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Cover image: Depiction of Joseph Smith’s First Vision in stained glass by Tom Holdman in the Palmyra New York Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
To participate in the bicentennial commemoration of the Restoration, to heighten appreciation for Joseph Smith’s First Vision, and to help better inform Latter-day Saints of the founding event of their history, earlier this year Book of Mormon Central (BMC) began publishing a series of short online articles offering insights into the First Vision. These “Joseph Smith–History Insights” have appeared on BMC’s Pearl of Great Price Central (POGP Central) subdomain website accompanied by a bibliography of scholarly resources on the First Vision. Drawing from both cutting-edge and pioneering academic literature on the topic, the Joseph Smith–History Insights highlight the extant primary and secondhand accounts of the Prophet’s First Vision, explore its historical and literary context, and probe its theological importance. Yesterday the twentieth Insight was published as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prepare for this weekend’s General Conference.
As historian Steven C. Harper—author of such works as Joseph Smith’s First Vision: A Guide to the Historical Accounts and First Vision: Memory and Mormon Origins—has observed, the First Vision may be the best documented theophany in history. Indeed, as can be seen in the citations and recommended Further Reading in each of these Insight articles, plenty of ink has been split over many decades meticulously examining the surviving accounts and historical and theological context of the First Vision. The Joseph Smith Papers Project has conveniently digitized the known primary and contemporary secondhand accounts of the vision, as well as produced an engrossing podcast series exploring the vision in all its nuance. A Gospel Topics Essay published by the Church likewise discusses the accounts of the First Vision in an accessible manner for a general audience.
As President Russell M. Nelson testified during the October 2019 general conference of the Church, “In the springtime of the year 2020, it will be exactly 200 years since Joseph Smith experienced the theophany that we know as the First Vision. God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph, a 14-year-old youth. That event marked the onset of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness, precisely as foretold in the Holy Bible.” Latter-day Saints today can increase their understanding of the First Vision by carefully studying the accounts of the First Vision and immersing themselves in the informative scholarship that has been produced over the years by faithful disciple-scholars.
Joseph Smith–History Insight #1: Joseph Smith’s Firsthand Accounts of the First Vision
Joseph Smith–History Insight #2: The 1832 First Vision Account
Joseph Smith–History Insight #3: The 1835 First Vision Account
Joseph Smith–History Insight #4: The 1838 First Vision Account
Joseph Smith–History Insight #5: The 1842 First Vision Account
Joseph Smith–History Insight #6: Secondhand Accounts of the First Vision
Joseph Smith–History Insight #7: Religious Excitement near Palmyra, New York, 1816–1820
Joseph Smith–History Insight #8: How Old was Joseph Smith at the Time of the First Vision?
Joseph Smith–History Insight #9: Did Both the Father and the Son Appear to Joseph Smith in the First Vision?
Joseph Smith–History Insight #10: The First Vision as a Divine Council Vision
Joseph Smith–History Insight #11: Who Was the Minister Joseph Smith Spoke to About His Vision?
Joseph Smith–History Insight #12: Why Was Joseph Smith Initially Reluctant to Tell Others About the First Vision?
Joseph Smith–History Insight #13: Remembering Joseph Smith’s First Vision
Joseph Smith–History Insight #14: How Did Joseph Smith Tell the Story of His First Vision?
Joseph Smith–History Insight #15: The Significance of the First Vision
Joseph Smith–History Insight #16: What Did Joseph Smith Learn from the First Vision?
Joseph Smith–History Insight #17: What Are the Doctrinal Contributions of the First Vision?
Joseph Smith–History Insight #18: Are the Christian Creeds Really an Abomination?
Joseph Smith–History Insight #19: The Visionary World of Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith–History Insight #20: Observations on the Timing of the First Vision