Is it necessary to have a testimony of the first vision? I’ve heard it said that the restored gospel stands or falls on the first vision. Taking into account the whole scriptural cannon, as well as the testimony of all saints, is it immature to say that the gospel all stands or falls on one of Joseph Smith’s experiences?
Every time the Lord ushers in a new dispensation, he calls prophets in a similar manner (visions, divine visitation). This has always been the pattern. For a restoration to occur, it is only natural for such a visitation to be the first step. So, it was with Joseph Smith.
“One of Joseph Smith’s experiences” could be anything. I don’t think the gospel stands or falls on his stubbing his toe as he walked around in the dark one night looking for the bed pan. Nor do I believe it hinged upon his learning how to be a farm hand. So, no, it does not hinge on “one of Joseph’s experiences.” It stands on the most powerful spiritual experiences given to the Prophet of the Restoration.
We are talking about a very profound theophany. It was one of the few instances in the history of the world where the Father Himself even spoke with man. It was the first time in centuries (possibly over a millennium) that the Savior stood before man and spoke with him face to face as one man speaks with another. It was the first time the heavens were opened so plainly and clearly in over 1,000 years.
It was the stepping stone to many other very important steps of the restoration. It wasn’t a keystone. It is the bottom of a staircase.
Without the first vision, there would have been no visit from Moroni.
28… I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been.
29 In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when, on the evening of the above-mentioned twenty-first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one. JS-H 1: 28-29
Without the visit from Moroni, we never would have received the Book of Mormon. Without the Book of Mormon, priesthood authority would not have been discovered, and then restored.
21 And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven.
22 And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you. 3 Ne 11: 21-22
(Translating this part of the Book of Mormon led to the following revelation).
68 We still continued the work of translation, when, in the ensuing month (May, 1829), we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his upon us, he ordained us, saying:
69 Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness. JS-H 1:68-69
Without the priesthood, we could not have the principles and ordinances of the Gospel. Without the principles and ordinances of the gospel, we cannot partake of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Without the Atonement, our lives on this earth are meaningless.
And without the priesthood, all the rest of the restoration would never have been possible (D&C 110).
So, consider the fact that without the first vision, we would not have the whole scriptural canon. And without the priesthood and the ordinances thereof, we would not have the gift of the Holy Ghost to teach us the true meaning of the testimony of all the ancient prophets. So, we can see that without the first vision, there wouldn’t have been a restoration.
So, I’d say, yes, it is quite immature to believe that the first vision was a simple and common experience that we can simply choose to ignore and depend only upon the wisdom of the sectarian world to provide blind guidance to a blind world.