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The story Willard Chase heard may have been the earliest known account of the supernatural event that set Joseph Smith's feet on the path to prophethood, but it certainly isn't the only one.
What, exactly, was it that caused Joseph Smith to undertake the project of speaking for God?
Members of the LDS Church today have one "official" answer to this question, but people throughout the early history of Mormonism appear to have had several choices, because Joseph Smith answered that question differently over the years, with a story that, according to skeptics, changes back and forth from what the modern mind might call simple folk magic and superstition, to a visitation by an angel, to a personal visitation by Jesus Christ, back to angels, to a personal visitation by God the Eternal Father and his Son Jesus Christ, to a less-specific visitation by two "glorious personages". Many believers, on the other hand, see the various first vision accounts as being in perfect harmony with one another. Nobody (including the artist who created the image above) seems to have included all possible accounts in their analysis, each finding his or her own reasons for excluding certain accounts from consideration. In 1880, the LDS Church canonized the 1838 version of the story.
This drawing places visual representations of nine recorded versions of the event side-by-side. The dates indicate the year of each retelling, rather than the year such retelling was published. To see summaries of most of the extant accounts, CLICK HERE or HERE.