Over the past 2 1/2 years since starting this blog I have linked to articles about Joseph Smith’s “First Vision” as well as posting various information discussing the topic. In this post I’m going to provide a synopsis of some of the various accounts, citing a section from Alvin J. Schmidt’s book, “The American Muhammad: Joseph Smith, Founder of Mormonism,” pages 56-57.
There are different accounts of Smith’s first vision in which a divine personage(s) appeared to him. One reportedly occurred in 1820, when he was only in his fifteenth year. This one is recorded in Smith’s History of the Church, 1:5-8, but some scholars question whether this really was his first vision. For three years later (1823), another report says he was visited by an angel that told him about some hidden gold plates. And the Angel said he had to wait four years before he could obtain them.
In 1832, he wrote an autobiographical account of his first visionary experience, much of it in his own handwriting. In this version he says, “there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraved by Maroni [the angel] & his fathers the servants of the living God. . . .” As this citation shows, Smith spelled Moroni’s name as Maroni.
In still another version, written in 1838 by one of Smith’s scribes, but not published until 1842 (now the official LDS version), states that one evening in his bedroom an angel from heaven appeared to him in “a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness.” He said this happened September 21, 1823. The angel in this rendition is named Moroni who told him there was “a book deposited, written upon golden plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and source from whence they sprang.” Although this account does not give the name of the place where these plates were deposited, it does state they were to be found near the village of Manchester in Ontario County, New York, in “a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood.” This was Hill Cumorah.
Then on September 22, 1827, according to Smith, he was able to obtain the plates along with the Urim and Thummim, with which he began to transcribe the contents of the plates into English. He did this by “reading” words illuminated on his seer stone.
While these examples are only a few of the many versions of the “First Vision,” they should be enough to demonstrate that the whole “First Vision” story was concocted long after any supposed vision took place, and the story is nothing more than a story of out the imagination of Joseph Smith.