There are 13 thoughts on “Memory and Millennials: A Review of First Vision: Memory and Mormon Origins”.

  1. Memory and its influences is an interesting study topic. I have inadvertently experimented with two elements of valid and innocent impacts on memory and recall.

    The first deals with how our memories vary with time. I gave more detail as a comment to Robert Rees’ 2017 (Vol 25) Interpreter article “Deeper into Joseph Smith’s First Vision: Imagery, Cognitive Neuroscience, and the Construction of Memory”.

    In summary, I was fairly diligent about keeping a journal in my late teens, through my full time missionary service, and into my early twenties. Later on, in my late 40s and early 50s, I started recounting various experiences from that earlier time period as I taught lessons to my children and to youth in the Church, but without consulting my old journals. Later, as I read of the same experiences in my youthful journals, I discovered that I had collapsed and combined some memories, highlighted elements that were missing or trivial to me as a youth, or missed some key details that I had recorded but that had faded over the years. I was surprised to find out that I had written nothing about my high school graduation or about senior prom, although I have pictures and vivid memories of those events to this day. Apparently they were somehow less important to me back then than were the other events that I did record.

    Thus, I have had a very personal and impactful experience demonstrating the benign effects of memory over time.

    The second element has less to do with memory over time and more to do with intended audience. A year ago I, along with my siblings, helped clean out my parents’ old house after the passing of my father. There I found a binder kept by my mother, full of all of the letters I sent home during my full time mission some 38 years earlier. When I compared my accounts of events in those letters to the corresponding journal entries, I found distinct differences in details and inclusion. Why were there differences between two accounts of the same events written at roughly the same time? My audiences were different. One was to my parents and family members “real time”, while the other was to my older self and to my posterity. And yet, both accounts were accurate and true.

    Was there an attempt at deception? Of course not! And the differences in details due to time or audience do not invalidate any of the experiences, all of which were true and remain true.

    Haven’t we all related various events of life’s experiences over time and depending on the audience, the questions, or the preceding dialog? I know I have and I don’t know of anyone who has not.

    Cheers.

  2. I think it comes down to a choice of whether to believe or not. In legal settings, different accounts of an event that vary widely, given by the same witness, well after the event, is good evidence of deceit or poor memory. The jury can disregard the testimony based on the inconsistencies. However, the jury doesn’t have to disregard the testimony, given that a fallible memory doesn’t necessarily make the event not true. The believer then needs to answer the question of which account to believe.

  3. I forgot to mention what happened in a blog in which a commentator said that the different accounts of the First Vision contradicted each other. As I said in my previous comment, I remember reading the different accounts of the First Vision in the Ensign many, many years ago. I remember noticing that there were NO inconsistencies in the different accounts. There were differences, but none of them were contradictory. What impressed me about the differences in the different accounts was that obviously Joseph Smith remembered new details in retelling what happened, and forgot some details in retelling what happened.

    In this other blog I asked the critic of the different accounts to name 3 inconsistencies in the different accounts. The critic insisted that there were inconsistencies but would NOT name any of them. Each time I reminded the critics that I had already requested that he tell me of just 3 inconsistencies. Each time he he refused to name 3 inconsistencies. The last time he criticized the First Vision, I said, “I’ve asked you 4 times to tell 3 inconsistencies, and 4 times you have failed to do so. For the 5th time I ask you to tell 3 inconsistencies. The critic made no more comments.

    • 1. The various accounts contradict each other regarding the age he supposedly received the vision.

      2. The various accounts contradict each other as to the number of beings he saw. 1832 he saw only Jesus. 1835 he also saw many angels. 1838 he saw two beings, God and Jesus.

      3. In the 1832 account, he already knew that all the churches were false. In 1838, he was unsure and asked God or Jesus which to join and was surprised that he should not join any of them.

      • READ JOHN PERRY’S COMMENT. WHEN YOU NAME AN INCONSISTENCY, YOU NEED TO PROVIDE QUOTES, NOT PARAPHRASES. YOU ALSO NEED TO SPECIFY EXACTLY WHERE THE QUOTE IS RATHER THAN DEMAND THAT READERS ACCEPT YOUR WORD FOR IT. YOU ARE WELL AWARE THAT READERS ARE NOT GOING TO READ ALL THE VISIONS TO SEE YOUR POINTS.
        FOR EXAMPLE, YOUR FIRST SO-CALLED INCONSISTENCY IS MERELY A REPEAT OF YOUR SO-CALLED 3rd INCONSISTENCY, AND IS SO GENERAL THAT YOU HAVE PURPOSELY MADE IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR READERS TO QUICKLY – QUICKLY – CHECK IT OUT.
        1. The various accounts contradict each other regarding the age he supposedly received the vision.

        ALSO ONE OF YOUR POINTS IS NOT AN INCONSISTENCY: THE POINT WHERE YOU CLAIM THAT JOSEPH SAID THERE WAS ONLY ONE PERSONAGE, DOES NOT PROVE THAT THERE WAS AN INCONSISTENCY. IF JOSEPH WANTED TO STRESS WHAT WAS TOLD TO HIM ABOUT THE APOSTASY, HE WOULD QUOTE ONLY ONE PERSONAGE BECAUSE GOD THE FATHER SAID ONLY ONE THING. “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON. HEAR HIM.” THE SAVIOR DID ALL – ALL – ALL OF THE REST OF THE TALKING. I’M NOT SAYING THAT WHAT THE FATHER SAID WAS UNIMPORTANT; WHAT THE FATHER SAID WAS VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT ESTABLISHED A FEW TRUTHS THAT HAD TO BE RESTORED TO THE EARTH: E.G. THAT GOD THE FATHER AND JESUS CHRIST WERE 2 SEPARATE PERSONAGES, AND THAT THE SAVIOR SPOKE FOR AND IN BEHALF OF THE FATHER. THUS, BECAUSE THE SAVIOR DID NEARLY ALL OF THE TALKING, JOSEPH REFERRED TO JUST ONE PERSONAGE IN ONE ACCOUNT.

        YOUR 3rd SO-CALLED INCONSISTENCY I DON’T HAVE TIME TO CHECK – JUST AS THE GREAT MAJORITY OF READERS DON’T HAVE TIME TO CHECK. SO LET’S ASSUME – AND THIS IS QUITE AN ASSUMPTION – THAT JOSEPH DID GET THE YEARS WRONG. SEVERAL TIMES I HAVE ACCIDENTALLY REFERRED TO A FOUNDING FATHER AS BEING BORN, SAY, IN 1932, WHEN I MET TO SAY 1732 (THE YEAR GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS BORN). MY 1932 MISTAKE WAS 200 YEARS OFF (1932 – 1732 = 200 YEARS). WE ALL MAKE SUCH SILLY MISTAKES WHEN RETELLING EVENTS. AND THIS IS ASSUMING THAT JOSEPH MADE THE MISTAKE YOU CLAIM, WHICH I AND OTHER READERS DON’T HAVE TIME TO CHECK. ALSO READ JOHN PERRY’S COMMENT.

  4. I remember reading the different accounts of the First Vision in the Ensign many, many years ago. I remember noticing that there were NO inconsistencies in the different accounts. There were differences, but none of them were contradictory. What impressed me about the differences in the different accounts was that obviously Joseph Smith remembered new details in retelling what happened, and forgot some details in retelling what happened. For example, in one account he mentioned an interesting detail that is not in the Pearl of Great Price; that detail was: when he knelt down to prayer, he kept hearing noises in the woods as though someone might be walking on leaves – which I think was Satan’s attempt to distract Joseph. This remembering new details and forgetting other details when retelling what happened, is very typical of what all of us do when retelling an actual experience. As the book suggests, I’m sure that different audiences also may have influenced which details Joseph chose to include in his retelling his experience.

    Critics of the First Vision’s different accounts miss the main point: Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His son Jesus Christ, and was told to join none of the churches. Also critics don’t understand the nature and extent of the apostasy. Founding fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson clearly saw great problems with apostate Christianity – which problems the critics don’t seem to understand.

    The only real way to learn if Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His son Jesus Christ, and was told to join none of the churches, is to study the First Vision and ask the Lord in prayer if the First Vision is true. Many, many years ago I did that study and did pray and gained a testimony that the First Vision is true. Over the years I have read the First Vision many times, and my testimony of its truthfulness has never wavered.

  5. I recall that Professor Arthur Henry King, a leading scholar of English rhetoric, began his conversion to the Church when he read the 1838 testimony of Joseph in the Pearl of Great Price, and was impressed by the absence of rhetorical devices in Joseph’s narrative. He noted that Joseph did not attempt to convince his readers of the truth and importance of his experience, but simply recounted a very personal experience. Unlike Oliver Cowdery’s description of the visit of John the Baptist, Joseph does not tell us what we should feel. It impressed King as the hallmark of a sincere man.

    I wonder if the book under review considers how Joseph’s recollection of his 1820 vision was affected by his subsequent visionary experiences, including the several with Moroni, with John the Baptist, and with Peter, James and John. In 1832, Joseph shared the vision of Christ in D&C 76 with Sydney Rigdon. In 1836, Christ, Moses and Elijah visited Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland Temple. Surely, the teachings he received from heavenly messengers helped him better understand the statements that the Father and Son had made to him on that first occassion.

    • Hi Glen! My purpose was not to suggest that the integrity of the accounts was very weak. My main emphasis was to write that the book gives us new tools to confront objections to the First Vision and help people struggling with understanding their integrity to find renewed confidence. Thanks for your comment!

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