Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Joseph Smith's First Vision in 2 Nephi 27:24-26

Tanner Johnson, a fellow Latter-day Saint apologist, pointed out something to me and a few others, demonstrating that First Vision appears in the Book of Mormon (the following comes from Royal Skousen’s The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text):

24 And again it shall come to pass that the Lord shall say unto him
that shall read the words that shall be delivered him:

25 Forasmuch as this people draw near unto me with their mouth
and with their lips do honor me
but have removed their heart far from me
and their fear towards me is taught by the precepts of men,

26 Therefore I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people
--yea, a marvelous work and a wonder--
for the wisdom of their wise and learned shall perish,
and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid. (2 Nephi 27:24-26)

Here Nephi prophesies of how the then-future translator of the plates (Joseph Smith) will be told by the Lord Himself the words of v. 25. This is significant, as it records (1) a theophany of the Lord (i.e., Jesus) Himself to the prophet Joseph Smith and (2) the words vv. 25-26 are quotations from, or paraphrases of, Jesus’ words in the 1832 and 1838 accounts. With respect to the latter, note JS-H 19 in the Pearl of Great Price:

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof."

Jesus’ words, as recorded in the 1832 account, reads thusly:

And he spake unto me, saying, “Joseph, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee. Go thy way, walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments. Behold, I am the Lord of glory. I was crucified for the world, that all those who believe on my name may have eternal life. Behold, the world lieth in sin at this time, and none doeth good, no, not one. They have turned aside from the gospel and keep not my commandments. They draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me. And mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth, to visit them according to their ungodliness and to bring to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and apostles. Behold and lo, I come quickly, as it is written of me, in the cloud, clothed in the glory of my Father.” (cf. my article Psalm 110:1 and the two Lords in the 1832 First Vision Account)

Tanner's discovery of this (which seems to have gone unnoticed until now, so major credit to him for this!) is significant for a number of reasons: including:

1. It is the earliest account of the First Vision in print (2 Nephi 27 would have been dictated in 1829). Even if one were to reject the Book of Mormon's authenticity, this has Joseph Smith himself telling the reader about his experience in 1829.

2. The focus of the vision is the bringing about "a marvelous work" (i.e., the Book of Mormon and the establishment of the Church and the spread of the gospel--see how 'marvelous work' is used in the Book of Mormon in 1 Nephi 14:7; 22:8; 2 Nephi 25:17; 2 Nephi 29:1; 3 Nephi 21:9; 28:32). Unlike the 1832 account, the motivation explicated therein makes no mention of repentance, showing that critics cannot claim that motivation mentioned in the 1838 account is a later invention or novelty or that the 1838 account is a motivated reworking of the 1832 account to deal with then-contemporary challenges Joseph Smith was facing.

Further Reading

Published references to Joseph Smith's First Vision

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