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
A work by a collaboration of authors (Link to Wikipedia article here)
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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:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


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 Joseph's 1832 account:

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...the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the 16th year of my age a piller of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me...
History of the Life of Joseph Smith (1832)


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:

  •  References not included in the Wikipedia article
    The author picks one later account, and does not mention the fact that all other accounts support the 1820 date during Joseph's "15th year."


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:
 FAIR WIKI EDITORS: Check sources


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:

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.

    Labeling Backman a "LDS apologist" is employed by the wiki editor as a pejorative, and is intended to cast doubt on his data among those who are not familiar with the term, since the word "apologist" is typically misunderstood by many to mean that someone is "apologizing."


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:

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.

    The term "apologists for the Mormon position" is used in a pejorative manner. The wiki author is an academic, and understands the true meaning of "apologist," however, the average reader of the wiki article does not. The phrase "apologist for the Mormon position" will be interpreted by the average reader as "apologizing for the Mormon position"—this appears to be the intention of the author.
  •  References not included in the Wikipedia article
    Joseph states that about 1820 religious excitement had commenced, and the whole district of country was affected by it. The Palmyra newspaper reported many conversions in the “burned-over” district.
  • Palmyra Register (Palmyra, NY), 28 July 1820.
  • Orsamus Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase, and Morris’ Reserve (Rochester, New York: William Alling, 1851), 212–213.
  • Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton, 1867), 17–18.
  • George W. Cowles, Landmarks of Wayne County (Syracuse, New York: D. Mason & Company, 1895), 194.
  • Cowles, Landmarks of Wayne County, 194.
  • Cowles, Landmarks of Wayne County, 191–192.
  • For a detailed response, see: First Vision/Methodist camp meetings and First Vision/Religious revivals in 1820


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:

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.

    Two articles in the Palmyra Register show that at least one Methodist camp meeting occurred in June 1820. Quinn's article discusses this, yet it is not mentioned at all, despite the fact that Quinn's cited article is titled "Joseph Smith's Experience of a Methodist "Camp-Meeting" in 1820."
    • Palmyra Register June 28, 1820:
    • Palmyra Register July 5, 1820


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:

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.
    Violated by John "Foxe" —Diff: off-site

    Instead of noting the 1820 Methodist camp meeting that was recorded in the Palmyra Register, the wiki editor continues to attempt to conclude that there were no "revivals" in the area at the time. Note that Joseph never referred to the religious excitement as a "revival."
  • For a detailed response, see: First Vision/Methodist camp meetings and First Vision/Religious revivals in 1820


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:

  • Lucy Mack Smith's autobiography provides the timeframe for when she was formally 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, prior to the First Vision. [1]

  • Note the following from a Presbyterian historian,
A souring in the relationship between Joseph Smith and the Presbyterians seems to have occurred after the sudden and still mysterious death of his eldest brother, Alvin, on November 19, 1823.

—John Matzko, "The Encounter of the Young Joseph Smith with Presbyterianism," Dialogue 40/3 (2007), p. 77


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:

  •  Violates Wikipedia: No Original Research off-site— Do not use unpublished facts, arguments, speculation, and ideas; and any unpublished analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position.
    Violated by "Blue Tie" —Diff: off-site

    The conclusion that the First Vision could have occurred "no earlier than 1824" is not supported by the references. This is a conclusion synthesized by the wiki author and included in the main article text as if it were fact.


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:

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • From the cited source (p. 307, 1845):

This I thought looked right and tried to persuade my Husband to joiont with them as I wished to do so myself and it was the inclination of them all except Joseph he refused from the first to attend the meeting with us. (Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:307)


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:
 FAIR WIKI EDITORS: Check sources


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:

  • 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.
  • In an earlier portion of Lucy Mack Smith's autobiography she provides the timeframe for when she formally baptized - which took place on 11 February 1820, prior to the First Vision. 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”


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:

  • Here is the actual text that the wiki author paraphrases from the Quinn source:

I have another perspective about the fact (and it is a fact) that Smith's official narrative about 1820 included circumstances which occurred during Palmyra's revivals of 1824-25. Merging (conflating) circumstances from similar events that happened years apart will certainly confuse the historical record and will perplex anyone trying to sort out basic chronology. Nonetheless, conflation of actual circumstances from separate events is not the same as fraudulent invention of events that never occurred. Conflation also is not the combination of an actual event with a fictional event. Instead, it is very common for memoirs and autobiographies to merge similar events that actually occurred, due to the narrator's memory lapses or her/his intentional streamlining of the narrative to avoid repeating similar occurrences.[39]

[39] For example, Victor H. Matthews, A Brief History of Ancient Israel (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2002), 80 ("an unintentional conflation of events"); also Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory, trans. by Lewis A. Coser (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 83. Also see last paragraph of my note 206 for similar conflation of revivals by Mrs. Sarepta Marsh Baker and Reverend Marvin P. Blakeslee.


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:

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.

    Note that it is pointed out that this data comes from "Mormon apologists" rather than "LDS scholars."
  •  References not included in the Wikipedia article
    The author omits mention that the 1820 U.S. Census, listed the Smiths in Farmington, which is now Manchester. off-site According to Wikipedia itself, the Town of Manchester was established from part of the Town of Farmington in 1821, and in 1822, the name was changed to "Manchester".
  • According to Lucy Mack Smith, by November 1822 [corrected to 1823] they had raised and were working to complete the frame house that replaced the log cabin. This occurs prior to Alvin's death, as recorded in Lucy's 1845 manuscript, "[W]hen the month of November 1822 [1823] arrived the House was raised and all the Materials procured for completing the building." Lucy Mack Smith, "History, 1845," quoted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:299.
  • For a detailed response, see: First Vision/Smith family place of residence in 1820


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:

  • It seems that "LDS scholars" only publish in Meridian Magazine. Those that do not are given the title "apologist" in this wiki article.


Endnotes

  • [note] Lucy Smith History, 1845 quoted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:242.

References

Wikipedia references for "First Vision"
  • Abanes, Richard, (2002), One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church , New York: Four Walls Eight Windows .
  • Allen, James B., (1980), Emergence of a Fundamental: The Expanding Role of Joseph Smith's First Vision in Mormon Religious Thought off-site .
  • Allen, James B., (1966), The Significance of Joseph Smith's First Vision in Mormon Thought off-site .
  • Anderson, Richard Lloyd, Joseph Smith’s Testimony of the First Vision off-site .
  • Anderson, Richard Lloyd, (1969), Circumstantial Confirmation Of the first Vision Through Reminiscences off-site .
  • Backman, Milton V., Jr., (1969), Awakenings in the Burned-over District: New Light on the Historical Setting of the first Vision off-site .
  • Berge, Dale L., Archaeological Work at the Smith Log House off-site .
  • Bauder, Peter, Vogel, Dan (editor) (1834), Early Mormon Documents , Salt Lake City: Signature Books .
  • Bitton, Davis, (1994), Historical Dictionary of Mormonism , Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press .
  • Brown, Matthew B., Historical or Hysterical— Anti-Mormons and Documentary Sources Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research off-site .
  • Bushman, Richard Lyman, (2005), Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling , New York: Knopf .
  • Cowdery, Oliver, Far West Record: Minutes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1844 , Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company .
  • Cowdery, Oliver, (1834), Letter III off-site .
  • Cowdery, Oliver, (1835), Letter IV off-site .
  • Flake, Kathleen, (2004), The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle University of North Carolina Press .
  • Hill, Marvin S., (1980), The First Vision Controversy: A Critique and Reconciliation .
  • Howard, Richard P., (1980), Joseph Smith's First Vision: The RLDS Tradition off-site .
  • Howe, Eber Dudley, ed., The Mormon Creed off-site .
  • Jessee, Dean (1989), The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings {{{pages}}}
  • Jessee, Dean C., (Spring, 1971), How Lovely was the Morning off-site .
  • Jessee, Dean C., (1969), Early Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision .
  • Mormon History off-site .
  • Mack, Solomon, (1811), A Narraitve [sic] of the Life of Solomon Mack Windsor: Solomon Mack off-site .
  • Matzko, John A., (2007), The Encounter of the Young Joseph Smith with Presbyterianism .
  • McKune, Joshua, Review of Mormonism: Rejoiner to Elder Cadwell off-site .
  • Neibaur, Alexander, (1841–48), Journal of Alexander Neibaur off-site .
  • Palmer, Grant H., (2002), An Insider's View of Mormon Origins Signature Books .
  • Phelps, W.W., ed., (1833), A Book of Commandments, for the Government of the Church of Christ , Zion: William Wines Phelps & Co. off-site .
  • Porter, Larry C., (1969), Reverend George Lane—Good "Gifts", Much "Grace", and Marked "Usefulness" off-site .
  • Pratt, Orson, (1840), A Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records , Edinburgh: Ballantyne and Hughes off-site .
  • Quinn, D. Michael, (1998), Early Mormonism and the Magic World View Signature Books .
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  • Riley, I. Woodbridge, (1903), The Founder of Mormonism: A Psychological Study of Joseph Smith, Jr. , New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. off-site
  • Roberts, B. H. (editor) (1902), History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints LDS Church off-site .
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., Jessee, Dean C (editor) (1832), Personal Writings of Joseph Smith , Salt Lake City: Deseret Book off-site .
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., Jessee, Dean C (editor) (1835), Personal Writings of Joseph Smith , Salt Lake City: Deseret Book off-site .
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., (1838), History of the Church , copied to Jessee, Dean C (editor) (1839–1843), Personal Writings of Joseph Smith Deseret Book .
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., (1842a), Church History [Wentworth Letter] off-site .
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., (1842b), History of Joseph Smith off-site .
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., (1842c), History of Joseph Smith off-site .
  • Smith, Lucy Mack, (1853), Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations , Liverpool: S.W. Richards off-site .
  • Smith, William, (1883), William Smith on Mormonism: A True Account of the Origin of the Book of Mormon , Lamoni, Iowa: RLDS Church off-site .
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  • Tanner, Jerald and Sandra (1987 (5th ed)), Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? {{{pages}}}
  • Taylor, John, How a Knowledge of God is Obtained—The Gospel to the Dead—Various Dispensations of the Most High to Mankind—Power of the Priesthood—Restoration of the Gospel Through Joseph Smith—Failings of the Saints—Corruptions of the Wicked off-site .
  • Tucker, Pomeroy, (1867), Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism , New York: D. Appleton off-site .
  • Turner, Orasmus, (1851), History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase, and Morris' Reserve , Rochester, New York: William Alling off-site .
  • Vogel, Dan (editor) (1996), Early Mormon Documents , Salt Lake City: Signature Books .
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  • Waite, David Nye, Sr., The Prairies, Nauvoo, Joseph Smith, the Temple, the Mormons &c off-site .

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