You are here

First Vision Controversies: Implications for Accounts of Mormon Origins

TitleFirst Vision Controversies: Implications for Accounts of Mormon Origins
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsTaves, Ann
JournalBYU Studies Quarterly
KeywordsChronology; Criticism; First Vision; Latter-day Saint History (1820-1846); Smith, Joseph, Jr.

The First Vision controversy has generated several options for locating the revival that Joseph Smith described in his 1838 history. Those advocating 1820 or earlier variously locate it in upstate New York generally (Backman), at a Methodist annual conference in 1819 (Staker, Bushman), and/or at one or more Methodist camp-meetings in or around Palmyra (Harper). Note that, in light of the Turner evidence that Smith got “‘a spark of Methodism in the camp meeting’ somewhere along the road to Vienna,” Walters and Bushman agree this could have been the “seed” of his later accounts. Walters, Marquardt, Hill, and Vogel all locate a revival (not just a camp meeting) in Palmyra in 1824–25. Quinn vigorously defends the 1820 date but thinks Smith blended memories from 1820 and 1824–25.

Whatever happened in 1820 or thereabout, the evidence for a revival in 1824–25 of the sort that Smith described is sufficiently strong that we need to consider it as a possible context in which some of the events he described occurred. It thus opens up interpretive possibilities that -Steven Harper and I did not consider in our published conversation about the First Vision.