Some people make a big deal out of the “First Vision” using the word vision, and not visitation. These are mostly detractors, who want to make it out that Joseph Smith really just had a dream like experience, and not an actual visitation. I’m not sure if this really makes a difference. If God wanted to communicate a message through Smith, would it really matter if He made him dream it, or he visited him personally?
It seems that this distinction has gotten under the skin of some apologists, as they have taken to defending the word “vision”, but insisting it was an actual visitation. One tried to use the definition of vision to prove the point by using first (most common) definition at Merriam-Webster:
the special sense by which the qualities of an object (such as color, luminosity, shape, and size) constituting its appearance are perceived through a process in which light rays entering the eye are transformed by the retina into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve
This is obviously just talking about the common use of vision, when light hits the optic nerve, and he argued that this is what happened, the light from God hit Joseph’s eyes, ergo a vision!
But in a religious context, when the normal person hears “vision”, (not that apologist are not normal), I think that they feel more confortable using the 2nd and 3rd diffintion at Merriam-Webster
2: something seen in a dream, trance, or ecstasy especially: a supernatural appearance that conveys a revelation
3: the act or power of imagination
I don’t see anything wrong with these definitions, and why apologist would need to refute them. Well, maybe that 3rd definition could be used against Joseph.
The church, in a recent YouTube Video uses the words “vision” for most of the presentation, then uses “visitation” after it talked about God and Christ visiting Joseph. I think they want to drive home that it was a real visitation by actual exalted deity, and not just a dream he had.
So what do you think. Is this much ado about nothing? Does it matter if it was a dream/trance or a real visitation? Would anything in the church change if they came out and said it was a dream?