First Vision, Wentworth Version (1842)

John Wentworth was the owner and editor of the newspaper Chicago Democrat. At his request, Joseph Smith wrote a letter outlining “the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-Day Saints”. Among the Mormons, this letter is best known for the 13 articles of faith with which Joseph Smith ended the letter (Smith 1842). Some minor editing (spelling, punctuation and paragraphing) by

I was born in the town of Sharon, Windsor Co., Vermont, on the 23rd of December 1805. When ten years old, my parents removed to Palmyra, New York, where we resided about four years, and from thence we removed to the town of Manchester. My father was a farmer and taught me the art of husbandry.

When about fourteen years of age, I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state, and upon enquiring the plan of salvation I found that there was a great clash in religious sentiment; if I went to one society they referred me to one plan, and another to another; each one pointing to his own particular creed as the summum bonum of perfection.

Considering that all could not be right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion, I determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God had a church it would not be split up into factions, and that if he taught one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances, he would not teach another principles which were diametrically opposed.

Believing the word of God, I had confidence in the declaration of James: “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not and it shall be given him”. I retired to a secret place in a grove and began to call upon the Lord.

While fervently engaged in supplication, my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon-day.

They told me that all religious denominations believed in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom. And I was expressly commanded to “go not after them”, at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me.

Joseph Smith’s account of the first vision in this letter ends here and a description of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon follows. The persecution which the canonized 1838/39 account associates with the first vision is here ascribed to the discovery of the Book of Mormon:

As soon as the news of this discovery was made known, false reports, misrepresentations and slander flew as on the wings of the wind in every direction, the house was frequently beset by mobs and evil designing persons. Several times I was shot at and very narrowly escaped, and every device was made use of to get the plates away from me, but the power and blessing of God attended me, and several began to believe my testimony.