Wednesday, 5 February 2014

First Vision Accounts

Published 26th November 2013 http://www.lds.org/topics/first-vision-accounts?lang=eng




I had been aware that Joseph Smith had given differing accounts of his First Vision. Without anything to refer to I had relegated that interesting tidbit to the kind of changes I make as I retell a story. Different emphasis for different people.

With this essay I took the time to learn a little more about this fascinating part of our history and ponder over the implications. (All of this is from the essay or the links in the essay)


1832 Account. The earliest known account of the First Vision, the only account written in Joseph Smith’s own hand, is found in a short, unpublished autobiography Joseph Smith produced in the second half of 1832. In the account, Joseph Smith described his consciousness of his own sins and his frustration at being unable to find a church that matched the one he had read about in the New Testament and that would lead him to redemption. He emphasized Jesus Christ’s Atonement and the personal redemption it offered. He wrote that “the Lord” appeared and forgave him of his sins. As a result of the vision, Joseph experienced joy and love, though, as he noted, he could find no one who believed his account.Read the 1832 account here.

 I become convicted of my  sins and by searching the scriptures I found  that mand <mankind> did not come unto the Lord but that  they had apostatised from the true and liveing  faith and there was no society or denomination  that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as  recorded in the new testament9 and I felt to mourn  for my own sins and for the sins of the world10 for I learned in the scriptures that God was  the same yesterday to day and forever...
<I> considered all these things  and that <that> being seeketh such to worshep him as wors hip him in spirit and in truth15 therefore I cried unto  the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and  toobtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderne ss and while in <the> attitude of calling upon the Lord <in the 16th year of my age> a piller of  fire 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 Lord16 and he spake unto me saying Joseph <my son> thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy <way> walk in my  statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the  Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those  who believe on my name may have Eternal life <behold> the world  lieth in sin andat this time and none doeth good no  not one they have turned asside 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 acording to thir ungodliness and to bring to pass  that which <hath> been spoken by the mouth of the prophe ts andAp[o]stles17 behold and lo I come quickly as it [is] wr itten of me in the cloud <clothed> in the glory of my Father18  and my soul was filled with love and for many days I  could rejoice with great Joy and the Lord was with me  but could find none that would believe the hevnly  vision nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart

Some interesting things to note here. Firstly this was the earliest known account of the First Vision (1832) - Two years after the Church was formed, and it was unpublished so no one knew about it. The account says he came to the conclusion that no denomination was built on the New Testament Gospel, and he mentions only Jesus Christ visiting him and forgiving his sins. He says no one believed his heavenly vision. Age 15


1835 Account. In the fall of 1835, Joseph Smith recounted his First Vision to Robert Matthews, a visitor to Kirtland, Ohio. The retelling, recorded in Joseph’s journal by his scribe Warren Parrish, emphasizes his attempt to discover which church was right, the opposition he felt as he prayed, and the appearance of one divine personage who was followed shortly by another. This account also notes the appearance of angels in the vision. Read the 1835 account here.

being wrought up in my  mind, respecting the subject of religion and looking  upon <at> the different systems taught the children of  men, I knew not who was right or who was wrong  and concidering it of the first importance that  I should be right, in matters that involved  eternal consequences; being thus perplexed in mind  I retired to the silent grove and bowd down before  the Lord, under a realising sense that he had said  (if the bible be true) ask and you shall receive  knock and it shall be opened seek and you shall  find and again, if any man lack wisdom let  him ask of God who giveth to all men libar ally and upbradeth not;68information was what  I most desired at this time, and with a fixed determination I to obtain it, I called upon the Lord  for the first time, in the place above stated or in  other words I made a fruitless attempt to pray, my  toung seemed to be swolen in my mouth, so that  I could not utter,69 I heard a noise behind me  like some person walking towards me, <I> strove again  to pray, but could not, the noise of walking seem ed to draw nearer, I sprung up on my feet,and [p. 23]and looked around, but saw no person or thing  that was calculated to produce the noise of wal king, I kneeled again my mouth was opened and  my toung liberated, and I called on the Lord in  mighty prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above  my head, it presently rested down upon my <me>  head, and filled me with joy unspeakable, a personage appeard in the midst, of this pillar  of flame which was spread all around, and yet  nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard  like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testifyed unto me that Jesus Christ  is the son of God;70 <and I saw many angels in this vision> I was about 14. years old  when I received this first communication;

So in this account he relays that he doesn't know who is right or wrong, but believes he can get an answer from God, is thwarted from praying but then able at which point a pillar of fire with a personage appears, another identical personage appears, forgives his sins and testifies of Jesus Christ. Angels are also present. Age 14.


1838 Account. The narration of the First Vision best known to Latter-day Saints today is the 1838 account. First published in 1842 in the Times and Seasons, the Church’s newspaper in Nauvoo, Illinois, the account was part of a longer history dictated by Joseph Smith between periods of intense opposition. Whereas the 1832 account emphasizes the more personal story of Joseph Smith as a young man seeking forgiveness, the 1838 account focuses on the vision as the beginning of the “rise and progress of the Church.” Like the 1835 account, the central question of the narrative is which church is right. Read the 1838 account here.


In the midst of this war of words, and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself, what  is to be done? Who of all these parties are right? Or are they all wrong together? and  if any one of them be right which is it? And how shall I know it?8
While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties  of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, First Chapter and fifth verse  which reads, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men  liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.[”] Never did any passage  of scripture come with more power to the heart of man that this did at this time to  mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected  on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did,  for how to act I did not know and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had [I] would never know, for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same [p. 2]passage of Scripture so differently as <to> destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to  the Bible. At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion or else I must do as James directs, that is, Ask of God. I at last came to the determination to  ask of God, concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give  liberally and not upbraid, I might venture. 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 Eightteen hundred and twenty.9 It was the first time in my life that I had  <made> such an attempt, for amidst all <my> anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.
After I had retired into the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked  around me and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my  heart to God, I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was <siezed> upon by some power which  entirely overcame me and <had> such astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so  that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But exerting all my powers to call upon God to de liver me out of the power of this enemy which had siezed upon me, and at the very moment  when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction, not to an im aginary ruin but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world who had such a  marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being. Just at this moment of great alarm  I saw a pillar <of> light exactly over my head above the brightness of the sun, which descended  gracefully gradually untill it fell upon me. 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 enquire 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, 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, and the Personage who addressed me said  that all their Creeds were an abomination in his sight, that those professors were all corrupt, that “they draw near to me to with their lips but their hearts are far from me, They  teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of Godliness but they deny the power thereof.”10 He again forbade me to join with any of them and many other thing[s]11  did he say unto me which I cannot write at this time.12 When I came to myself again I  found myself lying on <my> back looking up into Heaven.13 Some few days later after I had this  vision I happened to be in company with one of the Methodist Preachers who was very  active in the before mentioned religious excitement14 and conversing with him on the subject  of religion I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had.  I was greatly surprised at his behaviour, he treated my communication not only  lightly but with great contempt, saying it was all of the Devil, that there was no such  thing as visions or revelations in these days, that all such things had ceased 

So in this account lots more detail, including two personages who seem identifiable as God the father and Jesus Christ. No remission of sins but clear direction that other denominations are wrong and Joseph was to join none of them. Also an inclusion that there was 'many other things did he say unto me which I cannot write at this time' [This was one draft of several before official publishing in the Times and Seasons and inclusion in the Pearl of Great Price at some time later.]


1842 Account. Written in response to Chicago Democrat editor John Wentworth’s request for information about the Latter-day Saints, this account was printed in the Times and Seasons in 1842. (The “Wentworth letter,” as it is commonly known, is also the source for the Articles of Faith.)4 The account, intended for publication to an audience unfamiliar with Mormon beliefs, is concise and straightforward. As with earlier accounts, Joseph Smith noted the confusion he experienced and the appearance of two personages in answer to his prayer. The following year, Joseph Smith sent this account with minor modifications to a historian named Israel Daniel Rupp, who published it as a chapter in his book, He Pasa Ekklesia [The Whole Church]: An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States.5 Read the 1842 account here.

When about  fourteen years of age I began to reflect  upon the importance of being prepared  for a future state, and upon enquiring  the plan of salvation I found that there  was a great clash in religious sentiment;  if I went to one society they referred me  to one plan, and another to another; each  one pointing to his own particular creed  as the summum bonum of perfection: considering that all could not be right,  and that God could not be the author of  so much confusion I determined to inves tigate the subject more fully, believing  that if God had a church it would not be  split up into factions, and that if he  taught one society to worship one way,  and administer in one set of ordinances,  he would not teach another principles  which were diametrically opposed. Be lieving the word of God I had confidence  in the declaration of James; “If any man  lack wisdom let him ask of God who giv eth to all men liberally and upbraideth  not and it shall be given him,”3 I retired  to a secret place in a grove and began to call upon the Lord, while fervently en gaged in supplication my mind was taken  away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a [p. 706]heavenly vision and saw two glorious  personages who exactly resembled each  other in features, and likeness, surround ed with a brilliant light which eclipsed the  sun at noon-day.4 They told me that all  religious denominations were believing in  incorrect doctrines, and that none of them  was acknowledged of God as his church  and kingdom. And I was expressly com manded to “go not after them,”5 at the  same time receiving a promise that the fulness of the gospel should at some future  time be made known unto me.

Much shorter account, no identities of the identical personages, a charge that the gospel will be made known to Joseph. Age 14.


So a few overall observations: It took almost a decade (more if you conclude that the 1838 account was not published till 1842) for the general membership to learn about the First Vision. There are some important differences between the accounts, including number of people, their identities, presence of angels, forgiveness of sins, and what the person(s) revealed to Joseph. It does feel like there is some progression in these accounts both in detail and in importance. Also it is curious that there aren't more accounts. None that date back to the original year 1819 either by Joseph, his family or others in his community.


One of the most interesting Historian comments accompaning the 1832 account says:
In the early 1830s, when this history was written, it appears that JS had not broadcast the details of his first vision of Deity. The history of the church, as it was then generally understood, began with the gold plates. John Whitmer (First church Historian) mentioned in his history “the commencement of the church history commencing at the time of the finding of the plates,” suggesting that Whitmer was either unaware of JS’s earlier vision or did not conceive of it as foundational.


The First Vision is also not dated. (We know the exact day of Moroni's first visit - 21 September 1823) With Joseph's attention to detail and this being a monumental event. Why did he not record it till 13 years later? Why did no one in his family record it? Why don't we have a date?


The essay goes on to include Secondhand Accounts. Besides these accounts from Joseph Smith himself, five accounts were written by contemporaries who heard Joseph Smith speak about the vision. Read these accounts here.

Orson Pratt 1840
he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two  glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness. He was informed, that his sins  were forgiven. He was also informed upon the subjects,  which had for some time previously agitated his mind,  viz.—that all the religious denominations were believing  in incorrect doctrines; and, consequently, that none of  them was acknowledged of God, as his church and king dom. And he was expressly commanded, to go not after  them; and he received a promise that the true doctrine— the fulness of the gospel, should, at some future time, be  made known to him; after which, the vision withdrew,  leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace, inde scribable

Orson Hyde 1842
Two glorious heavenly personages stood before him, resembling each other exactly in features and stature. They told him that his prayers had been answered and that the Lord had decided to grant him a special blessing. He was also told that he should not join any of the religious sects or denominations, because all of them erred in doctrine and none was recognized by God as his church and kingdom. He was further commanded, to wait patiently until some future time, when the true doctrine of Christ and the complete truth of the gospel would be revealed to him. The vision closed and peace and calm filled his mind. 

Levi Richards 1843
Pres. J. Smith bore testimony to the same— saying  that when he was a youth he began to think about these  these things but could not find out which of all the sects were  right— he went into the grove  & enquired of the Lord which  of all the sects were right—  re received for answer that  none of them were right,  that they were all wrong, &  that the Everlasting covena[n]t  was broken= he said he understo ood the fulness of the Gospel  from beginning to end— & could  Teach it & also the order of  the priesthood in all its ram ifications= Earth & hell had opposed  him & tryed to destroy him— but  they had not done it= & they <never would>

None of these accounts seem to give any confidence that the First Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ knew about the First Vision prior to 1840.

Concluding Observations:



  • It seems that what we regard as the founding event of our history, was unknown to the first members (and apostles) of the Church till at least 1840. 
  • The First Vision is pivotal to our understanding of God and Jesus Christ as separate individuals but that is unsupported by the first account. 
  • The accounts seem to increase in detail and importance, becoming more convincing over time.
  • No supporting information: records, dates, witnesses, journal entries, testimonials, for the First Vision seem to exist prior to 1832.



So what are we to make of the 'First Vision' story that we base our faith upon?








24 comments:

  1. Hi Ganesh,

    I read your post on the Patheos Blog site as well has this blog site, and I wish to make a hopeful coment, as one who has let go of many of the traditional tellings of our history. The study of Mormon history has been a wonderful experience for me. Awakening to a more faithful understanding of our history has greatly increased my gratitude for the restoration and has actually given me greater hope in receiving the promises of the Lord. One book I recommend reading is "Passing the Heavenly Gift" by Denver Snuffer. You can get it from Amazon. Snuffer suggests there is another, less glossy way to see Mormon history, apart from the traditional reading, and more in line with the prophecies found in the Book of Mormon. Yet upon reading it, one can come away with an increased belief in God and the restoration. Snuffer was eventually excommunicated for writing the book even though it brought people back into church activity and he remains true to his faith. His written other books that I have really liked, dealing with coming into the presence of the Lord, Their is no reason to losse hope in the whisperings of the Spirit that accompanies your experience in the Mormon church. There are so many wonderful doctirnes that can be learned outside the coorelated materials found in the church manuals. I really hope you will consider reading Snuffer's book.
    As for your comments about the four church essays, I think you are spot on about much of what you said. Just as a possible interest to you, I posted an amalgamation of the 11 contemporous tellings of the first vision. You can find it at "waxingportion.blogspot.com". The First Vision is an interesting subject, but through doing the amalgamation, my belief increased in its reality, rather than decreased. There is so much cool and idifiying stuff that can be awakened to when a new set of glasses are put on. I felt your concern that you had from the things you discovered but in reality, such an awakening is part of the process that brings not abondonment, but embracing of the wonderful blessings found in the words and records restored through Joseph Smith.
    By the way, Denver Snuffer also has a blog you may be interested in at "denversnuffer.blogspot.com".

    John Chase

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    1. Nice work John I like what you did there! and yes it does read much more faith promoting.

      I once read John Bytheway's almagamation of the gospels was also very faith promoting.

      My only challenge with this is that while lovely it still doesn't explain that this pivotal event from our history was not available till 1840. It is either not pivotal as we believe or it was constructed.

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  2. Denver snuffer who is referred to by the commenter above is a neighbor of mine. I have read his denversnuffer.blogspot.com and can tell you he is very interesting. Unfortunately, his cerebral approach to the Gospel can miss the mark as often has it may hit it. He was ex'd recently for being too critical of all the brethren past and present in his books.

    I will say that Denver is trying to bridge the cognitive dissonance that is the present cracking of the foundation for the Mormon church. He is the ultimate example of the remaining thinkers in the Church who know the issues with the historicity yet they find a way to stay in (in his case out, but still believing in the book of mormon).

    I would recommend you check out another brother's post who is known around the Wasatch front as "Bishop Earl". He is a genuine prototype former Bishop who has left the Church due to the foundational issues. Earl just exudes integrity and love. He is the real thing. (and it isn't Coke). He has posted a video of the core issues he found as misleading or untrue with church history. See his 17 minute video at exmormonfiles.com/episodes/17_minutes.htm .

    I have not had any contact with the church for 3 years. The issue for me that broke the "shelf" (or the camel's back), was the lack of reasoning given for the 2-4 year lag between the 2 priesthood visitations and their publication. We don't even have the exact date for the Melk restoration by Peter, J and J. There is no mention about these visions/experiences being taught until several years after the fact, maybe 1832. If you were visited by such persons, would you not think the entire church membership would know about that experience immediately and the date which it occurred? Check it out, the membership didn't know of these keys. And why not? No reason is given, not even a hint like he could have said they told him to keep it to himself. He never asserts this. Joseph just wove it into the fabric later. Was he ever the master weaver!

    Anon this time. (must stay low profile) My family is not aware of my apostacy.

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    1. Yes Anonthistime.... I suspected there might be problems with the preisthood restorations especially considering we do not have a date for the melchizedek Priesthood. Could you give us an overview and some references please. Much appreciated

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    2. (Please note: The following treatment of the Priesthood keys may have some commentary which was cut/pasted from non referenced resources on the internet)

      PART 1- What we know from Church sources:

      Larry C. Porter of BYU's Department of Church History and Doctrine writes:

      Reflecting back on the development of the priesthood and its offices in 1861, President Brigham Young outlined the course of priesthood restoration in a set of sequential steps:

      "How came these Apostles, these Seventies, these High Priests, and all this organization we now enjoy? It came by revelation. Father Cahoon, who lately died in your neighbourhood, was one of the first men ordained to the office of High Priest in this kingdom. In the year 1831 the Prophet Joseph went to Ohio. He left the State of New York on the last of April, if my memory serves me, and arrived in Kirtland sometime in May. They held a General Conference, which was the first General Conference ever called or held in Ohio. Joseph then received a revelation, and ordained High Priests. ...When he received this revelation in Kirtland, the Lord revealed to him that he should begin and ordain High Priests; and he then ordained quite a number..."

      The priesthood thus conferred by holy Apostles Peter, James, and John embraced all of the offices of the priesthood from higher to lesser. The keys of presidency contained within the apostleship conveyed on that occasion represented the highest authority conferred upon men in the flesh. By virtue of these keys of priesthood, the Prophet Joseph Smith proceeded to ordain and set in order the various quorums as they are known in the Church today.

      (Larry C. Porter, "Restoration of the Priesthood," Religious Studies Center NewsletterVolume 9, No. 3, May 1995 )

      the anonymous author of a FAIRwiki article on “Priesthood/Restoration/Melchizedek/Date” affirms:

      "Knowing that the prophet already had the Melchizedek priesthood prior to the organization of the church we can look at the following clues of the May 15 to 30, 1829 ordination window in order of progressively narrowed parameters:

      Year 1829: There is a manuscript in Oliver Cowdery’s handwriting recording part of D&C 18: saying, “Written in the year of our Lord & Saviour 1829.”

      June 1829: In D&C 18:9 we read “And now, Oliver Cowdery, I speak unto you, and also unto David Whitmer, by the way of commandment; for, behold, I command all men everywhere to repent, and I speak unto you, even as unto Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with that same calling with which he was called.”

      Before June 14, 1829: Oliver Cowdery wrote a letter to Hyrum Smith. The letter has some wording that quotes and refers to section 18 in the D&C." (continued below)

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    3. (Cont.)
      John A. Tvedtnes, senior resident scholar at the Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts, wrote for the Meridian Magazine:

      In the restored Church, we often identify the term “priesthood” as “the authority to act in the name of God.” This accurately describes its function, but the dictionary meaning of the term is “the office of priest,” and that is precisely how it was used in Joseph Smith’s day.

      Thus, in early Latter-day Saint records, including the Doctrine and Covenants and Book of Commandments, “Aaronic priesthood” or “lesser priesthood” referred to the office of priest of the Aaronic order, while “Melchizedek priesthood” or “high(er) priesthood” referred to the office of priest of the Melchizedek order. This is especially clear when one looks at earlier versions of the history (e.g., Times and Seasons and manuscripts) and revelations, which indicate that so-and-so was ordained “to the high priesthood,” which was later changed to read “to the office of high priest” or “as a high priest.”

      In Joseph Smith’s day, deacons and teachers were not considered to hold the “Aaronic priesthood,” nor were elders considered to hold the “Melchizedek priesthood.”Rather, as we read in D&C 84:29-30, “the offices of elder and bishop are necessary appendages belonging unto the high priesthood. And again, the offices of teacher and deacon are necessary appendages belonging to the lesser priesthood, which priesthood was confirmed upon Aaron and his sons.” ...The history kept by Church historian John Whitmer, describing the ordination of the first high priests in June 1831, says that Joseph Smith “laid his hands upon Lyman Wight and ordained him to the High Priesthood (i.e. ordained him a High Priest), after the holy order of God” (History of the Church 1:176, note). The words in parentheses were added by B. H. Roberts when he edited the history for publication, and were necessitated by the fact that the use of the term “high priesthood” to denote the office of high priest had changed by his time. "

      (THE POINT: There were no ordinations to the Aaronic or M. priesthood around the early 1830's and any references to high priesthood were to offices.)

      D. Michael Quinn writes in The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power,
      ...Book of Mormon scribe Oliver Cowdery, who recorded the minutes about the “high priesthood” in 1831, did not use the term “high priest” or “office of high priest” because he was following the Book of Mormon's equation of “high priesthood” with the office of high priest.In fact, everyone in 1831 would have understood that Sidney Rigdon even spoke “to those who were ordained to the Highpriesthood [sic] last evening . . . [about] their indifference to be ordained to that office . . . setting forth the power of that office” (Sidney Rigdon statement, 26 Oct. 1831,Cannon and Cook, Far West Record, 26, qtd in The Mormon Hierarchy, 29).

      On the delay in recounting the restoration events: ( Correction to my statements that Joseph never gave a reason)

      “In the meantime we were forced to keep secret the circumstances of having received the Priesthood and our having been baptized, owing to a spirit of persecution which had already manifested itself in the neighborhood.”—JS-H, 1:74

      (COMMENTARY /QUESTION: Does this make much sense given that the Book of Mormon narrative was not withheld from the Church or Public at that time? How much more would the revealing of visitations by angels holding Priesthood keys have added to the persecution? I don't imagine it could have been a concern since the visit by Angels bringing the golden plates had put a target on his back by the critics. Nothing he would have added by stating the Priesthood restoration facts would have made any marginal difference in the degree of persecution. If he was so afraid of persecution he wouldn't have published the Book of Mormon.
      (continued below)

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    5. (cont.)
      As pro-LDS historian Richard Bushman admits in his landmark biography on Joseph Smith (Rough Stone Rolling, 75): “the late appearance of these accounts raises the possibility of later fabrication”—even though he doesn't draw that conclusion himself.Many thinking Mormons do raise that possibility, however.In a nutshell, they believe that there are good reasons to doubt the restoration of the priesthood actually happened in the church, despite Joseph Smith's later descriptions of the events in his 1838 History of the Church.The actuality of those angelic events and the exclusivity of power/authority which such events would denote, are highly questionable.

      PART 2- What Critics Have To Say:

      Were the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood under the hand of John the Baptist recorded in the church prior to 1833, it would have appeared in the Book of Commandments somewhere between Chapter IX and Chapter XII (based on the currently named date of 15 May 1829).It's not there, nor anywhere in the BofC.Were the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood under the hand of Peter, James, and John recorded prior to 1833, it would have appeared somewhere between Chapter XII and Chapter XVII (the first of the revelations recorded on the day of the church's organization, April 6, 1830).It's not there, nor anywhere in the BofC.

      The church's converts heard nothing of the appearance of the ancient apostles to restore priesthood power and authority to Joseph and Oliver, were not taught that the offices in the church to which they were ordained were “priesthood” conferrals, heard nothings of two distinct orders of the priesthood in the early years of the church, per Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer and early apostle William McLellin: see (Whitmer, quoted in Early Mormon Documents, ed. Dan Vogel, 5:137). see (Whitmer, An Address To All Believers in Christ: , pp. 32, 33, 64) see (McLellin, quoted in Grant Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, pp.224-25).

      The early revelations of the church set no precedence for one's need for “priesthood authority” in order to be called of God, ordained (accredited) to an ecclesiastical position within the church, engaged in the work of preaching repentance and baptizing for the remission of sins, nor to ordain (set apart/accredit) others within the church. Book of Commandments 3 states, “If ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work . . . and faith, hope, charity, and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualifies him for the work” (D&C 4).No priesthood requirement mentioned!

      In Book of Commandments 15, the revelation states that Jesus Christ (not John the Baptist) had commanded Joseph to baptize Oliver (D&C 18).In that same revelation, it states that having the desire to take upon them the name of Christ is the only requirement for the calling of the Twelve disciples.

      Even Joseph's own family heard nothing from him concerning the two priesthood restoration events. D. Michael Quinn noted that when Joseph's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, wrote a letter in 1831 to her brother to tell him about the new church, she made no reference to the angelic visits of Joseph's later telling (Origins of Power, p. 19). As Grant Palmer has noted, “Accounts of angelic ordinations from John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John are in none of the journals, diaries, letters, or printed matter until the mid-1830s” (Grant Palmer, "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins", pp. 223-224).

      Modern church documents purport that the restoration of the two priesthoods were necessary prerequisites for Joseph to organize the Church of Jesus Christ again in these latter days: “With this authority [conferred by the ancient apostles], the Prophet Joseph Smith was able to organize the Church of Jesus Christ in this dispensation and begin to" establish the various priesthood quorums as they are known in the Church today ” (Our Heritage) . (continued below)

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    6. (cont.)
      B. H. Roberts, faithful church historian, admitted in 1902: “. . . there is no definite account of the [Melchizedek Priesthood restoration] event in the history of the Prophet Joseph, or, for matter of that, in any of our annals…” (History of the Church, Vol. 1, p. 40 footnote). Grant Palmer notes in An Insider's View of Mormon Origins:
      In 1829 Joseph said he was called by the Spirit; in 1832 he mentioned that angels attended these events; in 1834-35 the spiritual manifestations became literal and physical appearances of resurrected beings. Details usually become blurred over time; in this case, they multiplied and sharpened.

      Oliver Cowdery remarked in 1848 about his attendance at the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood: "I was also present with Joseph when the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood was conferred by the holy angel on high.This Priesthood, we then conferred on each other by the will and commandment of God" (recorded by Bishop Reuben Miller and quoted in History of the Church, Vol. 1, p. 40 footnote). Despite Joseph's 1838 claim that three angelic personage, Peter, James, and John, had come, why did Oliver forget and refer to them as “the” holy angel?

      There is a brief mention of the event in Oliver B. Huntington’s journal, which places the Melchizedek ordination on a night after Joseph and Oliver had been on trial in Colesville, New York (Journal of Oliver B. Huntington, 13 January 1881). Joseph Smith dated this incarceration in mid-to-late June of 1830 (History of the Church 1:84-85, 92-94). Wesley Walters located the court bill for this trial, which was dated “July 1st 1830” (Joseph Smith’s Bainbridge, N.Y., Court Trials, p.125). That date is several weeks after the Church was organized. But LDS sources are emphatic that Smith could not have legally organized the Church unless he had received the Melchizedek priesthood first. That creates an irreconcilable problem for the LDS claim of authority. (Lane Thuet, “Priesthood Restored or Retrofit?'” http://www.mrm.org/priesthood-restoration.

      It appears from historical records that before 1831, specific males in the church were called to “church offices—elders, priests, and teachers—given authority, and licensed without reference to a bestowal of priesthood” (Rough Stone Rolling, Richard Lyman Bushman, pp. 157-158).Even at the April 1830 meeting in which the church was formally organized, Joseph Smith ordained Oliver Cowdery as “elder” and then Cowdery ordained Joseph as “elder,” with no mention made of these ordinations being tied to “priesthood” authority.

      Many of the elders present at the conference of elders in June 1831 wrote personal accounts of the lengthy meeting, a pentecostal-like event during which Joseph Smith and others laid their hands on one another to confer upon each the “high priesthood” for the “first time”. That Joseph received the high priesthood himself under the hand of Lyman Wight (Rough Stone Rolling, Richard Bushman, p. 158) indicates that he did not believe he had received the high priesthood before that time (1831).What does that say about the alleged visit of Peter, James, and John?

      Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery changed the wording of earlier revelations when they compiled the 1835 D&C, adding verses about the appearances of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John AS IF those appearances were mentioned in the earlier revelations, WHICH THEY WEREN'T. (continued below)


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    7. (cont.)
      Book of Commandments Chapter 28 was originally a 193-word revelation explaining what could be consumed for the sacramental wine. The heading to Section 27 of the D&C states that “In preparation for a religious service at which the sacrament of bread and wine was to be administered, Joseph set out to procure wine for the occasion. He was met by a heavenly messenger and received this revelation, a portion of which was written at the time, and the remainder in the September following.” In 1835, Smith and Cowdery added 456 additional verses to that chapter! Did a heavenly messenger really state all 649 words which Joseph miraculously remembered later, or did Joseph take liberties with the text for his own purposes?

      Most notable among the additions is the only canonical reference up to that point (1835) of the elusive visit of Peter, James, and John to Smith and Cowdery:

      5 . . . marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni . . . 7 And also John . . .
      8 Which John I have sent unto you, my servants, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Oliver Cowdery, to ordain you unto the first priesthood which you have received, that you might be called and ordained even as Aaron . . .
      12 And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them;
      13 Unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom . . . (D&C 27:5-13. See A Comparison of BofC 28 and D&C 27)

      It must have seemed convenient to now have a revelation mentioning the priesthood restoration events, making the priesthood restoration claims seem smooth and coherent.

      Will our salvation depend upon trusting the authority of a man who felt at liberty to quietly change revelations he'd formerly “received” from God?Why doesn't the church inform members of the changes Joseph Smith made to his revelations?

      Is it possible that having faith in Jesus Christ is the reason the Saints receive blessings and not due to the "authority" of someone praying over them? This makes a lot of sense when taken into context of other Christians who experience the blessings of healing and answers to prayer who are not of the Mormon faith.

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    8. ps. Ganesh, my sincere best to you. I would have emailed this info but didn't think that would keep my anonimity. I have never made a church history comment on any site before, but felt something moved me on your blog. I got an impression that you are ready to hear this. May God bless you as he has me and my family (my wife and children left together with me). We have had nothing but blessings for the past 3 years and turn our hearts over to Him.

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    9. Thanks anonthistime! So basically there is no record of any priesthood ordination by either John the Baptist or Peter, James & John prior to 1835. This seems consistent with 'First Vision Accounts' problems.... but not consistent with the story we tell about the restoration of the Priesthood.

      Very concerning!

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  3. I had something written out and internet deleted it all. Oh well. In short now i would just like to second John Chase message. Even offer to buy the book.

    Christ lives, joseph smith is a prophet of God and he still is. No matter what church history entails, and there will be many more forth coming "problems" I am sure.

    If you want to talk offline,
    onethatislazy@gmail.com

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    1. Thanks Tom - I clearly have much to read! :)

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    2. Too bad wishing the church to be true doesn't make all the deception and evidence go away. When we establish that the church lies to it's members, that's the exact moment we can rule out that it is true or even good. That much seems obvious, so let's ask the real question: why does the church lie? It's actually an easy one too. Because the church knows its not true, it has a lot to hide and doesn't want to lose tithing money.

      Ganesh, you have done a wonderful job in documenting the process of your critical thought. You seem to be very thorough. Does the church deserve you as a member when it doesn't respect you enough to fully disclose the basic facts of its history? It could be that you find yourself more effective from within, and that is for you to decide. For me, having my name on its records is a show of support I will not give any longer. I taught lies for 2 years on my mission. 2 important years that I fully dedicated. I cannot forgive that and it turns out that I don't need to. The buck stops here.

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  4. Many will discover that JS committed 'deception" "fraud' "always on the run" and kept his priesthood ? His own scriptures says in D&C 121:37 "Amen to the priesthood or authority of that man" so anyone who received any priestly authority from him (following those sins that would have disqualified him) would be questionable. Would they essay on the Kirtland Banking Society next ?.

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    1. Wobee K - enlighten us on the Kirtland Banking Society please.

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  5. Is it really the founding event of our history? What does that mean exactly? You could draw on multiple events. Most people (including Brigham Young) were converted based on the Book of Mormon without even meeting Joseph Smith or possibly even hearing about the First Vision.

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    1. I agree AlexH that it doesn't have to be the founding event, and it certainly wasn't for Brigham Young and all others before 1840. But it is for us now. It is the thing we tell first about our history, and expect to define our testimony of Joseph Smith and the restoration.

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  6. Hi Ganesh,

    I was directed to your blog from Patheos.com where I read your guest post with great interest. Are you real? Sorry, you just never know who is who on the net these days.

    Anyway, I wondered if I could perhaps inspire some thought and maybe even a future blog post on some of the comments in Spencer W. Kimballs book The Miracle of Forgiveness.

    I was given that book to read as a teen many years ago and never quite recovered. My specific concern was that my virtue was of greater value than my life. It implied that I would be better off and that my parents would have preferred that I had fought to the death rather than succumb to sexual abuse as I had done. I remember feeling quite devastated at this notion. I remember at that moment looking at my father through different eyes. I remember vowing I would tell my future daughter to live, to always live, because I loved her.

    My other concern was regarding homosexuality as I had a close friend who was struggling with his homosexuality at the time. But it was a long time ago. I am sure if I were to read the book again today there would be many other things that would make me shudder.

    With all these essays, and with particular reference to the one regarding race and the priesthood, I find myself wondering if at some point the church will denounce or attempt to redefine President Kimballs comments about my life and my virtue, and the claim that homosexuality is a disease that can be cured? Will the book be edited, or perhaps even taken out of print. Will an essay be written stating that these comments were made by Kimball the man rather than Kimball the prophet? If this is the case, how are members to sustain any man as a prophet? How can they take guidance from the leaders if they at any time can change tack?

    I commented on your post in Patheos.com. Here is part of my comment:

    "Many members feel that officially changing or denouncing the teachings of earlier prophets is simply confirming the 9th article of faith: "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." - but for many this simply raises questions as to the legitimacy of Mormon prophets, concerns over a god who seems to change his mind and fear that we may ourselves perpetuate a lie in good faith, only to be told we were given the wrong information, by a man who is supposed to be the mouthpiece of god."

    Anyway, I am prattling on a bit, but I really would like to know your thoughts on Spencer W. Kimballs book and specifically the issues mentioned.

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    1. And by the way, my name is Sarah, sorry, not familiar with how comments work on blogger, I'm a wordpress girl lol

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    2. Hi Sarah.... Yes definitely real. :)

      You bring up a very interesting question, which deserves its own blog.

      One of the statements that comes up from well meaning members justifying believing without question is 'well if it is not true, we have still lead a good life'. This gets problematic very fast. Because we draw so many spurious lines between good and bad there is huge guilt in the church, and extreme behaviour that follows. Elizabeth Smart said the reason she did not try to escape is that because she thought she had lost her virtue she felt worthless and resigned herself. Some may say she did not understand, but quotes like you reference from Spencer W Kimball have created that feeling.

      I tried to address this a little in my blog, siting some self righteous behaviour because of something I had been taught. As you become aware you realise that these distortions are all over the place, its woven into everything we do. i.e We value marriage and marriage in the temple.... so everyone who is single at some point will question their worthiness and live with huge amounts of guilt and maybe even trauma. Those not 'worthy' to get married in the Temple will doubt their marriages validity, and single sisters will forgo a relationship in this life for a future post mortality sealing in a polygamous union.

      The Miracle of Forgiveness will I think just sink into the background, as we change some of our policies and hard lines, and it will get less relevant. Dont worry Deseret Books willl be working to publish a new palatable source for issues of Homosexuality and other challenges to our culture of guilt, and these will become the hope for LDS family services and Bishops all over the world. ;)

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  7. Last in a series of 3 posts on different threads on the subject of whether the church 'hid' controversial aspects of Church History. Once again mainstream (e.g. Ensign) articles over the years on the subject of the differing accounts of the First Vision:

    * Dr. James B. Allen, "Eight Contemporary Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision - What Do We Learn from Them?", Improvement Era, April 1970, 4-13
    * Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Joseph Smith's Recitals of the First Vision," Ensign (January 1985), 8
    * Keith Meservy, "Four Accounts of the Creation," Ensign (January 1986)
    * Richard L. Anderson, "Joseph Smith’s Testimony of the First Vision," Ensign (April 1996)
    * CES Manual 2003: Church Educational System, “The First Vision,” in Church History in the Fullness of Times: Student Manual (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003), 29–36

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  8. Hey Ganesh.

    I saw that you had some concerns a while ago about possible misrepresentations by the Church. Were you ever able to sort that out?

    Send me an email and let me know. I would love to hear your perspective and I may be able to shed a little light on the matter too!

    Sam
    stmghowll @ hot mail . com

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