Question: What do critics of the Church say about John Taylor and the First Vision?

Question: What do critics of Mormonism say about John Taylor and the First Vision?

Critics focus only on one sermon in whichTaylor mentioned "an angel" and ignore the numerous times Taylor referred to the Father and the Son, including another sermon given the same day

Richard Abanes refers to “…the discrepancy between today’s official First Vision and the versions of it told by early Mormons, who taught that the First Vision involved an angel (or angels).” In a footnote to this comment he cites several church leaders, including John Taylor. The only citation Abanes gives for President Taylor is for March 2, 1879, but is incorrectly documented.[1]

Critic Isaiah Bennett has written:

Complications arise when one considers the statements of Smith’s successors as Mormon prophets [including John Taylor]. According to them, Smith had been visited by an angel, from whom he asked advice as to which church to join.[2]

Bennett cites the same March 2, 1879 sermon, and one other.

Jerald and Sandra Tanner have also cited Taylor’s comments of March 2, 1879.[3]:164 They later write that “Many other confusing statements about the first vision were made by Mormon leaders after Joseph Smith’s death.” [3]:166 Elsewhere the Tanners have stated that “Before the death of Brigham Young in 1877 the first vision was seldom mentioned in Mormon publications. When Mormon leaders did mention it they usually gave confusing accounts.”[4]

This warped perspective has unfortunately spilled over into less overtly anti-Mormon reference works. A past revision of the Wikipedia article on the First Vision states that “The First Vision was not emphasized in sermons by [subsequent leaders such as] John Taylor. This implies that Smith did not stress it strongly during his life, and that many early church leaders had little understanding of its prominence.”[5]

These claims are simply false, with reference to the oft-misused John Taylor.[6] Consider the following evidence, from sermons, letters, and writings, which demonstrate Taylor’s complete awareness of that event, many well before the death of Brigham in 1877.


  1. Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 34–35, with footnote 76, page 339–340.. ( Index of claims )
  2. Isaiah Bennett, Inside Mormonism: What Mormons Really Believe (Catholic Answers: 1999), 4.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979).( Index of claims )
  4. Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Case Against Mormonism, 2 vols., (Salt Lake City, 1967), 1:120.
  5. "First Vision," (last accessed 6 October 2006). off-site
  6. Further examples of the Tanners' manipulation of the textual record by omitting key passages discussing the first vision can be seen at: D. Charles Pyle and Cooper Johnson, "Did early LDS leaders really misunderstand the First Vision?" FairMormon link