Joseph Smith's First Vision/Accounts/1832/Doesn't forbid joining a church

Joseph Smith's 1832 First Vision account doesn't forbid him from joining a church

saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy way walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that...

—Joseph Smith's 1832 account of the First Vision
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Question: Does the 1832 account of the First Vision not prohibit Joseph from joining any church?

The 1832 First Vision account does not portray the Lord giving Joseph Smith an injunction against joining any church

The 1832 account of the First Vision does not portray the Lord as announcing that all the creeds were corrupt. These details do not show up until the 1838 account. Is this evidence that the Prophet's story evolved over time?

The claim that Joseph Smith's 1832 First Vision story does not contain a divine injunction against joining any churches does not take evidence within the document itself into proper consideration. The information is implicit instead of explicit, but it is there nevertheless. This point cannot be legitimately used as evidence of an evolving storyline.

Joseph went to pray in the grove because he had concluded that the behavior of the churches was not in accordance with the Bible

A quick look at the 1832 First Vision text reveals how untenable this claim is. Joseph Smith states that before he went into the woods to pray he had concluded in his own mind that "those of different denominations [which he was personally acquainted with]. . . did not adorn their profession by a holy walk and godly conversation agreeable to what [he] found contained in [the Bible] . . . . [There were] contentions and divisions [among them] . . . . [T]hey had apostatised from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament.”

Jesus Christ informed Joseph in the 1832 account that "they draw near to me with their lips while their hears are far from me"

Then, when Jesus Christ Himself made a personal appearance to Joseph in the grove, He informed the young boy that -

“the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned aside from the gospel and keep not <my> commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording to th[e]ir ungodliness and to bring to pass that which <hath> been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap[o]stles behold and lo I come quickly as it [is] written of me in the cloud <clothed> in the glory of my Father”

To summarize:

  • Joseph Smith could not find a church that he thought was adhering to biblical teachings.
  • Jesus Christ confirmed Joseph Smith's observation by saying that the entire world was in a sinful, ungodly condition; they did not keep divine commandments; they had turned aside from the gospel—“not one” person was doing good in His estimation.
  • Jesus Christ said that those who professed Christianity were in a state of hypocrisy.
  • Jesus Christ said that He was angry with the inhabitants of the earth and was contemplating their punishment.

This is an unambiguous indication on the Lord's part that joining any of the denominations would be unacceptable

How can critics possibly see this as anything other than a forceful and unambiguous indication on the Lord's part that joining any of the Christian denominations would be an unacceptable path for Joseph to take? Notice in the remainder of the 1832 text that Joseph says he felt great joy and love because of his experience and pondered the things which he had seen and heard during the vision . . . but during an interval of several years he did NOT join any church. Why?

As the 1832 text so plainly says—Joseph Smith believed that Christians had turned aside from the gospel; Jesus Christ confirmed that Christians had turned aside from the gospel; Joseph was therefore provided with a set of golden plates that contained writings which were "engrave[d] by . . . the servants of the living God." The 1832 account speaks three times of the "work" that God wanted Joseph Smith to do, while the 1838 account explicitly connects this "work" with the bringing forth of "the everlasting gospel." The 1842 First Vision account ties all of these themes together. There the Prophet relates: "I was expressly commanded to 'go not after them,' at the same time receiving a promise that the fulness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me."

Jesus Christ said that He would bring to pass "that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and apostles"

Another indication from the 1832 document that Joseph Smith knew from the First Vision event that he should not join any of the churches can be found in something the Savior said to him. Jesus Christ explained that He was going to take action against the situation the world was currently in by “bring[ing] to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap[o]stles." What did this statement mean? In a canonized text written at approximately the same time as the 1832 First Vision account (September 1832) the following phraseology is found:

  1. A revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and six elders, as they united their hearts and lifted their voices on high.
  2. Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints . . . . (DC 84:1-2).

The Lord was telling Joseph Smith during the First Vision about the coming Restoration and so there would not be any need for him to join an existing church

In other words, the Lord was telling Joseph Smith during the First Vision about the coming Restoration and so there would not be any need for him to join an existing church. This viewpoint is bolstered by several instances where the Prophet utilized the same phraseology used by the Lord during the First Vision to speak about the Restoration.

  • “The work of the Lord in these last days, is one of vast magnitude and almost “beyond the comprehension of mortals. Its glories are past description, and its grandeur unsurpassable. It is the theme which has animated the bosom of prophets and righteous men from the creation of the world down through every succeeding generation to the present time; and it is truly the dispensation of the fullness of times, when all things which are in Christ Jesus, whether in heaven or on the earth, shall be gathered together in Him, and when all things shall be restored, as spoken of by all the holy prophets since the world began”.[1]
  • “I . . . hold the keys of the last kingdom, in which is the dispensation of the fullness of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy Prophets since the world began”.[2]
  • “in the last days, . . . that which shall precede the coming of the Son of Man, and the restitution of all things spoken of by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began”.[3]
  • “the great purposes of God are hastening to their accomplishment and the things spoken of in the prophets are fulfilling, as the kingdom of God is established on the earth, and the ancient order of things restored[4]
  • “when the purposes of God shall be accomplished: when ‘the Lord shall be King over the whole earth,’ and ‘Jerusalem His throne.’ ‘The law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’ This is the only thing that can bring about the ‘restitution of all things spoken of by all the holy Prophets since the world was’—‘the dispensation of the fullness of times, when God shall gather together all things in one’”.[5]
  • the last dispensation, . . . bringing to pass the restoration spoken of by the mouth of all the Holy Prophets . . . . the restitution of all things spoken of by the holy Prophets be brought to pass”.[6]


To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

Notes

  1. 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), 4:185. Volume 4 link
  2. 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), 6:77–78. Volume 6 link
  3. 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), 2:271. Volume 2 link
  4. Times and Seasons 3, 761. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  5. 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), 5:64. Volume 5 link
  6. 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), 4:210–212. Volume 4 link