Joseph Smith's Changing First Vision Accounts
Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, claimed that as a 14-year-old boy he had a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. The official account of this first vision found in Mormon Scripture (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith — History, 1:14-20) was not recorded by Joseph Smith until 1838, 18 years after the supposed event. However, for years before this, Joseph, and his close associates did talk about his early visionary experiences. These earlier accounts contain significant variations from the official First Vision account. The links below present these accounts in chronological order.
- 1827 — Account of Joseph Smith, Sr., and Joseph Smith, Jr., given to Willard Chase, as related in his 1833 affidavit.
- 1827 — Account by Martin Harris given to Rev. John Clark, as published in his book Gleanings by the Way, printed in 1842, pp. 222-229.
- 1830 — Interview of Joseph Smith by Peter Bauder, recounted by Bauder in his book The Kingdom and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, printed in 1834, pp. 36-38.
- 1832 — Earliest known attempt at an ‘official’ recounting of the ‘First Vision, from History, 1832, Joseph Smith Letterbook 1, pp.2,3, in the handwriting of Joseph Smith.
- 1834-35 — Oliver Cowdery, with Joseph Smith’s help, published the first history of Mormonism in the LDS periodical Messenger and Advocate, Kirtland, Ohio, Dec. 1834, vol.1, no.3
- 1835 — Account given by Joseph Smith to Joshua the Jewish minister, Joseph Smith Diary, Nov. 9, 1835.
- 1835 — Account given by Joseph Smith to Erastus Holmes on November 14, 1835, originally published in the Deseret News of Saturday May 29, 1852.
- 1838 — This account became the official version, now part of Mormon Scripture in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith — History, 1:7-20. Though written in 1838, it was not published until 1842 in Times and Season, March 15, 1842, vol. 3, no. 10, pp. 727-728, 748-749, 753.
- 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.
- 1859 — Interview with Martin Harris, Tiffany’s Monthly, 1859, New York: Published by Joel Tiffany, vol. v.—12, pp. 163-170.