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 Post subject: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 6:55 am 
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Our old friend DCP has offered up a "noteworthy" post on Sic et Non about an early witness to the First Vision.

See: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2018/07/a-reminiscence-of-an-1834-retelling-of-the-first-vision-story-by-joseph-smith.html

In his 1894 autobiographical account of a visit of Joseph Smith to Pontiac, Michigan, Edward Stevenson reports the words of Joseph Smith's 1834 sermon:

Quote:
Here are some of the Prophet’s words, as uttered in the schoolhouse. With uplifted hand, he said, “I am a witness that there is a God, for I saw Him in open day, while praying in a silent grove in the spring of 1820.”

He further testified that God, the Eternal Father, pointing to a separate personage, in the likeness of Himself, said: “This is my Beloved Son, hear ye Him.” Oh how these words thrilled my entire system, and filled me with joy unspeakable, to behold one who, like Paul the apostle of olden time, could with boldness testify that he had been in the presence of Jesus Christ!


DCP introduces this information with the observation that:

DCP wrote:
It's sometimes alleged by critics that Joseph Smith came up with the idea of a visit of two personages--the Father and the Son--rather late.


OK, well, that Stevenson account looks like decent evidence that the "critics" are wrong, or, to take it out of a polemical context and restore the discussion to its proper historiographical context, that historians might add this to their evidences that Smith was claiming a visit of two "personages" in 1834.

Here's the problem, and it is a real problem:

Contamination of memory. Mr. Stevenson is recounting this event in 1894. By this time, not only would Joseph Smith's 1838 First Vision account of two personages, in one form or another, been known for many years (the Joseph Smith History was canonized in 1880 as part of the PoGP), but also the hymn "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" which would appear in the Sunday School Union Songbook. Also, there was C. C. A. Christensen's painting of the First Vision, completed by 1878 and now lost.

If we look more closely at Stevenson's account, we see how its language is reminiscent of both the Joseph Smith History (canonized as part of the PoGP in 1880) and the hymn.

Stevenson wrote:
With uplifted hand, he said, “I am a witness that there is a God, for I saw Him in open day, while praying in a silent grove in the spring of 1820.”


Joseph Smith History wrote:
14 So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty.


Manwaring wrote:
Oh, how lovely was the morning!
Radiant beamed the sun above.


Now for the two "personages":

Stevenson wrote:
God, the Eternal Father, pointing to a separate personage, in the likeness of Himself, said: “This is my Beloved Son, hear ye Him.


Joseph Smith History wrote:
When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!


Manwaring wrote:
While appeared two heav’nly beings,
God the Father and the Son,

***

“Joseph, this is my Beloved;
Hear him!”


Stevenson's emotional reaction to Joseph Smith's alleged 1834 First Vision account is reminiscent of Manwaring's poetic description of Smith's reaction to seeing the Father and Son, which is absent from Smith's 1838 First Vision account:

Stevenson wrote:
Oh how these words thrilled my entire system, and filled me with joy unspeakable, to behold one who, like Paul the apostle of olden time, could with boldness testify that he had been in the presence of Jesus Christ!


Manwaring wrote:
Oh, what rapture filled his bosom,
For he saw the living God


In my view there is enough similarity here to warrant the acknowledgment of the possibility that Stevenson's recollection of 1834 has been deeply colored by accounts of the First Vision that subsequently circulated widely within the LDS Church. As prominent historians of Mormonism have recognized, the late 19th century was the time when the First Vision's prominence and significance as an inaugural event of the Restoration really started to take off. The canonization of the PoGP, the Manwaring hymn, and the Christensen painting all reflect that reality. So too does Stevenson's account.

Now, I cannot say that Stevenson made up the story of personally hearing Smith testify of his First Vision. And we cannot completely discount the possibility that he mentioned two personages, but there is a very high probability that his memory of 1834 was contaminated by a later conception of the First Vision, the popularity of which (in the LDS Church) was exploding in Stevenson's own time.

In other words, DCP is not treating Stevenson's account in a historically responsible way. It would be more scholarly by far to acknowledge, at least, the possibility of contamination, given the information provided above.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 7:56 am 
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Goodness, a 60 year difference? How old was Stevenson in 1834 vs. 1894?

I'm no historian, but even while reading your post, before you got to the punchline, the similarity in the language was obvious and jumped out to me. I repeat my sentiment shared on the other recent thread. How can I treat this as anything other than intentional deception? Am I supposed to believe that a Ph.D. level researcher is this incompetent? It has to be intentional.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 8:55 am 
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Water Dog wrote:
Goodness, a 60 year difference? How old was Stevenson in 1834 vs. 1894?


Well, this is where things get even more interesting and suggestive, Water Dog. Edward Stevenson was born in the spring of 1820, May 1, to be precise. It is quite likely that he saw the coincidence between his birthdate and the First Vision to be extremely significant. Also, he heard Joseph Smith preach in the schoolhouse in 1834, or, when Stevenson was 14 years old. As you recall, Joseph Smith was approximately 14 years old when he had his First Vision. So, we have good reason to think that Stevenson constructed his account with deliberate allusions to Joseph Smith's First Vision in its more famous versions because he wanted his reader to pick up on his personal connection to Joseph Smith's First Vision. Stevenson seems to be suggesting that his experience hearing about the First Vision was mightily akin to Joseph Smith's experience of having the vision.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 9:10 am 
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Okay, let me see if I have this straight. . .

The Conneaut Witnesses who identified the Book of Mormon as having been derived from Solomon Spalding's "Manuscript Found" cannot be trusted because 22 years had passed between the event and their statements, but Edward Stevenson can be trusted in spite of the fact that 60 years had passed between the event and his statement.

Is that about right?

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 9:11 am 
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Water Dog wrote:
I'm no historian, but even while reading your post, before you got to the punchline, the similarity in the language was obvious and jumped out to me. I repeat my sentiment shared on the other recent thread. How can I treat this as anything other than intentional deception? Am I supposed to believe that a Ph.D. level researcher is this incompetent? It has to be intentional.


Yes, I don't know. I think DCP would say that he is writing on a blog and he only intended to draw people's attention to the existence of this account without really getting into the nitty gritty of it. Of course, in making this choice, he has found a nice way of avoiding the salient questions regarding the account, and, as you can see, there is every reason to think that Stevenson has juiced up his account for reasons that are understandable from a late 19th century Mormon perspective but problematic from a modern historian's perspective. I would say Stevenson's account provides very weak (perhaps even negligible) support for the 1838 and later versions of the First Vision, as what amounts to a much later account of the First Vision (1894).


Last edited by Kishkumen on Mon Jul 02, 2018 9:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 9:17 am 
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Dr. Shades wrote:
Okay, let me see if I have this straight. . .

The Conneaut Witnesses who identified the Book of Mormon as having been derived from Solomon Spalding's "Manuscript Found" cannot be trusted because 22 years had passed between the event and their statements, but Edward Stevenson can be trusted in spite of the fact that 60 yeas had passed between the event and his statement.

Is that about right?


It is important to raise the issue of contamination of memory in all of these cases, of course. Would a 22 year gap be less profound than a 60 year gap? Yes. I think so.

What makes this account especially problematic is not the date but the context. At the time Stevenson wrote other Mormons were recounting the First Vision and reconstructing it in poetry and painting. The FV was becoming more accessible to Mormon memory but in its later, not its early, form. Stevenson's recollection is most suspicious where it most resembles those later accounts. In essence, Stevenson is providing the kind of account of the First Vision that one would expect in his day, and its value as evidence for what happened in 1820 is negligible, in my view.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 10:08 am 
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Any competent historian would reference all available contemporary accounts before looking at sixty-year old post-contemporary accounts. So where did DCP reference the former?


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 10:41 am 
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The stupidity in this article might have surprised me many years ago, but not anymore. I don't expect much from Mormon apologists.

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 10:45 am 
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Kishkumen wrote:
Contamination of memory. Mr. Stevenson is recounting this event in 1894. By this time, not only would Joseph Smith's 1838 First Vision account of two personages, in one form or another, been known for many years (the Joseph Smith History was canonized in 1880 as part of the PoGP), but also the hymn "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" which would appear in the Sunday School Union Songbook. Also, there was C. C. A. Christensen's painting of the First Vision, completed by 1878 and now lost.


I'm going off on a tangent here, Kish, but this is all news to me. I thought that the First Vision had not been emphasised in Mormonism until very recently. BUt it sounds like popular devotional and artistic works based upon it were already being composed in the 19th century.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 11:07 am 
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Dr. Shades wrote:
Okay, let me see if I have this straight. . .

The Conneaut Witnesses who identified the Book of Mormon as having been derived from Solomon Spalding's "Manuscript Found" cannot be trusted because 22 years had passed between the event and their statements, but Edward Stevenson can be trusted in spite of the fact that 60 yeas had passed between the event and his statement.

Is that about right?


This looks like yet another instance of #1 and #8 of your apologist tactics that you explain on your website: http://www.mormoninformation.com/pro_lds.htm

DCP is privileging positive information in a vacuum.

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 11:11 am 
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I wouldn't worry about it. Nobody reads his articles anyway.

I liked how some random passerby could show up at a school house in those days and start preaching to the kids.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 11:32 am 
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Johannes wrote:
I'm going off on a tangent here, Kish, but this is all news to me. I thought that the First Vision had not been emphasised in Mormonism until very recently. BUt it sounds like popular devotional and artistic works based upon it were already being composed in the 19th century.


It appears from my shallow research that it starts getting more attention in the last quarter of the 19th century but really comes into its own as a pivotal event in Restoration history in the early 20th century, when there was a kind of reform of LDS theology after the abandonment of polygamy and the Adam-God doctrine.


Last edited by Kishkumen on Mon Jul 02, 2018 1:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:23 pm 
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Shoot.

I suppose Professor Peterson was too busy writing this blog to explain why it is he wasn't lying when he said the 1832 account of the first vision was not suppressed.

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:26 pm 
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On another note, Professor Peterson seeks to make this 1834 reminiscence more important than it actually is.

How does he do this?

By eliding the 1835 account in which two personages ARE mentioned in favor of the 1838 account in which . . . two personages ARE mentioned.

Here is how he does it in the opening paragraph:

Quote:
It’s sometimes alleged by critics that Joseph Smith came up with the idea of a visit of two personages — the Father and the Son — rather late (say, in the 1838 “canonical” version now known as JS-History 1) and/or that he began to soup the story up from a mere vision of angels during, say, the collapse of the Kirtland Panic in the national Panic of 1837 (so as to shore up his personal prestige and authority). In the light of such charges, I think this 1894 autobiographical account from Edward Stevenson worth noting:


If Professor Peterson had included the 1835 account in which Joseph Smith relates seeing two personages, the thrust of his argument would have been largely undermined.

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:28 pm 
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Quote:
What makes this account especially problematic is not the date but the context. At the time Stevenson wrote other Mormons were recounting the First Vision and reconstructing it in poetry and painting. The FV was becoming more accessible to Mormon memory but in its later, not its early, form. Stevenson's recollection is most suspicious where it most resembles those later accounts. In essence, Stevenson is providing the kind of account of the First Vision that one would expect in his day, and its value as evidence for what happened in 1820 is negligible, in my view.

Its value is already negligible, I would agree, given the circumstances around it and Stevenson's personal issues, which are far and away the most damning indictments, but if I understand correctly, are we also talking about several minor issues of evidence? This is:
1) a speech, ostensibly heard by a 14 year old kid in 1834,
2) which he only wrote about 60 years later,
3) in which he recalled the words he heard, as a child, that Joseph Smith said in a speech,
4) in which Joseph Smith described an experience he had had, 14 years prior to that?

Come on. This explains the convoluted title: "A reminiscence of an 1834 retelling...," there really needs to be plausible deniability when people start asking about the reliability of the story.


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:33 pm 
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consiglieri wrote:
On another note, Professor Peterson seeks to make this 1834 reminiscence more important than it actually is.

How does he do this?

By eliding the 1835 account in which two personages ARE mentioned in favor of the 1838 account in which . . . two personages ARE mentioned.

Here is how he does it in the opening paragraph:

Quote:
It’s sometimes alleged by critics that Joseph Smith came up with the idea of a visit of two personages — the Father and the Son — rather late (say, in the 1838 “canonical” version now known as JS-History 1) and/or that he began to soup the story up from a mere vision of angels during, say, the collapse of the Kirtland Panic in the national Panic of 1837 (so as to shore up his personal prestige and authority). In the light of such charges, I think this 1894 autobiographical account from Edward Stevenson worth noting:


If Professor Peterson had included the 1835 account in which Joseph Smith relates seeing two personages, the thrust of his argument would have been largely undermined.


And it is clear Professor Peterson has the 1835 account in his mind while writing the article, because that is the account famous for introducing the "vision of angels" theme, which Professor Peterson mentions.

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:45 pm 
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Okay, so we have a recollection based upon:

Lemmie wrote:
1) a speech, ostensibly heard by a 14 year old kid in 1834,
2) which he only wrote about 60 years later,
3) in which he recalled the words he heard, as a child, that Joseph Smith said in a speech,
4) in which Joseph Smith described an experience he had had, 14 years prior to that?


I can't speak for anyone else but me. But when I read this OP and some of the thoughts posted thereafter my mind went back to when I was a kid. I have some pretty vivid recollections. And I'm almost positive that these recollections have not been tampered with and/or been the result of some kind of distorted false memory syndrome. They're still in my head...and it's been around fifty plus years now.

So I guess when I read this account I'm not looking at the amount of time that's gone by as being the determining factor for whether the memory is accurate or not. Especially if the memory deals with something of an extraordinary nature. I remember one experience I had when I was nineteen and getting ready to leave on a mission. I will not share it in this venue, of course. But I remember it very clearly. I have not forgotten or distorted it. I am sure it happened as I remember it.

It was an experience that I had in the Salt Lake Temple.

Regards,
MG


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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:58 pm 
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mentalgymnast wrote:
I can't speak for anyone else but me. But when I read this opening post and some of the thoughts posted thereafter my mind went back to when I was a kid. I have some pretty vivid recollections. And I'm almost positive that these recollections have not been tampered with and/or been the result of some kind of distorted false memory syndrome. They're still in my head...and it's been around fifty plus years now.

So I guess when I read this account I'm not looking at the amount of time that's gone by as being the determining factor for whether the memory is accurate or not. Especially if the memory deals with something of an extraordinary nature. I remember one experience I had when I was nineteen and getting ready to leave on a mission. I will not share it in this venue, of course. But I remember it very clearly. I have not forgotten or distorted it. I am sure it happened as I remember it.

It was an experience that I had in the Salt Lake Temple.

Regards,
MG


I'm not discounting your memories, but there is a reason historians generally don't give as much weight to late recollections as to contemporaneous ones. As others have noted, the raw material of the memory might be more or less the same, but the context has changed. When you remember something at, say 15, it's not going to mean the same thing as when you remember it 50 years later. Memories are always reinterpreted based on context, and when you're recalling something 60 years later, the context includes everything you've experienced in the intervening years. So, the mental image of the experience might be remembered, but the baggage from the intervening years tends to merge with the raw image. Memory and experience are, in many ways, fictive creations.

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 1:13 pm 
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The Rev wrote:
Mr. Stevenson is recounting this event in 1894


lol. 'nuff said. But seriously, your explanation to Shades -- and his observation was good too -- was a good one. Once there's a story in place, it's all over.

I don't care about the spaulding theory really, but unless there was already a myth spun about it and the witnesses were in contact with each other, it's not the same.

I recognize that the only real chance to get the cogs turning for a TBM is to show internal inconsistencies, but what sucks about that is, let's say, the critics were wrong and we found some great evidence that he'd been telling a consistent account all along, how much credibility does that add to a story about two immortal aliens suddenly appearing?

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 1:18 pm 
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Joseph wasn't telling the story of the claimed first vision in 1834. He didn't even revamp it until 1835, and did this privately to someone he considered a murderer. The reason that Joseph did this, was to have the account written into his diary, which was to be his "history". The first instance we have of Joseph telling the story is in 1842 when he published his history and wrote the Wentworth letter. All other versions were private. And, in 1834 Joseph did not believe in a two person Godhead in BODILY form. He was teaching that the "father" was a spirit and Jesus was God in bodily form. When he had the opportunity to publish on this in 1834 (The Smith/Cowdery History) he omitted it for the story the missionaries were telling, that Joseph first approached the speaking to deity in 1823, and was answered by an angel. And if he was telling this story in 1834 so publicly, why did he help write and have published the Lectures on Faith a year later? It makes absolutely no sense. Smith may have related that he saw Jesus (as in the 1832 account) but he wouldn't have given the people of Pontiac the version that Stevenson claims that he did.

I'm in my 60's and I remember the Moon Landing. I saw it on TV. But is that was all the info I had, I would not be able to tell you what Neil Armstrong said when he stepped on the Moon. The only reason I know what those words were, is from being familiar with later accounts/news stories. I find it very doubtful that Stevenson would remember exactly what Smith said in that sermon.

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 Post subject: Re: That Lovely Morning
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 1:21 pm 
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Kishkumen wrote:
It appears from my shallow research that it starts getting more attention in the last quarter of the 19th century but really comes into its own as a pivotal event in Restoration history in the early 20th century, when a kind of reform of LDS theology after the abandonment of polygamy and the Adam-God doctrine.

Times and Seasons essentially says this.

"The correlated gospel of the modern LDS Church gives prominent place to the First Vision in the story of the Restoration. Interestingly, that was not the story of the Restoration told in Joseph’s day. Indeed, clear through the 19th century the First Vision was not a central part in how the Restoration was recounted. As LDS historian James Allen put it, “the weight of evidence would suggest that it [the First Vision] was not a matter of common knowledge, even among church members, in the earliest years of Mormon History.” [5] Kathleen Flake recounts the emergence of the familiar “Joseph Smith story,” starting with the First Vision, during the first decades of the 20th century. She describes it as “not only a source of doctrine but as the modern L.D.S. Church’s master narrative.” [6]

http://www.timesandseasons.org/harchive ... st-vision/


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