Joseph Smith’s 1838 account, canonized in the Pearl of Great Price, includes an apparent contradiction related to how he viewed the wrongness of other sects before his first vision:
Joseph Smith’s 1832 account of the first vision also suggests that Joseph had considered the idea that they were “all wrong together” before his prayer (deletions are indicated but additions are not indicated here, see original; emphasis added):
At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns of for the wellfare of my immortal Soul which led me to searching the scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of differant denominations led me to marvel excedingly for I discovered that they did not
adorn instead ofadorn ingtheir profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository this was a grief to my Soul thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind the contentions and divi[si]ons the wicke[d]ness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the of theminds of mankind my mind become excedingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that mandmankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and liveing faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament and I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday to day and forever that he was no respecter to persons for he was God for I looked upon the sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their magesty through the heavens and also the stars shining in their courses and the earth also upon which I stood and the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in magesty and in the strength of beauty whose power and intiligence in governing the things which are so exceding great and marvilous even in the likeness of him who created himthem and when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed well hath the wise man said theit is a fool that saith in his heart there is no God my heart exclaimed all all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotant and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from all Eternity to Eternity and when I considered all these things and that that being seeketh such to worshep him as worship him in spirit and in truth therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and toobtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the 16th year of my age a piller of firelight above the brightness of the sun at noon day …
Some have suggested that this contradiction is more apparent than real: Joseph learned about all denominations being wrong from the first vision and he is simply conflating his understanding during the narration. This seems difficult to support in reading his 1832 account since his account links his understanding with the action “by searching the scriptures I found that mankind … had apostatised … and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament.”
But taken together with the 1832 account, the contradiction in his 1838 account suggests potential embellishment and could be viewed as evidence for fabrication.
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