Friday, March 5, 2010

Reflections from Joseph Smith's First Vision

No ordinary history of the glorious vision of 1820 can ever be written. Every record of the revelation itself takes on the quality of scripture. The account of the Prophet Joseph, prepared in 1832, bursts into fruition as the Olive Leaf revelation of Christmastime 1832/33 (as a simple word tally will show): "I looked upon the sun, the glorious luminary of the earth, and also the moon, rolling in their majesty through the heavens, and also the stars shining in their courses; and the earth also upon which I stood; and the beast[s] of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters; and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth, in majesty and in the strength of beauty, whose power and intelligence in governing the things which are so exceeding great and marvelous [is] even in the likeness of him who created them" (1832 History). Beauty and intelligence are the keywords here: The beauty of God is intelligence.

Young wisdom in an age of fools: "And when I considered upon these things, my heart exclaimed: 'Well hath the wise man said, It is a fool that saith in his heart, there is no God'" (1832 History).

Scripture cleaveth unto scripture: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no man that hath seen God. Because he showeth himself not unto us, therefore there is no God" (Joseph Smith Translation Psalms 14:1).

Sectarianism bears only corrupt logic: "Ye have taken away the key of knowledge, the fulness of the scriptures. . .O fools! for ye have said in your hearts, There is no God" (JST Luke 11:53; JST Luke 16:21).

A false syllogism: Since I have not seen God, no man has seen Him. Therefore there is no God. But God asks Job to review the wonders of nature preparatory to an understanding of God (Job 38--41). For he "who hath seen any or the least of these [kingdoms] hath seen God moving in his majesty and power. I say unto you he hath seen him" (D&C 88: 47-8). For God "is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made, as also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; and the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand" (D&C 88: 7-10).

The earth is no second-rate vantage point for man; for all, all creation clusters about Joseph's star: "Behold I have dreamed a dream more; and behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance" (Gen. 37:9). "And he said unto me: My son, my son (and his hand was stretched out), behold I will show you all these. And he put his hand upon mine eyes" (Abraham 3:12).

The Prophet continues his story: "My heart exclaimed: 'All, all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power, a being who maketh laws and decreeth and bindeth all things in their bounds, who filleth eternity'" (compare D&C 88: 38; Alma 29:4 ). "The scriptures are laid before thee," as is the writ of stars: "Yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. And yet do ye [the fool] go about, leading away the hearts of this people, testifying unto them there is no God" (Alma 30:44-5)? Korihor, despising the loveliness of both book and star, is not "convinced that there is a God": "Yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced" (30: 43). Alma said: "In the name of God, ye shall be struck dumb, that ye shall have no more utterance" (30:49).

"For the Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, and by his voice said unto his servant, Seek ye among the children of men, to see if there are any that do understand God. And he opened his mouth, and said, Behold, all these who say they are thine" (JST Psalms 14:2). "And again it shall come to pass that the Lord shall say unto him. . . This people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me" (2 Ne 27: 24-5; Joseph Smith--History 1:19; Isaiah 29:13).

"And Korihor put forth his hand and wrote, saying: I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me; yea, and I always knew that there was a God" (30:55). But the devil "said unto me: There is no God. . .And I taught [his words] even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true" (30:53).

"The Lord answered and said. . .thou canst behold none of them that are doing good, no, not one. All they have for their teachers are workers of iniquity, and there is no knowledge in them" (JST Psalms 14:3).

"Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph" (D&C 1:17): Joseph, look upon me. I shall renew wonders upon this people to sanctify them. For wisdom shall be lost, and understanding as a sealed book. (see Hebrew MT Isaiah 29:11, 14).

"And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream" (Gen. 41:7). And he called his wise men, and he called Joseph also, who explained the vision. "And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such an one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art" (Gen. 41:38-9).

"While in the attitude of calling upon the Lord, in the 16th year of my age, a pillar of light above the brightness of the sun at noonday came down from above and rested upon me, and I was filled with the Spirit of God. And the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw. . ." (1832).

Joseph entered heaven and read from the book of God "and I could not see the end thereof" (Abraham 3:12).

Notes: These reflections make up a slightly modified version of what I first wrote in 1991. Anyone who reads the scriptures surely has noted such intertextual weaving, including the foregoing instances, and more.

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