First Vision

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In lesson three of the Doctrine and Covenants teacher’s manual, we read the following:

What are some of the truths we can learn from the First Vision? (Summarize responses on the chalkboard. Answers could include those listed below.)

a. God the Father and Jesus Christ live.
b. The Father and the Son are real, separate beings with glorified bodies of flesh and bones.

Given that there is more than one version of the First Vision, can we absolutely say that the First Vision teaches us God and Jesus live and are separate beings of flesh?

23 thoughts on “First Vision

  1. Actually, I don’t think ANY of the accounts of the First Vision necessarily support the teaching that the Father and Son have tangible bodies. Joseph Smith saw them standing above him in the air. He didn’t touch them, and none of the accounts say that they taught him this truth.

    We know that Joseph Smith revealed this truth later. Obviously he learned it at some point. But I’m doubtful that he learned it during this first, important encounter with God, in the spring of 1820.

  2. Perhaps this is another example of (tainted) milk before meat, Kim?

    Is it better to learn something wrong and simple than something complex and true?

  3. I doubt that it’s a “milk before meat” issue. I don’t think someone is deliberately withholding complexities of the First Vision is teaching this; I just think it’s a well-intended misconstruing of the content of the vision. There stood the Father and the Son, where Joseph could see them as they really were. So the writer probably concludes that since Joseph could see them, and their separation, he could perceive their flesh-and-bone nature. But I respectfully disagree. I don’t think seeing is enough to transmit that knowledge. A spirit without any solid body might be equally visible. So although the First Vision apparently did teach Joseph that the Father and Son are separate, I think it’s just going a little too far to say it taught him they had flesh-and-bone bodies.

  4. The different accounts were given at different times for different purposes, in response to different questions. No account of an experience is EVER complete; the teller of any true story is always choosing what to leave in and what to leave out, depending on the audience and the purpose of the telling. The four Gospels of the New Testament are a great example of parallel stories that differ from one another in this way.

  5. But having said that, I don’t see what it has to do with your question, which is whether the accounts of the First Vision support the thesis that the experience of the First Vision taught Joseph Smith about the nature of God’s body.

  6. Do you think there really were angels present at the first vision, as reported in one account?

    Specifically, my question was asking whether we can say for sure that we know God and Jesus are tangible, separate beings based on the official version when other version do not contain the same details.

  7. Kim, I think if even ONE of the versions of the story could support the idea that the First Vision taught Joseph that God had a tangible body, then we could reasonably conclude that it was true. But NONE of the versions support the idea.

  8. The last time I saw a resurrected being…

    Actually, since I never have, I don’t know if I can say for sure if you can tell if they have a body of flesh and bone without handling them.

    However, I think we can know that God and Jesus are tangible, but not from the first vision. It takes later details in Joseph’s theology to confirm this fact. Consider, the Lectures on Faith, which claim not only that God is a spirit but that the Holy Ghost isn’t a personage at all, but rather the mind of the Father and the Son. These comments are the basis for James E. Talmage removing the Lectures from the edition of the D&C he edited.

    So in answer to your question, I don’t know that I can say for sure until I’ve actually seen a glorified being. I’ll get back to you once I have.

  9. A first! Itbugaf steps away from orthodoxy and I think he’s on the money.

    PLT Moses didn’t teach the Almighty was a burning bush.

  10. I haven’t read all accounts of the first vision. Basically, I think I have only read the one in Joseph Smith History.

    Do any of the accounts contradict eachother, or could they all be correct and just focusing on different points?

  11. Steve, I don’t quite see what’s unorthodox about my position. It’s unorthodox to think that someone may have supported a true doctrine with a less-than-fully-supported conclusion in a Sunday School lesson manual? If so, OK.

  12. I believe there are only five authentic accounts, Mike. The differences don’t necessarily contradict each other. For example, one says there were two personages and another says one, but the other doesn’t say there was only one. Another says there were angels; the others do not say there weren’t angels.

  13. Re: Comment 9

    Unless my reading of Doctrine & Covenants 129 is drastically wrong, I think we can be safe in this conclusion: Merely looking at a being is not sufficient to tell whether that being is a spirit only or has a tangible body.

  14. Re: Comment 7–what reason do we have to conclude there were no angels present? The fact that they aren’t mentioned in other accounts? By that reasoning, should we then strike out of the four gospels any happening that isn’t described in at least two of the four?

  15. I know you didn’t say that. I’ve been literate from a young age.

    You asked whether I thought angels were present. I assumed (foolishly, it turns out) that you desired an answer.

  16. OK, look at #8 again. If even one version of the First Vision story said it, then we’re reasonable in concluding that it’s true.

    Now, look at #15 again. There’s no reason to believe it’s not true.

    Do you need any more help putting this together?

  17. I don’t need to explain why it is or is not feasible to believe angels were present. I asked you a simple question, and quite frankly I was hoping for a simple answer. I was hoping you would actually say whether you thought there were angels present or not, not try to put together a thesis on the possibility of it having happened.

  18. So if simple declarations of personal belief are all you want, why do you so assiduously avoid making your own?

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