There are 8 thoughts on “The Cowdery Conundrum: Oliver’s Aborted Attempt to Describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835”.

  1. Its totally possible that Joseph didn’t want Gods work to be about Joseph, but rather about God and God’s gospel. In this day of self aggrandizement it just might be hard to imagine a man with a purer motive.

  2. Pingback: No-wise #453: How Are Oliver Cowdery’s Messenger and Advocate Letters to Be Understood and Used? – "Moroni's America" – The North American Setting for the Book of Mormon

  3. The article is a good overview, but fails to address at least a few key points which make it appear biased:

    1) Faun Brodie’s book publicly addressed the seer stone. Several of the statements by Joseph Fielding Smith and others were likely in response to these accusations. We know that the church responded to other accusations (in a non-factual manner) with respect to Joseph Smith’s wives in the Improvement Era.
    2) You talk about the “Story of the Latter-day Saints” in your article and that it correctly mentions the seer stone, but you do not talk about the fact that several apostles (including Ezra T. Benson) were deeply troubled by the book and fought to get Arrington kicked out of the History department after it was published. Providing a little more context would make it more clear that the cover-up of an accurate history of the seer stones was dictated from the apostles/prophets.

    • Scott, there is a difference between saying that there was a cover-up and describing events. It is quite possible, and I believe very likely for quite a few, that there was a held belief behind what is now called a cover-up. There is a difference between what one believes at one point, and what later comes to light. In order to be a cover-up, there would have had to be a knowledge of, and belief in, the use of the seerstone that was denied. Until we know that, we don’t have the evidence to use the word cover-up. Some less emotionally charged word would better suit the historical situation.

      This process is not unique to the church. You will find that same kind of process–regularizing the story–in most organizational histories. You will find it in US history. It is quite likely that we can see some of the same regularizing happening in the New Testament. The history isn’t the question, it is the use of the emotionally charged term without proper context that I see as the issue.

  4. How do you explain the drastic differences between the 1832 and 1838 accounts? Further, how do you explain the various anachronisms in the 1838 account such as part of J.S.’s family joining the Presbyterians in 1820 when it clearly occurred after Alvin passed in 1823?

    Isn’t a better interpretation that the various accounts track J.S.’s evolving view of God?

  5. Thank you for this interesting article. I agree that Joseph wanted to control what was published about the First Vision. In some ways, it is remarkable that he published in 1839 the account we have in Joseph Smith History. On the other hand, there is evidence he had told people about it, including non-members.

    It begs the question about whether the draft of the December 1834 version didn’t originally have the First Vision in it and Joseph had it removed. Oliver may think differently than me, but I would have dedicated the first installment to the First Vision and the second to the visit by Moroni. It is possible that what he originally wrote, was shared with Joseph, who wanted specific mention to the First Vision removed. But, this led little time for Oliver to regroup and instead removed the vision itself and published what was left.

    Speculation? yes. But, it is a plausible explanation of why the December installment covered the First Vision up until just short of the vision. It might also explain why Oliver, who had time to think about how to do the second installment might have decided to provide several allusions to the First Vision instead of directly mentioning. All this is plausible under the assumption Oliver had and used the 1832 version, which you demonstrated quite well he must have.

  6. This sounds reasonable and probable. Joseph’s first telling of the visitation of the Lord brought serious condemnation upon himself and family. This alone would have made him cautious of publishing the details to the world. Also, the Book of Mormon had just been published so the events that produced it had to be published and emphasized. Focusing on the First Vision at that time may have distracted from the Book of Mormon.

  7. I, too, am persuaded Joseph didn’t wish it spoken publicly. The PoGP version lacks the intimate details given in the earlier versions (there were undoubtedly many more things said, done, heard, and seen than were ever reported) and mentions virtually only those things essentially implied by the existence of the restored Church.

    JST, Matthew 7:10
    10 And the mysteries of the kingdom ye shall keep within yourselves; for it is not meet to give that which is holy unto the dogs; neither cast ye your pearls unto swine, lest they trample them under their feet.

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