As announced in the following news release from the Church Newsroom, a new six-episode podcast series from the editors of The Joseph Smith Papers analyzes Joseph Smith’s first encounter with Deity (known by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the First Vision) — an event that occurred 200 years ago this spring.
Each episode features insights from Church historians and scholars and is designed to help Latter-day Saints and others see this theophany in a new way.
“Have you ever looked at the event through the eyes of historians?” narrator Spencer McBride, a historian of early America and documentary editor of The Joseph Smith Papers, says in episode 1. “Now, I’m not talking about historical trivia consisting of a long list of dates or an assortment of fun facts. I’m talking about historians who have spent years immersed in Joseph Smith’s surviving documents. Scholars, men and women who have walked the fields of history, who can tell you what occurred thereon and why those events occurred the way that they did. You see, something special happens when you view the First Vision through the eyes of historians. You find a story that is simultaneously familiar and new.”
The episodes are available on Latter-day Saints Channel, iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher and RSS feed. Each episode is summarized below. The titles are phrases from the 1838 account of the First Vision.
Episode 1: “An Unusual Excitement” (18 minutes): Social, cultural and economic changes created an environment in which Americans of Joseph Smith’s time were actively engaged in conversations about the state of religion.
Episode 2: “What Is to Be Done?” (23 minutes): In 1820, Joseph Smith was seeking answers to the pressing questions of his soul. He wanted to know which church was the church of Jesus Christ, but that was not his only question. He was first deeply concerned about his own soul and salvation.
Episode 3: “I Retired to the Woods” (15 minutes): This episode examines the sensory experience of the environment in which Joseph Smith prayed. What did the place that came to be called the Sacred Grove look like when Joseph Smith entered it in the early spring of 1820? What did it sound like? What did it smell like?
Episode 4: “A Pillar of Light” (9 minutes): The story of the First Vision is told using all nine surviving accounts of the event. Four accounts were recorded by Joseph or under his direction; the other five come from contemporaries who heard him speak about the vision.
Episode 5: “It Caused Me Serious Reflection” (44 minutes): This episode explores the immediate aftermath of the First Vision and Joseph Smith’s recounting of the event throughout his life.
Episode 6: “I Had Seen a Vision” (29 minutes): Why does the story of Joseph Smith’s First Vision — about a teenage boy in western New York during the early 19th century — resonate with people around the world today?