Friday, August 4, 2017

More Comments from Readers – Part III

Here are some more comments received from our readers:
    Comment #1: “I find it revealing that when your Joseph Smith wrote at least four incidents of his first vision, they are all different. Only someone making things up cannot remember what he said from time to time and therefore his claim is highly suspect” James C.
    Response: On the contrary, in the legal profession, as an example, attorneys and judges recognize that if a witness repeats an incident by using precisely the same language, the court might challenge the validity of such a statement. People seldom repeat an incident in the same way to different people for repetition often relies on who someone is speaking to, when, and for what reason. As an example, when I tell an incident to my wife, I cover different parts of it than I would to my children, or even my next door neighbor. You would probably tell an incident to your boss a little different than to a co-worker.
The Sacred Grove. When entering you can feel the sacredness of the place and the hushed quiet, despite the outside surrounding noises of nature and man, which are automatically muted by the sacred air of the Grove as soon as you enter

The First Vision is one of the most significant religious events in the history of mankind, which occurred in the spring of 1820 in a beautiful grove located near Lake Erie in western New York. The ground itself is so sacred that a single walk through the grove of densely-packed trees is enough to convince even the most skeptical that something of great reverence or import took place there.
    On at least four different occasions, Joseph Smith either wrote or dictated to scribes accounts of his sacred experience. Possibly he penned or dictated other histories of the First Vision, but no others have been located. The four surviving recitals of this extremely sacred experience were prepared or rendered through different scribes, at different times, from a different perspective, for different purposes and to different audiences. Thus, it would not be surprising that each recital would emphasize a different characteristic and pieces or phases of the experience. When Latter-day Saints today explain this remarkable vision to others, their descriptions often vary according to the audience or circumstances that prompt such reports.
It was like once passing the sign and entering the Grove, a veil of silence fell over the Grove and no outside sounds could be heard and no inside sounds existed—like a sudden and continuing silence until we left and passed the sign on the way out again

When my wife and I went through the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, we each had similar but different insights and when expressing our experiences to friends and family, as well as to others when returning home, it was interesting that we seldom covered the same things in these recitals. My wife often talked about being moved by what she felt, but I was impressed with the difference in noise from a cacophony of birds, kakydids and nature around the perimeter of the grove just before entering, though we were totally alone, and then an amazing hushed quiet as we walked into the grove, which lasted for more than an hour while we were there, yet upon leaving (along a different path and exit), the cacophony of nature sounds returned immediately at the same high level as before once we passed the sign on the way out.
    Obviously, when relating the incident to a group of fellow high priests at Priesthood Meeting one Sunday upon returning, my emphasis was on the spirituality of the experience, but to non-member friends, it was about the physical applications of what took place.
Our first visit to the Grove was a deeply thought-provoking, spiritual experience—one that was and is difficult to explain in laymen terms

In an important way, the existence of these different accounts helps support the integrity of the Latter-day Saint Prophet. It indicates that Joseph did not deliberately create a memorized version which he related to everyone, but those parts of the experience that would make the most sense to that particular audience. In fact, there are long-standing precedents for differing accounts of the same spiritual experience. As an example, the four Gospels are not exactly aligned with one another regarding the garden's empty tomb and the events that took place there. First of all, there is disagreement on the number of women and angels present and about whether or not the angels lwere standing or sitting. However, it is not the differences that are important since they may have resulted from incorrect understandings or interpretation--it is the wonderful fact regarding the tomb being empty as a result of Jesus having risen that is important--he being the first fruits of the Resurrection. This is the issue of the event, not whether each person viewed it exactly the same.
    There is also a difference on how the Savior appeared to Paul during his journey to Damascus between Acts and the letters Paul wrote--since some of Paul's companions saw no man but heard a voice while others saw a light but did not hear a voice. Then there is the description of Paul's vision found in John 12 that is in certain ways like the account in the New Testament, wherein according to John a voice was heard from heaven at the time Jesus was in Jerusalem and some thought they heard an angel speaking while others that they heard thunder.
    What is important is the reality of the event, not exactly the differing ways it was perceived by people. As an example, Matthew describes the death of Judas differently that how it is coverfed in Acts; also the message on the cross is listed differently in the gospel and what Jesus said while on the cross, the matter of the event is the significant and important part of the event--but if we get too involved with the details, we miss the actual event itself and its overwhelmig importance--that is, that Jesus was on the corss accomplishing the all-important Atonement that effects every man, woman and child who has and will ever live on the Earth.
Joseph Smith experiencing the First Vision in what is now called the Sacred Grove

The message of Joseph Smith was not in the details of his vision, but of the message when the Father said, “This is my beloved Son
    Comment #2: “You write about distances and how long it took to go by camel, etc., but you are just guessing since I doubt you were brought up in the Middle East according to your stated background. The fact is, we really don’t know how long it took to travel anciently” Red H.
    Response: No, I was not brought up in the Middle East, but that is not to say I’ve never been on a camel. The point is, we know a great deal about camel caravan travel from historical factors, plus travel today in Arabia which is under the same conditions as anciently. As Lynn and Hope Hilton have written, "Dealing with Lehi’s journey from Jerusalem to Salalah, Oman, a distance of 2102 miles, Salim Saad, an experienced camel rider and a former British Army officer. Stationed in the Wadi Araba, became friends with many desert Bedouins. He explained that a loaded donkey caravan can travel twenty miles in six hours. Drawing on his astonishing library of Arab history, he showed us an example of a camel caravan consisting of thousands of camels that averaged twenty-four miles a day on the Haj (Islamic pilgrimage) from Cairo to Mecca. The famous archaeologist Nelson Glueck, a novice camel-rider, reported personally averaging thirteen miles a day on a camel ride from Jerusalem to Aqaba"...Another measure is when the patriarch Jacob in the Bible fled with his sons and wives on camels with his cattle from Padanaram (Haran in Mesopotamia) to Mount Gilead, a distance of approximately 378 miles, in ten days (Genesis 31:18-23)—an average of thirty-eight miles per day. He was overtaken by his irate father-in-law Laban, who covered the same distance in seven days or fifty-four miles per day! (Discovering Lehi, Cedar Fort, 1996).
    In addition, Claudius Plinius Secundus, known as Pliny the Elder, tells us of a journey from Timna in Yemen to Gaza on the Mediterranean seacoast in Palestine that required “sixty-five stages,”  meaning sixty-five days on the road (Van Beek, p. 41.) From Timna to Gaza is a distance of 1,534 miles, which would average out at twenty-four miles per day.
     If we consider all of these figures in computing an average, we can assume that Lehi could have traveled about twenty-four miles a day, regardless of the type of animal he used. In other words, they could have come from Jerusalem to Salalah in approximately ninety days. Yet Nephi reports that it took the party eight years to reach Bountiful (1 Nephi 17:4). Where did the eight years go?
As the Hiltons add, "Let’s start at the beginning. We can assume that the group didn’t dawdle getting out of Jerusalem and that they probably could have traveled at least as fast as Nelson Glueck or faster (thirteen miles a day). That means eight to twelve days between Jerusalem and Aqaba. From there, they journeyed “three days in the wilderness” and camped in the Valley of Lemuel (1 Nephi 2:6). Upon examining the maps and locale, it appears that only one oasis qualifies as this important campsite—Al Beda in the Wadi El Afal, Saudi Arabia."
    At this initial rest stop, they probably stayed a couple or more years preparing for their eventual long journey, sending back the sons to get the Brass Plates and then Ishmael's family, two very long and involved trips, with time spent initially haggling with Laban over the plates, obtaining the gold and wealth from Lehi's home and returning, being hunted by Laban's guards, arguing among themselves whether to return back to Lehi's tent or continue with the assignment, etc., not to mention on the second trip convincing Ishmael to follow them into the desert with his family. Once back with the Brass Plates, Lehi would have spent some time reading and studying the record, digesting it, praying about it, contemplating it, and carefully thinking about its teachings—and then presenting them to others. When Ishmael and his family joined them there would have been the preparation for the five weddings, but only after the eldest daughter met and became comfortable with Zoram and agreed to marry him (the younger daughters would probably already have been knowledgeable of Lehi's and arrangements for their marriages long ago sealed by Hebrew custom and agreement). There would also have been much time in the planning, preparation, events and finally the celebrations of the weddings—no simply matter in the days of the Hebrews.
    In addition, their travel, once started along the Red Sea, was one of a few days travel and then several days setting up tents and resting (1 Nephi 16:13), until the area became uncomfortable and travel against was required. We see this movement and rest repeated (1 Nephi 16:15-17, 33; 17:1), as was the custom among Bedouin movement over the centuries.
    Thus we can see that a normal journey from one place to another might take a certain time, that a lengthy travel over a much longer period where rests are not overnight stops, but rests of many days.


  1. Was it a first "vision" or was it an actual visitation of the Father and Son? I would guess that it was a vision and not a visitation.

    Is there historical evidence from reliable sources that deal with this question?

    1. Multi-/inter-dimensional beings, not bound by time and space, appeared to a boy who had to have his matter (and the matter around him) temporarily transformed by an almighty being of spirit (holy ghost) in order to be able to withstand their presence. In no normal sense did he "see" them nor were they "here" as you and I "see" and are "here." The answer to your question is therefore both and neither.

  2. Wonder Boy: an interesting comment What is your source for the info?

  3. Excellent answers to both questions Del.

    I learned about the first vision when I was almost 15 and received a powerful witness through the Holy Ghost that it really happened. I've shared my conversion story well over 100 times over the years sveral times in writing. Never exactly the same.