Joseph Smith's First Vision/Persecution after the vision
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.
There is evidence both from Joseph's family, contemporary history, and later Smith family memories that support Joseph's account of being persecuted.
Contemporary newspaper articles report an episode that likely provides some window into the persecution which the Smiths endured. Milton Backman recounts the events surrounding the death of Alvin, Joseph's elder brother:
- After the death of Joseph's brother, Alvin, who died November 19, 1823, someone circulated the rumor that Alvin's body had been "removed from the place of his interment and dissected." In an attempt to ascertain the truth of this report, Joseph Smith, Sr., along with neighbors gathered at the grave, removed the earth, and found the body undisturbed. To correct the fabrication, designed in the opinion of Joseph's father to injure the reputation of the Smith family, Joseph, Sr., placed in the Wayne Sentinel (which appeared on successive Wednesdays from September 30 to November 3, 1824) a public notice reciting his findings that the body was undisturbed.
This kind of malicious gossip and rumor is cruel, but is also not the sort of thing likely to leave much trace on the historical record, save in memories. But, if the Smith family could be the subject of malicious gossip when faced with a tragedy like Alvin's death, can we really expect that things before then were much better?
Lucy Smith reminiscences
Joseph's mother recalled:
- From this time [the First Vision] until the twenty-first of September, 1823 [when he saw the angel Moroni] Joseph continued, as usual, to labour with his father, and nothing during this interval occurred of very great importance—though he suffered, as one would naturally suppose, every kind of opposition and persecution from the different orders of religionists.
William Smith reminiscences
William Smith, Joseph's brother remembered:
- We were all very much scoffed at and persecuted during all this time, while Joseph was receiving his visions and translating the plates. 
- It has generally been stated that my father's family were lazy, shiftless and poor; but this was never said by their neighbors, or until after the angel appeared and the story of the golden Bible was told....
- It is said that Joseph and the rest of the family were lazy and indolent. We never heard of such a thing until after Joseph told his vision, and not then by our friends. Whenever the neighbors wanted a good days work done they knew where they could get a good hand and they were not particular to take any of the other boys before Joseph either. We cleared sixty acres of the heaviest timber I ever saw. We had a good place, but it required a great deal of labor to make it a good place. We also had on it from twelve to fifteen hundred sugar trees, and to gather the sap and make sugar and molasses from that number of trees was no lazy job. We worked hard to clear our place and the neighbors were a little jealous. If you will figure up how much work it would take to clear sixty acres of heavy timber land, heavier than any here, trees you could not conveniently cut down, you can tell whether we were lazy or not, and Joseph did his share of the work with the rest of the boys.
- ["]We never knew we were bad folks until Joseph told his vision. We were considered respectable till then, but at once people began to circulate falsehoods and stories in a wonderful way."
With William's accounts, we again see that the persecution was largely verbal, in the form of gossip and slander.
Thomas H. Taylor, was asked, ""What did the Smiths do that the people abused them so?" He replied:
- They did not do anything. Why! these rascals at one time took Joseph Smith and ducked him in the pond that you see over there, just because he preached what he believed and for nothing else. And if Jesus Christ had been there, they would have done the same to him. Now I don't believe like he did; but every man has a right to his religious opinions, and to advocate his views, too; if people don't like it, let them come out and meet him on the stand, and shew his error. Smith was always ready to exchange views with the best men they had. [Why didn't they like Smith?, asked the interviewer.]
- To tell the truth, there was something about him they could not understand; someway he knew more than they did, and it made them mad.
The raw notes for the Taylor interview likewise mention Joseph Smith being "ducked in the creek in Manchester" despite the fact that the Smiths "did nothing" and "nothing has been sustained [a]gainst [Joseph] Smith".
Here too, then, we see an element of physical persecution, though the gossip and slander identified by William and Lucy was likely far more common.
- [note] Milton V. Backman, Jr., Joseph Smith's First Vision: Confirming Evidences and Contemporary Accounts, 2d ed., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980 ), 114.
- [note] Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 78.
- [note] William Smith, William Smith on Mormonism (Lamoni, Iowa: Herald Steam Book and Job Office, 1883), 5-19; reproduced in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:493-502.
- [note] "The Old Soldier's Testimony. Sermon preached by Bro. William B. Smith, in the Saints' Chapel, Detroit, Iowa, June 8th, 1884. Reported by C. E. Butterworth," Saints' Herald 31 (4 October 1884): 643-44; reproduced in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:503-506.
- [note] "W[illia]m. B. Smith's last Statement," [John W. Peterson to Editor], Zion's Ensign (Independence, Missouri) 5/3 (13 January 1894): 6. Reprinted in "Statement of William Smith, Concerning Joseph, the Prophet," Deseret Evening News 27 (20 January 1894): 11; and "The Testimony of William Smith," Millennial Star 61 (26 February 1894): 132-34; reproduced in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:513.
- [note] William H. Kelley, "The Hill Cumorah and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167-68; reproduced in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 2:83. Also in Milton V. Backman, Jr., Joseph Smith's First Vision: Confirming Evidences and Contemporary Accounts, 2d ed., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980 ), 119.
- [note] William Kelley, Notebook, No. 5, 1; in William H. Kelley Papers, RLDS Church Library-Archives, Independence, Missouri; reproduced in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 2:83.