Today in Sunday School we learned about Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, and his vision in the Temple. As we were discussing, I had an interesting thought about the nature of his vision and the multiple accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision:
From Luke 1:
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedientto the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
What is so interesting about this vision, is that the angel immediately begins by offering a message of comfort to Zacharias, and emphasizing that his prayers to God had been heard. Next, the angel first speaks about the personal happiness that will come to Zacharias and his wife as a result of the birth of John. He only later turns to John’s impact on others, and mentions that others will rejoice at his birth. The angel mentions portions of John’s mission, but from this account this might only be a partial account. The angel makes no reference to Jesus for instance, and John’s role in baptizing the savior.
In contrast, when Zacharias’s mouth is loosed after the naming of John, his prophecy is focused completely on the public aspects of John’s ministry:
It seems likely due to this prophecy that Zacharias recieved far more information from the angel than is initially reported. While it is possible that these details came through additional visitations, prayer, or revelation, it still seems likely that angel imparted far more knowledge than is reported in Luke.
I would suggest that there is a parallel here with Joseph Smith’s telling of the First Vision. On his initial tellings of the vision, Joseph Smith focused far more on the personal aspects of the visitation. Like Zacharias (or Luke speaking of Zacharias) it is likely that he did not speak of all that was said to him. instead, he focused on his sins being forgiven, and his personal standing before God. Yet, as Joseph wrote his most public account for the History of the Church (the one that we are most familiar with), he focused much more on the public aspects of his calling and his role as prophet.
Luke’s telling of the Story of Zacharias rings true with the nature of humanity and human memory as does Joseph Smith’s telling of his first vision. I have a testimony that both truly were called of God and given special revelation and insight from angelic messengers.