S A I N T S: THE FIRST VISION… EGREGIOUS AFTERTHOUGHT…
Saints: The Standard of Truth 1815-1846, 1:2:14-19.
The account of the ‘First Vision’ in “Saints” is a complete re-hashing of the same experience we’ve been used to reading as humans in the 20th and 21st centuries. Namely, the 1838 (third) version found in the Pearl of Great Price.
There is no evidence to support the tale of the ‘First Vision’ in its current form PRIOR to 1838. There were 2 versions written before, and one after that year. As such, it gives the student of Mormonism no option except to dismiss the event as a fabrication, which in the eyes of the church, is a dangerous course…
“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. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens… I knew a so-called intellectual who said the Church was trapped by its history. My response was that without that history we have nothing. The truth of that unique, singular, and remarkable event is the pivotal substance of our faith.”
Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference Reports (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, October 2002).
Yet, given the unreliable resources and complete absence of historical documentation about it for a twenty-year period (from about 1820-1840), we are left with only two choices: 1) Dismiss it, or 2) Take it on faith. These two choices seem to loom over our decisions in all aspects of the church.
If you’ve not taken the time to review it, I recommend reading the CES Letter, chapter 3, “First Vision.” https://cesletter.org/
I’ve also written about it in the Encyclopedia of Anti-Mormonism, pages 252-258 (2011).
RE-rewrite: Not possible. There are simply too many variables and conflicting versions of the First Vision to give ANY accurate depiction of what took place. In fact, I’m quite convinced it never happened at all.