This web page has been designed to provide helpful information relating to Joseph Smith's First Vision.

Two papers will be presented:

  • Joseph Smith's First Vision - A Harmony

  • The William Smith Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision.

The first paper, Joseph Smith's First Vision - A Harmony, provides a tabular comparison between the nine major accounts of the First vision. It has been disparagingly complained that Joseph Smith's first vision is not believable because he told the story so many times, and they are all different. This paper should forever lay that complaint to rest, as it clearly demonstrates the harmony which exists between the known accounts of the First Vision. In the tabular comparison I have designated each account by the year in which the account originated. The accounts presented in the comparison are as follows:

  • 1832: This is the earliest known account of the First Vision. The first portion of the manuscript was dictated to his scribe by Joseph Smith, and is in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams. The major portion of that part of the manuscript which relates to the First Vision is in the handwriting of Joseph Smith.

  • 1835: This account was recorded by Warren Cowdery and bears the date of Monday, Nov. 9th 1835. It consists of a narrative in which Joseph Smith related his experience to a visitor to his home. The visitor called himself Joshua, the Jewish Minister.

  • 1839: This is the official account of the First Vision, first published by Joseph Smith in the March 15th 1842 edition of the Times and Seasons. It appears in the Pearl of Great Price as Joseph Smith History. The account used here is from the 1839 manuscript history which is in the handwriting of James Mulholland.

  • 1840: This account was originally published by Orson Pratt in Scotland in a pamphlet entitled "An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions." This is the earliest publication of an account of the First Vision.

  • 1842A: This account is formally known as the Wentworth Letter. It was written to Mr. John Wentworth of the Chicago Democrat, but was published by Joseph Smith in the March 1, 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons.

  • 1842B: This account was either written in German or first written and then translated into German by Orson Hyde and was first published in Frankfurt, Germany. Originally titled "Ein Ruf aus der Wueste" [A Cry from the Wilderness], this account shows heavy reliance on the 1840 account, but includes considerable additional information not in any other account. The English translation given here was made by Justice Ernst in 1960.

  • 1843: This account was published in the New York Spectator, September 23, 1843 and was based on an interview by David Nye White, Editor of the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette.

  • 1844: This personal account was penned by Alexander Neibaur, Joseph Smith's associate and Hebrew Teacher. On May 24, 1844 Mr. Neibaur was present at a meeting with Dr. Bernheisel, W.W.Phelps and Willard Richards when Joseph related some things about his initial vision, and Mr. Neibaur recorded his rembrances of what was said in his journal.

  • 1850: This account was published by John Taylor in the Millennial Star some six years after the death of Joseph Smith. I include it here both to complete the comparison matrix and because John Taylor said, "As near as possible I will give the words as he related them to me."

In the comparison I have in each instance included all of the designated account. Nothing has been added, nothing has been deleted. In order to facilitate the comparison I have frequently changed the sequence in the narratives. In the autograph accounts I have included words in the original which have been stricken as strikeout, and have included words which have been inserted above the line in angle brackets <example>. In the nine accounts, the only significant difference is in the 1832 account in which it states that he was in his 16th year, while the other accounts agree he was 14 (i.e. in his 15th year). Even there, the phrase "<in the 16th year of my age>" was a later addition as an above the line insertion.

Joseph Smith's First Vision - A Harmony



The second paper, The William Smith Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision, was written in 1994 but was never published. It contains an analysis of four accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision which were produced by William Smith, younger brother of the Prophet. The problem with William Smith's accounts is that they are all wrong, and very misleading. It is, however, possible to derive a great deal of useful information from them, even to the point of being able to correct an important error which has been incorporated into an official history of the Church, but which should now be discarded.

The William Smith Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision