Art Credit: Anthony Sweat

Joseph Smith's First Vision | Episode 5

Q&R! What about Others Who Claimed Similar Visions in Joseph Smith’s Day? Etc.

54 min

The more carefully one studies Joseph Smith’s First Vision and the context of his world at that time, the more interesting the questions become. For example, if Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in a vision, does that mean he didn’t actually see them in reality? And what are we to make of the fact that other people around the time of Joseph Smith’s vision also claimed to have had visions of God (many of whom were Methodists)? And how might the form of these Methodist conversion narratives at the time have impacted how Joseph Smith recorded his vision? Furthermore, what is the interplay between Joseph Smith’s memory of his First Vision and the various contexts in which he recalled it and recorded it? In this episode we sit down with Dr. Steven C. Harper, one of the world’s foremost scholars on Joseph Smith’s First Vision, to discuss these and other great questions.

Show Notes


  • Whatever may have been the metaphysics of his vision, Joseph Smith was emphatic that it was real, not imaginary. 
  • There were others in Joseph Smith’s time and place who also claimed to have experienced visions—sometimes of Christ, and sometimes of God and Christ together. These were typically told or written down in the form of evangelical—most often Methodist—conversion narratives. Joseph Smith’s telling of his first vision has both similarities to and differences from these conversion narratives. He followed the Methodist “form” in his telling (especially his 1832 account), but insisted that his experience was real and concrete, in contrast with typical Methodist narratives which tended to be more ethereal. Over time Joseph became more emphatic about the reality of his vision, in contrast to others, like Charles Finney, who distance themselves from a claim of a literal divine visitation as time goes on.   
  • The contexts in which Joseph recalled his vision interplayed directly with HOW Joseph recalled the vision. For example, the extreme hostilities he had recently experienced directly affected how he recalled the circumstances of his vision in his 1838-1839 account.  


Show produced by Zander Sturgill and Scott Woodward, edited by Nick Galieti and Scott Woodward, with show notes by Gabe Davis. 

Church History Matters is a Podcast of Scripture Central. For more resources to enhance your gospel study go to where everything is available for free because of the generous donations of people like you.