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034: Steven Harper: The First Vision


Steven C Harper until recently was a professor of Church History and Doctrine at BYU. He has written several books and has contributed to the Joseph Smith Papers project. In our interview we focus on his book “Joseph Smith’s First Vision – A Guide to Historical Accounts” and discuss the context, differences, unity, and other aspects of the different accounts. We also talk about faith crisis and how best o handle Church as the one struggling and how you are of much worth to the Church.

My main way of recording the interviewee’s voice didn’t work out, so a backup program was used but sound quality suffers slightly due to that, but this interview is full of insights that will be beneficial to the listener, so I hope you’ll hang in there.

E-book version

This was a great interview and I hope you are blessed by it.


3 thoughts on “034: Steven Harper: The First Vision”

  1. Thanks for this episode, it was very informative and interesting to learn all of this history! I have a question on this topic that I am wondering if anyone here could give me guidance on. I don’t have a problem with the variations in first vision accounts – I think the variations are may even be a testament of the truth that this vision occurred, because if he was making it up, you would he think he would stick to the same scripted story. Anyways, I am 19 right now and am seriously considering serving a mission, but am wondering how I should present this account to my investigators… I personally favor the 1832 account – so personal, unscripted, partially in Joseph’s own writing – I love it. But missionaries are supposed to teach the canonized account, and while I love the power of this one to I don’t think it gives the full picture. And should I really present both accounts or all four to investigators and have them wrestle with that when their faith in the Gospel has only just begun or maybe does not even exist yet? But then I wouldn’t want to just teach one account – it feels like I’d be hiding something from them and setting them up for future struggles and doubts with this when they learn of the different accounts. And I also need to consider that i may be, as a missionary, required to teach the canonized account. And then there’s also the concern that Joseph may not have even wanted us to use this account in proselytizing. Anyways, sorry for my long-winded question. If anyone has a suggestion it would be much appreciated. Thanks.

    1. it is the conundrum we are in but it is the institutional Church that has created it. We should be honest and truthful and if the truth presents contradictions and paradoxes then so be it. People who join the Church will have to sacrifice a lot and should enter such knowing more fully.

  2. This makes me nuts to hear the explanation that memory naturally changes over time. If I was visited on Christmas Eve by Michael Jackson and Boy George (for example….memorable people). I would never, ever forget that they were both there. And if I left one out, I would be lying. I would probably never forget a single detail of the experience.

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