Joseph Smith's First Vision/Accounts/1832/Only one Personage appears

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Questions

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Critics claim that in the 1832 account of the First Vision—which is in the handwriting of Joseph Smith—it only says that Jesus Christ made an appearance to the Prophet; the Father is missing. Since this is the earliest known written account of the First Vision critics believe it stands as evidence that the story evolved and became more elaborate over time.

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

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Answer

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The Father is not explicitly mentioned as making an appearance in the theophany portion of the 1832 First Vision account because Joseph Smith patterned that part of his narrative after the vision of Jesus Christ experienced by the apostle Paul. The words spoken by the Father during His First Vision appearance are, however, referred to in the introductory paragraph of the 1832 text.

The critics have not been careful in their analysis of this early Mormon historical document.

Detailed Analysis

The theophany portion of the 1832 account does not specifically indicate that the Father appeared to Joseph Smith together with Jesus Christ. The relevant text (in its original form) reads as follows:

"a piller of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day c[a]me 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 asside 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 acording 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."[1] (emphasis added)

Even though the Savior makes a direct reference to the Father there is no indication in this portion of the 1832 document that God appeared to Joseph Smith alongside His Son.

This type of pattern is seen in the Book of Mormon, translated in 1829: The Book of Mormon begins (1 Nephi 1:8-10) with Lehi's vision of God on his throne. One [Christ] followed by twelve others descends from God to speak with Lehi—thus, Jesus and the Father are here both separate, and the role of Christ in giving instructions to the prophet while the Father looks on and approves is followed, just as it was in Joseph's First Vision. Here too, Lehi is described as praying to "the Lord," and yet has a vision of both God the Father and Christ.

The critics have, however, failed to notice a very significant phrase located in the introductory paragraph of the Prophet's historical narrative. There he indicates that the 1832 document is . . .

"A History of the life of Joseph Smith Jr. an account of his marvilous experience and of all the mighty acts which he doeth in the name of Jesus Ch[r]ist the son of the living God of whom he beareth record and also an account of the rise of the church of Christ in the eve of time according as the Lord brough<t> [it] forth and established [it] by his hand <firstly> he receiving the testamony from on high secondly the ministering of Angels thirdly the reception of the holy Priesthood by the ministring of Aangels to adminster the letter of the Gospel—<—the Law and commandments as they were given unto him—>and the ordinencs, forthly a confirmation and reception of the high Priesthood after the holy order of the son of the living God."

This paragraph not only introduces the document with a heavy emphasis on the Son of God but it also chronologically outlines four inaugural events of the Restoration.

FIRST: Reception of "the testimony from on high" - First Vision
SECOND: The "ministering of angels" - Moroni visitations
THIRD: Reception of the Holy Priesthood to administer the letter of the gospel - Aaronic
FOURTH: Reception of the High Priesthood after the order of the Son - Melchizedek

The significant phrase in the introductory paragraph is the one associated with the First Vision -- "receiving the testimony from on high" (spelling standardized). When this phrase is placed in conjunction with the Prophet's 1835 and 1838 accounts of the First Vision it becomes obvious that the 1832 phraseology closely corresponds with the words spoken by God the Father when He introduced His Son in the Sacred Grove.

(1832 ACCOUNT)
“firstly . . . receiving the testimony from on high
(1835 ACCOUNT)
“He [God the Father] testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God
(1838 ACCOUNT)
"[He] said...This is my beloved Son

The Father's identification of Jesus Christ as His Son was His "testimony" of Him.

Critics have objected that -- in their minds -- the phrase "from on high" cannot be so easily equated with God the Father. But there is a sizable amount of corroborating evidence for this idea. Consider the following points of connection.

  • 3 Ne. 11:3, 5-7 - between April and June 1828

The Father's "voice . . . came out of heaven" [i.e., 'from on high'] and testified of His "Beloved Son."

  • D&C 20:16 - April 1830

Joseph Smith stated, "the Lord God has spoken it; and we . . . have heard . . . the words of the glorious Majesty on high."

  • Matthew, Mark, Luke, 1 Peter - between 8 March 1831 and 24 March 1832

There are five New Testament scriptures (which Joseph Smith would have been familiar with from his work on the JST) that have distinct parallels to the First Vision story. Jesus Christ's Old World disciples heard the Father's voice come "from heaven" (Mt. 3:17; Mk. 1:11; Lk. 3:22; 2 Pt. 1:17-18) [i.e, 'from on high'] or "out of the cloud" (Mt. 17:5) [i.e., 'from on high'] and in each of these instances the Father testified of His Son and employed the same phraseology that Joseph Smith said He utilized during the First Vision.

  • JST John 1:18/19 - between 20 November 1831 and 16 February 1832

"And no man hath seen God at any time, except he [i.e., God the Father] hath borne record of the Son."

  • 1832 First Vision account - between 22 September 1832 and 27 November 1832

"receiving the testimony from on high"

  • D&C 93:15 - 6 May 1833

Mention is made of the Father's voice being heard "out of heaven."

  • Patriarchal Blessing - 9 December 1834

When the Prophet received his Patriarchal Blessing on 9 December 1834 he was reminded by the Patriarch (his father) that during his "youth" he had "heard [God's] voice from on high."

This chronological evidence points to the conclusion that Joseph Smith likely equated the voice "from on high" with God the Father both before and after he penned his 1832 First Vision account.

Since it can be concluded from the above documentary evidence that Joseph Smith did indeed make an oblique reference to the appearance of the Father in his 1832 history the question becomes—Why did the Prophet construct the 1832 narrative in the manner that he did (so as to exclude explicit mention of the Father's appearance)? A careful analysis of the 1832 First Vision text reveals that it was deliberately constructed on the framework of many scriptural citations. The apostle Stephen's view of both the Father and the Son is clearly utilized by the Prophet in one section of the 1832 text but, more importantly, Joseph Smith told the actual theophany portion of this narrative in language that very closely corresponds to the apostle Paul's vision of Jesus Christ (Acts 26:).[2] .

Paul did not report that he saw the Father alongside the Son, and so it is logical that this is the reason why Joseph Smith did not explicitly mention the Father's appearance in his text either. The Prophet's strong sense of connection with Paul's visionary experience is referred to by him right in his 1838 First Vision account. The context of this connection is the persecution experienced by both men for speaking publicly about a heavenly manifestation. Joseph Smith relates in his 1838 history that he was informed by a clergyman that his vision was "all of the devil." This piece of information may help to explain why the Prophet chose to couch his first known written account of his vision in heavy biblical language and imagery. He may have hoped that by doing this his story would have a better chance of being accepted amongst a populace that was steeped in biblical content.

It is interesting to note that the scribe for the material which directly precedes and follows after the 1832 First Vision narrative - Frederick G. Williams - never mentioned anything about Joseph Smith's story evolving over time and becoming more elaborate with the so-called 'addition' of the Father. Williams was a resident of Quincy, Illinois when the First Vision account which explicitly refers to the Father was published in Nauvoo, Illinois on 1 April 1842. It is known that Williams was with the Prophet in Nauvoo shortly before his death on 10 October 1842 but during the intervening six months there is no known objection by Frederick to the content of the printed text. Why not? Williams was the person who wrote down the words in the introductory remarks of the 1832 document that talk of Joseph Smith receiving "the testimony from on high" during the First Vision. And it is known that Frederick was accompanying four LDS missionaries who, in November 1830, were teaching the citizens of Painesville, Ohio that Joseph Smith had seen "God" personally (see the 1830 statement about seeing "God"). Williams was a member of the First Presidency of the Church on 9 November 1835 when Joseph Smith was teaching a non-Mormon that there were two personages who appeared during the First Vision (see Joseph Smith diary, 9 November 1835). Frederick probably never drew attention to a so-called 'discrepancy' between what Joseph Smith taught in 1832, 1835, 1838, and 1842 because he knew that there wasn't one; he knew that the words of the Father spoken during the vision were referred to right in the text that he had written down in 1832.

Oliver Cowdery is another person who was in a position to know if the Prophet's First Vision story had changed over time by the addition of the Father. But he never mentioned any such 'discrepancy'. Cowdery had possession of the 1832 First Vision account when he wrote and published a series of Church history letters in December 1834 and February 1835 and so he was fully aware of the explicit mention of Christ's appearance and he also would have known of the introductory remark which refers to "the testimony from on high" being delivered during this event. Cowdery became the Associate or Assistant President of the entire Church on 5 December 1834 (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1653), and thus he would have been in the highest office of Church authority when the Prophet was teaching about one year later that two personages appeared during the First Vision (Joseph Smith diary, 9 November 1835).

Both Fredrick G. Williams and Oliver Cowdery had reason to feel animosity toward Joseph Smith and the Church since they were both excommunicated in the late 1830's. But neither of these men - even after their reinstatements into full fellowship - ever pointed to any 'creative editing' of the Prophet's First Vision story to sound more impressive and dramatic.


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Notes

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  1. [note]  Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 9–20. Direct off-site [PRECISE page numbering is needed; the words "emphasis added" need to be inserted after a ";" and space after the numbering designation.]
  2. [note]  See the 2006 FAIR Conference address entitled "Revised or Unaltered? Joseph Smith's Foundational Stories" and its accompanying slides (see links below in the "Video" section).

Further reading

FairMormon Answers articles


Joseph Smith's claim that he saw the Father and the Son in 1820 has produced a wide variety of criticism. This set of articles addresses the various critical claims related to the First Vision. The linked articles below are designed to help readers to see some of the weaknesses that are found in arguments that are made against Joseph Smith's First Vision accounts. Some of these arguments are currently being advocated in anti-Mormon literature that is handed out near the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York. (Click here for full article)


Joseph Smith: Other visionary experiences

Topics





  • Unchanging
    Brief Summary: Does the Book of Mormon refute Joseph Smith on the nature of God? Critics point out that the Book of Mormon never says God was once a mortal. In fact, it teaches that God was always God. Take for instance Moroni 8:18. It says God is "unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity." Joseph Smith, however, taught, "We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and take away the veil so that you may see." (Click here for full article)
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  • Elohim and Jehovah
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that Elohim, Jehovah, Adonai and other similar Old Testament Hebrew names for deity are simply different titles which emphasize different attributes of the "one true God." In support of this criticism, they cite Old Testament scriptures that speak of "the LORD [Jehovah] thy God [Elohim]" (e.g., Deuteronomy 4:2; 4:35; 6:4) as proof that these are different titles for the same God. (Click here for full article)
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  • Foreknowledge
    Brief Summary: Most Latter-day Saints hold to unlimited foreknowledge. This has been the traditional view of most Christians since the post-New Testament period, and it is one doctrine that Joseph Smith didn't seem to question, as there are no revelations that address it. Indeed, it appears that most LDS leaders and scholars simply haven't questioned its veracity. (Click here for full article)
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  • "God is a man"
    Brief Summary: Some Christians object to the Mormon belief that God has a physical body and human form by quoting scripture which says that "God is not a man" (e.g. Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, Hosea 11:9). (Click here for full article)
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  • God is a Spirit?
    Brief Summary: Some Christians object to the LDS position that God has a physical body by quoting John 4:24: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (Click here for full article)
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  • Lecture of Faith 5 teaches the Father is "a personage of spirit"
    Brief Summary: Lectures on Faith, which used to be part of the Doctrine and Covenants, teach that God is a spirit. Joseph Smith's later teachings contradict this. More generally, critics argue that Joseph Smith taught an essentially "trinitarian" view of the Godhead until the mid 1830s, thus proving the Joseph was "making it up" as he went along. (Click here for full article)
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  • Hinckley downplaying the King Follett Discourse
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that, in an effort to appear more "mainline" Christian, the Church is downplaying the importance of some doctrines taught late in Joseph Smith's lifetime. Prominent among these is the doctrine of human deification. To bolster their argument, critics usually quote from a 1997 Time magazine interview with President Gordon B. Hinckley: "I don't know that we teach it. I don't know that we emphasize it ... I understand the philosophical background behind it, but I don't know a lot about it, and I don't think others know a lot about it." Critics have claimed that this means that President Hinckley has admitted to altering LDS doctrine, or discarding a teaching from the past. (Click here for full article)
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  • "Celestial sex"
    Brief Summary: Some evangelical Christians claim that Latter-day Saints believe in a practice called "Celestial sex," and that this is the manner in which "spirit children" are formed. (Click here for full article)
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  • Dallin H. Oaks on God
    Brief Summary: Author Richard Abanes in his critical book One Nation Under Gods claims that Dallin Oaks told Mormons in 1995 "that so-called Christianity sees God as an entirely different kind of being." He cites Dallin H. Oaks, "Apostasy and Restoration ," Ensign, May 1995, 84. However, Elder Oaks made no such claim. (Click here for full article)
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  • Does the Bible describe a racist, polygamous, psychopathic and schizophrenic God?
    Brief Summary: One critic of the Church claims that Christians believe in a "part-time racist god and a part-time polygamous god" and a "part-time psychopathic schizophrenic" god. (Click here for full article)
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  • Corporeality of God
    Brief Summary: One thing that sets Latter-day Saints apart from nearly all of the rest of Christianity is the doctrine that God the Father possesses a body in human form. In fact, many of our Christian brothers and sisters see this belief as positively strange, and some even question our claim to the title “Christian” because of it. (Click here for full article)
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  • Is the doctrine that God the Father and Jesus Christ have physical bodies not Biblical?
    Brief Summary: Some Christians attack the LDS doctrine of God the Father and Jesus Christ being corporeal beings—i.e., having physical bodies. They claim that this doctrine is not Biblical. (Click here for full article)
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  • Joseph Smith's early conception of God
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that Joseph Smith initially taught standard Nicene trinitarianism. The early documents tell a different story, however. (Click here for full article)
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  • Modalism in the Book of Mormon?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that the Book of Mormon teaches the trinitarian heresy of modalism or Sabellianism. This reading misinterprets some Book of Mormon verses, and ignores Book of Mormon texts which clearly contradict this reading. (Click here for full article)
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  • Lecture on Faith 5 and the nature of God the Father
    Brief Summary: Lectures on Faith, which used to be part of the Doctrine and Covenants, teach that God is a spirit. Joseph Smith's later teachings contradict this. More generally, critics argue that Joseph Smith taught an essentially "trinitarian" view of the Godhead until the mid 1830s, thus proving the Joseph was "making it up" as he went along. (Click here for full article)
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  • Early LDS beliefs about God
    Brief Summary: Some evangelical Christians attempt to show that the LDS idea of deification is unbiblical, unchristian and untrue. They seem to think that this doctrine is the main reason why the LDS reject the Psychological Trinity. (Click here for full article)
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  • Repudiated concepts: Adam-God theory
    Brief Summary: Brigham Young taught that Adam, the first man, was God the Father. Since this teaching runs counter to the story told in Genesis and commonly accepted by Christians, critics accuse Brigham of being a false prophet. Also, because modern Latter-day Saints do not believe Brigham's "Adam-God" teachings, critics accuse Mormons of either changing their teachings or rejecting teachings of prophets they find uncomfortable or unsupportable. (Click here for full article)
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It is claimed that the doctrine of human deification is unbiblical, false, and arrogant. Related claims include: 1) Mormons believe they will 'supplant God', 2) Belief in theosis, or human deification, implies more than one "god," which means Mormons are "polytheists," 3) The Mormon concept of "human deification" is a pagan belief derived from Greek philosophy. (Click here for full article)



A collection of articles that address the Latter-day Saint view of the concept of the Trinity. (Click here for full article)

  • Early beliefs
    Brief Summary: Critics attempt to show that the LDS idea of deification is unbiblical, unchristian and untrue. They seem to think that this doctrine is the main reason why the LDS reject the Psychological Trinity, however, "the historic church's concept of the Trinity" does not exist. (Click here for full article)
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  • Nicene creed
    Brief Summary: It is claimed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not Christian because they do not accept the Nicene Creed's statement about the Trinity. Since the Nicene Creed was first adopted in A.D. 325, it seems clear that there were many Christians in the first centuries following the resurrection of Christ who did not use it. Those who oppose calling the Latter-day Saints "Christians" need to explain whether Peter and Paul are "Christians," since they lived and practiced Christianity at a time when there was no Nicene Creed, and no Trinitarianism in the current sense. (Click here for full article)
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How do Mormons view our savior Jesus Christ? (Click here for full article)

  • Brother of Satan?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that the LDS consider Jesus and Satan to be "brothers," thus lowering the stature of Christ, or elevating Satan. Some go so far as to imply that the LDS "really" worship or revere Satan, and are thus not true "Christians." (Click here for full article)
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  • Conception
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that Latter-day Saints reject the "Evangelical belief" that "Christ was born of the virgin Mary, who, when the Holy Ghost came upon her, miraculously conceived the promised messiah." (Click here for full article)
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  • Divine sonship
    Brief Summary: Though the Church does not embrace Nicene trinitarianism, they still believe that there is "One God," despite seeing the Father and Son as distinct personages. How do Latter-day Saints understand Jesus' divine Sonship? (Click here for full article)
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  • Gordon B. Hinckley states that Latter-day Saints don't believe in the "traditional" Christ
    Brief Summary: President Gordon B. Hinckley, responding to a question regarding whether Latter-day Saints believe in the “traditional Christ,” stated: "No I don't. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the dispensation of the fullness of times." (Click here for full article)
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  • Worship a "different Jesus"?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that members of the Church worship "a different Jesus" than the Jesus worshiped by Christians. (Click here for full article)
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  • Latter-day Saints aren't Christians?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not "Christian." A related claim is that the Church has only recently begun to portray itself as "Christian" in order to gain adherents. (Click here for full article)
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  • Lord of the Universe
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that the LDS view of God is provincial or limited, with God simply being a ruler over "this planet." (Click here for full article)
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  • Relationship to Quetzalcoatl
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that LDS scholars believe that Quetzalcoatl was Jesus Christ. However, since Quetzalcoatl's association with a "feathered serpent" constitutes "snake worship," some claim that this association is therefore inconsistent with worship of Jesus Christ. (Click here for full article)
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  • Savior of other worlds?
    Brief Summary: It would appear that there is one savior — Jesus — and that his sacrifice was the ultimate sacrifice for all of the worlds created and populated by the Father. Some critics have used the idea of each world having its own Savior against us. Is there anything written or published on either concept? (Click here for full article)
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  • The "Mormon" vs. the "Christian" Jesus
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that Latter-day Saints believe in a "different" Jesus that "mainstream" Christians. (Click here for full article)
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  • Was Jesus married?
    Brief Summary: Do Latter-day Saints believe Jesus Christ was married? (Click here for full article)
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  • Worship different Jesus?
    Brief Summary: Some Christians claim that despite the Saints' witness of Christ, they worship "a different Jesus" and so are not entitled to consider themselves "Christians." (Click here for full article)
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  • One of many saviors?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that the "Jesus of Mormonism is but one of many saviors." (Click here for full article)
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  • Praying to
    Brief Summary: Latter-day Saints are criticized for not praying directly to Jesus Christ. (Click here for full article)
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  • April 6th as the date of birth of Jesus Christ
    Brief Summary: Do Latter-day Saints believe Jesus was born 1830 years before the Church's organization on 6 April 1830? (Click here for full article)
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  • Alpha and Omega
    Brief Summary: What does the term "Alpha and Omega" mean, beside the beginning and the end, when referring to the Savior? What does it mean to the restored church? (Click here for full article)
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Critics seriously understate the position of the Church of Jesus Christ with respect to the atonement. Many of the quotations used by critics regarding the LDS view of the atonement have been taken out of context, or the further comments of the speaker have been ignored. This is an implied a form of "bearing false witness," which is completely against the Gospel that the Savior taught during His earthly ministry. Critics, such as the authors of Mormonism 101, show very little evidence of having "studied the [Latter-day Saint] movement for the greater part of their lives" as they claim. In fact, if one takes up the authors' challenge to check their sources, one finds that in every case they are found wanting, often seriously so. In their "witnessing tip" regarding the Book of Mormon the authors conclude their imaginary dialogue by asking: "If Smith was misleading in this statement, how can I trust his other statements?" (Click here for full article)

  • LDS view of the atonement
    Brief Summary: Statements regarding the LDS view of the atonement (Click here for full article)
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  • The centrality of the atonement in LDS thought
    Brief Summary: Joseph Smith, the founding prophet, stated that "the fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." Those appendages include the gift of the Holy Ghost, power of faith, enjoyment of the spiritual gifts, restoration of the house of Israel, and the final triumph of truth. [1] The atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the central fact of all LDS theological teaching. (Click here for full article)
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  • Was Jesus actually crucified on a cross?
    Brief Summary: In the original Greek of the New Testament, accounts of Jesus' death only say he was put to death on "a pole." Is the belief of most of Christianity on "the cross" actually misguided? (Click here for full article)
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  • The garden and the cross
    Brief Summary: There is evidence that other mainstream Christians considered the atonement to have at least begun in the Garden, being consummated on the cross, which is what the Latter-day Saints have taught for more than 170 years. Evangelical critics say almost nothing about the universalism of the LDS position, simply mentioning it as one of the two major areas of disagreement. This suggests that for critics the atonement does not provide for all mortals to be resurrected, or saved. Critics do correctly indicate, nevertheless, that the LDS do place a good deal of emphasis on the Lord's experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Click here for full article)
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  • The Atonement as viewed by historical Christianity
    Brief Summary: Critics seem to assume that the LDS position is a "ransom" theory of atonement, and that the mainstream Christian interpretation is one of sacrificial death on the cross. They quote some statements from Latter-day Saint leaders emphasizing the Garden of Gethsemane as being the place of the atonement. They write, "Christians have long maintained that this glorious act of sacrifice took place on Golgotha Hill… It was here that God Himself was subject to the humiliating death of a common criminal,"[2] and note that "Christians realize that salvation is a result of what Jesus did for them on the cross… To even insinuate that this took place in the Garden of Gethsemane is a foreign concept to the Christian."[3] (Click here for full article)
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  • Comparing the LDS and evangelical Christian views of the atonement
    Brief Summary: Critics often make comparisons of what they claim are LDS views of the atonement against evangelical Christian views in an attempt to discredit the LDS perspective. As is so frequently done, the critics attempt to compare apples and oranges by contrasting "resurrection" on the LDS side with "salvation" on the other side. They are contrasting "cross only" with "garden and cross." They are rejecting the possibility of the Israelites having any knowledge whatever of the works of the future Messiah, and therefore being saved by their faith in the future Messiah. The restoration of the Gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith actually makes the two positions most compatible, at least from the perspective of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ. The LDS position is a broader concept, based on further light and knowledge, i.e., revelation from God. (Click here for full article)
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  • Extent of the atonement
    Brief Summary: Some time needs to be spent however on the extent to which the atonement is applicable in the world. Critics seem to object that the atonement is applicable to all who have ever lived. They want to restrict it to only those who lived after the Savior ("only after Christ's death" and "for the believer"). This doesn't only limit its accessibility to those who lived before the Savior, it quite literally slams the door on the possibility of their ever receiving salvation. The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not restrict itself in that manner. All will be raised from the dead; all will stand before God to be judged; all will be expected to give an accounting of their behavior on Earth. And they will all be held to basically the same standard. No one slides into heaven, or gets there by hanging onto the tailcoats of another. No one is saved on borrowed light. (Click here for full article)
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  • The atonement as portrayed in Latter-day Saint hymns
    Brief Summary: We note one hymn sung frequently by the members of the Church of Jesus Christ during their worship services. It has been in the LDS hymnals since 1896, and includes the following thoughts: "Reverently and meekly now, let thy head most humbly bow, think of me, thou ransomed one; think what I for thee have done, with my blood that dripped like rain, sweat in agony of pain, with my body on the tree I have ransomed even thee. In this bread now blest for thee, emblem of my body see; in this water or this wine, emblem of my blood divine. Oh, remember what was done that the sinner might be won. On the cross of Calvary I have suffered death for thee. Bid thine heart all strife to cease; with thy brethren be at peace. Oh, forgive as thou wouldst be even forgiven now by me. In the solemn faith of prayer cast upon me all thy care, and my Spirit's grace shall be like a fountain unto thee. At the throne I intercede; for thee ever do I plead. I have loved thee as thy friend, with a love that cannot end. Be obedient, I implore, prayerful, watchful evermore, and be constant unto me, that thy Savior I may be." This hymn, penned by a Latter-day Saint, is even more significant, given that when the new edition of the LDS hymnal was reviewed by a Professor of Music at the University of Toronto, the reviewer indicated that it "would enhance a communion service in any church."[4] It does so precisely because it emphasizes the atoning sacrifice of Christ for all people. He is the Savior, who shed His blood for us. This has been the position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the beginning, and continues to be so. (Click here for full article)
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This page discusses the problem of evil—can one believe in a good, just, loving God when one considers all the suffering and evil in the world? (Click here for full article)




  • Graven images
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that the Church violates the Biblical command against "graven images" because it displays sculptures of Christ, statues of the angel Moroni on the spires of our temples, or paintings showing scriptural scenes, within temples, chapels, visitors' centers, and publications. (See Exodus 20:3-4.) (Click here for full article)
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  • Heavenly Mother
    Brief Summary: Do Latter-day Saints believe in a female divine person, a "Heavenly Mother" as counterpart to God, the Heavenly Father? Are we allowed to pray to our "Heavenly Mother?" It is claimed that LDS belief in a "queen of heaven" is a pagan belief, and that the concept of a "Heavenly Mother" has no support in LDS scripture. (Click here for full article)
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  • Infinite regress of Gods
    Brief Summary: Is it true that LDS doctrine teaches a "genealogy of gods," in which God the Father had/has a God, and this God had a God, and so forth? If so, how does LDS doctrine deal with the problem of an "infinite regress" of "great-great-grandfather Gods"? (Click here for full article)
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  • Polytheism
    Brief Summary: Some non-LDS Christian claim that Latter-day Saints are polytheists because we don't believe the Nicene Creed. Others say Mormons are polytheists because they believe humans can become gods. Is this an accurate characterization of LDS belief? (Click here for full article)
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  • Divine sonship
    Brief Summary: Though the Church does not embrace Nicene trinitarianism, they still believe that there is "One God," despite seeing the Father and Son as distinct personages. How do Latter-day Saints understand Jesus' divine Sonship? (Click here for full article)
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  • "No God beside me"
    Brief Summary: Some Christians claim that the Mormon doctrine of the Godhead and belief in theosis are not compatible with multiple statements in Isaiah that "beside [the Lord] there is no God." These passages include Isaiah 43:10-11; Isaiah 44:6,8; Isaiah 45:5-6; Isaiah 45:21-22; and Isaiah 46:9-10. (Click here for full article)
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  • No man has seen God
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that the Bible teaches that God cannot be seen by mortals, and so claims by Joseph Smith and others to have seen God the Father or Jesus Christ must be false. The most commonly used Biblical citation invoked by the critics is probably John 1:18, which reads “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (Click here for full article)
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FairMormon web site

First Vision FairMormon articles on-line
  • Craig Ray, "Joseph Smith's History Confirmed," (Mesa, Arizona: FAIR, August 2002) FairMormon link (Key source)


External links

First Vision on-line articles

Primary sources

On-line articles about the First Vision

  • James B. Allen, "The Significance of Joseph Smith’s ‘First Vision’ in Mormon Thought," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 1 no. 3 (Fall 1966), 29–45. off-site
  • James B. Allen and Leonard J. Arrington, "Mormon Origins in New York: An Introductory Analysis," Brigham Young University Studies 9 no. 3 (Spring 1969), 241–74. off-site
  • Richard L. Anderson, "The Reliability of the Early History of Lucy and Joseph Smith," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4 no. 2 (Summer 1969), 13–28. off-site
  • Richard L. Anderson, "Circumstantial Confirmation of the First Vision through Reminiscences," Brigham Young University Studies 9 no. 3 (1969), 1–27. PDF link
  • Richard L. Anderson, "Joseph Smith’s Home Environment," Ensign (July 1971), 57–59. off-site
  • Richard L. Anderson, "‘Of Goodly Parents’," New Era (December 1973), 34–39. off-site
  • Richard L. Anderson, "Joseph Smith’s Testimony of the First Vision," Ensign (April 1996), 10–21. off-site
  • Carlos E. Asay, "‘Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning!’: Joseph Smith’s First Prayer and the First Vision," Ensign (April 1995), 44–49. off-site
  • Milton V. Backman Jr., "Awakenings in the Burned-over District: New Light on the Historical Setting of the First Vision," Brigham Young University Studies 9 no. 3 (1969), 301. PDF link
  • Milton V. Backman Jr. and James B. Allen, "Membership of Certain of Joseph Smith’s Family in the Western Presbyterian Church of Palmyra," Brigham Young University Studies 10 no. 4 (Summer 1970), 482–84. off-site
  • Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Joseph Smith's Recitals of the First Vision," Ensign (January 1985), 8. off-site
  • Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Confirming Witnesses of the First Vision," Ensign (January 1986), 32. off-site
  • Milton V. Backman Jr., "I Have A Question: Did Brigham Young Confirm or Expound on Joseph Smith’s First Vision?," Ensign (April 1992), 59–60. off-site
  • Milton V. Backman, "First Vision," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 2:515–516. off-site
  • Ronald O. Barney, "The First Vision: Searching for the Truth," Ensign (January 2005), 14–19. off-site
  • Dale L. Berge, "Archeological Work at the Smith Log House," Ensign (August 1985), 24–26. off-site
  • Davis Bitton, "[review of Richard P. Howard, The Church through the Years, vol. 1,]," Brigham Young University Studies 33 no. 3 (Summer 1993), 607–608. off-site
  • Hoyt W. Brewster Jr., "I Have A Question: What Was There in the Creeds of Men that the Lord Found Abominable, as He Stated in the First Vision?”," Ensign (July 1987), 65–67. off-site
  • Richard L. Bushman, "The First Vision Story Revived," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4 no. 1 (Spring 1969), 82–93. off-site
  • Richard L. Bushman, "Just the Facts Please (Review of Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record by H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 122–133. off-site
  • Richard L. Bushman, "The Visionary World of Joseph Smith," Brigham Young University Studies 37 no. 1 (1997–98), 183–204. off-site
  • Church Educational System, “Additional Details from Joseph Smith’s 1832 Account of the First Vision,” in Presidents of the Church: Student Manual (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003), 5–6.
  • Church Educational System, “The First Vision,” in Church History in the Fullness of Times: Student Manual (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003), 29–36. off-site
  • Richard H. Cracroft, "Rendering the Ineffable Effable: Treating Joseph Smith’s First Vision in Imaginative Literature," Brigham Young University Studies 36 no. 2 (1996–97), 93–116. off-site
  • Peter Crawley, “A Comment on Joseph Smith’s Account of His First Vision and the 1820 Revival,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 6, no. 1 (Spring 1971), 106–107.
  • Donald L. Enders, "A Snug Log House," Ensign (August 1985), 14–23. off-site
  • Donald L. Enders, "The Sacred Grove," Ensign (April 1990), 14–17. off-site
  • James E. Faust, "The Magnificent Vision Near Palmyra," Ensign (May 1984), 67–69. off-site
  • Marvin S. Hill, "A Note on Joseph Smith’s First Vision and Its Import in the Shaping of Early Mormonism," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 12 no. 1 (Spring 1979), 90–99. off-site
  • Marvin S. Hill, "The First Vision Controversy: A Critique and Reconciliation," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 no. 2 (Summer 1982), 31–46. off-site
  • Dean C. Jessee, "The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision," Brigham Young University Studies 9 no. 3 (Spring 1969), 279–80.
  • Dean C. Jessee, "The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision (1831–1839)," Brigham Young University Studies 9 no. 3 (Spring 1969), 275–296.
  • Dean C. Jessee, "The Earliest Documented Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision," in Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations 1820–1844 (Documents in Latter-day Saint History), edited by John W. Welch with Erick B. Carlson, (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press / Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 2005), 1–33. ISBN 0842526072. This book has recently been reprinted, in paperback. BYU Studies and Deseret Book (July 13, 2011)
  • Melvin J. Peterson, "“I Have A Question: Does D&C 84:19–22 Indicate that a Person Has to Have the Melchizedek Priesthood in Order to See God? Joseph Smith Didn’t Have the Priesthood at the Time of the First Vision," Ensign (December 1985), 60–61. off-site
  • Paul H. Peterson, "[review of Marquardt and Walters, Inventing Mormonism,]," Brigham Young University Studies 35 no. 4 (1995–96), 209–15. off-site
  • Larry C. Porter, "Reverend George Lane—Good ‘Gifts,’ Much ‘Grace,’ and Marked ‘Usefulness,’," Brigham Young University Studies 9 no. 3 (Spring 1969), 321–40. off-site
  • Larry C. Porter, "Reinventing Mormonism: To Remake or Redo (Review of Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record by H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters)," FARMS Review of Books 7/2 (1995): 123–143. off-site
  • Larry C. Porter, "Solomon Chamberlain’s Missing Pamphlet: Dreams, Visions, and Angelic Ministrants," Brigham Young University Studies 37 no. 2 (1997–98), 113–29. off-site
  • D. Michael Quinn, "Joseph Smith's Experience of a Methodist 'Camp-Meeting'," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought - Dialogue Paperless: E-Paper #3 (12 July 2006), PDF link
  • Joseph Fielding Smith, "I Have A Question: What evidences do we have to substantiate the First Vision of Joseph Smith?," Ensign (October 1987), 58–59. off-site See also original version in Joseph Fielding Smith, Improvement Era (February 1960), 80–81.
  • Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1996), 1–4. LDS link
  • Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Fruits of the First Vision," Ensign (May 2005), 36–38. off-site
  • Elden Watson, "Joseph Smith's First Vision—A Harmony";—complete text of all Joseph Smith's accounts on-line off-site  (Key source)
  • Elden Watson, "Joseph Smith's First Vision (introduction)" off-site
Joseph Smith other visionary issues on-line links
  • Dean C. Jessee, "Early Accounts of Joseph Smith (1831–1839)," Brigham Young University Studies 9 no. 3 (1969), 275–294. PDF link
  • David L. Paulsen, "The Doctrine of Divine Embodiment: Restoration, Judeo-Christian, and Philosophical Perspectives," Brigham Young University Studies 35 no. 4 (1995–96), 6–94. PDF link (Key source)

Printed material

First Vision printed materials
  • James B. Allen, "The Emergence of a Fundamental: The Expanding Role of Joseph Smith’s First Vision in Mormon Thought," Journal of Mormon History 7 (1980): 437–461.
  • James B. Allen, "Eight Contemporary Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision–What Do We Learn From Them?," Improvement Era (April 1970), 4–13.
  • Richard L. Anderson, “Alvin Smith,” in Kyle R. Walker, ed., United By Faith: The Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2005), 83–121.
  • Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana and Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press; Reprint edition, 1987), 56. ISBN 0252060121.
  • Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 30–56.
  • James B. Allen and John W. Welch, "The Appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith in 1820," in Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations 1820–1844 (Documents in Latter-day Saint History), edited by John W. Welch with Erick B. Carlson, (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press / Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 2005), 35–75. ISBN 0842526072. This book has recently been reprinted, in paperback. BYU Studies and Deseret Book (July 13, 2011) See also BYU Studies version: PDF link
  • Milton V. Backman, Joseph Smith’s First Vision: The first vision in its historical context (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971).
  • Milton V. Backman Jr., Joseph Smith’s First Vision: Confirming Evidences and Contemporary Accounts, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980).
  • Milton V. Backman Jr., Joseph Smith’s First Vision: Cornerstone of a Latter-day Faith,” in Robert L. Millet, ed., To Be Learned Is Good, If... (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987), 21–41.
  • Milton V. Backman Jr., “Lo, Here! Lo, There! Early in the Spring of 1820,” in Larry C. Porter and Susan Easton Black, eds., The Prophet Joseph: Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988), 19–35.
  • Milton V. Backman Jr., “Verification of the 1838 Account of the First Vision,” in H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate Jr., eds., The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1989), 237–48.
  • Milton V. Backman Jr., "Defender of the First Vision [Elder Orson Pratt]," in Larry C. Porter, Milton V. Backman, Jr., and Susan Easton Black, eds., Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint History: New York and Pennsylvania (Provo: BYU Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1992), 33–48.
  • Donald Q. Cannon, "Palmyra, New York: 1820–1830," in Larry C. Porter, Milton V. Backman, Jr., and Susan Easton Black, eds., Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint History: New York and Pennsylvania (Provo: BYU Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1992), 1–13.
  • Larry E. Dahl, “The Theological Significance of the First Vision,” in Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Volume 2: The Pearl of Great Price (Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1985), 315–37.
  • Donald L. Enders, “The Joseph Smith Sr., Family: Farmers of the Genesee,” in Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate Jr., eds., Joseph Smith: The Prophet, The Man (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1993), 213–25.
  • Kent P. Jackson, “The First Vision,” in Kent P. Jackson, From Apostasy to Restoration (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 66–79.
  • Kent P. Jackson, “Lessons from the Sacred Grove,” in Kent P. Jackson, From Apostasy to Restoration (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 80–89.
  • Dean C. Jessee, "The Earliest Documented Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision," in Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations 1820–1844 (Documents in Latter-day Saint History), edited by John W. Welch with Erick B. Carlson, (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press / Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 2005), 1–33. ISBN 0842526072. This book has recently been reprinted, in paperback. BYU Studies and Deseret Book (July 13, 2011) (Key source) See also BYU Studies version: PDF link
  • Dean C. Jessee, The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision (Mormon Miscellaneous reprint series) (Mormon Miscellaneous, 1984).
  • Dean C. Jessee (editor), The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings (Vol. 1 of 2) (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1989), 6–7, 127, 272–73, 429–30, 444, and 448–49.. ISBN 0875791999
  • Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, [original edition] (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1984), 5–6, 75–76, 199–200, 213. ISBN 0877479747. GL direct link
  • Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 9–20.  (Key source)
  • Dean C. Jessee, “The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” in Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Volume 2: The Pearl of Great Price (Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1985), 303–314.
  • Neal E. Lambert and Richard H. Cracroft, “Literary Form and Historical Understanding: Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” Journal of Mormon History, vol. 7 (1980), 31–42.
  • Truman G. Madsen, “The First Vision and Its Aftermath,” in Truman G. Madsen, Joseph Smith the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989), 7–18.
  • Adele Brannon McCollum, “The First Vision: Re-Visioning Historical Experience,” in Neal E. Lambert, ed., Literature of Belief: Sacred Scripture and Religious Experience (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1981), 177–96.
  • Hugh W. Nibley, Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales About Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Vol. 11 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by David J. Whittaker, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991),55–101. ISBN 0875795161. GL direct link
  • Larry C. Porter, “The Youth of the Grove and the Prophet of the Restoration,” in Susan Easton Black and Andrew C. Skinner, eds., Joseph: Exploring the Life and Ministry of the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), 36–46.
  • John W. Welch, “‘All Their Creeds Were an Abomination’: A Brief Look at Creeds as Part of the Apostasy,” in Fred E. Woods, et al., eds., Prelude to the Restoration: From Apostasy to the Restored Church (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center, 2004), 228–49.
Joseph Smith other visionary issues printed works
  • Hugh W. Nibley, Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales About Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Vol. 11 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by David J. Whittaker, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), 1. ISBN 0875795161. GL direct link

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