The First Vision is the name given to the seminal event in the Restoration—the visitation of God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, to Joseph Smith in the Spring of 1820. The event is recognized and revered by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) around the world.
The official account of Joseph Smith’s First Vision can be found in the scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church is more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church). It is of noteworthy interest that Joseph Smith gave 4 or 5 versions of his experience in 8 separate statements of this vision over the years. As is to be expected, the accounts that he gave were not exact duplicates of one another, and some of the accounts were missing important details of the event that had occurred in the Spring of 1820 in a small grove of trees not far from the Smith home. Nevertheless, each account provided a slightly different perspective of this marvelous event.
Steven C. Harper, historian for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an adjunct professor of Church History and Doctrine at BYU, recently published a collection of the different accounts in his book Joseph Smith’s First Vision: A Guide to the Historical Accounts. Harper argues that, though many critics claim discrepancies or conflicting differences between accounts, a close reading of them shows a credible representation of an actual experience. Joseph himself pointed out that he was a poorly educated young man at the time of his first vision, and his lack of education made it hard for him to communicate his experience. As he grew in experience and studied more, sometimes he was better able to express himself. Harper also points out that there simply are no words for some of the things that Joseph experienced.
The following videos are from a documentary in which the finest scholars of Joseph Smith’s First Vision explore the circumstances and history of the various accounts of the visitation of God the Father and Jesus Christ to the boy Joseph Smith.