Did the Father actually touch Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove?

Did the Father actually touch Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove? September 18, 2018




Occasionally, one hears the claim that, in the course of the First Vision, the Father actually, literally, touched Joseph Smith’s eyes.  Here’s a note on that subject, extracted from A Pillar of Light: The History and Message of the First Vision (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2009), which was written by the late and still-lamented Matthew Brown:


The idea that God the Father physically touched Joseph Smith’s eyes before he saw the Savior comes from a secondhand account of a statement made by John Alger on 2 February 1893.  This account reads as follows:

Br[other] John Alger said while speaking of the Prophet Joseph that when he, John, was a small boy he heard the Prophet Joseph relate his vision of seeing the Father and the Son; that God touched his eyes with His finger and said, “Joseph this is my beloved Son, hear him.”  As soon as the Lord had touched his eyes with His finger he immediately saw the Savior.  After meeting, a few of us questioned him about the matter and he told us at the bottom of the meeting house steps that he was in the house of Father Smith in Kirtland [Ohio] when Joseph made this declaration, and that Joseph while speaking of it put his finger to his right eye, suiting the action with the words so as to illustrate and, at the same time, impress the occurrence on the minds of those unto whom he was speaking.

When Joseph Smith Sr.’s period of residence in Kirtland, Ohio, is cross-referenced with John Alger’s age, a possible time frame for this incident emerges — between May 1831 and November 1833.  This reminiscence was, therefore, about sixty years old when it was told, and it must be remembered that John heard this information “when he . . . was a small boy.”

John’s story is in agreement with several others in that it indicates that the Father and the Son did not appear at the same time — the Father being first and the Son appearing shortly thereafter.  However, the Prophet stated in his official history only that the Father pointed (supposedly with His finger) to Jesus Christ before he said, “This is my beloved Son, hear him.”  The Prophet also specifically stated that the Father and the Son were “standing above [him] in the air” and he was in a kneeling position during prayer, which would make physical contact between the Father and Joseph difficult.

The primary question to ask in this case is, Why would the Father need to physically touch Joseph Smith’s eyes so as to enable him to see the Savior when Joseph was already seeing a more exalted Being?

If the Prophet did indeed touch his own eye while making his comment in Kirtland, he may have simply been illustrating a concept that young John Alger took to be literal.  In February 1832 the Prophet used this phraseology with regard to another vision he saw of the Father and the Son: “the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about.  And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father (D&C 76:19-20; emphasis added).  With this information, it is logical to conclude that the Father most likely did not physically touch Joseph’s eyes during the occurrence in the Sacred Grove.  (75-76)


John Alger’s account is, however, mildly useful, in that it seems to provide at least some evidence that Joseph was telling the First Vision story rather early, and that his account of it already included appearances of both the Father and the Son.




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