FIRST VISION

The following are sections out of Bill McKeever’s book In their Own Words: A Collection of Mormon Quotations. The full book of 400 pages is available at Mormonism Research Ministry or Amazon.com.

Standard Works

“And he said unto Moses, Thou canst not see my face at this time,
lest mine anger is kindled against thee also; and I destroy thee,
and thy people; for there shall no man among them see me at
this time, and live, for they are exceeding sinful. And no sinful
man hath at any time, neither shall there be any sinful man at any
time, that shall see my face and live” (Exodus 33:20, Joseph Smith
Translation).

Joseph Smith

“…while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the 16th year
of my age a pillar of fire light above the brightness of the Sun at
noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was
filld with the Spirit of God and the Lord opened the heavens upon
me and I Saw the Lord and he Spake unto me Saying Joseph my
Son thy Sins are forgiven thee” (Joseph Smith’s 1832 diary. Spelling
and grammar unchanged. Ellipsis mine).

2nd President Brigham Young

“The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven in power and
great glory, nor send his messengers panoplied with aught else
than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek, the lowly,
the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowledge
of God. But he did send his angel to this same obscure person,
Joseph Smith, Jr., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer,
and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of
the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they
were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that
he had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove
faithful before him” (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young,
p. 108).

3rd President John Taylor

“How did this state of things called Mormonism originate? We
read that an angel came down and revealed himself to Joseph
Smith and manifested unto him in vision the true position of the
world in a religious point of view” (John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom,
p. 6).

“None of them was right, just as it was when the Prophet Joseph
asked the angel which of the sects was right that he might join it.
The answer was that none of them are right. What, none of them?
No. We will not stop to argue that question; the angel merely told
him to join none of them that none of them were right” (John
Taylor, March 2, 1879, Journal of Discourses 20:167).

4th President Wilford Woodruff

“While in this state of uncertainty he [Joseph Smith] turned to the
Bible, and there saw that passage in the epistle of James which directs
him that lacks wisdom to ask of God. He went into his secret
chamber and asked the Lord what he must do to be saved. The
Lord heard his prayer and sent His angel to him, who informed
him that all the sects were wrong, and that the God of heaven was
about to establish His work upon the earth” (Wilford Woodruff,
Journal of Discourses 13:324. Brackets mine).

6th President Joseph F. Smith

“The greatest event that has ever occurred in the world, since the
resurrection of the Son of God from the tomb and his ascension
on high, was the coming of the Father and of the Son to that boy
Joseph Smith, to prepare the way for the laying of the foundation
of his kingdom—not the kingdom of man—never more to cease
nor to be overturned. Having accepted this truth, I find it easy to
accept of every other truth that he enunciated and declared….
He never taught a doctrine that was not true. He never practiced
a doctrine that he was not commanded to practice. He never advocated
error. He was not deceived. He saw; he heard; he did as
he was commanded to do; and, therefore, God is responsible for
the work accomplished by Joseph Smith—not Joseph Smith. The
Lord is responsible for it, and not man” (Joseph F. Smith, Teachings
of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 1998, pp. 14-15. Ellipsis
in original).

7th President Heber J. Grant

“If Joseph Smith did not have that interview with God and Jesus
Christ the whole Mormon fabric is a failure and a fraud. It is not
worth anything on earth” (Heber J. Grant, Conference Reports, April
1940, p. 128).

“Either Joseph Smith did see God and did converse with Him, and
God Himself did introduce Jesus Christ to the boy Joseph Smith,
and Jesus Christ did tell Joseph Smith that he would be the instrument
in the hands of God of establishing again upon the earth the
true gospel of Jesus Christ—or Mormonism, so-called, is a myth.
And Mormonism is not a myth!” (Heber J. Grant, Teachings of Presidents
of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 2002, p. 16).

10th President Joseph Fielding Smith

“According to the teachings of Joseph Smith, he beheld the Father
and the Son in his glorious vision, and he taught that each
had a body of flesh and bones” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to
Gospel Questions, 5:122).

11th President Harold B. Lee

“Now, if you will read carefully the testimony of the Prophet Joseph
Smith, you will find him relating the experience of how the
Father and the Son came to him and delivered that great message
as to what he should do, what church he should join and not join;
he says this: ‘When I came to myself again, I found myself lying
on my back, looking up into heaven’ (Joseph Smith-History 1:20).
In other words, he had exactly the same kind of experience that
Moses had. One must be transfigured, then, to see with his spiritual
eyes and not his natural eyes” (Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of
Harold B. Lee, p. 5).

12th President Spencer W. Kimball

“Joseph Smith’s first vision restored knowledge of God. Of all the
great events of the century, none compared with the first vision
of Joseph Smith” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W.
Kimball, p. 428).

13th President Ezra Taft Benson

“The first vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith is bedrock theology
to the Church” (Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Presidents of the
Church: Ezra Taft Benson, 2014, p. 105).

15th President Gordon B. Hinckley

“Nothing on which we base our doctrine, nothing we teach, nothing
we live by is of greater importance than this initial declaration.
I submit that if Joseph Smith talked with God the Father and His
Beloved Son, then all else of which he spoke is true. This is the
hinge on which turns the gate that leads to the path of salvation
and eternal life.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “What are people asking
about us?” Ensign (Conference Edition), November. 1998, p. 71.
See also Church History In The Fulness Of Times Student Manual,
(2003), p. 29).

“Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred
or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud…
upon that unique and wonderful experience stands the validity of
this church” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Marvelous Foundation of
our Faith,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2002, p. 80.
Ellipsis mine).

“Every claim that we make concerning divine authority, every
truth that we offer concerning the validity of this work, all finds its
roots in the First Vision of the boy prophet” (Gordon B. Hinckley,
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 226).

“If that opening of the curtain of light and knowledge which ushered
in this, the dispensation of the fullness of times, is true, then
all else which the Prophet taught is true also” (Gordon B. Hinckley,
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 226).

“That becomes the hinge pin on which this whole cause turns. If
the First Vision was true, if it actually happened, then the Book of
Mormon is true. Then we have the priesthood. Then we have the
Church organization and all of the other keys and blessings of authority
which we say we have. If the First Vision did not occur, then
we are involved in a great sham. It is just that simple” (Gordon B.
Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 227).

“I would like to say that this cause is either true or false. Either
this is the kingdom of God, or it is a sham and a delusion. Either
Joseph talked with the Father and the Son, or he did not. If he did
not, we are engaged in blasphemy” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference
Reports, October 1961, p. 116).

“I submit that in the short time of that remarkable vision Joseph
learned more concerning Deity than all of the scholars and clerics
of the past” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Great Things Which God
has Revealed,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2005, p. 81).

“I hope with all my heart that each member of this Church will
read the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith, read the story of the
First Vision and think about it, and pray about it, and cultivate
within your hearts a testimony of the truth of that marvelous
experience, when the Father and the Son appeared to the boy
Joseph. There’s no other event in all recorded history that compares
with it, not even at the baptism of the Savior. Jesus was there
at that time to be baptized, and the voice of God was heard, and
the Holy Ghost was manifest in the form of a dove. But God the
Father was not seen. At the time of the Mount of Transfiguration,
again the voice of God was heard, but He was not seen. Again,
among the Nephites, when the resurrected Lord appeared among
the Nephites, the voice of God was heard again, but He was not
seen. Now think of that. All of those great and marvelous things
have happened. But in the year when Joseph knelt in the woods,
both the Father and the Son appeared to him. And they spoke to
him. And he spoke to them. He had an understanding of the Father
and the Son that no other man had really ever experienced”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, “Testimony of the First Vision,” Church News,
July 1, 2006, p. 2).

“We declare without equivocation that God the Father and His
Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared in person to the boy Joseph
Smith” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Marvelous Foundation of Our
Faith,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2002, p. 80).

First Presidency

“You will recollect that I mentioned the time of a religious excitement,
in Palmyra and vicinity to have been in the 15th year of our
brother J. Smith Jr’s, age that was an error in the type — it should
have been in the 17th. — You will please remember this correction,
as it will be necessary for the full understanding of what will
follow in time. This would bring the date down to the year 1823”
(Oliver Cowdery, Times and Seasons 2:241).

“Joseph reflected much upon the subject of religion, and was astonished
at the ill-feeling that seemed to have grown out of the
division of the spoils, if we may so use the term, at the close of the
reformation. He spent much time in prayer and reflection and
in seeking the Lord. He was led to pray upon the subject in consequence
of the declaration of the Apostle James: ‘If any of you
lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally
and upbraideth not.’ [James, 1st chap., 5th verse.] He sought the
Lord by day and by night, and was enlightened by the vision of
an holy angel. When this personage appeared to him, one of his
first inquiries was, ‘Which of the denominations of Christians in
the vicinity was right?’ He was told they had all gone astray, they
had wandered into darkness, and that God was about to restore
the Gospel in its simplicity and purity to the earth; he was, consequently,
directed not to join any one of them, but to be humble
and seek the Lord with all his heart, and that from time to time
he should be taught and instructed in relation to the right way to
serve the Lord” (George A. Smith, June 20, 1869, Journal of Discourses
13:77-78. Brackets in original).

“We may not perhaps exactly explain how and by what means Joseph
saw the Father and the Son. He called it a vision. That is
right, it was a vision. But what is a vision of that kind? A vision like
that which Moses had when he saw the Lord face to face. He saw
the Father and spoke to him, and the Lord spoke to him. Moses
declared that he saw him, not with his natural eyes, but with his
spiritual vision: and that there is such a thing I presume many of
us who are here are fully assured. We know it in our own experience,
but not perhaps to the same degree as Joseph or Moses
had it, when they conversed With the Lord. But that there is a
spiritual sight or vision we realize, and we can draw very near to
our Father and our God in the name of Jesus Christ, and see when
others are in the dark, and comprehend when others are blinded
in regard to the heavenly truths which come to people from him
for their salvation” (Charles W. Penrose, Conference Reports, April
1920, p. 27).

“No one was with the boy Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove in Palmyra,
New York, when God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ
appeared. Yet even those who do not believe it happened may find
it difficult to explain it away” (James E. Faust, “Lord, I Believe;
Help Thou Mine Unbelief,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November
2003, p. 20).

Apostles

“The men who organized this Church, or who were most conspicuous
in its organization, were Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
Joseph had looked upon the face of God; had gazed upon the
Father and the Son; had received from them instructions concerning
the then existing churches, from which he was commanded
to hold himself aloof, and await the coming of the true Church,
which was about to reappear, and in the establishment of which he
was to be the chief human instrument” (Orson F. Whitney, Conference
Reports, October 1930, p. 44).

“The first revelation, the so-called First Vision, was received by the
boy Joseph directly from God the Father and God the Son. They
spoke to him as man to man” (John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith—
Seeker after Truth, Prophet of God, p. 259).

“We know Joseph Smith actually saw the Father and the Son.
There should be no question about that. He was the first to see
the Father and the Son since the apostles were upon the earth
nearly 2,000 years ago, and through his testimony we know that
God lives, that Jesus Christ is his Son” (Joseph L. Wirthlin, Conference
Reports, April 1960, p. 31).

“As Moses saw God and talked with him face to face, so Joseph
Smith saw God and talked with him face to face” (Mark E. Petersen,
Conference Reports, April 1970, p. 85).

“God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, literally appeared to
the Prophet Joseph Smith in April 1820” (Russell M. Nelson, “Witnesses
of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Ensign, January 2009, p. 12).

“Looking up at these two beings, even Joseph could not have
known who they were – for he had not yet witnessed and learned
the true nature of God and Christ. But then he records, ‘one of
them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the
other – This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!’ From that singular experience
and others, the Prophet Joseph bore witness, ‘The Father
has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also”
(Robert D. Hales, “Seeking to Know God, Our Heavenly father,
and His Son, Jesus Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November
2009, p. 31. Italics in original).

Seventies

“From the time Joseph Smith announced his First Vision—the
visitation of the Eternal Father and his Only Begotten Son in the
Sacred Grove when Joseph was only fourteen years of age—to
the present time, there has been no neutral ground when Joseph
Smith was being considered. His claims are so unusual, so vital,
and so far-reaching that people either accept them in their entirety
without reservations or flatly reject them” (Milton R. Hunter,
Archaeology and the Book of Mormon, p. 15).

“Someone has said that the greatest of all discoveries is when a
man discovers God. Joseph Smith made available to the world,
with no exceptions, the true nature and knowledge of God, a personal
and loving Father. He taught that God is our Father and
that Christ is not only his Son, but also our elder brother. The
Christian churches of the day said, ‘We believe in God,’ but Joseph
Smith said, ‘I saw God and Christ and they did in reality speak to
me.’ He was persecuted for saying that he had seen a vision, yet it
was true. Not only has he made known to us that God exists, but
also that he is ever willing to answer our prayers” (Paul H. Dunn,
Conference Reports, April 1970, p. 72).

“Our own personal salvation depends upon whether we accept
and have a testimony of what Joseph Smith saw and heard in the
spring of 1820” (F. Burton Howard, “One’s Salvation rests on belief
in First Vision,” Church News, May 7, 2005, p. 7).

“If Joseph saw what he claimed to have seen, and I testify that he
did, then in sharing his vision he did more than any man who has
ever lived to reveal the nature, character, and mission of the Lord
Jesus Christ to the world. As a consequence, we Latter-day Saints
have some duties and responsibilities” (F. Burton Howard, “Hearing
and Heeding the Message from the Grove,” Ensign, February
2009, p. 12).

“Joseph’s questions on religion were answered by the personal and
physical manifestation of God the Father and His divine Son, Jesus
Christ” (Dennis B. Neuenschwander, “Joseph Smith: An Apostle of
Jesus Christ, Ensign, January 2009, p. 18).

Church Manuals

“In this glorious manifestation, God the Father and His Son, Jesus
Christ, appeared in person to young Joseph. Joseph conversed
with the Savior, who told him to join none of the churches of his
day, for ‘they were all wrong’ and ‘all their creeds were an abomination
in his sight; …they teach for doctrines the commandments
of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof’
(Joseph Smith—History 1:19). Joseph was also promised ‘that
the fullness of the Gospel should at some future time be made
known unto [him].’ After centuries of darkness, the word of God
and the reality of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, had
been revealed to the world through this youthful and pure vessel”
(Joseph Smith, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith,
2007, p. 5. Ellipsis and brackets in original).

“The First Vision was a pivotal event in the rise of the kingdom of
God on the earth in the last days. Joseph Smith, although only an
unlettered youth, learned profound truths that have become the
foundation of the faith of the Latter-day Saints. He had actually
seen and spoken with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ”
(Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341-43, p. 35).

Other Sources

“As a result of the First Vision, Joseph knew that the heavens were
no longer sealed; that Satan was more than myth or metaphor;
and that the Father and Son were separate and distinct personages.
There is no mention in any of his known accounts of the
First Vision of the fact that God has a body of flesh and bones”
(BYU Professor Emeritus Robert L. Millet, Selected Writings of Robert
L. Millet: Gospel Scholars Series, p. 224).

“It matters very much that the Eternal Father and His Only Begotten
did appear to a young boy in a grove of trees in New York state.
Exactly where the Sacred Grove is, as well as what specific trees or
ground were hallowed by the theophany, is much less significant.
If Joseph Smith did not see in vision the Father and the Son, if
the First Vision was only the ‘sweet dreams’ of a naive boy, then
no amount of goodness and civility on the part of the Latter-day
Saints will save us. And so it is in regard to the people and events
and teachings of the Book of Mormon” (BYU Professor Robert L.
Millet, The Power of the Word: Saving Doctrines from the Book of Mormon,
p. 298).

“According to Joseph Smith, he told the story of the vision immediately
after it happened in the early spring of 1820. As a result,
he said, he received immediate criticism in the community. There
is little if any evidence, however, that by the early 1830’s Joseph
Smith was telling the story in public. At least if he were telling it,
no one seemed to consider it important enough to have recorded
it at the time, and no one was criticizing him for it. Not even in
his own history did Joseph Smith mention being criticized in this
period for telling the story of the first vision. The interest, rather,
was in the Book of Mormon and the various angelic visitations
connected with its origin. The fact that none of the available contemporary
writings about Joseph Smith in the 1830’s, none of the
publications of the Church in that decade, and no contemporary
journal or correspondence yet discovered mentions the story of
the first vision is convincing evidence that at best it received only
limited circulation in those early days” (BYU Professor James B.
Allen, “The significance of Joseph Smith’s ‘First Vision’ in Mormon
Thought,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol.1, No.3, p. 30).

“Let it not be supposed, however, that to see spiritually is not to
see literally. Vision is not fancy, not imagination. The object is actually
beheld, though not with the natural eye. We all have spirit
eyes, of which our natural or outward eyes are the counterpart.
All man’s organs and faculties are firstly spiritual, the body being
but the clothing of the spirit. In our first estate, the spirit life, we
‘walked by sight.’ Therefore we had eyes. But they were not our
natural eyes, for these are not given until the spirit tabernacles in
mortality. All men have a spirit sight, but all are not permitted to
use it under existing conditions. Even those thus privileged can
only use it when quickened by the Spirit of the Lord. Without that,
no man can know the things of God, ‘because they are spiritually
discerned.’ Much less can he look upon the Highest unspiritually,
with carnal mind or with natural vision. ‘No man’- no natural man
-‘hath seen God at any time.’ (John 1:18). But men at divers times
have seen him as Moses saw him-not with the natural but with the
spiritual eye, quickened by the power that seeth and knoweth all
things” (Roy W. Doxey, Prophecies and Prophetic Promises from the Doctrine
and Covenants, pp. 158-159).

“Joseph Smith was very eclectic. He drew upon ideas from all over,
including Masonic ritual. I am not aware of source criticism of
Rigdon’s influence, but I am inclined to think it was fairly large.
It is quite possible that the idea of Restoration came from him.
Restoration in the Book of Mormon refers to the restoration
of Israel, the return of Israel to its favored place in God’s eyes,
not the restoration of the New Testament church. Rigdon who
was a restorationist along with Campbell could very well have
turned Joseph’s thinking in that direction. I also think he may
have been responsible for the phrase ‘creeds are an abomination.’
That was hobby horse of Alexander Campbell’s. Since Rigdon
was involved in writing Joseph Smith’s 1838 history, he may
have been one to introduce that language into the account of
the First Vision” (Richard L. Bushman, https://pr.reddit.com/r/
exmormon/comments/1sp4mi/ama_series_richard_bushman_
dec_16_300_400_pm_est/ce39exs. Retrieved August 24, 2015).