Detailed response to CES Letter, First Vision

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Detailed response to CES Letter, First Vision


Chart CES Letter first vision.png

Included below:


YouTube Video Response: "Letter to a CES Director: CES Letter 22 to 23 First Vision" by Brian Hales.

Response to claim: "There are at least 4 different First Vision accounts by Joseph Smith"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

There are at least 4 different First Vision accounts by Joseph Smith.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The Church has published information about these accounts since at least 1970.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "The dates / his ages are all over the place"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director make(s) the following claim:

The dates / his ages are all over the place (April 2013)
The dates / his ages: The 1832 account states Joseph was 15 years old when he had the vision in 1821 while the other accounts state he was 14 years old in 1820 when he had the vision. (October 2014)

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The spin: The dates and ages were never "all over the place," which is why the author eventually corrected this statement in his later revisions.The facts: Only the first account shows an age discrepancy of age 15 rather than age 14, and the entry regarding the age wasn't even in Joseph Smith's own handwriting.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "The dates / his ages: The 1832 account states Joseph was 15 years old when he had the vision in 1821 while the other accounts state he was 14 years old in 1820 when he had the vision"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (October 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The dates / his ages: The 1832 account states Joseph was 15 years old when he had the vision in 1821 while the other accounts state he was 14 years old in 1820 when he had the vision.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

It was Joseph's scribe Frederick G. Williams, rather than Joseph himself, that inserted the phrase about Joseph being in the "16th year" of his age in the 1832 account.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "The reason or motive for seeking divine help – bible reading and conviction of sins, a revival, a desire to know if God exists, wanting to know which church to join – are all over the place"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The reason or motive for seeking divine help – bible reading and conviction of sins, a revival, a desire to know if God exists, wanting to know which church to join – are all over the place. (April 2013)
The reason or motive for seeking divine help – Bible reading and conviction of sins, a revival, a desire to know if God exists, wanting to know which church to join – are not reported the same in each account. (October 2014)

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The spin: The author exaggerates perceived differences in the accounts.The facts: In reality the accounts contain primarily the same core details, with some additional details in specific ones. The only major difference is that the 1832 account mentions one personage ("the Lord") instead of two, although the Father is also later mentioned, indicating that Joseph perceived that Jesus Christ and the Father were separate beings even in the 1832 account.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "Who appears to him – a spirit, an angel, two angels, Jesus, many angels, the Father and the Son – are all over the place."

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Who appears to him – a spirit, an angel, two angels, Jesus, many angels, the Father and the Son – are all over the place.
See also the followup(s) to this claim from "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (20 July 2014 revision):
Response to claim: "he still manages to directly contradict himself by reporting “visitation of Angels” as compared to an actual visitation from Deity"
Response to claim: "Joseph intended the exact wording to be 'pillar of light' – not 'pillar of fire'"
Response to claim: "FairMormon is arguing here that Joseph Smith did not in fact see God the Father and his son Jesus Christ, which is an apostate view"
Response to claim: "the Church altered Joseph's words to instead read "I received my First Vision...” in the History of the Church"

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The spin: The author exaggerates perceived differences in the accounts, when in reality the accounts contain primarily the same core details, with some additional details in specific ones. The only major difference is that the 1832 account mentions one personage ("the Lord") instead of two.The facts: For example, none of the accounts mention that only an angel appeared, although one mentions the presences of "many angels" in addition to the two personages. Joseph referred to his First Vision as the "First Visitation of angels" and Moroni's visit as "another visitation of angels."


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "Why doesn't FairMormon also include the following accounts in their list showing just how “consistent” all of the First Vision accounts are?"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Why doesn't FairMormon also include the following accounts in their list showing just how “consistent” all of the First Vision accounts are?

Author's sources:
  • 1834 First Vision Account from Oliver Cowdery on Wikipedia
  • Brigham Young (1855), Journal of Discourses Vol. 2, p. 171
  • Wilford Woodruff (1855), Journal of Discourses Vol. 2, p. 196-197
  • Heber C. Kimball (1857), Journal of Discourses Vol. 6, p. 29-30
  • Orson Hyde (1854), Journal of Discourses Vol. 6, p. 335
  • John Taylor (1863), Journal of Discourses Vol. 10, p. 127
  • John Taylor (1879) Journal of Discourses Vol. 20, p. 167
  • George A. Smith (1863), Journal of Discourses, Vol. 12, p. 334
  • George A. Smith (1869), Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 78

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The spin: The author distorts the original meaning of the statements and ignores exculpatory historical details to score propaganda points. He also attempts to paint FairMormon as dishonest, implying that they lead readers away from examining the evidence for themselves. Claiming dishonesty on the part of all FairMormon contributors is one of the author's favorite red herrings.The facts: These third-hand accounts by people other than Joseph Smith aren't even nearly as damning as the author may want to assume. Additionally, FairMormon has had these accounts posted on it's website for a long time, since the criticisms associated with these statements date back to at least the 1970s and claims made by Gerald and Sandra Tanner.


Regarding Heber C. Kimball (since we don't have a formal response to this accusation in particular) it is important to remember a few historical details. On 13 August 1857 Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Daniel H. Wells, John Taylor, Willard Richards, and Wilford Woodruff placed several publications in the southeast cornerstone of the Salt Lake Temple that contained First Vision accounts. They were:

  • The Pearl of Great Price
  • Lorenzo Snow, The Voice of Joseph
  • Orson Pratt, (various tracts)
  • Franklin D. Richards, Compendium
  • John Jaques, Catechism for Children
  • Millennial Star, vol. 14 supplement
  • Millennial Star, vol. 3


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "he still manages to directly contradict himself by reporting “visitation of Angels” as compared to an actual visitation from Deity"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

In this summary account, written by Joseph 15 years after the fact, he still manages to directly contradict himself by reporting “visitation of Angels” as compared to an actual visitation from Deity.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The mistake: There is no contradiction. Joseph's journal entry was summarizing an event that he had described in detail in his journal only five days earlier, which clearly stated that there were two personages and "many angels."The facts: Just five days prior to calling the First Vision the "first visitation of Angels," Joseph described a vision which included two personages (Deity, being the Father and the Son, inferred by the introduction "this is my beloved Son") and "many angels." He named this entire encounter the "first visitation of Angels."


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "Joseph intended the exact wording to be 'pillar of light' – not 'pillar of fire'"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

By using the “Delete” button of his time along with inserting “light” to immediately replace “fire,” Joseph intended the exact wording to be “pillar of light” – not “pillar of fire.”

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The mistake: The "mormoninfographic" uses the fact that the word "fire" does not appear in the final draft to demonstrate a perceived inconsistency with Joseph's 1835 account, which used the term "pillar of fire." This is nonsense, since it is obvious from the 1832 strikeout that Joseph was trying to decide which of the two terms "fire" or "light" best described what he saw.The facts: It is obvious that Joseph was willing to describe the pillar as either "fire" or "light." The "mormoninfographic" obscures that fact.

Logical Fallacy: Special Pleading—The author creates a one-sided argument by including favorable data and excluding unfavorable data through improper means. In this case, the author "moved the goalpost" by changing his argument when his original claim was shown to be false.

The "mormoninfographic" claimed that the word "fire" was not part of the 1832 account. We demonstrated that it was. Whether or not it was crossed out is irrelevant - it is there, it is readable, and it is indicative of what Joseph was thinking as he wrote. However, this isn't what the CES Letter author is responding to: He instead appears to be claiming that we are disputing what Joseph intended to write. The reality is that Joseph wrote both words in his history as he was attempting to decide which one provided a more accurate description. Because the CES Letter author failed to debunk our original claim, he instead decided to respond to one that we never made.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "FairMormon is arguing here that Joseph Smith did not in fact see God the Father and his son Jesus Christ, which is an apostate view"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

FairMormon is arguing here that Joseph Smith did not in fact see God the Father and his son Jesus Christ, which is an apostate view given that the recently published LDS.org essay titled “First Vision Accounts” states otherwise:

Joseph Smith recorded that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him…

So, which is it? Did Joseph see God the Father and Jesus Christ or did he merely see two angelic personages?

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

The falsehood: The author states that FairMormon claims something that is absolutely false.The facts: We will restate FairMormon's position:

1) The statement by the CES Letter author that "FairMormon is arguing here that Joseph Smith did not in fact see God the Father and his son Jesus Christ" is absolutely and totally false.

2) Joseph Smith never used the words "Jesus Christ" and "God the Father" in any of his accounts of the First Vision. In the 1832 account, he said that he saw "the Lord." These are facts.

3) Joseph always described the Father and the Son as "personages." The statement of one personage to Joseph that "this is my Beloved Son" while gesturing to the other clearly indicates that these personages are God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, even if Joseph did not explicitly name them as such in his First Vision account.

4) Many prophets after Joseph Smith have clearly identified the two personages as the Father and the Son. John Taylor in particular was very vocal about this.

Logical Fallacy: Strawman—The author sets up a weakened or caricatured version of the opponent's argument. The author then proceeds to demolish the weak version of the argument, and claim victory.

FairMormon's position is, always has been, and always will be that Joseph Smith saw two divine personages: God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. The author apparently misunderstood the original claim. The question with regard to the "mormoninfographic" is "Did the actual words "God the Father" and "Jesus Christ" appear in Joseph's 1838 account of the First Vision?" while the CES Letter author responds to a question that was never asked: "Did God the Father and Jesus Christ appear in Joseph's 1838 account of the First Vision?" He then creates a strawman to misrepresent FairMormon's position regarding the appearance of the Father and Son during the First Vision, and then "debunks" his own strawman.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "the Church altered Joseph's words to instead read "I received my First Vision...” in the History of the Church"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

his 1835 account was falsified into the History of the Church (Vol. 2, Ch. 23, p.312). Despite correctly being published in the Church newspaper (Deseret News, Vol.2, No. 15, Saturday, May 29, 1852) as specifically including Joseph's words, "I received the first visitation of Angels,” the Church altered Joseph's words to instead read "I received my First Vision...” in the History of the Church.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The mistake: Joseph's 9 November 1835 journal entry recorded that he saw two personages accompanied by many angels. His summary description just five days later on 14 November 1835 referred to the entire event as the "first visitation of Angels." How exactly is that inconsistent? Joseph simply assigned his own name to the event.The facts: When B.H. Roberts wrote History of the Church, he chose to assign a different name to Joseph's theophany. Roberts wanted something different than the "first visitation of Angels," and he instead chose to call the event the "First Vision." Roberts did not choose to call it the "first visitation" or the "visitation of two personages and a lot of angels": He simply chose to call the event the first of Joseph's visions, because that's exactly what it was. This wasn't an attempt to hide the nature of who had appeared to Joseph during the vision.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "The historical record shows that there was no revival in Palmyra in 1820"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The historical record shows that there was no revival in Palmyra in 1820. There was one in 1817 and there was another in 1824. There are records from his brother, William Smith, and his mother Lucy Mack Smith, both stating that the family joined Presbyterianism after Alvin’s death in November 1823 despite Joseph Smith claiming in the official 1838 account that they joined in 1820; 3 years before Alvin Smith’s death.
See also the followup(s) to this claim from "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (20 July 2014 revision):
Response to claim: "FairMormon and apologists have to do everything they can to stretch the 1817-1818 Revival as long as possible - all the way into 1820"

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The mistake: Joseph mentions an "excitement" on the subject of religion, which most interpret to mean "revival."The facts: Joseph's 1832 account shows that he began to become concerned about religion at age 12, which coincides with a known 1818 revival.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "FairMormon and apologists have to do everything they can to stretch the 1817-1818 Revival as long as possible - all the way into 1820"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The fact that FairMormon and apologists have to do everything they can to stretch the 1817-1818 Revival as long as possible - all the way into 1820 - as Joseph claimed, is a testament in itself that there was no revival environment in 1820 as Joseph described and claimed in his history.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The spin: FairMormon has never attempted to "stretch" the 1817-1818 revival into 1820: This is simply a bit of hyperbole on the part of the author.The facts: As we have noted, Joseph himself states that his interest in religion began at age 12 (1818), and there is evidence that Methodist camp meetings were being held in Palmyra in 1820. There is sufficient evidence of an "excitement" in the area on the subject of religion in 1820.

Logical Fallacy: Black-or-White—The author presents two alternative states as the only two possibilities, when more possibilities exist.

The author accepts only two possibilities: 1) there was a "revival" or 2) there wasn't a "revival." He doesn't consider the possibility of anything in between that would correlate with an excitement on the subject of religion in the Palmyra area in 1820.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "the family joined Presbyterianism after Alvin’s death in November 1823 despite Joseph Smith claiming in the official 1838 account that they joined in 1820"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

There are records from his brother, William Smith, and his mother Lucy Mack Smith, both stating that the family joined Presbyterianism after Alvin’s death in November 1823 despite Joseph Smith claiming in the official 1838 account that they joined in 1820; 3 years before Alvin Smith’s death.
See also the followup(s) to this claim from "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (20 July 2014 revision):
Response to claim: "Again, Joseph's mother, Lucy, and Joseph's brother, William, both stated that the family joined Presbyterianism after Alvin's death in November 1823"

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The mistake: No records exist showing when the Smith's joined the Presbyterian church.The facts: Lucy Mack Smith states that she was baptized in 1803, but did not associate herself with any congregation at that time.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "Again, Joseph's mother, Lucy, and Joseph's brother, William, both stated that the family joined Presbyterianism after Alvin's death in November 1823"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Again, Joseph's mother, Lucy, and Joseph's brother, William, both stated that the family joined Presbyterianism after Alvin's death in November 1823.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The mistake: Again, no records exist showing when the Smith's joined the Presbyterian church.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "Why did Joseph hold a Trinitarian view of the Godhead, as shown previously with the Book of Mormon, if he clearly saw that the Father and Son were separate embodied beings in the official First Vision?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Why did Joseph hold a Trinitarian view of the Godhead, as shown previously with the Book of Mormon, if he clearly saw that the Father and Son were separate embodied beings in the official First Vision? [and] The following verses are among many verses still in the Book of Mormon that hold a Trinitarian view of the Godhead...

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The mistake: The author starts with the assumption that Joseph held a Trinitarian view.The facts: There are plenty of verses in the Book of Mormon that support the concept that the Father and the Son are separate entities, just like the Bible does.

Logical Fallacy: Begging the Question—The author presents a circular argument in which the starting assumption requires the conclusion to be true.

The author starts with the assumption that Joseph held a Trinitarian view, then claims that a reading of the Book of Mormon leads to this conclusion.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "There is absolutely no record of a First Vision prior to 1832"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

There is absolutely no record of a First Vision prior to 1832.
See also the followup(s) to this claim from "Debunking FairMormon":
["Joseph Smith's theophany, or First Vision account, was not unprecedented or unique. There were numerous accounts by individuals claiming to have had visions or encounters with God in the years prior to and contemporary with Joseph Smith's account."|"Joseph Smith's theophany, or First Vision account, was not unprecedented or unique. There were numerous accounts by individuals claiming to have had visions or encounters with God in the years prior to and contemporary with Joseph Smith's account."]

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The mistake: The statement that there is "absolutely" no evidence of it is incorrect.The facts: There is circumstantial evidence from 1830 that the vision was known.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "...the following is what LDS historian and member of the Joseph Smith Papers project, Ronald O. Barney, has to say about Fawn Brodie and her book, No Man Knows My History...Richard Bushman extensively used No Man Knows My History as a source in his Rough Stone Rolling biography of Joseph Smith."

The author(s) of Debunking FAIR's Debunking, July 2014 make(s) the following claim:

Despite FairMormon’s attempt to discredit David O. McKay’s niece, the following is what LDS historian and member of the Joseph Smith Papers project, Ronald O. Barney, has to say about Fawn Brodie and her book, No Man Knows My History:

“…her book, is by all accounts, well-written.”

“Fawn Brodie’s claims about Joseph Smith eventually brought censure to her from the Church and she was ‘un-Churched’.”

“There were some attempts to respond to what [Brodie] had to say but they were absent the kind of historical scrutiny that she had applied to the whole milieu of Joseph during his lifetime.”

Respected LDS Scholar and Historian Richard Bushman extensively used No Man Knows My History as a source in his Rough Stone Rolling biography of Joseph Smith.

Author's sources:
  1. Richard Lyman Bushman, "Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling" (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005).
  2. Joseph Smith Papers Book Review; "No Man Knows My History" by Fawn Brodie via YouTube - published by Mormon Infographics <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk_LnZQGFZY&feature=youtu.be>

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

It is fascinating that the author would try and claim this since Ronald O. Barney remains a faithful Latter-day Saint today and Fawn Brodie's book didn't damage his faith despite being the book's goal to provide alternative and authoritative secular explanations for Joseph's claims. Richard Bushman mentions Brodie and her book explicitly 7 times on the following pages in Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling: xxii — speaking of biographies written on Joseph--not agreeing with it, 58 — pointing out that there is no evidence for fabricating the gold plates, 85 — contrasting Brodie's skeptical and dismissive view of the Book of Mormon with faithful views and sympathetic non-Latter-day Saint views of it, 91 — summarizing (but not agreeing to) skeptical theories of the Book of Mormon and how Brodie dismissed the Spaulding Theory and instead relied on the View of the Hebrews theory of authorship, 159 — summarizing Brodie's view of where Joseph got theology of priesthood (he then responds by showing how Joseph moved in opposite directions theologically for his day with regards to priesthood), 179 — responding to and refuting Brodie's claims surrounding Eli and Marinda Johnson, and 441 — agreeing with Brodie about Joseph's non-libertine sensibility: "As Fawn Brodie wrote: 'There was too much of a Puritan' in Joseph for him to be a 'careless libertine.'" In every instance he is either describing her work, agreeing to a positive claim about Joseph, or responding to a negative assertion of Brodie's. After a careful review of the footnotes, Brodie is cited a total of 10 times in Bushman's book. 10 times out of 2,058 citations with 2-5 sources listed per citation. The author's claim is fundamentally deceptive and wrong. Brodie's book was well-written, but it wasn't well-argued. It relied mostly on hostile sources to make her case. Newer scholarship has largely replaced her portrait of Joseph.[1]


Response to claim: "For something that excited the “public mind against me”… where are the records?"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

For something that excited the “public mind against me” and created “a bitter persecution” which were “all united to persecute me…reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me…,” where are the records? Newspaper clippings? Witness accounts? Something? Anything? Not even “anti-Mormon” literature record any claims of a First Vision until the 1840s.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The mistake: Consider the author's scenario: A local 14-year-old farm boy living on the frontier claims to have seen God in a vision.The local newspapers, and everyone that he comes into contact with afterward, immediately feel it is important enough to document, because, of course, everyone is likely to have believed him. We think not. The author naively assumes that the local newspaper would be aware of or even interested in relating the story of a 14-year-old boy who claimed to see God and Jesus Christ, or that the ministers that he told of his experience, who rebuked him, would have recorded it somewhere.The facts: Nevertheless, there is good deal circumstantial evidence to indicate that Joseph had the experience that he claimed to have had.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "Joseph Smith's theophany, or First Vision account, was not unprecedented or unique."

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith's theophany, or First Vision account, was not unprecedented or unique. There were numerous accounts by individuals claiming to have had visions or encounters with God in the years prior to and contemporary with Joseph Smith's account.

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

There were a number of people who claimed to have similar experiences. However, Joseph's has some unique details.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "this actually confirms the point I’m making in that the first vision was unknown to the Saints and the world before 1832"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

After scouring through everything, the best FairMormon can do is this? This actually confirms the point I’m making in that the First Vision was unknown to the Saints and the world before 1832. In fact, most of the Saints were unaware of a First Vision until it was published in 1842.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The mistake: The author cannot conclude that the absence of documentation means that the First Vision was "unknown to the Saints and the world" before 1832. Circumstantial evidence indicates otherwise.The facts: Elements consistent with the First Vision story appear in publications as early as 1827, and Church publications as early as 1830.

Logical Fallacy: Special Pleading—The author creates a one-sided argument by including favorable data and excluding unfavorable data through improper means. In this case, the author "moved the goalpost" by changing his argument when his original claim was shown to be false.

When it was demonstrated that Church writings did contain elements related to the First Vision prior to 1832, the author changed his claim:
  • In the original CES Letter, the author "made the point" that there was "absolutely no record of the First Vision prior to 1832". (This assertion is false)
  • In "Debunking FairMormon," the author changes his argument to "making the point" that "the first vision was unknown to the Saints and the world before 1832" to accommodate the fact that there were relevant writings prior to 1832.

Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "In the 1832 account, Joseph said that before praying he knew that there was no true or living faith or denomination upon the earth"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

In the 1832 account, Joseph said that before praying he knew that there was no true or living faith or denomination upon the earth as built by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. His primary purpose in going to prayer was to seek forgiveness of his sins. . . .In the official 1838 account, Joseph said his “object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join”…”(for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)”. This is in direct contradiction to his 1832 First Vision account.
See also the followup(s) to this claim from "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (20 July 2014 revision):
Response to claim: "Joseph Fielding Smith, upon discovering the 1832 account, ripped out the pages out of the letter book"

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The mistake: How would Joseph, at age 14, have determined that there was no true "denomination upon the earth" by examining the few churches that he had access to in Palmyra? He may have determined that none of the ones that he was familiar with were true, but how would he know that there wasn't one on the entire earth unless he asked God during his vision?

Logical Fallacy: Composition/Division—The author assumed that one part of something had to be applied to everything.

Joseph stated that at age 14 that he had determined that there was no true church upon the earth prior to the First Vision. Joseph had access to, at best, four or five churches within the Palmyra area, and therefore based his assumption upon what he knew. During his vision, he asked Jesus Christ if there was a true church upon the earth. This is entirely logical.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Response to claim: "Joseph Fielding Smith, upon discovering the 1832 account, ripped out the pages out of the letter book"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Fielding Smith, upon discovering the 1832 account, ripped out the pages out of the letter book. He then took the ripped documents and hid them in his personal safe where they were hidden out of circulation for three decades until the mid-1960s. Upon learning that Church enemies, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, were aware of these documents, Joseph Fielding Smith removed the documents out of his personal safe and had them taped back into Joseph’s letter book that he removed decades earlier.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

It is not known who removed the pages from the book or why. It does seem likely that an authority in the Church Historian’s office would have done such a thing. But for nefarious purposes? That’s disputed. Why would JFS refuse the Tanners’ petition but give the copy of the 1832 account to Paul Cheesman when doing his thesis in 1965? Knowing JFS’ personal history may offer some light on the situation.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

Brian Hales: CES Letter 22 to 23 First Vision

LDS Truth Claims: Criticism from 1st Vision and Priesthood Restoration


Notes

  1. Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1987); Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005); Jan Shipps, "The Prophet Puzzle: Suggestions Leading Toward a More Comprehensive Interpretation of Joseph Smith," Journal of Mormon History 1 (1974): 3–20; Ronald O. Barney, Joseph Smith: History, Methods, and Memory (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2020).