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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 08:22PM

In another thread, a link was provided to a podcast of Grant Palmer’s 2013 Ex-Mormon Foundation conference dealing with the three conflicting versions of Joseph Smith’s “First Vision “ and “how it [Smith’s accounts of that purported 'First Vision(s)'] changed along with his views of God over the years.”

(“Grant Palmer Audio from 11-6-2013 Lecture,” posted by “Grant Palmer Fan,” on “Recovery from Mormonism” discussion board, 11 November 2013, at:,1078839,1078839#msg-1078839)

In the course of his lecture, Palmer mentioned a Brigham Young University professor of Mormon Church history by the name of Steve Harper, who Palmer said (based on Palmer’s own source) was going to be part of a rollout by the LDS Church in the not—too-distant future designed to provide a faithful version of events surrounding the persistent and problematic elements posed by the various versions of Smith’s “First Vision{s}.” Palmer further said that, according to his source, BYU professor Harper would be contributing an essay on the “First Vision(s)'” troubling elements that would be designed to explain the contradictory parts of the “First Vision(s)” as being the result of Smith’s alleged memory loss relating to some of this “Vision(s)'” details.

That got me thinking that it was time to get another informed assessment of this Mormon Church propaganda project. I have my own source (a very credible individual with a solid Mormon pedigree who knows Harper personally), so I contacted this person in order to get a reaction to the reported Mormon Church plan of response--particularly as it is said to involve Harper’s apologetic essay in Smith’s defense.

When I told my source that Harper’s support of Smith’s varying accounts of his “First Vision” would suppoedly adopt the line of defense that Smith was suffering from memory loss when it came to elemental details of the “First Vision(s),” the source replied:

“It’s quite amusing that this is the seminal experience of his [Smith’s] life and he can’t remember what happened.” He then laughed and said “Sorry.”

I asked my source what he thought of Harper's reputation as an academic.

The source answered politely:

“The only thing I can judge is that he’s a very nice guy. He’s affable, he’s friendly and he’s smart.”

I asked my source if they knew whether Harper would be writing the piece in defense of a memory-inhibited Smith.

The source replied:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he writes this. I think it’s likely. This is the kind of thing he writes.“ He also said, “It seems to me that I have heard something that sounds familiar here [about Harper preparing an essay in defense of Smith’s ‘First Vision(s)’], but I can’t really say that this is going to happen because I don’t pay much attention.“

I asked my source what they thought of the merits of Harper’s defense of Smith in this reportedly upcoming essay.

The source essentially repeated their previous assessment:

“He [Harper[ is very easy to interact with but don’t I don’t pay much attention to his work, for obvious reasons.” Then in a comment that damned with faint praise, the source added:

“I really can’t comment on his scholarship because I don’t take it seriously enough to look at it.”

In Harper’s defense, however, my source commented:

“That doesn’t mean he hasn’t done credible work historically. He could still have:

"a) a good grasp of the history of the Mormon Church--the history he works on; and

"b) a careful methodology.”

As to what could help make Harper’s Mormon Church history work “credible,” my source replied:

“He basically has done good work that is credible and publishable, as far as I understand.. I do know that he has published a lot of his work and that’s the basis on which I have ASSUMED that he has done credible work.” (emphasis added)

In order to verify that I was quoting my source accurately, I read back to the source the comments that they had thus far made to me. The source felt comfortable with how I had recorded them and then added, as a final assessment, the following:

“I think it’s quite likely that the Church is going to address these issues and that they will address them in such a way as to shore of up the faith of their members who may be confused. But I doubt that they will engage their critics in a significant way.”

Ya think? :)

Edited 13 time(s). Last edit at 11/11/2013 08:55PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: QWE ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 08:36PM

The different accounts of the first vision have been referenced on a few occasions in official church material in the past. I don't think it's too big of a deal personally. But I'll be happy if they are more open about it.

The members of the church deserve to have the full story to make a more informed decision.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 08:37PM

As my source observed:

“I think it’s quite likely that the Church is going to address these issues and that they will address them in such a way as to shore of up the faith of their members who may be confused. But I doubt that they will engage their critics in a significant way.”

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Posted by: Hold Your Tapirs ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 08:39PM

Memory loss? Didn't JS have an impressive memory? I seem to remember reading that the King Follet speech was 3+ hours long and he quoted scripture verbatim without any prepared notes.

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Posted by: ASteve ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 08:44PM


Which takes nothing away from the point you are making.

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Posted by: Joseph Smith ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 08:45PM

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Posted by: stillburned ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 08:45PM

Yes, quite something for some supposedly poor, uneducated, barely literate farmboy. Right. I love it that when it suits the LDS, Joe Smith was a hick, and when it suits them, he is a genius. Lack of formal education doesn't mean stupid or uneducated...or inability to manipulate others. As much as I think he was a fraud, I think Joe Smith had a commanding intellect. Of course, even the smartest people have trouble remembering details of events...when they're lying in the first place.

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Posted by: anagrammy ( )
Date: November 12, 2013 12:36AM

If Smith had a commanding intellect, his mother would have been shouting it to the housetops.

I recommend you read her biography about her son, then revisit your opinion.

"Imaginative" is the most you could say, charismatic for sure. He didn't need no book larnin' since he was able to attract the intellect he needed to serve his voracious appetite for fame, money, women.


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Posted by: Checker of minor facts ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 08:52PM

In all of my years of Sunday school attendance and seminary (1960s through early 70s), I have never once heard (even in a whisper) that Smith suffered any kind of memory loss or forgetfulness. Prof. Harper better come up with some really good sources to back that up.

As always Steve, thanks for this. :)

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Posted by: wine country girl ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 09:04PM

Lies and half truths. Business as usual.

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Posted by: quinlansolo ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 09:08PM

For God's sake this guy believes "Incomparable Jesus"......
I'd love to ask him; "What First Vision lacks that Apostle Pul's Vision has"?
There's no reason for me or anybody to take Christianity over Mormonism.....
If Grant puts Mormonism under scrutiny, he should apply the same litmus tests for christianity....

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Posted by: jpt ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 09:14PM

I'm sure mormons will be glad to get that all straightened out.... so they can again focus on the facts that God, the omnipotent creator of the universe, and his only begotten redeemer son, our savior, even Jesus, appeared to a 14-year-old boy who had a history of gold digging and divining, in America no less, to tell him that all other churches were an abomination and that he should start his own. And don't forget to mention the rest of the cast of heavenly, resurrected guys who subsequently appeared to him, too.

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Posted by: GenY ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 09:15PM

Memory loss? How convenient.

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Posted by: jebus ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 09:19PM

Memory Loss seems a hard tack to take. The story got more detailed with each telling. Was his memory loss early on and temporary?

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Posted by: rt ( )
Date: November 12, 2013 12:29AM

jebus Wrote:
> Memory Loss seems a hard tack to take. The story
> got more detailed with each telling. Was his
> memory loss early on and temporary?

I was thinking the same thing.

In Smith’s first version from 1832, he only saw Jesus. Then in 1835, "another personage" appeared who, by 1838 turned out to be God the Father. O yeah, now I remember...

The 1832 version only mentions Jesus but in the 1835 version, strange noises were added, which grew to a full-blown actually existing creature from the non-visible world. O, THAT noise...

The 1832 account closes with the remark that he couldn't find anyone who bought his story. By 1838 he was suffering from bitter persecution and by 1842 he remembered being under siege by mobs multiple times and getting shot at repeatedly.

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Posted by: coolelder ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 09:34PM

Joseph Smith had an excellent memory if you believe his own history. 15 years after the fact he was able to explain in detail what Moroni said to him, exactly which scriptures he quoted to him, and he remembered which scriptures were quoted verbatim from the KJV and which ones were slightly altered, and he remembered word for word what those exact alterations were.

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Posted by: resipsaloquitur ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 09:41PM

"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything." --Mark Twain

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Posted by: Odell Campbell ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 09:48PM

He will write the piece:

It also appears that he has been part of the apologetic effort of Mormon Scholars testify.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 10:06PM

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Posted by: Odell Campbell ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 10:11PM

This is what BYU Scholar Steven Harper previously testified regarding the First Vision in December, 201. There'no discussion of an alleged faulty memory.

"I have held the first vision accounts in my hands and studied them very much. I know what they say and how they say it. A historian cannot prove or disprove whether the vision they describe was historical. I don’t know that the vision happened because the documents say it did. Rather, I find no reason in the historical record to disbelieve in the vision. I believe that it happened because I find the documents authentic. They speak to me spiritually. I don’t find the same inconsistencies or anachronisms or conspiracy in them that unbelievers have. Indeed, I recently read the journals of Benajah Williams, a Methodist itinerant in Mendon, NY, not far from Joseph’s Manchester, who documented a religious scene perfectly compatible to the one Joseph described."


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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 10:15PM

. . . then what good is he as a decent academician? He's not meaningfully addressing the obvious historical/textual inconsistencies, gaps, omissions and contradictions between the Mormon Church's three different versions of the "First Vision." (Palmer step-by-step decimates Harper on this score; click on the Palmer podcast in this thread's OP, at:,1078839,1078839#msg-1078839).

Harper's hooey isn't scholarly history; this is a run-for-your-lives retreat to fast-and-testimony meeting--which is what the Mormon Church and its apologists do when they don't have facts: They flee to faith.

Edited 17 time(s). Last edit at 11/12/2013 05:23AM by steve benson.

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Posted by: Odell Campbell ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 10:27PM

disappear or to be modified to be consistent with a newer "faulty memory" argument, kind of similar to, you know, Smith's evolving "First Vision" stories.

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Posted by: Joseph Smith ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 10:28PM

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Posted by: elbert ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 10:52PM

Christianity has been pared, skinned bared naked many times. Every recent discovery has been doing just that; since 17th century, in fact (Wilhaussen, eta al). GP is stating why is tscc not being honest. By the way, no religion ever claims the be the truth and only truth. It is a bit of "arrogance" as This Is MY Doctrine states to make such claim. The bible doesn't either (you know "read me and pray and you know it's true").

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Posted by: GNPE ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 11:04PM

do the 3 boil down to the Moroni -or- Nephi -or- Christ (& H.F.) matter?

is that a major or minor issue?

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Posted by: thingsithink ( )
Date: November 11, 2013 11:17PM

It's not going to happen. The church will not publish papers addressing thirteen issues. The church will not attempt to explain the various versions of the first vision.

It can't. There is no explanation. They'll never commit to a position. It's absolutely impossible. There is no answer to address the absurdity. Even these fools know they can't answer it.

ThingsIThink told you: there will be no church papers addressing thirteen issues let alone one issue.

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Posted by: newnamenephi ( )
Date: November 12, 2013 01:00AM

Nah...there will be answers. Proof. Manuscripts. They'll be carried around in a briefcase and cited by apostles. I can hear them now, "all the answers to your questions are located in a briefcase and I'd show them to you...except, um, another apostle is currently holding onto the briefcase...I'll have to get back to you with answers. In the mean time, don't discuss this meeting with ANYONE...not even your spouses. Lean into the church everyone. Where else are you going to go? Indanameuvjesukristamen." <whispered> "come on, Turley, hop on my tapir and drive this chariot back to Zion"

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Posted by: FredOi ( )
Date: November 12, 2013 06:03AM

That's impertinent of you to say

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Posted by: enoughenoch19 ( )
Date: November 12, 2013 04:09AM

Did JS forget the FIRST first vision? the SECOND first vision? the THIRD first vision? or all of the above? I forgot.

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Posted by: slskipper ( )
Date: November 12, 2013 04:46AM

I offer a small parable. There once was a youg lady from Africa who was offered a job in England as a domestic. When she got to England she learned that her real job was as a sex worker. She continued in that profession because before she left Africa the employment agency had put a curse on her should she ever defy them and try to quit her job.

She just couldn't make the connection:l if they lied to her about the job, maybe, just maybe, they also lied to her regarding their powers to put spells on people.

If Joseph S. lied about bedding young girls, etc., MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, HE ALSO LIED ABOUT ALL THOSE HEAVENLY VISITORS???? JUST MAYBE???????

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Posted by: GNPE ( )
Date: November 12, 2013 06:07AM

"First Visions":

title for a Broadway Play!

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