Accounts of The First Vision
A Single story in different ways
From the time Joseph Smith shared his encounter with the divine until today, the legitimacy of his vision of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and angels have been questioned. Even more that they are different accounts of it with variances from one another. However, it is common place for human beings to tell a single story in different ways based on what is being emphasized or the audience to which it narrated. Here are the different accounts of the first vision.
Firsthand Accounts of the First Vision
Joseph Smith's Personal Journal Account
This is the earliest and only account of the First Vision written by Joseph Smith written in his personal journal. In this account he explains the struggle to find truth in churches of his time as described in the New Testament. This caused him much frustration as he sought the redemption from his sins. He continued to read the New Testament and acted on James challenge to ask God if he lacked wisdom. As he did, he received the vision in which he saw God and Jesus Christ who assured him that his sins were forgiven. Joseph describes the joy and love he felt then and days after the vision happened.
Robert Matthews Account
Joseph Smith recounted the first vision to many people. One was a visitor from Kirtland Ohio names Robert Mathew who was a religious man himself. Warren Parrish the prophet’s scribe recorded this recount in the Joseph’s journal. His account highlighted Josephs efforts to find a church much as described in the bible, the being he wrestled with as he prayed, the intervention of a divine personage who was followed by another and the angels that accompanied them.
This is narration of the First Vision is one that is well known by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It focuses on the central question of which church was right for Joseph Smith to join as well as the vision being the beginning of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His church. It was dictated in 1838 during a time of great opposition of the church and the prophet. It was first published in 1942 in Nauvoo, Illinois in the Times and Seasons a newspaper owned by the church.
The Wentworth Letter Account
John Wentworth was the editor of the Chicago Democrat who wrote a letter to Joseph Smith requesting him to write about the rise, persecution and beliefs of the “Mormons”. This history was to be added in the book, The History of New Hampshire that Mr. Wentworth’s friend George Barstow was writing. Joseph Smith wrote in it among many things the first vision and also what we know now as the thirteen articles of faith. The format in which the letter was written straightforward and concise as it was intended for those not familiar with the Mormon faith. However, this account was not included in the book but a historian by the name of Israel Daniel Rupp published it in his book, He Pasa Ekklesia [The Whole Church]: An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States
Secondhand accounts of the First Vision
Apart from the accounts given by Joseph Smith other accounts were written by those who heard the prophet speak. There are five secondhand accounts of the First Vision on record.
Orson Pratt a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1840 published a pamphlet in Edinburg, Scotland titled “A Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records. In which he included Joseph Smith’s First Vision with God and Jesus Christ. This is the earliest second hand account.
Orson Pratt's Recount
Ein Ruf aus der Wüste (A Cry in the Wilderness), was written and published by Orson Hyde a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, in 1842 in Frankfurt, Germany. It was published in the German language. It was heavy based on Orson Pratt’s “A Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records”. It contained the account of Joseph Smith's First Vision.
Levi Richards Journal Recount
Levi Richard’s journal entry of Joseph Smith’s First Vision from a church meeting on June 11th 1843 where Smith recounted his earliest vision of Deity.
David Nye White Interview Recount
During his two day stop in Nauvoo, Illinois, David Nye White, an editor of the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette visited and interviewed Joseph Smith about the “Mormons”. Included in the published article of August 21st 1843 was the First Vision
Alexander Neibur Journal Recount
Alexander Neibaur a German convert and immigrant visited with the Prophet Joseph Smith May 24th 1844, were the prophet recounted the First Vision to him. Alexander Neibur recorded this in his journal.
What do we Learn From the First Vision
Despite these variances of the accounts there are main truths that we can apply in our lives. In a talk published in June 2017 in the Ensign magazine of the church, Elder Richard J. Maynes explained truths that can help anyone one the road of discipleship. Elder Maynes concludes his talk by saying, "Joseph Smith’s First Vision is the key to unlocking many truths that had been hidden for centuries. Let us not forget or take for granted the many precious truths we have learned from the First Vision."