Mormonism and Wikipedia/First Vision/Interpretations and responses to the vision

An analysis of the Wikipedia article "First Vision"

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia: Mormonism and Wikipedia/First Vision
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The article is indeed one of the most neutral articles about Mormon doctrine on Wikipedia, and I'll do my best to keep it as neutral as one non-Mormon can.
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Interpretations and responses to the vision  Updated 9/17/2011

From the Wikipedia article:
Among contemporary denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, the First Vision is typically viewed as a significant (often the most significant) event in the latter day restoration of the Church of Christ. However, the faiths differ in their teachings about the vision's precise meaning and details. Secular scholars and non-Mormons view the vision as a lie, false memory, delusion, or hallucination, or some combination of these.


FAIR's analysis:


Early awareness by Latter Day Saints

From the Wikipedia article:
The importance of the First Vision within the Latter Day Saint movement evolved over time. Early adherents were unaware of the details of the vision until 1840, when the earliest accounts were published in Great Britain. An account of the First Vision was not published in the United States until 1842, shortly before Joseph Smith's death. Jan Shipps has written that the vision was "practically unknown" until an account of it was published in 1842.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Jan Shipps, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 30. The first extant account of the First Vision is the manuscript account in Joseph Smith, "Manuscript History of the Church" (1839); the first published account is Orson Pratt, An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records (Edinburgh: Ballantyne and Hughes, 1840); and the first American publication is Joseph Smith's letter to John Wentworth in Times and Seasons, 3 (March 1842), 706-08, only two years before Smith's assassination. (These accounts are available in Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996), volume 1.) As the LDS historian Richard Bushman has written in his authoritative biography, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), "At first, Joseph was reluctant to talk about his vision. Most early converts probably never heard about the 1820 vision." (39)

FAIR's analysis:


Interpretation and use by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

From the Wikipedia article:
The canonical First Vision story was not emphasized in the sermons of Smith's immediate successors Brigham Young and John Taylor within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hugh Nibley noted that although a "favorite theme of Brigham Young's was the tangible, personal nature of God," he "never illustrates [the theme] by any mention of the first vision."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Improvement Era (November 1961), 868.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
John Taylor gave a complete account of the First Vision story in an 1850 letter written as he began missionary work in France,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • "[Joseph Smith] mind was troubled, he saw contention instead of peace; and division instead of union; and when he reflected upon the multifarious creeds and professions there were in existence, he thought it impossible for all to be right, and if God taught one, He did not teach the others, "for God is not the author of confusion." In reading his bible, he was remarkably struck with the passage in James, 1st chapter, 5th verse, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him." Believing in the word of God, he retired into a grove, and called upon the Lord to give him wisdom in relation to this matter. While he was thus engaged, he was surrounded by a brilliant light, and two glorious personages presented themselves before him, who exactly resembled each other in features, and who gave him information upon the subjects which had previously agitated his mind. He was given to understand that the churches were all of them in error in regard to many things; and he was commanded not to go after them; and he received a promise that the 'fulness' of the gospel should at some future time be unfolded unto him: after which the vision withdrew, leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace." John Taylor, Letter to the Editor of the Interpreter Anglais et Français, Boulogne-sur-mer (25 June 1850).

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
and he may have alluded to it in a discourse given in 1859.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • "What could the Lord do with such a pack of ignorant fools as we were? There was one man that had a little good sense, and a spark of faith in the promises of god and that was Joseph Smith-a backwoods man. He believed a certain portion of scripture which said-"If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God who to all men liberally and upbraideth not." He was fool enough in the eyes of the world, and wise enough in the eyes of God and angels, and all true intelligence to go into a secret place to ask God for wisdom, believing that God would hear him. The Lord did hear him, and told him what to do." Deseret News (Weekly), December 28, 1859, 337

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
However, when Taylor discussed the origins of Mormonism in 1863, he did so without alluding to the canonical First Vision story,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • "How did this state of things called Mormonism originate? We read that an angel came down and revealed himself to Joseph Smith and manifested unto him in vision the true position of the world in a religious point of view. He was surrounded with light and glory while the heavenly messenger communicated these things unto him, after a series of visitations and communications from the Apostle Peter and others who held the authority of the holy Priesthood, not only on the earth formerly but in the heavens afterwards." Journal of Discourses 10: 123@ 127

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
and in 1879, he referred to Joseph Smith having asked "the angel" which of the sects was correct.

Wikipedia footnotes:

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Three non-Mormon students of Mormonism, Douglas Davies, Kurt Widmer, and Jan Shipps agree that the LDS emphasis on the First Vision was a "'late development', only gaining an influential status in LDS self-reflection late in the nineteenth century."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • "Historians have pondered the various phrases of this vision's evolution and tend to see its present form as a 'late development,' only gaining an influential status in LDS self-reflection late in the nineteenth century." Douglas J. Davies, An Introduction to Mormonism (Cambridge University Press, 2003), 136; Kurt Widner, Mormonism and the Nature of God: A Theological Evolution, 1833-1915 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2000), 92-107; Jan Shipps, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1985), 30-32.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Mormon historian James B. Allen also argues that the First Vision "did not figure prominently in any evangelistic endeavors by the Church until the 1880s."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Allen, 43-69, summarized in Kurt Widner, Mormonism and the Nature of God: A Theological Evolution, 1833-1915 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2000), 103.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
The first important visual representation of the First Vision was painted by the Danish convert C. C. A. Christensen sometime between 1869 and 1878, and George Manwaring, inspired by the artist, wrote a hymn about the First Vision (later renamed "Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning") first published in 1884.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Allen (1980) , pp. 53–54.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Kurt Widner states that it was primarily through "the post 1883 sermons of LDS Apostle George Q. Cannon that the modern interpretation and significance of the First Vision in Mormonism began to take shape."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Kurt Widner, Mormonism and the Nature of God: A Theological Evolution, 1833-1915 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2000), 93; Journal of Discourses, 24: 340-41, 371-72. "The emergence of the First Vision is a syncretic approach to deal with past doctrinal inconsistencies on a broad scale. What it attempts to do is, in one giant sweep, gather all of the doctrinal inconsistencies, such as a plurality of Gods, God being an exalted man, the purpose of the Church, and the calling of Joseph Smith, and place it into an earlier time frame." Widner, 105.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
As the sympathetic but non-Mormon historian Jan Shipps has written, "When the first generation of leadership died off, leaving the community to be guided mainly by men who had not known Joseph, the First Vision emerged as a symbol that could keep the slain Mormon leader at center stage."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Jan Shipps, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1985), 32.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
The centennial anniversary of the vision in 1920 "was a far cry from the almost total lack of reference to it just fifty years before."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Allen (1980) , p. 57: "The Mutual Improvement Associations issued a special commemorative pamphlet, the vision was memorialized in music, verse and dramatic representations, and the church's official publication, the Improvement Era, devoted almost the entire April issue to that event."

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
By 1939, even George D. Pyper, an LDS Sunday School superintendent and manager of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, found it "surprising that none of the first song writers wrote intimately of the first vision."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • George D. Pyper, Stories of Latter-day Saint Hymns: Their Authors and Composers (Salt Lake City: Deseret Press, 1939), 34. Pyper noted that Parley Pratt's earlier "An Angel from on High" and "Hark Ye Mortals" "referred to Cumorah and the Book of Mormon" rather than to the First Vision.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
LDS Church president Joseph F. Smith is credited with having fully raised the First Vision to its modern status as a pillar of Mormon theology. Largely through Joseph F. Smith's influence, Smith's 1838 account of the First Vision became part of the canon of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1880 when the faith canonized Smith's early history as part of the Pearl of Great Price.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bitton (1994) , p. 86as quoted inAnderson (1996)

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
After plural marriage ended at the turn of the 20th century, the First Vision was promoted heavily by Joseph F. Smith, and it soon replaced polygamy in the minds of adherents as the main defining element of Mormonism and the source of the faith's perception of persecution by outsiders.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Flake (2004) , pp. 120–21.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
As a result, belief in the First Vision is now considered fundamental to the faith, second in importance only to belief in the divinity of Jesus.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Allen (1966) , p. 29.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
An official website of the Church calls the First Vision "the greatest event in world history since the birth, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Wikipedia footnotes:

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
In 1998, Gordon B. Hinckley, then Church President and Prophet, declared,
Our entire case as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the validity of this glorious First Vision. It was the parting of the curtain to open this, the dispensation of the fullness of times. Nothing on which we base our doctrine, nothing we teach, nothing we live by is of greater importance than this initial declaration. I submit that if Joseph Smith talked with God the Father and His Beloved Son, then all else of which he spoke is true. This is the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to the path of salvation and eternal life.

Wikipedia footnotes:

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
In 1961 Hinckley went even further, "Either Joseph Smith talked with the Father and the Son or he did not. If he did not, we are engaged in a blasphemy."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Improvement Era (December 1961), 907. David O. McKay, the ninth president of the LDS Church, also declared the First Vision to be the foundation of the faith. David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1951), 19.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Likewise, in a January 2007 interview conducted for the PBS documentary "The Mormons," Hinckley said of the First Vision, "[I]t's either true or false. If it's false, we're engaged in a great fraud. If it's true, it's the most important thing in the world....That's our claim. That's where we stand, and that's where we fall, if we fall. But we don't. We just stand secure in that faith."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • PBS interview with Hinckley The full quotation mentions the ultimate reality of Moroni and the Book of Mormon translated from the plates: "Well, it's either true or false. If it's false, we're engaged in a great fraud. If it's true, it's the most important thing in the world. Now, that's the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true. And that's exactly where we stand, with a conviction in our hearts that it is true: that Joseph went into the [Sacred] Grove; that he saw the Father and the Son; that he talked with them; that Moroni came; that the Book of Mormon was translated from the plates; that the priesthood was restored by those who held it anciently. That's our claim. That's where we stand, and that's where we fall, if we fall. But we don't. We just stand secure in that faith.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
According to the LDS church the vision teaches that God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate beings with glorified bodies of flesh and bone; that mankind was literally created in the image of God; that Satan is real but God infinitely greater; that God hears and answers prayer; that no other contemporary church had the fullness of Christ's gospel; and that revelation has not ceased. In the 21st century, the Vision features prominently in the Church's program of proselytism.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Kurt Widmer, Mormonism and the Nature of God: A Theological Evolution, 1833-1915 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2000), 92.

FAIR's analysis:


Perspectives within the Community of Christ

From the Wikipedia article:
William B. Smith, a younger brother of Joseph Smith, Jr., and a key figure in the early Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS, renamed Community of Christ in 2001) gave several accounts of the First Vision, although in 1883 he stated that a "more elaborate and accurate description of his vision" was to be found in Joseph Smith's own history

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • William Smith, "On Mormonism," in Vogel, EMD, 1:496.

FAIR's analysis:


The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite)

Skipped

Church of Christ (Temple Lot)

Skipped

Skeptical criticism

Alleged chronological problems

From the Wikipedia article:
Writing of the "unusual excitement on the subject of religion" described in the First Vision story canonized by the LDS Church, Milton V. Backman, Jr., associate professor of history and religion at Brigham Young University, said that although "the tools of the historian" could neither verify nor challenge the First Vision, "records of the past can be examined to determine the reliability of Joseph's description regarding the historical setting."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Backman (1969) , p. 2

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Grant Palmer and others claim that there are serious discrepancies between the various accounts, as well as anachronisms revealed by lack of contemporary corroboration.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • A recent skeptical summary of the First Vision stories is Grant Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 235-54. Palmer, a retired LDS religious instructor was disfellowshipped by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after publishing this book. Palmer concludes his chapter, "The 1832 account describes Joseph's experience most accurately. Smith's 1832 description does not forbid him from joining a church, nor does it mention a revival or persecution. Instead, he became convicted of his sins from reading the scriptures and received forgiveness from the Savior in a personal epiphany. He stated that his call to God's work came in 1823 from an angel, later identified as Moroni. When a crisis developed around the Book of Mormon in 1838, he conflated several events into one. Now he was called by God the Father and Jesus Christ in 1820 during an extended revival, was forbidden to join any existing church, and was greatly persecuted by institutions and individuals for sharing his vision of God. This version is not supported by historical evidence."(253-54)

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
For instance, in the canonized account, Smith said that when he shared his vision with a Methodist minister, the latter treated his "communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days." Smith said that he became the "subject of great persecution, which continued to increase."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • "I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them. I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase."Smith (1842c) , p. 748

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
But according to emeritus Brigham Young University history professor James B. Allen, there is no known evidence beyond Smith's word that he ever mentioned his vision to a minister—or in fact, to anyone else—for years after the event is supposed to have occurred. Nor is there any known evidence that the young Smith was persecuted for telling the First Vision story during the 1820s.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • "The fact that none of the available contemporary writings about Joseph Smith in the 1830’s, none of the publications of the Church in that decade, and no contemporary journal or correspondence yet discovered mentions the story of the first vision is convincing evidence that at best it received only limited circulation in those early days.” James B. Allen, “The Significance of Joseph Smith's First Vision in Mormon Thought,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 1 (Autumn 1966). In No Man Knows My History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), the skeptical Fawn Brodie is more biting: "Joseph's first published autobiographical sketch of 1834, already noted, contained no whisper of an event that, if it had happened, would have been the most soul-shattering experience of his whole youth." (24) "If something happened that spring morning in 1820, it passed totally unnoticed in Joseph's home town, and apparently did not even fix itself in the minds of members of his own family." (25)

FAIR's analysis:


Discrepancies cited by critics

From the Wikipedia article:
Critics of the First Vision cite the multiple versions of the First Vision as evidence that it may have been fabricated by Smith.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Tanner, Jerald and Sandra, (1987 (5th ed)), Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? Utah Lighthouse Ministry

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Critics specifically identify the following discrepancies between the various versions:

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Abanes, Richard, (2002), One Nation Under Gods Four Walls

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Was Smith 14 or 15 at the time of the vision?


FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Did Smith attend a contemporaneous religious revival?


FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Did the supernatural personages tell Smith his sins were forgiven?


FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Were the supernatural personages angels, Jesus, God or some combination?


FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Did the vision declare all contemporary churches (or specifically the Methodist church) corrupt, or did Smith believe this to be true before he experienced the vision?


FAIR's analysis:


Joseph Smith's Accounts

 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.

The entire chart comparing details of different accounts of the First Vision constitutes original research. The chart was not taken from a specific source—it was created by Wikipedia editors. Per Wikipedia rules, editors should be quoting published authors' opinions regarding the comparison of accounts. Instead, Wikipedia editors have examined the primary sources and analyzed phrases from them by synthesizing them into a chart for the purpose of comparison.

 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 this section is simply labeled "Joseph Smith's Accounts," while the following section is labeled "Apologetic Responses." This section is portrayed as "data" rather than criticism, while the following section is portrayed as a defense by believers.

- Source of First Vision Supernatural beings Messages from beings Notes FAIR Commentary
1832 Joseph Smith's own handwriting from his Letterbook The Papers of Joseph Smith, v1, p5-7, Dean Jessee (ed.), Deseret Book Company 1989.Jessee, Dean, (1989), The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings Deseret Book Company And Early Mormon Documents, v 1, p27-29, Dan Vogel, Signature Books, 1996. "The Lord" "Thy sins are forgiven thee". Smith decides for himself that all churches are corrupt. Vision in Smith's "16th year" (i.e. when he is 15 years old). All other accounts state his age as 14.
1835, Nov. 9 - Joseph Smith diary (Ohio Journal, handwritten, Warren Parrish scribe) The Papers of Joseph Smith, Dean Jessee (ed.), v2, p68-69. Deseret Book Company 1989. Two unidentified personages, and "many angels" "Thy sins are forgiven thee" and Jesus is the "son of God" No message of revivals or corrupt churches.
1835, Nov. 14 - Joseph Smith diary (Ohio Journal, handwritten, Warren Parrish scribe) The Papers of Joseph Smith, Dean Jessee (ed.), v2, p79. Deseret Book Company 1989. "visitation of angels" None. No mention of revival, or sins forgiven, or corrupt churches.
1838/1839 - History of the Church, Early Draft (James Mulholland Scribe) Two personages appear, and one says "This is my beloved Son, hear him". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. No mention of "sins forgiven". A revival is mentioned.
1842, March - Times and Seasons March 1, 1842, v3 no 9, p706-707. Two personages appear, and one says "This is my beloved Son, hear him". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. No mention of "sins forgiven". A revival is mentioned.
1842, March - Times and Seasons March 15, 1842, v3 no 11, p727-728, April 1, 1842, v3, no 11, p748-749. This version was later incorporated into The History of the Church, and later into the Pearl of Great Priceand thus is sometimes refered to as the "canonized version". Two personages appear, and one says "This is my beloved Son, hear him". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. No mention of "sins forgiven". A revival is mentioned. When this version was incorporated into the History of the Church, it was put into a context that suggests it was composed in 1838, but 1842 is the first known publication of this version.
1843, July - Letter from JS to D. Rupp An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States, Daniel Rupp, Philadelpha, 1844. p404-410. Two personages appear. No mention of "this is my son". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. No mention of "sins forgiven". No revival mentioned. Available online here. See also the Wentworth letter.
1843, Aug 29 - Interview with journalist David White Reprinted in Jessee v1 p443-444. Two personages appear. "Behold my beloved son, hear him". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. Revival is mentioned. No mention of "sins forgiven".

Accounts of Others

- Source of First Vision Supernatural beings Messages from beings Notes FAIR Commentary
1840, September - Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions , Orson Pratt, Ballantyne and Huges publ, 1840 (reprinted in Jessee, v1 p 149-160). Two unidentified "glorious personages, who exactly resembed each other in their features". "his sins were forgiven". The personages tell Smith that all churches are corrupt. This is the first published version. No mention of revival. Online here.
1841, June - A Cry from the Wilderness , Orson Hyde, published in German, Frankfurt, 1842 (reprinted in Jessee, v1 p405-409). Two unidentified "glorious personages" who resembed "each other in their features". No specific message. No mention of "sins forgiven" or revival. Smith determines for himself that all churches are corrupt.
1844, May 24 - as told to Alexander Neibaur Alexander Neibaur Journal, reprinted in Jessee, v1, p 459-461. Two personages appear. One has a "light complexion" and "blue eyes". "This is my beloved son harken ye him". Methodist churches are wrong. All churches are corrupt. Revival is mentioned. No mention of "sins forgiven".

Apologetic Responses

 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 title "Apologetic Responses" is pejorative. Most readers unfamiliar with the term will interpret "apologist" as one who "apologizes" for their position. Although this section is titled "Apologetic Responses," we see no apologists quoted here. We see Church leaders, a BYU professor, and an evangelical theologian. It is inaccurate to classify any and all believers as "apologists."

From the Wikipedia article:
Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have acknowledged that the First Vision as well as the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith himself constitute "stumbling blocks for many." Apostle Neal A. Maxwell wrote:
In our own time, Joseph Smith, the First Vision, and the Book of Mormon constitute stumbling blocks for many—around which they cannot get—unless they are meek enough to examine all the evidence at hand, not being exclusionary as a result of accumulated attitudes in a secular society. Humbleness of mind is the initiator of expansiveness of mind."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Neal A. Maxwell, Meek and Lowly (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1987), 76).

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Some believers view differences in the accounts as overstated. Richard L. Anderson, a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University wrote, "What are the main problems of interpreting so many accounts? The first problem is the interpreter. One person perceives harmony and interconnections while another overstates differences."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • "One person perceives harmony and interconnections while another overstates differences. Think of how you retell a vivid event in your life—marriage, first day on the job, or an automobile accident. A record of all your comments would include short and long versions, along with many bits and pieces. Only by blending these glimpses can an outsider reconstruct what originally happened. The biggest trap is comparing description in one report with silence in another. By assuming that what is not said is not known, some come up with arbitrary theories of an evolution in the Prophet’s story. Yet we often omit parts of an episode because of the chance of the moment, not having time to tell everything, or deliberately stressing only a part of the original event in a particular situation. This means that any First Vision account contains some fraction of the whole experience. Combining all reliable reports will recreate the basics of Joseph Smith’s quest and conversation with the Father and Son."Anderson (1996)

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Other believers view the differences in the accounts as reflective of Smith's increase in maturity and knowledge over time. In a recent PBS interview, Marlin K. Jensen, General authority and Church Historian said:
I've actually studied the various accounts of Joseph's First Vision, and I'm struck by the difference in his recountings. But as I look back at my missionary journals, for instance, which I've kept and other journals which I've kept throughout my life, I'm struck now in my older years by the evolution and hopefully the progression that's taken place in my own life and how differently now from this perspective I view some things that happened in my younger years.

Wikipedia footnotes:

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
In another interview on the same PBS documentary, Richard Mouw, an evangelical theologian and student of Mormonism summarized his feelings about the First Vision in this way:
My instinct is to attribute a sincerity to Joseph Smith. And yet at the same time, as an evangelical Christian, I do not believe that the members of the godhead really appeared to him and told him that he should start on a mission of, among other things, denouncing the kinds of things that I believe as a Presbyterian. I can't believe that. And yet at the same time, I really don't believe that he was simply making up a story that he knew to be false in order to manipulate people and to gain power over a religious movement. And so I live with the mystery.

Wikipedia footnotes:

FAIR's analysis:


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 .
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Further reading

Articles on this subject

FairMormon's Wikipedia Article Reviews

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article "Martin Harris"

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article "Oliver Cowdery"

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article "First Vision"

Summary: Current review is based upon Wikipedia revision dated 9/17/2011. This article has undergone moderate improvements in its use of sources since our last review. The article still contains a substantial amount of original research based upon primary sources, with the intent to disprove the vision and highlight perceived discrepancies between vision accounts. Believing scholars are labeled "apologists" in an attempt to diminish their credibility.

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article "Joseph Smith"

Summary: Current review is based upon Wikipedia revision dated 9/3/2011. This article has undergone substantial improvements in its use of sources since our initial review in 2009. Most of the citations are now accurately represented.

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article "Golden plates"

Summary: Current review is based upon Wikipedia revision dated 9/21/2011. This article has undergone only minor improvements in its use of sources since our last review. The article contains a large amount of original research on the part of the wiki editors.

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article "Three Witnesses"

Summary: Current review is based upon Wikipedia revision dated 9/28/2011. This article has been constructed in such a way as to discredit the witnesses by emphasizing any perceived contradictions in their various statements regarding their encounter with the gold plates.


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