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The story of the prophet Joseph Smith's First Vision is one that is shared by missionaries across the world everyday as it is the showcase of Heavenly Father's love for His children, and the beginning of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, did you know that there are other versions, or accounts, of the First Vision than the one that is in the Pearl of Great Price?
In the 1832 account of the First Vision, Joseph gave his account of the First Vision but there are a lot of difference than the mainstream account.
First off, Joseph states that he was 16 years old, which goes against the mainstream account that is widely known and taught. In this account, he also described his consciousness of his own sins and his frustration at being unable to find a church that matched the one he had read about in the New Testament and that would lead him to redemption. He emphasized Jesus Christ’s Atonement and the personal redemption it offered. He wrote that “the Lord” appeared and forgave him of his sins. As a result of the vision, Joseph experienced joy and love, though, as he noted, he could find no one who believed his account.
The 1835 account of the First Vision, Joseph recounted is vision to Robert Matthews. Warren Parrish recorded in Joseph's journal the retelling and emphasized Joseph's desire to to find the true Church. Joseph states in this account that he was 14 years old, that one personage appeared first and then another, and that angels were around. He did not specify who these personages were but that they testified of Jesus Christ.
In 1838, an account was made in the Church's newspaper the Times and Seasons. This is the account that is found in the Joseph Smith History and the most widely known version.
There are several other accounts that have been told from second accounts like Orson Pratt, Orson Hyde, and Levis Richards. So how many accounts of the First Vision are there?
There are ten known accounts of the First Vision that were written or published during the lifetime of the Prophet. Initially, Joseph was hesitant to share his experience in the Sacred Grove.
However, as time went on and he gained spiritual experience, he began to share. As Richard L. Bushman observed, “As Joseph became more confident, more details came out.” Each account provides unique details, and seeing them as one reveals the First Vision in a new light. This harmony of the First Vision is intended to teach, testify, rekindle faith in the inaugural event of the Restoration, and stimulate interest in learning more about the different accounts. In addition, this harmony will demonstrate the unity that exists among the various accounts.
When a person learns there are multiple accounts of the First Vision, there are typically two types of reactions. One reaction is to become cynical and wonder why he or she has never been made aware of them before. Furthermore, when this person learns there are differences among the accounts, a crisis of faith may develop. The other typical reaction is to become excited and devour the different accounts and see them as additional proof for the truthfulness of the restored gospel.