Plagiarism, or Coincidence? Joseph Smith’s Sketchy First Vision

22 November

Joseph Smith History 1:14-17; “…in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. .. I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head … When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description…”

Life, conversion, preaching, travels and sufferings of Elias Smith, pp. 58-59; “…I went into the woods one morning … I fell partly under the log, the timber fell one end on the log and the other on the snow, and held me, so that I found it difficult at first to rise from the situation I was then in. While in this situation, a light appeared to shine from heaven, not only into my head, but into my heart. This was something very strange to me, and what I had never experienced before. My mind seemed to rise in that light to the throne of God and the Lamb, and while thus gloriously led, what appeared to my understanding was … It is not possible for me to tell how long I remained in that situation, as everything earthly was gone from me for some time…” – Elias Smith, 1816

Just when you think you’ve exhausted every viable aspect of one story in Mormonism…

Several days ago I read a snippet taken from an article on Smith’s relationship with Sidney Rigdon. Mormon history has always told me they met shortly before he began working with Smith on the Book of Mormon translation. As I sat down this week to compile info for this interesting subject, I soon realized I had merely scratched the proverbial surface of what still lies beneath. Why am I not surprised? …Sigh…

We’ve already explored the 11 Versions of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, so here’s another twist to all of those.

Have you ever wondered where he got these tales from? I know I have!

Today and tomorrow we’re taking a look at six different places, or rather people, from where Smith hijacked his story. Today we’re beginning with just one source, that being Elias Smith, who by the way, is no relation

When you skim over the main work of Elias Smith, it’s easy enough to figure out why Joseph Smith was so drawn to his writing style. Elias Smith had a penchant for drama. The narrative in his biggest work noted above, lends itself to a story of what I call the ‘Eyeore Syndrome’. Woe is me…

Elias Smith was an itinerate preacher for awhile. After gaining a healthy group of committed followers, he began preaching to a singular congregation. However, that didn’t last too long as he turned his good reputation into almost a pariah atmosphere where followers began dropping like flies. His outright rejection of everything Calvinistic, turned many people against him.

The strongest thing he had in common with Joe Smith is the stalwart belief in visions, and that didn’t fare too well with many Christians.

Being a prolific writer, as many have noted, the book above told a story of an eerily similar experience he had when he went to the woods to pray. During his prayer time, he was injured and somehow blacked out. After awhile, he came to, and saw a bright light descending upon him that left him unable to move for some time, nor was he fully write about it afterwards.

He elaborated on the number of people who rejected his message, and eventually rejected him as well. For more info, see the Wikipedia article for him.

Why this is a good heads up for everyone is because Elias Smith wrote this book in 1816. He championed his cause throughout the upper Atlantic seaboard almost without taking a moment’s time to breath.

With Joseph Smith and his friends who read everything there was printed in and around Woodstock, NY, they had plenty of choices to find things to rewrite.

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