Joseph claimed that the neighborhood knew about the vision and persecuted him for it. But evidence indicates that his own family did not know about the vision. If Joseph's story had actually occurred and excited persecution, family members did not talk or write about it in memoirs. The question arises from reasonable investigators, “How could Smith's family be unaware of his vision while neighbors were persecuting him for it”?Historical documents indicate that Joseph was persecuted for engaging in a confidence scheme using a magic rock-in-a-hat to reveal where buried treasure lay beneath the earth's surface, and later, in 1827, using that same rock-in-the-hat to locate golden plates buried near his home.No one, in New York or Pennsylvania recalled "great persecution" or that Joseph claimed to have had a vision, including his family.
I cannot remember the time when I have not heard the story,.concerning the coming of the Father and the Son to the Prophet Joseph Smith.I am concerned however with one item which has recently been called to my attention on this matter. There appears to be going about our communities some writing to the effect that the Prophet Joseph Smith evolved his doctrine from what might have been a vision, in which he is supposed to have said that he saw an angel, instead of the Father and the Son. According to this theory, by the time he was inspired to write the occurrence in 1838, he had come to the conclusion that there were two beings.This rather shocked me. I can see no reason why the Prophet, with his brilliant mind, would have failed to remember in sharp relief every detail of that eventful day. I can remember quite vividly that in 1915 I had a mere dream, and while the dream was prophetic in nature, it was not startling. It has been long since fulfilled, but I can remember every detail of it as sharply and clearly as though it had happened yesterday. How them could any man conceive that the Prophet, receiving such a vision as he received, would not remember it and would fail to write it clearly, distinctly, and accurately? Improvement Era, June 1957, p 436ReferencesOliver Cowdery's account in the 1834 "Messenger and Advocate" stated that the "first vision" occurred in 1823. He did not report an 1820 vision, indicating that Cowdery was unaware of the 1820 experience. Cowdery's account also reported that Smith's interest in religion was sparked by the preaching of Methodist elder George Lane, rather than Smith's version, that claimed that he was inspired by reading in the Bible at age 14. Cowdery also stated that the date of the "religious excitement in Palmyra and vicinity" was in Smith's "17th year," which would have been 1823, rather than 1820.Joseph's brother William gave an account of the event more similar to Cowdery's than to Joseph's:
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Joseph went to great lengths to conceal his practice of plural marriage. H. Michael Marquardt discovered that he even had a pretended marriage performed to cover up his own marriage to Sarah Ann Whitney. On July 27,1842, Joseph gave a revelation to Newel K. Whitney, that he was to seal his daughter, Sarah Ann, "to Joseph Smith, to be his wife." In his booklet, The Strange Marriages of Sarah Ann Whitney to Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, Joseph C. Kingsbury and Heber C. Kimball, Marquardt reveals how he uncovered the fact that Joseph Smith actually performed a "pretended" marriage ceremony between Sarah Ann Whitney and Joseph C. Kingsbury so that his own relationship with her would not be noticed. Marquardt cited the following from "The History of Joseph C. Kingsbury," a document that is now in the Western Americana section of the University of Utah Library:
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How do we know that it wasn't Satan (if he exists) that appeared to Joseph? Please read this insightful essay by Richard Packham to see how Satan can appear as a Heavenly Being as described by Joseph Smith:
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Motivation for Evolving and Contradictory Versions. One of the best critical summaries and perhaps most plausible explanations for the various issues surrounding Joseph's First Vision, can be found in the last chapter of former LDS Church Education System teacher book An Insider's View of Mormon Origins. After presenting an impressive series of well-documented arguments against the traditional version we've all been taught in the church, the author proposes a plausible explanation:
After a mass exodus of high-ranking church leaders including several apostles, all three special witnesses of the BOM and three of the eight witnesses to the BOM, Joseph took to reestablishing his authority. He made many changes to the church including changing the name of the church. He began by attacking those who were circulating unsavory "reports" regarding "the rise and progress of the Church", then told a revised and more impressive version of his epiphany.He announced that his initial calling had not come from an angel in 1823, as he had said for over a decade, but from God the Father and Jesus Christ in 1820. The earlier date established his mission independent of the troubling questions and former witnesses associated with the Book of Mormon. Like the priesthood restoration recitals, the first vision version of April 1838 added significant material that bolstered his authority during a time of crisis.When missionaries teach investigators the first vision story, they are unaware of the contradictions and so are investigators unless they fact check.The grandest, most impressive founding event of the LDS church ought to be clear, consistent and easier to defend. Instead the story and apologetic attempt to defend it is riddled with contradictions and holes. These only raise more serious questions.Members try to answer investigators' questions about this event. The shallow, evasive explanations provided by church leaders and curriculum materials, leave them skeptical and unsatisfied, despite how often much they are encouraged to “just have faith.”
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Michael Quinn is a respected LDS historian who wrote many articles for The Ensign and was a devout defender of the LDS faith. However Brother Quinn was allowed access to the church's private records which he used to accurately document the many post-manifesto polygamous marriages that occurred after 1890. As a result, the LDS church excommunicated Quinn in 1993. Quinn's essay on post-manifesto polygamy can be found at: