In the LDS scriptures in Joseph Smith History, we read of Joseph Smith’s first vision where he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. In the story we learn:
- It took place in 1820 when Joseph Smith was 14 years old.
- Joseph Smith was wondering which church to join, and decided to ask God.
- He prayed in a grove of trees, and was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ.
- Jesus told him all churches were wrong and that he should join none of them.
As a missionary in 1990-92, I must have told this story hundreds of times, so I was very familiar with the details. When I discovered the Book of Abraham to be fraudulent, I started looking at Joseph Smith with a more critical eye. I soon discovered there were several different accounts of the first vision, and the details varied greatly between them. The LDS church wrote an essay about the subject entitled “First Vision Accounts”, where it’s verified the different accounts exist. For me, the most problematic aspect of this is the 1832 version which was written in Joseph Smith’s own handwriting. (The official one in the LDS scriptures was written in 1838 by James Mulholland, a scribe to Joseph Smith, and wasn’t published until 1842.) In the 1832 version, we read:
- Joseph Smith was 15 years old.
- “I found that <mankind> did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ” (He says he came to this conclusion before he prayed.)
- Joseph Smith went into the wilderness to pray for forgiveness of his sins.
- Jesus came down and told him all churches were wrong, and that his sins were forgiven.
In other versions, Joseph Smith talks about seeing angels as well. If Joseph Smith really did see both God the Father and Jesus Christ, wouldn’t he have included that detail in the version he personally wrote in 1832? What purpose could there be to omit that fact? That would be one of the most important things to ever happen if it were true. Wouldn’t his first story be more accurate than later stories? I was previously convinced Joseph Smith did see God and Jesus, which is why I spent two years on a mission trying to teach the story to others. But when I realized his original story was so much different from what I had been taught my whole life, and what I had taught countless others on my mission, I was sad and disappointed. I had been teaching something without giving a full disclosure of all the details, because the same details had never been disclosed to me. To me it smacked of a cover-up or a whitewashing of history. It’s true that the LDS church is doing a little better by having the Gospel Topics Essays page (where the essays ironically have very little to do with the gospel), but they don’t exactly advertise the page is there. I found the essays from so-called “anti-Mormon” sites. You won’t find the essays unless you know what you’re looking for. It was a bitter pill to swallow to find out that the story of the first vision as found in the LDS scriptures isn’t the original story, and to me has obvious signs of being fabricated.
Click on the image from MormonInfoGraphics.com to see it full size. For more information, view the Mormon Infographics’ website: Joseph Smith’s First Vision and His Conflicting Accounts.
LDS.org essay: First Vision Accounts
MormonThink.com: The First Vision
CESLetter.com: Debunking FairMormon’s debunking of the First Vision