The Mormon missionaries have been taught that their first prophet, Joseph Smith, went into the woods as a 14-year old boy and that God and Jesus Christ both appeared to him.
Latter-day Saints believe that the “First Vision” was a real physical event and that it was an historical fact, based on the fact that Joseph Smith said it was.
If we were to apply basic investigation techniques, one would have to ask if someone else was there to witness this event. But only Joseph Smith was there.
But I’m sure he told other people about it, right away. His family at least.
In 1833, the Mormon church published the first Book of Commandments. That was a book that had all of Smith’s revelations to that point. And nowhere in that book is there any reference to the First Vision. And when Smith wrote the Church History in 1835, there was still no mention of it. Why?
The first newspapers published by the Mormon Church were in 1834 until 1836. There’s no mention of a First Vision. In 1835 Smith’s Lectures on Faith taught that the Godhead is two separate personages.
But again, no mention of a First Vision.
Then, in 1837, the first important missionary pamphlet of the Church was written by Mormon apostle Parley P. Pratt. You’d think surely the First Vision would be mentioned then, right?
But it wasn’t? Not a word about it.
The first time the story was published was in the Church newspaper in 1842.
That’s 22 years after it supposedly happened.
That’s the first time the public heard of it. So, until then, the Missionaries had never even heard of their prophet’s claim to seeing God and Jesus.
The official account of the First Vision wasn’t included in Mormon scripture until 1889, 22 years after Smith’s death. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that the Vision was printed in the missionary literature. Can you imagine all those early Mormons never even hearing about the First Vision until years after it supposedly happened?
One of the LDS prophets, Gordon B. Hinckley said,
“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.”