Joseph Smith's First Vision

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Joseph Smith's First Vision

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  • Summary article

Leading up to the vision:

The vision:

After the vision:

Others' accounts:

Moroni's visit:

Other criticisms:

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God touched his eyes with his finger and said “[Joseph] this is my beloved Son hear him.” As soon as the Lord had touched his eyes with his finger he immediately saw the Savior. After meeting, a few of us questioned him about the matter and he told us at the bottom of the meeting house steps that he was in the House of Father Smith in Kirtland when Joseph made this declaration, and that Joseph while speaking of it put his finger to his right eye, suiting the action with the words so as to illustrate and at the same time impress the [occurrence] on the minds of those unto whom He was speaking.

Diary of Charles Lowell Walker (Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1980), 2:755–56 [recorded 2 February 1893]
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Joseph Smith's First Vision

Joseph Smith's claim that he saw the Father and the Son in 1820 has produced a wide variety of criticism. This set of articles addresses the various critical claims related to the First Vision. The linked articles below are designed to help readers to see some of the weaknesses that are found in arguments that are made against Joseph Smith's First Vision accounts. Some of these arguments are currently being advocated in anti-Mormon literature that is handed out near the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York. (Click here for full article)

  • Joseph Smith's early conception of God
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that Joseph began his prophetic career with a "trinitarian" idea of God, and only later developed his theology of the Godhead. What do we know about Joseph and the early Saints' views on God? (Click here for full article)
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  • No reference to First Vision in 1830s publications
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that there is no reference to the 1838 canonical First Vision story in any published material from the 1830s, and that nothing published in this period mentions that Joseph saw the Father and Son. They also assume that it would have been mentioned in the local newspapers at the time. (Click here for full article)
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  • Seldom mentioned in LDS publications before 1877
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that, “Before the death of Brigham Young in 1877 the first vision was seldom mentioned in Mormon publications.” This evidence implies that the general membership of the LDS Church was not familiar with the First Vision story until late in the nineteenth century. (Click here for full article)
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  • Brigham Young never mentioned the First Vision?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that Brigham Young never mentioned the First Vision. This is false. (Click here for full article)
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  • No mention in non-LDS literature before 1843
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that there is no mention of the First Vision in non-Mormon literature before 1843, and that if the First Vision story had been known by the public before 1840 (when Orson Pratt published it in his pamphlet) that the anti-Mormons “surely” would have seized upon it as an evidence of Joseph Smith’s imposture. (Click here for full article)
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  • Missionaries 1830 statement about Joseph seeing "God"
    Brief Summary: Some have claimed that just because LDS missionaries were teaching around 1 November 1830 that Joseph Smith had previously seen “God” personally it cannot be assumed that this was a reference to God the Father since the Book of Mormon (completed ca. 11 June 1829) refers to Jesus Christ as “the eternal God” (title page; 2 Nephi 26:12). The argument is made that since this evidence indicates that Joseph Smith understood Jesus Christ to be “God” the statement by the missionaries may have simply meant that Joseph Smith had seen the Savior; not necessarily the Father. (Click here for full article)
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  • No published reference to Father and Son vision until 1838?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that there is no mention of Joseph Smith seeing the Father and Son in any “contemporary” newspaper, diary, LDS publication, or writing of any kind until the year 1838. (Click here for full article)
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  • Joseph Smith did not know if God existed in 1823?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that according to a historical document published in Kirtland, Ohio in 1835 the Prophet Joseph Smith did not know if God existed in the year 1823. This text, therefore, provides evidence that Joseph Smith simply made up the story about the First Vision happening in the year 1820. (Click here for full article)
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  • Lucy Mack Smith and the Presbyterians
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that since there was a religious revival in Palmyra, New York in 1824-25 which appears to match details of Joseph Smith's official Church history, he must have mistakenly mixed this event in with his narrative about what happened in 1820, and that the Prophet's mother joined the Presbyterian church after Alvin Smith died in late 1823. This contradicts Joseph's statement that she joined in 1820, thereby dating Joseph's First Vision to no earlier than 1823. (Click here for full article)
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  • Did Joseph join other churches contrary to commandment in vision?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that Joseph Smith joined the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches between 1820 and 1830—despite the claim made in his 1838 history that he was forbidden by Deity (during the 1820 First Vision experience) from joining any denomination. (Click here for full article)
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  • Contradiction about knowing all churches were wrong
    Brief Summary: In his 1832 account of the First Vision, Joseph Smith said, “I found [by searching the scriptures] that mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatized 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.” But in the 1835 account he said, “I knew not who [of the denominations] was right or who was wrong.” It is claimed that thus counts as evidence that the First Vision story evolved over time. (Click here for full article)
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  • First Vision fabricated to give "Godly authority?"
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that Joseph Smith decided after he released the Book of Mormon to the public that he needed 'authority from God' to justify his claims as a religious minister. Therefore, it is claimed that he fabricated the First Vision story in order to provide himself with a more prestigious line of authority than that of the "angel" who revealed the golden plates. (Click here for full article)
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  • First Vision story became more detailed and colorful after 1832?
    Brief Summary: Some claim that Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision grew more detailed and more colorful after he first recorded it in 1832. (Click here for full article)
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  • 1838 account modified to offset leadership crisis?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that in 1838 Joseph Smith revised his personal history to say that his original call came from God the Father and Jesus Christ rather than an angel. His motive for doing this was to give himself a stronger leadership role because an authority crisis had recently taken place and large-scale apostasy was the result. (Click here for full article)
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  • Persecution after the vision?
    Brief Summary: Some claim that there is no evidence that Joseph or his family were persecuted because of the First Vision. They argue that this means that Joseph invented the story later. (Click here for full article)
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  • Does Doctrine and Covenants 121:28 contradict the First Vision?
    Brief Summary: In 1839 Joseph Smith received a revelation from God in which it was stated that the time would come "in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods they shall be manifest" (D&C 121:28). This was an "unnecessary revelation," since according to the official LDS Church First Vision account Joseph Smith supposedly knew that there was more than one God since 1820. This information counts as evidence that the Prophet's story was fraudulent. (Click here for full article)
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  • God the Father as a Spirit versus Embodied
    Brief Summary: When the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1835 it portrayed God the Father as a personage of spirit whereas Jesus Christ was portrayed as a personage of tabernacle, or one having a physical body. Yet the official LDS First Vision story portrays the Father as a physical Being. (Click here for full article)
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  • Personages seen by Joseph Smith
    Brief Summary: A list of known personages who appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith or who were seen by him in vision. (Click here for full article)
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  • Brigham Young and the First Vision
    Brief Summary: It is claimed either that Brigham never taught about the First Vision, or that he taught that the Lord did not appear to Joseph. Both claims are false. (Click here for full article)
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The claim is sometimes made by critics that the LDS Church hides the various accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision that are not in its official canon. The following chronological database (compiled by FairMormon volunteer Edward Jones) demonstrates conclusively that this is simply not the case. The various accounts of the First Vision have been widely acknowledged in LDS-authored sources throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. (Click here for full article)

Original text of Joseph's accounts of the First Vision (Click here for full article)

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