Joseph Smith’s 1820 First Vision

The first record of a ‘First Vision’ was not penned until 1832. In it, Smith says he had concluded all sects were wrong; claimed to have seen Jesus; and was fifteen years old (which would make the year 1821).

In 1835 Smith had another couple of attempts at recording his claimed vision in which only angels are mentioned. Finally, in 1838, the now promoted version of events, including God and Jesus, was recorded (but not published until 1842) and backdated to 1820. So, what did Smith finally claim in 1838 as now recorded in History of the Church Volume 1 and cited in The Pearl of Great Price – Joseph Smith History?

1. My father, Joseph Smith, Senior: left… Vermont, and moved to Palmyra… when I was in my tenth year, or thereabouts [1814]. …about four years after …he moved with his family into Manchester [1818]. [The claimed ‘First Vision’ occurred] …in the second year after our removal to Manchester… [1820].

Problem: The family did not move to Manchester from Palmyra in 1818, two years before the supposed vision. They actually moved there no earlier than July of 1822.

2. There was a religious revival in the district [in 1820].

Problem: There was no religious revival in that area in 1820. There was minor one a couple of years earlier, around 1817-1818, and there was certainly one in 1824, possibly even spanning from late 1823-1825 overall.

3. Great multitudes joined various religious parties.

Problem: ‘Great multitudes’ did not join anything in 1820. Half a dozen fewer Methodists were recorded that year, with a small handful of extra Baptists and Presbyterians (the three main players of the period). During the 1824 revival, there were recorded increases in membership of 99 Presbyterians, 94 Baptists and 208 Methodists.

4. Four of Smith’s family had joined the Presbyterians.

Problem: Four of the Smith family members did not join the Presbyterians prior to an 1820 First Vision. Joseph Smith’s mother independently recorded that she and three of Smith’s siblings joined following the death of Smith’s brother Alvin which occurred in late 1823.

5. Smith had personally come across and pondered on the scripture, James 1:5.

Problem: In 1824 the entire Smith family attended a sermon by Methodist minister Elder George Lane who preached on the subject “What Church shall I Join” where his text was James 1:5.

6. Smith went to a grove of trees to ask God “which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join.”

Problem: Smith’s claim to have gone to a grove to ask God which Church was right is in direct conflict with his 1832 personally handwritten statement confirming that he had already concluded that they were all wrong.

7. Smith was told to join with none of them.

Problem: In his ‘official’ 1838 account, God told Smith twice that he should join none of the Churches as they were all wrong. Later in his narrative, Smith reminds us for a third time that he was told this. Yet in 1828, eight years after the vision supposedly occurred, Smith joined the Methodist Sunday School – only to be asked to leave again as he was considered to be an undesirable due to his reputation as a ‘glass-looker’ (a money-digging con artist).

8. “A few days later…” the persecution started. Smith makes several statements about it.

Problem: No persecution was encountered at all during the period in question; a fact that is now unequivocally accepted and admitted by historians from Mormon Church owned Brigham Young University (BYU).

So, every single detail that Joseph Smith claimed about his First Vision experience is provably fictitious. But that is just the start Smith’s problems. Read the full story, complete with detailed analysis and historical references here.

 

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Extract from The First Vision: The Joseph Smith Story

A Final Thought

The Mormon God

Regarding the Mormon claim that their God has a body; Smith did not state such in his 1838 story (of 1820), so other than the assumption that is attached to Smith’s 1838 version of his First Vision, when and where did God (or Joseph Smith) ever confirm that He actually does have a body?

The one and only place the concept of God having a physical body is ever mentioned anywhere in supposed scripture is the Mormon book Doctrine and Covenants, in Section 130:22 which Smith wrote on 2 April 1843. Smith says “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also;” When did God ever declare that He was anything other than an omnipresent spirit? The answer to the question is never.

Nothing Smith ever wrote prior to that confirmed a physical God. Even then, it does not say “Thus saith the Lord” and is simply buried at the end of some “items of instruction given by Joseph Smith.”

Not once in six-thousand years did God ever declare any such thing. In just one single phrase taken from one single sentence which is placed at the end of “items of instruction”, Joseph Smith would have us believe that he captured the very essence of the character of God in a manner that God Himself had been entirely incapable of conveying during the previous six-thousand years.

If God does have a physical body, it was incumbent upon Him to explain that from the very beginning and thus it would be mentioned in Genesis. It is unthinkable that not only would God not mention that He has a body but that He would explicitly declare instead that He is a spirit – even in Joseph Smith’s own Book of Mormon.

If God exists, He may move in mysterious ways, but they are not that mysterious, they are not that devious, and certainly not that misleading.

Not once does God mention that he has a body in the Old Testament; not once in the New Testament; not in the Book of Mormon; not in earlier D&C revelations; not in the Book of Moses or the rest of Smith’s Inspired Revision of the Bible; not in the Book of Abraham. Not anywhere did God ever previously declare Himself to have a physical body – until Joseph Smith’s late change in theology which completely contradicted everything that he (and everyone else) had ever previously written. Smith then just mentions his latest theology, almost in passing, in the D&C – and that changes everything.

Read the full booklet here: The First Vision: The Joseph Smith Story

New ‘First Vision’ film from the Mormon Church

The new film is avaialble here.

This new portrayal of the First Vision claims to draw on nine known accounts “to provide additional insight.” It doesn’t include anything from most of them because so many aspects contradict each other. The film is essentially the same as previous portrayals.

Joseph Smith did not record the ‘official version’ of his First Vision, as now used by the Mormon Church, until the year 1838, and it wasn’t even published until 1842, some twenty-two years after his supposed experience.

Smith’s first written claim to a First Vision was in 1832. The record appears within the work A History of the life of Joseph Smith, partly written by his then scribe, Frederick G. Williams and partly (including this version of events) in Smith’s very own handwriting. In it, Smith declares that between the ages of twelve and fifteen he became exceedingly distressed concerning the situation of the world and of his own sins, and concluded that mankind had: “apostatised [sic] from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

This is an astonishing conclusion for Smith to have written down in his own hand in 1832 as it completely contradicts the later official 1838 version wherein Smith claims that he went to the grove “to know which of the sects was right” and that “at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong.” We now know this was not the case from Smith’s personally handwritten claim of 1832; and yet the film, rather than ‘drawing’ on that first hand account, ignores the 1832 claim and has Smith state “I knew not who was right and who was wrong…”

Smith’s 1832 account goes on to state that he was in his sixteenth year of age [age 15]. In the later official version, he was only fourteen. Within the pillar of light – originally written as ‘fire’, which Smith crossed out – the Lord, assumed to be Jesus Christ, appeared alone and addressed Smith as his son. Naturally, there is no fire in the film.

In 1835, within a week, Smith attempted two further First Vision accounts. In the first one, Smith relates what he told “Joshua the Jewish Minister” (an alias for ‘Matthias the Prophet’ who was actually from another cult). One personage appeared in the pillar of “flame”, then a second personage appeared who forgave Smith’s sins and testified that “Jesus Christ is the son of God”, thus clearly identifying the fact that neither visitor was actually the Saviour as He is only spoken of in the third person. Neither ‘personage’ is specifically identified but Smith confirms he saw “many angels” during the vision – and that is all. A Church essay on the subjest claims “This account also notes the appearance of angels in the vision” leading people to assume that this is in addition to God and Jesus appearing, as members are so familiar with the later backdated story. They neglect to say that it ONLY notes angels, and that no forms of deity are mentioned as appearing at all. Smith states that he was about fourteen years old: “when I received this first communication.” Smith didn’t invent the ‘God and Jesus appearing together’ idea until much later – in 1838.

Smith then continues in his diary to relate to Joshua “another vision of angels” when he was seventeen, thus indicating that the First Vision was deemed by Smith, in 1835, to be one of angels rather than one of deity. One would expect to see this record included in Mormon Church history alongside others appearing in History of the Church, Vol. 2 but it is conspicuous by its absence. The Church has simply ignored the account (along with Smith’s visitor) and it has been left out of Joseph Smith–History altogether.

Erastus Holmes visited Joseph Smith the following Saturday afternoon, on 14 November 1835, enquiring about the Church and asking to be instructed. Smith recorded what he said to Holmes, in his diary. Relating the experience of his First Vision, Smith states that he was about fourteen years old when “I received the first visitation of Angels”, unambiguously confirming his intended meaning when he had spoken to Joshua just a few days earlier. Smith also writes that he told Holmes about later visitations concerning the Book of Mormon.

Clearly, in late 1835, Smith was still sticking with the idea, in two separate accounts in his own diary, that it was an angel (or angels) rather than deity that first visited him in 1820 at age fourteen.

The exact wording of this version of the First Vision from Smith’s diary was later faithfully published, word for word, in the Church newspaper. (Deseret News, Vol. 2. No. 15, Saturday, 29 May 1852). This published First Vision account by Joseph Smith specifically included the words: “I received the first visitation of Angels.”

However, when the account was later entered into History of the Church (V2:312), Joseph Smith’s own wording was deliberately altered. Rather than tell the truth about what Joseph Smith claimed at the time he wrote of the experience, the account was falsified by others. It was changed from “first visitation of angels” to read “first vision” instead, in order to make it consistent with the later, more dynamic idea the First Vision ultimately became, which was not to be one of angels as Smith had earlier claimed, but one of actual deity. Many angels appear in these accounts and yet there are none in the film – even as ‘extras’. So, there’s the rub; ‘it draws on nine accounts’ – and yet it only includes what is convenient and omits details that Smith himself recorded.

This method of falsifying truth went on to become a regular habit within the Mormon Church. They actually have a name for it. They call it ‘lying for the Lord’ and it still continues to this day. It is more than evident in this ‘faith promoting’ film in which Smith has a pious humble voice and God and Jesus speak with American English accents. It’s funny that throughout the D&C, Smith has God and Jesus use no end of very badly phrased 17th Century Early Modern English and yet here God and Jesus use modern day language.

Research reveals underlying claims surrounding the vision were also untrue and even BYU confirms  that Smith lied about being persecuted for saying he had seen God and Jesus in the early years. (Scroll down the page that opens – past ‘Open Document’ to read “Joseph Smith discussed this transcendent vision only privately with a few trusted friends during the Church’s first decade.”) Thus, Smith lied several times in PoGP: JS History v.20-28, claimig persecution between 1820-1823 for saying he had seen the vision.

The Smiths didn’t even live in Manchester in 1820 – and there was no revival that year. Full and real documenteed evidence surrounding the First Vision claim is available here:

A video explanation of events is also avalable in the second half of my Exmormon Foundation Presention from 2010 here: