Sunday, December 15, 2013

The First Vision Series - The 1835 Account

I've copied below the text of the 1835 account in order to more easily reference it and apply highlights.

being wrought up in my mind, respecting the subject of religion and looking upon (at) the different systems taught the children of men, I knew not who was right or who was wrong and concidering it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involved eternal consequences; being thus perplexed in mind I retired to the silent grove and bowd down before the Lord, under a realising sense that he had said (if the bible be true) ask and you shall receive knock and it shall be opened seek and you shall find and again, if any man lack wisdom let him ask of God who giveth to all men libar ally and upbradeth not; information was what I most desired at this time, and with a fixed determination I to obtain it, I called upon the Lord for the first time, in the place above stated or in other words I made a fruitless attempt to pray, my toung seemed to be swolen in my mouth, so that I could not utter, I heard a noise behind me like some person walking towards me, (I) strove again to pray, but could not, the noise of walking seem ed to draw nearer, I sprung up on my feet, and and looked around, but saw no person or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of wal king, I kneeled again my mouth was opened and my toung liberated, and I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon my (me) head, and filled me with joy unspeakable, a personage appeard in the midst, of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testifyed unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God; (and I saw many angels in this vision) I was about 14. years old when I received this first communication;

This version is very similar to the one found in the PoGP.  It has all the main points:
- the questioning of "right or wrong" of all the religions
- the seeking of the bible
- James 1:5
- the bound tongue
- he was 14

- the biggest difference is that he states he "saw many angels in this vision".  He doesn't elaborate, but in other versions he only sees either 1 person (Jesus Christ), or 2 persons (Christ and God).  But only in this version does he mention seeing many angels.
- this version mentions an unseen presence in the form of binding his tongue as well as a noise of a person walking.  In at least one church video I've seen, it includes this aspect - of a noise of someone walking and Joseph jumping up to his feet.  But in this 1835 written version, there is no mention of a power of darkness - just noise.
- again, in this version, the Lord forgives him his sins.

The 1835 version seems to be a "cliff-notes" version of the official version of the First Vision.  It has all the main points of the official version.

The part about the many angels is very curious.  It sounds a lot like Lehi's vision where he sees, through a "pillar of fire", "God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God" (see 1 Nephi 1:8-9).

One other thought and comment about where he went to pray.  In the official version, he "retired to the woods", and in the 1832 version he calls it "the wilderness" and in the 1842 he calls it "a secret place in a grove."  In this version he calls the woods "the silent grove."  Of all the different descriptions he uses, I like this one the best.  I wish we (in the Church today) would call it "The Silent Grove" instead of what we usually call it today - The Sacred Grove.

Just this past Thanksgiving, I took my son camping up to one of the forests near where we live.  We endured a cold Wednesday night, but then on Thanksgiving morning, it was gorgeous, perfect weather and we went on a long hike.  When were were deep in the forest, we stopped and sat down.  The silence was profound - and I know we were not far from "civilization."  I can only attempt to imagine the "silent grove" Joseph mentions.  Silence is something we do not heed enough in our hyped-up and "connected" world.  Even if we are not producing noise, our minds still do not assume a silent state.  I often lament and feel bad for people who cannot assume a silent state, much less who seek a "silent grove."  I don't think even I get enough silence in my life and I make an effort to seek it.

Another part of this version that caused me to ponder a bit was where he said, "concidering it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involved eternal consequences"  Do people today still consider the eternal state of their soul to be of "first importance?"  Joseph is not referring to the fate of, say thieves and murderers, rather he's referring to the fate of Catholics and Methodists.  He's looking at all the "good" people where some religions say their congregants will be saved, while the non-congregants will go to hell.  To state his dilemma a bit differently, let me cast it in a different light.

A member of the Church and I had a conversation several weeks about about some friends of ours.  Our friends are really good people - meaning they are nice, they serve, they are kind, they are good parents - they are "the salt of the earth."  But they are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints.  I asked this member if they believe our friends would be able to be together as a family if they never are baptized in the Church and sealed in the Temple.  We both agree that if they are not baptized and sealed in the Church, they would still have opportunities (even after they die) to do whatever they needed to do in order to be together for the eternities.  We believe, that even despite being offered the teachings of the Church, they would have multiple opportunities - that God would be merciful.

I think this is a common belief in many people - in the mercy of God.  And since most people believe that, I don't think there are many who have the urgency that Joseph had.  He believed in a "one-chance life" at that point of his life.  I think he believed he had to find the truth, whereas today, we believe "everything will eventually work out" and that we just need to focus on "being good" (see Put Your Trust in God).

But the all-or-nothing question still remains: do we just 'have faith' that it all works out and that we just need to be 'good' or do we truly need to find out what the truth is - that this life is our one chance to find out the truth (concerning the religions) and if we don't find it here, that's it - too bad if you made the wrong choice in religions?