Class Notes

Jan Shipps writes, “when Mormon history begins with the First Vision, the result tends to be an account of a religious movement which, even as it differs dramatically on basic theological and doctrinal issues from other sects and churches, is analytically yet one more sub-division of Christianity inaugurated through the efforts of a charismatic leader. Surely the story of the vision is important, but too much emphasis on it takes the Book of Mormon away from the limelight, obscuring the fact that it was this “gold bible” that first attracted adherents to the movement. As crucial to the success of the whole Latter-day Saint enterprise as is Joseph Smith, it must never be forgotten that in the early years it was not the First Vision but the Book of Mormon that provided the credentials that made the prophet’s leadership so effective.”  Richard Bushman makes the same claim that in the first few years after the establishment of the LDS Church the missionaries did not talk about Joseph’s role as prophet. In fact, Joseph does not refer to himself as the prophet until the Kirtland, Ohio days. The account known today as Joseph Smith’s History which contains the First Vision was not written until 1838. The First Vision will really begin to take shape as the first thing taught by missionaries with the start of the second generation of leaders. It is this connection with the second generation that makes Smith much more important to his followers today than Campbell is with his.

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