The First Vision of Joseph Smith is one of the defining moments in the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With it began the Restoration of the gospel and the reopening of the communication between God and his children. Even after the contributions of scholars such as Milton V. Backman, James B. Allen, John W. Welch, and Steven C. Harper, most Latter-day Saints are familiar with only the canonized account of this vision recorded in Joseph Smith—History in the Pearl of Great Price. However, there are other accounts of it recorded by Joseph Smith as well as other secondary sources.
In this short book that is also filled with beautiful illustrations, Matthew B. Christensen attempts to do something that many agree is long overdue: harmonize ten different accounts of the First Vision into one comprehensive account. He begins his book by providing certain criteria that helped him decide which accounts he should or should not use in this harmony. Basically, he chose to use only those that were recorded during the lifetime of Joseph Smith, resulting in ten accounts. He then goes on to summarize each of them, briefly discussing their origins, authors, and content. After these summaries, he describes his method of bringing the accounts together into one, and his organizational plan, which is essentially to keep the canonized version as the “core melody,” and to have the other nine accounts as “accompaniment” in the “harmony”. He also notes the limitations to such a task, and comments that though he has tried to ensure a fair portrayal of all the accounts, he is aware that there may be some human error evident in the final outcome.