How Many “First” Visions?

(Imported here 4/2014 [originally posted HERE 12/2007])

(above) Joseph Smith’s Handwritten Account of His Vision in His Diary

Ronald Said (an old debate many yearn ago):

“And about what Joseph Smith believed, he SAW the Father and Jesus Christ, at the same time. He saw that they had bodies like ours, except glorified….To say that Joseph Smith believed that God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost were the same is laughable, at best.”

Well, I will quote again the latter part of your comment for clarity, “To say that Joseph Smith believed that God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost were the same is laughable, at best.”, unfortunately you are laughing at the Book of Mormon. I added nothing to this book, or took anything out. So when you laugh, you’re laughing at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Secondly, the “vision” that defines for you who God (and his subsequent nature) is commonly referred to as the First Vision, is very important to LDS theology. And separates it from historical Christianity. The First Vision sets up the following, and thus Smith’s

  1. Prophetic authority,
  2. Teaching concerning the nature of God, and
  3. Condemnation of historical Christian beliefs is all dependent upon the credibility of this first vision account.

I would invite anyone who can examine evidence and delineate between what is truth and what is false [who were reading this real-time exchange… slightly edited for readability]. However, this invitation excludes Ronald because he already knows it to be true… how? Due to a feeling he received in his chest when he prayed over the book of Mormon. His only criterion is a sensation, which, if allowed or caused by a fallen angel, Ronald would have no recourse in testing this phenomenon.

Keep in mind that the Mormon Church believes in a form of tri-theism. In other words, the Father has a body of flesh and is a completely separate being than from Christ. Christ has his own body and was in fact born (by sexual union) by heavenly mother in heaven (the Planet Kolob) ~ [could you imagine Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard teaming up!?]. If Christ was not born, Heavenly Father would still be God, they are separate – corporeal – beings. And the Holy Ghost is a God as well, but has a spirit body, still quite discernible. I presume much like Casper the Friendly Ghost’s body. [For more info, see my 4 Trinity Posts on page 3]

The First Vision

Smith’s official account of this pivotal event was published in Times and Seasons in 1842, twenty-two years after the episode allegedly took place. This account is now published in the Pearle of Great Price, and is accepted as Scripture by Mormons. However, Mormon authorities suppressed at least three additional earlier accounts of the first vision, all by Smith, because they contradicted the “official” story. And the official first vision was not published until 1840.

For example, the earliest account we now posses, from 1832, varies in key details from the official 1842 version. There are discrepancies in Smith’s age, in the message given and the number of divine personages in the vision. There are also details added, such as the presence of an evil power, Smith’s reason for seeking the Lord, and the existence of a revival. All this lends serious doubt to the credibility of the official account.

Consider for instance, the divine persons in the revelation. In this version (1832) only “Jesus” appears. What happened to God the Father? The first handwritten account of Joseph Smith does not even mention the existence of the Father – who plays so crucial a role in the official version.

It is absolutely impossible for us to believe that Joseph Smith would not have mentioned the Father if he had actually appeared…. We feel that the only reasonable explanation for the Father not being mentioned in the account that was suppressed is that Joseph Smith did not see God the Father, and that he made up this part of the story after the writing of the first manuscript. This, of course, throws a shadow of doubt upon the whole story.

Consider yet another of Smith’s accounts written between 1835 and 1836. In this case there is no mention of God or Christ at all – only many spirits who “testified” of Jesus. But here again, the authority of the account – and of Mormonism’s “divine origin” – is called into question. No longer is it God and Jesus telling Joseph Smith to begin a new church because all the others are abominations; it is now only a group of nebulous “spirits.” why should anyone accept the word of a fifteen-year-old boy claimed he talked with some unidentified spirits? Even if he did, why should anyone trust such spirits in the first place? If my fifteen-year-old boy claimed he saw a vision of God or Jesus giving him divine authority, why should Mormons believe him?

So what do we have?

We now have three different handwritten manuscripts of the first vision. They are all written by Joseph Smith or his scribes and yet every one of them is different. The first vision account says there was only one personage. The second account says there were many, and the third says there were two.

The LDS Church accepts the one with two personages. If I were to accept one, it would be the first account. It was written six or seven years closer to the event. Also, this account, which mentions only one personage (Jesus), is the only account in Joseph Smith’s own handwriting (his diary).

In fact, as Fawn Brodie explains:

The description of the vision was first published by Orson Pratt in his Remarkable Visions in 1840, twenty years after it was supposed to have occurred. Between 1820 and 1840 Joseph’s friends were writing long panegyrics; his enemies were defaming him in an unceasing stream of affidavits and pamphlets, and Joseph himself was dictating several volumes of Bible-flavored prose. But no one in this long period even intimidated that he had heard the story of the two gods. At least, no such intimidation has survived in print or manuscript…. The first published Mormon history, begun with Joseph’s collaboration in 1834 by Oliver Cowdery, ignored it altogether… Joseph’s own description of the first vision was not published until 1842, twenty-two years after the memorable event….

If something happened that spring morning in 1820, it passed totally unnoticed in Joseph’s hometown, and apparently did not even fix itself in the minds of members of his own family. The awesome vision he described in later years may have been the elaboration of some half-remembered dream [keep in mind his first account in his diary] stimulated by the early revival excitement and reinforced by the rich folklore of visions circulating in his neighborhood. Or it may have been sheer invention, created some time after 1834 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging.

So no one besides Joseph Smith in his diary even mentioned this vision for twenty years!? Unlike the resurrection report of Jesus, we have papyri dating to A.D. 55, Dead Sea scroll illusion dating to A.D. 49, and early creeds and catacomb writings dating to A.D. 44. These all describe the resurrection (as well as the belief that Jesus was God almighty). These are all based on earlier beliefs, so we can get the date even closer. But the point is this; such an event is well remembered and talked about. For the most important foundation for the origin of the Mormon Church to not even be mentioned in the throes of massive copying and writing seems to be the most serious objection to the vision being valid.

And, like I have shown, the Mormon Church has made sweeping changes to the Book of Mormon and Doctrines and Covenants, as well as other important Church writings. So it wouldn’t surprise me if they massively tampered with the official account of the first vision as well. This all shows that the foundation for the existence of the Mormon Church is called into question. But that’s okay Ronald, you can grasp onto that “burning in the bosom,” cause it’s all you got buddy.

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