Joseph Smith's First Vision/Church Hides Accounts (2004-Present)

LDS-authored publications (1910-1968)

A FAIR Analysis of: Church publications which discuss various First Vision accounts, a work by author: Various

NOTE: This seven-part First Vision publication chronology was created by Ted Jones.

LDS-authored publications which discuss various accounts of the First Vision (2004-Present)

2009 Matthew B. Brown. A Pillar of Light: The History and Message of the First Vision (American Fork, Utah, Covenant Communications (2009). The relevant documents are published in Appendix 1 (178-194). The entire volume is a discussion of these versions.

2008 Elder W. Craig Zwick, “We will not Yield, We Cannot Yield,” General Conference April 2008, Ensign (May 2008): 97-99. Quotes from both the canonized version and the Wentworth letter (97).

2007 The manual, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007) cites:1838-9 version, throughout chapter 1, on First Vision; see page 35, note 4, which reads, in part: “On several occasions the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote or dictated detailed accounts of the First Vision. Quotations in this chapter are from the First Vision account first published in 1842 in ‘History of Joseph Smith,’ Times and Seasons, Mar. 15, 1842, pp. 726-8, Apr. 1, 18452, pp. 748-9, and later included in the Pearl of Great Price and published in the History of the Church, vol. 1, pp. 1-8. The Prophet Joseph Smith prepared this account in 1838 and 1839 with the help of his scribes.” The same manual also cites 1832 version page 2-3, 3; 28 [which was never published by the prophet; lost till 1965] It also cites the Wentworth letter on pages 5, 6, first published TS March 1, 1842

2006 Matthew B. Brown, Prophecies. Signs of the Times, Second Coming, Millennium (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 2006): 1. “… in the spring of 1820, he viewed something that is rarely repeated and little understood: he saw a group of ‘many angels’” (1, citing Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (1984): 75-6 [=November 9, 1835]). The account then records the words of the Savior to Joseph: “’Mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them according to their ungodliness and to bring to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and apostles. Behold and lo I come quickly, as it is written of me, in the cloud clothed in the glory of my Father.” (1; the footnote reads: “This account of the words spoken by the Savior during the First Vision is written in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s own hand. These words were recorded in 1832” (5, note 2, citing Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 6)

2006 Tad R. Callister, The Inevitable Apostasy and the Promised Restoration (Deseret Book 2006). He quotes from the canonized version, and also from Dan Jones’ 1846 account, translated from the original Welsh and published in 2001 by Ronald Dennis, Dan Jones, History of Latter-day Saints (BYU 2001). (340-1)

2006 Kelly Ogden and Andrew Skinner, The Four Gospels. Verse by Verse (Deseret Book. 2006). Paraphrases the 1838 version, page 344-5; paraphrases the Wentworth letter, page 380.

2005 W. Jeffrey Marsh, The Eyewitness History of the Church. Volume One. The Restoration (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2005): 81-99. “Only a small number of first-hand accounts of the First Vision exist. Of the ten described below, four were penned by the Prophet Joseph himself or dictated to a scribe (the 1832, 1835, 1838, and 1842 [Wentworth] accounts). The other six were written by those who heard him relate his experience, either in a sermon or in a private interview (two accounts from Orson Pratt and one each from Orson Hyde, Levi Richards, David Nye White [Pittsburgh Gazette], and Alexander Neibaur)” (82). He also identifies a sermon by Orson Pratt delivered in 1869 [Journal of Discourses 12. 353-5] (98-99). All of these accounts are published in full.

2005 Larry C. Porter, “The Youth of the Grove and the Prophet of the Restoration,” in Joseph. Exploring the Life and Ministry of the Prophet. Edited by Susan Easton Black and Andrew C. Skinner (Deseret Book 2005):36-46. “Over a succession of years, the Prophet described to varied audiences the circumstances associated with the First Vision. These contemporary accounts were sometimes dictated to scribes, recorded by the press, or preserved in the writings of individuals who heard his recounting of the event. From their content we are able to assemble an invaluable array of details that help us to assess the immediate circumstances associated with the vision and the long-range significance of this singular moment. It is most doubtful that a young man in his fifteenth year could fully comprehend the meaning of what he had just seen, and it was likewise most improbable that he would have been able to analyze the ultimate implications of that which he had witnessed. With the passage of time, however, the Prophet attained an undeniable comprehension of the nature of God and his interaction with man. This understanding caused him to alter his own life in compliance to the will of the Master” (41) He quotes or cites 1832, November 9, 1835, Oliver Cowdery in 1834, 1840 (Orson Pratt), the 1843 Pittsburgh Gazette, William Smith from 1883 and 1894; as well as John Taylor in JD 21. 161. He also quotes the Dec. 1842 emendations by Willard Richards (41, citing Dean Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, volume 1. 273, note 1)

2005 Milton V. Backman, Jr., “Continuing the Program of the Prophet”, in Joseph Smith and the Doctrinal Restoration. The 34th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (Deseret Book 2005): 34-45. “Based on records that have survived, Joseph Smith’s personal involvement in writing history began in November 1832 when he commenced an autobiography that he wrote partly with his own pen and dictated other portions to his clerk, Frederick G. Williams….He also wrote an account of his First Vision in this manuscript, which is the only account of that vision in his own handwriting” (35). “Although the 1832 autobiography was not published during the life of Joseph Smith, concepts included in that recorded were included in a missionary pamphlet published by Orson Pratt in 1840. This pamphlet, entitled ‘An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions,’ was based upon information that Elder Pratt had learned from Joseph Smith and was the first publication by a Latter-day Saint of the Prophet’s First Vision” (35-6) Backman points out that portions of Orson Pratt’s pamphlet “were included in Joseph Smith’s Wentworth Letter”, published in March 1, 1842 (36). Cites 1838 history (40)

2005 Guy Dorius, “’Now This Caused us to Marvel’: The Breadth of God’s Heaven and the Depth of His Mercy”, in Joseph Smith and the Doctrinal Restoration. The 34th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (Deseret Book 2005): 144-156. “Of some eight contemporary accounts of the First Vision, five of them reveal that Joseph had a concern for the state of his soul and his future status, and that he longed for a forgiveness of his sins” (147). “Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve commented on this fact after studying different versions of the vision: ‘I read an account that I had not seen before in which he emphasized that he went to the grove, not simply to know which church to join. In fact, in that particular account, that’s hardly mentioned. It was that he felt overcome by the need to be forgiven and to have his sins washed away and a sense that there was no way he knew how to do that. In the visitation, he was told that his sins were forgiven’” (147, citing “the transcript of remarks made at the unveiling of The Vision statue in the Joseph Smith Building, Brigham Young University, on October 17, 1997” (156, note 10). Cites William Smith, 1893 (148) He refers his readers to Backman, “Awakenings …. “ BYU Studies 1969 and James Allen, “Eight Contemporary Accounts….” Improvement Era 1970.

2005 Stephen C. Harper, “On the Eve of the First Vision,” in Joseph. Exploring the Life and Ministry of the Prophet. Edited by Susan Easton Black and Andrew C. Skinner (Deseret Book 2005): 28-35. He cites William Smith account of 1883; Lucy Mack Smith’s account, and the New York Spectator of 1843.

2005 Dean Jessee, “The Earliest Documents Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,’ in Opening the Heavens. Accounts of Divine Manifestations. 1820-1844, edited by John W. Welch (Deseret Book and BYU, 2005): 1-33.

2005 James B. Allen and John W. Welch, “The Appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith in 1820”, in Opening the Heavens. Accounts of Divine Manifestations. 1820-1844, edited by John W. Welch (Deseret Book and BYU, 2005): 35-75.

2005 Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith. Rough Stone Rolling. A Cultural Biography of Mormonism’s Founder (New York: Alfred E. Knopf 2005): 35-41.

2005 The LDS Church website was announced in the Ensign October 2005: 78; full discussion, Ensign (October 2006): 46-9. Website includes references to the following First Vision accounts: 1832, 1842 (Wentworth Letter), 1840 (Orson Pratt), 1851 (Pearl of Great Price).

CHURCH INSTITUTE MANUAL - Church History in the Fulness of Times—Joseph Smith; Chapter Three, The First Vision

2005 Ronald O. Barney, “The First Vision. Searching for the Truth”, Ensign (January 2005): 14-19. “During the lifetime of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the story of his First Vision was told in print several times, by him (in 1832, 1835, 1838–39, and 1842), or by others who had heard his account and retold it (in 1840, 1842, 1843, and 1844). All originals of the Prophet’s accounts are located in the Joseph Smith Papers, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Photocopies or transcripts of the Prophet’s originals appear in The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, ed. Dean C. Jessee (2002).” (18, note 2). He also quotes from Lucy Mack Smith (1853), but not in reference to the first vision, but rather to his meditative state as a child.

2004 Robert L. Millet, Getting at the Truth Responding to Difficult Questions about LDS Beliefs (Salt Lake City, Utah Deseret Book Company 2004), 143-45. “3. Aren't there differences in detail between the varying accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision? There are several accounts of Joseph Smith's first vision, four of which were dictated by him. These four accounts were recorded in 1832, 1835, 1838 (the canonized account contained in the Pearl of Great Price), and 1842 (from the Wentworth Letter). The few differences between the accounts are minute and in most cases reflect a variation in tone or intent dependent upon the audience.” Millet then quotes the passage from Anderson, “Parallel Prophets” (1985).

2004 David Whittaker, “Orson Pratt’s [An] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions: A Seminal Scottish Imprint in Early Mormon History”, Mormon Historical Studies 5.2 (Fall 2004): 79-100. “Prior to Orson Pratt’s Edinburgh pamphlet, [1840] the account had not appeared in print, although there were at least three earlier manuscript accounts of it”. The footnote to this lists the 1832, and Nov. 9, 1835 accounts. Whittaker also refers his readers to Dean Jessee, ‘Early Accounts (1969); James Allen “The Significance…” (1966); James Allen “Emergence…” (1980); Milt Backman, Joseph Smith’s First Vision (1980); James Allen “Eight Contemporary Accounts…” Improvement Era (1970); Alexander Baugh, ‘Parting the Veil” BYU Studies (1999). He also refers to “tantalizing references to early visions through oral presentations by Joseph Smith before 1840”, citing letters by W.W. Phelps in 1835, and Parley Pratt in 1836.

2014 "First Vision Accounts," Gospel Topics, off-site

Further reading

First Vision Publications