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JOSEPH SMITH’S FIRST VISION AND THE CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING IT

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Our entire case as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, rests on the validity of this glorious First Vision. It was the parting of the curtain to open this, the dispensation of the fulness [sic] of times. Nothing on which we base our doctrine, nothing we teach, nothing we live by, is of greater importance than this initial declaration. I submit that if Joseph Smith talked with God the Father and his Beloved Son, then all else of which he spoke is true. This is the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to the path of salvation and eternal life. (Quote from LDS President Hinckley, at the world-wide General Conference on October 4, 1998 by the Church News, October 10, 1998, page 17.)

Contrary to the above statement, a study of the history of the early years of the LDS church reveals that during the first twelve years of their existence nobody knew anything at all about what is now known as “the official version” of the first vision, where God had supposedly talked with Joseph Smith. Instead Mormons were told that Joseph Smith’s first vision concerned an angel and the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. For that reason their focus was on the Book of Mormon. The “Messenger and Advocate,” the principle LDS publication during that period, never mentioned a first vision from God the Father and his Son.

There are presently nine known different versions of Joseph Smith’s first vision. And these are not minor variations of the same basic story that could be explained away. They are different stories. The differences include his age at the time, where he was when he had the vision, how many beings he saw, whether they were angels or deity, and what was actually said to him. Moreover, one of the versions that was written in his own handwriting contradicts the official version featured in the Pearl of Great Price. Evidence reveals that he changed his story radically each time he retold it, until it finally evolved to what the LDS now calls the “official version.”

The fact that he couldn’t stick to the same basic story indicates that he wasn’t telling the truth. If he’d genuinely had this incredible vision, it would have been indelibly printed on his mind. For instance, he wouldn’t have been confused as to whether it was a single angel who had appeared to him or whether both God the Father and His Son had appeared to him together, and so on. Nor would he have been confused as to whether he’d had the vision in his bedroom or in a grove.

Although some of the earlier versions of his first vision were known by the early LDS church, Mormon literature reveals that up until 1838, eighteen years after the event was supposed to have taken place, not a single soul had heard of the official version that they believe in today. It was news to everyone. Not even Smith’s own family had heard of it. We know that the story he told his mother bore little resemblance to it.

Most Mormons are unaware of the fact that for the first twelve years of their church’s existence, i.e. right up until twenty-two years after his supposed first vision, Joseph Smith led the LDS in the worship of the trinitarian deity. Then on the strength of his newly revealed vision (that was supposed to have happened twenty-two years before), he persuaded them to abandon his previous teachings in favour of his revolutionary, man-centred doctrine of eternal progression, that described God as being a man of flesh and bone, who had once needed salvation from sin. His latest version of the controversial vision fitted his new doctrines as if it had been tailor-made for them. But, as previously mentioned, it is invalidated by an earlier, completely different story, recorded in his own handwriting.

In the official version of his first vision Smith says that he’d had no idea that all of the religious sects were wrong. But in the earlier version written in his own handwriting in 1832, he maintained that he’d been an avid reader of the Bible from the age of twelve, and that by the time he’d reached fifteen years of age he’d come to understand, solely through his own studies of the scriptures, that all the Christian denominations were wrong. Furthermore, he only mentioned one being appearing to him, who identified Himself as the Lord who was crucified, in other words, Christ. (c/f “The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith” by Dean C. Jessee, Salt Lake Deseret Books, page 14).

His mother traces the origin of Mormonism to a visit to his bedroom by an angel, who told him that none of the churches were true. (First draft of Lucy Smith’s History, page 46, LDS Church Archives).

Yet another differing version was published in 1834-35 in the periodical, “Latter-day Saints Messenger and Advocate,” Volume 1, pages 42, and 78-79, that was written by his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, assisted by Joseph Smith. This indicates that Smith had dictated it to Cowdery as he wrote it down, which was the way they had worked. It tells of a revival in 1823 that caused the then 17 year old Joseph to become concerned about religion. He wanted to know for himself the certainty and reality of pure and holy religion and prayed that if a supreme being did exist, he would have an assurance of being accepted by him and a manifestation that his sins were forgiven. He said it was then that he had his “first vision,” when an angel appeared to him in his bedroom to tell him that his sins were forgiven. But this account has nothing in common with the official version.

JOSEPH SMITH, THE MAN

It is a well recorded fact that Joseph Smith came from a family of occultists and that he was deeply involved in both the occult and spiritism. He was a persuasive orator and was also a known confidence trickster. Before his LDS days he would convince his victims that for a cash consideration he would be able to divine the whereabouts of hidden treasure through the use of an occultic peep stone. But the hidden treasure never ever materialized.

Because of complaints about his fraudulent activities he was formally charged and found guilty in a court of law. The relevant court records are still in existence. There are also affidavits that confirm his dubious ways of earning a living, as well as his involvement in the occult. The LDS’s excuses that these records are all counterfeits, and that everybody keeps on making up lies about their prophet and founder because the true church is always persecuted, just do not hold water.

THE METHODIST CHURCH

In his official version of his first vision, Joseph Smith maintains that he was persecuted by all the churches in his area because of his claim to have had this vision. However, Orsemus Turner, an apprentice printer in Palmyra until 1822, had belonged to the same juvenile debating club that Smith had frequented. He recalled that “after catching a spark of Methodism, Joseph became a very passable exhorter in evening meetings” (History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase, 1851, page 214).

Furthermore, in June, 1828, eight years after he had maintained that God had told him in this first vision that he should not join any of the churches because they were all wrong and that their teachings were an abomination in His sight, he nevertheless joined the probationary class of the Methodist Church.

At this stage the subject of his bad reputation was raised by one of the church members. The Minister had a talk to him, pointing out that his questionable way of earning a living and his involvement in the occult were contrary to what the church stood for. Nevertheless they were prepared to keep him in membership provided he confessed his misdemeanours, repented and promised to reform. He was given the choice of either appearing before a committee to clarify his intentions, or of formally requesting that his name be removed from their membership list. He asked for his name to be taken off their list.

It is quite clear from the above that he was not persecuted by the churches of the day. Instead, the opposite was the truth. He deliberately and voluntarily separated himself from the Christian churches for the sole reason that he was unwilling to give up the unethical type of lifestyle to which he was so strongly drawn.

Smith’s participation in their mid week evening meetings and his joining the Methodist church utterly destroys the validity of his so-called first vision that he claimed to have had eight years previously. Furthermore, it leaves us with the firm conviction that his story of having had a vision was just another one of his many deceptions.

As a matter of interest, he never did give up his old practices. It is common knowledge that he used the same occultic seer stone that he had used in his treasure seeking scams to enable himself to write the Book of Mormon, as well as to receive so-called “revelations from God” during the time that he was leading the church. Furthermore, when he died he had an occultic talisman coin in his pocket, which was claimed by his mother as he’d always carried it on his person and she wanted to keep it in remembrance of him.

Mormons need to bear in mind that the Bible groups the occult in the same category as witchcraft, spiritism and idolatry, as they are all influenced by deceiving spirits.

PERSECUTION

The following is an extract from Smith’s History in the Pearl of Great Price, written approximately twenty years or so after the supposed events:
“I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors 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, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, 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.” Joseph Smith – History 1:22).

Common sense tells us that if a mere boy had been persecuted as bitterly as he claims he had been for having had a vision from God, the local newspapers would have made some mention of it at the time. It’s the sort of thing that the press thrives upon. But there is no record anywhere, not even in Mormon publications, either of this supposed vision or of any persecution arising because of it. Nor is there any evidence whatsoever that Smith had ever related the official version of his first vision to anyone at all, not even to his nearest and dearest.

The LDS publications, “Dialogue,” Autumn 1966, pages 30-31 and “Saints’ Herald,” June 29, 1959, page 21 both confirm that there had been no knowledge of the official version of his first vision until eighteen years later. Furthermore, pages 30-34 of “Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought,” Autumn 1966, reveal that the general church membership did not receive any information about it until the 1840’s, a full twenty years after the supposed event.

LDS STATEMENTS ABOUT THE FIRST VISION

Mormon Apostle Hugh B. Brown declared:
“The First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith constitutes the groundwork of the Church which was later organized. If this First Vision was but a figment of Joseph Smith’s imagination, then the Mormon Church is what its detractors declare it to be — a wicked and deliberate imposture” (“The Abundant Life,” pages 310-311). (Italics inserted by author.)

LDS Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith stated:
“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 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 imposter 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. ” (LDS Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Volume 1, 1954, page 188. (The author’s italics)

But Joseph Smith’s many, varying versions of his first vision are filled with contradictions and his doctrines do not stand up to the light of God’s Holy Word, the Bible. Furthermore, Mormonism itself is full of contradictions, i.e. the Book of Mormon contradicts Smith’s revelations in Doctrine and Covenants, as well as the Pearl of Great Price, and they all contradict the Bible. Also, Smith taught Mormons to worship two different Gods at different periods in their history. They worshipped the eternal spirit God of the trinitarian deity for the first twelve years, yet today they ridicule that teaching and worship an exclusively Mormon God of flesh and bone, who was once a sinner. If that isn’t a contradiction, then what is it? Furthermore, Smith’s Book of Abraham has been unanimously declared to be fraudulent by every Egyptologists who has examined it. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. How much more evidence is necessary?

The following links will take you to articles discussing Joseph Smith’s false prophecies, the various Gods worshipped by the LDS during their early history, and his fraudulent “Book of Abraham”:

Joseph Smith, the Latter-day False Prophet

The Mormon Gods, Past and Present

The Book of Abraham and its Rejection by Egyptologists

Copyright 2007, by Mormonism and Biblical Truth. All rights reserved.

http://www.bibtruth.com/1vis.html

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