The First Vision.
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Note: Since the publication of this article, the Mormon Church has published a series of essays (see 'Updates and Comments' page), regarding difficult historical problems they face.
In late 2013, they published one finally accepting and acknowledging the fact that there were multiple (and conflicting) first vision accounts recorded by Joseph Smith over a number of years. The vision is claimed to have occurred in 1820. However, the only accounts Smith ever wrote or dictated were during 1832, 1835 and 1838 - and they are all very different.
The 'God and Jesus, appearing as two separate beings' account first appeared in 1838. Backdated eighteen years, it is the official version that the Church promotes today.
The carefully worded essay deliberately manipulates and even omits some vital facts - such as in the second version, by saying: "This account also notes the appearance of angels in the vision" leading people to assume that this is in addition to God and Jesus appearing, as members are so familiar with the story. They neglect to say that it ONLY notes angels, and that no forms of deity are mentioned as appearing at all. Smith didn't invent the 'God and Jesus appearing together' idea until much later - in 1838.
It is this kind of continuing manipulation of the truth that the Church relies on to keep members in the dark whilst pretending to finally come clean about lies and deceptions of the past. Make of the essay what you will, the conspiracy to deceive continues unabated. This is the link:
Compare the way the Church presents its case with the facts contained in the article below:
The First Vision -
The Joseph Smith Story
“Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith.
He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed
and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds
this world has ever seen.
There is no middle ground.
…the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth.
If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear
many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect.”
Joseph Fielding Smith, President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles; later Mormon Church President.
(Doctrines of Salvation, 1954, vol. 1, p. 188).
The following account contains no personal opinions and no suppositions. It is history, as recorded by Joseph Smith himself in his various writings and supported by others who knew him.
Members and investigators of the Mormon Church are taught that in the spring of the year 1820, Joseph Smith experienced a glorious vision of God and Jesus Christ. Mormons believe Smith was persecuted from the start for telling all and sundry of his visionary experience. It is assumed by members of the Mormon Church that he immediately told his family about the occurrence. Most Mormons think the version we read in ‘Joseph Smith–History’ was the first and the only version of claimed events, recorded shortly after his experience.
People take that concept to the Lord in prayer and then consider their subsequent ‘testimony’ that it really happened, to have come to their minds in an answer to that prayer from the Lord himself. After that, they rely on their faith to sustain them regarding any awkward questions that arise. After all, if Smith had that vision and later translated the Book of Mormon, a ‘testimony’ of which is also gained through the very same ethereal means, verification of the rest hardly seems necessary.
However, suppose Joseph Smith was not telling the truth. How would we ever determine that? The fact of the matter is that if Smith did lie, then the ‘witness’ one received could not have come from God after all; it was just the result of wishful thinking.
So… what really did happen, and what evidence is there to prove the real sequence of events which led to Smith’s claim? Only that will determine the truth. The following evidence should fully answer that question.
The first thing to understand is that Joseph Smith did not record the ‘official version’ of his ‘First Vision’, as now used by the Mormon Church, until the year 1838, and it wasn’t even published until 1842, some twenty-two years after his supposed experience.
This was a complete surprise to me, as Joseph Smith claimed he told anyone and everyone who would listen all about it immediately following the event. However, it will be discovered that this was not the case at all.
Regarding Smith’s original claim of a First Vision; he first considered the concept in 1832. Smith’s record, dated in 1832, appears within the work A History of the life of Joseph Smith, partly written by his then scribe, Frederick G. Williams and partly (including this version of events) in Smith’s very own handwriting. In it, Smith declares that between the ages of twelve and fifteen he became exceedingly distressed concerning the situation of the world and of his own sins, and concluded that mankind had: “apostatised [sic] from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
This is an astonishing conclusion for Smith to have written down in his own hand in 1832 as it completely contradicts the official version (written in 1838 and first published in 1842) wherein Smith claims that he went to the grove “to know which of the sects was right” and that “at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong.” We now know this was not the case from Smith’s personally handwritten claim of 1832.
Smith’s 1832 account goes on to state that he was in his sixteenth year of age [age 15]. In the later official version, he was only fourteen. Within the pillar of light – originally written as ‘fire’, which Smith crossed out – the Lord, assumed to be Jesus Christ, appeared alone and addressed Smith as his son.
It is also interesting to note that this account is very similar to reported experiences of several other young men of the time who, seeking forgiveness of sins also claimed to have seen the Lord. A number of accounts were published which Joseph Smith had ready access to.1 Smith’s own claim never appeared anywhere at the supposed time of 1820, or when he wrote this in 1832.
The location, later represented as a grove of trees, is not mentioned and there is no mention of any revival. In this account, Smith is not tormented by an evil force; he is filled with the spirit of God and has his sins forgiven, consistent with published stories of other young people who had claimed similar experiences.
In 1835, within a week, Smith attempted two further First Vision accounts. In the first one, Smith relates what he told “Joshua the Jewish Minister” (an alias for ‘Matthias the Prophet’ who was actually from another cult). One personage appeared in the pillar of “flame”, then a second personage appeared who forgave Smith’s sins and testified that “Jesus Christ is the son of God”, thus clearly identifying the fact that neither visitor was actually the Saviour as He is only spoken of in the third person. Neither ‘personage’ is specifically identified but Smith confirms he saw “many angels” during the vision and that is all. Smith states that he was about fourteen years old: “when I received this first communication.”
Smith then continues in his diary to relate to Joshua “another vision of angels” when he was seventeen, thus indicating that the First Vision was deemed by Smith, in 1835, to be one of angels rather than one of deity.
One would expect to see this record included in Mormon Church history alongside others appearing in History of the Church, Vol. 2 but it is conspicuous by its absence. The Church has simply ignored the account (along with Smith’s visitor) and it has been left out of ‘Joseph Smith–History’ altogether. Presumably, this is because it is inconsistent with the 1838 official version which they prefer. Nevertheless, it was all recorded in Smith’s own personal journal in 1835 and it completely contradicts what he claimed three years later in 1838.
Erastus Holmes visited Joseph Smith the following Saturday afternoon, on 14 November 1835, enquiring about the Church and asking to be instructed. Smith recorded what he said to Holmes, in his diary. Relating the experience of his First Vision, Smith states that he was about fourteen years old when “I received the first visitation of Angels”, unambiguously confirming his intended meaning when he had spoken to Joshua a few days earlier. Smith also writes that he told Holmes about later visitations concerning the Book of Mormon.
Clearly, in late 1835, Smith was still sticking with the idea, in two separate accounts in his own diary, that it was an angel (or angels) rather than deity that first visited him in 1820 at age fourteen.
The exact wording of this version of the First Vision from Smith’s diary was later faithfully published, word for word, in the Church newspaper. (Deseret News, Vol. 2. No. 15, Saturday, 29 May 1852). This published First Vision account by Joseph Smith specifically included the words: “I received the first visitation of Angels.”
However, when the account was entered into History of the Church (V2:312), Joseph Smith’s own wording was deliberately altered. Rather than tell the truth about what Joseph Smith claimed at the time he wrote of the experience, the account was falsified. It was changed from “first visitation of angels” to read “first vision” instead, in order to make it consistent with the later, more dynamic idea the First Vision ultimately became, which was not to be one of angels as Smith had earlier claimed, but one of actual deity. As noted above, the 9th November account as related to Joshua does not even appear in History of the Church at all. Sequentially, it should appear in Vol. 2:312 – but it is not included.
This method of falsifying truth went on to become a regular habit within the Mormon Church. They actually have a name for it. They call it ‘lying for the Lord’ and it still continues to this day.
The fact that Smith’s own record was changed and falsified to suit later thinking clearly shows that the idea of a vision of deity had evolved over time from one of angels rather than it being a first time, first hand, true account of something that actually transpired in 1820. It also evidences the utter contempt the Mormon Church has for historical accuracy and the truth. Smith’s diaries and journals have been published and are available.2
When questioned, the Mormon Church claims each account gradually reveals what happened in the vision, yet the reality is they contradict each other in almost every way. Smith was clearly making it up as he went along. Unless pressed, of course the Mormon Church doesn’t mention the fact there were several conflicting accounts of the vision nor that the official version did not get published for twenty-two years.
If you carefully read JS-History, you will find the following claims (in sequence) made by Joseph Smith himself in the ‘Official Account’ of his ‘First Vision’. The Church extracted the relevant part and included it in the Pearl of Great Price. The following link is to the current ‘First Vision’ page on the Mormon web site containing their scriptures. See ‘Joseph Smith–History.’
It should however be noted that Smith did not write this account; it was penned by his scribe, so no one knows for certain whether all the ideas contained in it were Smiths or if some were provided by other people.
At the start of this, in History of the Church Vol. 1, there is a statement that: “…a history more correct in its details than this was never published.”
Well, we shall see…
1. My father, Joseph Smith, Senior: left… Vermont, and moved to Palmyra… when I was in my tenth year, or thereabouts.  about four years after… he moved with his family into Manchester . [The claimed ‘First Vision’ occurred] …in the second year after our removal to Manchester… .
2. There was a religious revival in the district [in 1820].
3. Great multitudes joined various religious parties.
4. Four of Smith’s family joined the Presbyterians.
5. Smith personally came across and pondered on the scripture, James 1:5.
6. He went to a grove to ask God “which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join.”
7. Smith was told to join with none of them.
8. “A few days later…” the persecution started.
Once you are satisfied that those are Smith’s own surrounding statements, then you are ready to proceed.
Regarding each of the above eight claims that Smith made, the following is the true historical position:
1. The Smiths early moves seem correct. However, the family did not move to Manchester from Palmyra in 1818, two years before the supposed vision. They actually moved there no earlier than July of 1822, two years afterwards. Smith’s youngest sister, Lucy, is also recorded as having been born in Palmyra in 1821. The fact of the matter is that the Smith family did not even live in the claimed area at the time of the supposed First Vision. Local records of the day show otherwise.3
2. There was no religious revival in that area in 1820. There was minor one a couple of years earlier, in 1818, and there was certainly one there in 1824 (possibly even spanning from late 1823-1825 overall).4
3. ‘Great multitudes’ did not join anything in 1820. Half a dozen less Methodists were recorded that year, with a small handful of extra Baptists and Presbyterians (the three main players of the period). During the 1824 revival, there were recorded increases in membership of 99 Presbyterians, 94 Baptists and 208 Methodists. 5
4. Four of the Smith family members did not join the Presbyterians prior to an 1820 First Vision. How do we know? Because Joseph Smith’s mother independently recorded that she and three of Smith’s siblings joined the Presbyterians following the death of Smith’s brother Alvin, in late 1823. That conversion, later mentioned in the Messenger and Advocate, despite apologetic claims, could not have occurred earlier than late 1823-1824.6
5. Smith may well have claimed in 1838 to have found James 1:5 all by himself in 1820, but considering that he didn’t live in the area – where there was no revival – when no multitudes joined any various sects – it is not surprising to learn he also failed to mention the fact that he, along with all the Smith family, attended a sermon given by a Methodist minister (Elder George Lane) who preached on the subject “What Church shall I Join” where his text was James 1:5 which Lane recommended to his listeners. The problem with this for Smith is that Lane didn’t arrive in the area until July of 1824 when the entire Smith family attended the sermon.7
6. Smith’s claim to have gone to a grove of trees to ask God which Church was right is in direct conflict with his earlier personally handwritten statement confirming that he had already concluded they were all wrong.8
7. God told Smith twice in his ‘official’ 1838 account that he should join none of the Churches as they were all wrong. Later in his narrative, Smith reminds us for a third time that he was told this. Yet in 1828, eight years after the supposed vision, Smith joined the Methodist Sunday School – only to be asked to leave again as he was considered an undesirable due to his reputation as a ‘glass-looker’ (a money-digging con artist).9
8. No persecution was encountered during the period in question; a fact that is now unequivocally accepted and admitted by historians from Mormon Church owned Brigham Young University (BYU). I will come back to this important lie later as it ties in with other evidence.
So, every single detail Joseph Smith claimed to have surrounded the vision experience is provably fictitious. But that is just the start. What of the vision itself. Did Smith see God and Jesus as two separate beings with bodies in 1820 as the Church now claims? The answer lies in what Smith actually believed himself at the time.
Bear in mind that the ‘official’ version of the vision was first written down in 1838. Smith wrote the Book of Mormon in 1829; it was published (and the Church was also formed) in 1830; his ‘Inspired Revision’ (IR) of the Bible was written between 1831 and 1834. The Book of Commandments was published in 1833. The 'Lectures on Faith' were written in 1834 and published within the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835. Let’s start with the first – The Book of Mormon.
When Smith and others conspired to write the Book of Mormon, Smith was still entirely monotheistic in his theological outlook. He remained this way until about 1836 when his ‘plurality of Gods’ theology first started to emerge. Thus, both of the handwritten manuscripts as well as the 1830 first edition of the Book of Mormon were monotheistic throughout, with no mention of God having a body.
Smith altered the text of the Book of Mormon in the 1837 edition as it then conflicted with his new theology. This shows not only that God was not involved with the Book of Mormon but also that Smith could not possibly have had an 1820 vision of the type he claimed in 1838.
With that information in mind, let’s look firstly at what the original handwritten manuscripts and also the first edition of the Book of Mormon actually stated. The 1830 first edition did not have verses but the equivalent page numbers and lines are shown for reference.
1830 Edition: p.25 lines 3-5. And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.
Modern Editions: 1 Nephi 11:18. And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
1830 Edition: p.25 lines 10-11. And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father!
Modern Editions: 1 Nephi 11:21. And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!
1830 Edition: p.26 lines 8-10. ...And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world...
Modern Editions: 1 Nephi 11:32. ...And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the Everlasting God, was judged of the world...
1830 Edition: p.32 lines 9-11. ...and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world...
Modern Editions: 1 Nephi 13:40 ...and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world…
(Emphasis and underlining added to the above references to identify the later falsifications where the words “the son of” were added in each case). Evidence first disclosed by Jerald and Sandra Tanner in ‘Mormonism: Shadow or Reality’.
The last ‘scripture’ was originally not just another definitive affirmation of Jesus Christ being God; it was an instruction to ensure that everyone knew that, so it was clearly an important aspect in Smith’s theological thinking when he wrote it. If the original words were indeed revealed directly from God, then 1 Nephi 13:40 could never justifiably be changed and it was certainly what the Nephites taught hundreds of years ago – if one accepts they were a real people.
It cannot be argued that Smith simply misunderstood the translation, because his face was buried in a hat when he translated and he didn’t even look at the gold plates. They were either tied up in a linen cloth or even buried elsewhere when he supposedly ‘translated’ them. The Church accepts that this was the case and their own Ensign magazine published an article referring to it. (A Treasured Testament. Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, July 1993:61). The words are claimed to have been revealed precisely to Smith, one at a time, in his hat, by means of the very same seer stone that he had used in his money digging (glass-looking) days when he was arrested and taken to court for being a con artist.10
That the conviction occurred in 1826, long after the supposed vision of 1820 and after the first supposed visit of Moroni in 1823, says little in favour of Smith’s character. Incidentally, originally this angel was mainly called Nephi by Smith but accounts were later falsified by the Mormon Church, changing the name from Nephi to read ‘Moroni’.11 God’s ‘chosen’ continued to be a con man – using the very same tools – in his new venture, religion, in the form of Mormonism.
After the Book of Mormon was finished, remember, a voice from heaven supposedly declared it ‘correct’.
In 1964, Mormon author, Sidney B. Sperry, claimed in his book, The Problems of the Book of Mormon, that the four ‘omissions’ were simply printer’s errors.
“Why were these changes made in the text? …the early leaders in the Church… knew that typographical errors had crept into the 1830 edition in the course of printing. So they attempted to correct those errors by comparing the original manuscripts with the 1830 text. The changes they made... are simple corrections of error in the First Edition.”
However, that was not the case, as both the original handwritten manuscripts confirm otherwise. Jerald and Sandra Tanner (http://www.utlm.org/) did check the original manuscripts. In the LDS Church ‘water damaged’ copy there are two later interpolations above the line. In the RLDS (now Community of Christ) original complete copy there are none. It remains as originally written.12 Sperry either lied outright or he just didn’t bother to check the original manuscripts. Consequently, Sperry’s conclusions have deceived Mormons for decades. Since the first edition, there have been several thousands of alterations to the grammar and the text of the Book of Mormon; such is the Mormon conspiracy to deceive.
Joseph Smith was not particularly religious in 1820. He was just a money-digging con artist, often working with his father or brother Hyrum and others, from about 1819 through to 1828.13
When the Church was organised in 1830, Smith and his followers were monotheistic. He remained this way until at least 1835-1836. This is reflected in everything he ever wrote, starting with the Book of Mormon.
We just don’t notice what is still there in the Book of Mormon even today. There isn’t one single reference to God and Jesus as separate and distinct beings anywhere, as Smith considered them at the time he wrote it to be one and the same being. To Joseph Smith, God was a being of spirit with no physical attributes. Jesus was ‘in the bosom of the father’ which means he was God, and God Himself came to earth as a man – in the form of Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit (or the ‘Holy Ghost’ in Mormonism these days) was the mind or the will of the Lord – three in one; Trinitarianism; Monotheism.
Consider the following – look them up in a copy of the Book of Mormon – available free from the Mormon Church or check them online at http://lds.org/scriptures?lang=eng
Here, Zeezrom is speaking with Amulek.
Alma 11:28-29 and 38-39 remain to this day as:
28. Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God?
29. And he answered, No.
And yet years later, Smith went on to claim there are many Gods.
38. Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? (Emphasis added).
Zeezrom’s direct question is simply ‘is Jesus God?’ Now, here is a very good chance for Amulek to say – No, in fact, they are two separate and distinct beings – both with bodies – but what does he actually say?
39. And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last; (Emphasis added).
Amulek confirms that ‘the Son of God’ IS ‘the very Eternal Father’ – as in traditional monotheism.
Mosiah 15:1-4 still reads:
1. And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
2. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—
3. The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—
4. And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth. (Emphasis added).
We just don’t ‘see’ Smith’s monotheistic theology in the Book of Mormon, as we are taught otherwise. Yet it stares you in the face when you read it in the cold light of day with foreknowledge of his then current theology and without a mind-controlled perception. If members do question, they are told that it means ‘one in purpose’ and they go away accepting that – yet feeling somewhat uneasy. Now we can understand why.
Here are some more examples of monotheism in the Book of Mormon today.
2 Nephi 25:12 …the Only Begotten of the Father, yea, even the Father of heaven and of earth, shall manifest himself unto them in the flesh, behold, they will reject him… (Emphasis added).
2 Nephi 26:12 …the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God; (Between 559 and 545 BCE). (Emphasis added).
As an aside, the above ‘scripture’ uses the name of Jesus and the title of Christ, five-and-a-half centuries BCE. The name ‘Jesus’ and the title ‘Christ’ were CE inventions unknown before the time of Jesus.
If anyone suggests that God ‘translated' whatever words were supposedly originally used to read ‘Jesus Christ’ for our benefit – then ask why He didn’t bother to also translate ‘curelom’ or ‘cumom’ for us; fictional animals found in Ether 9:19. As of 22 July 2011, running a search for ‘curelom’ or ‘cumom’ on the lds.org/scriptures web site returns: “Sorry, your search returned no results.” Only when Ether 9 is open does a result appear. Is the Mormon Church now embarrassed about these mythical creatures?
God might have given a better description of some items mentioned in KJV: Isaiah 3. Smith plagiarised this as 2 Nephi 13, complete with Jacobean terminology used in the KJV so people of the day could understand the items, but which most people in Smith’s day would not readily comprehend at all.
“In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments, and cauls, and round tires like the moon; The chains and the bracelets, and the mufflers; The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the ear-rings; The rings, and nose jewels; The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping-pins; The glasses, and the fine linen, and hoods, and the veils.”
It takes just a couple of clicks today to discover what items such as cauls, round tires like the moon, mufflers, tablets, glasses and crisping-pins were, but in nineteenth century America neither Smith or his God seemed to have a clue – and left things as they were.
3 Ne. 19:18. And behold, they began to pray; and they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God. (Emphasis added).
The Book of Mormon is supposed to contain the fullness of the Gospel, yet Mormons are categorically forbidden to pray directly to Jesus. Here, the Nephites did. Why? Because they considered Him to be God.
Well, that is, Smith did – so when he wrote the Book of Mormon, of course his characters also believed it.
3 Nephi 5:20 …bless my God and my Savior Jesus Christ, that he brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem…
Ether 3:14. I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son…
Mormon 9:12. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son… (Emphasis added to all the above).
Alma chapters 18 and 22 concern the traditions of a belief in the ‘great spirit’. What do they confirm?
18:5. Now this was the tradition of Lamoni, which he had received from his father, that there was a Great Spirit.
18:18 …king Lamoni … said unto him: Who art thou? Art thou that Great Spirit, who knows all things?”
18:26. Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?
18:28. And Ammon said unto him again: believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?
22:9. And the king said: Is God that Great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem?
22:10. And Aaron said unto him: Yea, he is that Great Spirit, and he created all things...
22:11. And he said: Yea, I believe that the Great Spirit created all things... (Emphasis added to all the above).
In the Book of Mormon, God is a spirit. In Mosiah, we learn that it is God Himself who will come to Earth in the form of a man...
Mosiah 13:28. And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people...
13:32. ...there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God.
13:34. Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?
13:35. Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted? (Emphasis added in all the above).
“The redemption of God” (v.32 above) is specific. Further confirmation is also provided in Mosiah, where it speaks about what Abinadi had told the Lamanites – before they killed him for his trouble:
Mosiah 7:27. And because he said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God, and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth— (Emphasis added).
The Book of Mormon unequivocally confirms that God is the Christ and the Redeemer.
There is no mention of a ‘body’ in respect of God to be found anywhere in the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon title page STILL reads:
- And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL God, manifesting himself unto all nations - (Capitals in original).
The Testimony of Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon still includes: “And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.”
So, Jesus IS God manifesting himself and the ‘three’ IS ONE GOD (singular; not even ‘are one God’, let alone ‘form the Godhead’). That is what they ALL believed throughout the early years of the Church.
When the Mormon Church was organised in 1830, Smith penned a revelation confirming his monotheism.
D&C. 20:27 …believe in the gifts and callings of God by the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and of the Son;
28. Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end. Amen. (Emphasis added)
Next, came the Inspired Revision of the Bible. Did Smith, in 1831-1834, take the opportunity to ‘clarify’ the Bible anywhere, confirming that God has a physical body? No, he did not. In Moses 6:9 he does say: “In the image of his own body, male and female, created he them…” but whether Smith is referring to a spiritual or physical body in 1831-1834 remains unclear – so we must look further…
KJV. John 14:9. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew [Show] us the Father? (Smith changed ‘Shew’ to ‘Show’).
John 14:9 confirms God and Jesus are one and the same. Smith did notice this verse because he altered the Early Modern English word ‘shew’ to read the Modern English ‘show’ for no apparent reason other than to make himself look clever. However, he did not alter the text. Thus we need to look still deeper…
Did Smith, being monotheistic, just perhaps, change anything that could have been construed to mean God and Jesus were two separate beings, and alter it to read that in fact they are one and the same being, thus fully evidencing his then monotheistic outlook? You bet your life he did! This is what I found:
In the King James Version, Luke 10:22 reads:
“…no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.”
Now, that could be construed as slightly ambiguous. It could be argued, although weakly, considering what the rest of the Bible contains, that it means God and Jesus are two separate and individual beings. So, Smith – in monotheistic mode – changed it. It becomes verse 23 in his ‘Inspired Revision’, and it reads as follows:
I.R. Luke 10:23. …no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it. (Emphasis added).
It couldn’t be clearer than that now could it?
The Lectures on Faith (1834) include references to God as a spirit alone. This is an example:
“There are two personages who constitute the great matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things … They are the Father and the Son—the Father being a personage of spirit, glory, and power, possessing all perfection and fullness, the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle …” (Emphasis added).
Elsewhere in the lectures, God is referred to as an omnipresent spirit which means He dwells everywhere at once, and that is yet another traditional monotheistic Christian concept. The ‘holy spirit’ by the way, is the ‘mind of God’ in these lectures and is nowhere referred to as a ‘personage’ of spirit. Most Mormons have no idea the concept of the Holy Ghost being a personage of spirit didn’t actually become formal doctrine until the twentieth century. (Sunstone Jul/Aug 1980. pp. 24-33).
Talking of the Inspired Revision – here’s an example of Smith’s ever changing ideas where he completely ignores what went before. This happened over and over again, proving he was anything but a prophet. In his infamous King Follett sermon (at the funeral of a man who was killed by a bucket of bricks falling on his head during a well construction) Smith starts on about plural Gods for the first time in public. This was on 7 April 1844, a couple of months or so before Smith’s death. Following the disclosures in his talk, many Mormons left the fold as they considered it to be heresy. Reading what he came out with, this is perfectly understandable.
Smith takes as his text: Revelation 1:6. He says:
“God … is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret.”
“…He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth … and I will show it from the Bible.”
A recent Mormon prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, at least twice, publicly stated he does not know that they teach it and he does not know much about it. (See: San Francisco Chronicle, 13 Apr 1997:3/Z1 Don Lattin, religion editor; also Time Magazine, 4 Aug 1997).
Smith declared “It is plain beyond disputation…” He quotes Revelation 1:6 directly from the KJV: “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Note the phrase, “God and His Father”. Smith then states “It is altogether correct in the translation”. This is because he wants to propound his new concept that God had a father and that there are many Gods. However, Smith either forgot, or more likely simply ignored, the fact that when he had been ‘inspired’ to correct Biblical scripture in his earlier ‘Inspired Revision’ he altered that very verse in order to clarify the tradition that God of course does not have a father. Yet here, in 1844, he completely ignores his own earlier ‘Inspired Revision’ and claims the KJV is ‘altogether correct’ – just to suit his newly developed thinking.
Inspired Revision: Rev 1:6 …and hath made us kings and priests unto God his Father. To him be glory and dominion, forever and ever. Amen. (Emphasis added).
If Smith’s claim that the KJV is “altogether correct” is accepted by the Church in order to justify his plural Gods theology; then they must also accept that he lied in the IR. Either way, he is caught in his duplicity and his lies – and that is a true mark of a false prophet.
If the First Vision happened as Smith claimed, in 1820, when was it ever mentioned in print anywhere before 1840? The answer – absolutely nowhere! The following publications all came into print and there was no word about any kind of ‘First Vision’ ever recorded in any of them.
n 1829-1830. The Book of Mormon. (The ‘First Vision’ would have made an excellent preface).
n 1832. Delusions, An Analysis of the Book of Mormon; Alexander Campbell. (Anti-Mormon book).
n 1832-1834. Evening and Morning Star. (Mormon Church newspaper).
n 1833. Book of Commandments. (Early revelations; yet the first and most important is not mentioned).
n 1834. Mormonism Unvailed [sic]; E. D. Howe. (Another Anti-Mormon book – no mention of a ‘First Vision’).
n 1834-1835. Lectures of Faith. (No mention of a ‘First Vision’ but talks of God being an ‘omnipresent spirit’).
n 1835. Doctrine & Covenants. (Early revelations; and still no mention of the first and most glorious one).
n 1834-1836. Latter Day Saints Messenger and Advocate. (Church newspaper – no ‘First Vision’ account ever).
n 1837. A Voice of Warning. Parley P. Pratt. (Missionary booklet with well over 200 pages – includes revelations and restoration details etc., and yet no mention of a ‘First Vision’ whatsoever).
n 1839-1846. Times and Seasons. (Church newspaper – no ‘First Vision’ mentioned before the 1842 publication).
n 1840-1970. Millennial Star. (UK Mormon publication – again no mention of any ‘First Vision’ prior to 1842).
n 1842. Mormonism in All Ages; J. B. Turner. (Yet another anti-Mormon book, published twenty-two years after the supposed event, with still no mention of any such thing as a claim to a glorious ‘First Vision’ by Joseph Smith).
Who ever knew about this First Vision in the early years? What did the non-Mormon newspapers have to say about Joseph Smith during those first few years? Well, absolutely nothing before the year 1831. For the first decade, Smith was practically unknown to anyone outside his own small circle. In 1831, ironically, the local paper ran three articles which actually provide evidence – not that Smith made such a claim as having had a glorious vision in the spring of 1820 – but as it happens, just the opposite.
“It however appears quite certain that the prophet himself never made any serious pretensions to religion until his late pretended revelation [the discovery of the Book of Mormon].” (Palmyra Reflector. Vol. II Series 1. No. 12. 1 Feb 1831).
“It will be born in mind that no divine interposition had been dreamed of at the period.” (Palmyra Reflector. Vol. II Series 1. No. 13. 14 Feb 1831).
“It is well known that Joe Smith never pretended to have any communication with angels, until a long period after the pretended finding of his book.” (Palmyra Reflector. Vol. II Ser. 1. No. 14. 28 Feb 1831).
So… who ever did know about this mysterious First Vision in 1820 or shortly thereafter? Who did Joseph Smith ever actually tell?
Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, started her autobiography in the year after her sons were killed. Lucy’s autobiography clearly states it was the angel that appeared to Smith in his bedroom who told him “there is not a true Church on earth, no not one”. The original text of Lucy’s book does not mention a single word about any ‘First Vision’ whatsoever.
When it was published by Orson Pratt in Liverpool, England, in 1853, the published book contained many changes. Joseph Smith’s own account was inserted, just as it had appeared in Times and Seasons, without Lucy’s knowledge or her permission. Lucy had no idea about any such thing as a ‘First Vision’ when she wrote her book – and that was after Joseph Smith had died. 6
In 1859, Martin Harris, in an interview for Tiffany’s, recounts what happened after Smith claimed to find the gold plates in late 1827.
“Joseph had before this described the manner of his finding the plates. He found them by looking in the stone found in the well of Mason Chase. The family had likewise told me the same thing. Joseph said the angel told him he must quit the company of the money-diggers. That there were wicked men among them. He must have no more to do with them. He must not lie, nor swear, nor steal. He told him to go and look in the spectacles, and he would show him the man that would assist him. That he did so, and he saw myself, Martin Harris, standing before him.”
Harris confirms Smith located the plates by an occult method and that an angel guided him. But that’s not the important part. What Harris says next tells the tale:
“But I had the account of it from Joseph, his wife, brothers, sisters, his father and mother. I talked with them separately that I might get the truth of the matter.” (Tiffany’s Vol. V:IV:163-170).
The point here is that Smith was desperately trying to get Harris to sell part of his farm in order to finance the publication of the Book of Mormon. Had the First Vision been a ‘shared’ reality – surely ONE of them, if not Joseph himself, would have mentioned it to further convince Harris? Not one of ten members of the Smith family mentioned a single word to Martin Harris about a glorious first encounter with God and Jesus in 1820 which set the ‘restoration’ in motion. Why? At that time Joseph Smith had yet to invent the idea.
The first ever published mentions of any kind of 'First Vision' were:
Orson Pratt. 1840.
An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records. Pratt includes a short narrative in which two ‘unidentified’ personages appear.
I will come back to Pratt’s account in a moment when we look at the BYU take on the matter.
Orson Hyde. 1842.
A Cry from the Wilderness, a Voice from the Dust of the Earth. (Printed in German). Hyde uses almost identical wording to Pratt but this time it reads “two glorious personages”.
In Hyde’s case at least he clearly considered Smith’s First Vision to be one of angels rather than deity as he later made the following statement:
“Some one may say, ‘If this work of the last days be true, why did not the Saviour come himself to communicate this intelligence to the world?’ Because to the angels was committed the power of reaping the earth, and it was committed to none else.” (Journal of Discourses. V.6:335. Orson Hyde. 6 April 1854). (Emphasis added).
Now it is time to come back to the idea of Smith’s ‘persecution’ during the first decade (1820-1830).
The following stance is now taken by BYU on the whole idea of Smith telling anyone and everyone.
“Orson Pratt’s ‘Interesting account of Remarkable Visions’ . . . ranks as one of the great Mormon books as it contains the first printed account of Joseph Smith’s 1820 vision. Only three manuscript accounts antedating Remarkable Visions exist in the LDSChurch Archives…” (Emphasis added).
Those three accounts are of course the 1832 and the two 1835 Joseph Smith accounts we reviewed earlier.
Then BYU makes this astonishing admission
“…reflecting that Joseph Smith discussed this transcendent vision only privately with a few trusted friends during the Church’s first decade.” (Emphasis added).
Religious StudiesCenter, BrighamYoungUniversity.
The BYU comments are currently available at the following link: http://lib.byu.edu/digital/mpntc/az/I.php
In a complete turnaround to all that Mormons have ever been taught, the Church, faced with the facts I have just covered, appears to be accepting them as proven and therefore agreeing that Smith never told anyone about his vision in those early years.
The problem is that they do not address the fact that in so doing, they also make a complete liar out of Smith over and over again. Read on in JS-History and you will discover the many claims that Smith made about severe persecution – which clearly never actually occurred.
Smith claimed he was: “hated and persecuted for saying I had seen a vision.”
The ‘Church inserted’ header above v.21 states:
“Persecution heaped upon Joseph Smith.”
v. 20: “Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?”
v. 21: Smith met a Methodist minister a few days later and: “…took occasion to give him an account of the Vision.”
v. 22: “…my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase…”
v. 23: “…a little over fourteen years of age … the most bitter persecution and reviling.”
v. 25. “…they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me.”
v. 27. “…severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men”
Smith then even dates the claimed persecution to the three year period from 1820 to 1823.
v. 28. “…between the time I had the vision and the year eighteen hundred and twenty-three … [I was] persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends.” (Emphasis added in all of the above).
The Church, in order to accommodate the absolute fact that Smith made no First Vision claim in the early years, settles instead on confirming that he lied – in at least seven consecutive statements.
If Smith is confirmed as telling repeated lies about all that, then what credence can be given to anything else he ever said at all? But it doesn’t end there; that was just the beginning of Joseph Smith’s hoax.
To summarise –
if the First Vision did happen
as Joseph Smith claimed,
in the spring of 1820,
then it occurred:
2 years before the Smiths moved to the claimed area.
4 years before there was a revival in that area.
4 years before any significant recorded increases in membership to Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians.
4 years before four members of the Smith family joined the Presbyterians.
4 years before Elder Lane preached on ‘What Church Shall I Join’ and recommended reading James 1:5.
6 years before Smith was in court for being a money-digging con artist.
7-8 years before the only so-called persecution – which came from other money-diggers. Joseph Smith was part of a syndicate where no one had ever found anything so they all agreed that if anyone ever actually did locate something of worth, they would all share in the spoils. Then, in September 1827, Smith claimed to have found some gold plate which was rightfully equally theirs. The money-diggers were the only people to ever chase after Joseph Smith, who, as far as they were concerned, had reneged on the agreement and they were after his blood. It is said that Martin Harris may have paid them off to get rid of the threat. That’s as close as it ever got to any so-called persecution during the first decade.
8 years before he joined the Methodists. (In his 1838 official account the Lord told Smith twice not to.)
10 years before the publication of a monotheistic Book of Mormon.
11-12 years before Smith wrote ‘The Book of Moses’ (with dozens of references to ‘God’ in the singular).
11-14 years before his ‘Inspired Revision’ of the Bible, which not only remained, but which Smith also 'corrected' to remain monotheistic throughout.
12 years before Smith recorded that he saw only Jesus in a First Vision experience.
12 years before the ‘Book of Commandments’ was published – with no First Vision account included.
14 years before the ‘Lectures on Faith’ stated that God is an ‘omnipresent spirit’ which means He has no body.
15 years before Smith recorded two more First Vision accounts consisting specifically and only of angels.
15 years before ‘The Book of Abraham’ was written which included dozens of references to ‘Gods’ in the plural – completely contradicting Smith’s own earlier ‘Book of Moses’ – but no mention of God with a body.
15 years before the ‘Doctrine and Covenants’ was published – still with no First Vision account included.
18 years before Smith finally concocted his whole new vision idea that became the ‘Official Version’ which he backdated to 1820.
22 years before the publication of the official account.
It is perfectly clear from verifiable history (including original Mormon Church historical records and Joseph Smith’s own writings) that none of the circumstances which Smith claimed had surrounded a First Vision in 1820 could possibly be true. Furthermore, it is equally clear that the account of the vision itself was an ever evolving concept in Smith’s overactive imagination that he first conceived in 1832, revisited in 1835, and which culminated in the 1838 ‘official version’ which he then backdated eighteen years – to 1820. Notwithstanding Joseph Smith’s final attempt at a plausible starting point for his religion, a myriad of impossible claims utterly and completely exposes the fraud.
Despite publications by Mormon authors regarding discrepancies in various accounts of the First Vision, you will find nothing in any lesson manuals (including the missionary lessons) raising this topic for discussion.
In the following statement, Mormon Apostle, Hugh B. Brown got just one word wrong, and that word is ‘If’.
(If) this First Vision was but a figment of
Joseph Smith’s imagination,
then the Mormon Church is what its detractors declare it to be
- a wicked and deliberate imposture.
Apostle Hugh B. Brown. The Abundant Life. 1965:310-11.
Our entire case as members of
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
rests on the validity of this glorious First Vision..
Nothing on which we base our doctrine,
nothing we teach, nothing we live by
is of greater importance than this initial declaration…
This is the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to the path of salvation and eternal life.
(President Gordon B. Hinckley. Gen Conf. Oct 1998. Ensign Nov 1998:70-1. Also see: Ensign, May 2005).
In which case, that gate is closed, locked and bolted;
the hinge has rusted; it will never open to anything at all;
and certainly not to any form of salvation or eternal life.
A Final Thought
The Mormon God
Regarding the Mormon claim that their God has a body; Smith did not state such in his 1838 story, so other than the assumption that is attached to Smith’s 1838 version of his First Vision, when and where did God (or Smith) ever confirm that He actually does have a body?
The one and only place the concept of God having a physical body is ever mentioned anywhere in supposed scripture is the Mormon book ‘Doctrine and Covenants’ in Section 130:22 which Smith wrote on 2 April 1843.
Nothing Smith ever wrote prior to that confirmed a physical God. Even then, it does not say “Thus saith the Lord” and is simply buried at the end of some “items of instruction given by Joseph Smith.”
Prior to Joseph Smith’s own 1843 casual mention in D&C 130:22 that “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also;” – when did God ever declare that He was anything other than an omnipresent spirit? The answer to the question is never.
Not once in six-thousand years did God ever declare any such thing. In just one single phrase taken from one single sentence which is placed at the end of “items of instruction”, Joseph Smith would have us believe that he captured the very essence of the character of God in a manner that God Himself had been entirely incapable of conveying during the previous six-thousand years.
If God does have a physical body, it was incumbent upon Him to explain that from the very beginning and thus it would be mentioned in Genesis. It is unthinkable that not only would God not mention that He has a body but that He would explicitly declare instead that He is a spirit – even in Joseph Smith’s own Book of Mormon. God may move in mysterious ways but they are not that mysterious, not that devious, and not that misleading.
Not once does God mention that he has a body in the Old Testament; not once in the New Testament; not in the Book of Mormon; not in earlier D&C revelations; not in the Book of Moses or the rest of Smith’s Inspired Revision of the Bible; not in the Book of Abraham. Not anywhere did God ever previously declare Himself to have a physical body – until Joseph Smith’s late change in theology which completely contradicted everything that he (and everyone else) had ever previously written. Smith then just mentions his latest theology, almost in passing, in the D&C – and that changes everything.
1. Marquardt & Walters 1994. Inventing Mormonism. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books. Pp. 50-53.
2. Faulring, Scott H. (editor). 1989. An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books.
Nelson, Leland R. (compiler). 1979. The Journal of Joseph Smith. Provo, UT: Council Press.
3. Marquardt & Walters 1994. Inventing Mormonism. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books. Pp. xxv, 1-13.
4. ‘…his neighborhood in 1820 experienced no revival such as he described, in which “great multitudes” joined the Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian churches. The Presbyterian records for the Palmyra Presbyterian Church show that it experienced no revival in 1820. (See Geneva Presbytery “Records,” Presbyterian Historical Society). The local Baptist church gained only six on profession of faith the entire year (“Records for the First Baptist Church in Palmyra,” American Baptist Historical Society) while the Methodists actually lost members that year as well as the preceding and following years (Minutes of the Annual Conference).’ Joseph Smith’s First Vision: Fact or Fiction? Wesley Walters. Available at http://www.mrm.org/
6. Lucy also confirmed that the revival was actually in 1824, as her son Alvin had died on 19 November 1823 and it was afterwards that the revival led her to seek comfort, when she and other family members attended the meetings. See: The Mormon Delusion. Vol. 2:29; c: Anderson, Lavina F. (editor). 2001. Lucy’s Book. A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books. Pp. 11-12; Lucy Smith’s History. First Draft: 46 & 55. LDS Church Archives; Vogel, Dan. 1996. (editor). Early Mormon Documents. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature. Pp. 289-90.
The revival noted in the following account could only have occurred during 1824, as the Methodist minister mentioned did not arrive in the area until July that of year, and the ‘great awakening’ was not even close to 1820. (See note 4 above).
“It is necessary to premise this account by relating the situation of the public mind relative to religion, at this time: One Mr. Lane, a presiding Elder of the Methodist church, visited Palmyra, and vicinity. Elder Lane was a tallented [talented] man possessing a good share of literary endowments, and apparent humility. There was a great awakening, or excitement raised on the subject of religion, and much enquiry [inquiry] for the word of life. Large additions were made to the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches … In this general strife for followers, his mother, one sister, and two of his natural brothers, were persuaded to unite with the Presbyterians. (Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, Ohio Dec 1834. Vol. 1. No. 3. Pp. 41-2).
7. Smith, William B. 1883. William Smith on Mormonism. Lamoni, Iowa: RLDS. Pp. 6-7.
Roberts, B.H. 1978. Comprehensive History of the Church. Salt Lake City, UT: Brigham Young University. Vol. 1:51-3.
8. See note 2.
9. Marquardt & Walters 1994. Inventing Mormonism. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books. p. 61 note 49.
The Amboy Journal, 11 June 1879, p. 1. Available at Utah Lighthouse Ministry: http://www.utlm.org/
Newell, Linda King & Avery, Valeen Tippetts 1994. 2nd Edition. Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press. p. 25.
10. Smith had been convicted of being a ‘glass looker’ and ‘a disorderly person and an impostor’ in 1826 by the Bainbridge court, for falsely claiming that he could locate buried treasure. The Mormon Delusion. Vol. 2:52; c. Frazer’s Magazine. Feb 1873 Vol. VII:229-230;
Tanner, Jerald and Sandra 1970. Joseph Smith and Money Digging. Salt Lake City, UT: UTLM;
Tanner, Jerald and Sandra 1987. Mormonism - Shadow or Reality? 5th Edition. Salt Lake City, UT: UTLM Ch. 4;
Brodie, Fawn M. 1963. No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet. Great Britain First Edition. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode. Pp. 16-21. (First U.S. Edition, 1945. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf).
11. A summary and full references for twenty-five separate accounts appears in The Mormon Delusion Vol. 2:76-7.
In these accounts:
1 refers to a dream about treasure.
1 refers to an unidentified ghost in a dream.
3 refer to an unidentified spirit or spirit of the almighty in a dream.
3 refer to an unidentified angel (or angel of light or of God) in a dream.
1 refers to an unidentified spirit in a vision.
7 refer to an unidentified angel. (One angel tells Joseph Smith that Moroni is someone else).
1 refers to an unidentified personage or messenger.
2 refer to the angel Moroni. (Cowdery 1835 and Smith 1838).
6 refer to angel Nephi. (1838 on; 4 by Smith, 1 quoting him, and 1 by Lucy Mack Smith).
Joseph Smith only referred to the angel as Moroni once in his original accounts. It would have been far easier for the Mormon Church to falsify that account to read ‘Nephi’ and just leave all the others alone. Then, Nephi would appear atop Mormon temples instead of Moroni – who would be relegated to the pages of the Book of Mormon.
12. Tanner, Jerald and Sandra 1987. Mormonism - Shadow or Reality? 5th Edition. Salt Lake City, UT: UTLM. Pp. 165-6.
13. See: Quinn, D. Michael. 1998. Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books.
Jim Whitefield. Copyright © 2011.
See: The Mormon Delusion, Vols. 2 & 4 for a more
in depth treatment of the First Vision story.
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