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Response to "Difficult Questions for Mormons: First Vision"


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Response to claim: "Why do the accounts differ with respect to who was in the vision?"

The author(s) of Difficult Questions for Mormons make(s) the following claim:

Response to claim: "Why do the accounts differ with respect to who was in the vision?"

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Question: What are the criticisms related to Joseph Smith's accounts of the First Vision?

Joseph Smith gave several accounts of the First Vision that include different details

  • Some charge that differences in the accounts show that he changed and embellished his story over time, and that he therefore had no such vision.[1]
  • It is claimed by some that the Church has not discussed these accounts in official Church publications.
  • One critic of the Church states, "I learned that Joseph Smith provided multiple and varying accounts of his first vision story, and that some of these accounts (e.g., his descriptions of the Godhead) seemed to evolve over time to correspond with his own changing beliefs." [2]

Joseph tailored the story and details included of his vision based upon his audience

Joseph adjusted and emphasized certain portions of his narrative of the First Vision to account for his audience, as well as to incorporate his evolving understanding of Church doctrine. This is not unusual:

We often edit or entirely rewrite our previous experiences—unknowingly and unconsciously—in light of what we now know or believe. The result can be a skewed rendering of a specific incident, or even of an extended period in our lives, that says more about how we feel now than what happened then. Thus, without knowing it, we can modify our own history.” [3]

The Church has published information about the various First Vision accounts since at least 1970

The Church has published information about the various First Vision accounts since at least 1970. Critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often seek to point out differences between the various accounts which Joseph Smith gave of his First Vision. In defense of their position that the Prophet changed his story over a six year period (1832 to 1838) they claim that the earliest followers of Joseph Smith either didn’t know about the First Vision, or seem to have been confused about it. The Church, however, has discussed the various accounts in a number of publications. Joseph Smith's various accounts of the First Vision were targeted at different audiences, and had different purposes. They, however, show a remarkable degree of harmony between them. There is no evidence that the early leaders of the LDS Church did not understand that the Prophet saw two Divine Personages during his inaugural theophany.

A graphical comparison of the details of Joseph Smith's accounts of the First Vision. Image courtesy of LDS.net. Original may be viewed at LDS.net page "Why Are There Differences Between Joseph Smith’s 4 First Vision Accounts?" off-site


Richard J. Maynes: "Joseph wrote or dictated four known accounts of his First Vision"

Elder Richard J. Maynes speaking at the Worldwide YSA Devotional held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on 1 May 2016. https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/watch/worldwide-devotional/2016/05?lang=eng Image from LDS.org

Elder Richard J. Maynes, Presidency of the Seventy, at the Worldwide Young Adult Devotional held 1 May 2016 in the Salt Lake Tabernacle:

Let me share with you some historical context leading up to Joseph Smith's First Vision...Joseph wrote or dictated four known accounts of his First Vision. Additionally, his contemporaries recorded their memories of what they heard Joseph say about the vision; five such accounts are known. It is a blessing to have these records. They make Joseph’s First Vision the best-documented vision in history. I encourage you to visit history.lds.org to learn more about the accounts and see how they work together to paint a more complete picture...Like the individual New Testament Gospels that together more completely describe Christ’s life and ministry, each one of the accounts describing Joseph’s First Vision adds unique detail and perspective to the total experience. They together tell Joseph’s consistent, harmonious story. They all emphasize that there was confusion and strife among Christian churches, that Joseph desired to know which — if any — was right, that he searched the scriptures and prayed, that a light descended from heaven, and that divine beings appeared and answered his prayer.—(Click here to continue) [4]


Gospel Topics: "The various accounts of the First Vision tell a consistent story, though naturally they differ in emphasis and detail"

Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

The various accounts of the First Vision tell a consistent story, though naturally they differ in emphasis and detail. Historians expect that when an individual retells an experience in multiple settings to different audiences over many years, each account will emphasize various aspects of the experience and contain unique details. Indeed, differences similar to those in the First Vision accounts exist in the multiple scriptural accounts of Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus and the Apostles’ experience on the Mount of Transfiguration.3 Yet despite the differences, a basic consistency remains across all the accounts of the First Vision. Some have mistakenly argued that any variation in the retelling of the story is evidence of fabrication. To the contrary, the rich historical record enables us to learn more about this remarkable event than we could if it were less well documented. [5]—(Click here to continue)


Seminary Manual (2013): "Joseph Smith emphasized different aspects of his vision in his multiple accounts"

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual (2013), LESSON 6: Joseph Smith—History 1:1–20:

Just as Joseph Smith emphasized different aspects of his vision in his multiple accounts, the Apostle Paul emphasized different aspects of his vision of the Savior to different audiences (see Acts 9:1–9; Acts 22:5–11; Acts 26:12–20). Why do you think Joseph Smith and Paul emphasized different things each time they related the accounts of their visions? [6]


Backman (1985): "On at least four different occasions, Joseph Smith either wrote or dictated to scribes accounts of his sacred experience of 1820"

Milton V. Backman, Ensign (January 1985):

On at least four different occasions, Joseph Smith either wrote or dictated to scribes accounts of his sacred experience of 1820. Possibly he penned or dictated other histories of the First Vision; if so, they have not been located. The four surviving recitals of this theophany were prepared or rendered through different scribes, at different times, from a different perspective, for different purposes and to different audiences.1 It is not surprising, therefore, that each of them emphasizes different aspects of his experience.[7]


Allen (1970): "the Prophet described his experience to friends and acquaintances at least as early as 1831-32...he continued to do so in varying detail until the year of his death"

James B. Allen, Improvement Era (April 1970):

Nevertheless, it can now be demonstrated that the Prophet described his experience to friends and acquaintances at least as early as 1831-32, and that he continued to do so in varying detail until the year of his death, 1844. We presently know of at least eight contemporary documents that were written during his lifetime.[8]


Response to claim: "Why doesn't Jesus show up (separate from God) until after the God doctrine had evolved into a plurality of Gods? (i.e., after 1835)"

The author(s) of Difficult Questions for Mormons make(s) the following claim:

Response to claim: "Why doesn't Jesus show up (separate from God) until after the God doctrine had evolved into a plurality of Gods? (i.e., after 1835)"

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph and the early Saints were not trinitarian, and understood God's embodiment and the identity of the Father and Son as separate beings very early on.

Question: Did Joseph begin his prophetic career with a "trinitarian" idea of God?

Joseph and the early Saints were not trinitarian, and understood God's embodiment and the identity of the Father and Son as separate beings very early on

This doctrine is apparent in the Book of Mormon, and in the earliest friendly and non-friendly accounts of such matters from the Saints.

Such texts demonstrate that the supposed 'evidence' for Joseph altering his story later is only in the eyes of critical beholders. For example, Joseph's 1832 First Vision account focuses on the remission of his sins. However, critics who wish to claim that in 1832 Joseph had only a vaguely "trinitarian" idea of God (and so would see the Father and the Son as only one being) have missed vital evidence which must be considered.[9]

Martin Harris remembered rejecting the ideas of creedal Trinitarianism prior to meeting Joseph

Martin dictated an account of his early spiritual search:

"52 years ago I was Inspired of the Lord & Tought of the Spirit that I should not Join Eny Church although I Was anxiousley Sought for by meny of the Secatirans[.] I Was taught I could not Walk togther unless agreed[.] What can you not be agreed in [is] in the Trinity because I can not find it in my Bible[.] find it for me & I am Ready to Receive it. 3 Persons in one god[.] one Personage I can not concede for this is Antichrist for Where is the Father & Son[?] I have more proof to Prove 9 Persons in the Trinity then you have 3[.]...other sects the Epicopalians also tired me[.] they say 3 Persons in one god Without Body Parts or Passions[.] I Told them such A god I would not be afraid of: I could not Please or offend him[.] [I] Would not be afraid to fight A Duel With such A god.[10]

It would be very strange for Martin to feel so strongly on this point, only to embrace Joseph's teachings if Joseph taught creedal trinitarianism.

1829 - In the Book of Mormon one [Christ] followed by twelve others descends from God to speak with Lehi--thus, Jesus and the Father are here both separate

The Book of Mormon also begins (1 Nephi 1:8-10) with Lehi's vision of God on his throne. One [Christ] followed by twelve others descends from God to speak with Lehi--thus, Jesus and the Father are here both separate, and the role of Christ in giving instructions to the prophet while the Father looks on and approves is followed, just as it was in Joseph's First Vision. Here too, Lehi is described as praying to "the Lord," and yet has a vision of both God the Father and Christ.

1830 - Book of Moses: "And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten"

Between June and October 1830, Joseph had dictated his revision (the "Joseph Smith Translation") to Genesis.[11] The first chapter of Moses was dictated in June 1830 (about a month after the Church's reorganization), and began:

2 And [Moses] saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.

3 And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?

4 And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.

5 Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth.

6 And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all (Moses 1:2-6)

Here already, God distinguishes himself from the Only Begotten, Moses sees and speaks with God face to face, and says that Moses was created "in the similitude of mine Only Begotten."

Joseph's rendered Genesis 1:26 as:

And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so....And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them. (Moses 2:26-27.)

There can be no doubt that Joseph understood "in mine own image" to refer to a physical likeness, rather than merely a moral or intellectual one. The JST of Genesis 5:1-2 reads

In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; in the image of his own body, male and female, created he them (Moses 6:8-9, emphasis added)

Thus, by 1830 Joseph was clearly teaching a separation of the Father and Son, and insisting that both had some type of physical form which could be copied in the creation of humanity.

Joseph's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, also noted that other Christian denominations took issue with the new Church because of its teachings about God, noting that in 1830:

the different denominations are very much opposed to us.... The Methodists also come, and they rage, for they worship a God without body or parts, and they know that our faith comes in contact with this principle.[12]

1831 - Joseph "saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father"

Anti-Mormon writers in 1831 noted that Joseph claimed to have received "a commission from God"; and the Mormons claimed that Joseph "had seen God frequently and personally."[13] That Joseph's enemies knew he claimed to have "seen God," indicates that the doctrine of an embodied God that could be seen was well-known early on.

John Whitmer would also write in 1831 of a vision enjoyed by Joseph in which Joseph saw Christ as separate from the Father, for he "saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father making intercession for his brethren, the Saints." (emphasis added) [14] Of this same experience, Levi Hancock wrote:

Joseph Smith then stepped out onto the floor and said, 'I now see God, and Jesus Christ at his right hand, let them kill me, I should not feel death as I am now.' (emphasis added) [15]

1832 - In the 1832 account of the First Vision, Jesus announces to Joseph that he will come "clothed in the glory of my Father"

One should first note that in the 1832 account of the First Vision, Jesus announces to Joseph that he will come "clothed in the glory of my Father." The Book of Mormon (translated three years earlier in 1829) also contains numerous passages which teach a physical separation and embodiment (even if only in spirit bodies, which are clearly not immaterial, but have shape, position, and form) of the members of the Godhead. (See: 3 Nephi 11:, 1 Nephi 11:1-11, Ether 3:14-18.)

Furthermore, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were to receive a revelation of the three degrees of glory in the same year as Joseph's 1832 account was written; it clearly teaches a physical separation of the Father and Son, bearing witness of seeing both. (See D&C 76:14,20–24.)[16]

1832–1833 - "Joseph answered that this was Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother"

Two of Joseph's close associates reported their own visions of God in the winter of 1832–1833. Both are decidedly not in the trinitarian mold.

Zebedee Coltrin:

Joseph having given instructions, and while engaged in silent prayer, kneeling...a personage walked through the room from East to west, and Joseph asked if we saw him. I saw him and suppose the others did, and Joseph answered that this was Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother. Afterward Joseph told us to resume our former position in prayer, which we did. Another person came through; He was surrounded as with a flame of fire. [I] experienced a sensation that it might destroy the tabernacle as it was of consuming fire of great brightness. The Prophet Joseph said this was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I saw him....

He was surrounded as with a flame of fire, which was so brilliant that I could not discover anything else but his person. I saw his hands, his legs, his feet, his eyes, nose, mouth, head and body in the shape and form of a perfect man. He sat in a chair as a man would sit in a chair, but This appearance was so grand and overwhelming that it seemed that I should melt down in His presence, and the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marrow of my bones. The Prophet Joseph said: "Brethren, now you are prepared to be the apostles of Jesus Christ, for you have seen both the Father and the Son and know that They exist and that They are two separate personages.[17]

John Murdock:

During the winter that I boarded with[Bro[ther] Joseph... we had a number of prayer meetings, in the Prophet’s chamber.... In one of those meetings the Prophet told us if we could humble ourselves before God, and exersise [sic] strong faith, we should see the face of the Lord. And about midday the visions of my mind were opened, and the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, and I saw the form of a man, most lovely, the visage of his face was sound and fair as the sun. His hair a bright silver grey, curled in a most majestic form, His eyes a keen penetrating blue, and the skin of his neck a most beautiful white and he was covered from the neck to the feet with a loose garment, pure white, whiter than any garment I had ever before seen. His countenance was the most penetrating, and yet most lovely. And while I was endeavoring to comprehend the whole personage from head to feet it slipped from me, and the vision was closed up. But it left on my mind the impression of love, for months, that I never felt before to that degree.[18]

1834–1835 - Lectures on Faith: "There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things"

In the School of the Prophets, the brethren were taught that

"There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things, by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made. . . . They are the Father and the Son--the Father being a personage of spirit, glory, and power, possessing all perfection and fulness, the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle. (Lecture 5:1–2)

Here, the separateness of the Father and Son continues to be made clear.

1836 - "They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts"

A skeptical news article noted:

They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts; and that when the Creator formed Adam in his own image, he made him about the size and shape of God himself....[19]

Evidence that is absent

In addition to all the non-trinitarian evidence above, as Milton Backman has noted, there is a great deal of evidence that we should find, but don't. For example, no one has "located a publication (such as an article appearing in a church periodical or statement from a missionary pamphlet) written by an active Latter-day Saint prior to the martyrdom of the Prophet that defends the traditional or popular creedal concept of the Trinity. . . ." Moreover, there are no references in critical writings of the 1830s (including statements by apostates) that Joseph Smith introduced in the mid-thirties the doctrine of separateness of the Father and Son.[20]


Response to claim: "Why don't the early 'prophets' even know the story accurately?"

The author(s) of Difficult Questions for Mormons make(s) the following claim:

Response to claim: "Why don't the early "prophets" even know the story accurately? "The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven...But he did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun...and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong" (B. Young - JOD Volume 2 p.171 1855)."

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Brigham's quote did not indicate that he was unfamiliar with the story of the First Vision. Brigham's other discourses show that he was indeed familiar with the details of the vision.

Brigham Young (1861): "The Lord chose Joseph Smith, called upon him at fourteen years of age, gave him visions"

Brigham Young:

The Lord chose Joseph Smith, called upon him at fourteen years of age, gave him visions, and led him along, guided and directed him in his obscurity until he brought forth the plates and translated them, and Martin Harris was prevailed upon to sustain the printing of the Book of Mormon. All this was done in the depths of poverty, obscurity, and weakness. [21]


Brigham Young (1855): "The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven...But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun"

According to this statement made by Brigham Young, "the Lord" sent "His angel" to Joseph Smith, and the Lord, through this angel told him not to join any of the religious sects of the day and that they were all wrong. In this context the term "Lord" would seem to refer to God the Father of Jesus Christ. That the term "Lord" is a perfectly acceptable title for the Father is seen in Acts 3:19-21. Brigham Young:

But as it was in the days of our Savior, so was it in the advent of this new dispensation. It was not in accordance with the notions, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas of the American people. The messenger did not come to an eminent divine of any of the so-called orthodoxy, he did not adopt their interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek, the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowlege of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that He had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before Him.[22]


Brigham Young (1867): "the Lord called upon Joseph he was but a boy—a child, only about fourteen years of age"

Brigham Young:

When the Lord called upon Joseph he was but a boy—a child, only about fourteen years of age. He was not filled with traditions; his mind was not made up to this, that, or the other. I very well recollect the reformation which took place in the country among the various denominations of Christians—the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and others—when Joseph was a boy. Joseph's mother, one of his brothers, and one, if not two, of his sisters were members of the Presbyterian Church, and on this account the Presbyterians hung to the family with great tenacity. And in the midst of these revivals among the religious bodies, the invitation, "Come and join our church," was often extended to Joseph, but more particularly from the Presbyterians. Joseph was naturally inclined to be religious, and being young, and surrounded with this excitement, no wonder that he became seriously impressed with the necessity of serving the Lord. But as the cry on every hand was, "Lo, here, is Christ," and "Lo, there!" Said he, "Lord, teach me, that I may know for myself, who among these are right." And what was the answer? "They are all out of the way; they have gone astray, and there is none that doeth good, no not one." When he found out that none were right, he began to inquire of the Lord what was right, and he learned for himself. Was he aware of what was going to be done? By no means. He did not know what the Lord was going to do with him, although He had informed him that the Christian churches were all wrong, because they had not the Holy Priesthood, and had strayed from the holy commandments of the Lord, precisely as the children of Israel did. [23]


Question: Did Brigham Young confirm or expound on Joseph Smith’s first vision?

Milton V. Backman, “I Have a Question: Did Brigham Young confirm or expound on Joseph Smith’s first vision?,” Ensign, Apr. 1992, 59:

President Young’s conviction of the divine calling of Joseph Smith included an unwavering acceptance of Joseph’s testimony regarding the First Vision. In 1842, Joseph Smith published two accounts of his 1820 theophany in the Times and Seasons—one he had written and included earlier in the Wentworth Letter, and the other a more extended history that appeared in serial form. This latter account (the account which appears in the current edition of the Pearl of Great Price) was reprinted in the Deseret News, the Millennial Star, and the first editions of the Pearl of Great Price during the presidency of Brigham Young. That President Young was well acquainted with this history is evident by the fact that he periodically cited the work in his sermons and writings.[24] —(Click here to continue)


Question: When and how often did Brigham Young refer to elements of Joseph Smith's First Vision in his discourses?

It cannot be denied that Brigham Young was aware of the official version of the First Vision as published by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois

It has been claimed that "Brigham Young never once mentioned the First Vision of God the Father and his Son in his 30 years of preaching as President of the Church." Note that the same critics also claim that Brigham Young taught only that an angel came: a strange claim to make while insisting that Brigham never spoke of the First Vision at all.

It cannot be denied that Brigham Young was aware of the official version of the First Vision as published by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois. And it is almost beyond comprehension to believe that President Young was not aware of numerous First Vision story recitals (both in print and over the pulpit) by high Church authorities such as Orson Pratt, Lorenzo Snow, John E. Page, George Q. Cannon, Orson Hyde, John Taylor, Franklin D. Richards, and George A. Smith.

First Vision elements and other revelatory claims for Joseph in Brigham Young's addresses

  • JS called at fourteen[25]
  • JS called as a youth[26]
  • Revival or Reformation[27]
  • All churches wrong; Don’t join any church[28]
  • Two personages[29]
  • Moroni and Book of Mormon[30]
  • Priesthood restored[31]

Chronological mentions of First Vision and other visitations by Brigham Young

This charge is not historically accurate. It can be plainly seen in the information provided below that Brigham Young was aware of the First Vision story during his tenure as President of the Church and not only shared it with non-Mormons in written form but also spoke to the Saints about it over the pulpit.

1832

  • Brigham Young September 1832, declared that he “received the sure testimony, by the spirit of prophecy, that he [Joseph Smith] was all that any man could believe him to be, as a true Prophet.”[32]

1835–36

  • Around 9 August 1835 Joseph Young (Brigham Young’s brother) was serving as a missionary with Burr Riggs and they were teaching the First Vision story.[33] In the Summer of 1836 Joseph Young and Brigham Young were serving together as missionaries.[34]

1838

  • Brigham Young, 22 December 1838:
I left Kirtland in consequence of the fury of the mob … who threatened to destroy me because I would proclaim, publicly and privately, that I knew, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of the Most High God.[35]

1841

  • “On the 4th June I started for home, in company with Elders Young and Taylor.—Elder O. Pratt remained in New York to republish the book he had printed in Edinburgh, Scotland, giving a history of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and of which he intended to publish 5,000 copies…. [78] Elder Orson Pratt arrived here this week…”[36]

1845

  • Brigham Young, June 25, 1845: we received the priesthood from God through Joseph Smith…. The Twelve Apostles who received the priesthood from Joseph[37]

1847

  • Brigham Young, D&C 136:37 (January 14, 1847): … Joseph Smith, whom I did call upon by mine angels, my ministering servants, and by mine own voice out of the heavens, to bring forth my work.[38]
  • Brigham Young, January 17, 1847: Dr. Richards read ‘The Word and Will of the Lord’ [D&C 136:] and all present voted unanimously to receive it. I addressed the assembly showing that the Church had been led by revelation just as much since the death of Joseph Smith as before, and that he was as great and good a man, and as great a Prophet as ever lived upon the earth, Jesus excepted. Joseph received his apostleship from Peter and his brethren[39]
  • Brigham Young
When Brother Joseph received the priesthood he did not receive all at once but he was a prophet, seer and revelator before he received the fullness of the priesthood and keys of the kingdom. He first received the Aaronic Priesthood and was ordained under the hands of John the Baptist. He then had not power to lay on hands to confirm the church but afterwards he received the Patriarchal or Melchizedek Priesthood from under the hands of Peter, James and John, who were of the Twelve apostles and were the presidency when the other apostles were absent.[40]

1848

  • Brigham Young wrote, late December 1848: “Elder Orson Pratt published a series of pamphlets on the first principles, viz., Divine Authority, or the Question, Was Joseph Smith Sent of God…. Kingdom of God parts 1 & 2…. Also reprinted his pamphlet entitled Remarkable Visions 16 pages… All of which were published in Liverpool, England”....[41]

1850

  • Brigham Young, June 23, 1850, Bowery: “[sin and darkness] makes it necessary for the Lord to speak from the heavens, send his angels to converse with men, and cause his servants to testify of the things of God”[42]
  • On 1 November 1850 Lorenzo Snow wrote a letter to Brigham Young and informed him that he had produced a tract called The Voice of Joseph which included information on “visions of Joseph Smith.” This tract talks about the Prophet’s First Vision experience. [43]

1853

  • Brigham Young 19 June 1853:
All persons who are acquainted with this kingdom, who knew Joseph Smith from his boyhood, from the time the Lord revealed to him where the plates containing the matter in the Book of Mormon were deposited, from the time the first revelation was given to him, and as far back as he was known, in anywise whatever, as a person professing to have received a visitation from heaven—all must know that as much priestcraft as was then within the circle of the knowledge of Joseph Smith, jun., he had to bear on his back, and to lift from time to time. On the other hand, as his name spread abroad, and the principles of the Gospel began to be more extensively taught, in the same proportion he had more to bear. The Lord began to raise him up, and endow him with wisdom and power that astonished both his friends and his foes.[44]
  • Brigham Young 24 July 1853:
the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet of the Lord, that an angel from heaven administered to him, that the Latter-day Saints have got the true Gospel, that John the Baptist came to Joseph Smith and committed to him the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood; and that Peter, James, and John also came to him, and gave him the keys of the Melchisedek Priesthood....[45]

1854

  • The Lucy Mack Smith autobiography called Biographical Sketches became available in Utah. Since Brigham Young protested vigorously against some of this book’s content he was more than likely aware of the 1838 Church history First Vision material printed within it. [46]
  • Brigham Young, March 31, 1854:
“….After the administration of baptism, we believe in laying hands upon the candidate for his confirmation as a member of the Church, and for his reception of the Holy Ghost; and we believe that these, and all other ordinances pertaining to salvation, should be administered by persons actually clothed with the priesthood, as again restored to the earth through the ministration of angels to the Prophet JOSEPH SMITH…. Trusting that this reply, though brief, will be satisfactory on the points of your inquiry” I remain, respectfully, your obedient servant, BRIGHAM YOUNG, [47]

1855

  • Brigham Young, (Feb 18, 1855):
But as it was in the days of our Savior, so was it in the advent of this new dispensation. It was not in accordance with the notions, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas of the American people. The messenger did not come to an eminent divine of any of the so-called orthodoxy, he did not adopt their interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek, the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowlege [knowledge] of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that He had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before Him. No sooner was this made known, and published abroad, and people began to listen and obey the heavenly summons, than opposition began to rage, and the people, even in this favored land, began to persecute their neighbors and friends for entertaining religious opinions differing from their own.[48]
  • [NOTE: compare the above with this by George Q. Cannon in 1889:
“But you may ask, ‘How shall I know concerning this? Shall I expect the Lord Himself to come, or His Son Jesus, or send a holy angel to me?’ In reply, we say, No; do not look for such things. This is not the Lord’s way of dealing with His children. It is true, the Father and the Son and angels visited the Prophet Joseph. This was necessary. He was a chosen instrument to accomplish a great work, and to do this he was visited in this manner, so that through him knowledge that had long been lost might be restored”[49] (308b)

1857

On 13 August 1857 Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Daniel H. Wells, John Taylor, Willard Richards, and Wilford Woodruff placed several publications in the southeast cornerstone of the Salt Lake Temple that contained First Vision accounts. They were:
  • The Pearl of Great Price
  • Lorenzo Snow, The Voice of Joseph
  • Orson Pratt, (various tracts)
  • Franklin D. Richards, Compendium
  • John Jaques, Catechism for Children
  • Millennial Star, vol. 14 supplement
  • Millennial Star, vol. 3[50]

1858

  • On 20 January 1858 apostles Wilford Woodruff and George A. Smith appended a statement to the published Church history stating that “since the death of the Prophet Joseph, the history has been carefully revised under the strict inspection of President Brigham Young, and approved of by him.” This history contains the 1838 First Vision account.[51]

1859

  • In the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on 1 September 1859 Brigham Young referred to Joseph Smith’s published 1838 First Vision account. He asked, “[H]ave I yet lived to the state of perfection that I can commune in person with the Father and the Son at my will and pleasure? No . . . . [three sentences later] Joseph Smith in his youth had revelations from God. He saw and understood for himself. Are you acquainted with his life? You can read the history of it. I was acquainted with him during many years. He had heavenly visions; angels administered to him. The vision of his mind was opened to see and understand heavenly things. He revealed the will of the Lord to the people, and yet but few were really acquainted with brother Joseph.” [52]

1860

  • Brigham Young 3 June 1860
The Lord has led this people from the beginning. From the day that Joseph obtained the plates, and previous to that time, the Lord dictated him. He directed him day by day and hour by hour.[53]

1861

  • In the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on 3 March 1861 Brigham Young said: “The Lord chose Joseph Smith, called upon him at fourteen years of age, gave him visions, and led him along, guided and directed him in his obscurity until he brought forth the plates and translated them, and Martin Harris was prevailed upon to sustain the printing of the Book of Mormon. All this was done in the depths of poverty, obscurity, and weakness."[54]
  • Brigham Young 6 April 1861:
The Book of Mormon was translated near where we [BY and HCK] then resided, as we might say, in our own neighbourhood. It was translated about as far from where brother Kimball then lived as it is from here to Little Cottonwood; and where Joseph first discovered the plates was about as far from where I then lived as it is from here to Provo. Here we would have considered the discoverer of those plates and the translator of the Book of Mormon as [p.2] one of our neighbours. We are in the habit here of travelling more frequently and further than we were there. From the time that Joseph had his first revelation, in the neighbourhood where brother Kimball and I then lived, appears but a few days. Since then this people have passed through, experienced, and learned a great deal.[55]
  • Brigham Young, April 7, 1861:
We are not able to print a book for want of paper. Now we are prepared to go to work and make our own paper. As I have remarked, we have most excellent machinery; we also have good paper-makers; and what hinders our making the best of paper, and all the paper we want to use? Then we can print, in book form, the History of Joseph Smith, and do it in a respectable manner. Then we can print the Church History for ourselves and for the world, and every book we need.[56]

1864

  • On 1 September 1864 Brigham Young signed and dated a copy of the Pearl of Great Price and donated it to Harvard university. This volume contains Joseph Smith’s 1838 First Vision account.[57]
  • Brigham Young 4 June 1864:
The Lord had not spoken to the inhabitants of this earth for a long time, until He spoke to Joseph Smith, committed to him the plates on which the Book of Mormon was engraved, and gave him a Urim and Thummim to translate a portion of them, and told him to print the Book of Mormon, which he did, and sent it to the world, according to the word of the Lord….. it was first organized on the 6th of April, 1830. This was a slow business, but at last he organized the Church, for the Lord had revealed to him the Aaronic priesthood upon which the Church was first organized; after that he received the Melchisedec priesthood, when the Church was more fully organized, and a few more believed, and then a few more and a few more.[58]
  • Brigham Young 13 November 1864
The first act that Joseph Smith was called to do by the angel of God, was, to get the plates from the hill Cumorah, and then translate them, and he got Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery to write for him. He would read the plates, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, and they would write.[59]

1866

  • Brigham Young 17 June 1866:
He called upon his servant Joseph Smith, jun., when he was but a boy, to lay the foundation of his kingdom for the last time. Why did he call upon Joseph Smith to do it? because he was disposed to do it. Was Joseph Smith the only person on earth who could have done this work? No doubt there were many others who, under the direction of the Lord, could have done that work; but the Lord selected the one that pleased him, and that is sufficient. [60]

1867

  • Brigham Young, June 23rd, 1867
When the Lord called upon Joseph he was but a boy--a child, only about fourteen years of age. He was not filled with traditions; his mind was not made up to this, that, or the other. I very well recollect the reformation which took place in the country among the various denominations of Christians--the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and others--when Joseph was a boy. Joseph's mother, one of his brothers, and one, if not two, of his sisters were members of the Presbyterian Church, and on this account the Presbyterians hung to the family with great tenacity. And in the midst of these revivals among the religious bodies, the invitation, "Come and join our church," was often extended to Joseph, but more particularly from the Presbyterians. Joseph was naturally inclined to be religious, and being young, and surrounded with this excitement, no wonder that he became seriously impressed with the necessity of serving the Lord. But as the cry on every hand was, "Lo, here is Christ," and "Lo, there!" Said he, "Lord, teach me, that I may know for myself, who among these are right." And what was the answer? "They are all out of the way; they have gone astray, and there is none that doeth good, no not one." When he found out that none were right, he began to inquire of the Lord what was right, and he learned for himself. Was he aware of what was going to be done? By no means. He did not know what the Lord was going to do with him, although He had informed him that the Christian churches were all wrong, because they had not the Holy Priesthood, and had strayed from the holy commandments of the Lord, precisely as the children of Israel did. …[70] When the Lord called upon His servant Joseph, after leading him along for years until he got the plates, from a portion of which the Book of Mormon was translated…. The Lord sent John to ordain Joseph to the Aaronic Priesthood, and when he commenced to baptize people he sent a greater power—Peter; James, and John, who ordained him to the apostleship, which is the highest office pertaining to the Kingdom of God that any man can possess on the face of the earth, for it holds the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven....[61]

1868

  • President B. Young 6 October 1868:
Orson Pratt spoke: some seven years before the Lord entrusted them [the plates] to his care…. The Lord revealed himself to this youth when he was between fourteen and fifteen years of age....[62]

1870

  • Brigham Young, Tabernacle, SLC, July 17, 1870:
Is there any harm in believing in the Lord Jesus Christ? I frequently ask the question for my own satisfaction. Is there a doctrine taught in this book (the Bible), that would ruin or injure man, woman or child on the face of the earth? Not one. Is there a doctrine taught by Jesus and his disciples that would not do good to the people morally, physically, socially, religiously or politically? Not one. Did Joseph Smith ever teach a doctrine that would not elevate the soul, feelings, heart and affections of every individual who would embrace it? Not one. Did he ever teach a doctrine that would lead those who embraced it down to wretchedness, woe and misery, that would give them pain for ease, darkness for light, error for truth? No; but just the reverse. He proffered life and salvation--light for darkness and truth for error. He proffered all that was in the Gospel of the Son of God, and proclaimed that very Gospel that John saw the angel flying through the midst of heaven to restore. That angel delivered the keys of this apostleship and ministry to Joseph Smith and his brethren”....[63]

1871

  • Brigham Young, General Conference, April 8, 1871:
Did Joseph Smith ever arrogate to himself this right? Never, never, never; and if God had not sent a messenger to ordain him to the Aaronic Priesthood and then other messengers to ordain him to the Apostleship, and told him to build up his kingdom on the earth, it would have remained in chaos to this day.[64]

1872

  • John Taylor, May 26, 1872 Tabernacle, Ogden Tabernacle[65]

1873

  • Brigham Young 18 May 1873:
When Joseph Smith first learned [p.42] from God the principle of baptism for the remission of sins, he undoubtedly thought that he had learned something great and wonderful; so, also, when he received his ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood under the hands of John the Baptist. But he did not fly off at a tangent, and think he had it all, but was willing and anxious to be taught further. After receiving this authority, he baptized his friends. When he organized the Church, he received the higher Priesthood, after the order of Melchisedec, which gave him authority not only to baptize for the remission of sins, but to confirm by the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost. The Aaronic Priesthood holds power to baptize, but not to lay on hands to confer the Holy Ghost. When Joseph Smith received this higher power, he did not throw away the first, but received additions to it. He learned of and administered the Sacrament, then went to preaching a year or two, and received the High Priesthood, which he imparted to others, and then obtained other communications and powers, until he received the full pattern and authority to build up the kingdom of God, preparatory to the coming of the Son of Man, which also he imparted to others.[66]
  • Brigham Young June 29, 1873 Logan Bowery
From the time that Joseph obtained a knowledge of the plates in the hill Cumorah he received little by little, a little at a time. When he first obtained a knowledge of these plates I apprehend that he knew nothing, in comparison, of their contents and the design of the Lord in bringing them forth. But he was instructed little by little until he received the Aaronic priesthood, then the privilege of baptism for the remission of sins, then the Melchizedek Priesthood, then organizing a church, &c.,[67]
  • Brigham Young, 10 August 1873, SLC Tabernacle:
The condition of the nations of the earth, politically, socially and religiously, was next dwelt upon, and, in concluding, President Young bore a powerful testimony to the gospel of Christ as revealed in this age of the [564] world, through Joseph Smith, the prophet.[68]

1874

  • President Young’s Address; Railroad Celebration.—Opening of the U.S.R.R. to Provo [read by David McKenzie]
JOSEPH SMITH. It is true that the angel, commissioned to restore, in this our day, the fullness of the everlasting Gospel, found Joseph but a youth and comparatively unlearned, he having had but limited opportunities for education in the then wilds of Western New York; but, from that date, until so foully massacred with his brother Hyrum in Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois, on the 27th June, 1844, in the 39th year of his age, he assiduously applied himself to studying the English, German, Hebrew and other languages, and gaining all information of worth from every available source, especially through revelation from Heaven, the fountain of all light and knowledge. (5)[69]
  • Brigham Young 21 June 1874:
We have passed from one thing to another, and I may say from one degree of knowledge to another. When Joseph first received the knowledge of the plates that were in the hill Cumorah, he did not then receive the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood, he merely received the knowledge that the plates were there, and that the Lord would bring them forth, and that they contained the history of the aborigines of this country. He received the knowledge that they were once in possession of the Gospel, and from that time he went on, step by step, until he obtained the plates, and the Urim and Thummim, and had power to translate them.[p.240] This did not make him an Apostle, it did not give to him the keys of the kingdom, nor make him an Elder in Israel. He was a Prophet, and had the spirit of prophecy, and had received all this before the Lord ordained him….. He received the Aaronic Priesthood, and then he received the keys of the Melchisedek Priesthood, and organized the Church. He first received the power to baptise, and still did not know that he was to receive any more until the Lord told him there was more for him. Then he received the keys of the Melchisedek Priesthood, and had power to confirm after he had baptized, which he had not before. He would have stood precisely as John the Baptist stood, had not the Lord sent his other messengers, Peter, James and John, to ordain Joseph to the Melchisedek Priesthood. …[70]

1876

  • Orson Pratt, October 8, 1876, General Conference:
“He spoke of some who had attained to a perfect knowledge. Joseph Smith, when a youth of fourteen years of age, had a knowledge of the existence of God the Father, Jesus Christ his Son, and holy angels, for he not only saw them with his eyes, but heard their voice” [BY spoke morning and twice in the afternoon sessions.][71]
  • Brigham Young: Sunday afternoon 17 September 1876 SLC Tabernacle:
“Brother Cannon speaks of Christians. We are Christians professedly, according to our religion. People have gathered to themselves certain ideas, and laid them down as systems, calling them religion, all professing to believe and obey the Scriptures. Their religious are peculiar to themselves—our religion is peculiar to God, to angels, and to the righteous of time and eternity. Why are we persecuted because of our religion? Why was Joseph Smith persecuted? Why was he hunted from neighborhood to neighborhood, from city to city, and from State to State, and at last suffered death? Because he received revelations from the Father, from the Son, and was ministered to by holy angels, and published to the world the direct will of the Lord concerning his children on the earth. Again, why was he persecuted? Because he revealed to all mankind a religion so plain and so easily understood, consistent with the Bible, and so true. It is now as it was in the days of the Savior; let people believe and practise these simple, Godlike traits, and it will be as it was in the old world, they will say, if this man be let alone he will come and take away our peace and nation....[72]
  • Brigham Young 21 May 1877 Logan:
[144] The priesthood which Peter, James and John held while in the flesh was the highest ever bestowed upon the children of men, and it was conferred upon Joseph and Oliver, and without it they never could have built up the Kingdom. … The Lord sent his messengers, Peter, James and John, to ordain him to the highest authority that could be given…..[73]

1877

  • Brigham Young died August 29, 1877.


Response to claim: "'How did it (the organization) come? By the ministering of an holy angel from God, out of heaven..."

The author(s) of Difficult Questions for Mormons make(s) the following claim:

Response to claim: "'How did it (the organization) come? By the ministering of an holy angel from God, out of heaven, who held converse with man, and revealed unto him the darkness that enveloped the world...He told him the Gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of His kingdom in the world.' (Wilford Woodruff - JOD Volume 11 p.196 1855)."

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

Critics of the Church edit Wilford Woodruff's quote to make it appear that he was not familiar with the details of Joseph Smith's First Vision. Woodruff's quote does not state that it was the angel who told Joseph Smith that "the gospel was not among men"; it was the "the Lord" who provided this information

Question: Did Wilford Woodruff teach something other than the traditional story of the First Vision?

Woodruff's quote is edited by critics so that it appears that he was not aware of details of the First vision

Wilford Woodruff is claimed to have said in an 1855 sermon that the Church had been established in the last days only by "the ministering of an holy angel", and not by the Father and the Son.[74] The following text is the one used by critics of the Church to try and make it look like Apostle Wilford Woodruff taught something other than the traditional storyline of the First Vision.

"That same organization and gospel that Christ died for...is again established in this generation. How did it come? By the ministering of an holy angel from God...The angel taught Joseph Smith those principles which are necessary for the salvation of the world...He told him the gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of His kingdom in the world" [75]

An examination of the original text of the sermon in question reveals that Wilford Woodruff's words are being taken out of context by critics. The bolded words below show which sections of the paragraph have been selected by detractors to try and rewrite history.

"The gospel has gone forth in our day in its true glory, power, order, and light, as it always did when God had a people among men that He acknowledged. That same organization and gospel that Christ died for, and the Apostles spilled their blood to vindicate, is again established in this generation. How did it come? By the ministering of an holy ANGEL from God, out of heaven, who held converse with man, and revealed unto him the darkness that enveloped the world, and unfolded unto him the gross darkness that surrounded the nations, those scenes that should take place in this generation, and would follow each other in quick succession, even unto the coming of the Messiah. The ANGEL taught Joseph Smith those principles which are necessary for the salvation of the world; and THE LORD gave him commandments, and sealed upon him the Priesthood, and gave him power to administer the ordinances of the house of the Lord. HE told him the gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of HIS kingdom in the world, that the people had turned away from HIS true order, changed the ordinances, and broken the everlasting covenant, and inherited lies and things wherein their was no profit. HE told him the time had come to lay the foundation for the establishment of the Kingdom of God among men for the last time, preparatory to the winding up scene" (emphasis added).

Woodruff's quote does not state that it was the angel who told Joseph Smith that "the gospel was not among men"; it was the "the Lord" who provided this information

When critics break the above quotation into pieces in the manner that they have, they create an unrecognized problem for themselves. A careful reading of this material indicates that it was not the angel who told Joseph Smith that "the gospel was not among men"; it was the "the Lord" who provided this information (see the capitalized/italicized words above: ANGEL, THE LORD, HE, HIS). The anti-Mormons have, through their editing of the text, made it falsely appear as if the words of the angel and the Lord were one and the same.

The attempt to use Wilford Woodruff's words to obscure the details of Mormon history is a misguided one because the evidence does not lead to the conclusion that critics advocate. Elder Woodruff was in the second highest leadership quorum of the Church during the lifetime of Joseph Smith and never once did he mention that the Prophet told two different tales about the founding of the last gospel dispensation.


Question: Did Wilford Woodruff have knowledge of the First Vision prior to his 1855 remarks about an angel?

Before Elder Woodruff made his 1855 remarks six other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles published First Vision accounts

It is difficult to believe that Elder Wilford Woodruff did not have an accurate knowledge of the traditional First Vision story prior to his 1855 remarks since on 3 February 1842 he became the superintendent of the printing office in Nauvoo, Illinois where the Times and Seasons newspaper was published[76] and remained there through at least 8 November 1843.[77] These dates are significant because in-between them the Prophet Joseph Smith had two separate accounts of the First Vision printed on the pages of the Times and Seasons and so Elder Woodruff would have been the person who was ultimatey responsible for their production and distribution.

  • Times and Seasons 3 no. 9 (1 March 1842), 706–707. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) [Wentworth Letter First Vision account].
  • Times and Seasons 3 no. 11 (1 April 1842), 748–749. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) [History of the Church official First Vision account].

It should also be noted that before Elder Woodruff made his 1855 remarks six other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles published First Vision accounts: (Orson Pratt - 1840, 1850, 1851); (Orson Hyde - 1842); (John E. Page - 1844); (John Taylor - 1850); (Lorenzo Snow - 1850); (Franklin D. Richards - 1851, 1852). It seems highly unlikely that Elder Woodruff would have remained unaware of these publications, which were made available to the public by his closest associates.


Response to claim: "'How did the state of things called Mormonism originate? We read that an angel came down and revealed himself to Joseph Smith..."

The author(s) of Difficult Questions for Mormons make(s) the following claim:

Response to claim: "'How did the state of things called Mormonism originate? We read that an angel came down and revealed himself to Joseph Smith and manifested unto him in a vision the true position of the world in a religious point of view. He was surrounded with light and glory while the heavenly messenger communicated these things to him.' (John Taylor - JOD Volume 10 p.127 1863)."

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Critics focus on the few instances in which John Taylor referred to the two personages in the vision as "angels," yet they completely ignore the numerous times that Taylor also referred to them as the "Father and Son."

John Taylor (2 March 1879): "the Father and the Son...came to Joseph Smith" and "the Prophet Joseph asked the angel"

The following two statements were made by John Taylor in different discourses on the same day, 2 March 1879. In one, Taylor talks of Joseph Smith asking "the angel" which church was right, and in the other, Taylor clearly states that "the Father and the Son...came to Joseph Smith." This demonstrates how early Church leaders often used the term "angel" to refer to the personages that appeared in the First Vision, even though they clearly knew that they were the Father and the Son.

"When the Prophet Joseph asked the angel which of the sects was right"

None of them was right, just as it was when the Prophet Joseph asked the angel which of the sects was right that he might join it. The answer was that none of them are right.[78]

"When the Father and the Son and Moroni and others came to Joseph Smith"

When the Father and the Son and Moroni and others came to Joseph Smith, he had a priesthood conferred upon him which he conferred upon others for the purpose of manifesting the laws of life... [79]

Notice how one refers to an "angel" and the other refers to "the Father and the Son." Taylor was clearly aware of the details of the First Vision. This also demonstrates how early Church leaders used the term "angel" to represent the personages that Joseph saw, even at the same time that they recognized that these personages were the Father and the Son.


Response to claim: "'When the holy angel appeared, Joseph inquired which of all these denominations was right..."

The author(s) of Difficult Questions for Mormons make(s) the following claim:

Response to claim: "'When the holy angel appeared, Joseph inquired which of all these denominations was right and which he should join, and was told they were all wrong.' (George A. Smith - JOD Volume 12 p.334 1863)."

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Early Church leaders sometimes interchanged the word "angel" for the personages in the vision, yet they still acknowledged that the personages were the Father and the Son.

Question: Did the details of Joseph’s First Vision experience appear to have changed when communicating to his followers such that the elders of the Church did not know that Joseph saw two personages?

Early Church leaders sometimes mentioned the word "angel" in relation to the First Vision

The following quotes are often used to support the assertion that Church leaders did not understand the nature of the First Vision:

  1. Brigham Young “The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven ... but He did send his angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong.” (Brigham Young, (1855) Journal of Discourses 2:171.)
  2. Wilford Woodruff “The same organization and Gospel that Christ died for ... is again established in this generation. How did it come? By the ministering of an holy angel from God, out of heaven, who held converse with man, and revealed unto him the darkness that enveloped the world ... He told him the Gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of His kingdom in the world ... Joseph was strengthened by the Spirit and power of God, and was enabled to listen to the teachings of the angel. ... The man to whom the angel appeared obeyed the Gospel.” (Journal of Discourses, vol.2, 1855, pp.196-197)
  3. George A. Smith “He [Joseph Smith] went humbly before the Lord and inquired of Him, and the Lord answered his prayer, and revealed to Joseph, by the ministration of angels, the true condition of the religious world. When the holy angel appeared, Joseph inquired which of all these denominations was right and which he should join, and was told they were all wrong.” (George A. Smith, (1863) Journal of Discourses 12:334.)
  4. John Taylor “How was it, and which was right? None of them was right, just as it was when the Prophet Joseph asked the angel which of the sects was right that he might join it. The answer was that none of them are right. What, none of them? No. We will not stop to argue that question; the angel merely told him to join none of them that none of them were right.” (Journal of Discourses, 1879, vol.20, pp.158-171)

Critics of the Church use a quote from Brigham Young to demonstrate that he was unfamiliar with the First Vision: "The Lord did not come...But he did send His angel"

Brigham's full quote, including the portions removed by the critics:

The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek, the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowlege of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that He had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before Him.[80]

The critics ignore a quote where Brigham actually did state the that Lord "called upon" Joseph Smith at age 14

Brigham Young:

The Lord chose Joseph Smith, called upon him at fourteen years of age, gave him visions, and led him along, guided and directed him in his obscurity until he brought forth the plates and translated them, and Martin Harris was prevailed upon to sustain the printing of the Book of Mormon. All this was done in the depths of poverty, obscurity, and weakness. [81]

Critics of the Church use a quote from John Taylor as evidence that he wasn't familiar with the First Vision: "When the Prophet Joseph asked the angel which of the sects was right"

None of them was right, just as it was when the Prophet Joseph asked the angel which of the sects was right that he might join it. The answer was that none of them are right.[82]

The critics ignore this quote from John Taylor that was made the very same day in another discourse: "When the Father and the Son and Moroni and others came to Joseph Smith"

When the Father and the Son and Moroni and others came to Joseph Smith, he had a priesthood conferred upon him which he conferred upon others for the purpose of manifesting the laws of life... [83]

Notice how one refers to an "angel" and the other refers to "the Father and the Son." Taylor was clearly aware of the details of the First Vision. This also demonstrates how early Church leaders used the term "angel" to represent the personages that Joseph saw, even at the same time that they recognized that these personages were the Father and the Son.


Response to claim: "Why doesn't any published source mention the 'official' first vision account until 1842--22 years after the 'official' event supposedly happened?"

The author(s) of Difficult Questions for Mormons make(s) the following claim:

Response to claim: "Why doesn't any published source mention the 'official' first vision account until 1842--22 years after the 'official' event supposedly happened?"

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

There are a number of mentions of elements of the First Vision in publications prior to 1843.

Question: Is there any mention of the First Vision in non-Mormon literature before 1843?

There are a number of reports in non-Latter-day Saint source which allude to the First Vision having occurred

The historical record supports the claim that the First Vision was mentioned in non-Mormon literature prior to 1843:

  • Report in a non-LDS newspaper of Mormon missionaries teaching that Joseph Smith had seen God personally and received a commission from Him to teach true religion (The Reflector, vol. 2, no. 13, 14 February 1831).
  • The “Articles and Covenants” of the Church - which contained a reference to something that happened during the First Vision - were published in a non-LDS newspaper (Telegraph, 19 April 1831).
  • Report in a non-LDS newspaper that Mormon missionaries were teaching at least six of the beginning elements of the First Vision story (Fredonia Censor, vol. 11, no. 50, 7 March 1832).
  • In April 1841 the British publication Athenæum (a literary weekly) reprinted material from Orson Pratt’s Interesting Account pamphlet.
  • A non-LDS newspaper printed the first elements of the First Vision story. They were first reported in the Congregational Observer [Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut] and then reprinted in the Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer, vol. 5, no. 23, 3 September 1841.
  • First Vision story elements from Orson Pratt's 1840 pamphlet were reprinted in The Museum of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, vol. 14 (new series), no. 42, July 1841, 370. Philadelphia: E. Littell and Co. (copied from the 1841 Athenæum article called “The Book of Mormon and the Mormonites”).
  • When the Rev. John A. Clark published his autobiography he mixed nine First Vision story elements together with the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and said that he learned them all in the Fall of 1827 from Martin Harris (John A. Clark, Gleanings by the Way [Philadelphia: W. J. and J. K. Simmon, 1842],---).
  • A non-LDS college professor published the beginning story elements of the First Vision (Jonathan B. Turner, Mormonism in All Ages [New York: Platt and Peters, 1842], 14).

The majority of these reports are garbled, fragmentary, and out of proper context but this evidence still shows that the claim being made in the source cited above is not accurate.


Response to claim: "Why doesn't the 1st vision play an important role in Mormon history until the 1860s?"

The author(s) of Difficult Questions for Mormons make(s) the following claim:

Response to claim: "Why doesn't the 1st vision play an important role in Mormon history until the 1860s? No one seems to mention it before then even though it is now deemed by Mormons to be the most important event in almost 2,000 years."

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The visit of Moroni was emphasized in the early days of the Church. However, Latter-day Saints the world over knew about it, in detail, throughout the lifetimes of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

Question: Was the general membership of the LDS Church not familiar with the First Vision story until late in the nineteenth century?

Latter-day Saints the world over knew about it, in detail, throughout the lifetimes of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young

It has been claimed that, “Before the death of Brigham Young in 1877 the first vision was seldom mentioned in Mormon publications.” However, the First Vision story was never the garbled and evolving tale that critics of the Church want to make it out to be. Latter-day Saints the world over knew about it, in detail, throughout the lifetimes of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. They became aware of it by reading LDS books, LDS newspapers, LDS pamphlets, and LDS educational primers.

This charge has been repeatedly made by succeeding generations of anti-Mormons in their written communications, during lectures, and on the printed page. But the continual parroting of an argument does not somehow make it true. A survey of the historical record demonstrates beyond any conceivable doubt that this claim is not accurate and cannot be defended by any of the detractors of Mormonism.

President Brigham Young died on 29 August 1877. It can be demonstrated through the construction of a timeline (which can be examined by clicking on the link inside the red box at the top of this page) that before President Young passed away the First Vision was mentioned in LDS publications on more than 70 occasions. And a look at the details of the retellings of the story during the relevant time period is instructive. The documents indicate that:

  • The story was related in a published LDS history by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
  • The story was rehearsed in LDS printed material by six members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: Orson Pratt, John E. Page, Lorenzo Snow, John Taylor, Orson Hyde, and Franklin D. Richards.
  • The story was explained frequently to little children.
  • The story was told in the United States, England, Wales, Scotland, Italy, Denmark, Holland, South Africa, India, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Switzerland, and France.
  • The story was rehearsed in the English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Welsh, and French languages.
  • The story was told on a regular basis.
  • The story was expressed in consistent detail.

It should be noted that since the charge of "seldom" retellings in LDS literature is not accurate, it cannot be legitimately used to bolster the idea that confusion over the exact nature of the First Vision existed during President Brigham Young's administration. Nor can the unfounded notion be sustained that the official version of events did not get standardized until after President Young's death.


Response to claim: "Why isn't there evidence to support the revival described by Joseph Smith in early 1820--yet there is evidence to support revivals several years later?"

The author(s) of Difficult Questions for Mormons make(s) the following claim:

Response to claim: "Why isn't there evidence to support the revival described by Joseph Smith in early 1820--yet there is evidence to support revivals several years later? Joseph Smith's neighborhood experienced no revival in 1820 such as he described, in which great multitudes joined the Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches. According to early sources, including church conference reports, newspapers, church periodicals, presbytery records and published interviews, nothing occurred in 1820-21 that fits Joseph's description. There were no significant gains in church membership in the Palmyra-Manchester, New York area, during 1820-21 such as accompany great revivals. For example, in 1820, the Baptist Church in Palmyra only received 8 people through profession of faith and baptism, the Presbyterian church added 14 members, while the Methodist circuit lost 6 members, dropping from 677 in 1819 to 671 in 1820 and down to 622 in 1821 (see Geneva area Presbyterian Church Records, Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, PA; Records for the First Baptist Church in Palmyra, American Baptist Historical Society, Rochester, NY; Minutes of the [Methodist] annual Conference, Ontario Circuit, 1818-1821, pp. 312, 330, 346, 366)."

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

There is evidence to support the religious excitement in the Palmyra area during early 1820. Joseph Smith never called it a "revival."

Christofferson (2013): "Critics have also claimed that there were no religious revivals in the Palmyra, New York, area in 1820"

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, at a BYU Idaho devotional in 2013:

Critics have also claimed that there were no religious revivals in the Palmyra, New York, area in 1820, as Joseph Smith reported in his history. With today’s greater access to original sources, including the Palmyra Register newspaper, there is ample evidence of religious revivals in the area during 1820 and some years prior. It appears that the Methodists had a regularly used camp meeting ground, and that revivals were common enough that often they garnered no coverage in the newspapers unless something out of the ordinary occurred such as a death. (Footnote 12)[84]


Question: What religious excitement was occurring in Palmyra in 1820?

Methodist camp meetings were being held in Palmyra in 1820

Some claim that there were no religious revivals in the Palmyra, New York area in 1820, contrary to Joseph Smith's claims that during that year there was "an unusual excitement on the subject of religion...indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it" Joseph Smith—History 1:5

Joseph Smith talked of observing, as a 14-year-old, "an unusual excitement on the subject of religion" in the Palmyra area during the Spring of 1820. Joseph notes that "It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country." There is documented evidence of at least one Methodist camp meeting in the Palmyra area during that period, which only by chance happened to be mentioned in the local newspaper because of a specific death that seemed to be associated with it. It is reasonable to assume that the Methodists had more than one camp meeting during this period. In addition, there are newspaper articles talking of large-scale revival activity in the larger region surrounding Palmyra during the same general period when Joseph Smith said that it was taking place.

It is interesting to note that one crtical website attempts to dismiss evidence of Methodist camp meetings in the Palmyra area in 1820 because they are not "revivals", offering this weak excuse:

The church’s November 2013 essay and FAIR (an unofficial apologist LDS site) claim that there was a revival in 1820. They use the term revival loosely to help convince investigators that Smith’s claims are correct. An ad in the newspaper for a church camp meeting is not a revival that causes the “religious excitement” that Smith described. [85]

The critic's description is incorrect: This was not "an ad in a newspaper for a church camp meeting." It was a newspaper article about a death that occurred near the camp meeting - the camp meeting itself was never advertised in the newspaper, and likely never would have been. However, its mention in the newspaper is evidence that Methodist camp meetings were being held in the area at that time. The only reason that one was mentioned is because of the death associated with it.

One should keep in mind that Joseph Smith never used the term "revival" in his description - he simply described it as "an unusual excitement on the subject of religion." To a 14 year old who had been concerned about religion starting at age 12 after the 1817 revival, the ongoing camp meetings in the town in which he lived would certainly qualify.


Question: Was there no mention of revival activity in 1820 in the newspaper?

References to regional revival activity in the Palmyra Register, a newspaper which Joseph's family would have read, are clearly evident

A Presbyterian historian on Wikipedia comments on this FAIR Wiki article:

FAIR disagrees with your assessment and stubbornly holds to an 1820 date, Methodist camp meetings as interdenominational revivals, no date conflation, and local newspapers not reporting local news. The FAIR page never suggests that the time and place of the interdenominational religious awakening is irrelevant...[86]

Indeed, we "stubbornly hold" to the 1820 date, and we do not consider the time and place of religious awakening irrelevant. This claim by critics that there is no record of revival activity in the region surrounding Palmyra during the 1820 timeframe has simply not stood up to historical scrutiny. References to regional revival activity in the Palmyra Register, a newspaper which Joseph's family would have read, are clearly evident. While these revivals did not occur in Palmyra itself, their mention in the local newspaper would have given Joseph Smith the sense that there was substantial revival activity in the region. [87]

  • GREAT REVIVALS IN RELIGION. The religious excitement which has for some months prevailed in the towns of this vicinity...This is a time the prophets desired to see, but they never saw it....—Palmyra Register, June 7, 1820 (Ballston, NY - 196 miles away from Palmyra)
  • REVIVAL. A letter from Homer [N.Y.] dated May 29, received in this town, states, that 200 persons had been hopefully converted in that town since January first; 100 of whom had been added to the Baptist church. The work was still progressing.—Palmyra Register, August 16, 1820 (Homer, NY - 76 miles away from Palmyra)
  • REVIVALS OF RELIGION. "The county of Saratoga, for a long time, has been as barren of revivals of religion, as perhaps any other part of this state. It has been like 'the mountains of Gilboa, on which were neither rain nor dew.' But the face of the country has been wonderfully changed of late. The little cloud made its first appearance at Saratoga Springs last summer. As the result of this revival about 40 have made a public profession of religion in Rev. Mr. Griswold's church....A revival has just commenced in the town of Nassau, a little east of Albany. It has commenced in a very powerful manner....—Palmyra Register, September 13, 1820 (Saratoga, NY - 193 miles away from Palmyra)
  • FROM THE RELIGIOUS REMEMBRANCER A SPIRITUAL HARVEST. "I wish you could have been with us yesterday. I had the pleasure to witness 80 persons receive the seal of the covenant, in front of our Church. Soon after 135 persons, new members, were received into full communion. All the first floor of the Church was cleared; the seats and pews were all crowded with the members...Palmyra Register, October 4, 1820 (Bloomingsgrove, NY - 209 miles away from Palmyra)

There wasn't even any mention of the 1818 revival in Palmrya in the local newspaper

Critics often wish to place the revival which Joseph spoke about in 1818. However, even though we know that a revival occurred in Palmyra during June 1818, there is no mention of it in the town paper, despite the fact that it was attended by Robert R. Roberts, who was one of "only three Methodist bishops in North America." [88]

Once again, the commonality of such an event did not ensure that it would get a mention—yet, by the critics' same argument, this "silence" in the newspaper should mean that the 1818 revival didn't happen either.


Question: At what age did Joseph Smith become concerned about religion?

Joseph's interest in religion began when he was 12 years old, after the 1817 revival

Joseph's concern about religion started when he was twelve years old, close on the heels of the revival of 1817. In his 1832 account, Joseph notes that his concern about religion began at age 12 (1817-1818):

"At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns of for the wellfare of my immortal Soul which led me to searching the scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations led me to marvel excedingly for I discovered that they did not adorn instead of adorning their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository this was a grief to my Soul..." (Joseph Smith's 1832 account of the First Vision)

Richard Bushman notes that this "would have been in late 1817 and early 1818, when the after-affects of the revival of 1816 and 1817 were still felt in Palmyra." [89]

Joseph Smith talked of observing, as a 14-year-old, "an unusual excitement on the subject of religion" in the Palmyra area during the Spring of 1820. Joseph notes that "It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country." There is documented evidence of at least one Methodist camp meeting in the Palmyra area during that period, which only by chance happened to be mentioned in the local newspaper because of a specific death that seemed to be associated with it. In addition, there are newspaper articles talking of large-scale revival activity in the larger region surrounding Palmyra during the same general period when Joseph Smith said that it was taking place.

It is reasonable to assume based upon the facts that the Methodists had more than one camp meeting during this period. This could easily account for the religious excitement in Palmyra that, in Joseph's mind at age 14, began with the Methodists.

From age 12 to 15 Joseph pondered many things in his heart concerning religion

Joseph continues in his 1832 account: "[T]hus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind the contentions and divi[si]ons the wicke[d]ness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the of the minds of mankind my mind become excedingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins." In July, 1819, several years after Joseph said his mind became "seriously imprest," a major Methodist conference was held near Palmyra:

[T]he Methodists of the Genesee Conference met for a week in Vienna (later Phelps), a village thirteen miles southeast of the Smith farm on the road to Geneva. About 110 ministers from a region stretching 500 miles from Detroit to the Catskills and from Canada to Pennsylvania met under the direction of Bishop R. R. Robert to receive instruction and set policy. If we are to judge from the experience at other conferences, the ministers preached between sessions to people who gathered from many miles around. It was a significant year for religion in the entire district. . . . The Geneva Presbytery, which included the churches in Joseph's immediate area, reported in February, 1820, that "during the past year more have been received into the communion of the Churches than perhaps in any former year." Methodists kept no records for individual congregations, but in 1821 they built a new meetinghouse in town. [90]


Question: What evidence of religious excitement is there from non-Mormon sources?

Evidence of religious excitement from non-Mormon sources

Non-Mormon evidence demonstrates that there was a considerable increase in membership among some Christian sects. One source goes so far as to point out the growth over a given period without explicit revivals:

1817 to 1830 increase from 6 to 80 without revival, in a particular circuit (emphasis added). [91]

David Marks was born the same year as Joseph Smith, 1805. His parents moved to Junius, not far from Palmyra, when he was a teenager. He became very religious very early, and left home to become an itinerant Baptism minister. He published his memoirs in 1831. Here are some things he has to say about happenings in Junius and Phelps [Vienna], in 1819:

In the fall of the year 1818, upon relating my experience to the Calvinistic Baptist church in Junius, they received me as a candidate for baptism;….
I continued to attend the Baptist covenant meetings, and was treated with the same studied coldness as before. Six months had passed [i.e., sometime in spring 1819], since the church received me as a candidate for baptism,….
In the month of July, 1819, Elder Zabulon Dean, and his companion, having heard of my situation, and feeling interested, sent an appointment to our neighborhood; and came thirty miles, accompanied by brother Samuel Wire, then an unordained preacher, Deacon C., and Brother S. They were all Free-Will Baptists, and the first of whom I had any knowledge. On Saturday, July 10th, I meet with them, learned their sentiments, spirit and humility; which so well accorded with my own views and feelings, that desiring to be baptized, I related to them my experience and sentiments, also the manner in which my application to unite with the Baptist church had been received and afterwards rejected. They expressed satisfaction with my experience, approved of my sentiments, and the next day, being the Sabbath, a meeting was appointed for preaching and examination, at the house where the Baptist church usually met for worship (29).
On the 17th of the same month [July 1819], I attended the Benton Quarterly Meeting of the Free-Will Baptists, in the town of Phelps, eighteen miles from my father’s, and was there received a member of the church in that place. Five were baptized, communion and washing feet attended to, and a profitable season was enjoyed. After this, Elder Dean and brother Wire frequently preached in Junius, and a good reformation followed their labors; in which some of my former persecutors were converted to the faith of the gospel. In the ensuing autumn, brother Wire was ordained. He and Elder Dean baptized fifteen in Junius, who united with the church in Phelps; but in January following [1820], they were dismissed and acknowledged a church in Junius, taking the scriptures for their only rule of faith and practice. Being absent at the time of its organization, I did not become one of its members till the ensuing Spring. This church walked in gospel order several months, and enjoyed many happy seasons. But the summer of prosperity passed, and the winter of adversity succeeded. New and unexpected trials brought heaviness and mourning. Seven or eight, who first united and were well engaged, soon turned aside after Satan and walked no more with us. Iniquity abounding, the love of some waxed cold. Every feeling of my soul was pained, when those with whom I had taken sweet counsel, thus wounded the innocent cause of Jesus and brought it into reproach. But while our number decreased by [31] excommunications, the Lord more than supplied the vacancies by adding to the church of such as should be saved. [92]

Clearly, there was extensive religious excitement in the Palmyra area. A young man of Joseph's age was likewise much taken by it, as Joseph himself was.

What was happening in Joseph's area in 1820

Joseph states that about 1820 "an unusual excitement on the subject of religion" had commenced, and that "[i]t commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country." The Palmyra newspaper reported many conversions in the “burned-over” district. The Palmyra Register recorded that the Methodists had a religious camp meeting in 1820. [93] Since they did not have a chapel yet, they would meet in the woods on Vienna Road. [94] Pomeroy Tucker (a witness hostile to Joseph Smith) states that “protracted revival meetings were customary in some of the churches, and Smith frequented those of different denominations…” [95] These revivals in 1820 must have helped the Methodists, for they were able to build their first church in Palmyra by 1822, down on Vienna Road where they held their camp meetings.[96] The Zion Episcopal Church was originated in 1823. [97] In 1817, the Presbyterians were able to split into an eastern group and a western group. The eastern group used the only actual church building that was in Palmyra in 1820, while the western group assembled in the town hall. [98]


Question: Were revivals and religious excitement too common to be noticed in the newspapers?

One report of a Methodist camp meeting in Palmyra only made it into the local newspaper because of a fatality due to alcohol consumption

Ironically, evidence for local religious meetings was less likely to be documented in the newspapers because they were so common. One report of a Methodist camp meeting in Palmyra only made it into the local newspaper because of a fatality due to alcohol consumption. The paper, in a less politically correct time, pointed out that the deceased was Irish and had died due to alcohol at the Camp-ground outside Palmyra:

The deceased, we are informed, arrived at Mr. McCollum's house the evening preceding, from a camp-meeting which was held in this vicinity, in a state of intoxication....It is supposed he obtained his liquor, which was no doubt the cause of his death, at the Camp-ground, where, it is a notorious fact, the intemperate, the lewd and dissolute part of community too frequently resort for no better object, than to gratify their base propensities.[99]

The Methodists strenuously objected to the implication that their camp meetings where places where people came to get drunk. The Palmyra Register printed a clarification about a week later:

By this expression we did not mean to insinuate, that he obtained it within the enclosure of their place of worship, or that he procured it of them, but at the grog-shops that were established at, or near if you please, their camp-ground. It was far from our intention to charge the Methodists with retailing ardent spirits while professedly met for the worship of their God.[100]

Thus, Joseph's recollection of religious excitement in Palmyra is confirmed at the very edge of the Spring of 1820; very close to the time when he said he prayed to God about religion. [101]


Palmyra Register (1820): "It was far from our intention to charge the Methodists with retailing ardent spirits while professedly met for the worship of their God"

28 June 1820: "The deceased, we are informed, arrived...from a camp-meeting which was held in this vicinity, in a state of intoxication"

Palmyra Register, 28 June 1820:

Effects of Drunkenness--DIED at the house of Mr. Robert McCollum, in this town, on the 26th inst. James Couser, aged about forty years. The deceased, we are informed, arrived at Mr. McCollum's house the evening preceding, from a camp-meeting which was held in this vicinity, in a state of intoxication. He, with his companion who was also in the same debasing condition, called for supper, which was granted. They both stayed the night--called for breakfast next morning--when notified that it was ready, the deceased was found wrestling with his companion, who he flung with the greatest ease,--he suddenly sunk down upon a bench,--was taken with an epileptic fit, and immediately expired.--It is supposed he obtained his liquor, which was no doubt the cause of his death, at the Camp-ground, where, it is a notorious fact, the intemperate, the lewd and dissolute part of community too frequently resort for no better object, than to gratify their base propensities.

The deceased, who was an Irishman, we understand has left a family, living at Catskill this state. [102]

Mention of "the Camp-ground" did not endear the paper to the local Methodists, who objected to the implication that this (the location of their worship services) was the site of drinking to excess and a place of gathering by the "dissolute part" of the community. An article appeared in the same paper a week later which said:

5 July 1820: "Methodists...we did not mean to insinuate, that he obtained it within the enclosure of their place of worship"

Palmyra Register, 5 July 1820

"Plain Truth" is received. By this communication, as well as by the remarks of some of our neighbors who belong to the Society of Methodists, we perceive that our remarks accompanying the notice of the unhappy death of James Couser, contained in our last, have not been correctly understood. "Plain truth" says, we committed "an error in point of fact," in saying that Couser "obtained his liquor at the camp-ground." By this expression we did not mean to insinuate, that he obtained it within the enclosure of their place of worship, or that he procured it of them, but at the grog-shops that were established at, or near if you please, their camp-ground. It was far from our intention to charge the Methodists with retailing ardent spirits while professedly met for the worship of their God. Neither did we intend to implicate them by saying that "the intemperate, the dissolute, &c. resort to their meetings."--And if so we have been understood by any one of that society, we assure them they have altogether mistaken our meaning. [103]

Palmyra register 28 June and 5 July 1820 drunken man dies at camp meeting.jpg


Benajah Williams (1820): "Had a two Days meeting at Sq Bakers in Richmond. Br. Wright being gone to campmeeting on Ridgeway circuit I expected to find Br. J. Hayes at the Meeting"

In July 1820, a minister named Benajah Williams wrote the following of a camp meeting at a site only twenty-eight miles from Palmyra:

“Sat. 15th10 Had a two Days meeting at Sq Bakers in Richmond. Br. Wright being gone to campmeeting on Ridgeway circuit I expected to find Br. J. Hayes at the Meeting & calculated to get him to take the lead of the meeting but when on my way to meeting met him going to conference & tried to get him to return but he thout[sic] not best as his horse was young, he said he could not ride through by conference by the time it commenced Then I thout what shall I do I shall have to take the lead at the meeting & do the p- (preaching) but the Lord prepaired him self a preacher it rained powerfully until 11 o’clock so that I was verry wet I called with some of the Brtheren at Br. Eldredges11 and took dinner then rode to the place appointed for meeting. & found Br. Lane a Presiding Elder from Susquehanna District with five more preachers. Br. Warner p. on Sat. Br. Griffing exhorted. We had a good prayer meeting at six in the evening.”

“Sab. 16th Our Lovefeast began at 9 & the Lord was present to bless & we had a shout in the camp. Br E Bibbins p- at 11 from…the lord attended the word & the people were satisfied with the Sermons. Br. Lane exhorted and spoke on Gods method in bringing about Reffermations [sic] his word was with as from the authority of God. & not as the Areons. After him Br. Griffin with life & energy & Br. Vose closed the Meeting after with some of the Brethren dined with Br. W. E….” [104]

Palmyra to richmond new york walking.jpg


Response to claim: "Why does Lucy Smith (his mother) indicate that the revival occurred around 1824?"

The author(s) of Difficult Questions for Mormons make(s) the following claim:

Response to claim: "Why does Lucy Smith (his mother) indicate that the revival occurred around 1824? Her son, Alvin died on November 19, 1823, and following that painful loss Lucy Smith reports that, "about this time there was a great revival in religion and the whole neighborhood was very much aroused to the subject and we among the rest, flocked to the meeting house to see if there was a word of comfort for us that might relieve our over-charged feelings" (First draft of Lucy Smith's History, p. 55, LDS Church Archives). Church records from that time period show outstanding increases in membership due to the reception of new converts. The Baptist Church received 94, the Presbyterian 99, while the Methodist work grew by 208.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Lucy accurately indicated that a revival occurred around 1824. This has no bearing upon the religious excitement described by Joseph Smith at the time of his First Vision.

Question: Did Joseph Smith simply conflate elements of the 1818 and 1824-25 revivals in his story of the First Vision?

There is documentary evidence that shows abundant religious activity in the region surrounding Palmyra, New York during the 1819-1820 time period

Some critics and armchair scholars have come to the conclusion that some of the revival story elements found in Joseph Smith's 1838 historical narrative are not really accurate, but rather are representative of a conflation of facts. These people believe that Joseph Smith was actually mixing parts of 1818 and 1824-25 Palmyra revival activities into his storyline about what happened in 1820. In other words, they claim that the Prophet's narrative is not historically accurate - but not deceptively so.

The problem with the 'conflation theory' is two-fold: (1) It can be demonstrated that one of the most important pieces of documentary evidence which is used to support this theory does not actually say what some people think it says - see the FAIRwiki paper called Conflation of 1824-25 revival?. (2) There is plenty of documentary evidence that shows abundant revival activity in the general region surrounding Palmyra, New York during an 1819-1820 time period. A careful examination of Joseph Smith's 1838 narrative reveals that three distinct zones of revival activity are being referred to by him and each of these can be confirmed in non-LDS newspapers and ecclesiastical sources. When all of these sources are taken into account the idea of conflation loses most of its strength.


Question: Did Lucy Mack Smith state when she joined the Presbyterians?

Lucy does not say when she joined the Presbyterians

Lucy Mack Smith does not say in her autobiography that she actually joined with the religious group that was composed of "all the churches". She only says that she desired to join with them. She may well have already been associated with the Presbyterians.

Lucy was baptized first and THEN in 1820 she formally joined a denomination

One Presbyterian author claims that "when Lucy reached Palmyra, she developed a connection with the Presbyterian church, even though she held aloof from membership." As support for this assertion, he cites Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, 11-13 and notes that "Solomon Mack, Lucy's father, was a Universalist during her childhood but converted to orthodox Christianity in 1810." The author does not clarify the nature of Lucy's connection to the Presbyterian church after her arrival in Palmyra. Although he notes that Lucy "had sought spiritual comfort from a noted Presbyterian minister" while in Randolph, Vermont (citing Lucy's autobiography), he fails to note that this same autobiography provides the timeframe for when she was baptized. She says, “I concluded that my mind would be easier if I were baptized and I found a minister who was willing to baptize me and leave me free from membership in any church after which I pursued the same course until my oldest son [Alvin] attained his 22nd year” - which took place on 11 February 1820.

The "revival" mentioned by Lucy occurs one year prior to the 1824 revival

The "great revival in religion" that is mentioned in Mother Smith's autobiography appears to take place not long after Alvin's death in November 1823. In fact, it seems that it was Alvin's death that instigated this particular event. A disparity in timeframes (a one-year gap) calls any perceived connection between this event and Palmyra's 1824-25 revival into doubt. A ministerial eyewitness says that nothing much like a recognizable revival even took place in the village of Palmyra until December 1824 (The Methodist Magazine, vol. 8, no. 4, April 1825). Mother Smith does not mention any conversions during the December 1823 denomination-welding event which she describes while the December 1824 revival garnered more than 150 converts who joined themselves with various separate churches.

Lucy's family was suspended from fellowship in the Presbyterian church in March 1830

Church records confirm that Lucy's family was suspended from fellowship in the Western Presbyterian Church of Palmyra on March 10, 1830. The charge was 18 months of inactivity, which indicates that they had not attended since September 1828. This was one year after Joseph had received the plates. [105]

Joseph's actions support the First Vision account of his relatives joining the Presbyterians

Joseph Smith's comments to his mother about joining "any" church are significant. He said that taking such an action would be a mistake because of what was in the hearts of the adherents. During the First Vision the Lord told Joseph that the hearts of the members of the Christian denominations were far from Him (1832 account). Joseph also told his mother that if she did decide to join one of the churches she would not be long with them. This make perfect sense when it is remembered that just a few months prior to this time Joseph had informed his family that an angel had told him about golden plates and indicated that God was about to reveal "a more perfect knowledge of the plan of salvation and the redemption of the human family" (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, rev. ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], chapter 18).

The facts contained within the primary source documents do not support the conclusions of the critics. Joseph Smith said that his mother and siblings were members of the Presbyterian church in 1820 when he had the First Vision and the writings of his mother and brother support that statement. Joseph Smith was not in a state of confusion or bent on deception when he recorded the occurrences of his past. Readers of the Prophet's history can have confidence in what is presented before them.


Response to claim: Oliver Cowdery said, "You will recollect that I mentioned the time of a religious excitement, in Palmyra and vicinity to have been in the 15th year of our Brother J. Smith Jr's, age that was an error in the type- it should have been the 17th...This would bring the date down to the year 1823"

The author(s) of Difficult Questions for Mormons make(s) the following claim:

Response to claim: Oliver Cowdery said, "You will recollect that I mentioned the time of a religious excitement, in Palmyra and vicinity to have been in the 15th year of our Brother J. Smith Jr's, age that was an error in the type- it should have been the 17th...This would bring the date down to the year 1823." (Oliver Cowdrey - Times & Seasons Vol. 2, p. 241 1840). For further details see, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1969, pp. 59-100."

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Oliver's history covering this time period was printed in two parts several months apart. In the first part, Oliver described Joseph at age 14 during a time of religious excitement, and he was clearly leading up to the First Vision. However, when Oliver published his second part several months later, he abruptly skipped any mention of the vision and began describing the visit of Moroni instead. He "corrected" Joseph's age from 14 to 17. Clearly, Joseph asked him not to discuss the First Vision at this time.

Question: Did Oliver Cowdery state that Joseph did not know if a "supreme being" existed in 1823?

In the first installment of his history published in December 1834, Oliver established Joseph's age as 14 and very accurately described the religious excitement leading up to the First Vision

Oliver Cowdery began publishing a history of the Church in the Messenger and Advocate in December 1834 which is commonly misunderstood:

In 1834, Oliver Cowdery began publishing a history of the Church in installments in the pages of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. The first installment talks of the religious excitement and events that ultimately led to Joseph Smith’s First Vision at age 14. However, in the subsequent installment published two months later, Oliver claims that he made a mistake, correcting Joseph’s age from 14 to 17 and failing to make any direct mention of the First Vision. Oliver instead tells the story of Moroni’s visit, thus making it appear that the religious excitement led to Moroni’s visit.

This curious account has been misunderstood by some to be evidence that the “first” vision that Joseph claimed was actually that of the angel Moroni and that Joseph invented the story of the First Vision of the Father and Son at a later time. However, Joseph wrote an account of his First Vision in 1832 in which he stated that he saw the Lord, and there is substantial evidence that Oliver had this document in his possession at the time that he wrote his history of the Church. This essay demonstrates the correlations between Joseph Smith’s 1832 First Vision account, Oliver’s 1834/1835 account, and Joseph’s 1835 journal entry on the same subject. It is clear that not only did Oliver have Joseph’s history in his possession but that he used Joseph’s 1832 account as a basis for his own account. This essay also shows that Oliver knew of the First Vision and attempted to obliquely refer to the event several times in his second installment before continuing with his narrative of Moroni’s visit.[106]

Two months later in the second installment published in February 1835, Oliver abruptly "corrects" Joseph's age from 14 to 17 years old, skips the First Vision and then proceeds instead to describe Moroni's visit

After spending the previous installment leading up to the First Vision, Oliver abruptly skips three years ahead and does not mention the vision directly. However, before describing Moroni's visit, Oliver even takes the time to minimize the importance of the religious excitement that he described in the previous installment, stating,

And it is only necessary for me to say, that while this excitement continued, he continued to call upon the Lord in secret for a full manifestation of divine approbation, and for, to him, the all important information, if a Supreme being did exist, to have an assurance that he was accepted of him.
Oliver Cowdery, Messenger and Advocate (February 1835)

The religious "excitement" that Oliver is describing is now portrayed as an event in the past, during which Joseph desired to know "if a Supreme being did exist"

Note carefully what Oliver is saying. The religious "excitement," and the event that Oliver described in the first installment when he said that Joseph was 14 years of age, was when Joseph was seeking a "full manifestation of divine approbation" with the desire to know "if a Supreme being did exist." Oliver then alludes to the First Vision in the past tense by saying,

This, most assuredly, was correct—it was right. The Lord has said, long since, and his word remains steadfast, that for him who knocks it shall be opened, & whosoever will, may come and partake of the waters of life freely.
Oliver Cowdery, Messenger and Advocate (February 1835)

Oliver is stating that something of significance happened in Joseph’s life prior to the events that Oliver would be describing next, and he assures the reader that “this, most assuredly, was correct.” Oliver then proceeds to describe Moroni's visit to Joseph at age 17.


Question: What criticisms are related to Oliver Cowdery's 1834-1835 history of the Church?

Critics of the Church conflate Oliver's first and second installments of his Church history in order to "prove" that Joseph was not aware that a "Supreme being" existed three years after he claimed to have had his first vision

When Oliver Cowdery published his version of the history of the Church in December 1834 and February 1835 he did not include a recital of the First Vision story - thus implying that it was not known among the Saints by that point in time. One critical website makes the following claim:

In the first history of Mormonism from 1835 written under Joseph Smith's direction, it says that the night of September 1823 Joseph Smith began praying in his bed to learn 'the all important information, if a Supreme being did exist, to have an assurance that he was accepted of him.' (LDS periodical Messenger and Advocate, Kirtland, Ohio, Feb. 1835). It makes no sense for him to ask if God existed, if Smith had already seen God face-to-face some three years earlier, and knew he existed.[107]

and

In Joseph Smith's 1835 published history of the church, he claimed that his first spiritual experience was in 1823 after a religious revival in Palmyra that same year. Smith testified that he prayed while in bed one night, to discover if God existed.

These claims, however, are false. Oliver's February 1835 installment did not describe Joseph's First Vision - it described Moroni's visit. It should also be noted that this was not "Joseph Smith's 1835 published history."

Only two years prior to Oliver's history, Joseph's 1832 account of the First Vision clearly establishes the date of both the first vision, and the vision of Moroni

Oliver Cowdery did, in fact, know about the First Vision when he recorded his version of the history of the Restoration—he had physical possession of the Prophet's 1832 history, which contains an account of the First Vision.

In October 1834 Cowdery announced in his newspaper that Joseph Smith would help with the history project but the Prophet himself noted that "no month ever found [him] more busily engaged than November." [108] In December 1834 President Smith was busy lecturing at the School of the Elders and acting as a trustee for the Kirtland High School and so during this month he sent Oliver a short letter to be included as part of the project, but also noted within it that he learned of his prominent role in the project, and its imminent appearance in the press, by reading Cowdery's periodical! [109]


Question: Was Oliver Cowdery aware of the details of the First Vision that were written in Joseph Smith's 1832 history?

Oliver stated that he had "authentic documents" which he was using as a basis for his 1834-1835 history

Oliver Cowdery announced in an article published at the outset of his 1834-35 history writing project that he would not only be assisted by the Prophet in this endeavor, but he also had "authentic documents" from which to extract correct information. His statement reads,

That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the introduction, it is proper to inform our patrons, that our brother J[oseph] Smith jr. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensable. With his labor and with authentic documents now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing and agreeable narrative. [110]

With these two valuable resources at Oliver Cowdery's disposal, it would be only natural for modern readers to expect that his recital of the founding events of the Church would be both accurate and complete.

Oliver had access to Joseph's 1832 history, and was therefore aware of the First Vision

The identification of the "authentic documents" mentioned by Cowdery is crucial to understanding the historical puzzle under discussion. It is claimed that Cowdery was not aware of the First Vision story at this time and therefore did not include it in his narrative. But they are wrong. A careful comparison of Joseph Smith's unpublished 1832 history with Cowdery's 1834–35 history reveals that the "authentic documents" in question were the six pages of the 1832 history. Because of this, it cannot be successfully argued that Oliver Cowdery did not know of the First Vision story when he wrote his history. Critics typically ignore the fact that Cowdery's published 1834 document begins telling the First Vision story—providing the correct year for its occurrence and giving details about the Palmyra-area 'revival' activity that preceded the theophany.

Another important piece of information to keep in mind is that in the same document in which Cowdery began talking about First Vision story themes, he published a letter from Joseph Smith that surveyed some of the events of his boyhood. In this letter the Prophet acknowledged that while he was living in the Palmyra and Manchester areas of New York as a youth he "fell into many vices and follies." He also pointed out that this fact was already mentioned in the "Articles and Covenants" of the Church. This is a reference to what is now known as section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Verse 5 of section 20 reads: "After it was truly manifested unto this first elder [i.e., Joseph Smith] that he had received a remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world." The first part of this verse is considered by some LDS scholars to be the first published reference to the First Vision experience; it was recorded in April 1830.(See DC 20:5.)

It must also be remembered that Oliver Cowdery was publicly teaching around 1 November 1830 (along with several other LDS missionaries) that the Prophet Joseph Smith had seen God "personally" and received a commission from Him to preach true religion [111]—and yet Cowdery did not provide a record of this momentous event in his published 1834-35 historical narrative. Furthermore, it cannot be forgotten that Joseph Smith was telling the First Vision story publicly long before Oliver Cowdery published his narrative.

November 1831
Lorenzo Snow and a large crowd heard the story in Hiram, Ohio.
October 1834
Edward Stevenson, Joseph Curtis and others heard the story in Pontiac, Michigan.
December 1834
Joseph Smith Sr. reminded his son—the Prophet—in a blessing given on the 9th:
The Lord thy God has called thee by name out of the heavens; thou hast heard his voice from on high from time to time, even in thy youth. . . . Thou hast been called, even in thy youth[,] to the great work of the Lord” [112]

This closely corresponds with the official First Vision account where the Prophet indicates:

One of <them> spake unto me calling me by name and said (pointing to the other) 'This is my beloved Son, Hear him.'....[I] displayed the weakness of youth [during this time]. [113]

Why did Oliver skip ahead three years and not mention the vision?

When several key documents are consulted it is possible to see how Oliver Cowdery could have known full well about the First Vision experience (by reading the 1832 account) yet fail to report it in his rendition of Church history.

Cowdery's historical narrative consists of the text of a series of letters that he was writing to William W. Phelps. By going a little backward in time we find that on 7 September 1834, Cowdery wrote to Phelps and discussed a "few incidents connected with the rise of this church." His focus was on things that he had personally experienced. He spoke of hearing the voice of the Redeemer, his reception of the Aaronic priesthood, his angel-directed baptism, and his work as scribe for the Book of Mormon manuscript. [114] The next letter from Cowdery to Phelps (written in December) began telling the details of the First Vision story leading up to the theophany. [115] Then at the end of December, Phelps wrote back. He mentioned Cowdery's history project, the priesthood being committed to Cowdery, the Book of Mormon coming forth, Cowdery’s scribal work for the Book of Mormon, and Phelps himself hearing news of the Book of Mormon sometime in the year 1823. Phelps requested Cowdery to explain what the angel had said to Joseph Smith about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and also to “let church history tell” the particulars of what the angel said when the priesthood was restored. [116] When Cowdery responded to Phelps in February of 1835 he acknowledged receipt of his letter, made his now-baffling dating adjustment to the year 1823, announced that he did not want to talk about the 'revival' activity from his previous letter anymore, and proceeded to give an account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon on "the evening of the 21st of September, 1823." [117] William had suggested the focus of the narrative in the letters and Oliver had obliged.

Joseph re-instituted the correct dating parameters for the First Vision when he later talked with Oliver

When the Prophet spoke several months after Cowdery made his dating adjustment, however, (and also when he recorded the official Church history in 1838) he re-instituted the correct dating parameters for the First Vision, indicating thereby that Oliver had gotten it right the first time.

Consider the following sequence:

Oliver Cowdery (December 1834)
"the 15th year of his life"
Oliver Cowdery (February 1835)
"an error in the type—it should have been in the 17th"
Joseph Smith (November 1835)
"I was about 14 years old"
Joseph Smith (May 1838)
"I was at this time in my fifteenth year....between fourteen and fifteen years of age"


Response to claim: "Why does his first autobiography not even mention the 'first vision'?"

The author(s) of Difficult Questions for Mormons make(s) the following claim:

Response to claim: "Why does his first autobiography not even mention the 'first vision'?"

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph Smith's first "autobiography" was his 1832 history, which does indeed describe the event now known as the "First Vision." However, Joseph never referred to it by that name. He called is the "first vision of Angels" or the "first communication." It was B.H. Roberts who later coined the term "First Vision" to describe Joseph's theophany.

Question: By what name did Joseph Smith refer to the First Vision?

Joseph referred to his 1820 theophany as the "first visitation of Angels" or the "first communication"

Joseph Smith never actually referred to what we now call the "First Vision" by that name. Instead, he referred to it as the "first visitation of angels" or the "first communication." Joseph also referred to Moroni's visit as "another vision of angels."

  • One critic of Mormonism states that "Who appears to [Joseph] – a spirit, an angel, two angels, Jesus, many angels, the Father and the Son – are all over the place." [118]
Joseph Smith's 9 November 1835 journal entry, which was written by his scribe, describes a visit of two personages. The scribe then goes back and inserts the phrase "and I saw many angels in this vision" between the lines. Image from "Journal, 1835–1836," Joseph Smith Papers off-site

The account that Joseph entered in his journal on 9 November 1835 was a detailed account which clearly describes two personages, as well as "many angels." The account that Joseph wrote just five days later in his journal on 14 November 1835 was a one line summary of the event, which he described as "the first visitation of Angels." Critics of the Church seem to believe that Joseph completely changed his story from "two personages" to "Angels" over the course of only five days. The truth is that Joseph referred to all of the personages that appeared to him as "angels."

The terms "personages" and "angels" were interchangeable

This confusion regarding "angels" versus "personages" is illustrated in a critical "Mormoninfographic".[119] We have illustrated the error by comparing Joseph's journal entries on both days.

Mormoninfographic.error.1835-2.jpg


Response to claim: "Why does Joseph Smith have Lehi make such a statement as 1 Nephi 8:2? Is he equating a dream to an actual, physical vision or visitation from God?"

The author(s) of Difficult Questions for Mormons make(s) the following claim:

Response to claim: "Why does Joseph Smith have Lehi make such a statement as 1 Nephi 8:2? Is he equating a dream to an actual, physical vision or visitation from God?"

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

God has often communicated with His prophets using dreams and visions: Numbers 24:4 "He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open."

Notes

  1. Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 29–36. ( Index of claims ); Isaiah Bennett, Inside Mormonism: What Mormons Really Believe (Catholic Answers: 1999); Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 24–25. ( Index of claims ); John Dehlin, "Why People Leave the LDS Church," (2008).; Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002) Chapter 8. ( Index of claims ); Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Case Against Mormonism, 2 vols., (Salt Lake City, 1967), 1:120–128.; Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), Chapter 6.( Index of claims ); Search for the Truth DVD (2007) Resources; Tower to Truth Ministries, "50 Questions to Ask Mormons," towertotruth.net (accessed 15 November 2007). 50 Answers
  2. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014).
  3. Seema L. Clifasfi, Maryanne Garry, and Elizabeth Loftus, “Setting the Record (or Video Camera) Straight on Memory and Other Memory Myths,” in Tall Tales about the Mind and Brain: Separating Fact from Fiction, edited by Sergio Della Sala (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 61; cited in Gardner, Gift and Power, 119n1.
  4. Elder Richard J. Maynes, "Worldwide Young Adult Devotional," (1 May 2016).
  5. "First Vision Accounts," Gospel Topics on LDS.org
  6. "LESSON 6: Joseph Smith—History 1:1–20," Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual (2013) 20.
  7. Milton V. Backman, "Joseph Smith's Recitals of the First Vision," Ensign (January 1985).
  8. James B. Allen, "Eight Contemporary Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision - What Do We Learn from Them?," Improvement Era (April 1970) 4-13.
  9. David L. Paulsen, "The Doctrine of Divine Embodiment: Restoration, Judeo-Christian, and Philosophical Perspectives," Brigham Young University Studies 35 no. 4 (1995–96), 6–94. (Key source)
  10. "Testimony of Martin Harris Written by my hand from teh Moth of Martin Harris," dictated to Edward Stevenson 4 September 1870, Edward Stevenson Collection, Miscellaneous Papers, LDS Church Archives; cited by Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:331.
  11. Kent P. Jackson, Robert J. Matthews, and Scott H. Faulring (editors), Joseph Smith's New Translation Of The Bible: Original Manuscripts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2004), 82.
  12. Lucy Mack Smith, The History of Joseph Smith By His Mother Lucy Mack Smith, edited by Preston Nibley, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1956), 161. AISN B000FH6N04.
  13. The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) (14 February 1832): 102.
  14. F. Mark McKiernan, An Early Latter-day Saint History: The Book of John Whitmer (Independence, MO.: Herald Publishing House 1980), 67, punctuation corrected; cited in Robert L. Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism: Orthodoxy, Neoorthodoxy, Tension, and Tradition," Brigham Young University Studies 29 no. 3 (Summer 1989), 49–68.
  15. As cited in Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism," footnote 12.
  16. The current D&C 76 vision was first published in Evening and Morning Star, Independence, Missouri, July 1832.
  17. 3 October 1883, Salt Lake School of the Prophets Minute Book 1883 (Palm Desert, California: ULC Press, 1981), 39; cited in Paulsen, 34.
  18. "An Abridged Record of the Life of John Murdock Taken From His Journal by Himself," (typescript) Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 13; cited in Paulsen, 35.
  19. Truman Coe, “Mormonism,” Cincinnati Journal and Western Luminary (25 August 1836). Reprinted from Ohio Observer, circa August 1836. off-site See Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Truman Coe’s 1836 Description of Mormonism," Brigham Young University Studies 17 no. 3 (Spring 1977), 347-55. See also Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:47.
  20. Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Joseph Smith's First Vision: Cornerstone of a Latter-day Faith," in To Be Learned is Good, If ..., ed. Robert L. Millet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987).; cited in Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism," 59.
  21. Brigham Young, (3 March 1861) Journal of Discourses 8:354..
  22. Brigham Young, (18 February 1855) Journal of Discourses 2:171.
  23. Brigham Young, (23 June 1867) Journal of Discourses 12:67..
  24. Ensign (April 1992).
  25. JD 8:353-4. (3 March 1861). wiki; JD 12:67-8. (June 23rd, 1867). wiki
  26. JD 2:171. (Feb 18, 1855). wiki; JD 7:243. (September 1, 1859). wiki; JD 11:253. (17 June 1866). wiki
  27. JD 12:67-8. (June 23rd, 1867). wiki
  28. JD 2:171. (Feb 18, 1855). wiki; JD 12:67-8. (June 23rd, 1867). wiki
  29. JD 18:231. (17 September 1876). wiki
  30. JD 1:185-19. (14 March 1860). wiki JD 8:15-6. (3 June 1860). wiki JD 8:66. (3 March 1861). wikiJD 8:353-4. (6 April 1861). wiki JD 9:1. (4 June 1864). wiki JD 10:303. (13 November 1864). wiki JD 10:363-365. (June 23rd, 1867). wiki JD 12:67-8. .wiki; Deseret News Weekly 22 (June 29, 1873):388, in Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 6:79. (21 June 1874); JD 18:239-40. .wiki
  31. Manuscript History of Brigham Young (June 25, 1845); Manuscript History of Brigham Young (June 17, 1847); Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985) (journal entry dated 15 August 1847). ISBN 0941214133.; JD 1:7. (April 6, 1853). wiki [=Millennial Star 15 (24 July 1853), 489, 491.]; JD 1:233-245. (April 6, 1853). wiki; Letter to Freeport, Ill., Bulletin, 1 June 1854, reprinted in New York Times June 7, 1854; (4 June 1864) JD 10:303. (June 18, 1865). wiki; JD 11:126. (June 23, 1867). wiki; JD 12:67-8. (July 17, 1870). wiki; JD 13:216. (April 8, 1871). wiki; Deseret News 20/10 (April 12, 1871): 112; JD 14:95. (18 May 1873). wiki; JD 16:42. .wiki; Deseret News Weekly 22 (29 June 1873):388, in Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 6:79. (21 June 1874); JD 18:239-40. (21 May 1877). wiki Deseret News Weekly 26:274-275; Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 6:142.
  32. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, ed. Elden Jay Watson (Salt Lake City, 1968), 4 [Leland Nelson, 4]
  33. See Young Women's Journal 18 no. 12 (December 1907), 537–539.; Samuel W. Richards, Journal Book 2 of Travels To Nauvoo, BYU Special Collections, Writings of Early Latter-day Saints, 26; Andrew Jenson, Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 4 vols., (Salt Lake City, A. Jenson History Co., 1901; reprinted Salt Lake City, Utah : Greg Kofford Books, 2003), 1:187.
  34. Andrew Jenson, Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 4 vols., (Salt Lake City, A. Jenson History Co., 1901; reprinted Salt Lake City, Utah : Greg Kofford Books, 2003), 1:115.
  35. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, ed. Elden Jay Watson (Salt Lake City, 1968), p pp. 23-24 [Leland Nelson, 13].
  36. Heber C. Kimball, letter to Millennial Star editor, Nauvoo, July 15, 1841: Millennial Star 2 (15 July 1841), 77-78. This must refer to Remarkable Visions (Orson Pratt's account of Joseph's first vision and other revelations); nothing else had published by him yet.
  37. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, ed. Leland Nelson, 94
  38. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, William Harwell, 14; Millennial Star 14 no. 10 (1 May 1852), 151.
  39. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 16.
  40. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), [citation needed]:319-320 (journal entry dated 15 August 1847). ISBN 0941214133.
  41. Manuscript History of Brigham Young. 1847-1850, edited by William S. Harwell (Salt Lake City, Utah: Collier’s Publishing Co., 1997): 139
  42. Deseret News 1/3 (29 June 1850) [following sermon by Reverend G.B. Day]
  43. Lorenzo Snow, The Italian Mission (London: W. Aubrey, 1851), 13; also in Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1884),127–128.
  44. JD 1:185-191. (19 June 1853). wiki
  45. JD 1: (24 July 1853). wiki
  46. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 75.; Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother: Revised and Enhanced, edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), editor's introduction. ISBN 1570082677.
  47. Letter to MR. HENRY A. MCAFEE, Freeport, Stephenson Co., Ill; letter to editor of the Freeport, Illinois Bulletin June 1, 1854. Reprinted New York Times (7 June 1854), 3.
  48. JD 2:171. (18 Feb 1855). wiki
  49. George Q. Cannon, editorial, “The Testimony of the Gospel,” Juvenile Instructor 24 (1 July 1889): 308-9.
  50. Brigham Young Journal, 13 August 1857, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah; Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 5:76-77. ISBN 0941214133.
  51. Deseret News, 7/46 (20 January 1858): 363.
  52. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:243-244, (emphasis added).
  53. JD 8:66. (3 June 1860). wiki
  54. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:354.
  55. JD 9:1-2. (6 April 1861). wiki
  56. Deseret News 11/13 (29 May 1861): 97-8; Reprinted in JD 9:31-40. (7 April 1961). wiki
  57. Rodney Turner, "Franklin D. Richards and the Pearl of Great Price," in Donald Q. Cannon, ed., Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint History: British Isles (Provo, UT: BYU Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1990), 184.
  58. JD 10:303. (4 June 1864). wiki
  59. JD 10:363-365. (13 November 164). wiki
  60. JD 11:253. (17 June 1866). wiki
  61. Brigham Young, (23 June 1867) Journal of Discourses 12:67,70-70.
  62. SLC Tabernacle, General Conference, 6 1/2 p.m.; Deseret News Weekly 17:282; Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 5:133.
  63. Deseret News Weekly 19 (August 3, 1870): 303-308; also in JD 13:216. .wiki
  64. Deseret News 20/10 (April 12, 1871): 112; JD 14:95. (8 April 1871). wiki
  65. Deseret News 21 (September 25, 1872): 504-5; synopsis in Millennial Star 34/27 (July 2, 1872): 419-20; JD 15:169-70. (26 May 1872). wiki
  66. JD 16:42. (18 May 1873). wiki
  67. Deseret News Weekly 22:388; Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 6:79.
  68. Deseret News Weekly 22:441; Millennial Star 35 no. 36 (9 September 1873), 563-4.; Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 6:82.
  69. Millennial Star 36 no. 1 (Tuesday, 6 January 1874): 1-7). [From Salt Lake Herald]: 2-6.
  70. JD 18:239-40. (21 June 1874). wiki
  71. Deseret News 25 (October 11, 1876): 585; Millennial Star 38 no. 46 (13 November 1876), 721.
  72. Deseret News Weekly 25 (11 October 1876): 582; JD 18:231. (17 Setpember 1876). wiki
  73. Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 6:142.; Deseret News Weekly 26:274-275.
  74. Christian Research and Counsel, “Documented History of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” full-color pamphlet, 10 pages. [There is a notation within this pamphlet indicating that research and portions of text were garnered from Utah Lighthouse Ministry]
  75. Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses 2:196-197.
  76. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 4:513. Volume 4 link
  77. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:63. Volume 6 link
  78. John Taylor, (2 March 1879) Journal of Discourses 20:167.
  79. John Taylor, (2 March 1879) Journal of Discourses 20:257.
  80. (1855) Journal of Discourses 2:171.
  81. Brigham Young, (3 March 1861) Journal of Discourses 8:354..
  82. John Taylor, (2 March 1879) Journal of Discourses 20:167.
  83. John Taylor, (2 March 1879) Journal of Discourses 20:257.
  84. Elder D. Todd Christofferson, "The Prophet Joseph Smith," Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional (24 September 2013)
  85. MormonThink.com page "The First Vision"
  86. Wikipedia editor "John Foxe", (9 December 2007)
  87. These primary sources, not surprisingly, are omitted from the "First Vision" Wikipedia article. For further information, see: An analysis of Wikipedia article "First Vision"
  88. Discussed and cited on pages 9–10 of D. Michael Quinn, "Joseph Smith's Experience of a Methodist 'Camp-Meeting'," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought - Dialogue Paperless: E-Paper #3 (12 July 2006), PDF link
  89. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana and Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press; Reprint edition, 1987), 53. ISBN 0252060121.
  90. Bushman, Beginnings of Mormonism, 53.
  91. Francis W. Conable, History of the Genesee Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 2nd edition (New York: Phillips and Hunt, 1885), 317.
  92. David Marks, The Life of David Marks, To the 26th year of his age. Including the Particulars of His Conversion, Call to the Ministry, and Labours in Itinerant Preaching for nearly Eleven Years (Limerick, Maine: Printed at the Office of the Morning Star, 1831), 30-31.
  93. Palmyra Register (Palmyra, NY), 28 July 1820.
  94. Orsamus Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase, and Morris’ Reserve (Rochester, New York: William Alling, 1851), 212–213.
  95. Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton, 1867), 17–18.
  96. George W. Cowles, Landmarks of Wayne County (Syracuse, New York: D. Mason & Company, 1895), 194.
  97. Cowles, Landmarks of Wayne County, 194.
  98. Cowles, Landmarks of Wayne County, 191–192.
  99. Palmyra Register (Palmyra, NY), 28 June 1820.
  100. Palmyra Register (Palmyra, NY), 5 July 1820.
  101. This episode in the Palmyra Register was noted in Walter A. Norton, "Comparative Images: Mormonism and Contemporary Religions as Seen by Village Newspapermen in Western New York and Northeastern Ohio, 1820-1833" (Ph.D. Diss., Brigham Young University, 1991), 255. Discussed in footnote 3 by Richard L. Bushman, "Just the Facts Please (Review of Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record by H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 122–133. off-site
  102. Palmyra Register (Palmyra, NY), 28 June 1820.
  103. Palmyra Register (Palmyra, NY), 5 July 1820.
  104. Benajah Williams’ diary, 15-16 July 1820.
  105. Milton V. Backman and James B. Allen, "Membership of Certain of Joseph Smith's Family in the Western Presbyterian Church of Palmyra," Brigham Young University Studies 10 no. 4 (1970), 482-484.
  106. Roger Nicholson, "The Cowdery Conundrum: Oliver’s Aborted Attempt to Describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 8:27-44 (December 6, 2013).
  107. "The First Vision," mormonthink.com.
  108. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:170. Volume 2 link
  109. J. Christopher Conkling, A Joseph Smith Chronology (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979), 68–69.
  110. Oliver Cowdery, "?," (October 1834) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1:13. (emphasis added)
  111. The Reflector, 2/13 (14 February 1831).
  112. Patriarchal Blessing Book, 1:3–4.
  113. A death notice in the December 1834 issue of the Messenger and Advocate is dated "12th inst." - meaning that the acknowledgment of First Vision story themes by the Prophet's father occurred shortly before Cowdery published his First Vision story themes in the Messenger and Advocate.
  114. See Oliver Cowdery, "?," (October 1834) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1:13-16.
  115. See Oliver Cowdery, "?," (December 1834) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1:42-43.
  116. See Oliver Cowdery, "?," (February 1835) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1:65-67.
  117. See Oliver Cowdery, "?," (February 1835) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1:78.
  118. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (2013)
  119. Image from "MormonInfographics.com".