The Church is at it again. The different accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, which the Church has been sneaky enough to hide in places like the Ensign and BYU Studies, continues to be suppressed and hid from unsuspecting Church members. The damning contradictions in the Prophet’s different accounts are, in fact, so damaging that the Church thought it wise to talk about them only in a place so obscure and so concealed that nobody would be able to find it without any serious effort. I am speaking, of course, about YouTube. After all, nobody watches the Mormon Messages videos produced by the Church. What better place to hide this information from Church members than in a place that certainly has never been talked about in an official Church magazine or website?
But enough talk. Let’s take a look at the video itself:
Joseph Smith and the First Vision
Yikes! I do not envy Mark Ashurst-McGee. I can only image how much shame and scorn he is going to have to endure from Church members who will undoubtedly renounce him for saying such scandalous things such as there are “differences” in these accounts. I shudder at the disciplinary action this poor soul is going to weather for mentioning that the 1838 account of the First Vision “is not the only account of the First Vision that Joseph Smith ever gave.” And surely Ashurst-McGee’s mentioning of “this [the 1838 account] and three other accounts of the First Vision” won’t win him points with the ominous Brethren (cue scary music) who hold his fate in their all-powerful hands.
At several points in the video Ashurst-McGee even dares to talk about specific differences in the First Vision accounts. The 1832 account, he tells us, focuses more on Joseph’s search for a remission of sins and only mentions the appearance of Jesus Christ. The Prophet’s 1835 account, according to our sleuth, explains that the Father appeared first and then introduced the Son. To top it off, after a blistering cavalcade of shocking revelations on the gross contradictions in the accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, Ashurst-McGee explains that the 1842 account of the First Vision “provides details not found in the other accounts.”
At this point, if the reader can compose him or herself, one may ask why the Church would do such a foolish thing as expose this deep, dark secret of Mormon history? The answer, actually, is quite simple: the differences in the accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision no more contradict each other than the differences in the accounts of the conversion of the Apostle Paul do. (Or the differences in the accounts in the life of Jesus in the Gospels, for that matter.) As such, the Church is quite safe to talk openly about this issue as it has done in the past.
Granted, critics of the Church won’t be really satisfied until the Church devises a missionary lesson in Preach my Gospel that extensively goes into this subject and other related controversies, such as polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and the Book of Abraham and Joseph Smith Papyri. Until that time, however, we should be content with what little things the Church will grant us in the way of Mormon historical sources. (Ya know, the simple things like the Joseph Smith Papers.)
Next time, however, the Church should be more discrete with these issues. Mormon Messages and the Ensign are a good start when it comes to covering-up these sorts of things by hiding them in super secret retreats, but other more obscure places of concealment will have to be used in the future. Maybe General Conference will do the trick?