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First Vision

(The First Vision is a vital part of Mormon belief.)

Table of contents
1 Background
2 Summary of Joseph Smith, Jr.'s Official Account of The First Vision
3 Criticisms of the First Vision
4 External Links


An area of upstate and western New York frequently experienced religious revivals, which would later lead to its being termed the Burned-over district. One such religious movement that originated in the Burned-over district was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a boy living in Palmyra, New York, Joseph Smith, Jr, who would later become founder of the Latter-day Saints movement, was considering which of the various relgious sects he should join. Several members of his family had converted to the Methodist faith, and he was considering joining as well, when he claims the following events happened.

Summary of Joseph Smith, Jr.'s Official Account of The First Vision

In the spring of 1820, at the age of fourteen years old, Smith was pondering which religion he should join. He was reading the Bible when he came across the following verse in the first chapter of the Epistle of James:

James 1:5 - If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Smith felt deeply impressed by this particular scripture, believing that he was in desperate need of wisdom in ascertaining which church he should join. One morning, he went into a grove of trees (now known by Latter-day Saint members as the sacred grove) behind the family farm, knelt down, and began his first vocal prayer. Almost immediately after starting his prayer, Joseph was confronted by some power, which completely overcame him and kept him from being able to continue speaking. He felt darkness gather about him, and believed that he would soon be totally destroyed, but he prayed non-verbally that God would deliver him from whatever power was holding him.

At the moment Smith thought his strength was completely spent and was resigned to his destruction, an extremely bright light, described as being brighter than the sun, descended towards him. With the coming of the light, Smith was delivered from the power that had held him.

In the light, Smith saw two beings standing in the air in front of him, one of whom pointed to the other and stated that this was his "Beloved Son." (Smith testified that the two beings were God the Father and Jesus Christ.) As Smith again could speak, he asked to know which of the sects was right so that he could join with them. He was told that he should not join any of the existing religions, and that every religion on the earth at that time was wrong.

In the years following the First Vision, Smith claims to have received more instructions from God, some of which were given through visitations from heavenly messengers such as angels. Eventually, Smith and five others incorporated what would become known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Criticisms of the First Vision

There are a number of sometimes-conflicting records depicting Smith's claims, most of which were made second-hand. Smith did not record any details of the First Vision until 1831 or 1832, and detailed accounts were first published about a decade later. Critics claim that the various records are inconsistent. They argue that Smith's earliest versions of his experience claim only that an angel visited him, rather than God the Father and Jesus Christ, and that Smith changed his story over time.

External Links