Dare to Stand Alone


Navy boot camp was not an easy experience for me, nor for anyone who endured it. For the first three weeks I was convinced my life was in jeopardy. The navy wasn’t trying to train me; it was trying to kill me.

I shall ever remember when Sunday rolled around after the first week. We received welcome news from the chief petty officer. Standing at attention on the drill ground in a brisk California breeze, we heard his command: “Today everybody goes to church—everybody, that is, except for me. I am going to relax!” Then he shouted, “All of you Catholics, you meet in Camp Decatur—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!” A rather sizeable contingent moved out. Then he barked out his next command: “Those of you who are Jewish, you meet in Camp Henry—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!” A somewhat smaller contingent marched out. Then he said, “The rest of you Protestants, you meet in the theaters at Camp Farragut—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!”

Instantly there flashed through my mind the thought, “Monson, you are not a Catholic; you are not a Jew; you are not a Protestant. You are a Mormon, so you just stand here!” I can assure you that I felt completely alone. Courageous and determined, yes—but alone.

And then I heard the sweetest words I ever heard that chief petty officer utter. He looked in my direction and asked, “And just what do you guys call yourselves?” Until that very moment I had not realized that anyone was standing beside me or behind me on the drill ground. Almost in unison, each of us replied, “Mormons!” It is difficult to describe the joy that filled my heart as I turned around and saw a handful of other sailors.

The chief petty officer scratched his head in an expression of puzzlement but finally said, “Well, you guys go find somewhere to meet. And don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!”

As we marched away, I thought of the words of a rhyme I had learned in Primary years before:

Dare to be a Mormon;

Dare to stand alone.

Dare to have a purpose firm;

Dare to make it known.

These words were delivered by President Thomas S. Monson in the October 2011 General Conference. They were given as both a challenge and inspiration to stand strong in our beliefs no matter what adversity you may face.

As illustrated by his experience, standing for your beliefs can be a terrifying experience, especially when you are the only member in the room. Imagine how you would feel. You are sitting in a room surrounded by hundred of people who know you and you alone must stand for truth. Your heart starts to beat faster. The thoughts race through your mind. What will they think about me? What will my friends think? Am I just being a disruptor? Is it really that important to stand for truth? What repercussions will I face? Will I be punished? Your palms sweat. Your heart beat drowns out all other sounds in the room. The moment is here. All eyes are on you. Do you take a stand or decide that maybe you can stand for truth tomorrow?

In Mosaiah 18:9 we learn that it is our duty to stand for God all the time:

9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God[…]

Opportunities to stand for truth don’t happen just outside the walls of Church. Sometimes, we may even need to stand for truth at Church. This can often be more nerve wracking than standing for truth somewhere else. These are people you see every week. They are your neighbors and friends.

Have you ever been in a meeting where a member of the ward was sustained to a new calling? The vote is pretty much always in support of the person getting the calling. Usually the only time you see someone raising their hand to oppose is when it’s some little child who doesn’t know what they are doing, and then their mother quickly swats their hand down. I’ve been both the child and the parent in that scenario (at different times of course).

But did you know that opposing votes actually have a very important purpose in our Church?

Handbook 2 Section 19.3 actually tells us what the purpose of an opposing vote is:

“If a member in good standing gives a dissenting vote when someone is presented to be sustained, the presiding officer or another assigned priesthood officer confers with the dissenting member in private after the meeting. The officer determines whether the dissenting vote was based on knowledge that the person who was presented is guilty of conduct that should disqualify him or her from serving in the position.

Also in the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual “Section 26, The Law of Common Consent” teaches us a similar lesson:

D&C 26:2. When Should a Person Cast a Negative Vote?

“I have no right to raise my hand in opposition to a man who is appointed to any position in this Church, simply because I may not like him, or because of some personal disagreement or feeling I may have, but only on the grounds that he is guilty of wrong doing, of transgression of the laws of the Church which would disqualify him for the position which he is called to hold.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:124.)

What these things are teaching us is that the purpose of an opposing vote is to bring knowledge of any wrongdoing by the person who is being sustained, that would disqualify them from serving, to the attention of a Priesthood leader.

I think we can all agree that following the commandments and teachings of the God are essential for every member of the Church. Christ didn’t say, “If you love me keep my commandments, except for the Elders Quorum or Relief Society President, they’re exempt.” No. All members must keep God’s commandments.

This is why this next part is so hard for me. Because, I have knowledge that a fellow member of the Church is guilty of conduct that would disqualify them from serving in their calling. This is terrifying, because, when the time comes to sustain them, I will be the lone member of my ward to cast an opposing vote. Mentally I know that the purpose of casting an opposing vote isn’t to be disagreeable, it isn’t to be disruptive, it isn’t to speak evil about the person being sustained. It’s purpose is to make Priesthood leaders aware of issues.

But this knowledge doesn’t alleviate the fact that I must stand alone, when I raise my hand to oppose the calling. Chances are that I will be the first person anyone in my ward has ever seen cast an opposing vote. That is a huge weight on my shoulders. I’m terrified; even though I will be acting in complete compliance with Church teachings. Part of me wishes I could just sit quietly and do nothing. But I can’t. It wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be doing my duty as a member of the Church.

The reason why I find myself in this position originates in the scriptures. According to the Doctrine and Covenants and teachings of the Church, all things in the church must be done by common consent.

65 No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church; — Section 20:65

In the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual in the chapter entitled “Section 26, The Law of Common Consent” it states:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that “administrative affairs of the Church are handled in accordance with the law of common consent. This law is that in God’s earthly kingdom, the King counsels what should be done, but then he allows his subjects to accept or reject his proposals. […] Accordingly, church officers are selected by the spirit of revelation in those appointed to choose them, but before the officers may serve in their positions, they must receive a formal sustaining vote of the people over whom they are to preside. (D. & C. 20:60–67; 26:2; 28; 38:34–35; 41:9–11; 42:11; 102:9; 124:124–145.)” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 149–50.)

These things teach us that no Church officers may be ordained or serve in their positions without the vote of the church to which their office pertains. This is the issue that brings me to my predicament. The reason why I need to cast an opposing vote, when it is time for sustainings in my ward, is that someone was given a calling and ordained without having this vote first. I know this for a fact because this member said it themselves. In fact they seemed like they were proud of the fact, like they either didn’t know the rules or didn’t care.

I wanted some further insight into this so I looked in the Handbook and in Handbook 2 Section 19.3 it says:

Members who are called to most Church positions should receive a sustaining vote before they begin serving. The Chart of Callings indicates whether a sustaining vote is needed and what congregation should give it.

This was insightful because it says that most Church positions should receive a sustaining vote before they begin serving. Then it gives a reference to know which of these callings are the exemptions to the “most” statement. I looked at the Chart of Callings and couldn’t find the calling to which this member had been called. Meaning that their calling was not one of the exceptions

Now, I know this may seem like a minor thing. But as I mentioned before, the commandments are for everyone. They are there for a reason. And if this rule isn’t important then why is it in our scriptures, teachings, and policies?

I know Church leaders at all levels, local and general, are doing their best to serve God. I support and encourage them to do good in leading the Church. We all acknowledge that Church members aren’t perfect, even ones with leadership callings. So if there was an error in the way this person was called then it should be corrected, right? After all, mistakes happen.

But the mistake made in the calling of this person is of particular significance and importance. On January 16, 2018, there was a broadcast held for members of the Church:

Todd Christofferson, conducting the event, stated:

“We are pleased to announce to you this morning that Russell M. Nelson was set apart as the seventeenth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on January 14, 2018. With President Dallin H. Oaks and First Councilor and President Henry B. Eyring as Second Councilor in the First presidency. President M. Russell Ballard was set apart as acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”

Later Russell M. Nelson also spoke, stating:

Two days ago, as Brother Christofferson has said, all of the living Apostles met in the upper room of the Salt Lake Temple. There, they made a unanimous decision first, to reorganize the First Presidency now, and second, that I serve as President of the Church. Words are inadequate to tell you what it felt like to have my brethren, brethren who hold all the priesthood keys restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith in this dispensation, place their hands upon my head to ordain and set me apart as President of the Church.”

These statements make it known that, two days earlier, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles ordained and set apart Russell M. Nelson as President of the Church, with Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring as his councilors. The was done BEFORE any sustaining vote by the church could have been done. Based on what we learned earlier this is a clear violation of the scriptures, teaching of the Church, and Church policies.

When I learned about this it was such a surprise. My initial reaction was to look up all the scriptures and policies about the subject to find out what the truth was. This lead me to all of the information I presented earlier in this article.

Interestingly in Doctrine and Covenants Second 20 it actually talks about ordaining the President of the Church:

67 Every president of the high priesthood (or presiding elder), bishop, high councilor, and high priest, is to be ordained by the direction of a high council or general conference.

At first glance this may seem like this gives the President a pass, but verse 65 is emphatic that where there is an organize division of the Church, no person is to be ordained to any office without first having received the vote of that church. So how are we to understand verse 67?

They key is in the wording, “ordained by the direction of.” Meaning that either a high council, or a General Conference may direct that a President be ordained. But they must still comply with verse 65 and get the vote of the church before that ordination can actually be done.

This may seem like I’m picking at straws. After all, if the Church members sustain Russell M. Nelson later, does it really matter that he was ordained before? Well, yes, it does matter. Because if it didn’t matter when the sustaining vote took place, then why would there be commandments about it? Since Russell, M. Nelson’s ordaining was illegitimate, then when Church members later vote to sustain that ordination, all they are saying is that they support an ordination that broke the commandments. Does God want us to support breaking the commandments, or would He prefer we point out errors so they can be fixed?

I know that there are some members of the Church who don’t care enough to worry about this. It’s much easier to maintain the status quo and keep your mouth shut. After all, why rock the boat? Why make waves? But for me I care too much about the Gospel to not act. I’m not a member who goes to Church for the social aspect. I believe in the Gospel and work to apply it in my life. I believe that the scriptures say what they mean, and mean what they say. Therefore this breach of the commandments will not be ignored by God. This is a point in time where we can vote to oppose error and thus stand with God and his commandments, or we can vote to sustain violations of God’s law.

That is why, in accordance with the teachings of the church, and out of no malice or ill-intent, I must dare to stand alone for truth and vote in opposition to the motions to sustain Russell M. Nelson Sr. as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; with Dallin H. Oaks as First Counselor in the First Presidency; and Henry B. Eyring as Second Counselor in the First Presidency; as well as M. Russell Ballard Jr. as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

These men cannot legitimately serve in these callings, because their ordinations were done in transgression of the laws and teachings of the church. I will be casting my vote from a place of respect, and not out of criticism. I have observed a breach in the laws of the God and the church, and I must oppose that.

I do not oppose a properly organized First Presidency consisting of Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, Henry B. Eyring. Likewise, I do not oppose the sustaining of Russell M. Nelson, the counselors in the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators; as I do support them in receiving these gifts.

I have a testimony that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, and that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. I strive to live the Gospel of Christ the best I can. And it is from this very same desire to follow God’s commandments that I must cast my opposing vote. And if after reading this you choose to cast an opposing vote, know that you are not standing alone.

 

 

Posted in Church, Commandments, Scriptures | 1 Comment

Why Will I Cast an Opposing Vote?


First let me state that I support Church leaders at all levels, local and general, in doing their best to serve God. I support and encourage them to do good in leading the Church. However, it has come to my attention that Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, Henry B. Eyring, and the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve have acted in violation of the revelations of God and teachings of the Church.

On January 16, 2018, there was a broadcast held for members of the Church, in which the Quorum of the Twelve announced that they had chosen Russell M. Nelson as the new President of the Church, and had already ordained and set him apart in this calling.

Todd Christofferson, conducting the event, stated:

“We are pleased to announce to you this morning that Russell M. Nelson was set apart as the seventeenth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on January 14, 2018. With President Dallin H. Oaks and First Councilor and President Henry B. Eyring as Second Councilor in the First presidency. President M. Russell Ballard was set apart as acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”

Later Russell M. Nelson also spoke, stating:

Two days ago, as Brother Christofferson has said, all of the living Apostles met in the upper room of the Salt Lake Temple. There, they made a unanimous decision first, to reorganize the First Presidency now, and second, that I serve as President of the Church. Words are inadequate to tell you what it felt like to have my brethren, brethren who hold all the priesthood keys restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith in this dispensation, place their hands upon my head to ordain and set me apart as President of the Church.

The issue arises because according to the Doctrine and Covenants and teachings of the Church, all things in the church must be done by common consent. Furthermore, no Church officers may be ordained or serve in their positions without the vote of the church to which their office pertains.

65 No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church; — Section 20:65

In the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual in the chapter entitled “Section 26, The Law of Common Consent” it states:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that “administrative affairs of the Church are handled in accordance with the law of common consent. This law is that in God’s earthly kingdom, the King counsels what should be done, but then he allows his subjects to accept or reject his proposals. […] Accordingly, church officers are selected by the spirit of revelation in those appointed to choose them, but before the officers may serve in their positions, they must receive a formal sustaining vote of the people over whom they are to preside. (D. & C. 20:60–67; 26:2; 28; 38:34–35; 41:9–11; 42:11; 102:9; 124:124–145.)” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 149–50.)

Also, according to Handbook 2 Section 19.3

Members who are called to most Church positions should receive a sustaining vote before they begin serving. The Chart of Callings indicates whether a sustaining vote is needed and what congregation should give it.

It is clear from the above statements that the entire Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have acted contrary to the scriptures and teachings of the Church. They have ordained and set apart Russell M. Nelson as President of the Church, with Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring as his councilors; without first receiving the common consent of the church.

In light of the scriptures, as well as the following teachings and policies, I will be casting my vote:

 “If a member in good standing gives a dissenting vote when someone is presented to be sustained, the presiding officer or another assigned priesthood officer confers with the dissenting member in private after the meeting. The officer determines whether the dissenting vote was based on knowledge that the person who was presented is guilty of conduct that should disqualify him or her from serving in the position.” — Handbook2 Section 19.3

D&C 26:2. When Should a Person Cast a Negative Vote?

“I have no right to raise my hand in opposition to a man who is appointed to any position in this Church, simply because I may not like him, or because of some personal disagreement or feeling I may have, but only on the grounds that he is guilty of wrong doing, of transgression of the laws of the Church which would disqualify him for the position which he is called to hold.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:124.) — Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual “Section 26, The Law of Common Consent

Therefore, in accordance with the teachings of the church, and out of no malice or ill-intent, I must vote in opposition to the motions to sustain Russell Marion Nelson Sr. as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; with Dallin Harris Oaks as First Counselor in the First Presidency; and Henry Bennion Eyring as Second Counselor in the First Presidency; as well as Melvin Russell Ballard Jr. as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

These men cannot legitimately serve in these callings, because their ordinations were done in transgression of the laws and teachings of the church. I will be casting my vote from a place of respect, and not out of criticism. I have observed a breach in the laws of the God and the church, and I must oppose that.

I do not oppose a properly organized First Presidency consisting of Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, Henry B. Eyring. Likewise, I do not oppose the sustaining of Russell M. Nelson, the counselors in the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators; as I do support them in receiving these gifts.

It is my desire to remain a member in good standing within the Church. I have a testimony that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, and that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. I strive to live the Gospel of Christ the best I can. And it is from this very same desire to follow God’s commandments that I must cast my opposing vote.

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Did Joseph Smith Lie About the First Vision?


One of the foundational claims of the L-dS Church is that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to a young Joseph Smith, in a sacred grove. This First Vision of Joseph’s, opened a new era of God’s work among mankind. It is proof that God once again calls prophets who speak for God and that God has a living prophet among us today.

This is the narrative that has been presented to investigators and members of the L-dS Church for decades.

However, there is a problem. There isn’t only one first vision; or rather there isn’t only one telling of it. Both Joseph Smith and others recounted the vision several times; and each account is a bit different. But waits? If Joseph has such an amazing experience as God the Father appearing to him, should he have every detail right every time he told it? Wouldn’t every excruciating detail be burned into his memory with such strength that he would have no problem recalling everything?

For me, it’s not enough to just take what I read online at face value. I need to look at original source material. That’s why the other day I decided to take another look at the different account of the first vision given by Joseph Smith. I did so a few years ago and so I thought it was time to refresh my memory.

To give you a list here are the accounts that Joseph directly had a part in telling:

1832 – This version is the first known version of the First Vision.

1835 November 9th – This is an entry in Joseph Smith’s journal about him retelling the event to someone who asked.

1835 November 14th – This is also a journal entry when Joseph Smith’s told the first vision to someone who asked him.

1838 (official) – It is my understanding that this version was started in 1838, but was published in Times and Seasons (Volume 3 Number 11) in 1842.

1842 – This version was included in the Wentworth letter and was also published in Times and Seasons (Volume 3 Number 9) in 1842.

1844 – This version is that same as what was published in the Wentworth letter.

There are differences in each of these accounts. For example in the 1832 account Joseph Smith says that is was because he mourned for his sins that he went and prayed in the sacred grove. But in the 1838 account he says it was because he wanted to know which church was correct.

This news has been devastating to many members of the church. Why are there these differences? If Joseph Smith was recalling an actual event shouldn’t he be able to keep his story straight? Maybe he just made it up later to support his claims. Do these differing accounts prove Joseph Smith was a liar?!

To examine these questions we first need to look at some of our fundamental assumptions. These assumptions stem from how the L-dS Church has presented the First Vision.

First, the L-dS Church seems to overstate the importance of the first Vision has to, not only the Church, but also to Joseph Smith. The first vision is presented as an essential first step in “restoring the Church.”

See this quote from Gordon B. Hinckley: “Our  whole  strength  rests  on  the  validity  of  that  [First]  vision.  It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens.”

If the First Vision was that important you would think that it would have played a more significant role in Joseph’s life. But it seems clear from the evidence that it wasn’t as significant to Joseph as we make it out to be.

As pointed out by MormonThink, visions of God or Jesus were common in the 1800’s. Things that are common, tend to not be that significant. We can catch a glimpse of how Joseph may have viewed this vision in the document “Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ,” written in 1830. This account is given as a preface for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. It states:

“For after that it truly was manifested unto the first elder that he had received remission of his sins, he was entangled a gain in the vanities of the world, but after truly repenting, God visited him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all whiteness…”

Here we see that Joseph (the First Elder) had a manifestation that he had received a remission of his sins prior to the Book of Mormon coming forth. This is very vague, just hinting at something. I don’t know what Joseph was thinking, but to me it’s as if he views this visionary experience that happened tenish years ago as a preface to the actual work, rather than the beginning. Almost as if he was saying, “oh yeah, there was that vision thing I had where my sins were forgiven.”

I think we do a huge disservice to ourselves and other by ascribing more significance to the First Vision that it apparently had to Joseph. In making it the ultimate first step, without which everything is false, we are the ones making the mistake.

Second, the L-dS Church presents the First Vision as a physical occurrence. According to the L-dS narrative God the Father and Jesus both literally appeared before Joseph Smith. They were physically present. There is a reason for this. The L-dS Church teaches that God the Father is a person of flesh and bone. Him appearing physically is used as a point of evidence for this teaching. Having God appear to Joseph as a vision rather than a literal being decreases the points of evidence for this teaching.

The problem with this is that is misrepresents the nature of visions. According to my understanding visions are like dreams. They occur mentally, not physically. I believe that anyone walking into the woods at that time would have only seen a young Joseph staring up at the trees. They would not have seen God or Jesus. Just a boy, in the woods, by himself. Joseph on the other hand would have been seeing his vision. That’s because the vision was happening in his mind.

Let’s look a bit more at the differences presented in these accounts. I’m sure many of you have seen this little infographic.

Look at all the contradictions, it’s so damning. And to top it off this is only a small sample. There are 10 versions that evolved over time!

But let’s look at this a little closer. Of the ten versions mentioned, there are six that Joseph Smith was directly involved in. I listed these earlier. Two of them were identical and excluding the 1830 “inkling”; that leaves five versions of the First vision that joseph was directly involved in telling.

There’s one more version I want to throw out. Look at the 1835 account(the November 14th Journal entry). According to this inforgraphic Joseph smith didn’t see any personages, there was no pillar of fire, no sins forgiven, nothing. Just a bunch of angels. Joseph Smith must really have been making up the whole thing to get the story that wrong. Let’s look at the text of this account:

“A Gentleman called this afternoon by the name of Erastus Holmes of Newbury, Clermont Co. Ohio, he called to make inquiry about the establishment of the Church of the latter-day Saints and to be instructed more perfectly in our doctrine &c I commenced and gave him a brief relation of my experience while in my juvenile years, say from 6, years old up to the time I received the first visitation of Angels which was when I was about 14, years old and also the visitations that I received afterward, concerning the book of Mormon, and a short account of the rise and progress of the church, up to this, date he listened very attentively and seemed highly gratified, and intends to unite with the Church he is a very candid man indeed and I am much pleased with him.”

Wait…where was it? Where was this damning contradictory First Vision account that Joseph Smith the liar made up? Let me point it out to you:

“the time I received the first visitation of Angels which was when I was about 14, years”

That’s it?! That’s only seventeen words, there’s hardly any information there. That’s because, for those of you who don’t know, this is something called a summary. What’s a summary you ask? Why it’s when you take many words and make them into few words while still conveying the same general meaning. You see, when Joseph Smith said he told about the time he received the first visitation of angels; he wasn’t saying he only saw angels he was summarizing what he has told the man.

Why was he summarizing when he could have included the entire experience in excruciating detail for 21st century netizens? Because Joseph had already written the first vision fourteen pages earlier in this same journal. Even if we take these seventeen words as a definitive description (meaning Joseph told different version of the story that didn’t allow for pillars of light/fire, personages, etc. and ONLY allowed angels, as suggested in the infographic); it defies logic that Joseph couldn’t keep that story straight with one he told only five days earlier on November 9th! Even I can recall some of the details of impromptu bedtime stories I tell my daughters a week later. To believe that the Nov 9th 1835 account suggests a completely different version is laughable.

But this infographic makes it look like it was a completely different contradictory version. Why? Because it looks more damning with all those red x’s.

Since one of the five versions of the first vision is a one line summary lets exclude it too. That leaves us with four firsthand accounts: the 1832, the 1835(Nov 9th), the 1838 (official), and the 1842 (Wentworth).

So let’s look at some of the details

Motivations

1832 – Concerned with welfare of his soul, studies the scriptures, found denominations were not agreeable to the scriptures, concerned with contentions of the world, found that mankind has apostatized from the faith, mourned for his sins and the sins of the world.

1835 – Wondering about the subject of religion, who was right and who was wrong,.

1838 – Excitement about religion, confusion and strife among denominations, wondering who was right and who was wrong.

1842 – Societies(groups) had different plans, didn’t think God could be the author of so much confusion.

I don’t know about you, but all of those motivations sound very similar. They are certainly expressed in different ways, but pretty much center around the concept of, concern for standing before God motivated by confusion about religion.

Personages

1832 – “The Lord”

1835 – Two personages. First one personage, then another shortly after the first appeared. Many angels.

1838 – Two personages, one identified that other saying, “this is my beloved Son, hear him.”

1842 – Two identical personages

Again, none of these are really contradictory. The 1832 certainly says, “the Lord.” But it doesn’t say ONLY the Lord. And if the personages in the other accounts are the same and there is no indication they are not, they we could reasonably conclude that they are God the Father and the Son. If they are, couldn’t the descriptor, “the Lord” apply as well in the other three accounts? I think so.

Pillar

1832 – Pillar of light.

1835 – Pillar of fire/flame.

1838 – Pillar of light.

1842 – Surrounded by a brilliant light.

I’m going to be honest. I think you’re just nitpicking if you think these things are describe something different each time.

Communications

1832 – Sins are forgiven, keep my commandments, I am the Lord, world has turned from the gospel, they draw near with lips but hearts are far, anger kindled against the inhabitants of the earth, bring to pass that which has been spoken of by the prophets.

1835 – Sins forgiven, testified that Jesus is the Son of god.

1838 – Told that one of the personages is “my beloved Son,” told not to join the churches, their creeds are an abomination, their professors are all corrupt, they draw near with lips but hearts are far, many other things.

1842 – All religious denominations are believing incorrect doctrines, none of them are acknowledged by God, commanded to “go not after them,” the fullness of the gospel should be made known in the future.

Again with these accounts there seems to be a common thread running through them. And there is no case where there is any direct contradiction. You can only find contradiction if you assume that each account contains all that was said and nothing more. The 1835 account does stand out. However is should be noted that this part of the account is only seventeen words long. So it is clearly a summarization.

Hopefully, by now you will agree with me that the infographic was made in such a way as to play up the differences. I think it is clear that these much disparaged “differences” are not anything that can’t be attributed to retelling the same event in different ways at different times.

With all this information in hand I’m going to ask you, have you ever told something that happened to you, but summarized it, or left out parts based on who you are talking to?

I have. When people ask how my wife and I met on my mission and later got married I will usually tell them this:

“I was serving in the Sto. Domingo branch and [my would-be wife] was serving in the District Relief society presidency in another city. One day she came to visit our branch and that was when I first saw her. I only saw her occasionally after that. However, before I went home a member gave me her phone number. After a few months I called her, and the rest is history.”

Even if you asked if I had any spiritual experiences about her I might still only tell you the version above. But I would tell a different version of the story depending on if I thought I should share it with you. That version would go something like this:

“I was serving in the Sto. Domingo branch and [my would-be wife] was serving in the District Relief society presidency in another city. One day she came to visit our branch and that was when I first saw her. It was so weird because at the moment I first saw her, I heard a voice behind me say that she’s the one I’m supposed to marry. I looked behind me thinking it was my companion playing a joke, but nobody was there. I only saw her occasionally after that. However, before I went home I asked a member for her phone number. After a few months I called her, and the rest is history.”

Would you really need to draw up charts with little checkmarks; saying that in one story I said I asked for the phone number, in the other he said it was the member who gave it to him. Or that in one said I had a spiritual experience and the other is didn’t. Of course not, that’s just dumb. We all would understand that I’m just telling different parts of the story based on what I think should be included.

So how come we are willing to give any regular person a pass for summarizing and not sharing all the details every time, but not Joseph Smith?

The truth of the matter is that there aren’t nearly as many contradictions in the first vision accounts as people want you to think. In fact, if we allow the accounts to inform each other, they flow together very well. There really aren’t any major contradictions. There are only contradictions if you view what Joseph told in each account as exactly what was in Joseph’s mind every time. I think human experience tells us that that is not the way we tell and retell stories.

To experiment with this, I set out to make a unified version of the First vision. I gathered all the firsthand accounts and meshed them created one account. My criteria was that I wanted to use as much original wording as possible, I wanted to keep the order of things intact, and I wanted things to make sense as a story. The biggest issue is that some accounts are told in different narrative styles. In one account Joseph may reflect on something which is mentioned earlier in another account. Despite this, the accounts seem to follow each other and mesh very well. I was surprised how easy it actually was. I didn’t need to leave out any details. The story doesn’t require fantastic rationalizations, like Judas hanging himself and then the rope breaking so he fell and burst asunder. It actually flows pretty well. The only issue I didn’t check for was theological correctness. For example, if God the Father would say, “Joseph my son.”

So without further adieu here is my version of the complete first vision:

(I’ve corrected spelling and text I’ve added is bold)

At about the age of twelve years, my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness respecting the subject of religion, and became seriously impressed with regard to the all important concerns for the well fare of my immortal Soul; which led me to searching 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 minds of mankind. But though my feelings were deep and often pungent, still I kept myself aloof from all those parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit, looking at the different systems taught the children of men. But in process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them.

When about fourteen years of age I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state, and upon inquiring the plan of salvation I found that there was a great clash in religious sentiment; because so great was 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.

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.

My mind at different times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult was so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists, and Methodists, and used all their powers of either reason, or 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 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? I knew not who was right or who was wrong, and considering it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involved eternal consequences; my mind become exceedingly distressed for I become 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 to day and forever that he was no respecter to persons for he was God.

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 unto 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 had would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passage 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.

Being thus perplexed in mind and in accordance with this my determination, to ask of God, I retired to a secret place in a silent grove to make the attempt; under a realizing sense that he had said (if the bible be true) ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened, seek and you shall find,” and again believing the word of God, I had confidence in the declaration of James. Information was what I most desired at this time, and with a fixed determination to obtain it I retired to the woods.

It was on the morning of a beautiful clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. For I had 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, ‘it is a fool that saith in his heart there is no God.’“ My heart exclaimed, “all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power. A being who maketh Laws, and decreeth, and bindeth all things in their bounds; who filleth Eternity. Who was, and is, and will be from all Eternity to Eternity.” And when I considered all these things and that that being seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth, therefore I called upon the Lord for the first time, in the place above stated, or in other words I made a fruitless attempt to pray.

It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally. After I had retired into the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me and finding myself alone, I bowed down before the Lord and began to to call upon the Lord and 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 overcome me, and had such astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue, so that I could not speak. For my tongue seemed to be swollen in my mouth.

I heard a noise behind me like some person walking towards me, I strove again to pray, but could not, the noise of walking seemed to draw nearer, I sprung up on my feet, and looked around, but saw no person or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of walking.

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 any imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world who had such a marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being, I kneeled again, my mouth was opened and my tongue liberated, and I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, and therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness.

Just at this moment of great alarm, while fervently engaged in calling upon the Lord, my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision:

I saw a pillar of light, as if fire, above the brightness of the sun at noon day, had appeared exactly above my head and descended gradually from above until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light had presently rested upon my head, I was filled with joy unspeakable through the spirit of God; and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord. For a personage appeared in the midst, of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, and another personage soon appeared like unto the first, and I saw many Angels. I saw these two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon-day(whose brightness and glory defy all description), standing above me in the air.

One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, saying, “Joseph, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee.” He testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God; and said, (pointing to the other,) “This is my beloved Son, hear him.”

And he said unto me, “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.”

Now 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. He said, “Behold the world lieth in sin at this time and 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; they teach for doctrine the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof. And mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them according to their 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 is written of me, in the cloud, clothed in the glory of my Father.”

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. And many other things did he say unto me which I cannot write at this time.

When I came to myself again I found myself laying on my back, looking up into heaven. My soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great Joy and the Lord was with me but could find none that would believe the heavenly vision, nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart but after many days I fell into transgressions, was entangled again in the vanities of the world, and sinned in many things which brought a wound upon my soul. And there were many things which transpired that cannot be written.

 

As a follow up to this I will be posting an analysis showing where I drew from each account and how much.

Some questions answered:

Why are there multiple versions of the First Vision?

Because Joseph Smith told the account multiple times.

Why do some of the accounts differ?

Probably because Joseph Smith told it slightly differently each time. He may have included and excluded pieces depending on who he was talking to.

Doesn’t that prove he was lying and couldn’t keep his story straight?

Not any more than it proves you lie when you tell a story differently and may or may not include certain details depending on who you’re talking to.

Are there any firsthand accounts that directly contradict each other?

No. Some accounts may leave out elements or state things in a different way, but that is not the same as a contradiction.

But didn’t Joseph say he saw only the Lord in one account and two personages (God and Jesus) in another account?

He didn’t say he ONLY saw the Lord. He just said he saw the Lord. I would say that seeing God, or Jesus, or both would qualify as having seen “the Lord.” Perhaps, he decided to exclude some of the details in that account, just like he did many others.

Isn’t it a contradiction when Joseph Smith said, “Who of all these parties are right? Or, are they all wrong together?” then later said “for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong” in the same document, not to mention in other accounts he had already concluded that the other churches had apostatized?!

Possibly, people make mistakes all the time. However to me it reads as if Joseph Smith is waxing philosophical or just basing things on his own studies in his statements pre-vision. Then later he is saying something like, “Woah, it’s really official, they are all wrong.” I know that explanation won’t satisfy everybody. But to be honest I don’t have an issue with either keeping that parenthetical or chalking it up to an authorship issue and throwing it out. Is this possible error proof that Joseph Smith lied? Hardly.

Why didn’t you talk about Joseph’s age? It’s all over the place in the different accounts.

The accounts don’t really differ that much. The age is cited as between a range of fourteen and sixteen. You’re assuming this event was much more significant to Joseph Smith then the evidence indicates it was. Ten years later he probably had a hard time remembering exactly what year it was.

Why did Joseph Smith join the Methodist Church in 1828 after he was told not to in the vision?

I don’t know Joseph Smith’s motivations so I can’t answer why. Though this would not be inconsistent with the first vision account, because Joseph Smith himself admitted that he fell into transgressions, was entangled in the vanities of the world, and sinned in many things. It would be folly to assume Joseph Smith perfectly kept all of God’s commandments when the man himself admitted that he didn’t.

Doesn’t the fact that there are no records of the first vision until ten or twelve years after it supposedly happened mean that Joseph Smith made it up?

Not necessarily, it just may mean that this vision wasn’t as significant to Joseph Smith as the L-dS Church makes it out to be. Evidence indicates that the vision prior to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon was much more significant to him.

You’re just ignoring that facts and twisting things to support your own conclusions!

Not any more than you are.

Joseph Smith was a filthy liar, scumbag, pedophile; I just know it!

Boo hoo, go cry in your pillow.

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