Now You See Adam, Now You Don’t

November 19, 2013

A friend sent me a link to the transcription of a revelation Joseph Smith is said to have received 21 January 1836. In this vision he was shown the glory of the celestial kingdom, which he had learned some four years earlier was the highest level of heaven (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:50-70). He also tells us that he saw some of the residents of this kingdom:

The heavens were opened  upon us and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether  in the body or out I cannot tell,— I saw  the transcendant beauty of the gate that  enters, through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling  flames of fire, also the blasing throne of  God, whereon was seated the Father and  the Son,— I saw the beautiful streets of  that kingdom, which had the appearance  of being paved with gold— I saw father  Adam, and Abraham and Michael and my father and mother, my brother Alvin [Smith]  that has long since slept, and marvled  how it was that he had obtained this  an inheritance <in> this <that> kingdom, seeing that  he had departed this life, before the  Lord <had> set his hand to gather Israel <the  second time> and had not been baptized for the  remission of sins— [p. 136]

Careful readers will note something curious about this revelation: Adam and Michael are described as separate people whom Joseph Smith saw in the vision. Current church doctrine makes this an impossibility, as Michael is simply “the name by which Adam was known in the premortal life (Guide to the Scriptures, “Michael“). Indeed, in other revelations, Joseph Smith tells us that Michael is Adam (D&C 27:11D&C 107:53–57; D&C 128:21), so perhaps he was confused in this instance.

It’s a good thing that this revelation was not canonized until 1976, when the Correlation committee could revise it to be doctrinally correct, as follows:

 1 The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell.

2 I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire;

3 Also the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son.

4 I saw the beautiful streets of that kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold.

5 I saw Father Adam and Abraham; and my father and my mother; my brother Alvin, that has long since slept;

6 And marveled how it was that he had obtained an inheritance in that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.

Interesting Diary Entry

November 13, 2013

I stumbled across this bit from Alexander Neibaur’s diary:

May 24, 1844 Called at Brother J. S. [Joseph Smith’s]. Met Mr. Bonnie. Brother Joseph [Smith] told us the first call he had a revival meeting. His mother, brother and sisters got religion. He wanted to get religion too; he wanted to feel and shout like the rest but could feel nothing. [He] opened his Bible of the first passage that struck him was [James 1:5.], “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.” [He] went into the woods to pray, kneels himself down, his tongue was closed, cleaving to his roof, could utter not a word, but felt easier after awhile. [He] saw a fire toward heaven, came near and nearer. [He] saw a personage in the fire, light complexion, blue eyes, a piece of white cloth drawn over his shoulders, his right arm bare. After a while another person came to the side of the first. Mr. [Joseph] Smith then asked, “Must I join the Methodist Church?” “No, they are not my people. [They] have gone astray; there is none that doeth good, not one, but this is my Beloved Son, harken ye him.” The fire drew nigher, rested upon the tree, enveloped him. Comforted, I endeavored to arise but felt uncommon feeble. [I] got into the house and told the Methodist priest [who] said this was not an age for God to reveal himself in vision. Revelation has ceased with the New Testament.

[p.15]Told about Wm. [William] Law—wished to be married to his wife for eternity. Mr. [Joseph] Smith would inquire of the Lord, answered no because Law was a adulterous person. Mrs. Law wanted to know why she could not be married to Mr. Law. Mr. [Joseph Smith] S. said [he] would not wound her feelings by telling her. Some days after, Mr. [Joseph] Smith going toward his office. Mrs. Law stood in the door, beckoned to him the once did not know whether she beckoned to him, went across to inquire. Yes, please to walk in, no one but herself in the house, she drawing her arms around him, if you won’t seal me to my husband seal myself unto you, he said, stand away and pushing her gently aside giving her a denial and going out. When Mr. [William] Law came home he inquired who had been in his absence, she said no one but Br. Joseph, he then demanded what had passed. Mrs. L. [Law] then told Joseph wanted her to married to him—

Some interesting things (at least to me):

  1. He reports “feel[ing] nothing” when attending a revival, which apparently spurred his interest in finding the truth for himself.
  2. The details about the First Vision are fascinating: the two personages appear one at a time (he describes briefly what one is wearing and the eye color), and the pillar of fire continues drawing near until it envelops him, at which point he is comforted. He identifies the preacher with whom he shared the vision as Methodist.
  3. The section on the Laws is fascinating. According to Joseph, William Law is an adulterer, and Jane Law is the person who wants to marry Joseph, but he rejects her. The implication appears to be that William Law apostatized and became an enemy to the church because he was jealous that his wife wanted Joseph Smith. Of course, this is not how the Laws and others reported the interaction between Joseph Smith and Jane Law.