The Complete First Vision

 

Note: The following is the narrative of the Joseph Smith’s First Vision including information from each of the known accounts made during his lifetime.  The accounts are obtained from The Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings, and, as they appear in that volume, are arranged chronologically.  The 1832, 1835, 1838, and 1842 accounts were written by Joseph Smith himself or with the use of a scribe.  The Orson Pratt and Orson Hyde accounts were published as part of missionary tracts in Europe.  The remaining accounts were made after personal conversations with the Prophet.  Some changes in punctuation and spelling have been made where appropriate. 

 

 

 

 

 

Confusion about Religion

 

1832 Account:  “At about the age of twelve years, my mind became seriously impressed with regard to the all-important concerns for the welfare of my immortal soul, which led me to search the scriptures, believing, as I was taught, that they contained the word of God.  Thus, applying myself to them, and my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations, led me to marvel exceedingly, for I discovered that they did not adorn their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation, agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository.  This was a grief to my soul.  Thus, from the age of twelve years to fifteen, I pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world, of mankind, the contentions and divisions, the wickedness and abominations, and the darkness which pervaded the of the minds of mankind.  My mind became exceedingly distressed, for I became convicted of my sins.  And by searching the scriptures, I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord, but that they had apostatized from the true and living faith, and there was no society or denomination that built upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament.  And I felt to mourn for my own sins, and for the sins of the world, for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday, today, and forever; that he was no respecter to persons, for he was God.  For I looked upon the sun, the glorious luminary of the earth, and also the moon, rolling in their majesty through the heavens, and also the stars shining in their courses, and the earth also, upon which I stood, and the beast of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and the fish of the waters, and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in majesty and in the strength of beauty, whose power and intelligence in governing the things which are so exceeding great and marvelous, even in the likeness of him who created them.  And when I considered upon these things, my heart exclaimed, ‘well hath the wise man said, that ‘it is a fool that saith in his heart, ‘there is no God.’’”

 

1835 Account:  “Being wrought up in my mind respecting the subject of Religion, and looking at the different systems taught the children of men, I knew not who was right or who was wrong, but considered it of the first importance to me that I should be right, in matters of so much moment, matter[s] involving eternal consequences.”

 

1838 Account:  “Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, "Lo, here!" and others, "Lo, there!" Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.

“For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.

“I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father's family was 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 Sophronia.

“During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.

“My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.

“In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?”

Orson Pratt Account:  “When somewhere about fourteen or fifteen years old, he began seriously to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence; but how, or in what way, to prepare himself, was a question, as yet, undetermined in his own mind. He perceived that it was a question of infinite importance, and that the salvation of his soul depended upon a correct understanding of the same. He saw, that if he understood not the way, it would be impossible to walk in it, except by chance; and the thought of resting his hopes of eternal life upon chance, or uncertainties, was more than he could endure. If he went to the religious denominations to seek information, each one pointed to its particular tenets, saying—‘This is the way, walk ye in it,’ while, at the same time, the doctrines of each were, in many respects, in direct opposition to one another. It also occurred to his mind that God was the author of but one doctrine, and therefore could acknowledge but one denomination as his church, and that such denomination must be a people who believe and teach that one doctrine, (whatever it may be,) and build upon the same. He then reflected upon the immense number of doctrines, now in the world, which had given rise to many hundreds of different denominations. The great question to be decided in his mind was—if any one of these denominations be the Church of Christ, which one is it? Until he could become satisfied in relation to this question, he could not rest contented. To trust to the decisions of fallible man, and build his hopes upon the same, without any certainty, and knowledge of his own, would not satisfy the anxious desires that pervaded his breast. To decide, without any positive and definite evidence, on which he could rely, upon a subject involving the future welfare of his soul, was revolting to his feelings. The only alternative that seemed to be left him was to read the Scriptures, and endeavor to follow their directions.”

 

Orson Hyde Account:  “When somewhere about fourteen or fifteen years old, he began seriously to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence; but how, or in what way to prepare himself, was a question, as yet, undetermined in his own mind; he perceived that it was a question of infinite importance.

“He saw, that if he understood not the way, it would be impossible to walk in it, except by chance; and the thought of resting his hopes of eternal life upon chance or uncertainties, was more than he could endure.

He discovered a religious world working under numerous errors, which through their contradicting nature and principles, gave cause to the organization of so many different sects and parties, and whose feelings against each other were poisoned through hate, envy, malice and rage. He felt that there should be only one truth, and that those who would understand it correctly, would understand it in the same manner. Nature had gifted him with a strong, discerning mind and so he looked through the glass of soberness and good sense upon these religious systems which all were so different; but nevertheless all drawn from the scripture of truth.

After he had sufficiently assured himself to his own satisfaction that darkness was covering the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people, he gave up hope ever to find a sect or party that was in the possession of the pure and unadulterated truth.”

 

1842 Account:  “When about fourteen years of age, I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state, and upon inquiring [about] the plan of salvation, I found that there was a great clash in religious sentiment; if I went to one society they referred me to one plan, and another to another; each one pointing to his own particular creed as the summum bonum of perfection. Considering that all could not be right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion, I determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God had a Church it would not be split up into factions, and that if He taught one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances, He would not teach another, principles which were diametrically opposed.”

 

Levi Richards Account:  “Heard J. Smith preach from Matthew: ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, etc., how oft would I have gathered you, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.  Behold, your house is left unto you desolate,’ etc./  #%%#a-Smith, Joseph, Jr.TPFirst VisionPres. J. Smith bore testimony to the same, saying that when he was a youth he began to think about these things but could not find out which of all the sects were right.”

 

David Nye White Account:  “There was a reformation among the different religious denominations in the neighborhood where I lived, and I became serious, and was desirous to know what Church to join.”

 

Alexander Neibaur Account:  “Br. Joseph told us the first call he had a Revival Meeting, his mother, brothers, and sisters got religion.  He wanted to get religion too, wanted to feel and shout like the rest, but could feel nothing.”

 

Seeking For Answers

 

1832 Account:  “And by searching the scriptures, I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord, but that they had apostatized from the true and living faith, and there was no society or denomination that built upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament.  And I felt to mourn for my own sins, and for the sins of the world, for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday, today, and forever; that he was no respecter to persons, for he was God.”

1838 Account:  “While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

“Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

“At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to ‘ask of God,’ concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.”

 

The Prayer

 

1832 Account:  “I cried unto the Lord for mercy, for there was none else to whom I could go and to obtain mercy.  And the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness.”

 

1835 Account:  “Being thus perplexed in mind, I retired to the silent grove and there bowed down before the Lord, under a realizing sense (if the Bible be true), ‘ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened, seek and you shall find,’ and again, ‘if any man lack wisdom, let [him ask] of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.’ 

“Information was what I most desired at this time, and with a fixed determination to obtain it, I called on the Lord for the first time in the place above stated.  Or, in other words, I made a fruitless attempt to pray.  My tongue seemed to be swollen in my mouth, so that I could not utter.  I heard a noise behind me like someone walking towards me. I strove again to pray, but could not.  The noise of walking seemed to draw nearer; I sprang upon my feet and looked round, but saw no person or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of walking. I kneeled again, my mouth was opened and my tongue loosed; I called on the Lord in mighty prayer.”

 

1838 Account:  “After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

“But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm…”

 

Orson Pratt Account:  “He therefore retired to a secret place in a grove, but a short distance from his father's house, and knelt down, and began to call upon the Lord. At first, he was severely tempted by the powers of darkness, which endeavored to overcome him; but he continued to seek for deliverance, until darkness gave way from his mind, and he was enabled to pray in fervency of the spirit, and in faith.”

 

Orson Hyde Account:  “He, therefore, retired to a secret place, in a grove, but a short distance from his father's house, and knelt down and began to call upon the Lord. At first, he was severely tempted by the powers of darkness, which endeavored to overcome him. The adversary benighted his mind with doubts, and brought to his soul all kinds of improper pictures and tried to hinder him in his efforts and the accomplishment of his goal. However, the overflowing mercy of God came to buoy him up, and gave new impulse and momentum to his dwindling strength. Soon the dark clouds disappeared, and light and peace filled his troubled heart. And again he called upon the Lord with renewed faith and spiritual strength.”

 

1842 Account:  “I retired to a secret place in a grove, and began to call upon the Lord.”

 

Levi Richards Account:  Joseph “went into the grove & enquired of the Lord which of all the sects were right.”

 

David Nye White Account:  “I immediately went out into the woods where my father had a clearing, and went to the stump where I had stuck my axe when I had quit work, and I kneeled down, and prayed, saying, ‘O Lord, what Church shall I join?’”

 

Alexander Neibaur Account:  Joseph “Went into the wood to pray, kneels himself down, his tongue was closed, cleaveth to his roof—could utter not a word, felt easier after awhile.”

Orson Pratt Account:  “He accordingly commenced perusing the sacred pages of the Bible, with sincerity, believing the things that he read. His mind soon caught hold of the following passage:—‘If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’—James 1:5. From this promise he learned, that it was the privilege of all men to ask God for wisdom, with the sure and certain expectation of receiving liberally; without being upbraided for so doing. This was cheering information to him; tidings that gave him great joy. It was like a light shining forth in a dark place, to guide him to the path in which he should walk. He now saw that if he inquired of God, there was not only a possibility, but a probability; yea, more, a certainty, that he should obtain a knowledge, which, of all the doctrines, was the doctrine of Christ; and, which, of all the churches, was the church of Christ.”

 

Orson Hyde Account:  “He accordingly commenced perusing the sacred pages of the Bible with sincerity, believing the things that he read. His mind soon caught hold of the following passage—‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’—James 1:5. From this promise he learned that it was the privilege of all men to ask God for wisdom, with the sure and certain expectation of receiving liberally, without being upbraided for so doing. And thus he started to send the burning desires of his soul with a faithful determination.”

 

1842 Account:  “Believing the word of God, I had confidence in the declaration of James—‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’”

 

David Nye White Account:  “While thinking of this matter, I opened the Testament promiscuously on these words, in James, 'Ask of the Lord who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.' I just determined I'd ask him.”

 

Alexander Neibaur Account:  Joseph “opened his Bible, of the first passage that struck him was ‘if any man lack wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.’”

 

The Vision

 

1832 Account:  “While in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the [15th] year of my age, a pillar of fire light, above the brightness of the sun at noon day, came down from above and rested upon me.  And I was filled with the Spirit of God.  And the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord.  And he spake unto me, saying, “Joseph, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee.  Go thy way, walk in my statutes and keep my commandments.  Behold, I am the Lord of glory.  I was crucified for the world that all those who believe on my name may have eternal life.  Behold, the world lieth in sin, and at this time none doeth good, no, not one.  They have turned aside from the Gospel and keep not my commandments.  They draw near to me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.  And mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth, to visit them according to this ungodliness, and to bring to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and apostles.  Behold and lo, I come quickly, as it written of me, in the cloud, clothed in the glory of my Father.”

 

1835 Account:  “A pillar of fire appeared above my head, which presently rested down upon me, and filled me with unspeakable joy. A personage appeared in the midst of this pillar of flame, which was spread all around and yet nothing consumed. Another personage soon appeared like unto the first: he said unto me, ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee.’ He testified also unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God. I saw many angels in this vision. I was about 14 years old when I received this first communication.”

1838 Account:   “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

“It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

“My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

“I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.’

“He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time.”

 

 Orson Pratt Account:   “And while thus pouring out his soul, anxiously desiring an answer from God, he at length, saw a very bright and glorious light in the heavens above; which, at first, seemed to be a considerable distance. He continued praying, while the light appeared to be gradually descending towards him; and as it drew nearer, it increased in brightness and magnitude, so that, by the time that it reached the tops of the trees, the whole wilderness, for some distance around was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner. He expected to have seen the leaves and boughs of the trees consumed, as soon as the light came in contact with them; but perceiving that it did not produce that effect, he was encouraged with the hope of being able to endure its presence. It continued descending slowly, until it rested upon the earth, and he was enveloped in the midst of it. When it first came upon him, it produced a peculiar sensation throughout his whole system; and immediately, his mind was caught away, from the natural objects with which he was surrounded; and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness. He was informed that his sins were forgiven. He was also informed upon the subjects, which had for some time previously agitated his mind, viz.—that all the religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines; and consequently, that none of them was acknowledged of God, as his church and kingdom. And he was expressly commanded to go not after them; and he received a promise that the true doctrine—the fullness of the gospel, should, at some future time, be made known to him.”

Orson Hyde Account:  “At this sacred moment his mind was caught away from the natural objects with which he was surrounded, and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness. They told him that his prayers had been answered, and that the Lord had decided to grant him a special blessing.

He was told not to join any of the religious sects or any party, as they were all wrong in their doctrines and none of them was recognized by God as His Church and kingdom. He received a promise that the true doctrine—the fulness of the gospel—should, at some future time, be made known to him.”

1842 Account:  “While fervently engaged in supplication, my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon day. They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as His Church and kingdom: and I was expressly commanded ‘to go not after them,’ at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the Gospel should at some future time be made known unto me.”

 

Levi Richards Account:  Joseph “enquired of the Lord which of all the sects were right.  He received for answer that none of them were right, that they were all wrong, and that the everlasting covenant was broken.”

 

David Nye White Account:  “Directly I saw a light, and then a glorious personage in the light, and then another personage, and the first personage said to the second, ‘Behold my beloved Son, hear him.’ I then addressed this second person, saying, ‘O Lord, what Church shall I join?’ He replied, ‘Don't join any of them, they are all corrupt.’”

 

Alexander Neibaur Account:  Joseph “saw a fire toward heaven come near and nearer; saw a personage in the fire, light complexion, blue eyes, a piece of white cloth drawn over his shoulders [and] his right arm bear.  After a while, another person came to the side of the first.  Mr. Smith then asked, ‘Must I join the Methodist Church?’ ‘No, they are not my people, have gone astray.  There is none that doeth good, not one.  But this is my Beloved Son, hearken ye him.  The fire drew nigher, rested upon the tree, enveloped him [and] comforted [him].”

 

The Aftermath

 

1832 Account:  “My soul was filled with love and for many days.  I could rejoice with great joy, and the Lord was with me.  But [I] could find none that would believe the heavenly vision.  Nevertheless, I pondered these things in my heart.  …But after many days I fell into transgression and sinned in many things, which brought wound upon my soul.  And there were many things which transpired that cannot be written.  And my father’s family have suffered many persecutions and afflictions.”

 

1838 Account:  “When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, ‘Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.’ I then said to my mother, ‘I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.’ It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?

“Some few days after I had this vision, I happened to be in company with one of the Methodist preachers, who was very active in the before mentioned religious excitement; and, conversing with him on the subject of religion, I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them.

“I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.”

 

Orson Pratt Account:  “…after which, the vision withdrew, leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace, indescribable.”

 

Orson Hyde Account:  “after which, the vision withdrew, leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace indescribable.”

 

Levi Richards Account:  After relating the First Vision story to Levi Richards, Joseph “said he understood the fulness of the Gospel, from beginning to end—and could teach it; and also the order of the priesthood, in all its ramifications.  Earth and hell had opposed him and tried to destroy him, but they had not done it, and they never would.”

 

David Nye White Account:  “The vision then vanished, and when I came to myself, I was sprawling on my back; and it was some time before my strength returned. When I went home and told the people that I had a revelation, and that all the churches were corrupt, they persecuted me, and they have persecuted me ever since.”

 

Alexander Neibaur Account:  Joseph “endeavored to arise but felt uncommonly feeble—got into the house, told the Methodist priest, [who then] said, ‘This was not an age for God to reveal himself in vision.  Revelation has ceased with the New Testament.’”

 
 
 
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