Joseph Smith History 1:1-26 – “I Saw a Pillar of Light”

January 4, 2021 to January 10, 2021

In the spring of 1820, the Lord revealed himself and his word and chose Joseph Smith as his prophet to carry out his work. The First Vision is the foundational revelation of the Restoration, even though it was little known in the early years of the Church and not used much in missionary work until many decades later. 


“The Earliest Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” by Dean C. Jessee, from Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844  

This chapter’s first part includes the full text of the four First Vision accounts (with variants) given by Joseph Smith and five accounts of others who heard him tell it. In the second part, charts compare the content of each account; the authors discuss the context of each account, why they were written, and what we can learn from them.  


Insights into Joseph Smith’s First Vision, by Book of Mormon Central 

This book presents the background of each of the First Vision accounts and discusses topics such as how old Joseph was at the time, the First Vision as a Divine Council Vision, why Joseph was initially reluctant to tell others and the doctrinal contributions of the First Vision. Note the “Synoptic chart of what Joseph Smith saw and heard in the First Vision” on pages 63-64.  


BYU Studies Quarterly 59, no. 2, Special Issue on the First Vision, 2020

In January 2020, a conference was held at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. This issue presents the proceedings of that conference. Speakers from the Latter-day Saint faith and other faiths placed the First Vision within the larger context of American religious history and explored its historicity and theological ramifications. This issue includes three additional articles: on art of the First Vision; lectures notes of a Presbyterian minister in Palmyra, New York; and an article on Joseph Smith’s knowledge of deity’s tangible bodies. Authors include Richard E. Bennett, LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., Steven C. Harper, Kathleen Flake, Ann Taves, David F. Holland, George M. Marsden, Richard Lyman Bushman, Richard J. Mouw, John Wigger, Rachel Cope, Peter J. Blodgett, Anthony Sweat, John G. Turner, and John W. Welch. 


“Hear Him,” Saints, Volume 1: The Standard of Truth

This chapter tells the First Vision in a narrative form, using content for the four Joseph Smith accounts. 


Primary Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision of Deity, Joseph Smith Papers 

This page lists the firsthand accounts recorded by Joseph Smith or under his direction as well as five accounts written by others. See also “First Vision Accounts,” a Gospel Topics Essay, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 


“History, 1838-1856, volume A-1,” Joseph Smith Papers

Here is the manuscript of the history of the Church from which was extracted Joseph Smith—History. Joseph Smith dictated this text to his scribes. It is not the first effort to write such a history, but it is one that became canonized.  


“Standing as a Credible Witness in 1819,” Jeffrey N. Walker, from Sustaining the Law: Joseph Smith’s Legal Encounters

Joseph Smith’s first appearance in court came when he was just thirteen. In January 1819, Joseph Smith Sr. and Alvin Smith initiated a lawsuit regarding the purchase of horses. Joseph Jr. and Hyrum Smith both served as witnesses. The judge found that Joseph Jr. was competent and credible as a witness. The jurors found in favor of the Smiths’ claims against a much more prominent family. This chapter explains the background and legal details of the case. 


“The Smiths and Religious Freedom: Jesse Smith’s 1814 Church Tax Protest, John W. Welch, from Sustaining the Law: Joseph Smith’s Legal Encounters

Jesse Smith, uncle of Joseph Smith Jr., protested actions taken by the Presbyterian congregation to which he belonged, in 1814 in Tunbridge, Vermont. His written statement quotes the Bible extensively and accurately, showing that he had given considerable thought to the practical implications of the Bible’s teachings. The Smith family were God-fearing, religious people who sought for true doctrine. Jesse never accepted the Book of Mormon or the restored gospel, but he was deeply committed to the scriptures. This chapter gives the background and full text of Jesse Smith’s statement. The full book is free online. Originally published as “Jesse Smith’s 1814 Protest,” John W. Welch, BYU Studies 33, no. 1. 


Joseph Smith Pedigree Chart, Joseph Smith Papers 

This chart lists names with birth and death dates of Joseph Smith’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents, wife, and children.