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Joseph Smith’s Heavenly Visitations and Visions

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Joseph Smith’s Heavenly Visitations and Visions

Robert M. Bowman Jr.

Joseph Smith claimed to have numerous visions and visitations from heaven, all of them of some significance to the origin and development of the LDS religion. In fact, he claimed to have so many such experiences that it can be difficult to keep track of them all. This article provides a simple overview of these reported experiences. No attempt is made in this article to evaluate any of the specific reports. 

An important distinction to be observed is that between visitations and visions. A visitation is an event in which a heavenly being literally became physically present on the earth and was visible to a person’s natural eyes. A vision is an event in which a mortal human being on earth had an experience in his mind (whether awake or asleep) of seeing heavenly beings (or other non-earthly realities). In a vision, the heavenly beings are understood not to have made a literal physical visit to the visionary. It is not always clear whether a specific event reported by Joseph Smith should be classified as a vision or a visitation. 

In the two tables below, all visitations and visions are to Joseph Smith alone, unless stated otherwise. The reported events are listed in chronological order according to official LDS dates. In a couple of instances the heavenly being is not mentioned but is traditionally believed to have been the same angel that dominates the early appearances, namely, the angel that Joseph Smith later identified as Moroni. See the end of this article for a list of the sources cited in the tables. 

Visitations of Moroni     
Date Location Reason/Event References
21-22 Sept. 1823 Joseph's bedroom, Manchest NY Moroni appears three timesin one night; JS has a vision of the location of the plates JS-H 1:30-47
22 Sept. 1823 Outside near house, Manchester, NY Moroni tells JS to tell his father JS-H 1:48-49
22 Sept. 1823 Hill Cumorah Show JS the plates, instruments JS-H 1:51-53
22 Sept. 1824
22 Sept. 1825
22 Sept. 1826
Hill Cumorah Annual visits to prepare JS to receive the plates JS-H 1:53-54;
cf. 128:20
22 Sept. 1827 Hill Cumorah Joseph receives the plates, instruments JS-H 1:59
June-July 1828 Harmony, PA Urim and Thummim taken away after JS “wearied the Lord” asking if Harris could take the manuscript home; then returned HC 1:21;
cf. D&C 3
July-Aug. 1828 Harmony, PA
Plates, Urim/Thummim taken away after Harris lost the manuscript, then returned “in a few days”
HC 1:23;
cf. D&C 10
June 1829 Harmony, PA, to Fayette, NY Moroni takes plates to keep them safe while JS, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer travel; they see Moroni on the road David Whitmer
June 1829 Fayette, NY JS had finished the translation, returned the plates to Moroni JS-H 1:60
June 1829 Fayette, NY The Three Witnesses, with JS, see “an angel” and the plates (with Harris’s vision separate) HC 1:54-56;
cf. D&C 128:20
June 1829 Woods near Smith home, Manchester, NY The Eight Witnesses see the plates (but no angel); then the angel took the plates (apparently given to him in another, undocumented, appearance) from JS HC 1:57-58;
Lucy’s Book, 457


Joseph Smith’s Other Heavenly Visitations and Visions     
Date Heavenly Figures Reason/Event References
Spring 1820 Father and Son Joseph to join none of the churches JS-H 1:17-20;
cf. D&C 128:21
1823-1827 "many angels" Revealing what was to happen Wentworth Letter
15 May 1829 John the Baptist Ordaining JS and Oliver Cowdery with the Aaronic priesthood JS-H 1:68-73;
D&C 13; 27:7-8
June 1829 Peter, James, & John Ordaining JS & Oliver as apostles and to commit the “keys” to them D&C 27:12-13; cf. 128:20
1829? Michael=Adam (and archangel Michael), and the devil “On the banks of the Susquehanna” D&C 128:20, 21; cf. 27:11; HC 3:388
16 Feb. 1832 Father, Son, angels, Lucifer Vision (not visitation) of JS, Sidney Rigdon D&C 76:20-27
3 April 1836 Jehovah; then Moses, Elias, and Elijah Validating the temple; committing the “keys” to Joseph D&C 110; cf. 27:6, 9; cf. also HC 3:387, 388
undated Gabriel (=Noah), Raphael, and “divers angels” Unstated D&C 128:21;
cf. HC 3:386
undated Joseph, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham (?) Unstated D&C 27:10 (?); John Taylor, JD 21:94
undated Noah, Seth, Enoch Unstated (not necessarily at the same time) John Taylor, JD 21:94
undated Jewish and Nephite apostles Unstated John Taylor, JD 21:94
undated unnamed angel(s) Commanding JS to begin practice of plural marriage Eliza Snow
Sources Cited
D&C Doctrine & Covenants (LDS scripture)
David Whitmer David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness, ed. Lyndon W. Cook
HC History of the Church (an official LDS Church early history)
JD Journal of Discourses
JS-H  Joseph Smith—History (LDS scripture in Pearl of Great Price)
Lucy’s Book Lucy’s Book, by Lucy Mack Smith, ed. Lavina Fielding Anderson
Wentworth Letter Joseph Smith, Wentworth Letter (1842)
Eliza Snow  Eliza R. Snow Smith, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow (1884)