Personal Appearance According to Church History

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When all the accounts are combined, only a couple of details call for explanation, as given below.

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One of the first steps in reading and understanding these ten historical accounts is to appreciate the various audiences that Joseph Smith had in mind as he wrote or spoke of this overwhelming experience. Processing the meanings and appreciating the implications of that life-changing event cannot have been a short or simple task for him. The vision served as a guiding star throughout his life, a star on which he often took his bearings, no matter his surroundings or circumstances. Apparently Joseph Smith did not speak often of the First Vision in his teenage years.

As he himself understandably said, he kept most of these things to himself and pondered them in his heart.

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His first audience was his mother, Lucy Mack Smith. How much he told in those early years is unknown. Apparently he was judicious and cautious about telling all.

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Indeed, the hostile reactions of clergy and the violent opposition from neighbors would have been enough to deter any boy in his mid-teens. Indeed, there is no contemporary evidence that is, documents from the s to show that Joseph Smith told his story very widely in ; and it is not clear, even from his own accounts, how long he continued to tell it. With the reception he apparently received, it was probably not very long. The lack of evidence is not surprising, however, for even if certain ministers warned people not to believe young Joseph, they were also preoccupied with many other things that to them were more important.

Since this was a time when many were claiming spiritual experiences, the claims of a fourteen-year-old boy were hardly something the ministers would record. To a young boy, the rejection of such an experience by those whom he respected would have been most frustrating, and he would tend to emphasize this frustration as he told of the experience in later years. In the hostile environment during the fledgling years of the Restoration, even after the Church was first organized, Joseph apparently did not relate the account of his First Vision very widely, for neither the earliest Latter-day Saint nor regional publications of the s carried accounts of it.

On February 14, , the clearly anti-Mormon publisher reported on news of the Mormons in Ohio. Beginning at least as early as spring , and continuing until his death in , he felt more confident in openly describing his experience to friends, converts, inquisitive visitors, faithful congregations, the public at large, dignitaries, and publishers. Strikeouts are shown by strikeouts. Brackets [ ] indicate editorial comments.

Any underlining is reproduced from the original document. The account. This important account was written in the second half of , a time when the Church was very small, still only a few hundred members. It is an intimate, personal statement, preserved in the handwriting of Joseph Smith and composed when he was only twenty-six years old. Significantly, LDS scholars have noted that the language of this first effort to write the story of the First Vision is somewhat reflective of the revivalistic language of the time. In this context, it is not surprising that the account should strongly emphasize his private feelings, his mourning for his own sins, his exclamation of awe before God, and the individual forgiveness and personal guidance that he received from the Savior as part of the First Vision experience.

It is doubtful that the manuscript was planned for straight publication, at least not in the unpolished form in which it survives.


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  • Record of his life!

The Church was hardly over two years old at this time, and Joseph had already acted upon the commandment that the Church should begin keeping such historical records. Williams, Newel K. Whitney, Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, William E. McLellin, and Charles C. As Joseph Smith sat down to write at this time, he could look back on the amazing publication of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the priesthood, the successful relocation of the Church from New York to Ohio, and other profound events in the promising rise of the Church. In many but not all respects, the year was good for Joseph Smith, and the account reflects the positive prospects of this time.

Work on the translation of the Bible was progressing smoothly. Eighteen revelations would be received that year, including the major sections 76, 84, and 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Missionary work was successfully going forth as several of the brethren had answered calls to serve. Joseph had survived a painful tarring and feathering in March in Hiram, Ohio, but he had traveled successfully to Missouri, the second center of gathering, and returned at the end of July.

Sometime between the end of July and November, the Prophet found time to begin writing his history. His pages exude an optimistic tone, making no mention of the dark struggles or persecutions that he had experienced during and after the First Vision. The accounts. Parrish was necessarily selective in remembering and choosing the points that he included.


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  4. This account is plain, bold, and to the point. Instead, Joseph turned directly in this narration to the supernatural opposition that soon impeded his petition: his swollen tongue and the alarming sound like some person walking toward him. A Jewish minister would have related to powers of religious opposition such as these. Ironically, two days later, Joseph would invite Joshua to leave Kirtland, as his doctrines were of the devil. Yet the clear assertion of the presence of two divine beings and the unambiguous testimony that Jesus Christ is the Son of God were bold declarations for the relatively young Church leader not yet thirty years old to deliver to a listener whom he thought was Jewish.

    These were the subjects about which Erastus had asked. Exactly what Joseph said is not reported, but the reference to the visitation of angels suggests that he most likely told Holmes much the same thing that he told Robert Matthias. In a change from previous years, people were now coming to him and inquiring about the Church. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had been organized in February and had gone together on a mission to New England, returning in September. New revelation was coming forth in the form of the Book of Abraham, which Joseph began translating in July and worked on through the fall.

    The first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants had been published to the world in October, with twelve witnesses resolutely attesting to its divine inspiration.

    Religious clothing

    Joseph was meeting regularly with the School of the Prophets. The Kirtland Temple was nearing completion, its dedication only a few months away.

    In this context, Joseph spoke confidently about the First Vision throughout the year. He also allowed his personal journal with its account of the vision to be copied into the historical record of the Church. The —39 account. Public abuse and persecution continued to plague Joseph Smith during this period of his life. Apostasy and the excommunication of several prominent Church leaders also took place. Serious opposition in Kirtland grew to the point that on January 12, , in the dead of winter, the Prophet and a large company of followers left Kirtland for Missouri, arriving at Far West on March He finally arrived at Quincy, Illinois, on April 22, , and only a few weeks later resumed work on his history where he had left off.

    In this context, it is no wonder that persecution, contention, competition, religious excitement, bad feelings, strife, contempt, bitterness, hatred, and rejection were recalled so vividly and stated so graphically in this —39 account. A compelling and persuasive narrative was needed to hold and win the attention of a prejudiced public.

    Religious Ideologies

    Like Paul before Agrippa some twenty-five years after the appearance of the resurrected Lord on the road to Damascus, Joseph Smith testified unshakably of what he had seen some eighteen or nineteen years previous. Property was selling; buildings were being constructed, immigrants were arriving, the Nauvoo Temple was under construction, a third printing of the Book of Mormon was under way, tithing was being collected, and political and religious difficulties were imperceptibly over the horizon.

    On February 15, , Joseph became the editor of the Times and Seasons , involving him directly in the newspaper business. An account of the First Vision written by the Prophet in was tied to the newspaper world in several ways. In the same year that his Manuscript History began to be published in the Times and Seasons , he was invited to prepare a brief history of the Church for publication by John Wentworth in the Chicago Democrat.

    The resulting letter containing this account was published in the Times and Seasons on March 1, The First Vision account submitted to that publication is nearly identical to the account in the letter sent to Wentworth. Rupp published his work in From its inception as part of the Wentworth letter, this account was meant for publication by the non-Mormon press. It has the characteristics that one would expect to find in a public relations statement: it is concise, straightforward, unadorned, informative, and matter-of-fact.

    The Levi Richards report. Levi Richards was a prominent citizen of Nauvoo who attended a lecture on June 11, , and heard Joseph Smith tell about his First Vision.