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TitleJoseph Smith and Modernism
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsBushman, Richard L.
JournalBYU Studies Quarterly
KeywordsFirst Vision; Modernism; Multiple First Vision Accounts; Skepticism; Smith, Joseph, Jr.

Two contexts for understanding the First Vision—denominational confusion and revival religion—are two ways of explaining how Smith understood his startling experience at different times in his life. To these two, I would like to add a third: Smith may have also been affected by an encounter with skepticism, one element in the coming of modernism, the word we use to summarize the broad reorientation of human culture over the past three or four centuries. One effect of modernism has been to drain away belief in the supernatural, leading to the famed disenchantment of the world. I believe that the touches of skepticism tinging Joseph Smith’s 1832 account suggest that faitheroding modernist currents had reached his world by the time of the First Vision.