Monday, December 12, 2011

Where was Joseph Smith's veil?

It is an article of faith in the mormon church that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Chris:
It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith-History, 17)
Of course it is important to point out that this "first vision" went through a number of iterations until Smith settled on the version we know today (for a listing of these visions and the myriad problems with the whole event, see First Vision from the Mormonism Research Ministry). Regardless for mormons today this is simply fact, Joseph Smith was visited by two distinct "personages" manifested before Him, one being God the Father and the other Jesus Christ.

This account begs a number of questions but I think an important issue is how the Bible treats this notion of chatting with God the Father in person. The most pertinent passage is found in Exodus 33: 18023
Moses said, "Please show me your glory." And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The LORD.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live." And the LORD said, "Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen." (Exodus 33:18-23)
So here is Moses, one of the major prophets and figures in all of Scripture, and God won't even let Him see Him face to face. God instead hides him in the cleft of a rock and lets Moses just glimpse a tiny fraction of His glory because to see Him face to face in all of the fullness of His glory would destroy Moses.

When Moses came down, something had changed because he had been in the presence of the Lord...
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him. (Exo 34:29-35)
Moses was dramatically impacted by this event such that his face shone and the people were afraid to come near him, thus the veil. Apparently Smith, who allegedly had an even more direct encounter with the living God, had no such manifestation of having been in the presence of God.

That kind of leaves us with a couple of alternatives. One is that Smith was more special or less impacted than even Moses. The other is that the event never happened. Given the varying accounts, the Biblical impossibility of what Smith taught and the well documented fact that Joseph Smith was a teller of tall tales and a scoundrel, it certainly seems more plausible that this event sprang from the fertile soil of Smith's imagination, an event that fits into the fanciful tale that he spun and modified as he went along.

No comments: