We recently produced an edition (available here) of Orson Pratt’s pamphlet, “An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, And of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records.” (Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.) It’s a fascinating piece of work that deserves more attention. Why?
First off, it’s the first published account of the First Vision, and it contains some minor details that aren’t present in the Joseph Smith History account. For example, it states that Joseph was initially worried that he would not be able to “endure the presence” of the pillar of light, and it states that once the pillar descended upon him “his mind was caught away from the natural objects with which he was surrounded; and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision.” It also says that he was not just attacked by the powers of darkness but “severely tempted” by them, which makes sense. Reading about the First Vision from a fresh perspective is always interesting.
Secondly, it describes a vision Joseph Smith had at the hill Cumorah in greater detail than we usually see, noting that “the heavens were opened” and later on that “the Prince of Darkness, surrounded by his innumerable train of associates” were visible. Moroni’s reminder not to seek the plates for riches is more powerful in this context.
After this vision, there’s a discussion of the translation and content of the Book of Mormon that frankly doesn’t contain many surprises, but the pamphlet ends with a bang by anticipating the Articles of Faith. There’s significantly more elaboration of the doctrine than in the Articles of Faith, but the organization lines up very well. To cherry-pick a couple of statements:
First, we believe in God the Eternal Father, and in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost, who bears record of them, the same throughout all ages and for ever.
We believe that wherever the people enjoy the religion of the New Testament, there they enjoy visions, revelations, the ministry of angels, &c. And that wherever these blessings cease to be enjoyed, there they also cease to enjoy the religion of the New Testament.
Apparently (source) the statement of doctrine in this pamphlet used during the preparation of the Articles of Faith and was itself based on an earlier pamphlet by Parley P. Pratt and Elias Higbee, “An Address by Judge Higbee and Parley P. Pratt, Ministers of the Gospel, of the Church of Jesus Christ of “Latter-day Saints,” to the Citizens of Washington, and to the Public in General.” (That’s probably something we ought to digitize in the future.)
So, this fascinating pamphlet has an early statement of basically everything currently contained in First and Third lessons of Preach My Gospel, was the first publication of the First Vision, and anticipates the Articles of Faith. If that won’t convince you to read a 30-some-page pamphlet, I don’t know what will.