Changing First Vision Accounts - 1844 First Vision Account by Joseph Smith
1844 — Account in An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States, edited by Daniel Rupp. Joseph Smith wrote the chapter on Mormonism. Contained in, New Mormon Studies CD-ROM, Smith Research Associates.
Principle elements of the account:
- Began reflecting on the importance of being prepared for the future state, but upon inquiring found a great conflict of religious opinion
- No mention of a revival
- Age 14 (1820)
- He was in a grove
- Had a vision of two personages - unidentified
- Was told all churches are wrong and is to join none of them
- Was told a future revelation would teach him of the fullness of the gospel
- Three years later has vision of a single personage (same description as previous personages) which is identified as an angel
Joseph Smith, Latter Day Saints, p.404-405
“When about fourteen years of age, I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state; and upon inquiring the place of salvation, I found that there was a great clash in religious sentiment; if I went to one society they referred me to one place, and another to another; each one pointing to his 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. Believing the word of God, I had confidence in the declaration of James, "If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him."
I retired to a secret place in a grove, and began to call upon the Lord. While fervently engaged in supplication, my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enrapt 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 noonday. They told me that all the 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.
On the evening of the 21st September, A.D. 1823, while I was praying unto God and endeavoring to exercise faith in the precious promises of scripture, on a sudden a light like that of day, only of a far purer and more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room; indeed the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming fire. The appearance produced a shock that affected the whole body. In a moment a personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that with which I was already surrounded. This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God, sent to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled; that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel in all its fullness to be preached in power, unto all nations, that a people might be prepared for the millennial reign. I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of his purposes in this glorious dispensation. I was informed also concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people, was made known unto me.”
It is interesting that in this account, written by Joseph Smith only a couple of years after the "official version" is published, Joseph does not identify the messengers as the Father and the Son, nor does he mention the motivating factor of a revival. These and other discrepancies between this and the 1838 account, raise questions about the veracity and historical accuracy of the 1838 official account.