The First Vision as Out-of-Body Experience and What That Means About the First Vision When we take the First Vision as a unique, personal experience, our understanding of it is limited to what Joseph Smith tells us about it. There are several indications that the Vision was an out-of-body experience. Once the Vision is framed as such, we can then apply what we know about out-of-body experiences to our interpretation of the Vision and greatly expand our understanding of it. Primarily, we discover a state of consciousness that is very responsive to the projection of inner beliefs as objective perception. Data about out-of-body experience is methodologically validated.
Robert W. Bushman
As a devout and temple-recommend-carrying member for over 40 years, I was devastated after learning of the early history of the church that had been kept from its members for decades. I wondered how there could be so much truth in the church if it was founded on deceit and deception. Even though I still believed those truths, I no longer believed that the Book of Mormon was anything but a work of fiction or that the LDS church had any kind of authority that would last into the next life. I lost my faith in Joseph Smith as a prophet and in the LDS church as ‘the only true and living church on the face of the earth’. I would have lost my faith in God completely if my brother hadn’t introduced me to Near Death Experiences. The stories of those who had clinically died and gone to the other side and came back with wondrous accounts of what they learned on the other side restored my faith in a loving Creator and increased my understanding of eternal principles in a way I had never understood before.
However, I still could not understand how Joseph Smith could know so much about eternal truths and be such a deceiver. Then I read the book “Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith” by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts, where on page 43, there is an account of Joseph Smith telling a neighbor of the Near Death Experience he had on the night of his tarring and feathering in March 1832. He said that he could hear the men cursing and see them beating him, but he could not feel anything. They had filled his mouth with tar, chipping a tooth in the process, and he apparently could not breath and came close to suffocating. (These are classic Out-of-Body descriptions.) I also listened to a podcast which postulated that the First Vision was an Out-of-Body experience. That’s when it all clicked. It appeared that Joseph Smith had at least one, and likely more, episodes when he was able to leave his body and go into the nonphysical realm, and that is how he learned the truths that resonate with readers of his works. Those who have returned from death in modern times frequently have what we would call ‘paranormal’ abilities, such as being able to read others’ minds, touch them and heal them, and see the future. If Joseph Smith had any or all of these abilities, it would certainly convince others that he was a ‘prophet’. But was he any more a ‘prophet’ than Dannion Brinkley, or Mellon Thomas-Benedict, or Howard Storm? While on the other side, most NDEers say that what religion you practice in this life is not important. What is important is how you loved your fellow man. As Joseph Smith put it, “if you have charity, it will be well with you”. It’s a shame that he misused this knowledge for his own self aggrandizement and deceived so many people, including men who were willing to share their wives with him because they believed he was divinely called.
I am no longer active in the LDS church. As Thomas Ferguson, the attorney who set up BYU’s Archeology Department and sought for 10 years to find archeological evidence for proof of the BoM’s authenticity and yet found none said, “It’s a great fraternity!”. As a social organization, it is well organized and does a lot of good. However, I cannot ignore the dishonesty and how the LDS church has hidden the truth for so long and even now prevaricates and obfuscates the facts. I could no longer sing, “Praise to the Man”, or listen to the lessons about Joseph Smith that put him on a pedestal, without telling the whole story about his so-called “marriages” to other men’s wives, his ludicrous ‘translation’ of the Book of Abraham, and other shenanigans. I now see all religions as man-made institutions, and the LDS religion as just another in a long line of man-made organizations that repress their members and hide the truth. I have come through the devastation and sense of anger and betrayal and now have peace of mind and heart. There is such a load lifted off my shoulders that I now understand even better how “the truth shall make you free”.
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