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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 11:35 am 
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Kishkumen wrote:
Yes, grindael is a treasure! We have quite a cadre of thinkers, writers, and scholars here. When we are at our best the discussion is envigorating, edifying, and challenging. Granted we are often not at our best. I bet newbies and casual visitors are confused and even put off by our freewheeling ways, but as a veteran of the board I find the best aspects of the community continue to draw me back.


Indeed. I can honestly say that this board and its people are an inexhaustible source of information for me. For example, grindael's thread about Joseph Smith vs. William Law, comparing their private and public statements leading up to June 1844, told me more about the reasons things came to a head than pretty much anything I had read before.

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 11:37 am 
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Actually, in the spirit of being counter-intuitive, I'm going to defend old Peterson here. He has at least (1) engaged with criticism of his opinion-journalism on the First Vision by producing something other than self-pity or polemic, and (2) pulled out a source which seems to be genuinely new to most people here.

I also think that he shouldn't be held to academic standards of pedagogy on his blog. I can't imagine the rest of us would want to be judged in that way for our online activity. He's essentially engaging in journalism here, just as he was in his Deseret NEws article, and that's the appropriate yardstick by which to measure him.

He has no historical case, of course, but that's a flaw that's inherent in the materials he has to work with. If that's the criticism, it essentially reduces to "DCP shouldn't believe in Mormonism", which seems a little redundant to me.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 11:45 am 
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Johannes, please keep commenting. I really enjoy your perspective on things.

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 11:48 am 
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Kishkumen wrote:
Thank you for that lucid and eloquent explanation of the probability issue, Lemmie. Although I lack your expertise (wish I did not), my intuition or perhaps Bayesian sense of a priori probability that Stevenson’s memory was not malleable and altered over time, and that he was not influenced by the devotional memory of the First Vision of the late 19th century as he wrote this reminiscence is close to zero.

You are quite welcome, Kishkumen, you are too kind! RE: your odds, no argument there! :lol:
Kishkumen wrote:
Yes, grindael is a treasure! We have quite a cadre of thinkers, writers, and scholars here. When we are at our best the discussion is envigorating, edifying, and challenging. Granted we are often not at our best. I bet newbies and casual visitors are confused and even put off by our freewheeling ways, but as a veteran of the board I find the best aspects of the community continue to draw me back.
Couldn't agree more--you capture the feeling perfectly.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 11:51 am 
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Thanks, grindael, I appreciate the compliment, although I come here largely to learn about Mormonism rather than to comment on things. You're one of the posters who I've probably learnt most from during my time here.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:08 pm 
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Johannes wrote:
Actually, in the spirit of being counter-intuitive, I'm going to defend old Peterson here. He has at least (1) engaged with criticism of his opinion-journalism on the First Vision by producing something other than self-pity or polemic, and (2) pulled out a source which seems to be genuinely new to most people here.


While this is true as far as it goes, the problem I have is that Professor Peterson is fiddling around with this marginally probative reminiscence instead of addressing the claim I made against him that he lied in his recent Deseret News article when he wrote there has been "no suppression" of early First Vision accounts.

Professor Peterson has time to post voluminously on Bill Reel's Facebook page where Bill was holding his feet to the fire, adamantly denying he was lying but saying he would not address why it was he wasn't lying until he was darn good and ready.

Professor Peterson has time to post a non-response response in a recent Sic et Non blog.

Professor Peterson now has time to post about this reminiscence from sixty-years after the fact.

But what Professor Peterson does not have the time to do is explain how he wasn't lying in his Deseret News article.

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:11 pm 
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Johannes wrote:
Actually, in the spirit of being counter-intuitive, I'm going to defend old Peterson here. He has at least (1) engaged with criticism of his opinion-journalism on the First Vision by producing something other than self-pity or polemic, and (2) pulled out a source which seems to be genuinely new to most people here.
(2) was new to me, so I can't argue there, but honorentheos did mention some quite interesting history of the use of this type of reminiscence in apologetics:
honorentheos wrote:
Interesting to see Dr. Peterson resurrect the old defense of the first vision. FAIRs old defense began with rather condescending assertions that there were many accounts of the first vision that supported the official version even predating the written 1832 account. But as more and more critics uncovered the reality these supposed early accounts all consisted of later recollections claiming someone heard the story somewhere in the 1830-1840 timeframe but being told no earlier than the 1850s, we saw this defense quietly retire in favor of others such as Smith's later visions and experiences helping him better understand what he had witnessed.


Johannes wrote:
I also think that he shouldn't be held to academic standards of pedagogy on his blog. I can't imagine the rest of us would want to be judged in that way for our online activity. He's essentially engaging in journalism here, just as he was in his Deseret NEws article, and that's the appropriate yardstick by which to measure him.
We'll have to agree to disagree on the pedagogy issue, but even using the yardstick of journalism you suggest, I would argue he has some frequent and egregious issues keeping certain aspects of that standard as well.

See: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=47236&hilit=plagiarism


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:18 pm 
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Yes, that's a fair point, consig. Saying "no suppression" is a very bald statement. Can it be excused as a rhetorical flourish that is forgiveable in the context of a piece of opinion journalism? I don't know, maybe. I haven't been following his blog, which is very naughty of me, so I don't know if he's addressed this point, but I agree that he ought to do so if he hasn't.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:30 pm 
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Lemmie wrote:
(2) was new to me, so I can't argue there, but honorentheos did mention some quite interesting history of the use of this type of reminiscence in apologetics:


Ah ok, point taken, it's an old argument.

The one thing that would persuade me that he ought to write as a teacher in tertiary education rather than a mass-market blogger is that he puts his name to his blog. I suppose I could be convinced that that places a greater responsibility on him to write to the standards of the tutorial room rather than the pub after class*, although that's really on the BYU administration.

* = That's a metaphor. I have no doubt that DCP keeps the word of wisdom.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:32 pm 
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Johannes wrote:
Ah ok, point taken, it's an old argument.

The one thing that would persuade me that he ought to write as a teacher in tertiary education rather than a mass-market blogger is that he puts his name to his blog. I suppose I could be convinced that that places a greater responsibility on him to write to the standards of the tutorial room rather than the pub after class*, although that's really on the BYU administration.

* = That's a metaphor. I have no doubt that DCP keeps the word of wisdom.


I just had the lovely image of DCP as Cliff Clavin. Thanks for that!

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:35 pm 
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I'd have said Norm Peterson, but I think both work!


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:53 pm 
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Johannes wrote:
Actually, in the spirit of being counter-intuitive, I'm going to defend old Peterson here. He has at least (1) engaged with criticism of his opinion-journalism on the First Vision by producing something other than self-pity or polemic, and (2) pulled out a source which seems to be genuinely new to most people here.

I also think that he shouldn't be held to academic standards of pedagogy on his blog. I can't imagine the rest of us would want to be judged in that way for our online activity. He's essentially engaging in journalism here, just as he was in his Deseret NEws article, and that's the appropriate yardstick by which to measure him.

He has no historical case, of course, but that's a flaw that's inherent in the materials he has to work with. If that's the criticism, it essentially reduces to "DCP shouldn't believe in Mormonism", which seems a little redundant to me.


Well, I'm happy to see someone give him a gold star for trying, but I think the issue is that he's claiming there is no flaw inherent in the materials he has to work with, which just isn't true.

Whether that means he or anyone shouldn't believe in Mormonism is another question, because it's perfectly possible, perhaps even reasonable, for someone who has had intimate contact with a higher order of reality, as I understand he once had while scouting for water with a stick, not to care about such mundane, trivial matters. But that's not a license to mislead. One can never know what or whom Joseph Smith saw or did not see, but we can know what the historical record says.

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 1:07 pm 
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Symmachus wrote:
Whether that means he or anyone shouldn't believe in Mormonism is another question, because it's perfectly possible, perhaps even reasonable, for someone who has had intimate contact with a higher order of reality, as I understand he once had while scouting for water with a stick, not to care about such mundane, trivial matters. But that's not a license to mislead.


Actually, his best "out" here is postmodernism. If I was his defence lawyer, I would encourage him to turn this into something other than an exercise in Quellenforschung, because he can't win on that terrain. It wouldn't be that difficult to do, either.

As for mystical experiences, well, even Aquinas had one, although his was during Mass rather than while dowsing. If DCP suddenly starts writing about the third heaven after his next sacrament meeting, we'll know what's happened.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 1:26 pm 
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Runtu wrote:
Indeed. I can honestly say that this board and its people are an inexhaustible source of information for me. For example, grindael's thread about Joseph Smith vs. William Law, comparing their private and public statements leading up to June 1844, told me more about the reasons things came to a head than pretty much anything I had read before.


Yes! I think we are all indebted to grindael. I particularly enjoyed the Smith v. Law thread, as I have long felt that Law, unfairly pilloried in the memory of the Mormon community, was in fact one of its unheralded heroes and men of true conscience. Given a choice to trust Smith or Law, I would choose Law any day of the week. Smith may have been a religious genius of sorts, but Law was a man of upstanding character. There are many reasons not to trust Smith.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 1:32 pm 
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I see he settled this issue by posting a new blog post wherein he tells everyone that he finds Stevenson's quote interesting and nothing more. Fewf! I thought he was posting it to try and support the notion that Joseph didn't come up "with the idea of a visit of two personages — the Father and the Son — rather late".

Somehow, though, this repeat of the teachings of the Church found in 1894 should be "stirred into the mix of documentation that we possess regarding Joseph Smith’s First Vision, but certainly not that it’s a primary-source document of pivotal importance".

His qualification makes me wonder what he means by stirring it into the mix, though. I'd suggest that any document that deserves to be stirred into the mix of documentation regarding Joseph's first vision ought to carry some importance. It sounds like he wants to stir it vigorously enough that it dissolves and can't be detected any longer. I guess that is "interesting" and "worth noting".


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 1:39 pm 
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Johannes wrote:
Actually, in the spirit of being counter-intuitive, I'm going to defend old Peterson here. He has at least (1) engaged with criticism of his opinion-journalism on the First Vision by producing something other than self-pity or polemic, and (2) pulled out a source which seems to be genuinely new to most people here.

I also think that he shouldn't be held to academic standards of pedagogy on his blog. I can't imagine the rest of us would want to be judged in that way for our online activity. He's essentially engaging in journalism here, just as he was in his Deseret NEws article, and that's the appropriate yardstick by which to measure him.

He has no historical case, of course, but that's a flaw that's inherent in the materials he has to work with. If that's the criticism, it essentially reduces to "DCP shouldn't believe in Mormonism", which seems a little redundant to me.


You are very generous, Johannes. Yes, he did not engage in self-pity or polemic. Kudos for that. Of course, he is happy to refrain from self-pity and polemic when he is not in the mode of engaging with his foes more directly.

I agree with you to a degree in your blog argument, but, I ask, when does it get better? When does he offer a reasoned analysis of the relative merits of different pieces of evidence? When does he concede that a particular reminiscence may not be as valuable as others, for reasons apparent to any responsible historian?

The blog cannot simply be a dodge. If he engages in no scholarly analysis of the evidence anywhere, then his drive-by blogging stands in stark contrast with that silence. He wants to say, "I offered the evidence," without ever submitting it to a sustained historical investigation. For someone who spends as much time as he does defending Smith, you would think he also had the time for making sure his position really stands up to scrutiny and then demonstrating how it does.

Most of all, I beg to differ with you when you claim that his only other alternative is to deny his Mormon faith altogether. No. I think not. What is at stake is his position as the ever faithful comforter of the discomfited Mormon. For every Peterson I would wager there are a few faithful LDS people who recognize that Joseph Smith's story changed as his theological understanding changed, who are comfortable with the idea that perhaps Smith's memory altered with time for one reason or another. Peterson insists that the two personages version is the original because that is what he must do to retain his credibility as the loyal and faithful defender of correlated modern Mormonism.

No one is asking Peterson not to believe. Least of all I. I think it is wonderful to adhere to a faith tradition. How one does so is the real question. One can either embrace the historical evidence or try to weasel around it and hold onto untenable positions. Too often apologists do the latter. That is where they fail the faithful. That is where they betray themselves and their faith.

ETA: LOL! I see he conceded. Hah! I guess he showed me!


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 1:44 pm 
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aussieguy55 wrote:
Wesley P Walters in a letter to me in 1975.

Stevenson statement This was written as a reminiscence and each time he mentions it it becomes more like the official version.

'the prophet preached relating his visions with mighty power.".Private Journal may 27 1883 p.136.

"the Prophet .... began relating his vision ... the truth of his visitation of an angel coming to him."(autobiography 1891 p.18-19.

"We were honoured.... who stood in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ his only begotten upon the earth" (autobiography 1891 p. 64f.)

"the prophet testified with great power concerning the visit of the Father and the Son" Reminiscences 1893 p.4.

"We were proud...to entertain one who had conversed with the Father 7 the Son' Reminiscences 1893 p.5.

Notice how each time the subject is mentioned Stevenson's memory drifts more and more towards the official account. Has this influenced his recollections? It would appear to be so to me"

Walters July 26 1975.

Very interesting letter. I am reminded of a chapter in the first volume of Early Mormon Documents (1996) (ed. Dan Vogel), "Joseph Smith Recital to Pontiac (MI) Saints, October 1834," that quotes those sources (plus a ca. 1881 journal article from a man who wrote about a visit from Joseph Smith and others to Michigan, an 1886 Millennial Star article by Stevenson, and the 1894 Juvenile Instructor article by Stevenson). In an editorial note, Vogel writes (p. 35):
Quote:
Joseph Smith's History records that he and other church leaders visited Pontiac, Michigan, arriving on 20 October 1834. The History gives no details except to state that "[a]fter preaching, and teaching the Saints in Michigan as long as our time would allow, we returned to Kirtland" (J. Smith 1948, 2:168-69). Late in life Edward Stevenson recounted the details of this preaching, recalling among other things that Smith gave a recital of his first vision experience. If Stevenson remembered correctly, Smith's statement to the Pontiac converts would be the earliest known public announcement of the appearance of God the Father and the Son to Smith. (Smith's unpublished 1832 History had described the appearance of one personage, presumably Jesus.)... [Stevenson] was fourteen years old when Smith visited Pontiac. Forty-nine years later, at age sixty-three, Stevenson made only a brief notation of the event in his journal. However, his subsequent retellings add significant details not originally recorded. These should be read with caution since they are likely tainted with details later obtained from Smith's published History. Also included in this collection is the account of Joseph Curtis (1818-81), recorded about 1881, which gives no clear reference to Smith's description of his vision.

Curtis dates Joseph Smith's visit to Michigan to spring 1835, although, as Vogel notes, October 1834 is likely the correct date. Some excerpts from Curtis' ca. 1881 journal entry (quoted by Vogel on pp. 36-37):
Quote:
I will state a few things according to my memory--as a revival of some of the sec[t]s was going on some of his fathers family joined in with the revival himself being quite young he feeling an anxiety to be religious his mind some what troubled this scripture came to mind which says if a man lack wisdom let him ask of god who giveth liberaly and upbraideth not believing it he went with a determination[n] to obtain to enquire of the lord himself after some struggle the Lord manifested to him that the different sects were [w]rong also that the Lord had a great work for him to do . . . had other manifestations [rest of line black] [p. 5] saw an angel with a view of the hill Cumorah & the plates of gold had certain instructions got the plates by the assistance of the Urim & Thumin ....

Some excerpts from the 1886 article (quoted by Vogel on pp. 37-38):
Quote:
First the Prophet related how he was alone in the woods in secret prayer, when a bright light began to shine around him (like unto Paul's vision) the brightness of which at first alarmed him, but his fear was soon dispelled by the voice of the Father introducing His Only Begotten Son to him, who spoke to the young man, and instructed him . . . . He also described the visit of the angel (three times during one night to his bed-chamber) who instructed him in the fullness of the everlasting Gospel, which was to be established and preached to every nation, kingdom, tongue, and people . . . . While relating those visions the countenance of the Prophet shone ....

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Last edited by Tom on Tue Jul 03, 2018 1:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 1:48 pm 
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Thank you for these valuable additions to Professor P.'s mix there, Tom!


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 1:55 pm 
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Kishkumen wrote:
The blog cannot simply be a dodge. If he engages in no scholarly analysis of the evidence anywhere, then his drive-by blogging stands in stark contrast with that silence. He wants to say, "I offered the evidence," without ever submitting it to a sustained historical investigation. For someone who spends as much time as he does defending Smith, you would think he also had the time for making sure his position really stands up to scrutiny and then demonstrating how it does.


Yes, irrespective of the content of what he writes, he's made an unfortunate choice of form. His blog seems to be mostly just brief musings, quotations, and so on without sustained analysis. Drive-by blogging, as you say. I'll admit that that does annoy me, because sometimes I've felt genuine curiosity about what he has to say about something, only to find that the text comes to an abrupt stop with "Posted from Tahiti" or some such.

He can't claim that it's inherent in the blog form because most other Patheos bloggers manage to put together something more coherent than "here's something from Krauthammer about how scientists don't know that much really, here's a picture of the Pyongyang temple lit up at night, right, see you later". I'm a bit surprised that Patheos haven't demanded meatier content.

Kishkumen wrote:
Most of all, I beg to differ with you when you claim that his only other alternative is to deny his Mormon faith altogether. No. I think not. What is at stake is his position as the ever faithful comforter of the discomfited Mormon. For every Peterson I would wager there are a few faithful LDS people who recognize that Joseph Smith's story changed as his theological understanding changed, who are comfortable with the idea that perhaps Smith's memory altered with time for one reason or another. Peterson insists that the two personages version is the original because that is what he must do to retain his credibility as the loyal and faithful defender of correlated modern Mormonism.


Indeed. I'd reiterate my earlier comment about postmodernism being the card that he needs to play here. When we try to reconstruct Smith's first vision experience, we've got this chorus of sometimes harmonious, sometimes discordant voices. It's just like scripture, really. A first year theological student from a manstream church could tell him that there's a lot more you can do with this than waste time arguing over whether Smith "really" saw one figure or two. Peterson probably knows this on some level. After all, he's read Peter Novick, hasn't he?


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 1:58 pm 
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DCP wrote:
Please notice that I did not say that Elder Stevenson’s account proved such allegations wrong beyond a shadow of doubt. I did not say that a reminiscence in old age of an event from sixty years earlier constituted the strongest possible evidence. (The slightly cumbersome title of my post — “A reminiscence of an 1834 retelling of the First Vision story by Joseph Smith” — was deliberately if only implicitly rather modest. As is the title of this post itself.) I said, simply, that the account was “worth noting.”


Notice the careful choice of words here. It does not constitute "the strongest possible evidence." That leaves room for it to be pretty darn good evidence, and, yet, as many other better Mormon historians would likely conclude, it constitutes pretty poor evidence.

DCP wrote:
My actual view is that the Stevenson account deserves to be stirred into the mix of documentation that we possess regarding Joseph Smith’s First Vision, but certainly not that it’s a primary-source document of pivotal importance. There are no decisive historical documents here that will absolutely settle the issue once and for all in the eyes of all parties. This certainly isn’t such a decisive document. Frankly, it had never occurred to me that anybody would think otherwise. Believers (like myself) will believe. Unbelievers won’t believe.


"Not that it's a primary-source document of pivotal importance . . . . "There are no decisive historical documents here that will absolutely settle the issue . . . ."

Here DCP tries to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to present himself as a reasonable, responsible historian, while leaving open the possibility that Stevenson's account is still darn good evidence, especially in the field of evidences regarding the First Vision.

"This certainly isn't such a decisive document" because there is no such thing.

But what kinds of documents are there? How do we weigh their relative evidentiary value? Does Joseph Smith's 1832 account not count for more than Stevenson's 1894 account of Joseph Smith's alleged 1834 account?

You would be hard pressed to learn that from Peterson.

Finally, Peterson offers the stark choice. One either believes or one does not. Well, what does that have to do with the evidentiary value of Stevenson's account? Stevenson's account may be nearly worthless as a historical document attesting to an 1834 sermon by Smith, while being a wonderful document to help us understand Mormon witnesses of the First Vision in the last quarter of the 19th century. Knowing its actual value as historical evidence, depending on the question at hand, does not divide believer from non-believer. It divides historian from hack.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 2:25 pm 
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Tom wrote:
Some excerpts from the 1886 article (quoted by Vogel on pp. 37-38):
Quote:
First the Prophet related how he was alone in the woods in secret prayer, when a bright light began to shine around him (like unto Paul's vision) the brightness of which at first alarmed him, but his fear was soon dispelled by the voice of the Father introducing His Only Begotten Son to him, who spoke to the young man, and instructed him . . . . He also described the visit of the angel (three times during one night to his bed-chamber) who instructed him in the fullness of the everlasting Gospel, which was to be established and preached to every nation, kingdom, tongue, and people . . . . While relating those visions the countenance of the Prophet shone ....


This one is particularly interesting to me. Stevenson was really struck by the comparison of Smith and the ancient apostle Paul. He mentioned Paul in the 1894 account as well. It is interesting that here there are no bodily personages, at least in the part of the text you cite. There is the Father's voice introducing "His Only Begotten Son." I am reminded of the significance of the voice in Paul's "vision." We may have to add the New Testament to the sources of contamination here.


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