Smith: First Vision Account
The official account of Joseph Smith's First Vision was written in 1838 and not published until 1842. Note, however, that the *official story* was not accepted for inclusion in the standard works until 1880 in the Pearl of Great Price (in Joseph Smith-History).
The LDS Church has affirmed for decades that the LDS Church rises and falls on Joseph Smith's First Vision, upon which the very foundation of the LDS faith rests. If there was no vision, then, Smith's story of God telling him that he was not to join any churches "for they were all wrong; . . . all their creeds were an abomination . . . those professors were all corrupt" was a full-cloth fabrication. There would no need for Smith to *restore* the church for if in fact the church had never apostatized as Mormons claim. That the entire church had fallen away is the sole foundation as to why Mormons believe that the LDS Church is the only correct church on earth.
Mormon Apostle Hugh B. Brown rightly stated:
The 1838 account of Smith's First Vision account is the one that LDS Church finally accepted. However, there were other First Vision accounts, which differed in terms of the factual data.
1832: The Earliest Version of the First Vision
The earliest version of the the First Vision was written "in his own hand" in 1832. However, that account only had Jesus there, not God the Father.
Further, other significant differences compared to the now accepted official 1838 acoount exists:
Most significantly, in the 1832 account, only one personage is mentioned--Jesus. Whereas the official version mentions two personages, God the Father and God the Son.
In the 1832 account, he does not ask Jesus which of the sects was right and which he should join as he does in official version (1838), but Joseph does ask which church is true.
In the 1832 account, Joseph is 15 years old, not 14 as in the official version.
In the 1832 account, no evil power is mentioned, but in the official version, there is an evil power.
In the 1832 account, there is no mention of a religious excitement, which provoked his need to pray.
*For those who are interested in reading for themselves Smith's earliest account of his First Vision see the LDS magazine the Ensign (Dec. ember 1984, pages 24-26 where Smith's hand written copy was reproduced (also see The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, compiled and edited by Dean C. Jessee, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, pages 4-6).
But note: There are at least 9 (or more) versions of Smith's the First Vision from those with whom he shared details:
For example, there were different accounts as to who or what visited Smith in 1820:
LDS Apostle, (and later 4th president/prophet), Wilford Woodruff said:
How did it (the organization) come? By the ministering of an holy angel from God, out of heaven, who held converse with man, and revealed unto him the darkness that enveloped the world. . . . He told him the Gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of His kingdom in the world. (Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 1855, vol. 11 p. 196).
LDS Apostle (and later 3rd president/prophet), John Taylor said
LDS Apostle, George A. Smith said:
Second president of the LDS Church, Brigham Young said:
The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek, the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowledge of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 1855, vol. 2, p. 171).
These are but a few of the examples of the assorted versions (written by Smith and some of his contemporaries) of the so-called First Vision (of there are others not mentioned here).
LDS apologists typically respond by first showing the *different* accounts by the Gospel authors of the same event. For example, in an article by an LDS apologetic group called: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research asks:
Should we reject the Resurrection because the Apostles could not agree on how many angels were at Christ's tomb (Matt. 28:2, Mark 16:5, Luke 24:4, and John 10:12)? Matthew wrote that the title on the cross above Jesus read: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (Matt. 27:37), while Mark claimed that the title simply read: “The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26). Luke, however, recorded that the title read: “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38), and John claimed that the title read: “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” (John 19:19). Some people will say that we are being nit-picky, and that is the whole point. The message was basically the same Jesus is King of the Jews. Each Apostle, however, recalled the title a little differently. If we can dismiss the minor discrepancies in the New Testament (which has several other inconsistencies) without rejecting Christ or the gospel, then we should be able to dismiss the minor discrepancies in Joseph’s various accounts of his first vision without rejecting Joseph as a Prophet or the Restored Gospel (www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Brochures/The_First_Vision.pdf) .
Thus, LDS apologists will point out that LDS critics are inconsistent. For if they would apply the same standard to the Bible to the discrepancies of the First Vision they would not accept the Bible. However, to compare variations in the Gospels to Smith's different versions there is one glaring error: The the variations in the Gospels are not contradictions, but variations of the same accounts. But the differences in Smiths accounts totally contradict each other.
The Mormon must at least consider that no one knew of the current official version of the First Vision until after Joseph dictated it in 1838, and no published source mentions it until 1842.
Here below, Smith's 1832 hand written account reprint:
marvilous even in the likeness of him who
Here below is the 1838 (pub in 1842) accepted version
Sometime in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country . . . and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties .... Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist . . . my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect . . . but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible . . . to come to any certain conclusion who was right, and who was wrong .... So 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 kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God . . . 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 .... One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other 'This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!' .... I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right, (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong) and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong .... I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors [believers] of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age . . . yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects all united to persecute me (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith - History, 1:5-8, 14-19, 22 ).