Why are there so many different versions of the Joseph Smith’s “first vision”? In one version Joseph Smith Jr was 17, another version he’s 20. In one version it’s 1820, then another it’s 1823. In the 1832 account it is Joseph’s Bible reading that stirs him to seek God, while in the 1838 story it is an 1820 Palmyra-area revival that motivates him. Why is the “story” so varied? It seems that as if someone “saw” God, he’d be able to tell the story the same each time. If you can’t trust the “vision,” how can you trust the Book of Mormon? Mormon Prophet and President Gordon B. Hinckley declared: “Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud” (General Conference address as published in The Ensign, November, 2002, p. 80).There are other earlier accounts of the first vision, including one handwritten by Joseph Smith Jr.himself, which makesno mention of an appearance of the Father and the Son. Instead, these earlier accounts refer to an angel, a spirit, many angels, or the Son. The story in its present form with the Father and the Son, did not appear until 1838, many years after Joseph Smith Jr. claimed to have had the vision. So which is it???
Ron, from Overton, Texas
It absolutely astounds me how so many people believe every thing they read, simply because it appears in print. It is so curious that people tend to place more faith in some reporter’s account, or in some bystander’s account, or in the account of some enemy of the Mormon Church, or in the faulty memory of anyone who recorded what someone else said back in the early 1800s when there was no mechanical or electronic manner of recording the spoken word than they do in the very prophets of God to which all these various reports refer! All they had in those days to record anything was a quill pen. (By the way, a quill pen was a feather, usually taken from a turkey, in which the stem was cut at an angle with a knife and then split up the middle for about half an inch. This was the writing tool which was dipped in ink and used as a pen. Paper was so expensive that letters were often written over themselves–the second copy at right angles to the first copy, so that both copies could be read).
From what you have said, it appears also that you are confusing several visions of the prophet Joseph Smith with the First Vision. That First Vision in which the prophet, then a boy of only 14 years, was visited by both God the Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ, occurred in the spring of 1820. The exact date was never recorded. Following that vision the prophet was visited on several occasions by the angel Moroni. The first visit was on the night of September 21, 1823, when he appeared to the Prophet three different times, and then again on the following day. After that Joseph met with the same angel on the Hill Cumorah on that same day for each of the four succeeding years. Following those visits, a number of angelic beings, who were the prophets of previous dispensations, appeared to Joseph Smith and bestowed upon him the keys of the priesthood authority that they possessed during the time when they appeared as mortals on the earth. In addition to these visits, the Savior himself appeared to the prophet on different occasions.
All of these occurrences are very well documented and appropriately established. You will find the official account of the First Vision in a section of the scripture, The Pearl of Great Price, entitled, Joseph Smith–History. Most of the other visits referred to above may be found in another scriptural volume called The Doctrine and Covenants. If you find any accounts differing in any way with those referred to in the above two scriptures you may immediately dismiss them as spurious.