10 Reasons Why the First Vision Ought to be Doubted and Even Denied

By Eric Johnson

The LDS Church is making the bicentennial of the “First Vision” of God the Father and Jesus’s appearance to Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820 a big event. Much of the Spring general conference will be centered on an event that its leaders have said is crucial for Mormonism to be considered true. For instance, consider these quotes from three recent presidents:

“Joseph Smith’s first vision restored knowledge of God. Of all the great events of the century, none compared with the first vision of Joseph Smith” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 428).

“The first vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith is bedrock theology to the Church” (Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, 2014, p. 105).

“Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud… upon that unique and wonderful experience stands the validity of this church” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Marvelous Foundation of our Faith,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2002, p. 80. Ellipsis mine).

In other words, Hinckley is saying that if this event did not take place, then the religion of Mormonism falls apart and is a “fraud” –at the General Conference in October 1961, he even used the word “blasphemy”– just as Christianity could be described if there were no historical resurrection of Jesus. With that said, let’s consider 10 reasons why we ought to reject the First Vision according the LDS Church.

  1. If the event really happened, then why did it take more than a decade for anyone to even mention such a story? Click here. Also see here to counter the idea that a newspaper reported the First Vision in 1831.
  2. Why is there complete silence from the critics even after Joseph Smith wrote about the account in his diary? For instance, critic E.D. Howe doesn’t mention the First Vision even once in his critical book Mormonism Unvailed.
  3. There are 9 different accounts, as the story seems to have morphed until there was an official version. Click here, here, and here
  4. There is only one account given by the hand of Joseph Smith…and it differs greatly compared to the official version today. Click here.
  5. If God cannot be seen, as the Bible explains, then how did Joseph Smith see God and live. See Exodus 33:11 and Exodus 33:20
  6. The “Revival” of the Christian church took place in 1824, not 1820, meaning the visit of the Angel Moroni in 1823 really should be considered the “First Vision.”Click here.
  7. There is no evidence that Joseph Smith was ever persecuted for the First Vision, despite his claim that he was. Click here.