Joseph's experience not unique, but familiar to religionists

“Joseph did tell a Methodist preacher about the vision. Newly reborn people customarily talked over their experiences with a clergyman to test the validity of the conversion. The preacher's contempt shocked Joseph. Standing on the margins of the evangelical churches, Joseph may not have recognized the ill repute of visionaries. The preacher reacted quickly, not because of the strangeness of Joseph's story but because of its familiarity. Subjects of revivals all too often claimed to have seen visions. In 1825 a teacher in the Palmyra Academy said he saw Christ descend "in a glare of brightness exceeding tenfold the brilliancy of the meridian Sun." The Wayne Sentinel in 1823 reported Asa Wild's vision of Christ in Amsterdam, New York, and the message that all denominations were corrupt. At various other times and places, beginning early in the Protestant era, religious eccentrics claimed visits from divinity. Nathan Cole, a Wetherfield, Connecticut, farmer and carpenter, recorded in his ‘Spiritual Travels’ that in 1741 ‘God appeared unto me and made me Skringe [cringe?]; before whose face the heavens and the earth fled away; and I was shrinked into nothing….’

“The visions themselves did not disturb the established clergy so much as the messages that the visionaries claimed to receive. Too often the visions justified a breach of the moral code or a sharp departure in doctrine. By Joseph's day, any vision was automatically suspect, whatever its content. "No person is warranted from the word of God," a writer in the Connecticut Evangelical Magazine said in 1805, ‘to publish to the world the discoveries of heaven or hell which he supposes he has had in a dream, or trance, or vision. Were any thing of this kind to be made known to men, we may be assured it would have been done by the apostles, when they were penning the gospel history.’ The only acceptable message was assurance of forgiveness and a promise of grace. Joseph's report on the divine rejection of all creeds and churches would have sounded all too familiar to the Methodist evangelical, who repeated the conventional point that ‘all such things had ceased with the Apostles and that there never would be any more of them.’” (Richard L. Bushman “Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism” 1988 p.57-9, Emphasis Added)

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