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Gospel Topic Essay: 001: First Vision Accounts

We begin a tour of the Gospel Topics Essays and start with the First Vision Accounts.  The Goal- To share the LDS Church’s Gospel Topic Essays and help the both the believing member and the non-believer get a sense of the why these essays were written, who the intended audience is, whether these essays resolve the concerns of the faithful and non-believer and why they perhaps these essays even add to the disbelief of those who skeptical of the issues they find in Mormon History.

The first prophet of the LDS church was Joseph Smith. In 1820, he claims to have been visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ. This is known as the First Vision. For believing members of the LDS church, it’s an extremely important event in the church’s history.

There is a fascinating story behind the discovery of additional accounts of this vision. There are 4 main accounts, written in 1832, 1835, 1838, and 1842. The 1838 account is the account that most LDS are familiar with, as it was put into scripture. The other accounts are similar but do have some differences. Many members of the church don’t believe the differences are a big deal. Others do. That is what this podcast is about.


First Vision LDS Gospel Topic Essay

1970 April Improvement Era James Allen Article

1996 April Ensign Richard Lloyd Anderson article mentioning 1832 account

Stan Larson Dialogue Article on the First Vision (includes story about Joseph Fielding Smith excising the 1832 account)

Marvin Hill Dialogue article on the First Vision

Misc. First Vision info

Misc. First Vision Quotes

Richard Anderson Circumstantial Confirmation of the First Vision

BYU University manual for LDS Church History (see Chapter 3)

Radiolab Podcast on Memory

Mormon Primer (starts on page 8)

Mormon Think on the First Vision

Podcast Episode discussing in depth the various accounts and history behind them

Robert Mathews AKA Joshua the Jewish Minister AKA Mathias AKA the resurrected gospel writer Mathew

Co-Hosts of this episode

Allan Mount is Co-host of the Marriage on a Tightrope podcast with his wife Kattie. After 35 faithful years in the church, it was the Gospel Topic Essays that acted as a catalyst to his faith transition. He is a sales director for a technology company in South Jordan Utah. Kattie and Allan have 4 children between the ages of 5 and 13.

Anthony Miller is an entrepreneur and education enthusiast in Billings, Montana, with Masters degrees in Business Administration and in Financial Services. After a lifetime of faithful membership in the church, he experienced a faith transition after he stumbled across the Gospel Topics Essays and similar materials in 2016, while he was searching for resources to support his adult gay son. Anthony blogs at and is a frequent contributor to post and progressive Mormon support communities.

Bill Reel is a media producer and Pawn Shop Broker and lives in Southern Utah.  bill experienced a deep faith shift while serving as a LDS Bishop in 2012.  Since then has has worked to be a voice to help others reconcile the complex issues of Mormonism.  He is the the lead contributor of the Mormon Primer and host of Mormon Discussion Podcast



11 thoughts on “Gospel Topic Essay: 001: First Vision Accounts”

    1. Is it beating a dead horse?….

      Or is it keeping topics from being buried while at the same time giving it a fresh take. Some new life. ah – resurrect the horse then kill it again…

      I think its good. I did learn of a new quote and AMA with Richard Bushman. Worth it for me.

  1. This was fantastic – thank you. I’m excited for the next to come. I think this is a great panel. Anthony’s guest episode with Gina Colvin on A Thoughtful Faith was incredible for me.
    Loved your references – thanks.
    I didn’t see in your references a link where to find the big Richard Bushman quote. Is that from Rough Stone Rolling – where would that be (page) or is there a link somewhere?

  2. Memory? Yes, it changes, but you don’t forget that your first vision godhead is very different than early teachings, including the first BoM, BoC and LoF… Only pathological liars have this big of a memory problem. Everyone who remembered his vision recounts close variations which all contradict the revised, official, Fabricated FV version.

    My own focus of the problem with all the accounts is the 1838 vision not only outright contradicts the other version in so many ways, but that it proves itself a fraud in many ways even before any debate on it begins. Debate on it with apologists and church officials is only an exercise of running in circles and avoiding truth. More deception. “Lie upon Lie, decept upon decept?” I can’t personally reconcile all the many historical contradictions in just the 1838 account in a healthy way.

    I’m glad I finally read the April 1970 Improvement Era article by Dr. James B. Allen, which turns out to be pathetic apologist tactics leaving out substance and facts to mislead and smooth over the well known lies, known to him and to so many other LDS “historians.” These tactics are unethical in themselves. This only adds to the growing heap of deceptions by the church and apologists.

  3. How can it be beating a dead horse if two apologetic books were published on the topic of the First Vision in 2012?

  4. I supposed that it sometimes gets trite once you become familiar with this topic. It’s depressing when we can’t talk about these things at the place where it counts the most (at church).

    Most members will just dismiss the topic and not take a serious look at the nuance behind what really transpired.

    A faithful perspective is to consider the Evolution of Theology and that the story grew over time and by the power of the spirit of God.

    If we allow room for the flexibility of things, perhaps the first vision experience can still be a transformative, transcendent experience. For what can be more powerful than receiving an answer from God, but finding out what that actually looks like instead of thinking well Joseph received a visitation from God and Christ… he is so much better than I am, I’m just an average Joe, I’m not like the General Authorities or Apostles, much less the prophet.

    So this notion that Joseph received this revelation while others don’t feeds an inferiority complex. Whereas if we state categorically that this was a revelation, vision, imagination, then we are all entitled to such epiphanies then some how it asserts our self esteem and allows us to feel equal to Joseph Smith and any other general authority or leader in the church out there.

  5. Knocked it out of the park, guys. Glad you discussed the evolving theology. The different accounts of the vision aren’t too big a deal by themselves. It’s only when you start to line up the variation with other contemporaneous teachings that the real trouble come in (for me).

  6. Pingback: Gospel Topic Essay: First Vision Accounts – Unpacking Ambiguity

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