"Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens." President Hinkley, General Conference, October 2002.
(Path leading to the Sacred Grove in Palmyra New York. (photo from northtemple.com))
I've been thinking a lot about Joseph Smith's First Vision lately, mostly because of my own thoughts on what a testimony of the Church should consist of. This was all brought on by a questioned posed to me by my Bishop more than a year ago(more on that in the Conclusion post I will write shortly) while in an interview shortly before we blessed our newborn son.
Up until that time I hadn't thought too much about the First Vision. Then one day, I can't remember if I was listening to something on the radio or reading something on the internet but the First Vision was thrust into the forefront of my mind when I learned of the "other" versions of the First Vision.
There were other versions of the First Vision?! I had no idea.
Now you have to keep in mind I've never really been interested much in Church history, the 1800's have never really held much intrigue for me be it Church history or any other history for that matter. Well, maybe except for Wyatt Earp, but the time period has always seemed to be one of depression and hardship as shown in photos of the era with the faces of it's people solemn and harsh. Rarely if ever do you see someone smiling in photos from that time. So it isn't much of a surprise that anything outside the normal Church history we all know would slip by me unnoticed.
But when I heard there were more versions of the First Vision I was excited. For something so important to the validity of all we believe I thought the more accounts of the Vision the better. I was even more excited when I heard that Joseph Smith had mentioned angels in the visions as well.
Then of course everything had to be ruined by the haters. According to them if all the different versions don't match exactly then of course they all have to be made up and false. Haters gonna hate I guess. Never mind that the different tellings of the Vision took place over a twelve year period during which Joseph Smith changed from a vibrant young man to beaten down man old beyond his years.
Plus these were the days when writing took place by candlelight and with a feather and ink. Not the current digital day of copy and paste on our smart phones and tablets.
So I decided to check things out and read these different versions for myself. But then I faced another hurdle, where are these different versions?!
It turned out harder to find these different accounts than I had thought, in this digital age we expect everything to just come up with a simple Google search. But after some searching around I did finally find them however it was a little disheartening once I realized the website that had done the best job at organizing the accounts was a somewhat anti-Mormon site!
So my goal here is to first provide the different versions on a Church friendly website, no need to go to any of those negative sites.
Second goal is to give all 5 accounts written by Joseph Smith himself in order. (There are a couple more accounts out there but they were not written by Joseph Smith, they were second hand accounts by family members or associates. So those I decided not to include, I wanted only from the Prophet himself. Also, one or two of the accounts Joseph wrote go into the visitation of the angel Moroni and into the story of the Book of Mormon. I have taken those passages out since I wanted just the information on the First Vision only.)
My conclusion on the different accounts will follow in the "conclusion" post I will write shortly.
So I hope you enjoy, read them with zeal as I have.