Mormonism and Wikipedia/First Vision/Story 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)
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Story of the vision  Updated 9/17/2011

From the Wikipedia article:
Joseph Smith wrote or dictated several versions of his vision story, and told the story to others who later published what they remember hearing. Taken together, these accounts set forth the following details: Smith said that when he was about twelve (c. 1817-18), he became interested in religion and distressed about his sins.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1832) , pp. 1–2.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
He studied the Bible and attended church, but the accounts differ as to whether he determined on his own that there was no existing religion built upon the true teachings of Jesus

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1832) , p. 2.

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 wiki editor is using two of Joseph's First Vision accounts (1832 and 1838) to illustrate what they believe is a contradiction.
  •  Violates Wikipedia: No Original Research off-site— Do not use unpublished facts, arguments, speculation, and ideas; and any unpublished analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position.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 wiki editor is performing original research based completely upon primary sources.
  • From Joseph's 1832 account:

from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind the contentions and divi[si]ons the wicke[d]ness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the of the minds of mankind my mind become excedingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that mand mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and liveing faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament...


From the Wikipedia article:
or whether the idea that all churches were false had not "entered his heart" until he experienced the vision.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1838) , p. 3.

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 wiki editor is using two of Joseph's First Vision accounts (1832 and 1838) to illustrate what they believe is a contradiction.
  •  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 wiki editor is performing original research based completely upon primary sources.
  • Joseph Smith-History 1:18

I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

  • The phrase "entered his heart" is quoted as if it were taken from the cited source, but it is a paraphrase of "it had never entered into my heart."


From the Wikipedia article:
During this period of religious concern, he determined to turn to God in prayer. An early account says the purpose of this prayer was to ask God for mercy for his sins

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1832) , p. 2.

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.

    Joseph's 1835 account also mentions forgiveness of sins. The Wikipedia article makes it appear as if this element appeared only in the 1832 account.
  • From Joseph Smith's 1835 account:

a personage appeard in the midst of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; (emphasis added)


From the Wikipedia article:
while later accounts emphasize his desire to know which church he should join.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1838) , p. 3; Waite (1843) ; Neibaur (1844) .

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.

    Technically, the statement is correct, but Joseph's 1835 account is again ignored, apparently because it contains references both to forgiveness of sins and searching for which church was correct. Including the 1835 account would destroy the wiki editors' assertion that the 1832 account and later accounts had mutually exclusive elements.
  • From Joseph Smith's 1835 account:

I knew not who was right or who was wrong and I considered it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involve eternal consequ[e]nces; being thus perplexed in mind I retired to the silent grove and bow[e]d down before the Lord, under a realising sense that he had said (if the bible be true) ask and you shall receive knock and it shall be opened seek and you shall find and again, if any man lack wisdom let him ask of God who giveth to all men libarally and upbradeth not; information was what I most desired at this time, and with a fixed determination to obtain it, (emphasis added)


From the Wikipedia article:
Therefore, as his mother had done years before when concerned about an important religious question,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1853) , p. 54; Bushman (2005) , p. 26.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
Smith said he went one spring morning to a secluded grove near his home to pray.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842b) , p. 728.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
He said he went to a stump in a clearing where he had left his axe the day before

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Waite (1843) .

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
and began to offer his first audible prayer.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842b) , p. 727.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
He said his prayer was interrupted by a "being from the unseen world" more powerful than any he had previously encountered.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842c) , p. 748; Pratt (1840) , p. 5.

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.

    The implication is that Joseph had "previously encountered" beings from the "unseen world." The statement that Joseph had "previously encountered" is not supported by any of the cited sources.
  • Joseph's diary entry 9 November 1835 (Monday):

I called upon the Lord for the first time, in the place above stated or in other words I made a fruitless attempt to p[r]ay, my toung seemed to be swolen in my mouth, so that I could not utter, I heard a noise behind me like some person walking towards me, I strove again to pray, but could not, the noise of walking seemed to draw nearer, I sprung up on my feet, and and looked around, but saw no person or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of walking, I kneeled again my mouth was opened and my toung liberated, and I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head...
Diary of Joseph Smith, Jr. (1835-1836)

  • From Orson Pratt's 1840 account (one of the cited sources):

At first he was severely tempted by the powers of darkness which endeavored to overcome him, but he continued to seek for deliverance until darkness gave way from his mind, and he was enabled to pray in fervency of the spirit and in faith.
A Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records

  • From Joseph Smith-History 1:16:

But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, (emphasis added)

  • Joseph's 1838 account refers to "the power of some actual being from the unseen world," but does not use the term "evil spirit."
  • For a detailed response, see: First Vision/Accounts/1835


From the Wikipedia article:
Smith said the spirit caused his tongue to swell in his mouth so that he could not speak,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , p. 23. Smith (1842c) , p. 748.

FAIR's analysis:

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

    None of the cited sources mention a "spirit." The closest they come is "being from the unseen world."
  • From the 1835 account,

I made a fruitless attempt to p[r]ay, my toung seemed to be swolen in my mouth, so that I could not utter, I heard a noise behind me like some person walking towards me, I strove again to pray, but could not, the noise of walking seemed to draw nearer, I sprung up on my feet, and and looked around, but saw no person or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of walking, I kneeled again my mouth was opened and my toung liberated, and I called on the Lord in mighty prayer,

  • From Joseph Smith-History 1:16,

to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being


From the Wikipedia article:
One account said he heard a noise behind him like someone walking towards him

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , p. 23.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • From the 1835 account, "I heard a noise behind me like some person walking towards me."


From the Wikipedia article:
and then, when he tried to pray again, the noise grew louder, causing him to spring to his feet and look around, but he saw no one.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , p. 23.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • From the 1835 account, "I sprung up on my feet, and and looked around, but saw no person or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of walking."


From the Wikipedia article:
In some of the accounts, he described being covered with a thick darkness and thinking that he would be destroyed.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842c) , p. 748.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
At his darkest moment, he knelt a third time to pray

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , p. 23.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
and, as he summoned all his power to pray, he felt ready to sink into oblivion.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842c) , p. 748

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
At that moment, he said his tongue was loosed and he saw a vision.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , p. 23; Smith (1842c) , p. 748

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
Smith said he saw a pillar of light brighter than the noonday sun that slowly descended on him,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1832) , p. 3;Smith (1842c) , p. 748.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • In the 1832 account, Joseph originally wrote the word "fire," then crossed it out and replaced it with the word "light." From the 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:
growing in brightness as it descended and lighting the entire area for some distance.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Pratt (1840) , p. 5.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
As the light reached the tree tops, Smith feared the trees might catch fire.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Pratt (1840) , p. 5; 1835 , p. 24.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • From Joseph's 1835 diary entry (primary source):

...a personage appeard in the midst of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; and I saw many angels in this vision I was about 14 years old when I received this first communication...
Diary of Joseph Smith, Jr. (1835-1836)

  • From Orson Pratt's 1840 pamphlet (secondary source):

He continued praying while the light appeared to be gradually descending towards him; and as it drew nearer, it increased in brightness and magnitude, so that by the time it reached the tops of the trees the whole wilderness, for some distance around, was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner. He expected to have seen the leaves and boughs of the trees consumed as soon as the light came in contact with them, but perceiving that it did not produce that effect, he was encouraged with the hopes of being able to endure its presence.
—*A Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions


From the Wikipedia article:
But when it reached the ground and enveloped him, it produced a "peculiar sensation."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Pratt (1840) , p. 5

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
"[H]is 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; Smith (1842a) , p. 706.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
While experiencing the vision, he said he saw one or more "personages," described differently in Smith's accounts. In one, Smith said he "saw the Lord."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1832) , p. 3.

FAIR's analysis:


{{WikipediaPassage |claim= In diary entries, he said he saw a "visitation of Angels" |authorsources=

  • Smith (1835) , p. 37.

|response=

  • {{WikipediaCorrect)
  • Joseph's 9 November 1835 diary entry states,

a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon me head, and filled me with Joy unspeakable, a personage appeard in the midst of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; and I saw many angels in this vision... (emphasis added)

  • The second entry, recorded only five days later on 14 November 1835, mentions "angels,"

I received the first visitation of Angels which was when I was about 14. years old...

}}

From the Wikipedia article:
or a "vision of angels" that included "a personage," and then "another personage" who testified that "Jesus Christ is the Son of God," as well as "many angels".

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1835) , p. 24.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
In later accounts, Smith consistently said that he had seen two personages who appeared one after the other.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Neibaur (1844) ; Waite (1843) .

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
These personages "exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Pratt (1840) , p. 5; Smith (1842a) , p. 707.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
The first personage had "light complexion, blue eyes, a piece of white cloth drawn over his shoulders, his right arm bare."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Neibaur (1844)

FAIR's analysis:
 FAIR WIKI EDITORS: Check sources


From the Wikipedia article:
In later accounts, one of the personages called Smith by name "and said, (pointing to the other), 'This is my beloved Son, hear him.'"

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842c) , p. 748.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
Although Smith left their identity unexplicit, most Latter Day Saints infer that these personages were God the Father and Jesus.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Taylor (1879) , p. 161. Taylor, who stated he had heard the story from Smith himself, said the personages were "the Lord" and "his Son Jesus."

FAIR's analysis:
 FAIR WIKI EDITORS: Check sources


From the Wikipedia article:
In two accounts, Smith said that the Lord told him his sins were forgiven, that he should obey the commandments, that the world was corrupt, and that the Second Coming was approaching.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • 1832 , p. 3.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • From Joseph's 1835 diary entry:

a personage appeard in the midst of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; and I saw many angels in this vision I was about 14 years old when I received this first communication... (emphasis added)
Diary of Joseph Smith, Jr. (1835-1836)


From the Wikipedia article:
Later accounts say that when the personages appeared, Smith asked them "O Lord, what church shall I join?"

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Waite 1843

FAIR's analysis:
 FAIR WIKI EDITORS: Check sources


From the Wikipedia article:
or "Must I join the Methodist Church?"

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Neibaur 1844

FAIR's analysis:
 FAIR WIKI EDITORS: Check sources


From the Wikipedia article:
In answer, he was told that "all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842a) , p. 707; Pratt (1840) , p. 5.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
All churches and their professors were "corrupt",

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Waite (1843) Smith (1842c) , p. 748.

FAIR's analysis:
 FAIR WIKI EDITORS: Check sources


From the Wikipedia article:
and "all their creeds were an abomination in his sight."

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842c) , p. 748

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
Smith was told not to join any of the churches, but that the "fulness of the gospel" would be known to him at a later time.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1842a) , p. 707; Pratt (1840) , p. 5. One account also said that "many other things did [the personage] say unto me which I cannot write at this time." Smith (1842c) , p. 748.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
After the vision withdrew, Smith said he "came to myself" and found himself sprawled on his back.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Waite (1843) ; Smith (1842c) , p. 748.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


References

Wikipedia references for "First Vision"
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  • 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 .
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  • 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 .
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  • 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 .
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  • 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
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  • 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 .
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