Who Appeared to Joseph in the First Vision?

The CES Letter asks: “Who appears to him –a spirit, an angel, two angels, Jesus, many angels, the Father and the Son.” It seems to be a forced question because the obvious answer is that they all did and he chose to report only some of them in each account.

Below are the statements from each of the nine accounts dealing with the Beings Joseph encountered in the First Vision. There is no evidence of an evolving story or contradictions. Joseph was always cautious when referring to his experiences with Deity.

Firsthand Accounts

1832

“I saw the Lord”
1835

Nov. 9th

“personage appeard in the midst, of this pillar  of flame which was spread all around, and yet  nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard  like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are  forgiven thee, he testifyed unto me that Jesus Christ  is the son of God; <and I saw many angels in this vision”

1835

Nov. 14th

 

“I received the first visitation of Angels"

1838

“I saw  two personages (whose brightness and glory defy all description) standing above me in the air.  One of <them> spake unto me calling me by name and said (pointing to the other) ‘This is my  beloved Son, Hear him.’”

1842

 

“saw two glorious  personages who exactly resembled each  other in features, and likeness”

Secondhand Accounts

Orson Pratt 1840

“saw two  glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in  their features or likeness.”

Orson Hyde 1842

 

“Two glorious heavenly personages stood before him, resembling each other exactly in features and stature”

Levi Richards 1843

[Deity not mentioned]

David Nye White 1843

 

“a glorious personage in the light, and then another personage, and the first personage said to the second,  ‘Behold my beloved Son, hear him.’”

Alexander Neibaur 1844

“saw a personage in the fire light complexion  blue eyes a piece of white cloth drawn over  his shoulders his right arm bear after a w[h]ile  a other person came to the side of the first”


Additional Resources:

“Accounts of the First Vision”, LDS.org.

Milton V. Backman, “Joseph Smith’s Recitals of the First Vision,” Ensign, January 1985.

Dr. James B. Allen, “Eight Contemporary Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision – What Do We Learn from Them?”, Improvement Era, April 1970, 4-13.

FAIRMORMON: Joseph Smith’s First Vision

 “First Vision Accounts” from LDS.org

“A Seeker’s Guide to the Historical Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision” by Steven C. Harper

“Primary Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision” from JosephSmithPapers.org

Four Accounts and Three Critiques of Joseph Smith’s First Vision” (2011 FAIR Conference) by Steven Harper

The First Vision: This Is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! Essay

Joseph Smith’s Visions: His Style and his Record” (2013 FAIR Conference) by Ron Barney

The First Vision” by Michael Ash

The Original Context of the First Vision Narrative: 1820s or 1830s” (2013 FAIR Conference) by Don Bradley

“Ask the Apologist: Did Early LDS Leaders Misunderstand the First Vision?”

“Verification of the 1838 Account of the First Vision,” by Milton V. Backman Jr.

“The First Vision: Re-Visioning Historical Experience,” Adele Brannon McCollum,

Early Church History: First Vision

“First Visions: The Opening Events of the Mosaic, Nephite, and Final Dispensations,” by Douglas N. Marsh

“A Harmony of First Vision Accounts,” by Michael Baldwin

“Suspicion or Trust: Reading the Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” by Steven C. Harper,

“The First Vision and Religious Tolerance,” by Joseph Fielding McConkie

The Cowdery Conundrum: Oliver’s Aborted Attempt to Describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835” by Roger Nicholson

Evaluating Three Arguments Against Joseph Smith’s First Vision” by Steven C. Harper

Variants in the Stories of the First Vision of Joseph Smith and the Apostle Paul” by John A. Tvedtnes

 Mormon FAIR-Cast 215: The First Vision

“Joseph Smith’s First Vision — A Guide to Historical Accounts” Fair Mormon Podcast

Firsthand Accounts of the First Vision

Reported Accounts of the First Vision

First Vision Accounts: Joseph Smith History, circa Summer 1832

First Vision Accounts: Joseph Smith, Journal, 9–11 November 1835

First Vision Accounts: Joseph Smith History, 1838–1856

First Vision Accounts: Joseph Smith, “Church History,” 1 March 1842 (Wentworth Letter)

First Vision Accounts: Joseph Smith, “Latter Day Saints,” 1844

Four Accounts and Three Critiques of Joseph Smith’s First Vision

 First Vision 1 Joseph’s Different Accounts

First Vision 2 Differences Between the Accounts

First Vision 3 But If He Was a Prophet

First Vision 4 He Saw Angels

First Vision 5 Confusion About the Year

First Vision 6 Why Are So Many LDS Unaware

First Vision 7 No Religious Revivals Around 1820

First Vision 8 Conclusions

The First Vision of Joseph Smith

The First Vision movie

Firsthand Accounts of the First Vision

Reported Accounts of the First Vision

First Vision Accounts: Joseph Smith History, circa Summer 1832

First Vision Accounts: Joseph Smith, Journal, 9–11 November 1835

First Vision Accounts: Joseph Smith History, 1838–1856

First Vision Accounts: Joseph Smith, “Church History,” 1 March 1842 (Wentworth Letter)

First Vision Accounts: Joseph Smith, “Latter Day Saints,” 1844

BYU-TV Documentary on the First Vision Accounts Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart V

Books:

Harper, Steven C. Joseph Smith’s First Vision: A Seeker’s Guide to the Historical Accounts. Salt Lake City: Deseret, 2012.

Harper, Steven C. “Suspicion or Trust: Reading the Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision.” In No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues. Edited by Robert L. Millet. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011.

Dean C. Jessee, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Richard L. Jensen, eds., Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839. Volume 1 of the Journals series of The Joseph Smith Papers. Edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2012).

Dean C. Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002).

John W. Welch, Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820–1844 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011).

Karen Lynn Davidson, David J. Whittaker, Richard L. Jensen, and Mark Ashurst-McGee, eds., Histories,Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories 1832–1844. Vol. 1 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers. Edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2012).

“Primary Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision of Deity,” The Joseph Smith Papers, http://josephsmithpapers.org/site/accounts-of-the-first-vision.

Samuel Alonzo Dodge and Steven C. Harper, eds., Exploring the First Vision (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2012).