Aristotle and his impact on Christian theology

If you understand Aristotle’s views on God, metaphysics, philosophy, and the cosmos you’ll better understand Christianity.  Specifically, you’ll better understand the doctrine of the Trinity, why Christians had the false interpretation of the cosmos (geocentric) for 1500 years, and other errors that were incorporated into a Christian world view.

Image result for greek tutors in ancient rome

After all, Greek thinking spread into the Roman world when the Romans conquered Greece.  Roman leaders had Greek slaves teach them and their kids mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, and all other areas of knowledge.

Image result for language of christianity at time of christ

After Jesus’ resurrection, Christianity spread into a Greek world.  One that believed in things just the way Aristotle did centuries before.  Eventually, Roman leaders persecuted Christians who believed in ideas contrary to the accepted Greek views.

Image result for roman persecution of christians

Jews and Romans labeled Christians polytheists for belief in 2 Gods (Father & Son).  This persecution continued on and off until Christians embraces Greek philosophy, defining God and Jesus being one (2 persons, but one being) and of the same substance.

Image result for greek medicine

Greek medicine has been largely rejected.  So has Greek astronomy.  A Greek view on God’s nature has persisted, however.

Aristotle had many brilliant ideas for his day.  He debated non-believers and laid out proofs for God’s existence.  Aristotle had a theory for nearly everything.  He was correct on many things, but mistaken on many others (including theological, medical, and astronomical concepts).

Many of these errors were adopted without reservation by the educated and a very significant institution:  the Roman Catholic Church.  Nobody at the time conceived the Greeks were wrong.  Indeed, these ideas were held up and propagated for centuries.  These false ideas — geocentricism, Greek medicine, and others — were not rejected till the Scientific Revolution.

A short  12-minute summary:

From Christian Wheaton College.  This is very dry.   Joseph Smith makes it much simpler.  He saw two resurrected beings.

More detail:

 

LDS scholar, Barry Bickmore, discusses the transformation of the Hebrew/Jewish organization into a more Hellenized version of Christianity:

Revelation, not Peter, is the Rock Upon Which the Early Church was Built

Related image

A wonderful talk given by Hyrum W. Smith in 1988 at Rick’s College (now BYU-Idaho), “Why 1820?”

PDF text:

audio on YouTube:

Image result for simon peter

From 1975 Ensign by Richard Lloyd Anderson:  Simon Peter

A few paragraphs below:

“Was Peter impulsive, pious, or vacillating? Was he the first pope?

These questions reflect distorted opinions of the personality and life of Christ’s chief apostle. The authentic Peter towers in the New Testament, where more information is found on this apostle than any other except Paul.

None of the first disciples is mentioned as frequently in the gospels and the Acts; Peter’s recorded speeches, letters, and deeds exceed what remains from any other original apostle.”

From Elder McConkie in 1981:

Key section of Elder McConkie’s talk:

“Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona,” Jesus says, “for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 16:17.)

Then again Jesus alludes to the difference in paternal ancestry between him and Peter and continues his words of blessing and doctrine by saying: “And upon this rock”—the rock of revelation—“I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18.)

And how could it be otherwise? There is no other foundation upon which the Lord could build his Church and kingdom. The things of God are known only by the power of his Spirit.

God stands revealed or he remains forever unknown. No man can know that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.

Image result for lds student manual new testament

From the LDS Student Manual on Matthew 16-18:

Matthew 16:18. Revelation Is the Rock upon Which the Church Is Built

As the Savior taught Peter about revelation, He used a wordplay on Peter’s name, declaring to Simon, “Thou art Peter [Petros], and upon this rock [petra] I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).

The Greek word petros means an isolated small rock or stone. The Greek word petra can also mean “a stone,” but in addition it can refer to stony soil, bedrock, or a large mass of rock.

From these words we learn that it was not upon Peter as a man that the Church would be built, but upon the bedrock of revelation.

To read about the significance of Peter’s name being changed from Cephas, see the commentary for John 1:42.

Image result for rock of revelation

President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95) taught: “‘And upon this rock I will build my church.’ Upon what rock? Peter? Upon a man?

No, not upon a man, upon the rock of revelation, the thing which they were talking about.

He had just said, ‘… flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.’ This revelation that Jesus is the Christ is the foundation upon which he would build his Church” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1965, 112; see also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 195)

Image result for gates of hell shall not prevail

Gates if hell shall not prevail…

This talk discusses what this part of the verse means.  A few paragraphs below:

“The Greek word used to denote church in Matthew 16:18 is ecclesia, which literally means a “calling out” and originally referred to a civil assembly. Thus Jesus’ use of the phrase “my church” referred to an assembly “called” by him.

Image result for early christian assembly

In the present dispensation, the Lord used church in this same sense. He revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that “whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. …

“Behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.” (D&C 10:67, 69.)

In these instances the “church” is not so much an institution as it is a group of individuals who repent, come unto Christ through the ordinances of the gospel, and endure in faith to the end. Upon them the adversary has no claim.”

We all must be personally built upon the rock.  Read this 1992 Ensign talk:  Built Upon the Rock.

 

Creeds (and the Trinity) in Christianity

Image result for lds godhead

 

Elder Holland discusses the LDS doctrine of the Godhead here:

Wikipedia lists the many creeds and highlights the important historical ones here.

The creeds evolved over centuries.  From the Apostles’ Creed (180 AD) to the Athanasian Creed (500 AD).  Latter-day Saints can agree with the early creeds.  The later creeds, however, are deeply influenced by the dominant (at the time) Greek philosophy.

The creed in 180 AD is simple and clear.  The creed in 500 AD is not clear.  Not simple.

Mormons believe in the revealed truth about the Godhead.

Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell.

On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Athanasian Creed:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Substance [Essence] of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Substance [Essence] of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood into God. One altogether; not by confusion of Substance [Essence]; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Image result for stanford

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, History of Trinitarian Doctrines:

Very first paragraph:

“This supplementary document discusses the history of Trinity theories. Although early Christian theologians speculated in many ways on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, no one clearly and fully asserted the doctrine of the Trinity as explained at the top of the main entry until around the end of the so-called Arian Controversy. (See 3.2 below and section 3.1 of the supplementary document on unitarianism.)

Nonetheless, proponents of such theories always claim them to be in some sense founded on, or at least illustrated by, biblical texts.

 

David Paulsen focuses on  the LDS understanding of God.   He explains that Origin, Augustine (though reluctantly), early Christians, and Jews that God believed was corporeal.   This is not a Trinitarian view.

Blake Ostler has written extensively on this topic.  Fortunately, he created easy-to-listen-to podcasts on the topic here:

A short essay by Blake Ostler:  The Logical Incoherence of Traditional Christianity.

Kerry Shirts always provides fun, enlightening insight:

 

Are Jesus and Satan Brothers?

Is the Pope and Hitler brothers?  Yes and no.  Yes, spiritually.  No, with respect to their mortal parents.  And they’ve followed completely different paths.

The answer to the title above is similar.  It’s not a simple answer.  Let’s look at the context of the Latter-day Saint view of creation and divine councils.

Image result for lds ensign 1986

From the 1986 Ensign:  I Have A Question:

 

Image result for fair mormon

FAIR Mormon has a lengthy explanation here.   Key paragraphs below from an early Church father in which it’s clear God first made his first and greatest Son, then he later made what became the devil.

The early Ante-Nicene Church father Lactantius wrote:

“Since God was possessed of the greatest foresight for planning, and of the greatest skill for carrying out in action, before He commenced this business of the world,–inasmuch as there was in Him, and always is, the fountain of full and most complete goodness,–in order that goodness might spring as a stream from Him, and might flow forth afar, He produced a Spirit like to Himself, who might be endowed with the perfections of God the Father…
Image result for the devil
 
Then He made another being, in whom the disposition of the divine origin did not remain. Therefore he was infected with his own envy as with poison, and passed from good to evil; and at his own will, which had been given to him by God unfettered, he acquired for himself a contrary name. From which it appears that the source of all evils is envy. For he envied his predecessor, who through his steadfastness is acceptable and dear to God the Father.
 
This being, who from good became evil by his own act, is called by the Greeks diabolus: we call him accuser, because he reports to God the faults to which he himself entices us.
 
God, therefore, when He began the fabric of the world, set over the whole work that first and greatest Son, and used Him at the same time as a counselor and artificer, in planning, arranging, and accomplishing, since He is complete both in knowledge, and judgment, and power…”

We believe in a pre-existence. It’s biblical and also in our restored scriptures. Non-Mormons don’t see this notion of life before mortality — and so many other principles — the way we do. No big surprise.

Image result for lds preexistence

We can lovingly agree to disagree with our traditional Christian friends. And traditional Christians, even those very critical of us, should respect our different opinion, though they may disagree.

If they’re hostile and nasty about the differences on a particular religious topic, that is poor social manners on their part. And a poor reflection on them. We should respect others and deserve respect in return.

Some have claimed that Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers. But in what context do they mean? Find out what Mormons really believe regarding the divinity of Jesus and the darkness of Satan.

From LDS scholar, Robert Boylan’s blog:

The “Mormon Jesus” being a “Spirit Brother” of Satan–what the Bible really says

 

The Backyard Professor has some interesting insights:

We wish we had more, lots more in the Bible. And one can — and creedal or traditional Christians do — interpret a range of scriptures to mean literally anything they wish. Consider all the 10s of 1000s of Christian churches. How’d they get there? Unique interpretations.

The Council in Heaven, pre-existence, and other related topics are lightly mentioned in the OT. But enough is there to support LDS positions.

Our Pearl of GP, in contrast, is very rich on this subject of councils, pre-earth life, Lucifer, etc. The PGP points out that we were all a part of the Divine Council. Lucifer was a brother to us all, Jehovah was chosen, noble and great ones were leaders long ago, etc.

Image result for paradigm

Other Christians don’t see things like we do. They shouldn’t, according to their paradigm or limited view. We’re lucky to have more material that is harmonious with the Bible.

The OT points out that multiple gods were also present at this council in heaven — something else that many traditional Christians wildly misinterpret. Certain non-LDS scholars, though, do understand this issue of the most high God (Heavenly Father) and other dieties.

Image result for biblical deities

They’d refer to these other deities as angels or something else. They don’t own what we feel is the true interpretation: a separate deity (God’s son, Jehovah) is completely unique from God (Heavenly Father), and other sons of God. We, fortunately, have modern prophets and much more insight.

If we didn’t have a restoration we’d believe in a mysterious Trinity like everyone else.

The Historical Jesus

Episode 1: The Historical Jesus – Thomas Wayment

Some argue that Jesus wasn’t historical.  Virtually all scholars discredit that position.

However, this scholar points out that, despite knowing much, there’s so much we don’t know.  Starting with Jesus’ birth narrative, he contrasts the Matthew (suggests the family lived in Bethlehem well before His birth) account with Luke (only visited for the census).

Contrasting accounts are not necessarily refuting or evidence of dishonest history.  Instead, these types of incongruities are found in all historical records .

Bart Ehrman, atheist and noted NT scholar, refutes mythicism of Jesus:

Jesus Christ should be our focus

We teach lots of things in our church.  But nothing is more important than Jesus Christ and the grace he extends to us through his sacrifice.

Related image

I’ve recently heard critics say that Mormons worship their prophets and don’t speak enough about Jesus.  It caused me to reflect.

Much was restored in the restoration, which we must share with our members and others.  So, perhaps we have a few additional topics we have to teach on Sundays:  the plan of salvation (pre-earth life, 3 degrees of glory, etc), Word of Wisdom, temple work, and other topics.  Despite this new material, let us never forget the importance of Jesus Christ.

Non-Mormon scholar, Stephen Webb, shares his thoughts below:

Professor Says Mormons are Obsessed with Christ, Are “More Christian than Many Mainstream Christians”

“Mormon Christianity: What Other Christians Can Learn from the Latter-day Saints”

Theosis and Deification

Image result for theosis

Short podcast from a review of Andrew Skinner’s new book:

A Compelling Case for Theosis

Abstract: What is theosis? Why does the doctrine of theosis matter? Why did God become man so that man might become God? In his book To Become Like God, Andrew C. Skinner answers these questions with compelling clarity. He provides ample convincing evidence that, far from being a deviation from original Christian beliefs, the doctrine of theosis, or the belief that human beings have the potential to become like God, is central to the Christian faith.

 

Image result for blake ostler

Brilliant insight (as usual) from Blake Ostler:

Topics Discussed:   Arguments That Essential Divine Properties Cannot Be Shared with Humans

– Can a Fulness of Divine Power Be Shared?

– Can Divine Sovereignty Be Shared By Humans?

– Are Deified Humans Worthy of Divine Worship?

 

 

 

Latter-day Saints have a unique theology.  We believe our Heavenly Father and his Son are separate beings and that they have exalted bodies.  We believe we can be like them.

This notion of becoming like God is not new.  It’s biblical.

Episode 63: Becoming Like God – Terryl Givens

One can read a lengthy paper on the topic:   Defenders of the Doctrine of Deification.

 

Image result for irenaeus

In this Maxwell Institute podcast below, Powell talks about his book, “Irenaeus, Joseph Smith, and God-Making Heresy.”

The idea that humans can become gods appeared in a setting of extreme opposition both for early Mormons like Joseph Smith, and early Christian leaders like Iranaeus.

 

The principles associated with theosis presented by Jordan Watkins:

Non-Mormon, Margaret Barker, spoke in 2016.  Among many other points, Margaret shared that the Deuteronomist editors removed references to the a human-form Heavenly Father visiting Old Testament prophets (after 26:00).

After the first hour, three LDS scholars shared their own insights:

Valuable insights about Solomon’s Temple:

Roger Cook discusses theosis below:

Brett McDonald presents below:

 

Latter-day Saints believe we are more than creatures.  “Ye are Gods” is found in John 10:34 and Psalm 82:6.

Part ii:

Hugh Nibley connected Egyptian rituals with LDS temple rites and ceremonies.

Deification discussion:

Debate between evangelical James White and two LDS apologists: Van Hale and Tanner Martin.

Deification in a Mesoamerican mindset:

 

Blake Ostler: ex nihilo creation and council of Gods

I heard about Blake from Brett McDonald (creator of LDS Truth Claims videos).  Brett shared a paper Blake wrote on ex nihilo creation.  I’ll link it here:

http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1626&context=msr

 

I emailed Blake a few questions.  He responded immediately.  He suggested, among other things, that I check out resources at his web site.

He has so many books and podcasts. I immediately saw this:

How Many Gods Are There?

 

Take a look and follow this scholar!

 

 

Joseph Smith’s First Vision

Great place to start with Richard Lloyd Anderson, Harvard-trained attorney and Berkeley PhD.   BYU devotional given in 1983:

“I have spent half of my time studying the sources of the life of Joseph Smith, and the other half studying the words of Christ and the New Testament prophets. I find it hard to believe in the biblical prophets without also accepting Joseph Smith and those called after him. The same reasons that lead a thinking person to accept Peter and Paul as Christ’s servants should also lead that person to accept Joseph Smith as commissioned by Christ.

Related image

Here I am going to take Paul as an example because we know more about his life than that of any other New Testament prophet. His main strengths as a prophet are also those of Joseph Smith. If you forget some comparisons, please remember the principle—that the leading evidences that Paul is a true prophet also support Joseph Smith as called of God. Remembering that fundamental proposition, you can reconstruct this talk anytime with you own examples. Proof of the mission of any true prophet gives the format for identifying a later true prophet.”

 

Another BYU devotional.  This one from Truman G. Madsen in 1978:

 

This portion of his talk shares the memory of an acquaintance of Joseph.  She was present when an area church leader visiting her family twice.  Each time the churchman discouraged this person’s father from allowing Joseph to have such good relations with his family.

Critics claim Joseph didn’t share his vision with others till 1832.  Simply not true.

“The enemies of Joseph Smith have made out over and over that he was shiftless, lazy, indolent, that he never did a day’s work in his life.10 But a document exists that contains reported recollections about Joseph Smith as recorded by Martha Cox. One of these comes from a woman, identified as Mrs. Palmer, who knew him in his early life when she was a child.11 As a girl—years younger than him, apparently—she watched him with others of the boys working on her father’s farm. Far from his being indolent, the truth is that, according to this account, her father hired Joseph because he was such a good worker.12

Image result for farm upstate ny 1820

Another reason was that Joseph was able to get the other boys to work. The suspicion is that he did that by the deft use of his fists. It is my belief that one of the feelings he had of unworthiness, one of the things for which he asked forgiveness (and his account shows that he did pray for forgiveness prior to the visitations of Moroni), was this physical propensity. He was so strong, so muscular, so physically able, that that was one way he had of solving problems. This troubled him. He did not feel it was consonant with the divine commission he had received.13

Image result for joseph smith farmer

Mrs. Palmer’s account speaks of “the excitement stirred up among some of the people over [Joseph’s] first vision.” A churchman, she recalls, came to her father “to remonstrate against his allowing such close friendship between his family” and the boy Joseph. But the father, pleased with Joseph’s work on his farm, was determined to keep him on. Of the vision, he said that it was “the sweet dream of a pure-minded boy.” Later, the daughter reports, Joseph claimed to have had another vision; and this time it led to the production of a book. The churchman came again, and at this point the girl’s father turned against Joseph. But, she adds significantly, by then it was too late. Joseph Smith had a following.14″

 

Insight into Joseph’s style:

Joseph personally wrote very little.  Instead, he used many scribes:

Image result for sandra tanner deconversion accounts

Sandra Tanner, one of the LDS Church’s biggest critics, has been asked many times over the years why she left Mormonism.  Of course, each time she shares a slightly different version.  Years apart, and depending on the context, Sandra’s stories are slightly different.  We wouldn’t expect anything else.

A friend of mine — who has studied ex-Mormons for decades — told me he had seen a list of Sandra Tanner’s many and various deconversion stories.  Do these unique deconversion stories — some short, some long, some very detailed, some with dates, some with key details absent — prove Sandra was lying?

Of course not!  The same must be said for Joseph.  However, LDS critics are not nearly as consistent.

An anonymous letter (in favor of the LDS Church) in response to the Tanners’ book, “Mormonism–Shadow or Reality.”

Image result for first vision

Commenting on the differences between the various accounts of the First Vision, one non-LDS scholar commented as follows:

“Critics of Mormonism have delighted in the discrepancies between this canonical account [the 1838 account of the First Vision as found in the Pearl of Great Price] and earlier renditions, especially one written in Smith’s own hand in 1832.

For example, in the 1832 version, Jesus appears to Smith alone, and does all the talking himself. Such complaints, however, are much ado about relatively nothing. Any good lawyer (or historian) would expect to find contradictions in competing narratives written down years apart and decades after the event.

Image result for key elements

And despite the contradictions, key elements abide. In each case, Jesus appears to Smith in a vision. In each case, Smith is blessed with a revelation. In each case, God tells him to remain all of from all Christian denominations, as something better is in store.”

(Stephen Prothero, American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon [New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003], 171, comment in square brackets added for clarification)

More from Robert Boylan here.

Image result for my thoughts

A few personal thoughts about claimed conflict or tension between Joseph’s 1832 and 1838 accounts.  Joseph said Lord twice in his 1832 journal.  Joseph said separate beings in 1838 account.

All the Father did was introduce. Nothing is contradictory in the 1832 account. It’s true, details are lacking. Clarification is lacking. I wish it was more obvious.  But it does not contradict later accounts that provided additional details.  1838 was meant to be the published account, as part of the History of the Church.
 
I’ve become a better, clearer writer after years living with my wife. She’s a super writer. I must have been a horrible writer in high school (which Joseph didn’t have) and early at BYU.
Related image
By the way, Joseph usually wrote several drafts before publishing future revelations. His 1832 journal account surely isn’t the polished work he (and future scholars and members) later wished it would have been, since critics now closely scrutinize it.
 
When my wife will edit my writing, I now try to make everything painfully obvious, so my wife won’t ask a bazillion questions about who and what.  Many such details are often completely unclear in every rough draft, as was JS’s 1832 journal account of his vision.
Image result for editing
 
My wife edits everything that important audiences might see. Everything. Because I can’t anticipate what isn’t clear. Joseph made similar errors, in my view.

Why so many accounts?

Did Joseph change his story?

Why weren’t the accounts identical?

Why don’t more Latter-day Saints know about the various accounts?

Conclusion on First Vision issues:

Critics claim Joseph didn’t report on the First Vision till his first written account in 1832.  Not true.  At least one account in the area newspaper (in 1831) reported that Joseph had seen God.  4 witnesses were aware of this 1831 account.

Listen around the 1:27:00 mark:

Interpreter Radio Show — March 11, 2018

Short introduction about Joseph’s First Vision accounts written by himself or his scribes during his lifetime:

A graphical comparison of the details of Joseph Smith’s accounts of the First Vision.

Image result for joseph smith first vision

 

Short introduction about accounts written by others during Joseph’s lifetime:

Short introduction with a focus on the familiar 1838 account:

Joseph’s First Vision may be the most well-documented theophany in history.  Five of the eight documents are unique with three being copies of previous ones.   Five other known writers documented the event in Joseph’s lifetime.  Joseph published two known accounts in 1839 and 1842.

Scholars would be thrilled to have that much direct and indirect documentation of Moses’ encounter at the burning bush, Isaiah’s vision of the heavenly temple, and Paul on the road to Damascus.

Image result for paul vision damascus

Speaking of Paul, Richard Lloyd Anderson wrote about the many parallels between Paul’s and Joseph’s accounts here.

Both gave their accounts at different times, in different settings, with differing details.  Complementary accounts, not obvious fraud.

Both can still be considered prophets.  Worth reading.

Couple background videos about Joseph’s First Vision:

 

Joseph provided accounts throughout his life and many written accounts. Below is a graphic published in the Improvement Era in 1970.  The same information was published in BYU Studies in 1969.

Image result for FIRst vision improvement era

Richard Anderson wrote of the First Vision and details surrounding Joseph’s accounts in the April 1996 Ensign. Click here.  

 

Matthew Grow shares his insight in Rome in 2016:

 

Ron Barney was the executive director of the Mormon History Association when he gave this talk:

Joseph’s story got abroad in the early days.  He published his account to put an end to rumors and falsehoods.  Joseph was never eager to share the First Vision.  This may seem strange with us.  But this is consistent with how he handled many other events.

For example, Joseph didn’t tell his father of his nightly Moroni visitations until Moroni told him to do so (the next day, after Joseph collapsed crossing the fence).  Joseph likely wouldn’t have told anyone — and followed this pattern with his 1st Vision — unless instructed by the angel.

Joseph was religiously private.  Joseph hesitated giving details about the translation of the Book of Mormon when asked for particulars by Hyrum.  Joseph tried to teach church leaders to keep sacred experiences sacred. Joseph taught in 1835 before the Kirtland Temple dedication, “If God gives you a manifestation, keep it to yourself.”

Image result for kirtland temple elijah

April 3, 1836: Savior appeared to Joseph and Oliver.  They received keys from Moses, Elias, and Elijah.  Elder Pratt included this (Joseph Smith’s) journal entry into D&C 110, but not until 1876.  But most don’t realize the Joseph discreetly kept the record of the event to himself.  Joseph told few if any of the full scope.

Oliver was also disinclined to speak of the awesome 1836 event.  Oliver had already shown this behavior: visited by the Savior in 1829 and shown the plates in a vision, Oliver shared this to virtually no one.

Not until November 1852 was this account published in the Deseret News.   This was entirely consistent with Joseph.  He shared little.  Matthew 17 contains the Transfiguration.  Jesus instructed Peter, James, and John to tell no man.  This type of event was not to be spread abroad.

Likewise, no narrative exists from Joseph or Oliver relative to the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood.  The record shows Joseph and Oliver discussed it, but determined sharing was not appropriate.

Steven Harper:   Four Accounts and Three Critiques of Joseph Smith’s First Vision.

Joseph Factual and interpretive (what vision meant over time) memory plays a role in Joseph’s individual accounts.

Criticisms that Steven Harper addresses:

Image result for a priori knowledge1)  Critics — from the first minister to today’s critics — denounced Joseph’s First Vision a priori.  It just couldn’t have happened.  Reasonable people know this, they say.  This view is from a skeptical interpretation or hermeneutic.  Latter-day Saints tend to have a hermeneutic of trust.

Image result for methodist minister joseph smith

2)  Joseph didn’t share First Vision story till 1840.  False:   written accounts exist from 1832.   Other details were shared by others in 1820 and certainly before 1840. Critics’ methods assume how a person, such as Joseph, must have acted if the accounts were true.  Joseph was criticized and persecuted.  He didn’t share this story much in the early years.

A few days after Joseph’s vision, Joseph shared his story with the Methodist minister (who had been involved in the area’s religious upheavals).  This minister showed great contempt.  Joseph said in his 1832 account that “he could find no one” who would believe.

Image result for camp revivals upstate new york

3)  No revivals in Palmyra in 1820.  Perhaps true, but you can’t prove a negative.  But Joseph talked about the activity across the “district” and didn’t specify 1820.  Many camp meetings were held in Manchester and the area in years around and including 1820.  Joseph was factually accurate when you read the text of Joseph’s own report.

 

Brett McDonald also created a video, explaining the historical evidence behind the First Vision (from start till 43:00).

Joseph saw God and Jesus (2 unique individuals) in 1820.   At the outset and for a variety of reasons (mostly persecution), Joseph told few people about this event.  But Joseph shared much, much more than critics want to acknowledge.  And he was consistent in his accounts of the vision.

 

Brian Hales shares information to rebut the CES Letter — the latest aggregated tract critical of LDS truth claims.

Brian Hales points out in the above video (starting at 4:25) that Joseph (w/ Sydney Rigdon) saw “the plain separateness of” God and Jesus, as they saw the 3 degrees of glory in vision (D&C 76).  Their joint vision occurred on February 16, 1832.  This vision occurred around 6 months before Joseph personally penned his first account of the 1st Vision.

Joseph did not hold a Trinitarian view of the Godhead when he wrote his first account in the summer of 1832.  How could he?  Joseph saw God and Jesus separately several months before on 2/16/1832 recorded in D&C 76.  He was neither a Trinitarian in 1832 — at the time Joseph recorded his First Vision story — nor earlier.  The historical record is clear on the basis of recorded visions.

 

Critics assert that Joseph didn’t tell others about his first vision for years.  And that his accounts weren’t consistent.  The research shows otherwise.

Consider this timeline from the YouTube video below:

This speaker, Matthew Brown, at the 2004 FAIR Mormon conference showed below that Joseph did share his 1st Vision account with many others than the Methodist minister. The entire video is good. The first vision discussion starts at 18:40.

At 20:50 of the below video Matthew Brown points out that Joseph’s father and mother reported (verbally and in print) that Joseph was mistreated and persecuted in 1820 (after his first visitation from heaven took place) by religionists.

At 21: 09: A non-Mormon Smith neighbor is also quoted in 1820 who witnessed a religionist’s reaction. This religionist was a Presbyterian minister instructed the non-Mormon neighbor’s father to not allow his son to associate with the Smith boy. The minister continued, saying that Joseph “must be put down or else he would someday convince others to follow after him.” Not persecution? Would you have wanted to share your first vision with lots of folks after that?

These above accounts aren’t in alignment with many LDS critics’ claims. Critics claim that the 1st Vision didn’t exist until 1838, and wasn’t generally known by Latter-day Saints till 1840.

Further facts (at 22:10 in video): Joseph’s own town newspaper published in 1830 that Joseph Smith had seen God personally.

Missionaries from 1830 on taught that Joseph saw God and Jesus (as separate beings) in a grove of trees in 1820. The phrase, “This is my Beloved Son. Hear Him!”, was generally known.

Was Joseph’s experience known only to a few individuals?  No! The opposite is true. In 1831 Joseph told a crowd of over 200 people about his earliest manifestation. And in 1834 he related it in a midst of many large congregations.

In addition to clarifying who knew about the First Vision before 1840, Matthew Brown shares much about the misconceptions regarding Joseph’s early days and ministry. So, watch the entire video…

Did early LDS leaders misunderstand the First Vision, as critics suggest?  Nope.

Early friends and associates of the prophet were familiar with Joseph’s First Vision story.  Read the link below:

Did Early LDS Leaders Misunderstand the First Vision?