All NINE versions of Joseph Smith’s First Vision
by Mark Grote
“As of 1834, Joseph Smith’s first published autobiographical sketch contained no whisper of an event that, if it had happened, would have been the most soul-shattering experience of his whole youth.
But there are two manuscript versions of the vision between 1831 and the published account in Orson Pratt’s Remarkable Visions, in 1840, which indicate that it underwent a remarkable evolution in detail.
In the earlier, which Joseph dictated in 1831 or 1832, he stated that (1) “In the 16th year of my age…the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord.”
By 1835, that had changed to (2) a vision of two personages in ‘a pillar of fire’ above this head and ‘many angels.’ In the published version, the personages had (3) become God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, and the angels had vanished. Joseph Smith’s age had changed to fourteen.”
Lucy Smith (Joseph Smith’s mother), dictated to Soloman Mack, on January 6, 1831, in Ben Rich’s book, Scrapbook of Mormon Literature, quoted directly from Joseph Smith’s published history of the first vision, rather than describing it in her own words.
Meanwhile, Oliver Cowdrey described Joseph’s visionary life beginning in 1823, with (4) the vision of Moroni. Joseph’s brother, William said in a sermon in Deloit, Iowa, June 8, 1884, (5) “He was told by the personage whom he saw descend with the light.” Adding later, “You should remember Joseph was but about eighteen year old at this time, too young to be a deceiver.”1 First of all, did we say he lied? Second, obviously William had not yet had children at that time otherwise he wouldn’t say such a ridiculous thing.
Joseph’s cousin, George A. Smith, (6 & 7) made the same kind of error in two sermons found in Journal of Discourses, Vol. XII, p. 334, and Vol. XIII, p. 78.
Edward Stevenson, in his Reminiscences of Joseph The Prophet, (Salt Lake City, 1893) p. 4, that in 1834, in Pontiac Michigan, he heard the prophet testify that with great power concerning (8) the vision of the “Father and the Son.” But in the Manuscript autobiography upon which these reminiscences are based, written in 1891, when describing the same incident spoke only a (9) “vision of an angel” is mentioned.2
Each version of the so called facts should give you pause if you are a Mormon or considering on becoming one. It also begs the question again, can you trust your eternity on the word of this man and why, if this vision was so profound upon his life, does it fail to appear in any kind of formal publication by the the church for some 22 years?
Interestingly enough, the day of Joseph’s great vision passed by with silence in the community in which Joseph lived. In fact, not even his family had the faintest idea that anything was different, that anything profound had even happened. Now, we ask you, do you still think Joseph Smith can be trusted with your eternity?
1. No man knows my History: The life of Joseph Smith., Fawn Brodie. New York. 1971. p. 24.
2. IBID. p. 25.