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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!

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Daniel Stone on Forgotten Prophet

I’m excited to introduce Dr. Daniel Stone.  He has written the first biography of William Bickerton, Forgotten Latter Day Prophet.   William Bickerton was the prophet of the third largest Latter-Day Saint Church.  We’ll get to know more about Daniel in just a moment.

Daniel:  I’m Daniel Stone and I’m the author of William Bickerton – Forgotten Latter-day Prophet. I’m a Ph.D. candidate studying American religious history at Manchester Metropolitan University in England and yes, I am a Bickertonite.

….after I graduated with my masters, I started writing the book and I ended up finishing the book and I wanted to go on for my Ph.D. and I kind of had this dilemma personally because I thought, should I write the book first and then go for my doctorate or should I get my doctorate and then write the book? Because usually the traditional path is to get the doctorate and write the book.

But no one had ever written about William Bickerton. He is literally, it’s so rare to find an American religion, a rock that has never been unturned. And that’s William Bickerton. It’s unbelievable because now he started the third largest Latter-day Saint Church in the world. It’s called the Church of Jesus Christ. It’s in 23 countries. There are about 23,000 members and very few people have ever written about him and there’s never been one biography on him. So, I thought to myself, you know what? Let me try to write the book. I felt like I had a good enough grounding to do that. And then with the hopes of putting it out there and then maybe going for my doctorate because my fear was to get on a doctoral committee and I’ve heard horror stories sometimes we don’t like certain people on your doctoral committee and they make you put things in your dissertation that you don’t really want to do.

So I didn’t want to have to backtrack. So I thought, let me try to write a scholarly book. Thankfully Signature Books picked it up. They found it. I was only halfway through and they heard about it and they basically said, “Well, let’s see the book when it’s done.” Thankfully there were no major corrections. They just passed it open hand and it was peer reviewed so it was great. So then what ended up happening is I applied to grad school and I wanted to find a good advisor and I like to focus on Mormonism but I like to focus on Millennialism too within the American context and there’s a guy at Manchester Metropolitan named Andrew Crome who specifically focuses on Millennialism and he also does mostly English Millennialism, but he focuses with a little bit within America too. I’ll told him about what I was interested in and told them about Bickerton.

We will also talk about the Spalding Manuscript Theory.

Daniel: They’re somehow trying to connect Sidney Rigdon to Solomon Spalding because they’re from the same area and they just, people just thought it was more than a coincidence that Sidney Rigdon all of a sudden meets Joseph Smith in Ohio and he’s a Campbellite minister and that just so happens to believe in the gathering of Israel and communal living, you know, very similar. So, they’re like, oh no, Sidney Rigdon helped write it because according to a lot of the theories before they ended up finding the Solomon Spalding manuscript, decades later, I think it was in the 20th century, they found it. A lot of people were saying, “Oh, I remember Solomon Spalding, the manuscript. He wrote this novel and it talks about people coming from Israel or from the Middle East to come over to the United States. I remember names like Lehi and Nephi.” You have all these people saying, “Oh, I remember these words that are in the Book of Mormon.”

Well, we find out later that that’s not really the case. Solomon Spalding wrote this book. I believe it’s about Romans that get knocked off course and eventually land in the New World. So it’s kind of similar but not really. And Sidney Rigdon had nothing to do with the Spalding manuscript. But back then people really thought that was the case.

Check out our conversation…

Dr. Daniel Stone is the biographer of "William Bickerton - Forgotten Latter Day Prophet"
Dr. Daniel Stone is the biographer of “William Bickerton – Forgotten Latter Day Prophet”
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Buying the Spalding Conspiracy

Mark Hofmann tried to create evidence of the Spalding Conspiracy.  There has long been a theory that Book of Mormon was plagiarized from a manuscript originally written by Solomon Spaulding (or Spalding.)  The problem with the theory is that there was never a connection between Joseph Smith and Solomon Spaulding—until Mark Hofmann came up with a document.  Steve Mayfield talks about buying this Hofmann forgery.

Steve: So, in January of 2000, the former owner of Cosmic Aeroplane sold it to Ken Sanders who used to work there. He now had his own bookstore there in Salt Lake, Ken Sanders Books. Well he had it on display and I’m just sitting there just [thinking], “Oh, oh, I love it.” But it was like $4,000 they wanted for it. Well, I had enough in a credit card, so I bought it from him.

GT: Oh my goodness.

Steve: In August of 2000. So, for four years I owned a Hofmann.

GT: You knew it was a forgery.

Steve: Yeah, Yeah. I mean he sold it as that. The minute he sold it after I bought it, I take it back to the office and show George [Throckmorton.] He showed some things on the document that only he and I know.

I guess this proves there is a market for Hofmann forgeries!  What do you think of Steve’s purchase?

Check out our conversation, as well as Steve’s other conversations….

Mark Hofmann forged a document that attempted to tie Sidney Rigdon & Solomon Spalding together.  Steve discusses why it is a forgery.
Mark Hofmann forged a document that attempted to tie Sidney Rigdon & Solomon Spalding together. Steve discusses why it is a forgery.

194: What is the Dead Lee Scroll? (Mayfield)

193: John D. Lee’s Role in Mountain Meadows Massacre (Mayfield)

192: Mormons & the FBI (Mayfield)

191: Steve Mayfield: Crime Photographer (Mayfield)

190: Mormon Connection in Patty Hearst Kidnapping (Mayfield)