Mormonism and Wikipedia/First Vision/Dating the First Vision

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    An analysis of the Wikipedia article "First Vision"

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia: Mormonism and Wikipedia/First Vision
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[I]t's this sort of editing that makes palpable my declarations about Mormon intent to deliberately degrade the NPOV character of this article. Backman is a Mormon apologist, and you deliberately gave no indication of that fact in your edit. Furthermore, no non-Mormon scholar believes there was any "flaming spiritual advance" in Palmyra during this period--none, zero, zip--the notion is purely Mormon, conceived for apologetic purposes.
—Wikipedia editor John Foxe to LDS editor. (3 October 2007) off-site
∗       ∗       ∗

Dating the First Vision  Updated 9/17/2011

From the Wikipedia article:
Smith said that his First Vision occurred in the early 1820s, when he was in his early teens

Wikipedia footnotes:

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
but his accounts mention different dates within that period. In 1832, Smith wrote that the vision had occurred "in the 16th year of [his] age" (about 1821), after he became concerned about religious matters beginning in his "twelfth year" (about 1817).

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1832) , p. 3

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
In a later account Smith said the vision took place "early in the spring of 1820" after an "unusual excitement on the subject of religion" ending during his 15th year (1820).

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Roberts (1902)

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
LDS member and Columbia University Professor Richard Bushman wrote that Smith 'began to be concerned about religion in late 1817 or early 1818, when the aftereffects of the revival of 1816 and 1817 were still being felt."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bushman (2005) , p. 37

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
LDS apologist Milton Backman wrote that religious outbreaks occurred in 1819-1820 within a fifty-mile radius of Smith's home. "Church records, newspapers, religious journals, and other contemporary sources clearly reveal that great awakenings occurred in more than fifty western New York towns or villages during the revival of 1819–1820....Primary sources also specify that great multitudes joined the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Calvinist Baptist societies in the region of country where Joseph Smith lived."

Wikipedia footnotes:

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
According to non-Mormon critics, H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters, there is no evidence that large multi-denominational revivals took place in the immediate Palmyra area between 1819 and 1820, the period specified by Smith in the canonized account of the First Vision. Smith's statement that "great multitudes" joined the various religious denominations "in the neighborhood where I lived," is not borne out by the surviving documents. Neither the Presbyterian, Baptist, nor Methodist churches in Palmyra experienced any remarkable religious outpouring. The Methodist circuit in the area even showed net losses from 1819 to 1821. "Denominational magazines of that day were full of reports of revivals, some even devoting separate sections to them." While these magazines covered the 1816-17 and the 1824-25 revivals in the Palmyra area, there is "not a single mention of any revival taking place in the Palmyra area" in 1819-20.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters, Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and Historical Record (San Francisco: Smith Research Associates, 1994), 15-41. The quotations are from an earlier version of this study, Wesley P. Walters, "New Light on Mormon Origins from the Palmyra Revival," Dialogue 4 (Spring 1969), 66-67.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
In the opinion of non-Mormon author Wesley Walters, apologists for the Mormon position treat Smith's reference to the "whole district of country" as if they referred to "some kind of statewide revival, without notice of the fact that he is talking about a revival that commenced with the Methodists 'in the place where we lived' and then 'became general among all the sects in that region of country.'"

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Walters, 68.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
D. Michael Quinn notes a Methodist camp meeting in Palmyra in June 1818.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • E. Latimer, The Three Brothers: Sketches of the Lives of Rev. Aurora Seager, Rev. Micah Seager, Rev. Schuyler Seager, D.D. (New York: Phillips & Hunt, 1880), pp 21-22 as quoted in Joseph Smith's Experience of a Methodist "Camp-Meeting" in 1820, by D. Michael Quinn, 20 December 2006

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
In 1819, a large Methodist conference was held in the town of Vienna (now Phelps), about fifteen miles from Palmyra, but there are no extant records of any revival meetings held in conjunction with it.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Porter (1969) , p. 330; Walters, 68.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
In the canonized version of the First Vision (first published in 1842), his family's decision to join the Presbyterian Church occurs prior to his First Vision.

Wikipedia footnotes:

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
But Lucy Mack Smith said that she and some of her children sought comfort in the church after the death of her oldest son, Alvin, in November 1823, which if her memory was correct, would place the date of the first vision no earlier than 1824.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • After Alvin died, Lucy, "who was especially vulnerable, was aroused by the revival that invaded and fragmented Palmyra Village in the spring of 1824. Lucy said that soon after Alvin's death, Palmyra experienced 'a great revival in religion, and the whole neighborhood was very much aroused to the subject, and we among the rest flocked to meeting house to see if there was a word of comfort for us that might relieve our over charged feelings.' She eventually decided to join the Presbyterian church."Vogel (2004) , p. 58 Marvin Hill has written, "I am inclined to agree that the religious turmoil that Smith described which led to some family members joining the Presbyterians and to much sectarian bitterness does not fit well into the 1820 context detailed by Backman....Indicating that the angel had told Smith of the plates prior to the revival, Lucy added that for a long time after Alvin's death the family could not bear nay talk about the golden plates, for the subject had been one of great interest to him and any reference to the plates stirred sorrowful memories. She said she attended the revival with hope of gaining solace for Alvin's loss. That kind of detail is just the sort that gives validity to Lucy's chronology. She would not have been likely to make up such a reaction for herself or the family nor mistake the time when it happened. I am persuaded that it was 1824 when Lucy joined the Presbyterians." Hill (1982) , p. 39

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
In 1845, Lucy recalled that she tried to persuade her "husband to join with them as I wished to do so myself."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • EMD, 1: 307 (1845).

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Her three oldest children Hyrum, Samuel, and Sophronia also joined the Presbyterian church, but "the two Josephs resisted her enthusiasm."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Vogel (2004) , p. 58.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Wesley Walters argues that "Smith's family could not have joined the Presbyterian Church in 1820 as a result of revival in the area, and then joined the same church again in 1823 as a result of another revival."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Walters, 62.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
D. Michael Quinn says that Smith's account is a conflation of events over several years, a typical biographical device for streamlining the narrative.

Wikipedia footnotes:

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Local moves of the Smith family have also been used in attempts to identify the date of the vision. In the canonized version, Joseph Smith wrote that the First Vision occurred in "the second year after our removal to Manchester."

Wikipedia footnotes:

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
The evidence for the date of this move has been interpreted by believers as supporting 1820 and by non-believers as supporting 1824.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Manchester land assessment records show an increase in assessed value of the Smith property in 1823. Because the tax assessment of the Smiths' Manchester land rose in 1823, critics argue that the Smiths completed their Manchester cabin in 1822, which suggests an approximate date of 1824 for the First Vision. Joseph Smith, Sr. was first taxed for Manchester land in 1820. In 1821 and 1822, the land was valued at $700, but in 1823, the property was assessed at $1000, which may indicate "that the Smiths had completed construction of their cabin and cleared a significant portion of their land" (Vogel, EMD, 3: 443–44). In response, some Mormon apologists argue that in 1818, the Smiths mistakenly constructed a cabin 59 feet north of the actual property line (which would have been in Palmyra rather than Manchester) and the 1823 increase in the property assessment was related to the completion of a wood frame home on the Manchester side of the Palmyra-Manchester township line. The latter interpretation would lend support for dating the First Vision to 1820Ray (2002) , pp. 4–5 For a counter argument—that there was a second cabin on the Smith property in Manchester—see Dan Vogel, EMD, 3: 416-19. Vogel argues that based on archaeological and documentary evidence, the Manchester cabin was constructed prior to the Smiths' building of their frame home. "To argue for the existence of only the Jennings cabin, which the Smiths inadvertently built on the Palmyra side of the township line, one must assume that the error was perpetuated not only by the Smiths but also by authorities in both counties. However, the existence of the names of Joseph Sr., Alvin, and Hyrum on the Palmyra road lists for 1820-22 strongly argues that both the Smiths and village authorities understood that the cabin was in Palmyra township."(419)

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
The LDS Church has canonized the 1842 account in which Joseph Smith said that this vision occurred "early in the spring of 1820."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Joseph Smith-History 1: 5

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Two LDS scholars, researching weather reports and maple sugar production records, argue that the most likely exact date for the First Vision was Sunday, March 26, 1820.

Wikipedia footnotes:

FAIR's analysis:


Notes


References

Wikipedia references for "First Vision"
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