Monday, December 30, 2013

The Mad Hatter Translation

Today, December 30, 2013, the LDS Church released the fourth Topic essay, on the Book of Mormon Translation.

Because I am very occupied with my children this holiday season, I'll keep my blog on it brief.  I'll step through the claims.

Claim:  "As a young man during the 1820s, Joseph Smith, like others in his day, used a seer stone to look for lost objects and buried treasure. As Joseph grew to understand his prophetic calling, he learned that he could use this stone for the higher purpose of translating scripture."

Sure.  The seer stone is the 19th century "pet rock".  As a young man, he had to have one.  All the other guys had them and they all got dates, so Joseph Smith had to get him some seer stones action.

Now, my fellow editors at MormonThink ask this:  Why would a common stone "discovered in the ground" have the same prophetic seering abilities as the spectacle urim & thummim which was "“kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord” and “handed down from generation to generation, for the purpose of interpreting languages”?

(To get a more complete view on the BOM translation process and the many problems not discussed in the LDS article, read MormonThink's section on Book of Mormon Translation.)

Claim: On Sept 21, 1823, Moroni appeared in his (upper) bedroom.

Joseph shared the room with his brothers, and they did not see Moroni appear.  We believe that Joseph, a notorious wrestler, had put his brothers in the sleeper hold each night--a move he perfected and used as an early version of a “roofie” with women later on. (yes, yes, not funny)

Claim: "Joseph Smith did not call for punctuation, such as periods."

Apparently it was Smith’s fear of periods that also led to polygamy. (Bada-dum!)

Claim: "Joseph could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon."

We think that’s actually partly true.  He could speak well, but his writing sucked.  It especially sucked when he wrote secret love letters to the wives of other men or his young child brides.  This phrase, written to 17 year old Sara Ann Whitney comes to mind:  “…the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty…

Safty?  Emma must have been one scary bich (sic in Joseph's letters).  Anyway, see? Joseph did suck at writin’ even if he got him some seer stones to attract young girls.  And it’s also true of the Book of Mormon.  His writing was atrocious.  The Book of Mormon underwent about 4,000 edits in the subsequent century. (The LDS Church has admitted to some of these edits here.)

Claim:  "Joseph placed the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument."

Actually, we’re pretty sure God made Reformed English  appear from the Reformed Egytpian written on the plates.   Because, if English words appeared, presumably from God, then why did the “most correct of any Book on earth” require about 4,000 corrections?  Why did the extended biblical quotes (comprising about 6%) that allegedly came from a 600BC version of the old testament on brass plates and put in by Nephi have the translation errors King James scribes made in the 17th century?  Oh wait, the King James scribes also used felt hats to translate the bible.

It has to be the felt hats.  As hatters felted them, they used mercuric nitrate to treat the fur of small animals for the manufacture of felt hats.  When Joseph put his head into his felt hat for prolonged hours every day for about three months, breathing residual mercury vapors, he grew as mad as a hatter.  That’s the origin of the Book of Mormon, with all of its 4,000 errors, its anachronistic phrases and events, misquotes of 17th century scribes and completely misguided assertions about the civilizations in ancient America.  

It's the mad hatters translation.

As the LDS Church keeps tipping its hat in Topic essays, we sure hope they don't breathe the fumes they're making.  Holy Crap!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Whitewashing the Women

The LDS Church did it again.  They caved to public peer pressure.  They admitted that they illegally practiced plural marriages after they promised in a manifesto not to do so.  They confessed this sin only decades after very meticulous and thorough historian D. Michael Quinn called them out on it in early 1985

In their latest Topic article on plural marriage, the LDS Church confesses thusly: 
" plural marriage...was instituted among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 1840s. Thereafter, for more than half a century, plural marriage was practiced by some Latter-day Saints."
Understand, "more than half a century" from the early 1840s means that it continued past 1890 when LDS president Wilford Woodruff pronounced, "in the most solemn manner, declare that...We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice."  

Now the LDS Church very subtly admits Woodruff, the fourth prophet, was a liar. The Topic confesses:
"On an exceptional basis, some new plural marriages were performed between 1890 and 1904, especially in Mexico and Canada, outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law; a small number of plural marriages were performed within the United States during those years. In 1904, the Church strictly prohibited new plural marriages."
In the last Topic on Race, they told us that 11 prophets from Brigham Young to the first part of Spencer Kimball's tenure as LDS president, their mouthpieces of God declared false doctrine and continued false practices of racism and denying their version of salvation to a large class of people.  They admitted as well that their Book of Mormon, their Book of Abraham and Book of Moses are false concerning the dark skin curse they preach in the canon of scripture held sacred by LDS members.  

Now, we find out they also lied about polygamy in their own scripture.  In Official Declaration 1 of the D&C, Woodruff didn't qualify the exceptional basis or the Mexico and Canada angle.  He said (in 1890), "We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice."  

I am very happy to see the LDS Church admitting that from 1890 to 1904 their prophets lied.  LDS president Woodruff in the most solemn manner declared that they weren't practicing polygamy.  He even crossed his fingers when he said it, adding:  "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray... If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray..."

Given this admission of a lie and the pronouncement that God would remove him if he lied, can we finally agree that since God didn't remove him or any of the subsequent liars--I mean prophets--that their God is absent, if not invisibly non-existent?

All that aside, what I really want to address is the whitewashing the new Topic gives on sexism.  The plural marriage article says this:
"Women were free to choose their spouses, whether to enter into a polygamous or monogamous union, or whether to marry at all."
Hm.  Let's examine one case.  Thirty-seven year old Joseph Smith's attempts to "convince" Helen Mar Kimball, at age 14 (23 years his younger), to marry him after he'd already married several other women (including other men's wives) were coercion at best.  Said Smith to Helen: "If you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father’s household & all of your kindred."

Before he'd ensured her of exaltation, Helen said of the idea of marrying an already married man, "my sensibilities were painfully touched. I felt such a sense of personal injury and displeasure." 

After laying the guilt of her entire family's salvation on her accepting Joseph Smith's proposal, she said, "This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward."  

She called herself an ewe lamb and after marrying Smith, said she "thought myself  an abused child, and that it was pardonable if I did murmur."

The thoughts of this young 14 year old girl break my heart, as a father of a young teen girl.  Remember, she was just a newborn baby girl when Joseph Smith was 24, the year he published the Book of Mormon and began his designs on other women.  I wondered, as I read the plural marriage topic article, if this was in the mind of the current Topic writers when they wrote:
"[P]lural marriage was a religious principle that required personal sacrifice. Accounts left by men and women who practiced plural marriage attest to the challenges and difficulties they experienced, such as financial difficulty, interpersonal strife, and some wives’ longing for the sustained companionship of their husbands."
"Virtually all of those practicing it in the earliest years had to overcome their own prejudice against plural marriage and adjust to life in polygamous families."
"Church leaders recognized that plural marriages could be particularly difficult for women. Divorce was therefore available to women who were unhappy in their marriages; remarriage was also readily available."
All the talk about how the poor polygamists's as if they're trying to turn them into victims. Well, at least they're half right. The women were victims of exploitative men.  

The LDS Topic writers defend against this charge of exploitation, saying:
"Outside opponents mounted a campaign against the practice, stating that they hoped to protect Mormon women and American civilization. For their part, many Latter-day Saint women publicly defended the practice of plural marriage, arguing in statements that they were willing participants."

Really?  Willing participants?  This is hardly the case, when your core scripture reveals the following words of the Lord:   
"For behold, I (God) reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned." (Doctrine and Covenants 132:4)    
In that same section of LDS Scripture, Joseph Smith's first and only legal wife, Emma Smith, was told:
"But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord... But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said; and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundred-fold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the eternal worlds.  And again, verily I say, let mine handmaid forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses." (D&C 132:54-56)

Emma was told that if she didn't accept polygamy and let Joseph marry other women, the Lord would destroy her and then Joseph would marry as many wives as he wanted.  She'd better not take other men, and she'd better forgive him his trespasses in the barn with Fanny or else!

So, with this established doctrine on the frontiers of Utah in Mormon polygamy compounds, with no where in thousands of miles and no money to help these wives escape, the LDS Church tells us the women had a choice and that they were willing participants.  Right.  

Sigh. The spin the LDS Historians put on this... It's as if they're whitewashing the women and spinning them dry.   Sexism still reigns in Utah, in the halls at Church History dept, among the writers of essays trying to come clean.  The dirtiness of their words still clings.

The Topic article never addresses the trespasses of child brides by several of the early LDS prophets.  I won't get into the details, but this graphic which Bart at Mormoninfographics produced (we collaborated on it in August 2013) summarizes the child brides of prophets nicely.

Note: it's interesting how the historians writing the topic say, Outside opponents mounted a campaign against the practice, stating that they hoped to protect Mormon women and American civilization.  This sounds suspiciously a lot like the justifications the LDS Church gives for its defense of traditional marriage.

“Again I told her [Emma] I heard that one night she missed Joseph and Fanny Alger. She went to the barn and saw him and Fanny in the barn together alone. She looked through a crack and saw the transaction!! She told me this story too was verily true.”

- William McLellin, 1872 letter to Joseph Smith III, see In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, by Todd Compton, p. 35

Monday, December 16, 2013

♪ Follow The Public ♬ ♪ Follow The Public ♬

Recently, the LDS Church released this statement in its "Race And Priesthood" topic article:

 “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was restored amidst a highly contentious racial culture in which whites were afforded great privilege. ... The justifications for this restriction echoed the widespread ideas about racial inferiority that had been used to argue for the legalization of black “servitude” in the Territory of Utah.

In other words, they were just following the crowd.  Wait, I thought the point of having a prophet was to lead the people!

Mormon Apostle Elder James Talmage wrote in his “Great Apostasy” about the Great (western) Schism of the early 15th century, in which three men simultaneously claimed to be the true Pope. Their claims were political, not theological, and each disavowed the others, until some were forced to resign or be excommunicated.

We now seem to witness the beginning of a Mormon Schism, which resulted from an apostasy of doctrine against racism, as God is no respecter of persons.  From Brigham Young through ten prophet administrations until the 12th prophet, Spencer Kimball, the current prophet disavows each as leading a whole race to damnation.  They also disavow their own scripture, telling us that God never cursed anyone with dark skin.  However, they waited to tell us this decades (if not more than a century) after the public already knew it.  The Mormon Church is woefully behind the times.

The Catholic Church has had its list of “behinds” and has now apologized for slavery of Mesoamerica and Africa, injustices against women, for preaching geocentric doctrines, for inactivity during the Holocaust and many more.  The Mormons haven’t apologized for anything yet.  In any event, it shows that mainstream religions tend to walk paces behind public secularism.  Most of us expect the Catholics to announce their acceptance of gay partnerships and perhaps even gay marriage.  The Mormons will eventually cave on this.

The bible and Mormon scripture have outdated ideologies with morals that even children can see are distasteful, if not repugnant.  Leaders of churches have in past time given fiery rhetoric against various classes and people in ways we find disgraceful today.  They have hidden physical, emotional and sexual abuse enacted by their leaders or hidden by their priests and bishops, only to admit them when the voluminous public voice decries them.

Given the public leads the “Church” (used generally), it seems I should like to encourage my fellow secularists to avoid reading their scriptures and singing their hymns from this time forward.  Don’t go to their meetings and don’t interact with their believing members.  Avoid praying, fasting or otherwise listening to them.  They will lead you astray.  Trust the secular public. 

Follow The Public   Follow The Public   It knows the way… ♪

Ok, I know, that’s absurd.  We secularists don’t go around telling you to avoid studying the religions, avoiding their members and meetings or not to pray.  We tell you, go ahead, do all those things, decide for yourself.  We’re cocksure that if you keep an open mind when you experiment with religion, your head will clear and you’ll decide to follow the (secular) public.

And no, I'm not declaring secularism infallible or always right. But like science, it works out the correct path by self-correction and way ahead of educts from religious prophets who are supposedly infallible mouthpieces of God.  As I've written before, the reason science and secularism works so much better is because science has labs, the Church has only belief systems. 

The schism at play right now is very interesting.  Most Mormons don’t even know it exists, but you can be sure the leaders do. They’re disavowing and, if it were possible, would posthumously excommunicate Brother Brigham.  By the end of the Great Mormon Schism, you can bet current leaders will be characters of controversy for their policies against gays, for denying priesthood to women, for mall profits, for ignoring the poor and generally changing a lot of money.  Members will look back and the public will retroactively cleanse the temple.

Like spring deer, members are unknowing abandoned to the hunters next fall

Monday, December 9, 2013

Prophetic Segregation: throwing past leaders under the back of the bus

As many of you know, recently the LDS Church released its second essay in the Topic section on Race and Priesthood.  We've predicted these would come soon (see here, here and here).  

There’s much to laud.  They acknowledge that all races are equal and should be respected the same. They acknowledge that they have a checkered, even shady past in this regard.  They emphasize God’s love for all humanity.  The Church is disavowing past, present and future racism. 

However, in doing so, they segregate Joseph Smith from Brigham Young and subsequent leaders up to Kimball, and throw the middle group of leaders under the back of the bus.

In fact, I dare say, their words in the Topic dismantle much of the LDS Church itself.

Here are some of the claims in the essay (not in the order presented in the Topic).

Disavowing past, marginalizing their future
Claim: “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”

I congratulate the LDS Church for marginalizing its own "theories" (e.g., "teachings")  of the past.  I congratulate them on condemning the theoretical racism of their own leaders.  They had 11 prophets that continued racism policies.  They don’t explicitly name them or call them out, except to condemn Brigham Young in one breath:

No one knows
Claim: “President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood... Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.”

This is like their press-release in early 2012  "It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago..."

They don't know how it happened, except that Brigham Young started it and was entirely wrong.  And then they slyly, implicitly exonerate Brigham Young in the next breath with, “Church leaders pondered promises made by prophets such as Brigham Young that black members would one day receive priesthood and temple blessings.”

What did Brigham promise?  They don’t quote him in the Topic. So I will do it for you.

“When all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, p.272.)

The blacks had to wait for the whites to be served? That's their exoneration and explanation?  Is that what happened in 1978?  Then why did the LDS Church continue missionary work in white communities?  Hmmm.

It is also clear that Brigham Young did not always or even often believe this would change. "This will always be so," he said.

"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110, empasis added at end)

Perhaps he changed his mind.  That doesn’t explain why the subsequent 11 prophets continued his racist ways.  The Topic doesn’t really offer any good explanation for this except to say their church was “restored amidst a highly contentious racial culture in which whites were afforded great privilege.” And “The justifications for this restriction echoed the widespread ideas about racial inferiority that had been used to argue for the legalization of black “servitude” in the Territory of Utah.

In other words, they were just following the crowd.  Wait, I thought the point of having a prophet was to lead the people! 

We're supposedly in the most wicked times, near the end times, and the prophet is supposed to guide us with higher morals and a brighter star.  Yet, they now argue the past leaders were just caught up in the culture, so we can excuse their lack of moral understanding and courage because the rest of the world was also a mess on race issues.  Does the prophet get a pass either way?

In fact, there’s a revelation that says if the prophet ever misleads the people, he will be removed by God.  It’s in the D&C, in Official Declaration 1

“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.” (Wilford Woodruff, Official Declaration 1)

The LDS Church tells us that its prophets followed the racist precepts of the world.  It tells us that, “Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”  Why didn't the Lord remove the false 11 prophets from their place?  Was Wilford Woodruff wrong?  So that means they Can lead members astray? 

The LDS Church tacitly admits that the previous statement, that the Lord won’t allow a prophet to lead the members astray, is false.  For nearly 150 years the prophets have led the people astray with racist policies and the current prophet administration does not know why this happened, they just know firmly, racism is wrong.  That repudiation of the former policy, of hundreds of statements made by Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, Bruce McConkie, and many more effectively opens the gate to an understanding that the current administrating prophets could be absolutely dead wrong on policies they have in place currently.

How does anyone know when to trust these men if they can be wrong about the salvation of an entire group of people for almost 150 years, through 11 administrations?  Why should we trust their current policies on gay marriage, tithing distribution to investments and more?

Some not as equal as others
Claim: “Church President David O. McKay emphasized that the restriction extended only to men of black African descent. The Church had always allowed Pacific Islanders to hold the priesthood, and President McKay clarified that black Fijians and Australian Aborigines could also be ordained to the priesthood and instituted missionary work among them.”

Interestingly, the reason, we can speculate, for this segregation of some black members receiving the priesthood and others not is to do with the Book of Mormon Lamanites.  The theory was, at the time of McKay, that the Fijians and other pacific aborigines were descendants of the Lamanites.  Skin color wasn’t the issue. It was national culture. African blacks were bad. Pacific blacks okay.  However, science has shown all the human population can trace their roots to Africa.  How does that square with Brigham Young’s promise that Africans would have to wait for “the rest of the children have received their blessings” before they get theirs, when we are all, to an extent, Africans?

Joseph good, Brigham bad
Claim: “During the first two decades of the Church’s existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood… There is no evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.”

This claim is to help the LDS Church buoy up Joseph Smith as not a racist.  However, the Book of Abraham, Moses and Book of Mormon, which he produced, teach very racist doctrines.  For example, 2 Nephi 5:21 still says:

“And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, and they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.”

3 Nephi 2:12-15 continues to teach that dark-skinned Lamanites who converted unto the Lord had their curse“taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites.”

Moses 7:22 says, "And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them."

The Topic said, "Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse..."

Did they just disavow the Book of Mormon???!!  And the Book of Moses?  and Book of Abraham (Abra 1:23-26)?

Furthermore, one of the very basic tenets of Mormonism is racist at heart.  All members are segregated into racial groups according to the tribes of Israel.  If you are not directly part of or adopted into the lineage of Abraham, you cannot fulfill the requirements of salvation and exaltation.  When one gets a patriarchal blessing, the declaration of lineage is always made to that race.  Implied strongly in this is that Asians, Blacks, Indians, Amerindians, and others are not chosen.  They must at some level (blood or spiritual) declare and align themselves with the race of a Bedouin tribe or else be damned.

No matter how they try to paint Joseph Smith good, Brigham Young bad, the current leaders are still marred in the mess of the Book of Mormon and generally by their Abrahamic doctrines which are at heart racist.  And it shows in their other policies.

God not a respecter
Claim: “It affirms that God is “no respecter of persons” and emphatically declares that anyone who is righteous—regardless of race—is favored of Him.”

Claim: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the universal human family. Latter-day Saint scripture and teachings affirm that God loves all of His children and makes salvation available to all.”

Tell that latter to the gays.  Enough said.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The First re-Vision of Joseph Smith

Gordon B. Hinckley taught the First Vision of Joseph Smith is the hinge pin on which this whole cause turns. If the First Vision was true, if it actually happened, then the Book of Mormon is true. Then we have the priesthood. Then we have the Church organization and all of the other keys and blessings of authority which we say we have. If the First Vision did not occur, then we are involved in a great sham. It is just that simple.” 
(Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 227, emphasis added.)

In other words by Hinckley:  “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… upon that unique and wonderful experience stands the validity of this church.” (General Conference, Oct 2002)

The LDS Church recently put out a new article in its Topic section to address critical analysis of the multiple First Vision accounts written and published by Joseph Smith.  In the rebuttal Topic article, they have made a few claims which will be addressed below. 

Consistent Story
Claim:  “The various accounts of the First Vision tell a consistent story, though naturally they differ in emphasis and detail.”

Generally, the article argues the consistency is found in that “Joseph Smith testified repeatedly that he experienced a remarkable vision of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.“  And that: “A basic harmony in the narrative across time must be acknowledged at the outset: three of the four accounts clearly state that two personages appeared to Joseph Smith in the First Vision. “

Here are the words from the actual accounts.
1832 version:  “I saw the Lord”
1835 version: “a personage appeard in the midst…another personage soon appeard like unto the first…and I saw many angels in this vision” (sic)
1838 version:  “I saw two personages… One of them spake unto me calling me by name and said ‘This is my beloved Son, Hear him.’ “ (sic)
1842 version: “saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other”

The number of personages, the angels and events surrounding his first vision change (see the table below).  A more consistent thread through the versions is that he never actually names the personage(s) appearing. The claim that Joseph Smith testified specifically that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him is not founded in his own words.  He repeatedly said “personages”. Only in the 1832 account did he say the being was “the Lord”. Never did he say “God”.  In the 1838 version, he stated that one of the personages was a “Son” using the phrase found in the gospels when Jesus was baptized, implying that the personage was Jesus Christ.  Other LDS leaders taught that the personages were in fact God the Father and Jesus Christ.  Why wouldn’t Joseph Smith have clearly taught this?  Given that he named Moroni specifically in his 1823 and subsequent visions, it stands to reason he would have named God and Jesus.  One could possibly mistake the idea of a father and son vision for Mormon and Moroni.

It’s important to note that earlier accounts refer to an angel, a spirit, many angels, or the Lord. The story in its present form with the Father and the Son, did not appear until 1838.  Why did it take 18 years before Joseph Smith finally implied that the Father and the Son appeared to him?

Sins Forgiven
Pillar of Fire
Beings named
Told No True Church
“the Lord”
Light only

**The Topic article fails to mention that Joseph Smith wrote about his First Vision a second time in 1835, found at

It’s also interesting to note that the version found in the Pearl of Great Price was edited over three times (see   firsthand items 4-6) before it was finally edited a fourth time and published in the Times and Season, March 15, 1842, vol. 3, no. 10, pp. 727-728, 748-749, 753.  Joseph Smith worked on perfecting his account over many years. 

The variations and differences are explained by the LDS Church in the Topic article by increasing insight and by emphasis on different aspects.

Increasing Insight
Claim: “Joseph’s increasingly specific descriptions can thus be compellingly read as evidence of increasing insight, accumulating over time, based on experience.”

That Joseph Smith increased his insights into his own vision over time, based on further experience is undermined by the change in his central claims in the early and later versions.  He named the one personage “the Lord” in the 1832 version and later did not name him again.  The motivation for inquiring in prayer and his answer that he should join no church changed considerably between the versions.  What is really changing, over time, is Joseph Smith’s claim on divine right.  The general progression is from lower claims of divinity to more and more grandeur claims of direct connection to God.  As his followers believed in his claims, he strengthen the divine nature and increased the embellishment in his accounts.

Changing Emphasis & Memory
Claim: “Historians expect that when an individual retells an experience in multiple settings to different audiences over many years, each account will emphasize various aspects of the experience and contain unique details.”

Emphasizing different aspects is one thing. Contradicting statements between versions are another.

Besides the changing number of beings and angels, besides the changing conditions of pillars or light, of being forgiven or not, there are a few contradictory points found in the various accounts.  One of those, the revival of the 1820s has been noted in the Topic article.  There are several others.  For example, his study of apostasy and his claims of persecution.

Apostasy or not?
In the 1832 account, Joseph wrote:
“by searching the scriptures I found  that mankind  did not come unto the Lord but that  they had apostatised from the true and liveing faith” (sic)

In the 1838 account, he wrote:
"for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong."

Persecution or not?
In the official version Joseph claims he was persecuted by all the churches in his area "because I continued to affirm I had seen a vision."  However, Orsemus Turner, an apprentice printer in Palmyra until 1822, was in the same juvenile debating club with Joseph Smith. He recalled that Joseph "after catching a spark of Methodism ...became a very passable exhorter in evening meetings" (History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase, 1851, p. 214). Thus, instead of being opposed and persecuted as his 1838 account claims, young Joseph was welcomed and allowed to exhort during the Methodist's evening preaching. Furthermore, no one, either Mormon or non-Mormon, seems ever to have heard of Joseph's encounter with two divine Personages until the 1830s. (See this admission in Dialogue, Autumn 1966, pp. 30-31; Saints Herald, June 29, 1959, pg. 21.)

It's hard to be persecuted at the time when you don't even disclose the event for another decade.

Confusion or creative license?
Any 14 year old boy who studied the bible regularly, who had received a vision of God and Jesus would not get as confused as Joseph Smith seems to have become. 

His shifting emphasis included remembering new phrases like “this is my Son” almost 18 years after the event.   How bad of a memory or shifting of emphasis must one have that when exactly two shining "personages" appear to you, and one says "This is my beloved Son, hear him" that you mistake it for a single personage, then an angel, and then a chorus of angels, then God the Father and Jesus?

This is like saying "I had lunch with a White House intern the other day. No, wait, it was all of the White House interns. No wait, it was the Vice President. No wait, it was the President who introduced me to the Vice President by name and told me he loved me."

Joseph Smith’s mother said about her son, “During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelings, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.” (Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith The Prophet, Lucy Mack Smith).

Joseph had a propensity to imagination and stories.  Could the evolving emphasis, contradictions and differences be more about creativity than the Creator?

Faith, Not Fact
Claim: “Neither the truth of the First Vision nor the arguments against it can be proven by historical research alone.”

How does the LDS Church expect members to find absolute truth?  Through inexact feelings.  “Knowing the truth of Joseph Smith’s testimony requires each earnest seeker of truth to study the record and then exercise sufficient faith in Christ to ask God in sincere, humble prayer whether the record is true. If the seeker asks with the real intent to act upon the answer revealed by the Holy Ghost, the truthfulness of Joseph Smith’s vision will be manifest.”

The LDS Church prefers that you use feelings of faith to accept and believe the First Vision, and that you not analyze the various accounts using logic and rational thinking alone.   If we apply this same advice to other events in history, then it opens a conundrum. 

Joseph Smith's claim that “I had seen a vision, I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it” is not all that different than the claim made by prophets in other world religions.  If Mormons are to ignore historical issues and pray about the truth of Joseph Smith's Vision, then they should acknowledge the Muslims who've pray about Muhammad's First Revelation when the angel Gabriel visited him and revealed a verse in the Quran.  If Mormons are to dismiss inconsistencies in Smith's accounts, then they should likewise ignore the issues in Scientology of soul discovery, E-meters, auditing and more; and study determinedly about the truthfulness of Hubbard’s religion.  If LDS members accept Joseph Smith's increasing divine claims in his accounts, they should open their hearts to miraculous claims by the millions following recently deceased mystic Sathya Sai Baba.  When one primarily uses feelings to overcome historical inconsistencies and logical flaws, then one either holds to personal biases to remain faithful, or opens oneself to believing all kinds of diverse and strange claims. 

The LDS Church prefers you rely on feelings they define for you.  Feelings are more easily manipulated than facts. They've had over a century to correct the facts, and they still can't quite spin them right.