Defending the Faith: If beginning is true, all else follows


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  • Jeanie b. Orem, UT
    April 23, 2012 5:17 p.m.

    garybeac - Thank you for sharing your story. I agree with your comment that as you think about things details can become clearer. I have not had the dream you have, but I have experienced this evolving clarity in connection to other experiences.

    No-one will be convinced about the church using logic. No-one will retain or restore their testimonies using historical facts. We live in a world of conflicting facts, some accurate, some not. That is why the first principle of the gospel is faith. Everything else only takes us in circles.

    1 Corinthians 13:12 "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

  • hoost Walnut Creek, CA
    April 23, 2012 3:41 p.m.

    So which Mormon splinter group that sprang to life after Joseph Smith's death is the right one? That issue doesn't seem to be resolved by having faith in the first vision and the Book of Mormon. The Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) believed both. Many of today's fundamentalist polygamist groups have strong testimonies of both. Unfortunately all else that follows isn't exactly a clear path.

  • Michigander Westland, MI
    April 21, 2012 7:50 p.m.

    The beginning is and was true, which is only one Personage (Jesus Christ) appeared to Joseph Smith, Jr. in early spring 1820.
    The subsequent falsification of it by Joseph Smith himself and others (God the Father appeared also in the top of the trees) never was true because it contradicts scripture (KJV and BOM only).

  • zoar63 Mesa, AZ
    April 21, 2012 11:33 a.m.


    The oldest known Biblical manuscript is a fragment of a letter of John, drafted perhaps a century after Christ’s time. If that is the oldest what does that tell us about the rest of the New Testament?

  • sharrona layton, UT
    April 21, 2012 10:33 a.m.

    RE: zoar63, Thousands of mistakes can give a person an entirely different meaning than what was originally intended.

    Although you read thousands of variants or mistakes, keep in mind that they count the same error in each of the 5,000 manuscripts. After careful examination, they have found that only 40 lines (400 words) of the 20,000 lines are in question. We can be sure that the New Testament is 99% pure. The Iliad by contrast has 5% corrupted text. There is no ancient text that is more reliable than the N. T .

    The goal in Lower Criticism is to find the original 'father' text, the autograph by comparing the different families of texts. Greek Apparatus’s are available in Christian bookstores(Deseret?). Which contain Greek MS with Nomina Sacra (100 AD - 300 AD)Papyrus.

    There are over 26,000 N.T. quotes from the(2nd c) disciples of the apostles and early church fathers can reconstruct the N.T. less 11 verses. If the original triangle was burned in a museum we have enough copies to reconstruct it.

    A of F, original Edition, #8 We believe in the Word of God recorded in the Bible;

  • Kith Huntington Beach, CA
    April 21, 2012 12:57 a.m.

    It seems to me that a lot of people spend a vast amount of time analyzing anything and everything about the church then argue and nit pick about anything and everything they find. Why do we have to make everything more complicated than it should be? If you want to find out if this church is true or not just read the Book of Mormon.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    April 20, 2012 11:54 p.m.

    I don't think columnists in the paper choose their headlines. So maybe, Zarathustra, you should try to figure out what Peterson was saying apart from the headline. It seems perfectly logical to me, and I'm surprised that several here seem to have missed his point just about completely.

  • zoar63 Mesa, AZ
    April 20, 2012 6:14 p.m.


    It is true, of course, that the New Testament is abundantly attested in the manuscripts produced through the ages, but most of these manuscripts are many centuries removed from the originals, and none of them perfectly accurate. They all contain mistakes - altogether many thousands of mistakes. It is not an easy task to reconstruct the original words of the New Testament textual evidence for the New Testament (From Wiki page New Testament Manuscripts)

    Thousands of mistakes can give a person an entirely different meaning than what was originally intended

  • garybeac Chapel Hill, NC
    April 20, 2012 5:25 p.m.

    Like lots of people, including Joseph Smith's grandfather, I had Father Lehi's vision. Mine came when I was six, eight years before I met a Mormon. My memory of it is different form all my other memories. It's like a rough gem that, while it doesn't actually change, I have discovered new details and features as I have examined it over the years. My first reaction to finding it in the BoM was paranoia. I thought I'd been hypnotized as a child or that the missionaries had somehow "implanted" the memory. It took me a while to realize that, first, I'm not important enough to be the target of such a plot and, second, most other converts hadn't had visions. (I meet a sister who also had the vision before meeting any members.) So, my point is, I've never had trouble with Joseph's evolving understanding of what he saw and felt and experienced. It's just the nature of prophecy. The elect will have their witnesses, others won't, but in the Lord's time, all will come into their election. That liberating news came to us through Joseph Smith.

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    April 20, 2012 5:01 p.m.

    Brahambull: You write that I "choose to believe that it is all true in the absence of any evidence at all. You think it more likely happened than not. That is fine. That is like saying I believe in bigfoot. There is no evidence, but I still think he more likely exists than not."

    I'm not sure where you got the impression that I believe without evidence.

    Of course, this discussion has happened before. I value evidence from the Holy Ghost; you do not.

    Comparing belief in bigfoot to belief in such things as God, Jesus Christ, and the Mormon Church shows a complete misunderstanding and disregard for a number of things, not the least of which is the Spirit. There are multiple witnesses of God, for example, over an extended period of centuries--including eye witnesses. There are few witnesses of bigfoot, and their witness is extended over a brief period of time. Further, belief in bigfoot is of no lasting significance; belief in God is.

    You would be more precise to say, "There is evidence--I just don't believe it."

  • sharrona layton, UT
    April 20, 2012 3:34 p.m.

    RE: zoar63, I would love for someone to show me any complete writings from the period that the new testament references which corroborates what the N. T. says. Ok,

    There are over 26,000 N.T. quotes from the(2nd c) disciples of the apostles and early church fathers can reconstruct the N.T. less 11 verses. Also,

    It is not true that we do not possess the original text of the Bible. What we do not possess are the original manuscripts. We have accurate well-preserved Copies of the original text. There are some 5,700 early N.T. MS, and 2nd century papyrus that contain all or nearly all of the original text. The original text can be reconstructed 99% accuracy. There is a distinction between the text and the truth of the text. While we have 99% of the original text,100% of the truth comes through.

    And the Articles of Faith,the original Edition, #8 We believe in the Word of God recorded in the Bible; we also believe the Word of God recorded in the Book of Mormon, and in all other good books. Check #8 current edition.

  • zoar63 Mesa, AZ
    April 20, 2012 12:15 p.m.

    It seems to me that historical Christianity itself is on rocky ground. The Christian belief in God is based on just one book and that book itself arouse from manuscripts which post dated the early Christian era circa 300 AD. If you are a bible believing Christian than you have to take it on faith because there is not much hard evidence to confirm it. I would love for someone to show me any complete writings from the period that the new testament references which corroborates what the new Testament says. The Roman persecutions destroyed a lot of those documents. Maybe the new testament was really written by a group of men living in and around 300 A.D. where is the evidence to disprove it? Say what you want about the Mormon Church but they at least have a lot of documents to verify their history and teachings even if some of them contradict.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    April 20, 2012 9:04 a.m.

    Moontan - Yes I do get your point about Joseph being smart enough to write it, he would have to be smart enough to get his story straight. Problem is that back then, he didn't need to get his story straight. There was no internet for comparing his different statements at different times. He could make statements, then move on to the next group, not thinking about the differences in the same stories. That is just my opinion.

    Jeff - The mormon church has manuscripts from Joseph Smith's own hand. There is a reason they won't publish those documents fully. Until then, secondary sources are all we have. Still, you choose to believe that it is all true in the absence of any evidence at all. You think it more likely happened than not. That is fine. That is like saying I believe in bigfoot. There is no evidence, but I still think he more likely exists than not.

    Bill - That is the whole point. Joseph Smith first said he saw an angel. That was what he wrote. After that he retroactively changed it to god and jesus after years of saying it was an angel

  • Zarathustra Eugene, Oregon
    April 20, 2012 8:51 a.m.

    The headline is misleading and illogical. The skeptic's comment about the saint was intended to show that if the beginning is false, all that follows is false. The reverse is not so. I am surprised that Dr. Peterson can make such a fundamental error in logic. I doubt that he would accept such logic if applied by a Catholic to the origins of the Catholic church.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    April 20, 2012 8:02 a.m.

    To: Bill in Nebraska, As for Nephi versus Moroni is laid at the fault of the[rascally] scribes in 1838 and 1839, not Joseph Smith? What about:

    Version Edited. On May 24, 1844, Alexander Niebaur wrote the first vision in his journal as Joseph Smith told it to him. Joseph was not told that all of the Christian sects were wrong. Instead, he was specifically told that the Methodists were not God's people.

    …[He] opened his Bible of the first passage that struck him was [James 1:5.], "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not." [He] went into the woods to pray, kneels himself down, his tongue was closed, cleaving to his roof, could utter not a word, but felt easier after awhile. [He] saw a fire toward heaven, came near and nearer. [He] saw a personage in the fire, light complexion, blue eyes, a piece of white cloth drawn over his shoulders, his right arm bare. After a while another person came to the side of the first. Mr. [Joseph] Smith then asked, "Must I join the Methodist Church?" No their not my people.

  • garybeac Chapel Hill, NC
    April 20, 2012 7:47 a.m.

    I wish it was so simple. The fact is, The Book of Mormon was "translated" by a man and, so, must be interpreted by men. Men are prone to misunderstanding, especially when they're certain of their understanding.

  • nick humphrey kent, WA
    April 20, 2012 12:46 a.m.

    "The fundamental question is whether, after his beheading, St. Denis walked at all. If he did, the rest is mere detail."

    as a boy, when we beheaded chickens on my friend's farm--for food--they would sometimes fly a short distance, without their heads, so daniel's logic fails.

    look at his logic in another way:
    if muhammad wrote some of the writings of which now are known as the quran, whether or not other muslims wrote the rest is immaterial.

    and why would some saint walking after he was dead imply that the first vision and the rest of what joseph smith did after the first vision was true?

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    April 20, 2012 12:04 a.m.

    I certainly hope, for poor Professor Peterson's sake, that the people here who've plainly missed the simple point he was making aren't representative of his audience overall.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    April 19, 2012 8:01 p.m.

    "If Mormons got the beginning right, why did anyone leave Joseph's organization? Why were there many splinter groups, why did Emma leave and Never ascribe to polygamy?

    Now I don't believe the LDS church is correct, but I will point out that this is faulty logic that assumes everyone is going to do the right thing. Goodness, we've run studies that show that wealthier people are more likely to take candy from babies. If we can't even get unanimity on candy thivery from babies how in the world would unanimity on religion ever come about?

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    April 19, 2012 7:56 p.m.

    Well, it's definitely true that the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's bringing forth of it is the key detail in the LDS church that the church stands on, but I don't think it necessarily means all else follows since churches can go astray (of course I am aware that LDS doctrine seems to include the idea that this current incarnation of the church won't go astray so I can see why the issue I just brought up is untouched in the article).

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    April 19, 2012 6:08 p.m.

    Sorry, Brahmabull, but the page on "MormonThink" from which you're cribbing your material isn't about the First Vision. It's attempting to cast doubt on the vision of Moroni.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    April 19, 2012 5:41 p.m.

    Brahmabull is incorrect in what he has said. Yes, in 1842 did write a story relating that Nephi was used as a reference. However, not to the First Vision but to the vision of Moroni. This story was then used as a reference for the Millinieum Star, the first Pearl of Great Price, and Lucy Mack Smith's biography. The Pearl of Great Price was first written in 1851 by Franklin Richards in Britain, not the US. The Pearl of Great Price became part of the Standard Works in October 1880, not before. The 1838 version of the first vision was placed in the Pearl of Great Price in 1920.

    As for Nephi versus Moroni is laid at the fault of the scribes in 1838 and 1839, not Joseph Smith. All of the earlier versions of the vision with the angel refers to Moroni not Nephi. This appears to be a complete honest mistake that was perpetuated by so many using the Times and Season article as its source.

    Again one only needs to read the 1838, 1835 versions to see that it is based on the audience. So yes Cats, Verdad and others are correct.

  • Baccus0902 Leesburg, VA
    April 19, 2012 5:02 p.m.

    The article states : "If —... — Joseph Smith's account of his First Vision is true, and if the Book of Mormon is genuine inspired scripture, many other important conclusions follow"

    Well, not necessarily. Jesus Christ established an organization that after few years distorted the truth and according to LDS doctrine, apostasy reigned. I'm sure that Christ and his apostles took several wonderful steps.

    Was Joseph Smith and his companions more capable than Jesus and his Apostles?

    Mr. Peterson, I understand your motivation and respect your faith. However, your premise is flawed.

    Babies are born pure but factors and variants of life make them less pure. Organizations are no exception to the effects of growth and external influences.

    If you state that the LDS Church has made mistakes (and you mentioned several of them), that some statements considered prophetic have been wrong.Yet, you believe and have Faith that the Lord will correct and clarify the mistakes.I can accept and respect that.

    But please, readers of this paper are mostly adults and we deserve better than read from a scholar that two steps in the right direction assure arrival at the proper destination.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    April 19, 2012 4:45 p.m.

    Cappella: You want archaelogical discovery to prove your FAITH. You have faith the Bible is true but not the Book of Mormon. I can list a few names of LDS Scholars that do use the Book of Mormon as proof. There was one who was LDS who did and lost faith. Then there is one who did and wasn't of our faith then became LDS because of what they found.

    You want proof and you want MAN to make that proof for you. You don't want that proof from the Lord yet you seem to believe the Bible. The Book of Mormon states emphatically that if you will believe the Bible as the word of God you will believe the Book of Mormon. It also states that if you believe in Jesus Christ you will also believe in the Book of Mormon. As Christ himself said, there are many that have ears to hear and eyes to see but fail to see it when it stands before them. Sharrona is completely honest as one who has left the faith. She no longer has the gift of the Holy Ghost to strive with her.

  • Wonthaggi SLC, UT
    April 19, 2012 4:45 p.m.

    Twin Lights,

    I have extensively followed and studied the Joseph Smith papers. I wish I could say that they were objective. Unfortunatley, they are not. The JSPP continues to protect and promote the "safe" version of history, not the actual history. Search "polygamy," "Book of Abraham" or "Book of Mormon Translation" (or any number of topics) on the JSPP website and let me know if you feel like it adequately address Joseph Smith's involvement in these issues.

    I don't want a version of history with an agenda. I simply prefer the facts.

    Church growth is slowing significantly and activity rates are declining in the Google age where information is readily accessible. This trend will likely continue until the Church is honest about the claims of the restoration.

    Do what is right, let the consequence follow.............

  • Capella Bakersfield, CA
    April 19, 2012 4:23 p.m.

    I wish Dr. Petersen would address serious inquiries from serious investigators who want more than a personal testimony for documentation. The poor missionaries who show up on our doorstep cannot give any concrete manuscript or historical documentation when we politely ask. They give sweet, sincere testimonies. So do my Muslim friends and we cannot vett Mohammed any more than we can vett Joseph Smith with the 19-year old boys.

    If Mormons got it all right, why are the archives still unaccessible? Why has controversy never ceased to surround the church? Why is archeological research never allowed at the Hill of Cumorah? Why have no non-LDS scholars ever endorsed reformed Egyptian or any aspect of the PoGP?

    There are many secular professors who use Biblical records at Holy Land digs. None use the BoM as an archelogical tool in South America or Mexico. You can discuss Hebraic chiasmus all you want. There are no Hebrew inscriptions there from the pertinent time frame.

    Conversely, if the foundation is all wrong, try the Biblical record. It still continues to disprove critics with new discoveries. If the truth wil set you free, your search should be serious.

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    April 19, 2012 4:21 p.m.

    Ah, I forgot another favorite anti-Mormon tack, and Brahmabull illustrates it well. He suggests that there are versions of the First Vision not available to most lay researchers, but available to him. These are not easy to find, except through anti-Mormon sources, and even more difficult to confirm.

    If we are to look for confirmation through LDS sources, we are reminded that the LDS Church cannot be trusted (which is, supposedly, why we must go to anti-Mormons for the information), and the source information from any source other than the anti-Mormon one cannot be trusted.

    Luckily, it is relatively easy to evaluate Brahmabull's source material.

    1. All but one of his sources is secondary at best. (The Church has the primary sources against which to compare the secondary sources, but we are not to forget that the Church is not to be trusted, right?)

    2. Mormon newspapers are no more reliable in their editorial perfection than any other newspapers. Several of BB's sources are newspapers.

    3. The 1851 edition of the Pearl of Great Price is superseded by the more recent edition. Clearly, if the Church discovered an error in the printing, it would correct it.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    April 19, 2012 4:18 p.m.


    Please see the Joseph Smith Papers project. Should answer your request.



    He warned of false prophets because we would have to distinguish the true from the false. If he had meant to say that any coming thereafter would be false, then he would have. No need for a test if they are all false.

    No issue with praying unceasingly. Or with the struggle between good and evil being real. Or with the power and protection of the Holy Spirit. I think we are in agreement on all of these.

    As to Deut. and "wrong marital practices", surely you are not saying that polygamy is not sanctioned in the Old Testament?

    Everyone did not leave Joseph's organization (if they did, who crossed the plains and who did they follow?).

    As to splinter groups. Look at early Christianity. Why was there a Nicene Council?

    I leave Emma's actions to her. Hers was not an easy road.

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    April 19, 2012 4:15 p.m.

    @Capella ... We aren't robots. We're free to make decisions, good or bad.

    @free thought ... If God presented to the world tomorrow morning incontrovertible proof of His existence, the very next day critics would being dismissing it as a mass hallucination. You can bet on that.

    @bramabull... Good point at first read, but I think you've missed mine, which is that an uneducated writer smart enough to write the BoM on his own HAS TO BE smart enough to know how to keep his story straight, lest he be revealed as a fraud. That type of intelligence CAN'T NOT remember 'ok, I gotta make sure I don't give conflicting information here or they'll be on to me.' To the degree that apparent contradictions DO exist in his own testimony of what happened during the First Vision, one must consider many other factors affecting personal reports, such as audience addressed, psychological status at that time, stress, dictation environment, and etc.

  • LValfre CHICAGO, IL
    April 19, 2012 4:14 p.m.


    "Joseph couldn't have forgotten it if it happened - we are talking about a visitation from god."

    He didn't forget what happened. He forgot his story.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    April 19, 2012 4:03 p.m.

    RE: Moontan: Contradictions often validate the truth of claims made, even before Time has its way with memory? JS on four occasions named Nephi as the messenger not Moroni. No attempt was made to correct the “mistake” while he was alive.

    RE: Bill in Nebraska, One part of ACTs talks about a voice but no light by those with him while others speak of a light but no voice. .
    Does Acts 9:7 contradicts Acts 22:9, concerning . The Greek word “akouo” is used in both of these accounts, this word has different meanings that vary depending on the context in which it is used. It can mean to both understand and to hear.
    My companions saw the light, but they ‘did not understand’ the voice of him who was speaking to me. (Acts 22:9 NIV)Modern translations can be helpful.

    Joseph Smith on angels. the angels which kept not their first estate…=(*archē ,746)…(Jude 1: 6 KJV& JST).
    And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority,..(Jude 1: 6 NIV) Refers to Fallen angels(demons).

  • Wonthaggi SLC, UT
    April 19, 2012 3:47 p.m.

    Jeff said:
    "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)."

    Jeff, Please allow me to follow the pattern that you mentioned (can't gurantee that it will make you chuckle): AP, EQ President, Bishopric. My entire life has been built around the gospel and Church. Researched a gospel topic related to a mutual activity that I had attended earlier that night. This led to an in-depth 16 month study of the life of Joseph Smith (a life I felt I already knew quite well). The conclusion of this is that I can no longer accept the claims that came from JS. My hope and prayer is that the Church will "come clean" with the accurate history of the Church.

  • Capella Bakersfield, CA
    April 19, 2012 3:27 p.m.

    According to God's Word, the beginning began in the garden. If Petersen's analogy were Biblical, everything went south immediately afterward and needed God's personsal intervention to redeem mankind.

    If the beginning is true, why did Noah narrowly escape the judgment? Why did God warn of false prophets and wolves among the sheep? Why did Jesus admonish believers to "pray unceasingly" because Satan desires to sift you? Obviously the struggle between good and evil is real. The good news is that He sent the Holy Spirit for power and protection. Just getting the foundation right isn't the end of the story, or God wouldn't have given the Israelites Deut. 17,18 to test false prophets and avoid wrong marital practices.

    If Mormons got the beginning right, why did anyone leave Joseph's organization? Why were there many splinter groups, why did Emma leave and Never ascribe to polygamy?

    Dr. Petersen?...

  • free thought Blissful, Az
    April 19, 2012 3:01 p.m.

    I disagree with the original premise. Ultimately the foundational soundness of ones' faith depends on the existense of the god of that faith. At 53 I have yet to be introduced to any empiracal evidence of the Judeo/Christian god. I therefore summarily reject Smiths' experience.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    April 19, 2012 2:35 p.m.

    From the 1835 account:

    a 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 testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; and I saw many angels in this vision . . .

    The angels were IN ADDITION to the two key personages. There is no mention of Nephi.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    April 19, 2012 12:45 p.m.

    Verdad - If you think he didn't say he saw Nephi in a first vision then you haven't done any study at all. It is mentioned in the 1842 times and searons, also in 1842 in the Millennial star printed in england. Lucy Mack Smith called the angel Nephi in 1853 in her biographical sketches. The last straw is that it was written as NEPHI in the 1851 Pearl of Great Price, which is cannonized scripture. Yeah, sure sounds like Joseph never said it was Nephi.... and you can't use the misprint arguement... Joseph had time to print a retraction to that and never did. If it was a misprint it would have never made it into the cannonized pearl of great price.

    Moontan - you are right. We aren't talking about 10 different people witnessing the first vision and giving the same account. We are talking about the SAME person, talking about the same vision, giving different account as time goes on. If a suspect in a crime gives 10 different stories in 10 different interviews, time to be suspicious. Joseph couldn't have forgotten it if it happened - we are talking about a visitation from god.

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    April 19, 2012 12:45 p.m.

    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).

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    April 19, 2012 12:30 p.m.

    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).

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    April 19, 2012 12:28 p.m.

    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.

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    April 19, 2012 12:13 p.m.

    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.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    April 19, 2012 12:09 p.m.

    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.

  • Capella Bakersfield, CA
    April 19, 2012 11:50 a.m.

    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.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    April 19, 2012 10:26 a.m.

    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.

  • Whos Life RU Living? Ogden, UT
    April 19, 2012 10:24 a.m.

    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.

  • Thinkman Provo, UT
    April 19, 2012 10:21 a.m.


    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.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    April 19, 2012 10:11 a.m.

    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.

  • Thinkman Provo, UT
    April 19, 2012 9:56 a.m.

    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.

  • Erasmus PROVO, UT
    April 19, 2012 9:42 a.m.

    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)

  • Erasmus PROVO, UT
    April 19, 2012 9:39 a.m.

    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).

  • dalefarr South Jordan, Utah
    April 19, 2012 9:35 a.m.

    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.

  • Kalindra Salt Lake City, Utah
    April 19, 2012 9:34 a.m.

    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.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    April 19, 2012 9:32 a.m.

    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.

  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    April 19, 2012 9:30 a.m.

    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.

  • Whos Life RU Living? Ogden, UT
    April 19, 2012 8:05 a.m.

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

  • Full-on double rainbow Bluffdale, UT
    April 19, 2012 7:49 a.m.

    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 :(

  • Gramajane OAKLEY, ID
    April 19, 2012 7:19 a.m.

    Yes! Right on target !