 1820.  I think that he continued to reinterpret that event as he gained more and more life experiences.  I think that we as a church place an undue emphasis on this experience.  With this undue emphasis ("Help the children understand that the First Vision is the foundation of a testimony") it is hard to complain when some people come away disillusioned with the various retellings of the experience.

Edited by SeekingUnderstanding
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I think you are right the discrepancies do not pose significant historical problems.  They do pose problems with how we use the first vision though.  From a psychological perspective, we know that memory is not static.  Details get added or erased from our mind the further we are from an event that transpires.  It is expected that when we retell experiences that there will be discrepancies and changes depending on how far removed we are from the situation and who our audience is (among other considerations).  From the accounts it would seem that the first vision to Joseph was an extremely personal experience.  In D&C 20, we see reference to Joseph's sins being forgiven. Joseph's first vision during the early years of the church was not heavily emphasized.  

 

This is not the case today.  The church pushes a particular slant on the first vision and it goes with a very late recollection to do it.  It puts more emphasis on it than Joseph did himself.  A couple of church manual quotes:

 

 

So we are teaching our children to base their testimony on a particular telling of the first vision.  We are saying that a leader that doesn't testify to a particular version of the first vision is not fit to lead (note Joseph himself would have failed this test apparently). 

 

I think that Joseph had a profound spiritual experience early on in his life near the year 1820.  I think that he continued to reinterpret that event as he gained more and more life experiences.  I think that we as a church place an undue emphasis on this experience.  With this undue emphasis ("Help the children understand that the First Vision is the foundation of a testimony") it is hard to complain when some people come away disillusioned with the various retellings of the experience.

What I'm seeing here is the fallacy of the false dichotomy.

 

It is clear from the various accounts of the First Vision that it was for Joseph a multi-faceted experience. And while it was indeed deeply personal for him, there is no reason why it can't, at the same time, have broader application to Church members and to mankind in general.

 

And while I take your point about the fallibility and malleability of memory, I also believe in gifts of the Spirit, one of which being that things are brought to one's remembrance by the Holy Ghost at the time when they are needed. So it is not at all unreasonable to believe that Joseph was aided in his recall when the time came to set down in writing a formal account of the First Vision, one that was destined to be canonized and used in future proclamations of the Restoration of the gospel. Nor am I uncomfortable in basing my testimony on those aspects of the First Vision, even as I recognize that there is much that is left out of standard re-tellings of the event.

 

If we accept that God can reveal scriptural content to the mind of Joseph Smith from documents Joseph has never laid eyes on (Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants 7, for example), it is not a great leap to believe that God can refresh Joseph's memory of something that he, Joseph, has experienced.

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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 I think that we as a church place an undue emphasis on this experience.  With this undue emphasis ("Help the children understand that the First Vision is the foundation of a testimony") it is hard to complain when some people come away disillusioned with the various retellings of the experience.

 

I think people should be more disillusioned in the account Smith gave of his persecution

in History of the Church 1:1-21-23.That anyone would pay that much attention to a 15 year

old boy in those days to persecute him seems like an invented story to draw a sympathetic

response.  I don't know which story is more embellished - the first vision or his persecution.

If a 15 year old boy were to tell such a story today, his mom would take him to the doctor

for a checkup and his class mates may laugh at him, but that's about it.

 

Regards,

Jim

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I think people should be more disillusioned in the account Smith gave of his persecution

in History of the Church 1:1-21-23.That anyone would pay that much attention to a 15 year

old boy in those days to persecute him seems like an invented story to draw a sympathetic

response.  I don't know which story is more embellished - the first vision or his persecution.

If a 15 year old boy were to tell such a story today, his mom would take him to the doctor

for a checkup and his class mates may laugh at him, but that's about it.

 

Regards,

Jim

At this point I think it useful to review Joseph's own words relative to the persecution he encountered on that occasion and which today are part of the scriptural canon:

 

 

 21 Some few days after I had this vision, I happened to be in company with one of the Methodist preachers, who was very active in the before mentioned religious excitement; and, conversing with him on the subject of religion, I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as avisions or brevelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them.

 22 I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great apersecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an bobscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, 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.

 23 It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure aboy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily blabor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter cpersecution and dreviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.

 24 However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a avision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was bmad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the cpersecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.

 25 So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two aPersonages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was bhated and cpersecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me dfalsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not edeny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation. (Joseph Smith - History 1:21-25)

(Joseph Smith - History 1:21:25)

 

So we see here that the instigators of the persecution were the ministers, or the "professors of religion," of that time and setting.

 

When I observe the calumny that is heaped upon Joseph by such individuals to this very day, it is not at all difficult for me to believe that their counterparts of yesteryear would be so disposed. Contempt and jealousy can constitute a powerful motive, even among men of the cloth, as it were.

 

And I will say again, the intensity of the experience Joseph describes is such that it is difficult for me to dismiss his account as merely an illusory recollection stemming from an adolescent complex.

 

Another point: What I earlier surmised is borne out by Joseph's own words: It was indeed "the great ones of the most popular sects of the day" who "excite[d] the public mind" against him. He himself expresses wonder that a mere boy would be sufficient to provoke such hostility, but nevertheless he affirms that it did indeed happen, just as he did see a vision of the Father and the Son, unlikely though it might seem to some, then and now.

 

I, for one, am inclined to believe him.

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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Here's a 1996 Ensign magazine article by the distinguished scholar Richard L. Anderson about Joseph Smith's testimony of the First Vision.

 

The article is done in convenient question-and-answer format and addresses some of the arguments that have been raised on this thread, including "Why didn't Joseph Smith make his account of the First Vision public at once?" and the persecution that Joseph reported was inflicted upon him.

 

One thing this article shows is that, while the new post on the First Vision on lds.org is useful, it is not really unprecedented. There were already this and other treatises in Church publications -- and hence, on lds.org -- long ago.

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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 none of the apologetic materials were used to help him with his problems. 

Have you read the transcript?

 

Here is a link with the questions asked and a corrected transcript of the actual meeting where the problems were discussed:

 

http://en.fairmormon.org/Firesides/28_November_2010_-_Sweden

 

We’ve brought a handout for you. These are the five very best websites for authentic answers to those same questions. Let me just say if you spend as much time on these five websites as you spent on other websites [be]cause I have visited as has Brother Turley some of these anti-Mormon websites.

 

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Have you read the transcript?

 

Here is a link with the questions asked and a corrected transcript of the actual meeting where the problems were discussed:

 

http://en.fairmormon.org/Firesides/28_November_2010_-_Sweden

This is what I recollected -- as well as the immediate dismissal by some of those who were there of the information on the handout because the websites were not officially from the Church.

 

Is that what one might call an ad hominem attack in reverse?

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Here's a 1996 Ensign magazine article by the distinguished scholar Richard L. Anderson about Joseph Smith's testimony of the First Vision.

 

The article is done in convenient question-and-answer format and addresses some of the arguments that have been raised on this thread, including "Why didn't Joseph Smith make his account of the First Vision public at once?" and the persecution that Joseph reported was inflicted upon him.

 

One thing this article shows is that, while the new post on the First Vision on lds.org is useful, it is not really unprecedented. There were already this and other treatises in Church publications -- and hence, on lds.org -- long ago.

I recall in a D&C class at BYU in the early 1970s the instructor, using the manual, pointing out from the D&C places where the appearance of God is mentioned with some little details missing from JSH. The conclusion I was told then was that the JSH (it wasn't called that at the time, I don't think) did not contain all the details of the FV.

I was a research assistant for Milton Backman a few years later (not on that subject, however, but on his Kirtland book, and only to attempt to write computer programs for him following property records). I don't recall thinking that the subject was all that controversial when he was working on it.

But I can understand that all this was a reaction to "Shadow or Reality" which first came out, I think, in the 1960s.

Edited by Bob Crockett
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I think people should be more disillusioned in the account Smith gave of his persecution

in History of the Church 1:1-21-23.That anyone would pay that much attention to a 15 year

old boy in those days to persecute him seems like an invented story to draw a sympathetic

response.  I don't know which story is more embellished - the first vision or his persecution.

If a 15 year old boy were to tell such a story today, his mom would take him to the doctor

for a checkup and his class mates may laugh at him, but that's about it.

 

Regards,

Jim

 

Judging what should have occurred in the past based on what might occur in the present is called presentism.   It's not a valid argument.

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What I'm seeing here is the fallacy of the false dichotomy.

It is clear from the various accounts of the First Vision that it was for Joseph a multi-faceted experience. And while it was indeed deeply personal for him, there is no reason why it can't, at the same time, have broader application to Church members and to mankind in general.

And while I take your point about the fallibility and malleability of memory, I also believe in gifts of the Spirit, one of which being that things are brought to one's remembrance by the Holy Ghost at the time when they are needed. So it is not at all unreasonable to believe that Joseph was aided in his recall when the time came to set down in writing a formal account of the First Vision, one that was destined to be canonized and used in future proclamations of the Restoration of the gospel. Nor am I uncomfortable in basing my testimony on those aspects of the First Vision, even as I recognize that there is much that is left out of standard re-tellings of the event.

If we accept that God can reveal scriptural content to the mind of Joseph Smith from documents Joseph has never laid eyes on (Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants 7, for example), it is not a great leap to believe that God can refresh Joseph's memory of something that he, Joseph, has experienced.

And there was me thinking that Christ should be the cornerstone/foundation of our testimony.

I'm fairly sure that's what the scriptures teach.

Both of those manual quotes have got it wrong in my opinion.

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We have a tool where we get 150 to watch a TV ad and then describe what they've seen. It's amazing how different people play back the same 30 seconds of film.

 

From a psychological perspective, we know that memory is not static.  Details get added or erased from our mind the further we are from an event that transpires.

 

All of this talk about memory and psychology is fine, but it gives the erroneous impression that there is something sufficiently aberrant or discordant in the extant accounts of the First Vision that we need to turn to complex explanations to justify or rationalise it away, and that's simply not the case. As Scott Lloyd has already pointed out, absolutelly nothing in these accounts is contradictory or mutually exclusive. (The sole exception is the age in one retelling, which, as noted by Wiki Wonka, appears to be a later insertion by F.G. Williams.)

 

Do they differ, to use Scott's words, 'in content and degree of detail'? Yes, absolutely. But that is precisely what trained and practising historians expect to find when dealing with mulitiple accounts of a single event from the same author. And not because memory is unreliable (though it can be) or because writers necessarily embellish their accounts, causing them to 'evolve' over time. Instead, retellings are always tailored to fit a specific audience and a unique narrative context. As a consequence, when mutlipe accounts of an event exist, as is not infrequently the case, this is a bonus for the historian because such accounts tend to be mutually complementary and help in the construction of a fuller retelling. And it's an added bonus when the accounts don't contain any genuine contradictions or mutually exclusive details because very often they do, though thankfully usually only of the minor kind -- incorrect names and/or discrepancies in age, date, or other numbers, as a few examples.

 

Over the past decade, much of my research has involved the personal writings of Catholic priests/missionaries serving in the East/Pacific in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One of the hallmarks of this research has been work with multiple accounts of events. In preparation for the annual arrival of European ships, it was not at all unusual for a single Jesuit priest to compose separate letters or reports for the Society's headquarters in Rome, for the provincial superior in India, and for one or more of his fellow missionaries elsewhere in the East and/or in Europe. These texts would provide a summary of events from the past year, and unsurprisingly they tend to differ strongly in content and degree of detail -- despite in some cases being composed over the course of a single day -- simply because each retelling served a different purpose.

 

Details included in one letter may not appear at all in another. In other cases, what earns a passing mention in one report forms the central focus in a different report. Retellings of conversations with, for example, local chiefs often differ from one text to the next, not because the priest made up all these accounts but because choosing which parts of a (sometimes long) interaction to report -- and who exactly was involved -- depended on audience and context. Reports to superiors tend to be more cautious and less detailed in some cases than reports to peers. I can think of a few cases where comparing the former with the latter clearly shows how carefully missionaries picked and chose details to give a completely honest report whilst still holding back the more complete picture.

 

This is what real history looks like, and Joseph's narratives fit perfectly into the pattern. If there is anything even remotely noteworthy about the existence of or the content in the various accounts of the First Vision, it is how consistent and lacking in contradictions they are.

 

I realise that some who have posted in this thread have insisted that the correct or Christlike response to those who have been thrown for a loop by First Vision accounts is to validate and try to understand their concerns, but I personally think we are doing people an enormous disservice -- at minimum, on an intellectual level -- by not pointing out (lovingly and patiently, of course) when their 'historical concerns' are based on false assumptions and/or historiographical naivety.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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Have you read the transcript?

 

Here is a link with the questions asked and a corrected transcript of the actual meeting where the problems were discussed:

 

http://en.fairmormon.org/Firesides/28_November_2010_-_Sweden

 

I don't understand.  May I ask whether you read the transcript of the actual meeting?

http://www.fairmormon.org/resources/primary-sources/2010-sweden-fireside-with-marlin-jensen-and-richard-turley-held-november-28-2010

 

The link you gave me says:  "has provided material that supplements the answers provided at the fireside by Elder Jensen and Brother Turley". I think you are confusing the supplemental material (apologetic analysis) with the actual meeting.

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All of this talk about memory and psychology is fine, but it gives the erroneous impression that there is something sufficiently aberrant or discordant in the extant accounts of the First Vision that we need to turn to complex explanations to justify or rationalise it away, and that's simply not the case. As Scott Lloyd has already pointed out, absolutelly nothing in these accounts is contradictory or mutually exclusive. (The sole exception is the age in one retelling, which, as noted by Wiki Wonka, appears to be a later insertion by F.G. Williams.)

There is nothing complex about memory changing over time even for life changing events. It simply happens. I can't say that it happened to Joseph, but if it didn't, it would have had to be because of supernatural aid as proposed by Scott. Either way, I don't care. Joseph had a profound spiritual experience when he was about 14 in which he was forgiven of his sins and told not to join any churches.

 

Do they differ, to use Scott's words, 'in content and degree of detail'? Yes, absolutely. But that is precisely what trained and practising historians expect to find when dealing with mulitiple accounts of a single event from the same author. And not because memory is unreliable (though it can be) or because writers necessarily embellish their accounts, causing them to 'evolve' over time. Instead, retellings are always tailored to fit a specific audience and a unique narrative context. As a consequence, when mutlipe accounts of an event exist, as is not infrequently the case, this is a bonus for the historian because such accounts tend to be mutually complementary and help in the construction of a fuller retelling. And it's an added bonus when the accounts don't contain any genuine contradictions or mutually exclusive details because very often they do, though thankfully usually only of the minor kind -- incorrect names and/or discrepancies in age, date, or other numbers, as a few examples.

 

Nothing here I disagree with. The disagreements between the accounts are minor. My question is mainly one of emphasis. We are directed (I provided two examples from manuals) to base our testimonies on the fact that God and Jesus appeared to Joseph in 1820. This is to be the bedrock of our faith. If this one fact is so important, why is this fact only mentioned in one of Joseph's four accounts? If this fact is so important why didn't Orson Pratt mention it in our first second hand account? Why didn't Joseph, Brigham Young, or John Taylor emphasize this?

The reason the different accounts are so jarring for most people, is not the minor differences. It's not that the accounts can't be reconciled. It's that Joseph forgot to mention the bedrock of our testimonies in three of his four accounts.

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And there was me thinking that Christ should be the cornerstone/foundation of our testimony.

I'm fairly sure that's what the scriptures teach.

Both of those manual quotes have got it wrong in my opinion.

I'm not an apologist for the wording of the quotes in the manuals.

 

But this strikes me as another false dichotomy, as a testimony of the First Vision presupposes a testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ and His gospel.

 

Perhaps what the manual writers had in mind is that, while anyone can profess a belief in Jesus Christ, a testimony of the First Vision is essential to understand and grasp the Restoration of the gospel and the saving principles and ordinances revealed in the latter days.

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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I realise that some who have posted in this thread have insisted that the correct or Christlike response to those who have been thrown for a loop by First Vision accounts is to validate and try to understand their concerns, but I personally think we are doing people an enormous disservice -- at minimum, on an intellectual level -- by not pointing out (lovingly and patiently, of course) when their 'historical concerns' are based on false assumptions and/or historiographical naivety.

Is it a false assumption or historiographical naivety to assume that a prophet of God shouldn't leave out the most important detail when describing one of the most significant events in human history? I think most people could excuse the smaller details (although odd that we use the later version which would assumedly be more prone to errors), but have difficulty with the mention of just one personage in the 1832 version and the addition of angelic beings in the 1835 version. For almost two thousand years Christians had been taught as one of their most fundamental doctrines that The Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are one being. In one glorious moment that all changed, yet we are led to believe that Smith didn't feel that was necessary to mention in his first known account?

IMO, using the various FV accounts, changes to the BoM and other Smith teachings, it can be convincingly shown Joseph's changing views of deity starting with a monotheistic view evolving to binitarianism and finally settling on a plurality of gods. Surely we should have dozens of pre-1834 accounts from Smith and his contemporaries detailing this radical change to the foundations of Christian thinking.

Edited by omni
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Have you read Matt Brown's 2006 FAIR Presentation on the foundational stories?

http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2006-fair-conference/2006-revised-or-unaltered-joseph-smiths-foundational-stories

This brings us to the most frequent anti-Mormon criticism about JS 1832. God the Father is obviously not mentioned as making an appearance to Joseph Smith in this First Vision account. I would like to suggest, however, that all this time we as Latter-day Saints have not recognized that God the Father’s appearance is, in fact, referred to right in this document. This has occurred, I believe, because we have been looking in the wrong place.

In the introductory remarks of JS 1832 Joseph Smith outlined precisely how he was about to proceed in the narration of his history. He mentioned that the very first incident associated with his “marvelous experience” in the Restoration was that he received “the testimony from on high.” Because of the formatting of the introductory paragraph and the structure of the text which follows it, it can be concluded with a marked degree of certainty that this testimony was connected with the First Vision. The question to ask, then, is, What was the “testimony from on high” that Joseph Smith received during the First Vision? This question is easily answered by referring to another First Vision recital given by the Prophet in November 1835. There he states that one of the two personages who appeared unto him testified that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. In JS 1838 (which is the First Vision narrative now published in the Pearl of Great Price) we learn that one of the personages testified to Joseph using the following words, “This is my beloved Son.” We may comfortably conclude from this documentary evidence that the “testimony from on high” of JS 1832 is equivalent to the phrase spoken by God the Father in JS 1838. Therefore, we may safely say that when Joseph Smith wrote the 1832 account of the First Vision the appearance of God the Father was definitely in his mind—because he obliquely refers to it. It seems that he did not make an explicit mention of this part of the story simply because he had chosen to use the apostle Paul’s experience as the main framework for that portion of his narrative—and Paul only saw Jesus Christ.

James Allen's 1970 Improvement Era made a related suggestion. If you read the autograph 1832 account, you'll notice that one instance of Lord is inserted above the line, obviously because a word was missing and needed insertion. Allen had also suggested that the account uses the the same title "Lord" for two figures. If the above line insert had been "God" instead of "Lord", the whole fuss might not even exist.

I used to be be impressed by the famous Reconstruction of Mormonism argument, but not longer. Between studies by Allen and Matt Brown, and Paulsen and Bruening on charges of Modalism (see http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1454&index=12 ) and Barker's Temple Theology as a telling context for reading the Book of Mormon (see Brant's FAIR presentation and his commentaries, for instance), I see a growth of understanding, but not a radical reconstruction.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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Have you read Matt Brown's 2006 FAIR Presentation on the foundational stories?

http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2006-fair-conference/2006-revised-or-unaltered-joseph-smiths-foundational-stories

James Allen's 1970 Improvement Era made a related suggestion. If you read the autograph 1832 account, you'll notice that one instance of Lord is inserted above the line, obviously because a word was missing and needed insertion. Allen had also suggested that the account uses the the same title "Lord" for two figures. If the above line insert had been "God" instead of "Lord", the whole fuss might not even exist.

I used to be be impressed by the famous Reconstruction of Mormonism argument, but not longer. Between studies by Allen and Matt Brown, and Paulsen and Bruening on charges of Modalism (see http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1454&index=12 ) and Barker's Temple Theology as a telling context for reading the Book of Mormon (see Brant's FAIR presentation and his commentaries, for instance), I see a growth of understanding, but not a radical reconstruction.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

The Ensign article by Richard Lloyd Anderson that I linked to in a prior post also posits that the name Lord is used by the Prophet to refer to both the Father and the Son in the vision.

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Have you read Matt Brown's 2006 FAIR Presentation on the foundational stories?

http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2006-fair-conference/2006-revised-or-unaltered-joseph-smiths-foundational-stories

James Allen's 1970 Improvement Era made a related suggestion. If you read the autograph 1832 account, you'll notice that one instance of Lord is inserted above the line, obviously because a word was missing and needed insertion. Allen had also suggested that the account uses the the same title "Lord" for two figures. If the above line insert had been "God" instead of "Lord", the whole fuss might not even exist.

I used to be be impressed by the famous Reconstruction of Mormonism argument, but not longer. Between studies by Allen and Matt Brown, and Paulsen and Bruening on charges of Modalism (see http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1454&index=12 ) and Barker's Temple Theology as a telling context for reading the Book of Mormon (see Brant's FAIR presentation and his commentaries, for instance), I see a growth of understanding, but not a radical reconstruction.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

 

I think either one of those arguments would hold water if we could find other instances of Joseph referring to both the Father and the Son as Lord in the same statement and more importantly we should be able to show explicit evidence of Joseph teaching the Godhead are three separate beings.  This is a foundational doctrine and should have been known to Joseph since 1820.  I can't imagine why there would be no known (to my knowledge) mention of it prior to 1835.

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I think either one of those arguments would hold water if we could find other instances of Joseph referring to both the Father and the Son as Lord in the same statement and more importantly we should be able to show explicit evidence of Joseph teaching the Godhead are three separate beings.  This is a foundational doctrine and should have been known to Joseph since 1820.  I can't imagine why there would be no known (to my knowledge) mention of it prior to 1835.

It occurs to me that at  age 14, Joseph probably wasn't much into debunking centuries-old theological dogma. I'm thinking his main concern was, as the early accounts suggest, obtaining a forgiveness of his sins.

 

Often the full import and significance of an experience does not occur to a person until he has had opportunity to reflect upon it over time -- perhaps years in some cases -- and as subsequent events, circumstances, growth and maturity have crystallized it in his mind.

 

Are you aware of any occasion at any time, pre-1835 or later, of Joseph teaching that the Father and the Son are of one substance?

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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I don't understand.  May I ask whether you read the transcript of the actual meeting?

http://www.fairmormon.org/resources/primary-sources/2010-sweden-fireside-with-marlin-jensen-and-richard-turley-held-november-28-2010

 

I helped correct the transcription, spent a number of hours listening and reading it over a couple of days.

 

Perhaps we are simply defining "apologetics" differently.

Edited by calmoriah
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 Why didn't Joseph, Brigham Young, or John Taylor emphasize this?

The reason the different accounts are so jarring for most people, is not the minor differences. It's not that the accounts can't be reconciled. It's that Joseph forgot to mention the bedrock of our testimonies in three of his four accounts.

Perhaps when one had personally known Joseph or knew people who knew Joseph the same need of focus wasn't necessary.  Now that there have been generations between us, now that the generation of Joseph which apparently felt at home with visions are gone and the current generations often live in a culture that treats visions as psychological delusions, perhaps now we need to focus on the First Vision as a reality and a key part of our testimony to balance out what we lack in these days that they had plenty of in Joseph's.

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I think either one of those arguments would hold water if we could find other instances of Joseph referring to both the Father and the Son as Lord in the same statement and more importantly we should be able to show explicit evidence of Joseph teaching the Godhead are three separate beings.  This is a foundational doctrine and should have been known to Joseph since 1820.  I can't imagine why there would be no known (to my knowledge) mention of it prior to 1835.

Have you read James Allen 1980 Journal of Mormon History essay, Emergence of a Fundamental: The Expanding Role of Joseph Smith's First Vision in Mormon Thought?  Part of the problem is that you have your expectations set by theological uses of the First Vision story that started much later.  Allen points out that Joseph Smith never used the vision for theological argument.  Only rarely did anyone in the first generation do so.  Indeed Allen traces the pattern of the current use to George Q. Canon in 1883. 

 

Knowing the history and the implications of tie place and context helps open up what I can imagine.  That and knowing what happens to the Book of Mormon in light of First Temple theology, and knowing that while conversion heophanies were not particularly unusual in the 1820s (see Bushman's The Visionary World of Joseph Smth), angels with books were newsworthy and significant.  It was the angel who told Joseph that "God had a work" for him.

 

FWIW

 

Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

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It occurs to me that at  age 14, Joseph probably wasn't much into debunking centuries-old theological dogma. I'm thinking his main concern was, as the early accounts suggest, obtaining a forgiveness of his sins.

 

Often the full import and significance of an experience does not occur to a person until he has had opportunity to reflect upon it over time -- perhaps years in some cases -- and as subsequent events, circumstances, growth and maturity have crystallized it in his mind.

 

Perhaps at 14, but by 1830 Joseph had translated the BoM, officially organized the church and restored the priesthood (at least the Aaronic Priesthood).  By this time he was well aware of his prophetic role of restoring lost truths, yet we don't hear about this foundational doctrine (once again, to my knowledge) until years later.

 

Are you aware of any occasion at any time, pre-1835 or later, of Joseph teaching that the Father and the Son are of one substance?

 

 

Yes!  The 1830 version of the BoM contains the following verses:

 

1 Nephi 3, p. 25* And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh

 

1 Nephi 3, p. 25 And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, even the Eternal Father!

 

1 Nephi 3, p. 26 And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world.

 

1 Nephi 3, p. 32 These last records ... shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world.

 

In our current version "the Son" was added before "mother of God", "Eternal Father", "Everlasting God", and "Eternal Father".

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I think either one of those arguments would hold water if we could find other instances of Joseph referring to both the Father and the Son as Lord in the same statement and more importantly we should be able to show explicit evidence of Joseph teaching the Godhead are three separate beings.  This is a foundational doctrine and should have been known to Joseph since 1820.  I can't imagine why there would be no known (to my knowledge) mention of it prior to 1835.

Are you familiar with David telling us the Lord told his Lord to sit down at his right hand until he had made his enemies his footstool?  (See Psalm 110:1, Matthew 22:44).   Do you know of any other instance where David referred to the Father of his Lord as the Lord?

 

Joseph said there were 2 persons who appeared to him and he also taught that both of them were God.

 

Slam dunk.  Next challenge, please. This problem is solved.

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Perhaps at 14, but by 1830 Joseph had translated the BoM, officially organized the church and restored the priesthood (at least the Aaronic Priesthood).  By this time he was well aware of his prophetic role of restoring lost truths, yet we don't hear about this foundational doctrine (once again, to my knowledge) until years later.

 

 

Yes!  The 1830 version of the BoM contains the following verses:

 

1 Nephi 3, p. 25* And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh

 

1 Nephi 3, p. 25 And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, even the Eternal Father!

 

1 Nephi 3, p. 26 And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world.

 

1 Nephi 3, p. 32 These last records ... shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world.

 

In our current version "the Son" was added before "mother of God", "Eternal Father", "Everlasting God", and "Eternal Father".

Try again.  Read Brant Gardner at the 2003 FAIR Conference here:

http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2003-fair-conference/2003-monotheism-messiah-and-mormons-book

 

Best,

 

Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

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    • By kiwi57
      In a now-defunct thread, I pointed out that the only evidence for the accusation that anyone had ever tried to "hide" the 1832 First Vision account was the mere fact that it hadn't been published. I argued from this that there was an implicit assumption on the part of the accusers that non-publication was always intentional, and that "hiding" was the intention that drove it.
      In reality, non-publication is rarely intentional at all; it is the default. Most written accounts never get published. But that is by the way.
      In response, my interlocutor claimed that there were all kinds of reasons why the 1832 account needed to be hidden. Now this isn't really a response to my argument. The fact that in the opinion of some person A some document might be problematic, doesn't even begin to approach evidence that some other person B either agrees, or if s/he does, finds the problems sufficient motivation to "hide" the document. It's rather like saying that since in my opinion Trump shouldn't grope women, Trump must not have actually ever done so.
      Thus, the argument as it stands is settled. The question at had is whether there is any evidence, apart from mere non-publication (and a garbled hearsay story, heavily larded with speculation, about what Joseph Fielding Smith may or may not have done with it) that anyone tried to "hide" the 1832 account; and the answer is no. Whether one person believes (or wishes) that the 1832 account creates problems for the Church's truth claims is not evidence of any kind about another person's actions.
      With that out of the way, though, the question is an interesting one: Does the 1832 account create problem for the Church's truth claims?
      I don't think it does, but I'd be interested to know what others think.
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