Sunday, October 08, 2006

D. Michael Quinn: Joseph Smith's Experience of a

D. Michael Quinn: Joseph Smith's Experience of a Methodist
"Camp-Meeting" in 1820


Since 1967, disbelieving critics of Joseph Smith Jr.'s accounts of
his "First Vision" of deity have repeated the arguments and evidence
given by minister-researcher Wesley P. Walters against the existence
of an 1820 "religious excitement" (revival) in or near Palmyra, New
York, as affirmed by the Mormon prophet's most detailed narrative.
Since 1969, Smith's believing apologists have repeated the rebuttal
arguments and evidence given by BYU religion professor Milton V.
Backman Jr. in support of such a revival which, Smith declared, led to
his vision in 1820. For four decades, both sides have continued to
approach this debated topic as if there were no alternative ways to
examine the materials Walters and Backman cited, and as if there were
no additional sources of significance to consider. The skeptics have
been uniformly intransigent, while some apologists have made
significant concessions.

This essay maintains that both sides have examined their evidences
with tunnel vision, while both have likewise ignored issues and
documents crucial to the topic. As an alternative to myopic
polarization, this essay provides new ways of understanding Joseph's
narrative, analyzes previously neglected issues/data, and establishes
a basis for perceiving in detail what the teenage boy experienced in
the religious revivalism that led to his first theophany. This is
conservative revisionism.

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