Church History
Joseph Smith—History 1:1–26

Doctrine and Covenants Historical Resources: Joseph Smith—History 1:1–26, Doctrine and Covenants Historical Resources (2020)

Joseph Smith—History 1:1–26, Doctrine and Covenants Historical Resources

Joseph Smith—History 1:1–26

Quiet, lush green grove with tall trees.

The Sacred Grove, Manchester, New York, USA. Joseph Smith experienced his First Vision in this stand of trees in the spring of 1820.


Historical background and the earliest manuscript of each revelation, as published in The Joseph Smith Papers

Primary Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision of Deity

There are two general categories of accounts of Joseph Smith’s first vision of Deity that were written during his lifetime. More …

The firsthand accounts recorded by Joseph Smith or under his direction are as follows:

Circa Summer 1832 History. This is the earliest and most personal account, and the only one that includes Joseph Smith’s own handwriting. More …

Journal, 9–11 November 1835. Joseph Smith described his early visionary experiences to a visitor at his home in Kirtland, Ohio, in November 1835. His description was written down, and Warren Parrish later copied it into Joseph Smith’s journal. More …

Circa 1838 History. This best-known account of Joseph Smith’s first vision opened what was to become a six-volume history of his life. Copied by scribes into a large bound volume, this account was later canonized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Pearl of Great Price. Joseph Smith—History 1:5–20

“Church History,” 1 March 1842 (Wentworth Letter). This brief history of the Church published in the Times and Seasons, often referred to as the “Wentworth letter,” was prepared at the request of a Chicago newspaper editor. The extent of Joseph Smith’s involvement in writing it is not known, but it was published with his signature. This account borrowed language from Orson Pratt’s A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (see below). More …

A painting of the First Vision.

Walter Rane, The Desires of My Heart, 2004, oil on canvas, Church History Museum.

Early Contemporary Accounts

Early accounts written by contemporaries who heard Joseph Smith speak about the vision include the following:

Orson Pratt, A[n] Interesting Account. This is the earliest published account of Joseph Smith’s first vision of Deity. It was written by Orson Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and published as a pamphlet in Scotland in 1840.

Orson Hyde, Ein Ruf aus der Wüste [A cry out of the wilderness] (original German) (modern English translation). Another member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Orson Hyde, published this account of Joseph Smith’s earliest visions in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1842. He wrote the text in English, relying heavily on Pratt’s A[n] Interesting Account, and translated it into German for publication.

Levi Richards, Journal, 11 June 1843. Following an 11 June 1843 public church meeting at which Joseph Smith spoke of his earliest vision, Levi Richards included an account of it in his diary.

Interview, Joseph Smith by David Nye White, Nauvoo, Illinois, 21 Aug. 1843 In August 1843, David Nye White, editor of the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, interviewed Joseph Smith in his home as part of a two-day stop in Nauvoo, Illinois. His news article included an account of Joseph Smith’s first vision.

Alexander Neibaur, Journal, 24 May 1844. On 24 May 1844, German immigrant and church member Alexander Neibaur visited Joseph Smith in his home and heard him relate the circumstances of his earliest visionary experience.

Ask of God: Joseph Smith’s First Vision

“I considered it of the first importance that I should be right in matters that involved eternal consequences.”


Biographical facts and historical images of individuals associated with the revelations

Historical Background

Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days

Narrative history of events surrounding the revelations

Volume 1, Chapter 2

Hear Him

Joseph rose early on a spring morning in 1820 and set out for the woods near his home. The day was clear and beautiful, and sunlight filtered through the branches overhead. He wanted to be alone when he prayed, and he knew a quiet spot in the woods where he had recently been clearing trees. More …

The First Vision: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast

The First Vision: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast

The First Vision: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast is a six-part miniseries from the Joseph Smith Papers Project that explores the history and legacy of Joseph Smith’s first vision.

Episode 1: “An Unusual Excitement”

Episode 2: “What Is to Be Done?”

Episode 3: “I Retired to the Woods”

Episode 4: “A Pillar of Light”

Episode 5: “It Caused Me Serious Reflection”

Episode 6: “I Had Seen a Vision”

Church History Topics

Essays on subjects related to the revelations

Awakenings and Revivals

The struggle of seekers to “get religion” and of clergymen hoping to win converts and strengthen their churches triggered religious revivals that swept the northeastern United States. More …

Christian Churches in Joseph Smith’s Day

When young Joseph Smith prayed to know “which of all the sects was right,” he likely had in mind a few Protestant denominations he had encountered near his hometown. More …

Joseph Smith’s First Vision Accounts

Joseph Smith recorded that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him in a grove of trees near his parents’ home in western New York State when he was about 14 years old. More …

Religious Beliefs in Joseph Smith’s Day

As the earliest members of the Church transitioned into their new faith, they brought with them beliefs, traditions, and values from their prior religious experience. More …

Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family

The home life and nurture provided by Joseph Smith’s parents and siblings shaped much of Joseph’s early prophetic work. More …


Maps and information about places associated with the revelations from The Joseph Smith Papers, Historic Sites, and other helpful sources


Timeline placing each revelation in the context of key events in the Church’s first century

View the chronology …

Stained glass depiction of the First Vision.

The First Vision, 1913, stained-glass, Church History Museum.