In an incredible show of cognitive dissonance, Richard Maynes (presidency of the Seventy), has declared that the various differing and contradictory accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision actually lend credibility to the event rather than detract from it. Can you imagine a lawyer in court making that conclusion about a witness who changed his or her story multiple times?
So let’s back up a minute and clarify what’s being discussed. Here are the main facts:
- Joseph claimed the vision happened in 1820.
- No record of it existed nor indication of the event until 1832.
- Though Maynes mentioned four accounts, there were actually 10 accounts that all differed in significant details from each other.
- For over 150 years, the Mormon church really only addressed or published one account, given 18 years after the supposed event. After the other accounts became easy to find on the internet, questions surfaced and the church started addressing the various accounts.
- In the “official” account, Joseph claimed to have seen two physical beings: God and Christ.
- In most of the other accounts, he claimed to have only seen one and sometimes saw angels in addition to or instead of the figures.
- The accounts also differed in terms of why he was there, what the message to him was, whether or not his sins were forgiven, whether or not other churches were corrupt, whether or not churches are corrupt, etc.
Despite being a very active, believing Mormon my whole life, I didn’t even know about the other versions until I was 30 years old. As soon as I discovered them, I realized how crazy it sounded. If I had witnessed one of the most incredible events in the history of mankind, I would remember the details better and I wouldn’t wait 12 years to write it down.
Let’s break down what Mr. Maynes said:
“It is a blessing to have these accounts,” he said. ” … They together tell Joseph’s consistent, harmonious story.”
Ummm… excuse me? The accounts are dramatically different from each other. There is nothing consistent or harmonious here, which is probably why your church only ever talked about one account until the internet exposed the other ones for everyone to see.
“When an individual retells an experience in multiple settings to different audiences over many years,” the essay states, “each account will emphasize various aspects of the experience and contain unique details.”
The problem isn’t the emphasizing of different details or the unique details of each story, it’s that the stories directly contradict each other in major details.
As S. Dilworth Young, a General Authority, stated, “I can see no reason why the Prophet, with his brilliant mind, would have failed to remember in sharp relief every detail of that eventful day. I can remember quite vividly that in 1915 I had a mere dream, and while the dream was prophetic in nature, it was not startling. It has been long since fulfilled, but I can remember every detail of it as sharply and clearly as though it had happened yesterday. How then could any man conceive that the Prophet, receiving such a vision as he received, would not remember it and would fail to write it clearly, distinctly, and accurately.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Young is dead or perhaps he would be questioning Mr. Maynes’ assertions himself.