Doubts About The First Vision of Joseph Smith

The account of Joseph Smith’s vision of God the Father and God the Son is foundational to Mormonism. If it didn’t happen, as former president Gordon Hinckley has said, then the work of Mormonism is a fraud. If it did happen, then it is the greatest event of all. I partially agree. (I think the greatest event of all would be the resurrection of Christ.) If the vision did happen, then I want to know about it. If it didn’t though, then that should be just as much known.

Last night, I thought about this as I was going through a pamphlet our missionaries left behind called “The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.” I read through it and I noticed something interesting about the historical account of what happened. Let’s consider how it went.

1820:First vision

September 21st, 1823-Appearance of Moroni.

January 18th, 1827-Joseph Smith marries Emma Hale

April 5th, 1829-Oliver Cowdery arrives.

April 7th, 1829-Book of Mormon translation commences.

May 15th, 1829-Smith and Cowdery receive Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist.

There is something strange about this account.

There is no date given to what would be the most important event of all! Surely if any day was to be remembered, it would be the day one saw God. We don’t even have a month! We’re told it’s in the Spring of 1820. That’s it. Why is the date not recorded? (Considering there are nine different versions of the account, that could have something to do with it.)

In speaking of those differences, Jeff Lindsay has tried to compare them to the differences in Paul’s accounts of seeing the risen Christ. The only question often asked though is what happened to the companions. What is most likely understood is that they heard a sound but they did not understand what it was that they were hearing.

However, the other problem is that the account could not have happened by biblical standards. In Exodus 33:20, we read what God says to Moses when Moses asks to see his glory.

But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

And yet, is there any doubt that Joseph Smith saw just that? How can this be?

Now someone might think this is just the Bible. Not so! The Doctrines and Covenants say what is required to see the face of God in Chapter 84.

21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;

22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
Now let’s look at that chronology again. When did the vision happen? In 1820. When was the priesthood given? In 1829. How is it then that Smith saw God the Father without having the priesthood if the priesthood is essential?
Of course, there is the character I see of Joseph Smith and the problems I see with the BOM that give me pause as to trusting, but simply looking at the account, I see no reason to believe it. Compare this to the empty tomb accounts where those who set out to disprove it have ended up becoming ardent defenders of it.
Frankly, I’ll stick with Jesus.

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