Mormonism and Wikipedia/First Vision/Recorded accounts of the 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)
The name Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.. Wikipedia content is copied and made available under the GNU Free Documentation License.
I'm certain that I hold the high ground here.
—Wikipedia editor John Foxe, quoting Edward Everett Hale, during an edit battle on the "First Vision" article (16 May 2007)
∗       ∗       ∗

Recorded accounts of the vision  Updated 9/17/2011

From the Wikipedia article:
The importance of the First Vision within the Latter Day Saint movement evolved over time. There is little evidence that Smith discussed the First Vision publicly prior to 1830.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • "The earliest allusion, oral or written, to the first vision is the brief mention that was transcribed in June 1830 and originally printed in the Book of Commandments." Palmer, 235.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Mormon historian James B. Allen notes that:
The fact that none of the available contemporary writings about Joseph Smith in the 1830s, 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.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • James B. Allen, “The Significance of Joseph Smith's First Vision in Mormon Thought,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 1 (Autumn 1966), 30. [1]

FAIR's analysis:


Reputed discussions in the 1820s

From the Wikipedia article:
Smith said that he made an oblique reference to the vision in 1820 to his mother, telling her the day it happened that he had "learned for [him]self that Presbyterianism is not true."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Roberts (1902)

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Lucy did not mention this conversation in her memoirs.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Lucy Smith's Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, first published in Liverpool in 1853. EMD, 1: 227.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
In the oldest known full account of the First Vision, Joseph Smith, Jr., said he "could find none that would believe" his experience.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1832) , p. 2

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
He said that shortly after the experience, he told the story of his revelation to a Methodist minister

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • According to Mormon apologist Larry C. Porter, the Methodist minister, George Lane, may have passed very near the Smith home and preached at a camp meeting along the way in July of 1820. "In the pursuit of his ministerial duties Rev. Lane was in the geographical proximity of Joseph Smith on a number of occasions between the years 1819-1825. The nature degree or indeed the actuality of their acquaintanceship during this interval poses a number of interesting possibilities... In July 1820 Lane would have had to pass through the greater Palmyra-Manchester vicinity..unless he went by an extremely circuitous route. Present records do not specify Lane's itinerary or exact route... but they do for Lane's friend, Rev. George Peck... [Peck's] conference route took him north to Ithaca, then on to a camp meeting in the Holland Purchase, subsequently passing along the Ridge Road to Rochester... As Rev. Peck, [Lane] may even have stopped at a camp meeting somewhere along the way. A preacher of his standing would always be a welcome guest." Larry Porter, "Reverend George Lane—Good Gifts Much Grace and Marked Usefulness," BYU Studies, Vol. 9, No. 3 (1969) pp. 321-340. [2] Smith never mentions the name of the minister.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
who responded "with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there was no such thing as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there never would be any more of them."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842c) , p. 748 Roberts (1902)

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
He also said that the telling of his vision story "excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Roberts (1902) .

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
There is no extant evidence from the 1830s for this persecution beyond Smith's own testimony.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • James B. Allen, “The Significance of Joseph Smith's First Vision in Mormon Thought,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 1 (Autumn 1966), 30. [3] "According to Joseph Smith, he told the story of the vision immediately after it happened in the early spring of 1820. As a result, he said, he received immediate criticism in the community. There is little if any evidence, however, that by the early 1830's Joseph Smith was telling the story in public. At least if he were telling it, no one seemed to consider it important enough to have recorded it at the time, and no one was criticizing him for it."

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
None of the earliest anti-Mormon literature mentioned the First Vision.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • James B. Allen, “The Significance of Joseph Smith's First Vision in Mormon Thought,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 1 (Autumn 1966), 31. [4]. "Apparently not until 1843, when the New York Spectator printed a reporter's account of an interview with Joseph Smith, did a non-Mormon source publish any reference to the story of the first vision."

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Smith also said he told others about the vision during the 1820s, and some family members said that they had heard him mention it, but none prior to 1823, when Smith said he had his second vision.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Palmer (2002) , p. 245: "There is no evidence of prejudice resulting from this first vision. If his report that 'all the sects...united to persecute me' were accurate, one would expect to find some hint of this in the local newspapers, narratives by ardent critics, and in the affidavits D. P. Hurlbut gathered in 1833. The record is nevertheless silent on this issue. No one, friend or foe, in New York or Pennsylvania remember either that there was 'great persecution' or even that Joseph claimed to have had a vision. Not even his family remembers it."

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
The reminiscences of Smith's family and Palmyra neighbors offer another perspective. In the early 1820s, Smith was enrolled in a Methodist probationary class. An associate called him a "very passable exhorter,"

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Turner (1852) , p. 214

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
although some people considered his interpretations of scripture "persistent blasphemies."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Tucker (1876) , p. 18.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Smith reportedly withdrew from the probationary class, announcing a belief that "all sectarianism was fallacious, and the churches on a false foundation."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Tucker (1876) , p. 18.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
According to one recollection, Smith "arose and announced that his mission was to restore the true priesthood. He appointed a number of meetings, but no one seemed inclined to follow him as the leader of a new religion."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Mather (1880) , p. 199.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Eventually, he refused to attend any religious services, telling his Mother, "I can take my Bible, and go into the woods, and learn more in two hours, than you can learn at meeting in two years, if you should go all the time."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1853) , p. 90.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
During this time, Smith was also hired to use seer stones in attempts to divine hidden treasure. Although Smith encountered local opposition as a result of this "glass looking" and was brought to trial for it in 1826,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Hill (1972) , p. 2.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
no one but Smith recorded opposition to his putative announcement of the First Vision.


FAIR's analysis:


1830s reference to early Christian regeneration

From the Wikipedia article:
In June 1830, Smith provided the first clear record of a significant personal religious experience prior to the visit of the angel Moroni.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • The account was first published to non-Mormons in 1831. Howe (1831) .

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
At that time, Smith and his associate Oliver Cowdery were establishing the Church of Christ, the first Latter Day Saint church. In the Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ, Smith recounted his early history, noting
For, after that it truly was manifested unto [Smith] that he had received remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world, but after truly repenting, God visited him by an holy angel...and gave unto him power, by the means which was before prepared that he should translate a book."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Howe (1831) .

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
No further explanation of this "manifestation" is provided. Although the reference was later linked to the First Vision,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Allen (1980) , p. 45; Bushman (2005) , pp. 39, 112.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
its original hearers could have understood the manifestation as simply another of many revival experiences in which the subject testified that his sins had been forgiven.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bushman (2005) , p. 39.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
However, when in October 1830 the author Peter Bauder interviewed Smith for a religious book he was writing, he said Smith was unable to recount a "Christian experience."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bauder (1834) , pp. 36–38.

FAIR's analysis:


1832 Joseph Smith account

From the Wikipedia article:
The earliest extant account of the First Vision was handwritten by Joseph Smith in 1832, but it was not published until 1965.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • "One of the most significant documents of that period yet discovered was brought to light in 1965 by Paul R. Cheesman, a graduate student at Brigham Young University. This is a handwritten manuscript apparently composed about 1833 and either written or dictated by Joseph Smith. It contains an account of the early experiences of the Mormon prophet and includes the story of the first vision. While the story varies in some details from the version presently accepted, enough is there to indicate that at least as early as 1833 Joseph Smith contemplated writing and perhaps publishing it. The manuscript has apparently lain in the L.D.S. Church Historian’s office for many years, and yet few if any who saw it realized its profound historical significance." James B. Allen, “The Significance of Joseph Smith's First Vision in Mormon Thought,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 1 (Autumn 1966). [5].

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
[T]he 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 pillar of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the <Lord> opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph <my son> thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy <way> walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life <behold> the world lieth in sin and at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned aside from the gospel and keep not <my> commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them according to th[e]ir ungodliness and to bring to pass that which <hath> been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap[o]stles behold and lo I come quickly as it [is] written of me in the cloud <clothed> in the glory of my Father . . . ."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1832) , p. 2. Angle brackets indicate insertions by Smith.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Unlike Smith's later accounts of the vision, the 1832 account emphasizes personal forgiveness and mentions neither an appearance of God the Father nor the phrase "This is my beloved Son, hear him." In the 1832 account, Smith also stated that before he experienced the First Vision, his own searching of the Scriptures had led him to the conclusion that mankind 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."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Joseph Smith History, 1832, EMD, 1:28.

FAIR's analysis:


1834 account by Oliver Cowdery

From the Wikipedia article:
In several issues of the LDS periodical Messenger and Advocate (1834–35),

Wikipedia footnotes:

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Oliver Cowdery wrote an early biography of Joseph Smith, Jr. In one issue, Cowdery explained that Smith was confused by the different religions and local revivals during his "15th year" (1820), leading him to wonder which church was true. In the next issue of the biography, Cowdery explained that reference to Smith's "15th year" was a typographical error, and that actually the revivals and religious confusion took place in Smith's "17th year."


FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Therefore, according to Cowdery, the religious confusion led Smith to pray in his bedroom, late on the night of September 23, 1823, after the others had gone to sleep, to know which of the competing denominations was correct and whether "a Supreme being did exist." In response, an angel appeared and granted him forgiveness of his sins. The remainder of the story roughly parallels Smith's later description of a visit by an angel in 1823 who told him about the Golden Plates. Thus, Cowdery's account, containing a single vision, differs from Smith's 1832 account, which contains two separate visions, one in 1821 prompted by religious confusion (the First Vision) and a separate one regarding the plates on September 22, 1822. Cowdery's account also differs from Smith's 1842 account, which includes a First Vision in 1820 and a second vision on September 22, 1823.


FAIR's analysis:


1835 Joseph Smith accounts

From the Wikipedia article:
On November 9, 1835, Smith dictated an account of the First Vision in his diary after telling it to a stranger

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • The stranger was Robert Matthias, a religious con-artist using the alias "Joshua the Jewish minister".

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
who had visited his home earlier that day.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , pp. 22–24.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Smith said that when perplexed about religions matters, he had gone to a grove to pray

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , p. 23.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
but that his tongue seemed swollen in his mouth and that he had been interrupted twice by the sound of someone walking behind him.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , pp. 23–24.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Finally, as he prayed, he said his tongue was loosed, and he saw a pillar of fire in which an unidentified "personage" appeared.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , p. 24.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Then another unidentified personage told Smith his sins were forgiven and "testified unto [Smith] that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , p. 24.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
An interlineation in the text notes, "and I saw many angels in this vision."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , p. 24.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Smith said this vision occurred when he was 14 years old and that when he was 17, he "saw another vision of angels in the night season after I had retired to bed" (referring to the later visit of the angel Moroni who showed him the location of the golden plates).

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , p. 24.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
  • Smith identified none of these personages or angels with "the Lord" as he had in 1832.

Wikipedia footnotes:
  • Abanes, 16; [http://www.irr.org/mit/First-Vision-Scans/first-vision-1835A.html the 1835 account]. In 1835, Smith approved the Lectures on Faith, an orderly presentation of Mormonism (probably by Sidney Rigdon) in which it was taught that although Jesus Christ had a tangible body of flesh, God the Father was a spiritual presence—a view not out of harmony with orthodox Christian belief. The Lectures on Faith were canonized as scripture by the LDS Church and included as part of the Doctrine and Covenants until de-canonized after 1921. (Bushman, 283-84.)
FAIR's analysis:

From the Wikipedia article:
A few days later, on 14 November 1835, Smith told the story to another visitor, Erastus Holmes.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , p. 35.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
In his journal, Smith said that he had recited his life story "up to the time I received the first visitation of angels, which was when I was about fourteen years old."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , pp. 35–36. When LDS Historian B.H. Roberts included this account into his History of the Church, 2: 312, he changed the words "first visitation of angels" to "first vision."

FAIR's analysis:


1838 Joseph Smith History

From the Wikipedia article:
In 1838, Joseph Smith began dictating the early history of what later became known as the Latter Day Saint movement.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • The original 1838 manuscript has been lost, but the account was copied to manuscripts dating from 1839, which indicates that the year of writing was 1838, a fact also confirmed by Smith's journal entries. See Jessee (1969) , pp. 6–7.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
This history included a new account of the First Vision, later published in three issues of the Times and Seasons journal.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Times and Seasons, March and April, v3 no9, and v3 no 11

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
This version was later incorporated into the Pearl of Great Price, which was canonized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1880. Thus, it is often called the "canonized version" of the first vision story.


FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
This canonized version differs from the 1840 version because the canonized version includes the proclamation "This is my beloved son, hear him" from one of the personages, whereas the 1840 version does not. The canonized version says that in the spring of 1820, during a period of "confusion and strife among the different denominations" following an "unusual excitement on the subject of religion", he had debated which of the various Christian groups he should join. While in turmoil, he read from the Bible: "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."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • James 1: 5; Joseph Smith's [[s:Pearl of Great Price/History#Template:!History]], an account of his First Vision.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
One morning, deeply impressed by this scripture, the fourteen-year-old Smith went to a grove of trees behind the family farm, knelt, and began his first vocal prayer. Almost immediately he was confronted by an evil power that prevented speech. A darkness gathered around him, and Smith believed that he would be destroyed. He continued the prayer silently, asking for God's assistance though still resigned to destruction. At this moment a light brighter than the sun descended towards him, and he was delivered from the evil power.


FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
In the light, Smith "saw two personages standing in the air", identified as God the Father and Jesus Christ. One pointed to the other and said "This is My Beloved Son, hear Him." Smith asked which religious sect he should join and was told to join none of them because all existing religions had corrupted the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Wikipedia footnotes:

FAIR's analysis:


1840 Orson Pratt Version

From the Wikipedia article:
In September 1840, Orson Pratt published a version of the First Vision in England.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, Orson Pratt, Ballantyne and Huges publ, 1840 (reprinted in Jessee, v1 p 149-160)

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
This version states that after Smith saw the light, "his mind was caught away, from the natural objects with which he was surrounded; and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Pratt (1840) , p. 5

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Pratt's account referred to "two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness",

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Pratt 1840 5,

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
but this account does not include the proclamation by one of the personages "This is my beloved son, hear him", which is found in the canonized version.


FAIR's analysis:


1842 Wentworth Letter

From the Wikipedia article:
In 1842, two years before his assassination, Joseph Smith, Jr. wrote to John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat, outlining the basic beliefs of the Latter Day Saint movement and including an account of the First Vision.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842a) , pp. 706–710.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Smith said that he had been "about fourteen years of age" when he had received the First Vision

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842a) , pp. 706

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Like the Orson Pratt account, Smith's Wentworth letter said that his "mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842a) , pp. 706

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
and had seen "two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon-day."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842a) , pp. 707

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Smith said he was told that no religious denomination "was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom" and that he was "expressly commanded to 'go not after them.'"

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842a) , pp. 707

FAIR's analysis:


Smith's accounts found in later reminiscences

From the Wikipedia article:
Late in his life, Smith's brother, William, gave two accounts of the First Vision, dating it to 1823,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1883) , pp. 6, 7–8

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
when William was twelve years old. William said the religious excitement in Palmyra had occurred in 1822-23 (rather than the actual date of 1824-25),

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Persuitte (2000) , p. 26

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
that it was stimulated by the preaching of a Methodist, the Rev. George Lane, a "great revival preacher," and that his mother and some of his siblings had then joined the Presbyterian church.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1883) , p. 6

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
William Smith said he based his account on what Joseph had told William and the rest of his family the day after the First Vision:

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1883) , pp. 6, 8–9

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
[A] light appeared in the heavens, and descended until it rested upon the trees where he was. It appeared like fire. But to his great astonishment, did not burn the trees. An angel then appeared to him and conversed with him upon many things. He told him that none of the sects were right; but that if he was faithful in keeping the commandments he should receive, the true way should be made known to him; that his sins were forgiven, etc.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1883) , pp. 6, 8–9

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
In an 1884 account, William also stated that when Joseph first saw the light above the trees in the grove, he fell unconscious for an undetermined amount of time, after which he awoke and heard "the personage whom he saw" speak to him.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1884)

FAIR's analysis:


Notes


References

Wikipedia references for "First Vision"
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  • 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 .
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  • 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 .
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