Posted on Leave a comment

First Vision Conflicts (Part 6 of 9)

Joseph Smith gave multiple accounts of his First Vision experience.  Some people find the differing accounts problematic, while others don’t think they are a big issue.  We’ll talk about these First Vision conflicts with historian Dan Vogel and discuss the different perspectives.

GT:  For some people, these First Vision conflicts are a big deal and they prove Mormonism isn’t true. And for other people, it’s like, what’s the big deal? Why is this an issue? So I guess my question is, where do you fit in there? I mean, in my mind, would it be inconsistent (and I’m a believer) to say, well, maybe he had something in 1820 or 1821, maybe it was a born again experience. Maybe he didn’t tell everything in that 1832 account, and then in 1838, he’s having these persecutions. Maybe he’s misremembering some things and going to 1824. To me, it’s not it’s not a testimony killer. I’ll put it that way. So number one, where do you fit among those two groups?

Dan:  Okay, so my goal is not to kill people’s testimony. I’m just a historian. This is how to look at the documents in a historically minded way.

GT:  Okay.

Dan:  Historians look for these kinds of things to show development. Now, some of the details you can write off as memory problems. But you can’t use faulty memory like Stephen Harper does, as an apologetic, to explain away contradictions. You might use faulty memory, like there’s false memory syndrome, where people can actually create false memories, trying to remember vague memories, and it works.

Dan:  I mean, an example would be the Spalding witnesses. They have vague memories about a manuscript in the past. We know that what they remembered was wrong. Because they could only remember what they had read in the book of Mormon, and nothing else. We know that the the Book of Mormon is not about the lost 10 tribes. That was a common misconception, but these witnesses that’s gotten into their memory somehow. It’s a vague story, they vaguely remember the names. The memories become sharper, the more they talk to each other. So we know from other methods that they were wrong. Okay. But we don’t use false memory syndrome to prove that they’re wrong. We use that as an explanation of how they got it wrong. Okay.

Dan:  So you can’t come up on Joseph Smith, and say, well, there’s these contradictions, and they can all be explained away by this false memory syndrome theory, or else you can never catch anyone making things up or prevaricating, on whatever issue. They could always say, it’s memory. A lot of politicians try that. But it’s not what historians do. It’s what apologists do.

GT:  Okay.

Dan:  So I’m not trying to kill people’s testimonies. That’s not my concern. I don’t care about that question. Okay. It’s not that I don’t care about your religion or anything. I don’t care about destroying people’s faith or anything. I’m just trying to get it close to what probably really happened as I can. That doesn’t mean that some people of faith can’t hang on to that faith, but it has to maybe evolve a little bit. I’m just trying to find the facts, and what probably the best evidence, the best scenario to explain the evidence. It’s not my job to figure out how people of faith, or to what to do with this. I, I could just point out the problem, and not the answer, maybe. So I think there is a way, there is a way to hang on as long as you want for people in different ways. It’s a very personal thing.

GT:  So you wouldn’t be opposed to somebody that says, Yeah, I think Joseph conflated maybe one or two visions here, conflated 1820 with 1824, and it’s not that big of a deal. Yeah, there’s some contradictions there. But it’s, you know, it’s a faulty memory, big deal.

Dan:  Well, I think he changed it on purpose to teach a lesson. He’s more concerned–he’s a charismatic leader. He’s not a historian. He could care less about history, facts, keeping the revelations pure as they were originally given. He doesn’t care about any of that. He is trying to get things done, motivate people to do things that they wouldn’t do without this motivation.

Check out our conversation….

Do you think First Vision conflicts are a testimony killer, or are they no big deal?

DOn’t miss our other conversations with Dan!

291 – 1835 Account of First Vision

290 – Making a Case for Melchizedek Priesthood in 1831?

289 – Methodist Visions

288 – Why “Pious Fraud” Ticks off Everyone

287 – Dan Vogel Was a McConkie Mormon!

Posted on Leave a comment

1835 First Vision (Part 5 of 9)

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….

Dan Vogel says the 1832 account of the First Vision has just one messenger, but the 1835 account has two.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Dan!

291: 1835 Account of First Vision

290: Making a Case for Melchizedek Priesthood in 1831?

289: Methodist Visions

288: Why “Pious Fraud” Ticks off Everyone

287: Dan Vogel Was a McConkie Mormon!

Posted on Leave a comment

Methodist Visions (Part 3 of 9)

The number of prophets who have claimed to have seen God is very small:  Moses, and Joseph Smith.  The First Vision is known as one of the most unique visions in all of religion. But it turns out that accounts of Methodist visions were common in Joseph’s day.  Is it true that Joseph’s First Vision may not have been as unique as we thought?  Historian Dan tackles that question. He believes something happened to Joseph Smith in 1820 or 21, but doesn’t think it was a vision.  Was Joseph’s experience similar to Methodist visions?

Dan:  People at the revival, especially Methodist ones, would get religious enthusiasm, as they called it. They would get all excited and some people would have heavenly visions. Some people would see Jesus.  Forget about the revivals, a lot of ministers at the time, when they wrote their autobiographies would write about their conversion story, and it would include seeing Jesus or some experience with deity, a born-again type experience.  This is what I would suggest that Joseph Smith really had–we’ll eventually get to that, and that the story evolved over time.

Dan:  The 1832 account has Joseph Smith concluding that all the churches are false, at the age of 12, like his parents. Lucy, and Joseph Smith, Sr. had both made the same conclusion, that all of the churches were false. But it wasn’t tied to they [the churches] didn’t have authority. They were just corrupted by the traditions of men. No one’s thinking of, “Oh, they don’t have priesthood authority, because Christians didn’t think that way.” Catholics did [think that way], but Protestants didn’t think of, “Oh, we have authority and the Catholics don’t,” or whatever. Protestants got their authority to baptize because the Bible commanded that you be baptized, and that is the authority, the commandment coming from the Bible. Whereas Joseph Smith said, “No, it has to come from revelation.” So, when the angel commands to baptize or you got a revelation through the stone to baptize, that is a new revelation, and that is the new authority. So he has current authority, current revelation. That is the original concept of authority, before there were any stories of angelic ordinations. But, in the 1832 account, Joseph Smith has already concluded there’s no church. So when he goes to pray, he’s not asking which church is true. He’s asking, “How am I going to be saved? There’s no true church. They’re all apostate, and what am I to do?” Jesus appears and basically, confirms his belief that there the world liest under sin and all that, and says that those who believe on my name shall be saved. So it’s very close to a revival experience. You have faith in Jesus and you’re saved.

GT : Almost a born again kind of experience?

Dan:  That’s what I say. What I say is, if you take Jesus out of it, it would be born again experience. So, why does he have to see Jesus?

GT:  You think he basically in 1820 or ‘21, did have a born again experience?

Dan:  Yes.

Check out our conversation…. and don’t miss our previous conversations with Dan!

Dan Vogel thinks Joseph had a born-again experience in 1820 or ’21, but it was common for many Methodist visions at that time.

288 – Why “Pious Fraud” Ticks off Everyone

287 – Dan Vogel Was a McConkie Mormon!