authors — most of them professors at church-owned Brigham Young
University — tackle tough topics, including the Mormon view of God;
the differing accounts of founder Joseph Smith’s "First Vision";
Smith’s money-digging activities and plural marriage to teenage
girls; the lengthy quoting of biblical passages in the Book of
Mormon; and new questions surrounding the faith’s signature
scripture from DNA analysis.
~ LDS general authority Marlin Jensen
SL TribuneJan 30
didn't you ever tell me that Joseph Smith was a polygamist"
~ the daughter of LDS
"I definitely get the sense
that this is a real crisis. It is an epidemic."
and writer Terryl Givens
... "I saw two
spirits, which I knew at the first sight. But if I had the tongue of an Angel I
could not describe their glory, for they brought the joys of heaven with them. One was
God, my Maker, almost in bodily shape like a man. His face was, as it were a flame of
Fire, and his body, as it had been a Pillar and a Cloud. In looking steadfastly to discern
features, I could see none, but a small glimpse would appear in some other place. Below
him stood Jesus Christ my Redeemer, in perfect shape like a man-His face was not ablaze,
but had the countenance of fire, being bright and shining. His Father's will appeared to
be his! All was condescension, peace, and love."
There were many
visions about the time that Joseph smith had his famous one. Above is one of
them. It is the 1815 vision of Norris Stearns.
" I was born in the town of Charon [Sharon] in the
<State> of Vermont, North America on the
twenty third day of December AD 1805 of goodly Parents who spared no pains to instructing
me in <the> christian religion.
At the age of about ten years my Father Joseph Smith Siegnior [Senior] moved to Palmyra
Ontario County in the State of New York and being in indigent circumstances [we] were
obliged to labour hard for the support of a large Family having nine children and as it
required the exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the support of
the Family therefore we were deprived of the bennifit of an education suffice it to say I
was mearly instructid in reading
and writing and the ground
<rules> of Arithmatic
which const[it]uted my whole literary acquirements.
At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously imprest with regard to the all
importent concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul which led me to searching the
scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God
thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of different
denominations led me to marvel excedingly for I discovered that
did not adorn>instead of adorning
their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained
in that sacred depository this was a grief to my Soul.
Thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning
the sittuation of the world of mankind the contentions and divi[si]ons the wicke[d]ness
and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the of the minds of
mankind My mind become excedingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by
searching the scriptures I found that mand
<mankind> did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised
from the true and liveing faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon
the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament and I felt to mourn for my own
sins and for the sins of the world.
For I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday to day and forever [and]
that he was no respecter to [of] persons for he was God for I looked upon the sun the
glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their magesty through the
heavens and also the stars shining in their courses and the earth also upon which I stood
and the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters and also man
walking forth upon the face of the earth in magesty and in the strength of beauty whose
power and intillgence in governing the things which are so exceding great and marvilous
even in the likeness of him who created him<them>.
And when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed well hath the wise man said the
<it is a> fool
saith in his heart there is no God my heart exclaimed all all these bear testimony and
bespeak an omnipotent and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeeth and
bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from
all Eternity to Eternity and when I considered all these things and that
<that> being seeketh such to worship him as
worship him in spirit and in truth therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was
none else to whom I could go and to obtain mercy the Lord heard my cry in
the wilderness and while in <the>
attitude of calling upon the Lord <in the 16th year of my
age*> a piller of fire
light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me
and I was filled with the spirit of god and the
opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord.
And he spake unto me saying Joseph
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 crucifyed
for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life
<behold> the world lieth in sin
at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside from the gospel and
keep, not <my> commandments they draw
near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling
against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording to th[e]ir ungodliness and to
bring to pass that which <hath> been
spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap[o]stles behold and lo I come quickly as it [is]
written of me in the cloud <clothed>
in the glory of my Father.
And my soul was filled with love and or many days I could rejoice with great joy and the
Lord was with me but  could find none that would believe the hevnly vision nevertheless
I pondered these things in my heart..."
in the 16th year of my age --
if this means "16 years old", this dates the vision to 1822;
if it means "15 years old" it would have been 1821.
preceding is a transcript of Joseph Smith's earliest known account, which has
been dated to 1832, and is the only version of a vision written in Joseph Smith's own
brackets signify above-the-line insertions made in the original manuscript>;
[square brackets are editorial comments or additions].
2 A second account of
the vision was made in 1835 to Robert Matthews (Robert Matthias). Joseph says he was
"about 14 years old at the time of the vision. [ This would
have been 1820 ]. In this account of his vision Smith said he saw two
personages, not just one as in the first account. In addition he said "I
saw many angels in this vision."
3 In a third variant of
the vision to Erastus Holmes of Newbury Ohio, Smith told him that that he had received
only a "visitation of angels". (This does not square with his first
account of the vision in which angels were not mentioned).
4 Since Smith's earliest
account, several other renditions have been made by him, but they differ in
considerable detail. In the 1832 account Smith saw only one personage in 1821 (or
1822). One of several accounts (the last one) dictated six years later
in 1838, has Joseph Smith see "two personages (whose brightness and
glory defy all description) floating above me in the air..."
This fourth account is the one upon which mormon scholars rely on as the bedrock true
faith of Mormonism. It is the account which, as the official version of the
truth, made its entry into the Mormon canon in the pearl of Great price. Mormon
scholars sometimes dread the fact that Smith can't remember how old he was when he had his
vision. Inaccuracy hurts, especially when one is translating unique golden plates,
and translating them correctly, indeed.
Mormon scholars often fear that the fact that Smith's accounts of his visions are not
recounted correctly, owing to the several variations of visions. They are afraid
that Mormonism may not be taken seriously -- after all, who is to say Smith's vision might
not mistakenly be lumped in with visions of false prophets, such as that of Norris Stearns, whose "vision" introduces this article.
Visions seem to have been common in the early seventeenth century in North America,
(as they are today, except no one considers them seriously.).
In fact, according to Mormon scholar Lamar Peterson in his
book "The Creation
of the Book of Mormon", the American theological landscape was filled
with accounts of visions in the early 1800's.
Wondrous thing were being discovered by science. Planetary science was a hot
topic, as was Egyptology. Unknown planets were being discovered with powerful new
telescopes; Napoleon's Rosetta Stone (discovered in
1799) was about to be deciphered by Champollion in France.
(By 1822 Champollion had deciphered the hieroglyphic forms of the names on the Rosetta Stone, and a full
translation was soon to follow. If only Smith had known this, he might have thought
again about the idea of translating his Egyptian papiri into the Book of Abraham).
Jean François Champollion
Jean François Champollion (1790-1832), using the
made the decisive discovery concerning the decipherment of the
hieroglyphs and became the founder of Egyptology ...
...At the same
Joseph Smith, using
a SEER STONE founded Mormonism.
No doubt it was only a coincidence that Mormonism was to discover, in the constellation
Cancer, (sector 2813) the place where our gods live -- KOLOB. And having translated Gods
golden plates, it was a cinch for the seer and revelator to translate the Egyptian Hieroglyphics which he had purchased form a peddler.
5 Another version:
Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith - History 1:5-8, 14-19,
Sometime in the second year after our removal to
Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of
religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that
region of country. . . . and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious
parties. . . . Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian,
and some for the Baptist. . . . my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect . .
. but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it
was impossible . . . to come to any certain conclusion who was right, and who was wrong. .
. . So in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to
make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of
eighteen hundred and twenty. . . . I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my
heart to God. . . . I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head. . . . When the light
rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description. . .
. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other 'This is
My Beloved Son. Hear Him!' . . . I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light,
which of all the sects was right, (for at this time it had never entered into my heart
that all were wrong) and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of
them, for they were all wrong. . . . I soon found, however, that my telling the story had
excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors [believers] of religion, and
was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an
obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age . . . yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and
create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects all united to
Seventeen years after being
forced into a polygamous
marriage, Jessop escaped
from the cult-like Fundamentalist LDS church withher eight children.
She recounts the horrid
events that led her to
break free Escaped.