Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: If beginning is true, all else follows’

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Published: Thursday, April 19 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Yes! Right on target !

Full-on double rainbow
Bluffdale, UT

Mr Petersen I would have been very interested to get your take on multiple first vision accounts and BOM anacronisms. You let me down just now :(

Whos Life RU Living?
Ogden, UT

Why is there an official version of the first vision? Is it because one sounds better than the rest?

Somewhere in Time, UT

Joseph had several accounts of the First Vision because he was addressing different people at difference times for different reasons and responding to different questions. All the accounts are compatible and do not contradict each other.

Another great aricle, Dr. Petersen.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

While I do not particularly enjoy Dr. Peterson's comparisons here, his point is well taken.

Reference those asking about the four accounts of the First Vision:

There was an Ensign article about this in 1985 and I recall learning about these back in the 1970s (possibly during Institute).

Mormon Messages has a video talking about the four accounts and notes that we would benefit by reading them all. See Joseph Smith and the First Vision.

Salt Lake City, Utah

It is easy to say that if the beginning is true the rest of it is just details - but unfortunately, it is the details that make up every day life.

Take the story of St. Denis - chickens frequently run around with their heads cut off. Suppose for one minute that it was possible for the body of St. Denis to take a step or two before falling over after his head was cut off - but holding his head and talking and walking any distance more than a step or two are embellishments. This begs the question, What was (is) the purpose of the embellishments? Why take a true story and pervert it?

When one is walking towards a distant point, even if you start at the right place - even if the first two or three steps are true and correct, if, at any point in that journey you deviate from the route by even half an inch, at the end you will not be where you were heading.

For the end to be true, the beginning all points in-between must be true.

To say diversions don't matter is to deny the importance of the journey's end.

South Jordan, Utah

The history of the beginnings of our church raises more doubt than certainty. Morevover even uf a church start well, it doesn't mean it ends well. If it did, the LDS church would never have claimed to be Christ's restored church.


It's true. Even this article and the comments are a fulfillment of prophecy. Joseph Smith wrote about a visitation from the angel Moroni:

“He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people” (JS—H 1:33).


While a prisoner in Liberty jail, the prophet Joseph Smith received this revelation:

1 The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee;

2 While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand. (D&C 122:1-2)

Provo, UT

Be careful what you ask for cuz you just might get it going down this path Daniel. I believed it all and once I started to do some more digging, it all unravelled.

sandy, ut

I think that it is true that it is the first step on which everything else follows. The question shouldn't be if Joseph Smith's first vision happened, but if ANY of the multiple and vastly different and contradicting accounts happened. Like Mr. Peterson stated about the man walking miles after being killed - I don't buy it. It doesn't make sense, and when something doesn't make sense it usually isn't true. It would not have been hard to have the original version correct and documented in a journal at the time it happened. If it were true, that is the way it would have went down. I find it odd that people are so quick to believe all of Joseph's stories of visions and such, but are similarly quick to dismiss other visions of the same time period from other people. Everybody else must be lying about their visions in the 1820's and 1830's, but Joseph isn't lying. It doesn't add up.

Cats- if you think the different versions of the first vision have no contraditions, then you simply have not read them.

Provo, UT


The 4 different first vision accounts that Joseph gave actually contradict each other and are very different from each other.

In one, Joseph says that he saw Nephi and other angels

In another, he says he saw Jesus, but not God.

Whos Life RU Living?
Ogden, UT

As Brahmabull pointed out.

Having visions in the early 1800s wasn't that strange. The following individuals have also claimed seeing God and angels: Asa Wild, 1823; Elias Smith, 1816; Norris Stearns, 1815. If religious want to be unbiased they better investigate these other claims as well.

sandy, ut

Then you have the fact that the father and son version of the first vision isn't mentioned until about 20 years after the fact. That simply can't be explained. It is never mentioned in the 1833 Book of Commandments, or the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants/lectures on faith. Even the apostles after Joseph's death were confused about the vision.

George A. Smith stated:
"When Joseph Smith was about fourteen or fifteen years old,...he went humbly before the Lord and inquired of Him, and the Lord answered his prayer, and revealed to Joseph, by the ministration of angels, the true condition of the religious world. When the holy angel appeared, Joseph inquired which of all these denominations was right and which he should join, and was told they were all wrong,..." (Journal of Discourses, Vol.12, pp.333-334)

So again, was it an angel that he asked, or was it 2 personages? It seems impossible to think that the first mention of the father and the son visiting him was 22 years after it happened.

Bakersfield, CA

So Dr. Petersen, which path does one take after Joseph's death? His wife's, Brigham Young's, or the myriad of other splinter groups who were just as sincere and adamant about their visions and convictions? Or should everyone have listened to Joseph's personal friends who left him following their knowledge of his affairs, calling him an imposter and false prophet?

The FLDS follow Joseph's teaching more closely than the SLC leaders. If size matters, then you should all be Catholic. If the Bible matters, then evangelicals remained true to the text. If Joseph really translated ancient documents, where's the Smithsonian documentary? Joseph received more revelations and his followers more reversals than all the Biblical prophets combined.

Brigham Young challenged investigators of the church to "compare our religion to the Bible". That's the best advice and those who do will immediately get the answer.

Orem, UT

LOL. The usual critics seem to be unusually excited today!

But it's not true that there is any account from Joseph Smith saying that he saw God the Father in the First Vision but not Jesus. Don't rely on your memories of what somebody else has said about the accounts. Read them for yourself. And it's not true that he said he saw Nephi in his First Vision. One account does say that he saw angels, but that doesn't mean that he didn't see the Father and the Son. Basic logic. If I say I saw Bob at work today, that doesn't mean that I didn't see Frank.

Roanoke, VA

Any semi-literate backwoods kid brilliant enough to fabricate something as intricate and detailed as the Book of Mormon in 90 days and present it as a gift from God is also smart enough to realize he'd better cover his tracks and get the First Vision story straight before his cover is blown.

Contradictions often validate the truth of claims made, even before Time has its way with memory. If 10 witness accounts of a murder match exactly, time to be suspicious. Alleged contractions in the Gospel account of the Resurrection all argue for the fact that there was indeed a Resurrection, regardless of who witnessed what, whom Christ saw first, what happened to the Roman guards, etc.

Re multiple visions. The fact that many men claimed (and do so today) to having visions doesn't mean that nobody had/has visions. "By their fruits ye shall know them."

If I tried to live Joseph's life ... constant harassment and physical threats, worrying about my wife and kids, public ridicule daily, fleeing one town after another, worrying about the lives/welfare of people who trust me, etc., etc.,... I'd be lucky to remember my middle name sometimes.

Bill in Nebraska
Maryville, MO

Here are the facts as laid out. Fact one the Gospels of the Bible if one reads them carefully will see differences between what one says to what another says of the Garden Tomb on the first Easter Morning. Each of the Gospels are written to coincide with a particular audience in mind. The same can be said of Joseph Smith and his first vision. It really depends on the audience.

Fact two: Paul's vision on the road to Dasmascus and those with him varies between who is there and who isn't. One part of ACTs talks about a voice but no light by those with him while others speak of a light but no voice. Paul says a voice spoke to him, an angel. Later as you read of the account you find where the angel asks, why persecutiest me, meaning the Lord Jesus Christ. So, the Lord is speaking to Paul. The same can be said of each of the recorded first vision accounts. Each was written by a different scribe except the first one which we have from Joseph himself. This isn't to say that Joseph didn't say the other vision accounts.

Provo, Ut

I sort of agree with Peterson's points, but of course he knows that the foundational key points are not validated. Debating the First Vision in any kind of intellectual way is sort of useless. Yes you the conflicting accounts, but the contradictions can be rationalized. There is absolutely no way to prove or disprove however, whether Joseph Smith had the Vision. I disbelieve it, but recognize that I couldn't prove that. I also can't prove that my old neighbor wasn't abducted by Aliens, a claim that he made. But again, he's never provided any kind of meaningful evidence. Joseph Smith on the other hand, at least provided the Book of Mormon. Of course Peterson recognizes that the historical content has never been satisfied to any kind of a reasonable standard. He can rationalize this away, but at least he knows where the current body of evidence stacks up.

Long story short, the implication behind this article is all wrong while the rationality is quite logical. It of course rests on the assumption assumptions that are not justified by the evidence. Even if it is not completely invalidated (which is an unreasonable expectation anyway).

Temple City, CA

This is perhaps the only venue in the world I can confess that I take a certain weird pleasure in seeing the anti-Mormons come out and attack the Church. It makes me chuckle.

There are certain patterns followed by most critics of the Church. A common one is, "I believed in it fully (there is usually some credential, like, 'I attended seminary faithfully'), until ONE DAY (cue the ominous music) I DISCOVERED (fill in the gaps with some esoteric detail that amy or may not be accurate)."

Another common one is: "Yes, Daniel Peterson (or some other speaker) has for his thesis that the First Vision and the Book of Mormon are fundamental to the Church (or some other thesis statement), but JOSEPH SMITH WAS A FARMER (or some other unrelated point)." In this case, for example, the fact that there were various accounts of the First Vision has nothing to do with Peterson's thesis. Nor, in fact, does is prove or disprove the First Vision.

Or: Daniel Peterson's metaphor does not apply in every case, so the entire argument must be false. (Matephors, identified as such, must be taken as metaphors, not arguments).

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