How It Started: The Beginning
If you have ever accepted a Bible study with a Mormon, you undoubtedly have been encouraged to “bear witness” to the truth of the Book of Mormon and ultimately the Mormon faith. One of the most common ways people engage in such a study is to give a barrage of contradictions in the “BOM” countered by the Bible, or show some contradictions to their other “standard works”, but for now we’ll just address the first vision by Joseph Smith. This vision is what started the whole movement to the Mormon faith after all. According to Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe “the First Vision of 1820 is of first importance in the history of Joseph Smith. Upon its reality rest the truth and value of his subsequent work” .
I don’t believe that any sincere Mormon in his right mind would reject such a statement but if he did, he’d likely be shown the door, or perhaps he is looking for the handle himself. Most will agree that for Mr. Smith to be considered a true prophet, one would assert that his accounts, dreams, and visions etc would have to be accurate, timeless, and consistent. In reality, how can a potential “trial by jury” put faith in a testimony that has evolved over time? Any form of discrepancy will speed up the verdict and really, that’s what we want anyways, right? If you’re reading this, then there’s a good chance that you would like to know the truth of this subject sooner than later. Now, the Mormons are taught that Joseph Smith only had one account of his first vision and that both God and Jesus appeared to him in the woods.
The problem is that there are two other accounts (yes three total) of the same vision! The very first was penned by Smith in his 1831 journal after over a decade of his encounter. This account had been suppressed by the Mormon church for 130 years but due to “circumstances” they were forced to address what had previously been repressed. In this version of the vision only Jesus was present (read below).
1. Jesus Only:
“… the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the 16th year of my age a piller [sic] of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come 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 [sic] thy way walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed [sic] for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life behold the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside [sic] 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 according to this ungodliness and to bring to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Apostles behold and lo I come quickly as it was w[r]itten of me in the cloud clothed in the glory of my Father….” –Smith’s 1831 Journal
“Brigham Young University Studies” published a picture of Smith’s journal in the Spring 1969 issue, page 281. To see a picture CLICK HERE.
Another account (picture on left) shows Smith recalling his visitation from angels (1852 Deseret News May 29th). In a 1855 sermon by Brigham Young he voiced (picture on right) a similar statement (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p.171).
3. Jesus And His Father (officially accepted version):
“…It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other–This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light…” -Pearl of Great Price
So to recap, we have Joseph Smith’s first vision consisting of three versions (below). Ask a Mormon why the third account is the one that is officially recognized and the other two are disregarded.
1. Only Jesus present (Smith’s 1831 journal)
2. Only angels present (1852 Deseret News May 29th, Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p.171)
3. Both God the Father and Jesus present (Pearl of Great Price)
Here’s a quote to consider on the truth of Mormonism:
“Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith.He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned,or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground.“If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false, for the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth. If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect. The doctrines of false teachers will not stand the test when tried by the accepted standards of measurement, the scriptures.” -Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pg. 188
1. 1951Joseph Smith—Seeker After Truth, pg.19
A special thanks goes out to Jerald (RIP) and Sandra Tanner for their incredible research and commitment to reveal truth.