The second vision that Joseph Smith had recorded concerns the background information of how he was to have learned about the plates of gold that he said contained an ancient record of the ancient inhabitants who had lived in America prior to the first voyage of Columbus in 1492. The month of September is given but the year 1822 is considered an error since other accounts has this vision and trip to a nearby hill as the year 1823.
Though this is not the earliest story told, this account is as Joseph Smith told it in Ohio in the year 1832. When the account of the visit by an angel was told there was no clear name given to the angel. In time this was understood to have been the last historian who kept the record recorded on plates. His name was Moroni. Smith said he had been visited by a number of angels at different times. This may account for names of the angel who first appeared to him and the angel who delivered the plates to him. See note at the end of the three accounts.
These accounts of Joseph Smith's second vision shown development as the message and events become clearer over time. Noticeable is remembrance of the biblical passages. The recollection of Malachi, chapter four being referred to by the angel in the 1835 account becomes theological by the time of the 1838 telling. By the time of the later account the promise that Elijah would come was considered by Joseph Smith to have occurred two years before in 1836.
The 1838 account produced with Smith's cooperation should be understood as a theological or faith account of what he said he experienced. Understanding this helps in many ways. It explains why earlier accounts that come from members of the Smith family (Joseph Smith, Jr. and his father, Joseph Smith, Sr.), are at variance with the younger's later accounts. See chapter five from Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record for an insight into what was told in the pre-1831 years.
Chapter 5, "The Treasure" at Mormon Origins Web Site
The following account was recorded by Frederick G. Williams except for the first four words which are in Joseph Smith's handwriting.
The below account is believed to have been written in November 1832. The original spelling is followed. In a few manuscripts punctuation and capital letters have been supplied to facilitate readability. Words in manuscripts that appear above the line are indicated by angled brackets < >. Words crossed through not included.
but after many days I fell into transgressions and sinned in many things which brought a wound upon my soul and there were many things which transpired that cannot be writ[t]en and my Fathers family have suffered many persicutions [persecutions] and afflictions
and it came to pass when I was seventeen years of age I called again upon the Lord and he shewed unto me a heavenly vision for behold an angel of the Lord came and stood before me and it was by night and he called me by name and he said the Lord had forgiven me my sins and he revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester Ontario County N.Y. there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni [Moroni] & his fathers the servants of the living God in ancient days and deposited by the commandments of God and kept by the power thereof and that I should go and get them and he revealed unto me many things concerning the inhabitants of the earth which since have been revealed in commandments & revelations
and it was on the 22d day of Sept. AD 1822 and thus he appeared unto me three times in one night and once on the next day and then I immediately went to the place and found where the plates was deposited as the angel of the Lord had commanded me and straightway made three attempts to get them and then being exce[e]dingly frightened I supposed it had been a dreem [dream] of Vision but when I consid[e]red I knew it was not
therefore I cried unto the Lord in the agony of my soul why can I not obtain them behold the angel appeared unto me again and said unto me you have not kept the commandments of the Lord which I gave unto you therefore you cannot now obtain them for the time is not yet fulfilled therefore thou wast left unto temptation that thou mightest be made acquainted with the power of the advisary therefore repent and call on the Lord thou shalt be forgiven and in his own due time thou shalt obtain them
for now I had been tempted of the advisary and saught [sought] the Plates to obtain riches and kept not the commandment that I should have an eye single to the glory of God therefore I was chastened and saught [sought] diligently to obtain the plates and obtained them not untill I was twenty one years of age
(Joseph Smith Letterbook, 1:3-5, LDS archives)
The following is an account of what Joseph Smith told Robert Matthews. It was recorded by Warren Parrish, a scribe to Joseph Smith.
When I was about 17 years old I saw another vision of angels in the night season after I had retired to bed I had not been a sleep, but was meditating upon my past life and experience, I was verry concious [conscious] that I had not kept the commandments, and I repented hartily for all my sins and transgression, and humbled myself before Him <whose eyes are over all things>, all at once the room was il[l]uminated above the brightness of the sun an angel appeared before me, his hands and feet were naked pure and white, and he stood between the floors of the room, clothed with purity inexpressible, he said unto me I am a messenger sent from God, be faithful and keep his commandments in all things, he told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the Indians were the literal descendants of Abraham he explained many of the prophesies to me, one I will mention which is in Malachi 4 chapt[er]. behold the day of the Lord cometh &c. also that the Urim and Thum[m]im, was hid up with the record, and that God would give me power to translate it, with the assistance of this instrument he then gradually vanished out of my sight, or the vision closed, while meditating on what I had seen, the angel appear[e]d to me again and related the same things and much more, also the third time bearing the same tidings, and departed; during the time I was in this vision I did not realize any thing around me except what was shown me in this communication: after the vision had all passed, I found that it was nearly day-light, the family soon arose, I got up also:--on that day while in the field at work with my Father he asked me if I was sick I relyed, I had but little strenght [strength], he told me to go to the house, I started and went part way and was finally deprived of my strength and fell, but how long I remained I do not know; the Angel came to me again and commanded me to go and tell my Father, what I had seen and heard, I did so, he wept and told me that it was a vision from God to attend to it I went and found the place, where the plates were, according to the direction of the Angel, also saw them, and the angel as before; the powers of darkness strove hard against me. I called on God, the Angel told me that the reason why I could not obtain the plates at this time was because I was under transgression, but to come again in one year from that time, I did so, but did not obtain them also the third and the fourth year, at which time I obtained them, and translated them into the english language, by the gift and power of God and have been preaching it ever since.
(Joseph Smith 1835-26 Journal, entry of 9 Nov. 1835, 24-26, LDS archives)
The initial draft of this history was written during a four-day period by George W. Robinson in 1838. In 1839 it was copied by James Mulholland, another of Smith's scribes, into what is known today as the Manuscript History of the Church, Book A-1. The A-1 book was revised before and after its first publication and is now considered to be Smith's official narrative. It incorporates an account of Smith's early religious calling and has served as the basis for virtually all later official and semi-official histories of the church.
We present the following extract from the Manuscript History written in 1839 by Mulholland before it was edited for publication in the Times and Seasons.
During the space of time which intervened between the time I had the vision and the year Eighteen hundred and twenty three, (having been forbidden to join any of the religious sects of the day, and being of very tender years and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends, and to have treated me kindly and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavoured in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me) I was left to all kinds of temptations, and mingling <with> all kinds of society I frequently <fell> into many foolish errors and displayed the weakness of youth and the corruption of human nature which I am sorry to say led me into divers temptations to the gratification of many appetites offensive in the sight of God.
In consequence of these things I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when on the evening of the above mentioned twenty first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me that I might know of my state and standing before him. For I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation as I had previously had one.
While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in the room which continued to increase untill the room was lighter than at noonday <when> immediately a personage <appeared> at my bedside standing in the air for his feet did not touch the floor. He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond any<thing> earthly I had ever seen, nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedin[g]ly white and brilliant, His hands were naked and his arms also a little above the wrists. So also were his feet naked as were his legs a little above the ankles. His head and neck were also bare. I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open so that I could see into his bosom. Not only was his robe exceedingly white but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him I was afraid, but the fear soon left me.
He called me by name and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me and that his name was Nephi. That God had a work for me to do, and that my <name> should be had for good and evil among all nations kindreds and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.
He said there was a book deposited written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fullness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it as delivered by the Saviour to the ancient inhabitants. Also that there were two stones in silver bows and these (put into a breast plate) which constituted what is called the Urim & Thummim deposited with the plates, and that was what constituted seers in ancient or former times and that God <had> prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.
After telling me these things he commenced quoting the prophecies of the old testament, he first quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi and he quoted also the fourth or last chapter of the same prophecy though with a little variation from the way it reads in our Bibles. Instead of quoting the first verse as reads in our books he quoted it thus, "For behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud <yea> and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble, for <they> that cometh shall burn them saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch."
And again he quoted the fifth verse thus, "Behold I will reveal unto you the Priesthood by the hand of Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." He also quoted the next verse differently. "And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers, if it were not so the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming." In addition to these he quoted the Eleventh Chapter of Isaiah saying that it was about to be fulfilled. He quoted also the third chapter of Acts, twenty second and twenty third verses precisely as they stand in our new testament. He said that that prophet was Christ, but the day had not yet come when "they who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people," but soon would come.
He also quoted the second chapter of Joel from the twenty eight to the last verse. He also said that this was not yet fulfilled but was soon to be. And he further stated the fullness of the gentiles was soon to come in. He quoted many other passages of scripture and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here. Again he told me that when I got those plates of which he had spoken (for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled) I should not show <them> to any person, neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them. If I did I should be destroyed.
While he was conversing with me about the plates the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited and that so clearly and distinctly that I knew the place again when I visited it.
After this communication I saw the light in the room begin to gather immediately around the person of him who had been speaking to me, and it continued to do so untill the room was again left dark except just round him, when instantly I saw as it were a conduit open right up into heaven, and he ascended up till he entirely disappeared and the room was left as it had been before this heavenly light had made its appearance.
I lay musing on the singularity of the scene and marvelling greatly at what had been told me by this extraordinary messenger, when in the midst of my meditation I suddenly discovered that my room was again beginning to get lighted, and in an instant as it were, the same heavenly messenger was again by my bedside. He commenced and again related the very same things which he had done at his first visit without the least variation which having done, he informed me of great judgements which were coming upon the earth, with great desolations by famine, sword, and pestilence, and that these grievous judgements would come on the earth in this generation: Having related these things he again ascended as he had done before.
By this time so deep were the impressions made on my mind that sleep had fled from my eyes and I lay overwhelmed in astonishment at what I had both seen and heard:
But what was my surprise when again I beheld the same messenger at my bed side, and heard him rehearse or repeat over again to me the same things as before and added a caution to me, telling me that Satan would try to tempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father's family) to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich, This he forbid me, saying that I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive but that of building his kingdom, otherwise I could not get them.
After this third visit he again ascended up into heaven as before and I was again left to ponder on the strangeness of what I had just experienced, when almost immediately after the heavenly messenger had ascended from me the third time, the cock crew, and I found that day was approaching so that our interviews must have occupied the whole of that night. I shortly after arose from my bed, and as usual went to the necessary labors of the day, but in attempting to labor as at other times, I found my strength so exhausted as rendered me entirely unable.
My father who was laboring along <with> me discovered something to be wrong with me and told me to go home. I started with the intention of going to the house, but in attempting to cross the fence out of the field where we were, my strength entirely failed me and I fell helpless on the ground and for a time was quite unconscious of any thing. The first thing that I can recollect was a voice speaking unto me calling me by name. I looked up and beheld the same messenger standing over my head surrounded by light as before. He then again related unto me all that he had related to me the previous night, and commanded me to go to my father and tell him of the vision and commandments which I had received.
I obeyed. I returned back to my father in the field and rehearsed the whole matter to him. He replyed to me, that it was of God, and to go and do as commanded by the messenger. I left the field and went to the place where the messenger had told me the plates were deposited, and owing to the distinctness of the vision which I had had concerning it, I knew the place the instant that I arrived there.
Under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all round was covered with earth. Having removed the earth and obtained a lever which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up, I looked in and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim and the Breastplate as stated by the messenger.
The box in which they lay was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement, in the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them. I made an attempt to take them out but was forbidden by the messenger and was again informed that the time <for> bringing them forth had not yet arrived, neither would untill four years from that time, but he told me that I should come to that place precisely in one year from that time, and that he would there meet with me, and that I should continue to do so untill the time should come for obtaining the plates.
Accordingly as I had been commanded I went at the end of each year, and at each time I found the same messenger there and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days.
(Manuscript History, Book A-1:4-7, LDS archives)
A week after it was recorded that the personage's name was Nephi, Smith spent the afternoon "in answering the questions proposed in the Elders Journal" (Scriptory Book of Joseph Smith, 39, entry for 8 May 1838, LDS archives). Question number four was, "How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon?" Smith answered, "Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead, and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them, and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which, I translated the plates; and thus came the book of Mormon" (Elders' Journal 1 [July 1838]: 42-43, Far West, Missouri).
Some writers have concluded that both Moroni and Nephi visited Smith, others feel that the name Nephi was a clerical error in the manuscript, though it was never corrected by Smith. The current version in the Pearl of Great Price says it was Moroni who appeared in the bedroom.
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