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Vision, 16 February 1832 [D&C 76]

sixteenth of February in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and— thirty two and through the power of the spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlarged so as to see and understand the things of God even the things which were from the begining before the world was which was ordained

The conferral of power and authority; to appoint, decree, or set apart. Church members, primarily adults, were ordained to ecclesiastical offices and other responsibilities by the laying on of hands by those with the proper authority. Ordinations to priesthood...

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of the Father through his only begoten son who was in the bosom of the father even from the begining10

See John 1:18.  


of whom be we bear reccord and the reccord which we bear is the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ who is the son11

A copy of the account of the vision made by John Whitmer sometime after April 1832 reads “who is in the Son” instead of “who is the son.” A copy made by Sidney Gilbert probably in 1832, reads “which is in the Son.” The account of the vision published in The Evening and the Morning Star in July 1832 also reads “which is in the Son.” (Revelation Book 1, p. 135[a]; Gilbert, Notebook, [64]; “A Vision,” The Evening and the Morning Star, July 1832, [2].)  


whom we saw and with whom we conversed in the heavenly vision for as we sat doing the work of translation

To produce a text from one written in another language; in JS’s usage, most often through divine means. JS considered the ability to translate to be a gift of the spirit, like the gift of interpreting tongues. He recounted that he translated “reformed Egyptian...

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which the lord had appointed unto us we came to the twenty ninth verse of in the fifth chapter of John which was given unto us thus speaking of the reserection of the dead who should hear the voice of the son of man and shall come forth they who have done good in the resurection of the just and they who have done evil in the resurection of the unjust12

In the course of his Bible revision, JS revised John 5:29 to read: “and shall come forth; they who have done good, unto <in> the resurection of life <the just;> and they who have done evil, unto <in> the resurection of damnation the unjust.” (New Testament Revision 2, part 2, p. 114 [Joseph Smith Translation, John 5:29].)  


now this caused us to marvel for it was given unto us of the spirit and while we meditated upon these thing the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings13

See Ephesians 1:18.  


and they were opened and the glory of the lord shone round about14

See Luke 2:9. Philo Dibble later recollected that, as he sat in the room with JS and Rigdon, he “saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision.” (Dibble, “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” 303.)  


and we beheld the glory of the son on the right of the Father and received of his fulness15

See John 1:16. Webster’s 1845 dictionary defines “fullness” as “completeness,” “perfection,” and “abundance.” (“Fullness,” in American Dictionary [1845], 364.)  


and saw the holy Angels and they who are sanctified before his throne worshiping God and the lamb for ever and ever16

See Revelation 7:11–12.  


and now after the many testamonies which have been given of him this is the testamony last of all which we give of him that he lives [p. 2]
sixteenth of February in the year of our Lord  one thousand eight hundred and— thirty two  and through the power of the spirit our eyes  were opened and our understandings were enlarged  so as to see and understand the things of God even  the things which were from the begining before  the world was which was ordained

The conferral of power and authority; to appoint, decree, or set apart. Church members, primarily adults, were ordained to ecclesiastical offices and other responsibilities by the laying on of hands by those with the proper authority. Ordinations to priesthood...

View Glossary
of the Father  through his only begoten son who was in the  bosom of the father even from the begining10

See John 1:18.  


 of whom be [we] bear reccord and the reccord which  we bear is the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ  who is the son11

A copy of the account of the vision made by John Whitmer sometime after April 1832 reads “who is in the Son” instead of “who is the son.” A copy made by Sidney Gilbert probably in 1832, reads “which is in the Son.” The account of the vision published in The Evening and the Morning Star in July 1832 also reads “which is in the Son.” (Revelation Book 1, p. 135[a]; Gilbert, Notebook, [64]; “A Vision,” The Evening and the Morning Star, July 1832, [2].)  


whom we saw and with whom  we conversed in the heavenly vision for as we  sat doing the work of translation

To produce a text from one written in another language; in JS’s usage, most often through divine means. JS considered the ability to translate to be a gift of the spirit, like the gift of interpreting tongues. He recounted that he translated “reformed Egyptian...

View Glossary
which the  lord had appointed unto us we came to the  twenty ninth verse of in the fifth chapter  of John which was given unto us thus speak[i]ng  of the reserection of the dead who should hear  the voice of the son of man and shall come forth  they who have done good in the resurection of the  just and they who have done evil in the  resurection of the unjust12

In the course of his Bible revision, JS revised John 5:29 to read: “and shall come forth; they who have done good, unto <in> the resurection of life <the just;> and they who have done evil, unto <in> the resurection of damnation the unjust.” (New Testament Revision 2, part 2, p. 114 [Joseph Smith Translation, John 5:29].)  


now this caused us  to marvel for it was given <unto> us of the spirit  and while we meditated upon these thing  the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings13

See Ephesians 1:18.  


 and they were opened and the glory of the  lord shone round about14

See Luke 2:9. Philo Dibble later recollected that, as he sat in the room with JS and Rigdon, he “saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision.” (Dibble, “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” 303.)  


and we beheld the  glory of the son on the right of the Father and  received of his fulness15

See John 1:16. Webster’s 1845 dictionary defines “fullness” as “completeness,” “perfection,” and “abundance.” (“Fullness,” in American Dictionary [1845], 364.)  


and saw the holy Angels  and they who are sanctified before his throne  worshiping God and the lamb for ever and ever16

See Revelation 7:11–12.  


 and now after the many testamonies which  have been given of him this is the testamony  last of all which we give of him that he lives [p. 2]
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On 16 February 1832, JS and Sidney Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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saw a vision “concerning the economy of God and his vast creation throughout all eternity,” likely while in the upstairs bedroom of the John

14 Apr. 1779–30 July 1843. Farmer, innkeeper. Born at Chesterfield, Cheshire Co., New Hampshire. Son of Israel Johnson and Abigail Higgins. Married Alice (Elsa) Jacobs, 22 June 1800. Moved to Pomfret, Windsor Co., Vermont, ca. 1803. Settled at Hiram, Portage...

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and Alice (Elsa) Jacobs Johnson home in Hiram

Area settled by immigrants from Pennsylvania and New England, ca. 1802. Located in northeastern Ohio about twenty-five miles southeast of Kirtland. Population in 1830 about 500. Population in 1840 about 1,100. JS lived in township at home of John and Alice...

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, Ohio. This vision came after JS returned from the January conference

A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...

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in Amherst

Located in northeastern Ohio on southern shore of Lake Erie. Area settled, ca. 1810. County organized, 1824. Formed from Black River Township, Dec. 1829. Population in 1830 about 600. Population in 1840 about 1,200. Parley P. Pratt settled in township, Dec...

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, Ohio, and after he resumed his work of revising the New Testament at the Johnson home, with Rigdon working as scribe. According to a later JS history, revelations JS had dictated up to February 1832 showed “that many important points, touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled.” Included in these “important points” was information on what happens after death. This information led JS to think “that if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body, the term ‘heaven,’ . . . must include more kingdoms than one.”1

JS History, vol. A-1, 183.  


According to the description of the vision, on 16 February 1832, JS and Rigdon reviewed John 5:29, wherein Jesus Christ prophesies that the dead will “come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” They reported that when they pondered this verse they together beheld a vision of what awaited humankind after death.
JS and Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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’s description of the vision outlined three levels of heavenly glory—celestial

Highest kingdom of glory in the afterlife; symbolically represented by the sun. According to a vision dated 16 February 1832, inheritors of the celestial kingdom “are they who received the testimony of Jesus, & believed on his name, & were baptized,” “receive...

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, terrestrial

One of three kingdoms, or degrees, of glory in the afterlife; symbolically represented by the moon. According to JS and Sidney Rigdon’s account of a 16 February 1832 vision, those who inherit the terrestrial kingdom are those who “received not the testimony...

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, and telestial

The lowest of three kingdoms, or degrees, of glory in the afterlife; symbolically represented by the stars. According to JS and Sidney Rigdon’s account of a 16 February 1832 vision, those “who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus...

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—and the requirements for entrance into each. According to their report, every person who lived on earth—apart from followers of Satan

A fallen angel, or son of God, known by many names, including Lucifer, the devil, the father of lies, the prince of darkness, perdition, and the adversary. In the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and JS’s Bible revisions, Satan was described as a tempter of men...

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known as “sons of perdition”—would spend the afterlife in one of these “kingdoms.” These concepts differed considerably from views of the afterlife held by most Protestant churches that the souls of the “righteous” are received into heaven while the “wicked” are cast into hell. Other thinkers and theologians, however, had conceptions of heaven that were more similar to JS and Rigdon’s vision: The Universalist church, with which JS’s grandfather Asael Smith had affiliated, proclaimed that Christ would temporarily punish sinners but eventually redeem all people.2

Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 199.  


Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish scientist and mystic, posited in the mid-1700s that heaven consisted of three different levels (celestial, spiritual, and natural).3

McDannell and Lang, Heaven: A History, 181–182, 199–200; Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 198–199.  


Alexander Campbell

12 Sept. 1788–4 Mar. 1866. Teacher, minister, magazine publisher, college president. Born near Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Ireland. Son of Thomas Campbell and Jane Corneigle. Raised Presbyterian. Moved to Glasgow, Lanark, Scotland, 1808. Immigrated to Buffalo ...

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, Rigdon’s former associate in the Disciples of Christ, also wrote about “three kingdoms”—the Kingdom of Law, the Kingdom of Favor, and the Kingdom of Glory. Campbell’s Kingdoms of Law and Favor, however, could be experienced during mortal life, and only the Kingdom of Glory was reserved for the afterlife. In describing these three kingdoms, Campbell wrote that the first was entered through birth, the second through baptism, and the third through good works. One differed from the next, Campbell declared, “as the sun excelled a star.”4

Alexander Campbell, “Three Kingdoms,” Christian Baptist, 1 June 1829, 253–257; see also Staker, Hearken, O Ye People, 322–326.  


Neither JS nor Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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described in detail how the vision occurred—only that they both saw it at the same time. The shared nature of the vision made it somewhat unusual. Although some experiences of angelic visitations had multiple participants—including the appearance of John the Baptist to JS and Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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in May 1829 and the appearance of an angel

Being who acts as a minister and messenger between heaven and earth. JS taught that angels were individuals who “belonged to this earth”; those who had already lived on earth were often resurrected beings. In addition to giving instruction, direction, and...

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showing the gold plates

A record engraved on gold plates, which JS translated and published as the Book of Mormon. The text explained that the plates were an abridgement of other ancient records and were written by an American prophet named Mormon and his son Moroni. The plates ...

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to Cowdery, David Whitmer

7 Jan. 1805–25 Jan. 1888. Farmer, livery keeper. Born near Harrisburg, Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Raised Presbyterian. Moved to Ontario Co., New York, shortly after birth. Attended German Reformed Church. Arranged...

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, and Martin Harris

18 May 1783–10 July 1875. Farmer. Born at Easton, Albany Co., New York. Son of Nathan Harris and Rhoda Lapham. Moved with parents to area of Swift’s landing (later in Palmyra), Ontario Co., New York, 1793. Married first his first cousin Lucy Harris, 27 Mar...

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in the summer of 18295—most visions and revelations had been experienced by JS alone. Philo Dibble

6 June 1806–7 June 1895. Farmer, real estate developer, ferryboat operator, merchant, boardinghouse operator. Born in Peru, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Orator Dibble and Beulah Pomeroy. Moved to Granby, Hampshire Co., Massachusetts, by 1816. Moved...

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, who claimed to have been with JS and Rigdon in the Johnson home when the vision occurred,6

Dibble gave his recollection of the experience on at least three occasions, and each retelling included unique features. Dibble told a congregation in Payson, Utah, in 1877 that “he was present when Jos. Smith and Sidney Rigdon . . . had that glorious vision of the creation &c.” In 1882, Dibble stated that he arrived at the Johnson home “just as Joseph and Sidney were coming out of the vision.” In neither of these accounts did he give a description of how JS and Rigdon experienced the vision; that detail came only in a retelling published in 1892. (Payson Ward, General Minutes, vol. 5, 7 Jan. 1877; Dibble, “Philo Dibble’s Narrative,” 81; Dibble, “Recollections of the Prophet,” 303–304.)  


later recounted that JS and Rigdon sat in the upstairs room, where they had conducted much of their work on the Bible revision, with twelve other men. By turns, either JS or Rigdon would ask, “What do I see?” and then relate the scene, after which the other would reply, “I see the same.” There is no indication in Dibble’s account that anyone was recording the vision as it occurred; instead, Dibble said there was “not a sound nor motion made by anyone” in the room. Dibble recalled that neither JS nor Rigdon “moved a joint or limb during the time I was there.”7

Dibble, “Recollections of the Prophet,” 303–304.  


The text of the vision account itself contains JS and Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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’s descriptions of what they saw, interspersed with the voice of Deity explicating parts of the vision. According to this record, Jesus Christ conversed with JS and Rigdon during the vision. In some ways, such interaction parallels other visions recounted in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon, for example, describes a prophet named Nephi being taken by “the spirit” to “an exceeding high mountain,” where he is shown, among other things, Jesus Christ’s life on earth. Nephi’s account of this vision records both what he saw and questions and statements made by “the spirit” and by an angel as they observed the vision with Nephi.8

Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 23–26 [1 Nephi chap. 11]. John the Revelator is also instructed by “the Son of man” in his apocalyptic vision of the last days. (Revelation 1:10–13.)  


How or precisely when JS and Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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recorded the experience of seeing the vision is unknown. According to the written account of the vision, JS and Rigdon were commanded four separate times to record what they were seeing. It may be that they made a record after each command and then proceeded. Alternatively, JS and Rigdon may not have recorded anything until after the vision concluded. They were instructed to write their account while they were “yet in the spirit,” and the text in the account indicates that they did so. If JS and Rigdon recorded the event after its conclusion, therefore, they apparently did so soon thereafter. The first part of the vision (beginning “Here O ye heavens” and ending “. . . yet entered into the heart of man”) seems similar in language and style to JS’s revelations, suggesting that JS may have dictated the first part separately from the rest of the account. It is unknown whether JS dictated the entire record to Rigdon, Rigdon wrote it himself, or the two worked collaboratively. Whatever the case, both apparently signed the record after its preparation as a testament to its legitimacy.9

Extant records do not show that any other revelatory text was signed in this way.  


The placement of Rigdon’s signature before JS’s indicates that Rigdon was serving as the scribe for the account and signed after completing it. Moreover, JS and Rigdon’s vision occurred, as their own account attests, “as we sat doing the work of translation”—in which process Rigdon served as a scribe. Rigdon had also recently transcribed some of JS’s dictated revelations.
The earliest extant copy of the account of the vision is in Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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’s handwriting, with a few lines penned by JS. Williams was doing scribal work for JS in July 1832 (and possibly as early as February). He and JS copied the account of the vision into a new blank book—probably during February or March 1832—making the vision the first item in Revelation Book 2. Indeed, JS may have purchased the book for the purpose of entering the account of the vision, given the vision’s emphasis on writing down what was seen. Additional copies of the document quickly circulated.10

Seth Johnson and Joel Johnson brought a copy to New York state and showed it to Samuel Smith and Orson Hyde on 27 March 1832 while Smith and Hyde were proselytizing. William W. Phelps also published it in the second issue of The Evening and the Morning Star, which indicates its importance to church members. (Samuel Smith, Diary, 27 Mar. 1832; “A Vision,” The Evening and the Morning Star, July 1832, [2]–[3].)  


Reaction to the contents of the vision varied among individuals in the Hiram

Area settled by immigrants from Pennsylvania and New England, ca. 1802. Located in northeastern Ohio about twenty-five miles southeast of Kirtland. Population in 1830 about 500. Population in 1840 about 1,100. JS lived in township at home of John and Alice...

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community and among church members in other areas. Some, such as Lincoln Haskins

27 Aug. 1779–10 Dec. 1855. Farmer. Born in Shutesbury, Franklin Co., Massachusetts. Son of Nathan Haskins and Phebe Lincoln. Moved to Savoy, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts, by Mar. 1802. Married Experience Paine, 12 Apr. 1802, in Savoy. Moved to Nunda, Allegany...

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, thought it contained “great & marvilous things.”11

Samuel Smith, Diary, 21 Mar. 1832.  


Others struggled to reconcile its concepts of the afterlife with traditional notions of heaven and hell.12

See, for example, JS et al., Kirtland, OH, to “Dearly Beloved Brethren,” Geneseo, NY, 23 Nov. 1833, CHL; “Special Conference of the Elders,” Deseret News, Extra, 14 Sept. 1852, 24–25.  


It also became a target of criticism by outsiders, some of whom regarded it as both “pompous” and an attempt to “embrace and teach Universalism.”13

“Mormonism,” Ohio Atlas and Lorain County Gazette (Elyria), 11 Oct. 1832, 2; “Changes of Mormonism,” Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, 17 Mar. 1832, 67.  


A later JS history stated that the vision transcended the knowledge of the afterlife available at the time, declaring that “nothing could be more pleasing to the Saint, upon the order of the kingdom of the Lord, than the light which burst upon the world, through the . . . vision.”14

JS History, vol. A-1, 192.  


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