Could Joseph Smith's First Vision have happened 200 years ago last week?

By Mary Richards, KSL NewsRadio | Posted - Mar. 29, 2020 at 11:03 a.m.

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PALMYRA, New York — Some scholars believe 14-year-old Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, experienced his First Vision 200 years ago this week — on March 26, 1820.

Why that date? Researchers used weather data and other evidence to make that conclusion.

“Joseph Smith would have been working too hard tapping sugar maple trees to have gone to the woods to pray until the temperature got right, and he’d have free time and the first day would have been the 26,” says BYU church history professor Steven Harper.

But Harper says there are a lot of “ifs” involved in that.

Reporter Mary Richards traveled to Palmyra, New York, for the bicentennial of Joseph Smith's First Vision. Her full report about researching the anniversary can be found at

“The only date in the historical record, is ‘on a beautiful clear day early in the spring of 1820,'” he said, quoting Joseph Smith’s words.

Latter-day Saint faithful believe a young Joseph Smith prayed in a grove in upstate New York, and saw God the Father and Jesus as two distinct persons in a vision.

In March 2020, the Sacred Grove has brown and bare trees as winter turns to spring. Spots of green moss grow on the trunks. It looks as it might have when Joseph Smith prayed in the trees in early spring 1820.

When Joseph went into the woods that day, he sought answers to questions about the state of his soul, and which church to join.

Various accounts — nine in all — detail different parts of the First Vision. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraged to read all of them.

As an additional resource, this year the church released a six-episode podcast miniseries detailing the history of the First Vision.

KSL NewsRadio’s Mary Richards will have much more on the First Vision Bicentennial from Upstate New York in our special coverage during General Conference on KSL NewsRadio.


Mary Richards

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