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The First Vision accounts

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The First Vision Accounts

After reading in another thread that there was some controversy over the first vision and an article published on LDS.org about the first vision I thought I would have a read through the article and the linked accounts of the first vision. After first being a little surprised by there being four versions of the first vision recorded by the Prophet Joseph I began to read through them one by one, earliest to latest. From my reading of the various accounts I was hard pressed to see any controversy at all. Other than there being some ambiguity over how many personages mentioned in the first account, they all to me basically say the same things. I can see for myself that they vary in wording in places but then no one recounts events in the exact same way or to different audiences the same way, I also see that they place emphasis on different things in each of the accounts which again I see as it being used to present to different audiences. For me the accounts brought more positives than negatives in that my faith was built up by the accounts and not diminished.

I was wondering what others thoughts on the article and the accounts were? The first vision is such a pivotal moment in church history, looking at the pictures and reading the reproduced accounts from those documents really sent a shiver down my spine as I thought about how the hands that wrote those words had had a personal encounter with Heavenly Father and the saviour Jesus Christ, or in the case of those who scribed had walked and talked with the first Prophet of the restoration.

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I've never understood why people get upset that there are variences to the accounts. How many people tell an incident from their life and quote it verbatim each and every time?

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I've never understood why people get upset that there are variences to the accounts. How many people tell an incident from their life and quote it verbatim each and every time?

What she said.

It's actually a sign of deception if a story gets told exactly the same way, each and every single time.

Lie to Me Blog | Paul Ekman Group | Paul Ekman Group, LLC

Q

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I read all these before my conversion. It actually helped me bridge the Trinity to Godhead understanding, as I read the JS journal version. So I'd say it helped me more than it confused me.

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I would be concerned if the account of the First Vision was repetitious. To me, it would feel like it was scripted if given exactly the same each time. Also, My impression would be also that some people, and this may be true of Joseph Smith, do not have an excellent memory for details and he may have given summarizations after giving his account of the First Vision many times.

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I've never understood why people get upset that there are variences to the accounts. How many people tell an incident from their life and quote it verbatim each and every time?

My thoughts exactly!

What she said.

It's actually a sign of deception if a story gets told exactly the same way, each and every single time.

Lie to Me Blog | Paul Ekman Group | Paul Ekman Group, LLC

Which is why I don't see a deception in it!

Q

I would be concerned if the account of the First Vision was repetitious. To me, it would feel like it was scripted if given exactly the same each time. Also, My impression would be also that some people, and this may be true of Joseph Smith, do not have an excellent memory for details and he may have given summarizations after giving his account of the First Vision many times.

Again, I completely agree! I begin to wonder what sort of faith people have if something like this could rock it! Certainly not built on the strong foundations of the restored Gospel that is for sure!

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In order to understand those that have a problem with the multiple first vision accounts it would require us to have someone that was having problems with it come forth and tell us.

As of right now I can't recall that happening in this forum on this subject. We have however had multiple threads about race and the priesthood, polygamy, and even one on the translation. So if I were to guess based on those other threads for this subject I would assume the problem would be a feeling of betrayal, or that the church is keeping secrets.

I don't buy that argument myself given that the church has preserved the history and made it available. But if a member is depending on Gospel Doctrine to teach them church history then they would understandably think there is only one version. Then when they hear from a different source (usually anti) that there are 'conflicting' accounts from Joseph Smith on the matter they are going to have problem. Now a days they can Google the issue and up until reasonably recently the antis have dominated the google search. In the last several years the church has been making an effort to change that (LDS.org, Mormon.org, etc.) I believe these articles are a direct out growth of that. I think now a days if someone who is struggling with understanding the multiple accounts and goes to google... well they have a very good chance of seeing what the church officially says on the subject because of that article.

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The problem most people have about the First Vision accounts is not that it varies a little bit, but that it does seem to have big changes. In one telling it is only Jesus. In another it is Jesus and God. In another it's no people, just a pillar of fire. The people criticizing the First Vision acknowledge that if these were minor differences, it would be ok but if God and Jesus came and spoke to me, I'd at least remember who it was and how many of them.

Though I feel like I should add, I do believe in the First Vision and that Joseph Smith saw both God and Jesus Christ.

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The problem most people have about the First Vision accounts is not that it varies a little bit, but that it does seem to have big changes. In one telling it is only Jesus. In another it is Jesus and God. In another it's no people, just a pillar of fire. The people criticizing the First Vision acknowledge that if these were minor differences, it would be ok but if God and Jesus came and spoke to me, I'd at least remember who it was and how many of them.

Though I feel like I should add, I do believe in the First Vision and that Joseph Smith saw both God and Jesus Christ.

From my reading of the accounts the first 1832 account can be taken as one or two personages, with an emphasis on the one who can forgive sins, Jesus Christ. The other three say that there were two personages in each of the accounts. Which one mentions only a pillar of fire? If you mean the 1835 account then that goes on to mention one then another personage appearing in the pillar of fire.

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Does anyone have any prime source material from the time where Joseph taught anything BUT a Triune God before 1836-37?

I ask because Estradling brings up a good point. How do we know what others think if they don't tell us. I was posed the above question or something very similar to it once. The point being that IF Joseph knew that the Godhead was 3 separate personages then why didn't he tell that story until 16-17 years later? The early versions of the first vision seem to better align with a Triune God theory. The latter, with separate Godhead members. The early editions of the Book of Mormon (particularly 1 Ne: 11) seem to support that stance. In fact, we still have some vestiges of the Triune theory today. 1Ne 11 was later changed, but not until after 1836-37.

I think that is some of what throws individuals, or at least the individual that I talked with. I have heard several good theories as to why this is the case, have even entertained a few thoughts on it myself. As to concrete answers, I have none.

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Does anyone have any prime source material from the time where Joseph taught anything BUT a Triune God before 1836-37?

I ask because Estradling brings up a good point. How do we know what others think if they don't tell us. I was posed the above question or something very similar to it once. The point being that IF Joseph knew that the Godhead was 3 separate personages then why didn't he tell that story until 16-17 years later? The early versions of the first vision seem to better align with a Triune God theory. The latter, with separate Godhead members. The early editions of the Book of Mormon (particularly 1 Ne: 11) seem to support that stance. In fact, we still have some vestiges of the Triune theory today. 1Ne 11 was later changed, but not until after 1836-37.

I think that is some of what throws individuals, or at least the individual that I talked with. I have heard several good theories as to why this is the case, have even entertained a few thoughts on it myself. As to concrete answers, I have none.

I don't know authoritatively. But, I understand this instinctively because this is a pivotal point in my conversion. There is really no difference in the Triune and Godhead teachings. You can say the exact same sentence and it means different things to a Trinitarian and a Mormon. And that difference is not instrumental UNTIL you go deeper into what the implication of becoming One with God implies.

So, I see this two-ways... either 1.) Joseph Smith unveiled the "Mystery" at the First Vision but followed the principle of line upon line, precept upon precept on his teachings, or 2.) Joseph Smith himself took a while to understand the implication of the unveiling of the "Mystery".

Either way, Joseph Smith, having been a Trinitarian prior to the First Vision had to undergo a pivotal change in perception to tie in everything one knows about God to the unveiling of the "Mystery" so that the unveiling does not unravel one's understanding of all of Christ's teachings.

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Does anyone have any prime source material from the time where Joseph taught anything BUT a Triune God before 1836-37?

I ask because Estradling brings up a good point. How do we know what others think if they don't tell us. I was posed the above question or something very similar to it once. The point being that IF Joseph knew that the Godhead was 3 separate personages then why didn't he tell that story until 16-17 years later? The early versions of the first vision seem to better align with a Triune God theory. The latter, with separate Godhead members. The early editions of the Book of Mormon (particularly 1 Ne: 11) seem to support that stance. In fact, we still have some vestiges of the Triune theory today. 1Ne 11 was later changed, but not until after 1836-37.

I think that is some of what throws individuals, or at least the individual that I talked with. I have heard several good theories as to why this is the case, have even entertained a few thoughts on it myself. As to concrete answers, I have none.

When Smith wrote the account of the First Vision for the first time he was not writing it as a prophet of God but just a regular guy who was really trying very hard to understand what exactly took place, he didn't know or understood or comprehended the magnitude of what he saw and witnessed and the consequences that it would have in the future generations to come, hence the many versions of the same event.

I can think of a few instances in my life where if I have to tell the story about a particular event, I would share it in different ways and add things to my account over the years as I learn more about it and as I try to understand what exactly happened. Am I lying if I add a few things as I learn more or change a few things as I remember them? I don't think so.

It is clear that Smith was not interested in the attention he could receive from it, he shared the account with only few people, perhaps because he was fully aware that he was just a teenage boy with little formal education and was reluctant to share knowing fully well the kind of comments he would receive if he decided to share such information.

Hence, it is not surprising in the least that as he got older and his confidence level grew and as he received revelations and teachings from the Lord, he felt the need to share the account in a more detailed way, not as a simple narrator anymore but as someone who believed and understood the purpose of such magnificent experience.

It was only when Smith fully understood his role as the Prophet of this dispensation, we received the last known account of the First Vision.

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It is clear that Smith was not interested in the attention he could receive from it, he shared the account with only few people, perhaps because he was fully aware that he was just a teenage boy with little formal education and was reluctant to share knowing fully well the kind of comments he would receive if he decided to share such information.

Suzie, I like the reasoning here. For more on the first vision accounts, you can check out this series of videos on the subject. The descriptions below each video also add a lot of insight.

First Vision | Mormon Challenges

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I've never understood why people get upset that there are variences to the accounts. How many people tell an incident from their life and quote it verbatim each and every time?

If God came to me with this greatest task ever asked of any mortal...I would remember how may personages there were and who was speaking to me and I wouldn't wait 12 years to tell people.

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Hi oil_robb,

Welcome to the site. Your complaint is pretty standard, but to be quite honest, it smacks of unrighteous judgement and armchair quarterbacking. I don't believe you really know how you'd react under such circumstances, any more than I know how I'd react.

Could you clarify your statement "I would remember how many personages there were"? Are you saying Joseph couldn't remember? Why do you think that?

Further, just because the 1832 account is the earliest firsthand account we have of Joseph telling anyone, doesn't mean he never talked about it before that. It's sort of historian 101: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

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Loudmouth,

I think you state accurately and well. Oil_robbs comment does come across as more than a little flip. Yet, if we want to understand how others struggle when they are confronted with this knowledge I think Oil-robb provides some valuable insight.

In other words, I understand the sentiment. If this was an experience that I had undergone (as Joseph describes) I think it would be indelibly etched upon my mind. While I don't think the story would have been told word for word each time, I do think that the central precepts of that story would have remained remarkably consistent. In the multiple versions of the first vision they simply are not. Sure we can look at them through the lens of the believer and rationalize the discrepancies away, but for a non-believer, investigator, or someone that has never faced this issue previously they are glaringly obvious.

Moreover, while I agree with you that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, the modus tollens of classical logic, it is incumbent upon the individual that makes the claim to provide the proof or evidence. If for example I make the claim that providing me with $1000 will make you grow two inches taller, then it is reasonable for you to ask me to provide some documented proof of this claim, not for me to tell you that it is up to you to prove it wrong. Further, if you spend the $1000 and the promised inches do to materialize then you likely have a good case for fraud.

So while I understand what you are saying, and agree wholeheartedly that Oil_robb comes across as flip and snide, it doesn't mean that he doesn't have a valid point or that we can't learn something from him with regards to why this is an issue for so many.

with respect

RM

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Lets take the not telling anyone issue.

In Joseph Smith's history he says that he very much did tell others. He told a minister or a pastor. And they shut him down hard. And then he got persecuted for saying so. Admittedly it is his record and could be biased, but if you are talking about evidence you need something a bit more solid to counter his testimony then an "I don't believe him"

You say you doubt him because he didn't talk about it, but he answers that line of doubt by saying he did and what the results were. I don't know many 14 year old that wouldn't go silent about an event if they were told they were a lying, and delusional person when they brought it up. Most 14 years old that I know of want to fit in, not to be alienated.

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Again, I completely agree! I begin to wonder what sort of faith people have if something like this could rock it! Certainly not built on the strong foundations of the restored Gospel that is for sure!

This attitude right here is what causes a lot of people who are struggling to go inactive.

How dare you assume what their testimony was based on!

My wife was one of the strongest members that I had ever come accross. She served a mission and for the better part of her life, was the only member in her family. She was left out of family events, shunned by aunts and uncles, but she stayed strong. Then she read "Rough Stone Rolling" and discovered some things. Things that she was told on her mission were just the "anti's" lieing. Turns out they were correct.

So for you to say that her testimony wasn't "built on the strong foundations of the restored Gospel that is for sure!" is a smack in the face. You don't know what these people go through. You don't know what they are like. You don't know how they struggle to try and stay in a church that treats them like sinners. These people can't talk to anyone in the church about because of this attitude and it disgusts me.

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Looking at all the accounts and knowing what I know about language and speech and the dialogue of teenaged boys, I see no concrete problem in numbers and who said what and what Joseph mentioned.

Sure, it could be analyzed differently than how I analyze it (and has), but you'll have a lot of work to convince me there's a true problem.

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Good Afternoon Canuck Mormon! I hope you've been well. :)

This attitude right here is what causes a lot of people who are struggling to go inactive.

Your statement reflects a sentiment that is often stated but which just isn't a true sentiment. What causes people who go inactive, to go inactive are their own choices to go inactive.

Someone's attitude, statement, actions, etc. without a doubt can have an affect on how another person feels. What I say or do can help to uplift another's faith or it can be a stumbling block. However, it cannot and does not determine what choices a sane, accountable person finally decides to do. In other words you can never say that this person caused my faith to be lost. The causal link does not exist.

Faith is a free will decision in all cases. We either choose to have it or we choose not to have it.

How dare you assume what their testimony was based on!

My wife was one of the strongest members that I had ever come accross. She served a mission and for the better part of her life, was the only member in her family. She was left out of family events, shunned by aunts and uncles, but she stayed strong. Then she read "Rough Stone Rolling" and discovered some things. Things that she was told on her mission were just the "anti's" lieing. Turns out they were correct.

So for you to say that her testimony wasn't "built on the strong foundations of the restored Gospel that is for sure!" is a smack in the face. You don't know what these people go through. You don't know what they are like. You don't know how they struggle to try and stay in a church that treats them like sinners. These people can't talk to anyone in the church about because of this attitude and it disgusts me.

It's not that off the wall to make assumptions or judgments based on people's actions. Becoming offended at what others are saying and doing is also a choice. It also may or may not be true whether, in this particular case, GB-UK knows (to the extent it is possible to know) the struggles of your wife because he may have had similar experiences.

I don't see the justification for being offended. I don't see GB-UK's post constituting a "smack in the face". I think that we are all sinners. It is good for all of mankind to treat each other with compassion and with empathy. It is wrong for someone to judge another unrighteously. It isn't always helpful to have someone point out how your doubt is a result of not having a sure foundation in the gospel. But, you know what, it could be true. Even if it isn't true that we don't have a sure foundation in the gospel we still can't use other people's ignorant words as an excuse to become offended and consequently leave the church or not be active. I understand that it isn't fun or easy to be criticized but our testimony, if it is true and real, ought to be above the imperfections of others. Only our own personal choices can weaken our faith. Only my own personal choices can cause me to lose faith or to doubt my testimony. When it is all said and done, faith, testimony, and our committment to our faith is a personal choice that stands or falls based on personal decisions made each day. When faced with opposition and trials we decide in each case how we react and what we choose to do with the opposition and trial that is placed before us.

-Finrock

Edited by Finrock
Grammar

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Good Afternoon Canuck Mormon! I hope you've been well. :)

Your statement reflects a sentiment that is often stated but which just isn't a true sentiment. What causes people who go inactive, to go inactive are their own choices to go inactive.

Someone's attitude, statement, actions, etc. without a doubt can have an affect on how another person feels. What I say or do can help to uplift another's faith or it can be a stumbling block. However, it cannot and does not determine what choices a sane, accountable person finally decides to do. In other words you can never say that this person caused my faith to be lost. The causal link does not exist.

Missed my point entirely. I never said that someone causes someone else to go inactive. It certainly that persons choice. However, what choice does someone have when they feel they have been lied to and people around them that are supposed to be there for support, treat them as second class and say things like "They just wanted to sin", or "They never had a strong testimony.". What sane, rational person would want to keep going to that place?

It's not that off the wall to make assumptions or judgments based on people's actions. Becoming offended at what others are saying and doing is also a choice. It also may or may not be true whether, in this particular case, GB-UK knows (to the extent it is possible to know) the struggles of your wife because he may have had similar experiences.

I don't see the justification for being offended. I don't see GB-UK's post constituting a "smack in the face". I think that we are all sinners. It is good for all of mankind to treat each other with compassion and with empathy. It is wrong for someone to judge another unrighteously. It isn't always helpful to have someone point out how your doubt is a result of not having a sure foundation in the gospel. But, you know what, it could be true. Even if it isn't true that we don't have a sure foundation in the gospel we still can't use other people's ignorant words as an excuse to become offended and consequently leave the church or not be active. I understand that it isn't fun or easy to be criticized but our testimony, if it is true and real, ought to be above the imperfections of others. Only our own personal choices can weaken our faith. Only my own personal choices can cause me to lose faith or to doubt my testimony. When it is all said and done, faith, testimony, and our committment to our faith is a personal choice that stands or falls based on personal decisions made each day. When faced with opposition and trials we decide in each case how we react and what we choose to do with the opposition and trial that is placed before us.

-Finrock

The bolded part is exactly what has been said and is exactly the attitude that disgusts me. "If you testimony was real before you wouldn't have these issues." "How weak is their testimony that a little thing like not knowing whether there were two people or one can shake their faith."

This is the attitude that my wife faces every Sunday. How Christ like!!

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I love how everyone talks about people being offended as the reason people leave. Perhaps if those same people stopped being offensive then no one would be offended :)

In reality John Dehlin did an interesting study on why people leave. While I don't agree with him on a lot, I think this was pretty well done. If someone was interested in better understanding this they could Google John Dehlin Why People Leave.

Here's a hint...it's not because they were offended.

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Loudmouth,

In other words, I understand the sentiment. If this was an experience that I had undergone (as Joseph describes) I think it would be indelibly etched upon my mind. While I don't think the story would have been told word for word each time, I do think that the central precepts of that story would have remained remarkably consistent. In the multiple versions of the first vision they simply are not. Sure we can look at them through the lens of the believer and rationalize the discrepancies away, but for a non-believer, investigator, or someone that has never faced this issue previously they are glaringly obvious.

RM

RMGuy, you have spoken well here, but some of your logic is puzzling to me. You claim that the different accounts of the first vision are not consistent. That assumes they contradict one another. I have studied the different accounts and the only contradiction I have found is in the first account where the age is one year off. Everything else is completely consistent. Just what do you see in the accounts that are contradictory?

If for example I make the claim that providing me with $1000 will make you grow two inches taller, then it is reasonable for you to ask me to provide some documented proof of this claim, not for me to tell you that it is up to you to prove it wrong. Further, if you spend the $1000 and the promised inches do to materialize then you likely have a good case for fraud. RM

I am trying to figure out how this analogy relates to the Joseph Smith story. Could you please elaborate?

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