(by Trent Toone deseretnews.com 4-24-15)
Millions of international members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can now study an essential part of Mormon history for themselves.
The Joseph Smith Papers and the Church History Department have translated all four of Joseph Smith’s firsthand accounts of the First Vision into 10 languages and made them available for study online. This marks the first time a Joseph Smith Papers project has produced material for non-English-speaking audiences.
“The firsthand accounts of the First Vision have been published in English for decades now, since the 1970s,” said Nathan Waite, an associate editorial manager with the Joseph Smith Papers.
“International church members no longer have to hear about them from scholars or editors, they can now read Joseph’s words in their own language and learn something new about this pivotal event. This will bless the international (members of the) church.”
Joseph Smith’s First Vision is a fundamental aspect of the LDS faith. It details his first encounter with deity as a young man in the spring of 1820 and marks the beginning of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The canonized version of the First Vision, produced by Joseph in 1838 and published with his personal history in the Pearl of Great Price, is the best-known account. It has long been translated into multiple languages and distributed throughout the world in the church’s standard works.
Now foreign-speaking Latter-day Saints can also read the prophet’s other three firsthand accounts (1832, 1835, and 1842) of the key event in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. To see images of the documents, along with English transcripts, visit JosephSmithPapers.org.
For translation purposes, the Joseph Smith Papers team added some necessary punctuation to standardize each narrative, Waite said.
Waite, along with Ben Godfrey, a product manager with the Joseph Smith Papers website, explained that each firsthand account was related by Joseph at a different time in his life, under different circumstances, and for different audiences. The accounts vary in detail, offering different perspectives of the same event, but relate a consistent story overall.
A detailed explanation of each First Vision account exists on the gospel topics essay page on LDS.org. The Joseph Smith Papers team has also created several short videos that provide additional insight about each firsthand account.
Godfrey said the gospel topics essay page adds context for anyone who has questions and will be helpful for those wanting to study the First Vision accounts. Many international members may not even know that Joseph Smith published more than one account of the First Vision.
"We wanted to have those original documents and sources available to all the members around the world, in their own language, and we believe it's going to be beneficial," Godfrey said. "For me personally, reading the various accounts of the First Vision strengthens my testimony of the prophet Joseph because it helps me see him as a real person. It helps me understand that just like me, he spoke to different people in different ways, as he was trying his best to communicate the message of the Restoration. I believe members around the world will have the same experience when they can read the words for themselves. I am confident it will strengthen their faith."