Thursday, January 15, 2009

The First Vision

First question: Do you address the multiple accounts of the First Vision? If you are unclear on the various accounts, their history, etc., you can check out the Wikipedia entry on the First Vision (There is an entry with a similar title about a Mariah Carey album, but I think you will be able to tell the difference). The accounts were recorded at various times over a long period. They are not entirely consistent in specific detail. The Pearl of Great Price account is the latest version, and the one the LDS Church has canonized.

On the one hand, I do not want to introduce controversy unnecessarily, or just for controversy’s sake, by discussing the various accounts. On the other hand, I am a big believer in the inoculation theory - - it is better to be exposed to controversial ideas in a safe, controlled setting, so that you can develop your defenses. That way, we can have a discussion preempting some of the things critics of the Church say, and students are not surprised and disillusioned about that later. I am inclined to be prepared to address the issue if it comes up, but not to raise it myself, but I think there are good arguments for discussing the different accounts. I would be interested to hear what you all think.


  1. When I was teaching about this from the JS Manual in RS, I did introduce the multiple versions and some of the different purposes each might have had. I was firmly in the inoculation camp and kept the controversy out of the discussion. Many said they didn't know about them. I said it's just kind of interesting, but that the version that JS wrote for the church (at a much later age, mind you) is JS-H in the POGP.

  2. I like your idea, Anonymous. As I review the various versions, it is easy to see, from the perspective of a believer, how they fit together. As you mention, I think that each account had its own purpose, and that purpose shaped its content. As I understand it, the 1838 account was meant as a definitive statement of what happened, and was made in light of a mature gospel restoration. I assume this is why it is the official account.

  3. I introduced the four versions in passing in my Gospel Doctrine lesson. I didn't dwell on it, though I think it would have been possible to do without being threatening. I later talked more about the versions in a blogpost in a Gospel Doctrine blog that I participate in. My blogpost contained a link or two to discussions of the four versions and the significance of their differences.

    I'm also a believer in the inoculation theory, and for the very reasons that you list.

    Aaron B


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