FREE BOOK CONTEST: On The “First Vision”

I will send a free book to anyone who can show me where Joseph Smith says he saw “God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ”.  All you have to do is be the first to refer me to an account from Joseph Smith that meets that criteria, and a free book is all yours!

Should be easy, right?

I’m sure he must have said it at some point, and maybe I really am a ranting ignoramus, but I can’t seem to find it in my limited archives at home.

But then again, maybe our traditions are not those held by Joseph Smith?

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34 thoughts on “FREE BOOK CONTEST: On The “First Vision”

  1. the narrator says:

    What about Joseph describing himself seeing two personages and evoking biblical language that has been traditionally and culturally understood as referring to God the Father and Jesus Christ?

    1. day2mon says:

      Well, I’m inclined to let him be vague on that one. If he just forget to call them God and Jesus, that seems like a considerable oversight.
      It seems like he wasn’t afraid to say he saw Jesus in other visions, so the question of why he described ‘personages’ flame, light, all that, and not traditional titles/names, may be worth speculating on (speculating being rooted in the same tradition as ‘seership’, though now mostly we speculate through the lense of dollars).

      1. the narrator says:

        Well I think we (The Church) tend to give Joseph credit for a type of ‘seeing’ that he wasn’t quite willing to give himself. Given the vagueness of almost all visionary experiences (“I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision”), it isn’t unexpected that he would couch the vision in vague (and malleable) descriptions.

        Had he optically seen it–as I see my keyboard before me–I assume he would have given a more apt description.

      2. day2mon says:

        That may be a way through it, though I’m not yet ready to say that spiritual eyes are less discerning than physical ones, as they ought both to be connected to the same mind, right?

        Presumably, if he didn’t ‘see’ so clearly, he could’ve still worked out identities, just as one might when meeting a friend in the dark.

      3. the narrator says:

        I’m not claiming that spiritual eyes are less discernible. To the contrary, Smith (Joseph, not you), Harris, and others explicitly stated that spiritual eyes were more trustworthy. Rather I was merely pointing out that Joseph replicating the scriptural ambiguity–where Lehi doesn’t see God, but rather “thought” he saw God surrounded by Angels and where Stephen doesn’t see God, but rather sees “the glory” of God.

        But yet, Joseph does not say that he “saw God the Father.” For this reason Janice Allred believes that the two personages were God the Mother who introduces the Father/Son. The steps she takes to get there though are a bit much for me.

      4. day2mon says:

        Well, Nephi fudges Lehi’s description (seemingly in doubt of his father’s version?), though “thought” is an epistemic matter, and “God” is not really in doubt; he at least seems to be able to assign a more discrete noun to the personage; and I’m fine with “glory of”; at least that was attached to a traditional figure (God).

        Regarding the Mother introducing the Son, why not Mormon, Lehi, or anyone else with a son? There doesn’t seem to be any evidence to refine the identity by using the current versions ,at least the ones I am aware of.

        I once had a clerk at DI whisper to me that he knew that Joseph Smith was the Holy Ghost, however; I doubt the value of such a claim.

        There seems to be a push for “secret revelations” that assign names to theological figures: Jehovah is X; Elohim is Y; the Spirit is Z; and I wonder if this was driving some of the blank-filling-in?

        In the Alphabet & Grammar the text makes a startling, and altogether puzzling claim about Abraham approaching nearest the throne of the Father. Then again, there are plenty of statements like, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”.

      5. day2mon says:

        That would make sense about more discernable, if they could discriminate between the personage, the glory of, and so on; taking ‘fractions’ of a person which we in the flesh would likely lump into a single entity. Maybe the translation into physical terms, via our corrupted language, is at fault? Though, that doesn’t really get us closer a solution.

  2. Antônio Trevisan Teixeira says:

    I first became aware of this lack of reference in the first vision account during my mission when an old Catholic lady asked us why he didn’d say who the “personages” were. She read the text.

    I believe our current interpretation was somehow composed by the different accounts. So from the 1832 account – “I Saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph [my son] thy Sins are forgiven thee” – one gets the idea that the Father OR the Son was talking to him and then was one of the “two personages” mentioned in the 1838 account. But most of this arithmetic seems to depend on “This is my beloved son, hear him”, present in the canonized version.

    Any thoughts on the vagueness of “two personages”?

    1. day2mon says:

      Well, we do have a doctrine that the Father only hangs out in the Celestial realm, which would suggest one of two conclusions:
      1. Palmyra is or was briefly exalted, and then became Buffalo.
      2. Joseph wasn’t ‘in the flesh’ but was transported to a Celestial realm.

      Or, he didn’t see the Father, but only a personage who referred to another personage as “My Son”. Father and Son are not exclusively used for God and Jesus, I think.

      Then we have the problem of D&C 84 (a conglomeration of texts) which can be read as suggesting that without ‘this priesthood’ no one can see the face of the Father. This rule (which cannot just be broken because of need) would seem to suggest two other conclusions:
      1. Joseph didn’t see the face of the Father, at least, not before 1829.
      2. Joseph had “this priesthood”.

      Let’s take point 2. If that is an order one is ordained into by the laying on of hands, I cannot see that conclusion working. The alternative is that “this priesthood” is like that fleshed out in the Book of Abraham, which indicates that some priesthood is passed along in the seed of the body. The phrase “patriarchal priesthood”, the third grand order, would seem to fit well with a ‘father and son’ visit, anyway.

      1. Antônio Trevisan Teixeira says:

        Daymon,

        you wrote “we do have a doctrine that the Father only hangs out in the Celestial realm”.

        Yes, but I am not so sure that it is said in the scriptures He can’t come to this earth. Unless you take as a fact the modern LDS doctrine that Christ is the God of the Old Testament.

        I think the idea of a priesthood inherited through “the seed of the body” seems to be present in the scriptures.

        Narrator,

        I think you make a good point about vagueness being present in some passages dealing with visions or revelations in general. Some can even be considered vague in terms of reference to the messengers’ identity – e.g., one among them that was like unto God, one mighty and strong, etc.

      2. day2mon says:

        I agree that the scriptures don’t give the resides-exclusively-in-Celestiality rule, and I’m inclined to doubt the rule.

        On the vagueness question, I don’t see why we developed a tradition of God the Father, etc., unless there was some understanding that it was close to what Joseph Smith said. But…then why not say it? A theory of vagueness may be pointed to, I don’t know…

  3. J. Madson says:

    I agree he does not say God and Jesus but “this is my beloved son” as well as the personage saying “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” at least suggests it was jesus and God. granted it is odd he didn’t name them but maybe its like a mad lib and we can feel in the blank as we feel so inclined.

  4. J. Madson says:

    here is Jesus in 1832 account but no God the Father unless the Lord opening the heavens is God

    “While in the attitude of calling upon the Lord, in the [15th] year of my age, a pillar of fire [and] light above the bright¬ness of the sun at noon day came down from above and rested upon me. I was filled with the Spirit of God, and the Lord opened the heavens upon me, and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying, “Joseph, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee. Go thy way, walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments. Behold I am the Lord of glory; I was crucified for the world, that all those who believe on my name may have eternal life.”

    Neibaur 1844 account no names just personages

    “[He] saw a personage in the fire, light complexion, blue eyes, a piece of white cloth drawn over his shoulders, his right arm bear. After a while, anoth¬er person came to the side of the first. ”

    Ill look at a few others when I have a moment

  5. J. Madson says:

    If we get to count John Alger’s 1893 account then we can say that Joseph told him he saw both (although this account is very late and perhaps not accurate even if it has endowment imagery)

    Recollection Reported by John Alger, 1893
    Brother John Alger said while speaking of the Prophet Joseph, that when he, John, was a small boy he heard the Prophet Joseph relate his vision of seeing The Father and the Son. That God touched his eyes with his finger and said, “Joseph, this is my beloved Son, hear Him.” As soon as the Lord had touched his eyes with his finger, he immediately saw the Savior. After meeting, a few of us questioned him about the matter and he told us at the bottom of the meeting house steps that he was in the House of Father Smith in Kirtland when Joseph made this declaration, and that Joseph while speaking of it put his finger to his right eye, suiting the action with the words so as to illustrate and at the same time impress the occurrence on the minds of those unto whom he was speaking. (Charles L. Walker, Diary, 2 February 1893, Larson and Larson, Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, 2:755–56).

  6. Brad says:

    There is possibly another personage to address, a dark, imposing power banished on the appearance of the light, benevolent, more powerful ones. Given the ambiguity of identities (well, Joseph, did they or did they not disclose their true identities), and given the questions about how theophany relates to priesthood Daymon has raised here, is it possible that the scene had more in common with, say, portions of the temple drama than with the story embedded in modern lds cultural memory?

    1. day2mon says:

      I think the drama does align nicely with a version of the visit of PJJ, though I never really considered the FV in that context.
      That would take us into the actual accounts he gave, I suppose

      1. calimom says:

        I think the temple drama (creation and the fall) and the first vision (and then Joseph’s entire life) tell the same story/parable – teach the same lesson.

        I’m happy to see fellow “Mormons” blog about whether or not Joseph ever ID’d God the Father and Jesus Christ as those he saw in the First Vision – an interesting subject that one isn’t able to discuss in the real world! Ultimately, I’ve come to feel that it doesn’t really matter who the actual father and son were. Why?: We are to become “one with God”. Whomever was sent as heavenly messengers to Joseph had obviously achieved that “one-ness” and could then speak for//represent God.

        I love Mormonism Uncorrelated! Loved your book too. I can’t wait to read your thoughts on correlated modesty (I believe such a post showed up for just a short time before it was removed – hopefully not permanently! – or did I dream the whole thing up?)

      2. day2mon says:

        Calimom,
        you weren’t dreaming; I did post briefly “Modesty,” but it wasn’t really ready yet.

        Yours is an interesting reading: that ‘oneness’ can be both ‘standing in for’ and ‘as if’ (to some particular person), and, then, ‘is’, perhaps?
        A ‘semiotic’ theology may be a way through it, and certainly we have the parts in place to rework it that way.
        I can imagine a lot of Mormons being reluctant to change the story from “God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ,” if only because they imagine their testimony is built on that happening, whatever Joseph said about it. A great deal of pride has been introducted via this tradition, as if that pair would condescend just so Joseph could strut about saying he saw God, so listen up! (In reality, it seems more like Sunday School and Primary teachers who trace their authority from their recitation of the event.)
        This is part of the problem of a correlated (but never actually systematized, rationalized, coherent) Mormonism, is that testimonies get built on traditions, and then, when historians, biologists, archaelogists, and, maybe even an anthropologist or two come along and demonstrate a contrary truth, the testiomony seems under attack, when in reality it is only a foolish tradition. Too often the result is a sort of sulking fear, a closing down of inquiry; or a jettisoning of what should be retained.
        (I imagine you know all this already, though I’m just responding in case someone else is overhearing.)

        I’m pleased you like the site, and the book ,as well!

    2. Antonio Trevisan says:

      Thas a very beautiful part of the account: “That God touched his eyes with his finger and said, “Joseph, this is my beloved Son, hear Him.” As soon as the Lord had touched his eyes with his finger, he immediately saw the Savior.”

      Thanks, J.

  7. Brad says:

    And am I safe presuming here that all parties to the conversation are aware that the received wisdom, even among elite church leaders, for most of the 19th century seems to be that Joseph saw an “angel” in the grove?

    1. day2mon says:

      If that is true, Brad, then there’s a history waiting to be told, and I don’t think Flake did it already.
      I’m not sure about the received wisdom, however.
      Whatever it was, they called it “the first vision,” and Moroni’s “the second vision.” There is an interesting history for the telling in the loss of sequencing in favor a title.

  8. Ron Madson says:

    Zebedee Coltrin testified many years later that while he, Joseph and others were in prayer at the school of Prophets in Kirtland (abt. 1833 I believe) he saw Jesus walk through the room which Joseph confirmed was Jesus and then another personage wrapped in fire walked through the room and Joseph told Zebedee that that personage was the Father of Jesus.

    Does this count? Or is hearsay evidence not allowed.

    1. day2mon says:

      Ron,
      I’m fine with hearsay as what someone recollects Joseph saying, of course, that doesn’t count for what Joseph said.
      That they had no problem speaking of The Father as walking through is itself something to consider in a history of doctrine/theology, though.
      D&C 76 does make a distinction, too, between seeing the Jesus on the right hand of God, and not clearly testifying to seeing “God”;
      that may be too much to bring into the discussion, however.

  9. Blowing in the Wind says:

    An 1828 dictionary defines “personage” as:
    1. Form, appearance, or belongings of a person; the external appearance, stature, figure, air, and the like, of a person.

    2. Character assumed or represented. “The actors and personages of this fable.”

    3. A notable or distinguished person; a conspicious or peculiar character; as, an illustrious personage;

    Every one of these definitions lead to a different experience than we commonly accept in Mormon lore. We could take many routes here… A personage could be:
    * A representative
    * A projection (hologram?)
    * A title

    It’s not without precedent that representatives taking on “roles” would be sent. John the Baptist was an “Elias.” Peter, James and John were added to the endowment by Brigham Young… they are titles.

    I personally believe that had it actually been the Father in all of His glory, Joseph Smith would have been fried. He would have needed either a representative, or to have been changed/protected from the glory of the Father.

    I also find it interesting that this whole dispensation was started with this vision, and God was defined by Joseph as a personage… which is a likeness or an image. We Gentiles love our images.

  10. Tyler says:

    I just found this discussion board and enjoy reading all the posts. With regard to discussions that revolve around one’s faith or understandings and convictions it’s hard to make an empirical argument. Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject:

    “We declare without equivocation that God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared in person to the boy Joseph Smith.” The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith
    President Gordon B. Hinckley
    Nov. 2002 Ensign

    If Joseph Smith was a prophet and the line of authority stayed true and we have living prophets that receive revelation then it doesn’t really matter if we can or cannot find a source for him clarifying that it was the Father and his Son Jesus Christ because a modern prophet has said it.

    We do have a source saying that Joseph Smith emphasized the importance of a living prophet and his words.
    http://lds.org/liahona/1981/06/fourteen-fundamentals-in-following-the-prophet?lang=eng

    Basically my argument is that if we have living prophets who say that it was the Father and his Son Jesus Christ that Joseph saw then that is worth more than a second hand account that someone may or may not have written down. It all hangs on whether or not any of it happened at all. Either we have living prophets who can tell us like it is or we don’t.

  11. Michael Waltman says:

    “I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods. If this is in accordance with the New Testament, lo and behold! we have three Gods anyhow, and they are plural; and who can contradict it?”

    Found this in TPJS Teachings of Joseph Smith Section Six 1843-44, p.370

    I’m curious to know who the source is for this quote, but as a procrastinator I will put off digging that up until tomorrow. Actually I’m excited to find this blog and really want to read it over looking up the source will have to wait. Daymon your podcast on MS was by far my absolute favorite. Big fan 😀

  12. Mike Hamill says:

    I’m a little late in the game, but I think that this is fairly deduced from a combination of two accounts, though that of course doesn’t meet the criteria of a single account. The two accounts I mean are the canonized Joseph Smith History, and the 1842 Wentworth Letter. The JSH has one of the two personages referring to the other with the words “This is my Beloved Son, hear Him!” This establishes that the two personages are a son and a parent. So which parent? This is where the Wentworth Letter would come in, which states “I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness.” This may only be my opinion, but if Christ were to appear with His mother, they would not be described as “exactly” resembling each other. So accounting for the parallel of the two glorious personages in both accounts, and the assumption that at least one of the personages is Christ, then He is most likely with His Father, the other possibility being that it was Christ gesturing to His “Beloved Son.” As we have no information through Joseph Smith or otherwise on Christ having a beloved Son to whom he or we should listen, I am led to believe that it is fair to accept that Christ and His Father were together involved in the vision, whether or not they were the only ones to appear. But the question that started this is a good one, why did Joseph not come out and state clearly the identity of both personages in a single recorded instance?

    1. day2mon says:

      I don’t think the only other personage beside the Father is the Mother, however. Clearly it isn’t a mother-son were talking about, I totally agree.
      There are many father-son combinations in the world, though, and it could be Moroni-Mormon, Adam-Christ, Adam-Seth, Michael-Enoch. If we stretch the definition of ‘son’ as including grandsons, and so on, we can see the possibilities really ramp up. I think the question does remain, why did he not declare their identities? I don’t doubt he saw two personages, as he says, but he also seems to have seen many others, and much more. By canonizing one version, and providing ready-made interpretations for us to enunciate as Mormons, we have, I think, insisted on misunderstanding. Insistence of repetition does tend to create a catechism-like result, which is not often also true. I think our notions of a Father who is “above” the Son, and who the Son will become in some other world, is not accurate, but a result of the post-1844 obsession over hierarchies.

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