The Joseph Smith family entertained a wide variety of religious influence in their quest to find a good fit. This, in part, motivated Joseph Smith, Jr. to pray for guidance. Scholars question the accuracy of dating his “First Vision” to 1820 for a variety of reasons.
One of the more glaring aspects is the lack of religious activity in the Palmyra area in that year, while Joseph claimed, “[T]here was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, ‘Lo, here!’ and others, ‘Lo, there!’ Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist” (JS History 1:5).
According to periodicals and church records, the excitement seems to be about four years later, with virtually nothing of significance happening in 1820.
Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, joined the Presbyterian religion in 1824/5, while the fervor of activity seemed to be at a feverish pitch.
What makes Joseph’s account anachronistically challenging is his statement in verse 20, “I then said to my mother, ‘I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.’” If his mother had not joined the religion until several years later, it seems improbable that Joseph Smith would have singled out Presbyterianism to her in a volume of history that is now canonized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.