There are several First Vision accounts, and we’re going to tackle the 1835 account in our next episode. What distinguishes it from the 1832 account, and the much more famous 1838 account? Historian Dan will answer that question.
Dan: Yeah, from the 1832 to 1835 accounts, there’s two people. How those two people figure, they both looked the same. They are mirror images of each other. But how he viewed that, it’s not so clear from the description. Even the 1838 account, there’s two personages, but is it God the spirit like in the Lectures on Faith? And Jesus, the tabernacle? Is that how he views that when he’s dictating that? You can’t take the Nauvoo period where God has a body of flesh and bones and the Son also, you can’t take that and read it into this.
That’s why the 1832 account has one Jesus. In the meantime, what happened to make it in 1838? There’s another issue. In 1832 account, he’s already concluded that all the churches are false. In 1838, he hasn’t. He’s praying to ask which church is true. Those contradict each other. You can you can try to harmonize them like Richard Anderson tried, by just making general description so general that they look the same, but they are diametrically opposed. Why does it change?
So, my view on that is that in 1820, or 21, he has concluded all churches are false. He has a born again experience. But the revival he describes where his mother is proselyted to the Presbyterian Church, he says, “I was at this time in my 15th year. My father’s family were 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 Sopronia. That’s part of his 1820 [account], but we know that didn’t happen in 1820. We know that they joined in 1824 and 25 revival, because Lucy in her own history says it was after Alvin’s death. After Alvin died, she was grieving and she wanted to have religious community, and she went. They went and actually the Presbyterian minister at the time, Reverend Stockton preached Alvin’s funeral sermon, and implied that Alvin had gone to hell because he hadn’t been baptized. Joseph Smith, Sr. got angry at that, incensed and refused going anymore. Joseph Smith’s family was split. Lucy, like a good convert, is trying to get other people in the family converted. She’s hounding people, and three of her older children do join. Joseph Smith is caught between his parents. He’s ambivalent. He doesn’t want to join a church. He said he was more in tune with Methodism anyway, probably because of the emotional appeal it has and Presbyterianism is a little more conservative and is of the quietest tradition, they call it where the Spirit comes on you and you’re quiet and peace.
GT: Is that what’s happened to Mormons, we’ve become Presbyterians?
Dan: Yeah, yeah. You became the church of Hyrum Smith.
Do you think these changes are significant? Check out our conversation….
Don’t miss our previous conversations with Dan!
289: Methodist Visions