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The First Vision - a closer look

The following analysis is of the official extracts from the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Volume 1, chapters 1-5

I wonder if the average Latter-day Saint has ever gone through these passages and examined them carefully or even asked themselves some basic questions.

Anti-Mormons have attacked the LDS Church for its record of 8 or 9 recorded visions and their apparent differences.

For the Latter-day Saint, he or she may only know about one official version ... that which you see below. In the spirit of fairness to our LDS friends and neighbours, let us focus on this one.

1 Owing to the many reports which have been put in circulation by evil-disposed and designing persons, in relation to the rise and progress of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all of which have been designed by the authors thereof to militate against its character as a Church and its progress in the world—I have been induced to write this history, to disabuse the public mind, and put all inquirers after truth in possession of the facts, as they have transpired, in relation both to myself and the Church, so far as I have such facts in my possession.

It could have been that Joseph thought such attacks were distortions of the early events of the truth, and he wanted to make sure that a more accurate history would be presented. Other reports were created by people who disposed evil toward the church and were designed to do harm to it. His version is said to have done the opposite; promote the progress of the church and speak well of its character.

It is unclear how this vision or his portions of recorded Church history would have improved the image of the LDS Church since it claimed that all Christian churches were wrong, all their professors were corrupt, and that all their creeds were an abomination to God. Add to this also the fact that Joseph Smith considered all other forms of religion being apostate and you don't have any semblance of the image of the LDS Church improving in the minds of Hindus and Muslims for example.

The greatest events recorded in the Bible are written for the benefit of man and because certain chosen ones of God were inspired to record His Word. The writers of the Bible were not induced to write its history because they or their church were persecuted by false reports.

2 In this history I shall present the various events in relation to this Church, in truth and righteousness, as they have transpired, or as they at present exist, being now [1838] the eighth year since the organization of the said Church.

It is unclear why the most important events of the 19th century (according to Latter-day Saints) is officially recorded 18 years after Joseph Smith claimed to have seen his first vision and 8 years after the LDS Church was organized.

This cannot be compared to the early New Testament church which did not have access to the printing press. Surely the LDS Church could produce something closer to 1830 rather than this account of 1838. Or maybe there were little or no attacks generated toward the LDS Church before 1838 to warrant this historical account?

3 I was born in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and five, on the twenty-third day of December, in the town of Sharon, Windsor county, State of Vermont . . . My father, Joseph Smith, Sen., left the State of Vermont, and moved to Palmyra, Ontario (now Wayne) county, in the State of New York, when I was in my tenth year, or thereabouts. In about four years after my father’s arrival in Palmyra, he moved with his family into Manchester in the same county of Ontario—

4 His family consisting of eleven souls, namely, my father, Joseph Smith; my mother, Lucy Smith (whose name, previous to her marriage, was Mack, daughter of Solomon Mack); my brothers, Alvin (who died November 19th, 1823, in the 26th year of his age), Hyrum, myself, Samuel Harrison, William, Don Carlos; and my sisters, Sophronia, Catherine, and Lucy.

5 Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.

It seems like "all the sects" is a reference to the Methodists, Presbyterians, and the Baptists. Maybe there were no Catholics in his area.

It is unclear which time is indicated by the words "Some time in the second year". Was it January 1820?

6 For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.

Notice the word "priests."  These three denominations do not have the office of priest.

Near almost 15 years of age, it is uncertain why Joseph Smith (as a young boy) concluded that the feelings between the different converts of the mentioned Christian sects were more pretended than real just because they had a diversity of opinions.

One could say the same about all the different sects of Mormonism that have arisen ever since Joseph Smith died. Just because these Mormons have a diversity of opinions with or without a very vocal strife of words does not necessarily mean their feeling towards Mormons of other sects are more pretended than real.

Or does it?

The followers of Joseph Smith III rejected Brigham Young as the successor to Joseph Smith because they stated that Brigham was not appointed by Joseph. Members of this church (The Community of Christ) believe they are the legitimately restored church of Christ.

As another example, the Fundamentalist LDS Church believes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have apostatized for stopping the practice of polygamy under pressure so that the state of Utah could join the United States of America.

7 I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father’s family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia.

8 During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.

It is unclear which time is indicated by the words "During this time of great excitement". Did it begin in January 1820? We are trying to establsh some form of timeline in Joseph Smith's experience, hence the repeated focus on the timeframe mentioned.

Joseph Smith, "during this time of great excitement", attended several meetings. "In the process of time", he became partial to the Methodist faith. It is unclear which time is indicated by the words "in the process of time".

9 My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.

How was the mind of Joseph Smith greatly excited and at what times?

Various sects of Mormonism have also established their own tenets and have attempted to disprove all others.

10 In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?

This is a very important admission of Joseph Smith. He clearly explains that he entertained thoughts that all the sects were wrong.

11 While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: 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.

12 Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

Now, how could Joseph Smith say that no scripture came with more power into the heart of man than this particular verse came to him? How could he ever know the experiences of all Christian men and women who read the Bible before him and had it impact their lives in a similar fashion and possibly even more than him and these individuals acted differently than him?

Either Joseph Smith's memory failed him during all those years after his reported First Vision or this is just another example of over exaggeration. Here is another example: "Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it" (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3). Latter-day Saints view Joseph Smith higher in this regard than even the miracle-working Peter, James, Paul, and others.

Going back to Smith's testimony for a moment ... that would be like saying that my testimony of John 3:16 entered into my heart with greater force than any other person. Why didn't he use the words "Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to my heart than any other scripture," instead of "Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine?"

This feeling in the heart of Joseph Smith was such an important event in his life and was the main impetus for going into the forest to pray ... and yet Mr. Smith gives no day and month of these strong feelings ... yet he is able to remember other dates.

Something very unfortunate happened to Joseph Smith in his early youth. He allowed differences of opinions of some passages in the Bible to destroy all confidence in the Bible to settle the question by an appeal to it. Unfortunately, Joseph Smith didn't realize that on the fundamental truths of the Bible, the various sects are in agreement. I wonder if Joseph Smith (if he had lived longer) would have also allowed all the different Mormon sects' opinions of passages in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price to destroy his confidence in these books too.

It is also unclear which passage or passages of scripture Joseph Smith claimed the sects understood differently from one another so as to destroy his confidence in the Bible..

13 At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.

Let's try to establish a timeline once again.

Notice that there are 2 time intervals mentioned in this particular verse.

Some length of time passes between Joseph Smith being affected by the James 1:5 scripture and him coming to the conclusion that he should remain in darkness and confusion or to ask God for wisdom.

Again, some length of time passes between Joseph's conclusion and his determination to ask of God.

How long were the two delays?

As to the first delay, it is unclear why it took time for Joseph Smith to conclude that he must either remain in darkness or ask God for wisdom when several times he said that he didn't have much if any wisdom himself (verses 8 and 12) and his mind was affected by serious reflection and great uneasiness.

As to the second delay, it is unclear why it took time for Joseph Smith's determination to take effect after his conclusion was made earlier.

Wouldn't you choose asking God for wisdom right away instead of thinking about whether to remain in confusion for any length of time?If a verse in the Bible impacts me greatly, I go to God in prayer or praise right away. Don't you?

Another problem is Joseph Smith's record of "concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture."

Did you notice how Joseph Smith misinterpreted James 1:5?

It's not a matter of "if God gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom." It's "if any one lack's wisdom, let him ask of God." It's not "if God," ... it's "if you."

Joseph Smith, despite saying that no scripture entered into his heart with such great force, said in effect "If God does this, I might go into the woods."

14 So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

... as if a silent prayer cannot be heard?

If is unclear if Joseph Smith incurred yet another delay (by going to sleep first in the evening before the morning he went into the woods) after finally determining to ask of God. It is unclear why Joseph needed to pray vocally. James 1:5 says nothing about asking God for wisdom in a silent prayer or a vocal prayer.

Suppose that a verse of scripture such as James 1:5 entered into your heart with such great force ... to ask of God for wisdom. Would you wait for the next day (for example) to ask God or would you ask God that very moment? Joseph Smith said he was amidst all his anxieties and yet he waited for some undeterminable time to ask of God? If you found out that you had cancer and were amidst all your anxieties, when would you begin praying for God's help?

The History of the Church, volume 1, records some important events of the LDS Church and in Joseph Smith's life - the supposed visitation of God the Father and Jesus Christ, a visitation of the angel Moroni, the death of his brother Alvin, the first meeting between Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the commencement of the translation of the Book of Mormon, and a visit by John the Baptist.

These events happened between 1820 and 1829 and these events were written in 1838 (verses 2 and 60).

Of all the events given a month and day of its occurrence, the most important event of Mormon history in these latter days does not have a day or month mentioned. How could such a date slip Joseph's mind?

Very odd that a man could remember the wedding date when he married his wife 40 years ago, but in 1838 Joseph Smith did not record the day or the month of claiming to see God the Father and God the Son in person only 18 years earlier.

15 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

Here we see yet another delay. Just how long had he designed to go into the woods?

16 But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

Don't you find it odd that Joseph Smith would refer to this being as having "such marvelous power" when this same powerful enemy was also described as "thick darkness," and Joseph Smith "being doomed to sudden destruction." "sinking into despair," and "abandoning himself to destruction?" What was so marvelous about being affected by the enemy in these ways?

17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

Similar to a later record of the angel Moroni, neither do the feet of these two personages touch the ground.

18 My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

This is an obvious contradiction with verse 10. He clearly explains that he had entertained thoughts that all the sects were wrong even before reading James 1:5.

Unless some would make a humorous argument that having thoughts in your mind is different than having thoughts in your heart.

19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

Latter-day Saints should read such creeds as the Apostles and Niceen Creeds and indicate what in them are abominations.

20 He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, “Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.” I then said to my mother, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?

Joseph Smith made the mistake of believing that persecution is a sign of truth, as if false teachers are never persecuted.

Let's now study some of the over-embellishment made by the young Joseph Smith.

21 Some few days after I had this vision, I happened to be in company with one of the Methodist preachers, who was very active in the before mentioned religious excitement; and, conversing with him on the subject of religion, I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them.

22 I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.

Who told Joseph Smith to tell this vision to the Methodist preacher anyway?

It's also highly unlikely that the Presbyterians, Baptists, and the Methodists would cease their differences and make an obscure 15 year old boy the object of their unity and persecution.  Not only was he obscure, but he was also poor and not highly educated.  Just who did Joseph Smith envision himself to be? I can imagine a rich boy of highly influential parents making this statement and getting some reaction because his parents could cut off funding the local church by eliminating their donations, but since this was not the case, no serious adult would give the young boy attention due to his over-exaggerated invention.

The 'exaggeration' balloon keeps on inflating though.

23 It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.

These persecutions are very difficult to believe, even apart from the fact that there is no historical account of these events outside of the LDS Church.

Besides, if a 15 year old boy came to Rome and told the Vatican or went to England and told the Protestant Church that they were an abomination to God, severe persecution would not be the result. More likely, they would send this misguided child on his way home to his mother for some warm milk, a good night sleep, and a visit to his family doctor.

24 However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.

25 So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.

Joseph Smith asked "Why persecute me for telling the truth?"

It just never entered into his mind that he could have seen demonic spirits instead telling him that all of Christianity was abominable to Jesus Christ. This would have been ingenious of the devil.

Being persecuted does not mean that you are in the right.

Near the end of the verse, Joseph Smith says that he would offend God and come under condemnation if he denied the vision.

Unfortunately, this belief did not stop him from falling into sin many times over the next three years (verse 28).

26 I had now got my mind satisfied so far as the sectarian world was concerned—that it was not my duty to join with any of them, but to continue as I was until further directed. I had found the testimony of James to be true—that a man who lacked wisdom might ask of God, and obtain, and not be upbraided.

According to verses 18-20, Joseph Smith said he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the woods and that he was told at least twice not to join any of the sects.

According to verse 21, a few days after his vision he told a Methodist preacher and the preacher told him that it was of the devil.

According to verse 22, another unspecified period of time passes and Joseph Smith starts to get persecuted for his telling the story of his vision.

According to verse 23, another unspecified period of time passes as it causes Joseph Smith serious reflection.

After all this time an important thing happened to Joseph Smith. It is found in verse 26 ... he finally had his mind satisfied.

Why after all this time did Joseph Smith finally get his mind satisfied? Why didn't he realize that it was his duty not to join any of the sects when the Personage told him at least twice not to join any of them?

It seems like he did not believe or want to obey the Jesus Christ whom he claimed to have seen in the woods. It also seems like this testimony of the James scripture was not very strong considering why he went into the woods in the first place and did not finally have his mind satisfied even with his claimed heavenly vision.

Why not?

Joseph Smith said he was to continue until he was further directed. Does this mean that the two Personages allowed him to attend the meetings of the abominable sects as Smith had previously done (verse 8)?

27 I continued to pursue my common vocations in life until the twenty-first of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, all the time suffering severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious, because I continued to affirm that I had seen a vision.

There is no historical evidence outside of the LDS Church that Joseph Smith was thus persecuted.

Don't you find it odd that irreligious people would even care that a 15 year old boy claimed to have seen God and even severely persecute him for it?

You may recall the founder of Islam, Muhammad. He also claimed to have a vision in a cave - where his mission was to fix up a corrupt Christianity. Even he did not undergo the persecution that Joseph Smith claimed to have happened to him.

28 During the space of time which intervened between the time I had the vision and the year eighteen hundred and twenty-three—having been forbidden to join any of the religious sects of the day, and being of very tender years, and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me—I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God. In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been. But this will not seem very strange to any one who recollects my youth, and is acquainted with my native cheery temperament.

Why did Joseph Smith say that he was led into various temptations that were offensive in the sight of God and yet say that no one could accuse him of any great or malignant sins?

What did Joseph Smith mean when he said, "But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God?"

I'm a little confused by Joseph Smith's lack of a change in his nature before and after he claimed to have seen God the Father and God the Son. It seems that his lifestyle may not have changed much or even got worse after his claimed vision.

29 In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when, on the evening of the above-mentioned twenty-first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one.

Why did Joseph Smith feel condemned when in verse 28 he said that no one need suppose him guilty of any great or malignant sins?

Didn't he already know his state and standing before God before approaching Him in prayer?

Why did he say that he had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation as I previously had one when in verse 13 he said, "concluding IF he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I MIGHT venture?" The words "if" and "might" do not display full confidence but rather doubt.

30 While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.

As in the previous vision, this personage's feet also do not touch the ground.

31 He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. His hands were naked, and his arms also, a little above the wrist; so, also, were his feet naked, as were his legs, a little above the ankles. His head and neck were also bare. I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open, so that I could see into his bosom.

32 Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me.

Why was he fearful of this manifestation when he said he had full confidence that he would experience another one in verse 29?

33 He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.

34 He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;

What did Joseph Smith mean by "this continent?" North, Central, or South America?

What is the fulness of the Gospel that the Book of Mormon is said to contain?

35 Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.

36 After telling me these things, he commenced quoting the prophecies of the Old Testament. He first quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi; and he quoted also the fourth or last chapter of the same prophecy, though with a little variation from the way it reads in our Bibles. Instead of quoting the first verse as it reads in our books, he quoted it thus:

37 For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

38 And again, he quoted the fifth verse thus: Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

39 He also quoted the next verse differently: And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.

Warning bells should now be going off in your head! A supposed angel of light appearing and then distorting the message of the Old Testament prophet Malachi. Time to wake up folks if you are not already! And this 'angel' Moroni does it a total of 4 times at that (see verse 49).

Verse 37 - The Bible records in Malachi "For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch."

Moroni misquotes the Bible and substitutes the words "for they that shall come shall burn them," thus altering the meaning.

Verse 38 - The Bible records in Malachi "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord."

Moroni misquotes the Bible and substitutes the words "Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet," thus altering the meaning again. Besides, as we read later John the Baptist was said to have revealed the priesthood to Joseph Smith. Doctrine and Covenants 27:6 said Elias would restore all things and section 27:12 is used to infer that Peter, James, and John ordained Joseph Smith to the Melchizedek Priesthood (not by the hand of Elijah as Moroni states). In Doctrine and Covenants section 27, Elias and Elijah are two different people according to Joseph Smith.

Elias is regarded as a greater prophet in Mormonism because it is he who would restore all things in the latter days.

Verse 39 - The Bible records in Malachi "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."

Moroni misquotes the Bible and substitutes the words "And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming," thus altering the meaning again.

Where Moroni misquoted from the Bible, a supposed Book of Mormon prophet Nephi quoted correctly - "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse (3 Nephi 25:6). Joseph Smith later disagrees with Moroni in Doctrine and Covenants 128:17 also - "And again, in connection with this quotation I will give you a quotation from one of the prophets, who had his eye fixed on the restoration of the priesthood, the glories to be revealed in the last days, and in an especial manner this most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel, namely, the baptism for the dead; for Malachi says, last chapter, verses 5th and 6th: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."

Despite Joseph Smith speaking about the prophet Malachi's eye being fixed on the restoration of the priesthood (by Elijah from what it looks like - D&C 128 is a revelation recorded on September 6 1842), he forgets that earlier he mentioned that Elias would restore all things (D&C 27 - a revelation recorded on August 30 1830).To confuse matters more, the Aaronic priesthood was said to have been restored by John the Baptist while the Melchizedek priesthood was said to have been restored by Peter, James, and John ... but Elias was also said to restore all things ... but Elijah was said to restore the priesthood? Confusing, eh?

40 In addition to these, he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled. He quoted also the third chapter of Acts, twenty-second and twenty-third verses, precisely as they stand in our New Testament. He said that that prophet was Christ; but the day had not yet come when “they who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people,” but soon would come.

41 He also quoted the second chapter of Joel, from the twenty-eighth verse to the last. He also said that this was not yet fulfilled, but was soon to be. And he further stated that the fulness of the Gentiles was soon to come in. He quoted many other passages of scripture, and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here.

42 Again, he told me, that when I got those plates of which he had spoken—for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled—I should not show them to any person; neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim; only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed. While he was conversing with me about the plates, the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited, and that so clearly and distinctly that I knew the place again when I visited it.

43 After this communication, I saw the light in the room begin to gather immediately around the person of him who had been speaking to me, and it continued to do so until the room was again left dark, except just around him; when, instantly I saw, as it were, a conduit open right up into heaven, and he ascended till he entirely disappeared, and the room was left as it had been before this heavenly light had made its appearance.

44 I lay musing on the singularity of the scene, and marveling greatly at what had been told to me by this extraordinary messenger; when, in the midst of my meditation, I suddenly discovered that my room was again beginning to get lighted, and in an instant, as it were, the same heavenly messenger was again by my bedside.

45 He commenced, and again related the very same things which he had done at his first visit, without the least variation; which having done, he informed me of great judgments which were coming upon the earth, with great desolations by famine, sword, and pestilence; and that these grievous judgments would come on the earth in this generation. Having related these things, he again ascended as he had done before.

What great desolations by famine, sword, and pestilence came upon the earth in Joseph Smith's generation?

46 By this time, so deep were the impressions made on my mind, that sleep had fled from my eyes, and I lay overwhelmed in astonishment at what I had both seen and heard. But what was my surprise when again I beheld the same messenger at my bedside, and heard him rehearse or repeat over again to me the same things as before; and added a caution to me, telling me that Satan would try to tempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father’s family), to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich. This he forbade me, saying that I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them.

47 After this third visit, he again ascended into heaven as before, and I was again left to ponder on the strangeness of what I had just experienced; when almost immediately after the heavenly messenger had ascended from me for the third time, the cock crowed, and I found that day was approaching, so that our interviews must have occupied the whole of that night.

Why did Joseph Smith consider the 3rd visit as "strangeness?" Did he also consider the 1st and 2nd visits as "strange" too even after he had prayed for a divine manifestation?

Notice the similarly with the Biblical account of Peter denying the Lord and the cock crowing.

48 I shortly after arose from my bed, and, as usual, went to the necessary labors of the day; but, in attempting to work as at other times, I found my strength so exhausted as to render me entirely unable. My father, who was laboring along with me, discovered something to be wrong with me, and told me to go home. I started with the intention of going to the house; but, in attempting to cross the fence out of the field where we were, my strength entirely failed me, and I fell helpless on the ground, and for a time was quite unconscious of anything.

49 The first thing that I can recollect was a voice speaking unto me, calling me by name. I looked up, and beheld the same messenger standing over my head, surrounded by light as before. He then again related unto me all that he had related to me the previous night, and commanded me to go to my father and tell him of the vision and commandments which I had received.

The angel repeats himself again for the 4th time.

I wonder why the angel told Joseph Smith to go tell his father if his father was still a member of an abominable church.

50 I obeyed; I returned to my father in the field, and rehearsed the whole matter to him. He replied to me that it was of God, and told me to go and do as commanded by the messenger. I left the field, and went to the place where the messenger had told me the plates were deposited; and owing to the distinctness of the vision which I had had concerning it, I knew the place the instant that I arrived there.

How did Joseph Smith's father know his son's vision was of God instead of some delusion?

51 Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood. On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth.

52 Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger. The box in which they lay was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement. In the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them.

The LDS Church does not seem to possess this cement box anymore.

53 I made an attempt to take them out, but was forbidden by the messenger, and was again informed that the time for bringing them forth had not yet arrived, neither would it, until four years from that time; but he told me that I should come to that place precisely in one year from that time, and that he would there meet with me, and that I should continue to do so until the time should come for obtaining the plates.

54 Accordingly, as I had been commanded, I went at the end of each year, and at each time I found the same messenger there, and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews, respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days.

55 As my father’s worldly circumstances were very limited, we were under the necessity of laboring with our hands, hiring out by day’s work and otherwise, as we could get opportunity. Sometimes we were at home, and sometimes abroad, and by continuous labor were enabled to get a comfortable maintenance.

56 In the year 1823 my father’s family met with a great affliction by the death of my eldest brother, Alvin. In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stoal, who lived in Chenango county, State of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna county, State of Pennsylvania; and had, previous to my hiring to him, been digging, in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him, he took me, with the rest of his hands, to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money-digger.

Don't you find it odd that he could state the month of being hired by Josiah Stoal (13 years before this historical account), but he could not state the month of the supposed vision of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?

Why did the story of Joseph Smith being a money-digger arise just because he worked at a silver mine digging for silver? Are the gold miners of today also considered money-diggers? If this is true, then what is so prevalent about a fact or what is the prevalence about it?

57 During the time that I was thus employed, I was put to board with a Mr. Isaac Hale, of that place; it was there I first saw my wife (his daughter), Emma Hale. On the 18th of January, 1827, we were married, while I was yet employed in the service of Mr. Stoal.

He remembered the wedding day but not the day of the supposed first vision?

58 Owing to my continuing to assert that I had seen a vision, persecution still followed me, and my wife’s father’s family were very much opposed to our being married. I was, therefore, under the necessity of taking her elsewhere; so we went and were married at the house of Squire Tarbill, in South Bainbridge, Chenango county, New York. Immediately after my marriage, I left Mr. Stoal’s, and went to my father’s, and farmed with him that season.

59 At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. On the twenty-second day of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge: that I should be responsible for them; that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off; but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he, the messenger, should call for them, they should be protected.

60 I soon found out the reason why I had received such strict charges to keep them safe, and why it was that the messenger had said that when I had done what was required at my hand, he would call for them. For no sooner was it known that I had them, than the most strenuous exertions were used to get them from me. Every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to for that purpose. The persecution became more bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were on the alert continually to get them from me if possible. But by the wisdom of God, they remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand. When, according to arrangements, the messenger called for them, I delivered them up to him; and he has them in his charge until this day, being the second day of May, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight.

Don't you find it odd that while Joseph was given a strict charge to keep the plates safe, he wasn't given a strict charge to keep the knowledge of the plates a secret?

About his words, "For no sooner was it known that I had them, than the most strenuous exertions were used to get them from me." Who knew about the plates?

Since the angel Moroni told him a total of 4 times (in the first 4 initial visits) not to show the plates to anyone (except to those he was commanded to - verse 42), they why would he even tell anyone about the plates?

Why would the angel supposedly take the gold plates away from Joseph Smith in 1838 when the Book of Mormon was said to have been translated in 1830?

61 The excitement, however, still continued, and rumor with her thousand tongues was all the time employed in circulating falsehoods about my father’s family, and about myself. If I were to relate a thousandth part of them, it would fill up volumes. The persecution, however, became so intolerable that I was under the necessity of leaving Manchester, and going with my wife to Susquehanna county, in the State of Pennsylvania. While preparing to start—being very poor, and the persecution so heavy upon us that there was no probability that we would ever be otherwise—in the midst of our afflictions we found a friend in a gentleman by the name of Martin Harris, who came to us and gave me fifty dollars to assist us on our journey. Mr. Harris was a resident of Palmyra township, Wayne county, in the State of New York, and a farmer of respectability.

What were some of the falsehoods labelled again Joseph Smith and his family?

62 By this timely aid was I enabled to reach the place of my destination in Pennsylvania; and immediately after my arrival there I commenced copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them, which I did between the time I arrived at the house of my wife’s father, in the month of December, and the February following.

63 Sometime in this month of February, the aforementioned Mr. Martin Harris came to our place, got the characters which I had drawn off the plates, and started with them to the city of New York. For what took place relative to him and the characters, I refer to his own account of the circumstances, as he related them to me after his return, which was as follows:

64 “I went to the city of New York, and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Charles Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those which were not yet translated, and he said that they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic; and he said they were true characters. He gave me a certificate, certifying to the people of Palmyra that they were true characters, and that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct. I took the certificate and put it into my pocket, and was just leaving the house, when Mr. Anthon called me back, and asked me how the young man found out that there were gold plates in the place where he found them. I answered that an angel of God had revealed it unto him.

How could Professor Anthon know that the translation was correct when he did not even know Reformed Egyptian.  Besides, how could he verify the translation when he did not even have the Urim and Thummim (the seer stones) to do the translation?

65 “He then said to me, ‘Let me see that certificate.’ I accordingly took it out of my pocket and gave it to him, when he took it and tore it to pieces, saying that there was no such thing now as ministering of angels, and that if I would bring the plates to him he would translate them. I informed him that part of the plates were sealed, and that I was forbidden to bring them. He replied, ‘I cannot read a sealed book.’ I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation.”

Did you notice Professor Anton's reaction here?  First he verified the characters of Joseph Smith. Then he changes his mind when he found out how the source of the characters.  What kind of professor is this?  

And then - how could Professor Anton ask Joseph Smith for the plates in order to translate them when Anton did not have the means to do the translation?

If Joseph Smith was going to translate the plates through the power of God, why would he even need to get any form of authentication from someone who did not believe in the ministry of angels?  When the New Testament Apostles wrote the epistles and gospels, they did not need 3rd-party verification.

What type of professor (as in Charles Anton) would provide a certificate of authenticity when he never saw the original characters?

What type of doctor (as in Mr. Mitchell) would provide a certificate of authenticity when he never saw the original characters?

After all, Joseph Smith said he was forbidden to bring the plates to New York. He was not forbidden to bring the professor to where Joseph Smith was at the time.

According to the Book of Mormon (Mormon 9:34), God prepared a means for the words on the plates to be interpreted. Supposedly this was done by the two stones in silver bows (spoken of in verse 35). 

But when you look at the front cover of the Ensign magazine (February 2001) and page 142 of the 1997 edition of Gospel Principles, the LDS Church does not correctly depict how Joseph did the translation.  I have never seen a picture in LDS training literature of Mr. Smith wearing these silver bows (the Urim and Thummim).

It is unclear why the Mormon Church does not clearly depict how Joseph Smith supposedly translated the characters from the gold plates.

Another thing that should concern members of the Mormon Church is the record given by Joseph Smith himself - that Professor Anton was able to translate the characters into English.  But that's impossible ... section 1:35 and the Book of Mormon (Mormon 9:34) say that only the seer stones could enable a person to do this.  Let me quote verse 34 in the Book of Mormon - "But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof." 

Professor Anton did not have these seer stones and Mormon 9:34 says Anton does not know the language.

When you have a moment, look at the Youtube video (A Seer Stone and a Hat - "Translating" the Book of Mormon).


66 On the 5th day of April, 1829, Oliver Cowdery came to my house, until which time I had never seen him. He stated to me that having been teaching school in the neighborhood where my father resided, and my father being one of those who sent to the school, he went to board for a season at his house, and while there the family related to him the circumstances of my having received the plates, and accordingly he had come to make inquiries of me.

Why didn't Joseph Smith keep the possession of the plates a secret from his family? Where was he ever commanded to make this known to them?

He remembered the date of Oliver Cowdery's visit to his home, but not the supposed first vision?

67 Two days after the arrival of Mr. Cowdery (being the 7th of April) I commenced to translate the Book of Mormon, and he began to write for me.

He remembered the date of beginning the translation of the Book of Mormon but not the first vision?

68 We still continued the work of translation, when, in the ensuing month (May, 1829), we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying:

Note this: in May 1829 the messenger (said to be John the Baptist) ordained both Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery via the laying on of hands.

69 Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

John the Baptist' confers upon Joseph and Oliver the Aaronic Priesthood - before water baptism.

70 He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me.

This is the first recorded case of John the Baptist not baptizing someone but instructing others to baptize themselves ... odd don't you think?

71 Accordingly we went and were baptized. I baptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me—after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same Priesthood—for so we were commanded.*

Note this: each undergoes a second ordination - Oliver was ordained again to the priesthood when Joseph Smith laid his hands upon him after 'John the Baptist' already ordained and conferred upon Oliver the priesthood. Then Joseph is ordained again to the priesthood when Oliver Cowdery laid his hands upon him after 'John the Baptist' already ordained and conferred upon Joseph the priesthood (see verses 68 and 69).

Verse 68 says Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were already ordained by John the Baptist supposedly.

Apparently they needed to be ordained twice because the first time was not sufficient.  ?

Joseph (who received the priesthood before baptism) baptizes Oliver (who was received the priesthood before baptism). See verse 69.

72 The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us, and that I should be called the first Elder of the Church, and he (Oliver Cowdery) the second. It was on the fifteenth day of May, 1829, that we were ordained under the hand of this messenger, and baptized.

Another puzzling verse ... on May 15 1829 Joseph and Oliver were ordained under the hand of the messenger ... but they ordained each other (see verse 71). They were not baptized by the messenger ... they baptized each other.

Odd too. Joseph was said to be called the first elder when Oliver Cowdery was the first to be baptized.

73 Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation.

Joseph Smith was called the first elder (verse 72), but Oliver Cowdery was the first to receive the Holy Ghost.

Oliver Cowdery was the first to prophesy many things, thus making him the first prophet, yet he was called the second elder of the church (verse 72)?

74 Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of. In the meantime we were forced to keep secret the circumstances of having received the Priesthood and our having been baptized, owing to a spirit of persecution which had already manifested itself in the neighborhood.

Odd. They were forced to keep secret the circumstances of having received the priesthood and baptism but Joseph Smith was not forced to keep secret the circumstances of having received the plates or claiming to see the Father and the Son?

I wonder if God advises other people in the United States to keep their baptism a secret.

75 We had been threatened with being mobbed, from time to time, and this, too, by professors of religion. And their intentions of mobbing us were only counteracted by the influence of my wife’s father’s family (under Divine providence), who had become very friendly to me, and who were opposed to mobs, and were willing that I should be allowed to continue the work of translation without interruption; and therefore offered and promised us protection from all unlawful proceedings, as far as in them lay.

In this historical account, Joseph Smith didn't really have any positive conclusions to write about the Christians of his day. I suppose he really viewed them as all abominable believers in abominable creeds.  He started off early with a positive initial opinion in verse 6, but then ended the same verse with a total and negative assessment of them.

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