Why are Some LDS Unaware of Varying First Vision Accounts? Their Priorities.

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The Church focuses on the 1838 version (initially intended by Joseph for publication) but has also repeatedly published the others.

The different accounts of the First Vision are hardly a secret in the Church, and the Church has not attempted to hide the other versions,  or the fact that they are not all identical.

[Improvement Era 1970, 4-13]

For example, all the versions were extensively analyzed in the Improvement Era in 1970.

[Ensign January 1985: “Joseph Smith’s Recitals of the First Vision,” Milton V. Backman Jr.]
[Ensign April 1996: “Joseph Smith’s Testimony of the First Vision,” Richard L. Anderson]

The Church did this again in a 1985 Ensign article and again in a 1996 Ensign article.  Both Ensign articles summarized the different versions and addressed the arguments raised by the critics.

[Church News 2007, Chart]

In 2007, the Church News ran a similar article that again summarized all the different accounts in chart form, and further discussed the critics and the implications raised by those different accounts.

[Institute Manual (Cover)]

Moreover, the current institute study manual Church History in the Fulness of Times discusses elements from the 1832, 1835, 1838, and 1842 accounts.

When a critic of the church presents the fact of different accounts of the first vision to a member who is hearing this for the first time, the member will often wonder why they are hearing about this first from a critic rather than an official source within the church. Being aware of this, the critic plants the seed of doubt by accusing the church of deliberately hiding this from the general membership to cover up the fact that the different accounts conflict and are strong evidence that Joseph made the whole thing up.

There are three likely reasons why a member of the church is not aware of these other accounts. First, even the leaders of the church were not aware of these different accounts until just recently, so this is information that takes awhile to work its way into the curriculum. Second, there simply is not enough time in a Sunday School class to go into that much depth into the history of the church. Sunday School and seminary classes are designed to build and strengthen faith, not to explore every little tidbit of the history. The third reason is that this member has not been interested enough to do any study on their own, such as reading church magazines. The many examples listed in the video prove that the church has made no effort to hide this. The official web site of the church has an excellent page detailing this whole issue. Check it out by clicking this link.  Listed below are some of the other publications that prove this point.

• 1965. Paul R. Cheesman, “An Analysis of the Accounts Relating to Joseph Smith’s Early Visions,” master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1965, especially pages 126-32.

• 1969. Dean C. Jessee, “The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” BYU Studies 9:3 (1968): 275-94

• 1970. James B. Allen, “Eight Contemporary Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision–What Do We Learn from Them,” Improvement Era 73 (April 1970): 4-13

• 1971, 1980. Milton V. Backman Jr., Joseph Smith’s First Vision (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft), 155-81.

• 1085. Milton V. Backman Jr., Joseph Smith’s Recitals of the First Vision,” Ensign, January 1985, 8-17.

• 1996. Richard L. Anderson, “Joseph Smith’s Testimony of the First Vision,” Ensign, April 1996, 10-21

* 2002. Dean C. Jessee, ed., Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2002) and Papers of Joseph Smith, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989-1992), 9-248.

•2008. Dean C. Jessee, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Richard L Jensen, eds., Journals, Volume 1: 1832-1839, vol. 1 of the Journals series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2008).

• 2012. Karen Lynn Davidson, David J. Whittaker, Mark Ashurst-McGee and Richard L. Jensen, eds., Histories, 1832-1844, vol. 1 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2012).

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